Not My Mom’s Rice Pudding, Better!

I always loved rice pudding as a child, creamy custard studded with raisins and topped with a good sprinkle of cinnamon.  But the rice itself was kinda drab, not much flavor and it was not well blended with the rest of the pudding.  A few years ago, I found a recipe that caused a rice pudding revolution in my kitchen: it used sweet rice which is a white short grain oriental rice.  You could substitute Arborio rice if you like, what I have used in my most recent batch. I buy sweet rice in oriental grocery stores but I think Wegmans may carry it too.  Each grain absorbs the milk as it cooks and releases a lot of creaminess as well as providing a soft squishier rice that gives the pudding a more blended feel than my mom’s usage of long grain rice that stayed firm and separate from its pudding surrounding.

This recipe is naturally gluten free.  No one eating it will think, “Oh, darn, another of those weird GF recipes!”  They will just think, “I wonder if she will think I am piggy to want seconds of this?

I think in a pinch you could skip the second part where you briefly bake the pudding but I never do, I think it helps the pudding form the best texture.  Do sprinkle the top with cinnamon unless it is something you despise.  I recommend whole milk as it makes pudding taste so good but if you prefer two percent that will work.  I do not recommend skim milk for pudding. Ick on the texture and flavor of such a mutant pudding!  And this recipe is great with chopped dried apricots, dried cherries, golden raisins, or even currents or in it instead of raisins. My original recipe had lemon peel and apricots in it. Recently I put a few long orange peelings in it and a cinnamon stick while it cooked on the stove top which gave it a delicate orange flavor which played well with the raisins. So, you can alter it to suit your mood and your ingredients. I sometimes just use 3 whole eggs rather than end up with two extra egg whites.  Especially with the price of eggs these days.

I am making it tonight in the “classic” form; with raisins and sprinkled with cinnamon. I can’t wait to enjoy a cup of warm and creamy rice pudding.

rice pudding

These cold days make pudding such a treat.  What could be more comforting after a cold walk with the dog than a bowl of wickedly creamy homemade rice pudding.

Creamy Rice Pudding


¾ cup sweet or Arborio rice

1 quart whole milk

1/3 cup raisins

1/3-1/2 cup granulated sugar, depending on your sweetness needs! I go with 1/2 cup

2 egg yolks

2 whole large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla

A good sprinkle of cinnamon


Rinse the rice in a strainer briefly, (I forgot to do this last week!)  place in a heavy bottomed 1 ½ quart saucepan, pour in the milk (4 cups) and stir frequently as it heats on medium to a bubbly simmer.  Add the raisins and turn down the heat to low, cover and cook 25 minutes.  Be sure to stir it every 5-7 minutes to separate the rice and keep it from scorching on the bottom.  Add the sugar, stir well.  Mix up the egg yolk and whole eggs in a bowl with a whisk and add in some of the hot mixture; maybe 1/3 to ½ cup.  Dump it all back in the pot and stir well.  Turn off the heat and add the vanilla.

Heat your oven to 300 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a low ceramic or glass baking dish. I like an oval myself, that shape is what my mom usually used!  Pour in the pudding, removing any lemon or orange peel and the cinnamon stick if you used such and sprinkle it well with cinnamon to dust the surface.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Often,I put it in a hot water bath created with a 9×13 cake pan and some hot tap water. Did this last week.  This method produces a lovely delicate custard, worth the extra fuss.

It is tasty warm and wonderful the next day.  Some people guild the lily with toppings of whipped cream, grated lemon or orange peel or even whipped mascarpone cheese.  Up to you how you dress it up!  I occasionally serve a homemade cookie on the side for added crunch value.  Enjoy!

Originally published in 2015; minor text changes made.

Eight Bean Storm Soup

Snowstorm today, time for a hearty stew.  This is my favorite multi-bean soup with Italian sausage.  I started with a 1.3 lb bag of 4 bean mix and added two kinds of lentil and a bit of a few others.  The thing is, if you have celiac most 15 bean mixtures for soups contain barley which has gluten, a major no no. You need to carefully read the label. In the past I found a four bean mix out at Echo Hill country store in Berks County and added some French lentils; maybe ¼ a cup and some red lentils; another ¼ cup plus a ¼ cup of dried garbanzo beans and a sprinkling of dried limas.  You can use what ever blend you like but I like a good mix for a rich thick stew.   Update: Later on, I found a bag of 15 beans for soup and no barley!! Giant Store here in town. Great score for more bean soup.

