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.
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.
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.
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
2 blood oranges
1 pink grapefruit
1 navel orange
1 meyer lemon
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons dark rum
*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.