rice pudding with citrus caramel and candied almonds

rice pudding with citrus caramel and candied almonds || photo: olaiya land

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about not creating extra stress in my life. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know I’m an anxious person by nature. You also know that I’m a person who loves to start new projects, try new things, collaborate with new people and generally take on challenges. All of which undeniably yields many benefits: new friends, creative satisfaction, travel to distant places, a sense of accomplishment. 

But I’ve realized I cram so many new challenges into my life, I feel like I’m on a crazy roller coaster of stress half the time. I’m either attacking a new project head-on or huddled under the covers with my cat binge watching period films and trying to recuperate. Those have been my two modes recently.

rice pudding with citrus caramel and candied almonds || photo: olaiya land
rice pudding with citrus caramel and candied almonds || photo: olaiya land

The other day I paused for moment in the middle of whatever I was doing to check in with myself. I could feel waves of stress radiating through my body. Thoughts zooming. Fingers tingling. Heart banging in my chest. I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but it hit me in that moment that STRESS IS A REAL THING. Like a tangible, physical thing. Not just something you read about being bad for you in some vague sense. But something that takes a toll on your body, like sleep deprivation or smoking. 

In that moment, I decided I’m going to stop creating stress for myself unnecessarily. Some stress is unavoidable (taxes). Some stress is good (getting married). We can’t grow without challenging ourselves. But living in stress is toxic. So I’m trying to be extra mindful of what I say yes to and how I spend my days (which means I might be posting here a little less often). I’m also trying to remember that almost nothing matters as much as we think it does. My photography class homework isn’t perfect! I gained 5 pounds this winter?! She unfollowed me on Instagram!?! All small potatoes when I consider that I have a roof over my head, enough to eat, and people who love me and whom I love.

rice pudding with citrus caramel and candied almonds || photo: olaiya land
rice pudding with citrus caramel and candied almonds || photo: olaiya land
rice pudding with citrus caramel and candied almonds || photo: olaiya land
rice pudding with citrus caramel and candied almonds || photo: olaiya land

I am 100% certain stress will creep up on me when I’m not expecting it. Because I’m human. But I’m pretty excited that so far my less-stress mantra seems to be working. To celebrate, I have a recipe for a creamy Rice Pudding with Citrus Caramel and Candied Almonds for you. Pure comfort food. Like Grandma used to make--but jazzed up with zingy citrus and crunchy almonds. And hopefully a reminder to step back from whatever is stressing us out and fit in a little old-fashioned comfort. 


Rice Pudding with Citrus Caramel and Candied Almonds

  • 1 cup long-grained rice
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 allspice berries, crushed
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • About 2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk (or substitue whole milk)
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • Heavy cream, to taste (optional)
  • 1 recipe Citrus Caramel (see below)
  • 1 recipe Easy Candied Almonds (see below)

*Notes: The evaporated milk gives the rice pudding extra richness, but feel free to use whole milk or a mix of whole milk and cream instead.

- Top the rice pudding with the caramel just before serving. The acid from the citrus will cause the dairy in the rice pudding to break if you let it sit for long. If this happens, the pudding will taste fine but look a little strange.

rice pudding with citrus caramel and candied almonds || photo: olaiya land

Place the rice in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven along with 1 cup of water, the allspice, cinnamon and salt. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring often, until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is starting to soften, about 10 minutes. If the rice is sticking to the pot, you can add a little more water. 

Stir in the two types of milk and the brown sugar. Cover and continue to cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes. The rice should be cooked through but still have some tooth to it. Remove the rice pudding from the heat and stir in a few tablespoons of the heavy cream, if using.  Cover and set aside for 15 minutes. The rice will continue to absorb the liquid and firm up a bit. Add a bit more milk or cream if you like your rice pudding a bit looser. Serve warm or cold topped with citrus caramel and candied almonds. 

Makes about 8 servings.

Recipe adapted from Diana Kennedy's Oaxaca al Gusto

rice pudding with citrus caramel and candied almonds || photo: olaiya land

Citrus Caramel

  • 2 blood oranges
  • 1 pink grapefruit 
  • 1 navel orange 
  • 1 meyer lemon       
  • 1 cup sugar             
  • 1/4 cup water             
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum             
  • Pinch salt

*Notes: You can use any mix of citrus you like. I’d avoid going very heavy on lemons, limes or meyer lemons, but a few thrown in provide a nice contrast to the sweet caramel.