Mine has Italian sausage but you can leave that out if you want a vegetarian version. I personally love sausage in a bean stew. Gives you lots of meaty flavor and a healthy dose of protein. I am guessing you could use other things like smoky ham chunks or maybe a ham hock? I haven’t found any gf ham hocks yet; they all seem to have a touch of gluten so I am kinda discouraged over that. Smoked turkey wings work pretty well instead of hamhocks.

I enjoyed a hot bowl of this potage with a slice of toasted multigrain gf bread.  It made a full meal without anything else being necessary.   A fresh crunchy salad would go well if you want to round your dining experience out with some greens!

Ten Bean Soup with Sausage

Soak 1- 1/2 pounds of dried beans in water to cover.  If you buy lentils separately; set them aside and added them after the soaking as they don’t need the same treatment the other beans need.  Either bring to a boil and let stand an hour or just let stand in the cold water overnight.  I did the quick version!  Drain them well and rinse before returning the swollen legumes to the rinsed pot.  Cover with fresh filtered water and add a bay leaf.  Cook 1 hour, pour in more water as needed and stir so it doesn’t stick or burn.  Then, add the lentils and cook another hour until the beans are nearly tender.  It is hard to say when beans get done, depends on a number of factors, taste often to check for tenderness. And stir that pot! As they approach that almost done spot start the rest of the dish.

Chop into dice:

3 sizable carrots

1 large onion

Mince: 2 big garlic cloves

Add the veggies, stir and cook 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add water if needed.  I like the soup thick but it can’t be solid so add water.

As that cooks start the sausage.  Sauté one lb Italian sausage: brown in a Teflon pan with a touch of olive oil until top and bottom are browned and sausage is mostly done. Let cool a bit and slice into rounds or chunks, set aside.

Add to the soup:

½ a 14 ounce can of spicy diced tomatoes

½ tsp. dried oregano

Sprinkle dried basil

1 bay leaf

¼ tsp smoked paprika

1 beef bullion cube

½ bunch of kale leaves cut into big shreds; I cut off the bigger stems as they can be tough. (optional but excellent)

1-2 tsp sea salt

Some fresh ground black pepper

Cook ten minutes, add more water if it gets too thick. Stir occasionally.  Taste and add more spice if you think the soup needs more. Add the sliced sausage and cook five minutes more.  Taste and add more salt/pepper as you see necessary.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before ladling out.  Now that is comfort food that is good for you too! Enjoy.

Alternate cooking method that I used the last time I made this soup.  Cook soaked beans in a separate pot until nearly tender. Meanwhile, sauté veggies for about 5 minutes in a big pot in about 2 tbsp. EVOL, add 6 sausage links; cook 8 to ten minutes; add canned tomatoes, then broth and all seasonings.  Cook 5 minutes, add the beans that are about done and cook 10 minutes, remove the sausage and let cook five minutes, slice into rounds and add back in, cook 5-15 more minutes until beans taste done.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Originally posted two years ago in January 2015. Minor revisions; recipe remains the same.

Lemon Garlic Instant Pot Chicken

This is one of those handy Instant Pot recipes that you can do minimal prep and work on other stuff as it cooks. I love that it has no weird or very expensive ingredients, I had everything on hand having just gotten a pack of chicken thighs. No long stirring or baking. One pot does it all. And it was literally finger licking good; the sauce is the bomb! Unless you don’t like lemon; in that case you could simply leave off the lemon; it goes in at the very end but honestly the lemon is what makes it so delectable! I think you could use navel oranges and it might be quite tasty.  Or skip the lemon slices and just use zest and juice for less lemony flavor. I have to say that the garlic complements the lemon and the spices very well. This is that rare case where I find it needs the fresh parsley; it is not just decorative; fresh parsley really adds to the wonderful flavor.

This is a great weeknight meal; add a side salad or a veg and you are set. I used a Wegman’s Rice Pilaf which wasn’t spicy but made an above average accompaniment to the chicken. It is definitely a recipe to hang on to. Winner winner, chicken dinner! Enjoy!

Lemon Garlic Instant Pot Chicken

I know! Way too dark…bad kitchen lighting…. another mediocre photograph but luckily the food in this picture was delicious!


