Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pumpkin Rice Pudding with Raisins, Apples, Cranberries and Pecans

Rice pudding has gotten itself a bad reputation as being “old people food”, something that I don’t understand at all.  Because when it’s good rice pudding (not the gelatinous kind found in little plastic, pre-packaged cups), it can be as comforting as a bowl of bread pudding with a decadent sauce, or a few slices of crispy creamy French toast for breakfast.  I really don’t see the difference.  Or why it makes a more frequent appearance in assisted living centers than in fancy restaurants.  It’s a dish that I think is seriously under-appreciated.

This ageist attitude got me wondering lately about other things, such as am I too old for Facebook, or at the very least, is Facebook too young for me?  I know I’m only 34, but I have friends and relatives from ages 13-60+ using it, and my Newsfeed lately is full of very different dynamics.

What got me thinking about it were a few posts by my 13-year old niece (who already has more FB friends than I do, although this doesn’t bother me since I intentionally limit mine for a reason).  The posts were along the lines of “Type your name in the comments, and if someone “likes” your comment, they think you’re cute!” and “Me and {fill in the blank} would make a cute couple”…

All I can say is, Thank God they didn’t have Facebook, cell phones, texting, or anything else like that when I was in junior high and high school.  It would have just provided that many more opportunities for me to feel rejected by boys and completely uncool as a teenager if I didn’t get enough “likes” or comments on such posts!  I struggled as it was with my frizzy hair, braces, badly-fitting clothes, shy awkward nature and lack of athleticism, without adding social media to the equation.  However, my niece is adorable, funny, sweet, smart and athletic, and has managed to pass the threshold of child to young woman very gracefully and confidently, so I don’t foresee her having much trouble.

Instead of texting or Facebook-ing each other in class, my friends and I passed notes (really cryptic ones like, check this box if you like so-and-so).  I even had a little plastic case that looked like an eraser, that you could fold up notes inside of to pass around class without the teacher suspecting.  Yes, really!

This reminds me of the Friday Night Cruising that my town was famous for – hoards of teenagers driving up and down Main Street at 20 mph in Longmont, from 3rd Ave down to 23rd, then back around, again and again, every Friday night for hours on end.  The whole thing was pretty stupid, really, not to mention a waste of gas.  But it seemed the cool thing to do at the time, and my best friend and I were right there in the middle of it, windows rolled down, heat blasting against the cool night air, and country music blaring on the radio…  Until we were 18 and in our Freshman year of college, and suddenly we realized that the street was full of 12 and 13 year-olds, tagging along with an older brother, sister or friend, and we knew then that our time in the world of Cruising was over.  How funny that it actually made me sad at the time to realize I’d grown out of that tradition.  That was supposed to be our thing, mine and Sheri’s, but suddenly, we no longer fit in… or rather, it no longer fit who we were.  Which as it turns out, wasn't sad at all, but the start of something pretty wonderful.

So all of this on my mind, plus that fact that I like to eat rice pudding, made me feel a little old the other day, until I reminded myself that 34 isn’t old at all, I actually love my 30s and rice pudding is fabulous!

The first time I tried making it, I wasn’t an experienced cook, and I started by dumping at least 2, maybe 3, cups of rice into a pot, followed by some sugar, raisins and apples.  Then milk.  Lots and lots of milk.  Maybe a can of sweetened condensed milk, too.  I kept adding more liquid, but the pudding kept thickening and expanding until it almost overflowed the pot, and then I realized I should have started with far less rice.  It tasted great, there was just way too much of it.

I only make rice pudding in the fall, when the air turns cool, because I like to cook it with my four favorite fall spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves (with dried orange peel added for good measure now and then).  A little brown sugar and vanilla to sweeten it and some raisins, dried cranberries, pecans and diced apples take it far beyond just a simple pot of creamy rice pudding.

I didn’t add cream to mine, just using milk instead, since the starch released from the rice makes it plenty creamy – similar to what a risotto would be.  And for something different this time, I stirred in canned pumpkin, which made the pudding thick and creamy, and of course, deliciously pumpkiny.  After all, what would fall be without lots of pumpkiny things to eat?

Pumpkin Rice Pudding
printable recipe

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and diced (I used Granny Smith and Honeycrisp)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 can (14 ounces) pumpkin
  • 4 cups 2% milk
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

In a stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the apples, brown sugar and spices, and cook until the apples are softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the rice, and stir until the rice is completely coated.  Add the pumpkin,milk, raisins, cranberries, pecans and salt.

Simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked through and the pudding is thick, about an hour.  Stir in the vanilla.

Serve warm, with milk on the side to pour over the pudding.  The pudding thickens more as it cools, so stir in more milk before reheating.

Yields about 6-8 servings.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen