When I was a kid, there was a fantastic deli that had some of the best food. Everything was fresh, and every item in the display case looked like it had been made minutes before I walked in the door. One of the best things this deli had was homemade rice pudding. It was a creamy, rich, decadent treat filled with soft rice in a velvety custard base with a hint of cinnamon and a puff of meringue strategically placed throughout the tray of pudding that added a lightness, or fluffiness to the dish. Its smoothness, and coolness, made it a dessert or treat for any season.
Fast forward to adulthood and I realize that rice pudding is not the best treat for pregnant women. Its loaded with fat which, while tasty, often takes a while to digest thanks to slowed motility in pregnant women and, sadly, can contribute to wicked heartburn for a pregnant woman. Often the pudding has cinnamon incorporated throughout the mix and that, in turn, adds to the likelihood of heartburn happening. To me, rice pudding is too important of an American classic or staple to not be enjoyed by everyone. I wanted to find a way for pregnant women to enjoy the taste of rice pudding but avoid the nasty side effects or discomforts that can come from the traditional recipe. I think I’ve come up with a way to modernize rice pudding that everyone can enjoy!
My recipe starts with Arborio rice. Many of you know Arborio rice because it’s the key ingredient in risotto. Arborio rice is a sturdy grain of rice that breaks down slowly in cream and becomes tender. My recipe cuts down the time it takes to make the pudding and involves less steps than traditional rice pudding. Plus, this version stays creamy in the refrigerator for several days and can be enjoyed by anyone. This pudding can be customized too–you can swap Arborio rice with Brown or Jasmine rice, or add in raisins, walnuts, mini chocolate chips, or berries or lemon zest to change the flavor profile of this versatile dish. I think this dish will satisfy any pregnant woman’s craving for something sweet but not heavy, but also tastes good for any friends or family who are rice pudding fans!
Modern Rice Pudding
- 2/3 cup Arborio rice (or Brown rice or Jasmine rice– any short grain rice works great)
- 2 cups milk (whole, 2% or skim works best, or try Half & Half if you desire a more rich, creamy texture)
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 1/2 cup sugar (turbinado, white, or a suitable substitute like Splenda, work well)
- In a medium, heavy saucepan combine rice and milk
- Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the rice & milk mixture. Add in the bean shell
- Bring the rice and milk to a boil
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender
- Mix in sugar and remove vanilla bean shell
- Continue cooking until mixture thickens, about 5-10 minutes
- Serve warm or allow to cool then refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours (or overnight)
- Consider mix-ins: raisins, chopped nuts, rum extract (1-2 teaspoons), dried fruit, pineapple chunks, flaked coconut, chia seeds, or mini chocolate chips
- Garnish with a dash of cinnamon of a dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder