Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cool and Creamy

It's a hazy one out there. A perfect Pride Weekend, made special because it's my first weekend of summer vacation. It usually takes a few days for the thought of summer vacation to soak in, and another few days to get all unwound, especially with end of the year drama. And while I'll miss the children like crazy, I'm glad to have some time to myself. And it couldn't be a more perfect weekend to start off my holiday.

Enjoying hot hazy days can be tricky. The sunshine begs you to join it outside, but after awhile and a couple gallons of water, you're exhausted. I think the trick is to balance your sunshine adventures with lots of hydration, and some cool creamy treats. These mango lime popsicles are perfect, but so is this unique strawberry rice pudding.

I know some of you aren't pudding people. It's a texture thing, right? I loved pudding as a child. Every once in awhile, my parents would get the Jell-o pudding cups (usually vanilla or tapioca) and I would be allowed to have one as an after school treat. My first perfect memory of pudding as a child was when I went over a friend's house for the first time, and we made lemon pudding together. We poured in the milk, mixed it up, and waited patiently for it to set in the fridge. I think it's the memory of being together with that friend that I miss, rather than the taste of powdered pudding.

 My re-acquaintance with pudding came many years later when I made this super easy chocolate pudding. No messing about with egg yolks or double cream. Cornstarch does an amazing job thickening it to the perfect pudding consistency. I even made a mocha version by substituting some of the milk with extra strong brewed coffee, and a butterscotch version with some leftover butterscotch chips. Then this coconut rice pudding got posted, and I tried that too. In this recent pudding edition of my kitchen adventures, I made a strawberry rice pudding that's just sweet enough, very creamy and totally perfect if you have some stray berries that are getting over-ripened. I originally wanted it to be a coconut strawberry pudding; I used a coconut milk beverage (the kind in the tetra pack that's used as a milk substitute) for the first time, but found out that while it's nice and creamy, it lacked in coconut flavour. But that didn't matter because the strawberries totally shone. When it's chilled and eaten straight from the jar, it's the perfect after-sun-adventure treat.

While I know the pudding probably isn't everyone's cup of tea, I urge you to try it if you like pudding even a little bit. There's just something so satisfying about sticking your spoon into a jar of something creamy and cool ... Happy summer days everyone!

Strawberry Rice Pudding
serves about 2-3

1/4 cup of arborio rice
1.5 cups of milk (or any non-dairy milk -- I used So Nice coconut milk beverage)*
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of natural cane sugar
1/2 cup of fresh strawberries, diced

**if you want a more coconut-y pudding, try replacing some of the liquid with the thicker coconut milk that you get in a can -- I would say maybe use half a cup.

1. Place your chopped berries in a small bowl and sprinkle over 1 tablespoon of sugar. Mix well and let sit while the pudding cooks.

2. Rinse your rice well. Place it in a pot with the milk, vanilla and the rest of the sugar. Bring the mixture up to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cook, covered, until the rice is tender and the liquid a thickened. It will still be runny -- don't worry that it's not pudding-like yet.

3. Turn the heat off and stir in the diced berries with their juices. Let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.  Enjoy when it's completely cool, thick and creamy!  I'd even have it for breakfast!

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