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simple dessert recipes

The Nickel Pincher: Sweet and Satisfying Warm Winter Puddings

Need some comfort food on a cold night? Go foraging in your cabinets to find leftover ingredients to add to these winter puddings.

By Jean Nick


The Nickel Pincher: Sweet and Satisfying Warm Winter Puddings

Bread pudding is a sweet solution for using up stale or leftover bread bits.


RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Winter isn't even here yet, and already we're coping with 10- and 20-degree temperatures here in Pennsylvania. That kind of blustery cold just screams for warm, comforting treats like winter puddings. Served warm with a splash of fresh cream, these simple dessert recipes are just the ticket for satisfying your sugar cravings while also using up little bits of leftovers from dinner and your various forays into holiday baking. Plus, the added heat from the oven provides welcome relief to your energy-hogging heating system. Sweet desserts that can save you money? Gotta love that!

Great Grandmother’s Indian pudding

The first baked pudding I can remember eating was my mother’s Indian Pudding, a traditional New England staple that gets its name from being thickened with “Indian” (corn) meal. Redolent of molasses and ginger, studded with translucent pearls of tapioca, and brought to the table piping hot in a venerable crockery bean pot, my mother’s family recipe still makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

This recipe, and all the others that follow, make about 8 servings.

Ingredients:

¼ cup large-pearl tapioca (not minute tapioca; if you can’t find pearl, just omit it)
1 Tablespoon organic butter
6 cups organic whole milk (2% or skim will not do)
½ cup organic cornmeal
2/3 cup organic molasses
1 teaspoon salt
½–1 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions:

About 2 hours before you want to put your pudding together, cover the tapioca with warm water and set it aside to soak. You can also cover it with cold water and let it soak in the fridge all day or overnight. Once the pearls have turned almost clear with only a tiny grain of white still visible in the center, they are ready to drain and use.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F and heavily butter the inside of a bean pot or any 2-quart baking dish. Heat 4 cups of milk in a saucepan over very low heat, stirring frequently. When the milk is steaming hot, add the cornmeal a little at a time using a whisk to mix in each addition. Allow to cook gently about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, mix in the soaked and drained tapioca pearls, molasses (if you grease the measuring cup lightly before adding the gooey molasses, it will all pour out easily), salt, and ginger. Transfer the mixture to the buttered baking dish, pour the remaining 2 cups of cold milk over the top (don’t stir), and put the dish in the oven. Bake for about 3 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve hot or cold.

Potluck Memories Rice Pudding

Another favorite food memory from childhood for me is potluck lunches at our local church. While the selection was always different, certain dishes arrived as reliably as their creators did, and one that I always looked forward to was a rich, creamy, baked-rice pudding laced with plump raisins and dusted with cinnamon. I’ve updated the recipe by using brown rice (this is a great way to use up leftover rice from dinner), and the resulting pudding is every bit as good as the original, but with an even more complex and satisfying flavor.

Ingredients:

7/8 cup uncooked organic brown rice OR 2 cups cooked brown rice
1 teaspoon organic butter
2 cups organic whole milk
2 organic eggs
1 Tablespoon organic honey
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup organic raisins or other chopped dried fruit (optional)

Directions:

If using uncooked rice, cook it in water until almost tender and drain.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a two-quart casserole or baking pan. Beat the eggs until blended, then add the milk, honey, and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in the rice and dried fruit. Pour into the buttered dish. Sprinkle the cinnamon on top. Bake for 45 minutes or until firm. Serve warm or cold, and try it for breakfast, too!

Variation: Substitute a can of plain coconut milk for some of the milk and replace the cinnamon with ground cardamom. Garnish with a few chopped pistachio nuts to serve. This tastes just like the dessert on the cold bar at my local Indian restaurant!

Nickel-Pinching Pudding

While both Indian pudding and rice pudding are economical dishes to make, there is an even more economical and equally tasty baked treat: bread pudding. Made with stale bits of bread (or even cake or muffins, in which case you reduce the amount of added sweetener), it's a great way to make something tasty out of leftovers you might otherwise have discarded. Whenever you “finish” a bag of bread or other baked goods, save the crumbs, heels, and stale slices (ripped into bite sized pieces) and either dry them or store them in a container in the freezer until you're ready to make pudding.

Ingredients:

2 to 4 cups stale/leftover baked good pieces or crumbs (less if you are working with mostly crumbs, more if it is all bite-sized pieces)
1 teaspoon organic butter
2 cups organic whole milk
2 organic eggs
1 Tablespoon organic honey (omit if you are using sweet baked goods)
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup organic raisins or other chopped dried fruit (optional)

Directions:

Combine ingredients as for rice pudding. If your bread is hard and dry, rather than just stale, increase the milk to 2½ cups and allow the uncooked mixture to sit for 30 minutes before putting the dish in the oven so the baked goods have time to soak up the extra milk. Bake as for rice pudding and serve warm or cold.

Farm gal, library worker, and all-around money pincher Jean Nick shares advice for green thrifty living every Thursday on Rodale.com.

Filed Under: RECIPES, THE NICKEL PINCHER

Published on: December 8, 2010



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