- This will keep for 3 days, covered and refrigerated. It’s also delicious on cake, pancakes, ice cream, yogurt or ricotta--pretty much anything creamy or cakey.

 

Cut the skin and pith from the citrus and cut into supremes. Squeeze the leftover flesh to remove as much juice as possible. Strain the juice from the citrus (you should have about ½ cup) and set aside. Combine the citrus in a medium heatproof bowl and set aside. 

Combine the water and sugar in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat to medium and DO NOT STIR. (Doing so could cause your caramel to seize up.)

Cook, swirling the pan occasionally (but not stirring), until  the water has evaporated and the sugar starts to caramelize and turn medium amber in color. Very carefully, add the rum. It will splatter so stand back! Once the rum has stopped splattering, slowly add the reserved citrus juice and a pinch of salt. The caramel will likely seize up a little and look crazy. Don’t worry--simply return it to medium heat and cook, stirring often, until any hardened bits have melted and the caramel has thickened slightly, 2-3 minutes. Remove the caramel from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

When the caramel is lukewarm or completely cool, pour it over the citrus. Set aside for at least an hour to allow the flavors to come together. 

Makes 8 servings.


Easy Candied Almonds

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Generous pinch salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup blanched slivered almonds

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, salt and cinnamon.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and swirl to melt. Add the almonds and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the nuts and cook, stirring often, until the sugar has melted and caramelized and the nuts are starting to turn golden brown, about 3 minutes.

Immediately transfer the nuts to a large plate to cool. When cool enough to handle, break up any clusters. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes 1 cup candied nuts.

thank you!

love trumps hate fundraiser dinner // photography by danielle elliott
love trumps hate fundraiser dinner // photography by danielle elliott

Hello Lovelies!

I hope you’ve been having a great week. Things are looking up over here. The funk I wrote about last week has lifted. Tiny buds and blooms are starting to show up here in Seattle, so it feels like spring is right around the corner. And last Saturday’s Love Trumps Hate fundraising dinner was a huge success!

I got to hang out and cook with some awesome people. I figured out how to make a pretty respectable tamale. I developed a recipe for a smoky, floral mezcal-marigold margarita that is going to be on heavy rotation when the weather warms up. Most importantly, we raised over $3000 for the ACLU

love trumps hate fundraiser dinner // photography by danielle elliott
love trumps hate fundraiser dinner // photography by danielle elliott

Before this dinner, I’d been feeling more than a little despondent about the future of this diverse, boundary-pushing, democratic nation I call home. I know we’ve got a lot more to do to protect civil right here in the U.S., but this fundraiser felt like a great start. We were able to support a great organization while also doing a little community-building here in Seattle. To my mind, anything that brings people together instead of tearing them apart is good news. We need more of that. Especially now. 

To keep this spirit of community and engagement alive, I plan to organize some more fundraising events this year. I’m thinking maybe a community potluck. Or a soup night with homemade bread and wine. Or an old-fashioned ice cream social. Let me know in the comments below what sort of events you’d be interested in! If you’d like to volunteer for future fundraisers, shoot me an email.

love trumps hate fundraiser dinner // photography by danielle elliott
I’d like to send out a HUGE thank-you to all the hard-working volunteers who made this dinner happen: Alex, Ellen, Erin, Kaylah, Linda, Marianna, Nicole and my sweet mamma! I’m so grateful to Danielle for shooting the event. It was such a pleasure to have such a talented photographer to capture everything so I could focus on cooking. And the gold medal goes to Beau, who first had the idea for this dinner, put up with me being a total crazy person while I planned and prepped for it, and who washed a mountain of dishes afterwards. (You’re my here, Babe!)
love trumps hate fundraiser dinner // photography by danielle elliott
I’d like to send out a HUGE thank-you to all the hard-working volunteers who made this dinner happen: Alex, Ellen, Erin, Kaylah, Linda, Marianna, Nicole and my sweet mamma! I’m so grateful to Danielle for shooting the event. It was such a pleasure to have such a talented photographer to capture everything so I could focus on cooking. And the gold medal goes to Beau, who first had the idea for this dinner, put up with me being a total crazy person while I planned and prepped for it, and who washed a mountain of dishes afterwards. (You’re my here, Babe!)

