Rice Pudding

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I LOVE rice pudding. It was a big treat for us growing up in a household where desserts were a rarity. And it was a dessert that, like apple crumble, was totally legal for BREAKFAST too! My grandmother made it. My mother made it. I’ve made it too.

I’ve been hankering for it recently, and I realized I haven’t made it in almost a decade. BECAUSE THE PIE *HATES* RICE PUDDING. So in all the years we’ve been together I’ve only made it once.

Well that’s about to change. If he doesn’t like it, then it means I can have the whole thing to myself for breakfasts and desserts for, like, a WEEK.

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Now there’s kind of two schools about rice pudding – there’s the totally squishy school of puddings, where the rice pudding actually is more pudding like – and then there’s the baked pudding school, where it’s more like a casserole with custardy bits surrounded by crunchy. I’m kind of somewhere in the middle, but on this one I’m going to go with the more creamy stove-top version. I also like mine with raisins and orange zest and cardamom and lots of cinnamon so if you don’t, well – just leave them out. But I’m going to judge you for that. I won’t judge you for replacing dairy with coconut milk – that stuff goes well with everything.

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The type of rice you use can determine how creamy your pudding will turn out, and as traditionally this dish likely emerged from leftovers, take a look at what you’ve got stored in your fridge. If you use arborio rice, for example, your pudding will be very much like risotto (because that’s what arborio rice is for). Short or medium grain rices will also make for more creamy puddings. And then the spices you use all depend on which grandma’s recipe you’re using, and where that grandma is from. So this is *my* version, that I came up with after some experimentation. It’s not quite my mother’s. It’s not quite my grandmother’s. It’s all mine. I’ll be the grandma some day with this recipe.

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Before you start, measure out 2 cups milk or cream and crack open a 400mL can of coconut milk (or use any combination thereof).

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Beat up 1 egg and put that in a dish. Actually, scratch that. Put an egg in a dish. THEN beat it. Hard to do it the first way ’round.

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Zest as well 2 oranges and put the zest in a dish. Juice the oranges and drink up that glorious vitamin C. You’re gonna need it – winter is coming.

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Now, grab 1 cup arborio rice (the risotto stuff).

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I plopped it in a large pot with 2 tablespoons butter and let the butter get all melty and bubbly and stuff.

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Then I poured in 2 cups water and brought the whole thing to a simmer.

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FOR LIKE EVER. Seriously it takes forever to cook risotto. Keep stirring it occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

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Getting there …

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… almost there …

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When you can kind of scoop it to one side and it doesn’t flow back super fast you’re probably ready for the next step.

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Now you can pour in the milk and give it a stir. Tip in the egg as well and stir it around before the milk gets hot enough to curdle the egg.

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Bring it to a simmer and let the mixture begin to thicken, which it will do pretty quickly. While that’s happening, I grabbed 1/2 cup raisins and left them to soak in 2 splashes warm water and 1 splash bourbon (optional).

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Tip some honey into the pot until it’s sweetened to taste. I used about 1/4 cup honey.

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You can add in your orange zest now, as well as 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon cardamom.

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Then I chucked in the raisins, bourbon-water and all.

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Lower the heat and allow that to simmer, stirring occasionally.

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The liquid will begin to disappear.

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We are almost there. I dig those totally round air bubble pockets.

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When the pudding is at a consistency that you like (i.e., when you stir it the liquid doesn’t form pools) then it’s ready to serve. You can enjoy it hot and liquidy or cold and solid – it’s entirely up to you!

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Plain ol’ Porridge

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When we were growing up, porridge was a warm breakfast treat in the mornings that my mother could whip up in no time at all.  We weren’t limited in the amount of raisins we could apply to the steaming cereal.  It was heaven.  When I met the Pie I learned that HE had been allowed to put brown sugar on his porridge in addition to raisins, and this level of indulgence is my favourite to this day.

Some people don’t like porridge (or oatmeal, as you Americans seem to call it), and that’s fine.  I remember reading somewhere that Scots can take anything horrible and turn it into a practical virtue, and eating porridge was one of those things.

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Because porridge is so easy to make, though, it always kind of blew my mind to see the varieties of “instant” breakfast oatmeals available at the grocery store.  When I tried them, they always tasted gluey and artificial.  And really, two minutes in the microwave is not that much faster than five minutes on the stove.  Granted, you have to remember to soak your pot afterwards, but that’s not really a big deal.

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Let’s get to it, shall we, so I can show you how easy it is?  I tend to add all sorts of other grains to my oats to jazz them up, but today (and because we just moved and I haven’t restocked my pantry yet), I’m just doing regular plain porridge.  For this, you will need rolled oats (I’m using quick oats here but I don’t find them much faster-cooking than regular ones), water, and a pot.

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Oh, and a spurtle.  If you don’t have a spurtle (basically a glorified stick), you can use a spoon for stirring but you will find it less satisfying.

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The magic ratio for porridge is the same as it is for making basic rice: two parts water to one part grain.  The magic serving size for the Pie and myself is about 1/3 cup each uncooked.  Once cooked of course the oats expand considerably.  So for a serving for two, start with about 2/3 cup rolled oats.

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Plop those in a pot and then pour over that 1 1/3 cups water.

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Heat on medium, stirring frequently, until the porridge begins to thicken and bubble (this can take between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on what kind of oats you have and how many you are making — for quick oats it’s about 5 minutes).  Make sure to keep stirring or the whole mess will stick horribly to the bottom of the pot.

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Serve in bowls, garnished with a bit of milk or cream, and a sprinkling of brown sugar.  We topped ours with fresh raspberries because we don’t yet have any raisins.  Some people like their porridge buttered and salty, but I prefer mine sweet.  I also like to toss dried coconut and fruit into the pot when I’m cooking the oats (just add a little extra water), together with some ground flax and cinnamon.  Yum!

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Cinnamon Croissant French Toast

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Sometimes our grocery store has a deal on fresh-baked croissants, and the Pie and I have a hard time resisting.  The problem is that the deal more often than not necessitates buying WAY more croissants than two people can eat within a reasonable span of time, and we end up with stale croissants by the end of it.  And I HATE wasting food.  So when I found this recipe, which I adapted for two croissants and half the sugar, I was sold.  You will need a bit of advance notice for it, so it’s a good idea to do the prep work the night before, and then chuck it all in the oven just in time for the ones you love to wake up and enjoy a hot breakfast treat.

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Take a small casserole or loaf pan and butter it generously.  Take 2 stale croissants and tear them into bite-sized pieces and dump them in the buttered casserole.

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Whisk together 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tablespoons yogurt (I used vanilla), and 2 tablespoons sugar.

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Pour all that goodness over the croissant pieces, cover the dish and refrigerate it overnight.

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Next morning, while you’ve got your kettle on for coffee or tea or cocoa or whatever it is you drink in the morning that is hot, preheat your oven to 350°F and haul your milky, eggy croissant pieces out of the fridge.

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In a bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and a teaspoon or two ground cinnamon.

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Mix into that about 3 tablespoons butter, until you get a nice crumbly substance.  Use your hands or a pastry blender or whatever you want.

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Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the croissant pieces and chuck it in the oven for 30-45 minutes, depending on how crispy you want it to be.

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I did the whole 45, and mine puffed up delightfully.

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Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving, as this stuff is MOLTEN.

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Drizzle with maple syrup and enjoy.  Serves two.

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