Ginger-ale, chicken noodle soup, saltines; traditional sick food. What’s yours? Growing up, my sick food was always peanut butter on toast and rice pudding right out of the carton. No matter what the ailment, Mom made sure that my stomach was happy. Last year, I felt sick all. the. time. and as such, I ate an unreal amount of cozy shack and kraft on toast. Our fridge was perma-stocked with rice pudding. I even went as far as stalking my work fridge with rice pudding and probably ate (on average) 2 or 3 of the individual servings a day. Recycled art day was always the bomb because kids can do anything with those little cups and thanks to me, we had plenty. Somebody else might have observed the mass consumption of rice pudding and seen all of the little warning signs but I just carried on pretending I wasn’t sick.
May 8, 2012, I had been successfully (mostly) avoiding gluten since December which cut out the toast but I had kept on eating my rice pudding. Cozy Shack is “gluten free” and I still felt sick, still needed the comfort. Turns out, I can’t do dairy. Or sugar. All of you out there with your own sick food know that you don’t necessarily eat a sick food because it’s healthy for you, you eat it because it is comforting… comforting or not though, rice pudding had to go.
Fortunately(!!) I stopped feeling sick. I started feeling healthy and alive and didn’t need to spend my weekends wrapped up in a blanket eating rice pudding straight from the carton trying to recuperate from the week. I had some withdrawal and mourned for a time (rice pudding, Oreo McFlurries and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups were the hardest to give up), but I put on my big girl pants, moved on and learned to live life without them.
While we were in the Dominican Republic, Dad, Keyli, my Tio Christian and I went on an adventure. Somehow, through conversation he decided it was important for me to have a real cacao. Driving through the country-side, all we saw were green ones on trees but we wanted a red one. Finally, we had nearly given up when we saw a girl walking out of a house carrying a tray of something. Curious, my uncle stopped. It turned out she was setting up the Dominican version of a lemonade stand, freshly made rice pudding cups! Hungry, my uncle stopped and bought 4. Very wary, I made Keyli do a finger test and (I’m pretty sure that Dominican food is magic) it passed! I was still pretty leery so I shared one with Keyli but oh my goodness it was the best rice pudding I have ever eaten. No lie. The fire of love had been rekindled.
Long story short (ish), we got our cacao – turns out the lemonade stand girl’s parents had a cacao field- went back to my aunts house, raveed about the rice pudding so much that she decided it was time for me to learn how to make it.
This past weekend I was away with the youth leaders for our annual retreat and even though I ate well and definitely did NOT desire to feel sick, I will be honest and say it was a bit disheartening to watch everyone else eat chocolate covered almonds, Reese’s pieces, Clodhoppers, Elias’s homemade caramel dipped chocolate covered pretzels, Amanda’s cinnamon buns and cookies and not be able to enjoy them at all. A million years of death would have been handed down to me if I had eaten but a bit of any of those. Didn’t miss the sickness, didn’t go hungry, but I was sad because I am so restricted. EXCEPT I’m not because rice pudding.
Rice pudding. Rice pudding. Rice pudding! Let me tell you, this completely made up for feeling bad this weekend.
I came home and the first thing I did, after eating a proper meal, was to make rice pudding! Partially because Amy had requested it and in part because I had been thinking about it on my way home. Even our cravings are the same… yeesh. I followed my Aunt’s method and improvised some parts as well. There are a few things I will try to improve upon next time but overall it was pretty dang good. I might have had 2 servings before it even cooled.
Amazing Rice Pudding (for mass amounts of people… or one) – Makes a whole pot, takes about 45 minutes.
(I tried my best to use measurements for this, I want to be able to recreate things)
3 cups long grain rice
9 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 cans coconut milk (I used 2 but I think the perfect ratio would be 1 can per 2 cups of rice. So 1 1/2 would’ve been perfect for this batch)
1/2 cup coconut flakes (optional)
Salt (didn’t add, will do so next time to give it a bit more intensity)
In a large pot add your rice, cinnamon sticks and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the rice is plump. Please be sure to stir! I took a picture of the rice, just because I thought it looked pretty neat; uncooked, mostly cooked and cooked -although next time I will actually cook it a little bit longer because I like the grains of rice so squishy they practically dissolve. Make sure you take some time to stop and SMELL (You’re welcome Amy) the amazingness from the cinnamon cooking in the rice.
Once the water level has been reduced to just below the top of the rice (you want it to still be a bit wet), add the coconut milk, the “outer-layer, not including the pith, once and a half around a lime” (Thanks Amy). Stir!
Next add the honey, vanilla and if desired, the coconut flakes.
Keep stirring frequently but this is the part where you can cook it down a little longer or turn it off and eat as is. Remember that it will thicken as it cools.
And that’s it! You have done it 🙂 Feel free to bring me some next time I’m sick… or anytime really 🙂 Serve and top with more cinnamon if you feel so inclined.
*As I am finalizing this post my Parents and their friends are just sitting down for an evening coffee over in the other room and one of them just exclaimed, “Oh my goodness Alicia, this is good!” Hooray!*
Honorable mention, Amy helped me out when I need a word for when the rice gets fat: plump.