I’d like to send out a HUGE thank-you to all the hard-working volunteers who made this dinner happen: Alex, Ellen, Erin, Kaylah, Linda, Marianna, Nicole and my sweet mamma! I’m so grateful to Danielle for shooting the event. It was such a pleasure to have a talented photographer to capture everything so I could focus on cooking! And an extra dose of thank-you goes to Beau, who first had the idea for this dinner, put up with me being a total crazy person while I planned and prepped for it, and who washed a mountain of dishes afterwards. (You’re my hero, Babe!)

love trumps hate fundraiser dinner // photography by danielle elliott
love trumps hate fundraiser dinner // photography by danielle elliott
love trumps hate fundraiser dinner // photography by danielle elliott
love trumps hate fundraiser dinner // photography by danielle elliott
love trumps hate fundraiser dinner // photography by danielle elliott

 

I also want to send out a heartfelt thanks to the local businesses who so generously donated to the dinner: Book Larder for allowing us to use their space, Honor Society Coffee for providing us with their amazing coffee, Marigold & Mint for sending over such stunning flower arrangements for the table, and Tieton Cider Works for offering several cases of thier beautiful dry cider, which we transformed into a sangria blanca with pineapple and serrano syrup (recipe coming soon). 

I feel so grateful for the outpouring of support around this dinner. I couldn’t have done it without all you wonderful people!

XO,

Olaiya

All photography in this post by Danielle Elliott. Click here to check out her beautiful portfolio!

love trumps hate fundraiser dinner // photography by danielle elliott

P.S. There’s only 1 spot left for the Paris food and photography workshop I’m leading with Yossy Arefi in May! Click here to make it yours.

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings and black beans

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings || millys-kitchen.com

After my trips to Paris and Oaxaca, arriving home in the middle of our depressing political situation and abysmal Seattle weather had me in a proper funk.

The kind of funk that leaves you struggling to get out of bed in the morning. A funk that makes eating cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner sound like a good idea. The sort of funk that requires spending as much time as possible in stretchy clothing (preferably pyjamas) in order to avoid feeling bad about all those cookies you ate.

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings || millys-kitchen.com
smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings || millys-kitchen.com

But the good news is I think I’m finally emerging from this tailspin. 

Beau once told me about a Kanye interview in which Mr. West declared his personal mantra: “My life is dope and I only do dope things.” Now, when I find myself feeling small or like an impostor or afraid to pursue my dreams, I try to channel Kanye’s manifesto of personal awesomeness. 

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings || millys-kitchen.com
smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings || millys-kitchen.com
smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings || millys-kitchen.com

To that end, I have started taking better care of myself again. I’m wearing grown-up clothes with zippers and buttons instead of lycra and spandex. I have replaced cookies with home-cooked meals. I’ve booked tickets to go see my best friend and her kidlets in Wichita and to spend some time under the California sun. I’m planning some fun travel around my Paris workshop in May (Hello, Scotland!). I’m organizing volunteers and testing recipes for next week’s Love Trumps Hate fundraising dinner

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings || millys-kitchen.com

Earlier this week, I wanted to go back to bed and sleep until summertime. Today, I managed to shop for, test and shoot this Smoky Tomato Broth with Masa Dumplings and Black Beans. So things are looking up!

Hoping things are looking bright for you this weekend and sending you a reminder that your life is dope and you should only do dope things!

XO,

Olaiya


Smoky Tomato Broth with Masa Dumplings and Black Beans

  • 1/2 cup dried black beans, soaked and cooked (or 1 can black beans)
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 dried smoked serranos (or other smoky dried chiles)
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
  • 2 tablespoons neutral tasting high-heat oil (I used avocado oil), plus additional for frying the dumplings
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 avocado leaves or 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stick canela (Mexican cinnamon, also known as Ceylon or true cinnamon)
  • 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes or diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican chocolate or cocoa powder
  • 3-4 cups bean cooking liquid or vegetable or chicken stock (preferably homemade)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Piloncillo or brown sugar, to taste
  • 1 cup instant masa harina
  • 1 thinly sliced avocado, to serve
  • ½ cup crumbled queso fresco (or mild feta), to serve
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, to serve

*Notes: Home cooked beans are best in this recipe but canned will work in a pinch. 

