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.

pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette

pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |

We’ve been in our house for a little over a year now. I’ve walked the streets of our new neighborhood dozens--maybe even hundreds--of times since we moved in. So I thought I had a pretty decent handle on the highlights of this little corner of Seattle.

Earlier this week, however, I learned that I had been overlooking one of the hidden culinary treasures of the city: the Discoteca los 3 Reyes.

This is not, as the name might suggest, a Latin nightclub, but rather a little grocery store jam-packed with every sort of Mexican ingredient your heart could desire. They stock the more familiar offerings: hot sauce and canned beans and spice packets for taco meat. But also corn husks for tamales, hibiscus flowers, dozens of chiles and fat kernels of Mexican corn ready to be ground into masa harina. They have piloncillo and Mexican cinnamon and dried avocado leaves. In short, they carry everything I need to get my Oaxaca food fix on.

pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |
pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |

Naturally, I filled my shopping bag with tons of ingredients I don’t entirely know how to use (what do you do with yerba santa anyway?) and over the next couple weeks I’ll be testing recipes for my upcoming Oaxaca-inspired dinner--and just for fun. I’ll be posting my successes here.

Today's experiment was a Pineapple and Jicama Salad with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette and I'm calling it a success. This dish was inspired by a salad we had as part of our photography workshop in Oaxaca. As well as by all the chile-dusted tropical fruit sold in the streets of the city. It treads a thin line between savory and sweet and has some crunchy toasted peanuts and fresh herbs thrown in to round things out. 

pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |
pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |

Beau and I devoured a plate of this for lunch alongside some jalapeño eggs. Then we started dreaming up other ways to eat it in the coming weeks: as a salsa on top of a nicely charred steak, as a bed for roasted halibut, with yogurt and toasted coconut. Beau even thinks you could get away with adding a scoop of sorbet or ice cream. (Of course, he thinks you can improve a lot of things with a scoop of ice cream, so I’ll have to let you know about that one.)

However you decide to serve this salad, I hope you enjoy it. I’ll be back soon with more dispatches from the Discoteca los 3 Reyes and more Oaxaca-inspired kitchen experiments.

Pineapple and Jicama Salad with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette

  • 2 oranges, (I used cara caras)
  • 1 ripe pineapple, peeled, halved lenghtwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup peeled and julienned jicama
  • 3 dried arbol chiles (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil (I used avocado oil)
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • 6 radishes, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped mint, plus a few leaves for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish

*Notes: This salad is fairly spicy. If you don't like spice, either cut back on the arbol chile or use a milder chile.

- I think this salad would also be delicious topped with crumbled queso fresco.

pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |

Using a sharp knife, slice the peel and pith from the oranges. Carefully slice them into 1/4-inch rounds and then cut each round into sixths (you'll have six little triangles for each slice). Arrange the sliced pineapple, oranges and jicama on a serving platter. 

De-stem the chiles and place them in a spice grinder. Process into fine flakes. Place the chiles in a medium bowl along with the lime juice, honey, oil, peanuts and chopped herbs. Stir to combine then add salt to taste (you want it to be a bit on the salty side). 

Pour the vinaigrette over the pineapple, oranges and jicama. Scatter the radishes and reserved herb leaves over the salad and serve.

Makes 6-8 side dish servings.

pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |

almond crepe cake with raspberry-rose cream

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on
almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

Today, I give you cake! An Almond Crepe Cake with Raspberry-Rose Cream to be precise.

I know this isn’t the most Christmas-y of recipes. But today is my birthday. And I decided I needed to bake myself a beautiful non-holiday-flavored cake!

Before I get down to the details of how to whip up this raspberry and rose scented cloud of a birthday cake, I want to take a moment to thank all of you.

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

A Christmas birthday, falling as it does just before the start of a new year, is an opportune moment for reflection. There’s something about these darkest days of winter and the turning of another page that calls for a gathering close of loved ones and a look back over all the seasons of the year.

This year, again, I have so much to be grateful for. My friends, My family. Travel to some of the most beautiful cities in the world. Buying a home. And you. 

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

I have to admit that the whirlwind of the holidays and closing on a house has left me a little emotional (massive understatement!). But when I take a moment to think about all the people who visit my blog every week and share with me in the comments and via email and instagram, I am incredibly touched. Feeling connected, in whatever small way, to people all over the world strikes me as a very special thing. 

So to everyone who follows along here or on social media or who came to a cooking class or adventured with me to Paris and Portugal--thank you! You helped make 2015 a year I won’t soon forget. If I could invite you all over for a slice of birthday cake, I certainly would!

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

In lieu of being able to serve you a slice of this cake myself, here’s the recipe. Some of you might have noticed I’m trying to keep things a touch healthier around here. And this cake is just the sort of healthy dessert I can get behind. It’s subtly-sweet (it can even be made without any sugar) and gluten-free, relying on almond flour for structure. The raspberry cream in between the layers has just a hint of rose and lime to transport you to sunnier climes in these grey winter days.

Whether you decide to transform these almond crepes into a full-on layer cake extravaganza or simply top them with berries and syrup for brunch, I wish you a sweet start to the New Year!



Almond Crepe Cake with Raspberry-rose Cream

Almond Crepe Cake with Raspberry-Rose Cream

  • 3 cups cold heavy cream
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar or ¾ teaspoon stevia powder, or to taste (optional)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
  • 1 recipe Raspberry-Rose Compote (see below)
  • 1 recipe Almond-Flour Crepes (see below)

*Notes: I love that this crepe cake can be made with or without sugar. How much you use is totally up to you. If you don't eat sugar, you can leave it out completely and rely on the natural sweetness of the almonds, berries and cream, or you can use stevia. Some brands of stevia have a horrible aftertaste that will ruin a dish. I find that SweetLeaf powdered stevia, used in moderation lends just a hint of sweetness without the wacky aftertaste. If you eat sugar, you can vary the amount to fit your tastes since it isn't playing a structural roll in this recipe. Just sweeten to taste and enjoy!

- To keep from getting frosting all over your serving dish, you can lay down strips of parchment like this before you place the first crepe and then carefully pull them out once the cake is frosted.

- An offset spatula helps to spread the layers and frost the cake. 

- For beautiful slices, make sure the cake has chilled for at least an hour! (More if it's warm out.) If not, the layers can slide off. Heat a chef’s knife under hot tap water until warm then wipe it dry. Slice straight down (no sawing back and forth as you cut) and wipe your knife after each cut. Periodically run your knife under hot water and wipe as you slice. Also, long wooden skewers inserted into the cake before you frost it, will help anchor it as you slice. You'll just need to be sure to remove them after you've sliced.

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream and sugar or stevia (if using) to soft peaks. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside. Place the cream cheese in the bowl used to whip the cream and beat until it has softened and has a similar texture to the whipped cream. The time will vary depending on how warm it is when the cream cheese goes into the bowl, but it should take somewhere between 2-5 minutes. Don’t rush this step; you want your cream cheese quite loose or else it won’t fold into the cream.

Transfer the reserved whipped cream to the bowl with the softened cream cheese and whip at medium-low speed (or by hand) until the mixture is homogenous and has the texture of frosting. Take care not to overbeat it.

Transfer ½ the frosting to the large mixing bowl and set aside. Fold the chilled Raspberry-Rose Compote into the remaining frosting until the color is uniform. This is what you will use between the crepes.

To assemble the cake: Place a crepe on a flat serving dish. Spoon about ½ cup of the Raspberry-Rose Cream on top of the crepe and spread it to ⅓-inch from the edge (the weight from the rest of the crepes and the cream will push the filling to the edge). Continue layering crepes and cream, ending with a crepe on top.  Gently press down on the crepe cake to flatten the top and push the cream in the top layers to the edge if necessary. Frost the cake with the reserved whipped cream mixture and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Makes 1 6-inch cake, which will serve 6-8.

Almond Flour Crepes

  • 6 large eggs

  • 6 oz. cream cheese (not softened)

  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract

  • ¾ cup almond meal

  • 2 tablespoons sugar or ½ teaspoon stevia powder, or to taste (optional)

  • Neutral tasting high-heat oil, for the pan


*Notes: If you aren’t great at swirling the batter, no worries; just back fill any holes with batter.

- If you can’t find almond meal, make your own. Place almonds in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until they form a fine meal. You will be able to get a finer meal in the blender. Adding a tablespoon or two of sugar will help keep the almonds from turning to almond butter.

- Feel free to experiment with other nuts here. Hazelnut and pistachio are both great substitutions.

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

Place all the ingredients except the oil in a blender. Blend at high speed until the batter is smooth and homogenous, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute. 

Heat a 6-inch nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add about 1/2 teaspoon oil. When the oil has melted, pour ¼ cup batter into the center of the pan. Gently swirl to coat the bottom of pan, if necessary. Cook until the crepe is set, 60-90 seconds. Loosen the edge with a flexible heatproof spatula then flip and cook until the other side is golden brown, about 30 seconds longer. Transfer the crepes to a wire rack to cool. Once a crepe has cooled slightly, it can be stacked. 

Crepes can be made 1 day in advance. Stack crepes and wrap tightly with plastic wrap until you are ready to assemble your cake.

Makes about 10 6-inch crepes or 6 8-inch crepes.

Raspberry-Rose Compote

  • 1 12-oz. bag (about 3 cups) raspberries (frozen are fine, no need to thaw)

  • Small pinch salt

  • 2-4 tablespoons sugar or ½-1 teaspoon stevia powder, or to taste (amount will vary depending on how tart your raspberries are)

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

  • ½ teaspoon lime zest

  • ¼ teaspoon rosewater, or to taste


*Note: I used Nielsen-Massey rose water, which is quite strong. If you are using a more delicate brand, you might need to use a little more. Always add rose water in very small amounts (drops are good) because once you add too much, your whole dish will taste like soap. And we don’t want that.

almond crepe cake with raspberry rose cream on

Place the raspberries in a medium saucepan along with the salt and a couple tablespoons of water. If you are using sugar, add it now. Cook over medium-high heat until the raspberries are bubbling and the sauce has reduced slightly, about 7-8 minutes for frozen berries and 5 minutes for fresh.

Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and add a tablespoon of water. Stir to dissolve the cornstarch then add the mixture to the raspberries. Cook for 1 minute more. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lime zest and rosewater. If you are using stevia, stir it in now. Cool the compote at room temperature for about 20 minutes then transfer it to the fridge and chill until cold. The compote can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored, covered, in the fridge.

Makes about 1 ½ cups.