- I recommend searching out the specialty Mexican ingredients in this recipe if you can. If there’s a Mexican tienda near you, you’ll likely be able to find them there. If not, you can order on-line. I get it if you don’t want to track them all down, but this soup is so much more wonderful and subtle with these ingredients instead of substitutes.

- For the masa dumplings, called chochoyotes, you can fry them as I call for in this recipe or you can cook them in your soup for 10-15 minutes until they’re cooked through. I like the crunch of the fried chochoyotes to add some textural variance, but they’re delicious both ways.

- The broth tastes even better the next day, so make it a day in advance if you have time. The dumplings should be made just before serving.

- I wanted to keep this recipe vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, but you can use lard instead of oil if you want. You can also add a tablespoon of lard to the dumpling dough to make your dumplings a bit more tender. If you have access to the lard left over from making chicharrones, a) you are a very lucky person and b) you should use that.

- To turn this soup into a heartier meal, you can add a poached egg or two or some shredded cooked chicken or pork.

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings || millys-kitchen.com

Soup prep
If you've cooked your own beans, let them cool in their cooking water then remove them with a slotted spoon (dumping them into a colander while they’re hot leads to smooshed beans). Be sure to reserve the cooking liquid. If you’re using canned, drain and rinse them before using. Set aside.

Preheat your broiler and line a sheet pan with foil. Peel your onion. Leave the root end intact but trim the hairs down. Slice the onion in half through the root end then slice each half into sixths, so that each section has a little bit of the root holding it together. Place the onion, cut-side-down on your sheet pan and broil until the onion is nice and charred (but not burnt to a crisp). Flip and cook until the other side looks the same then remove from the oven and set aside to cool. (You can do this on a grill heated to high if you prefer.)

Place the smoked serranos in a heatproof bowl and cover with 2 cups of boiling water. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to soften. Do not discard the soaking liquid.

Toast the cumin seeds in a heavy pan over medium-low heat until fragrant and a shade or two darker. Set aside to cool before grinding them in a spice grinder. Set ground cumin aside. 


To make the soup
When the onions have cooled enough to be handled, roughly dice them, discarding the root ends. Dice enough of the soaked chiles to yield 2 teaspoons (discard the seeds unless you LOVE super spicy food). Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the diced onion, garlic, avocado leaves and 2 teaspoons of the diced chiles. Cook until the onions and garlic have softened, about 5 minutes) then add the canela and ground cumin. Cook for 1 minute, stirring often. 

Add the tomatoes with their juice, Mexican chocolate or cocoa powder, 3 cups of the bean cooking liquid or stock, ½ cup of the chile soaking liquid and a generous pinch of salt. If you want more spice, add more of the chile soaking water and/or diced chiles. Add piloncillo or brown sugar to taste--you want just enough to balance out the acid in the tomatoes and any bitterness from the chocolate. Bring to the boil over high heat then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, at a bare simmer for 30-40 minutes. 

While the soup is simmering, make the chochoyote (dumpling) dough. In a medium bowl, mix the masa harina, a generous pinch of salt and ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons hot water. Knead until pliable and smooth, about a minute. Form the dough into a ball, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes.

When the broth is done, carefully strain it through a sieve, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. If your broth is thicker than you’d like, add a bit more bean liquid, stock or water to thin it. Taste and adjust seasonings. Return to the pot, add the beans, and keep warm while you make the chochoyotes.

Pour high-heat vegetable oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat to around 325°F. While the oil is heating, cut the dough into quarters and roll each quarter into a log roughly 1-inch thick. Use a knife or bench scraper to cut the log into 1-inch pieces. Roll a piece of dough into a ball then place on your work surface and use your finger to make a deep indentation in the ball. Repeat with the rest of the dough. 

Add some of the dumplings to the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan. Fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer cooked chochoyotes to a paper towel lined plate and salt generously. Repeat with the rest of the dumplings.

Ladle the hot soup into serving bowls. Add a few of the chochoyotes and garnish with avocado, queso fresco and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings.

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings || millys-kitchen.com