4 decent sized chicken thighs, remove the skin (Or 6 smaller ones)

Rounded half tsp. garlic powder

Rounded half tsp. paprika

½ tsp. sea salt

¼ tsp black pepper, freshly ground or 1/8 white pepper ground (I was out of black so white worked fine)

2 Tbsp. mild olive oil

1 medium onion cut in long strips

1 medium to large carrot cut in rounds

3 big garlic cloves (or 4 smaller ones)

2 lemons, wash and let dry while you brown chicken

1-3 Tbsp butter

1/3-1/2 cup chicken broth

1 Tbsp corn starch and 1 Tbsp cold water; mixed together in a tiny bowl

2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Directions: Mix the dry spices including salt and pepper and rub over the chicken pieces (could use 6 smaller thighs).  Heat the olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in your Instant Pot. Carefully place chicken thighs in and cook 3 minutes on each side. I did 2 at a time as they were too large to all fit. While they brown zest one lemon and then juice it. Slice the other lemon into very thin slices, removing any seeds you see. Chop the parsley and make some rice. I used a Wegman’s rice pilaf. My goddaughter gave me a package of it; has baby garbanzo beans and dikon radish seeds. Cook for the time the box says. It went very well with this chicken. Or plain rice or perhaps noodles?

As you finish the browning place them in a bowl or on a plate. Someone told me to keep moving them every 30 seconds and they won’t stick; it works!  Add the onions to the pan and more butter as needed (up to 2 Tbsp) and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the carrots and cook one minute. Then add the minced fresh garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth and scrape the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to stir up the browned bits sticking on the bottom so they don’t burn. Add back the chicken pieces. Close up your IP and set it for 9 minutes. When the timer goes off give it 3 minutes to naturally decompress and then lift up the steam button and let it completely de pressurize.  Open and remove the chicken thighs, set it on saute mode. Add the cornstarch slush and stir for one minute. Turn off and add back the chicken pieces, the lemon juice and the zest. Stir and add fresh parsley and stir again. Turn off and serve with rice.

Rice pilaf cooked up and ready to serve. No added ingredients except water. Super easy to make.
I served a side of very thinly sliced zucchini sauteed in butter and olive oil with sliced leeks.

Mom’s Company Casserole

This is something my mom made occasionally. The name is a misnomer as it is very casual and certainly nothing fancy that I would reserve for company. I think of it as more of an easy and tasty casserole that everyone in your family can enjoy. I can’t think when I last made it; perhaps 4-7 years ago? Anyway, I had all the ingredients and had just come across the recipe and so I thought, “Why not?” So, I did and it was very tasty indeed. My mom put some melted butter on before the tomato and meat sauce; I forgot it and honestly don’t think it needs it but add 2 tbsp melted butter at that point if you wish.

I left out the green pepper; didn’t have it and didn’t even remember it in the flavor profile of the casserole. I used spiral pasta as wide gf noodles are impossible to easily find and I didn’t have time to make them. I am sure you could make this with some other ground meat; it would taste different but probably be yummy.

As I show below, I adjusted the amounts of the cheeses and sour cream due to what I had on hand and it was delicious. this flexibility is handy and you can play with the amounts as you need to. I feel that without the scallions it will be rather dull tasting but you could sub in some lightly sautéed chopped onions or scallions. Even sliced and cooked leek would work.

It should feed six hungry folks. I served mine with a green salad on the side. It was a filling meal for sure!.

Apologies for the mediocre pictures; I was in a hurry and didn’t much think about the blog so I barely took any.


½ lb uncooked wide noodles or spiral shaped pasta

1 Tbsp. olive oil or butter

1 lb of ground beef

16 ounces of tomato sauce

1 beef or veggie bouillon cube

1 cup cottage cheese (I used more – 1 ¼ cup as I had less cream cheese)

4-8 oz cream cheese at room temp (I used 3 oz)

1/4-1/3 cup sour cream (I used heaping 1/3 cup)

1/3-2/3 cup sliced scallions; white and green

1-2 Tbsp. chopped green pepper (optional)

2 Tbsp. melted butter (optional)

Directions: Cook the noodles or pasta according to the directions; I did 2 minutes less that package as I was going to bake this for 45 min. Drain. While it cooks; heat the oil or butter in a large frying pan and brown the meat. Be sure to break up any clumps so it is evenly sized. If there is a lot of fat when you are done; drain most of it off. Then add the tomato sauce and the broken-up bouillon cube; stir to mix.

In a medium bowl blend the two cheeses and the sour cream. Then add the scallions and green pepper.

Heat oven to 375 degrees, middle shelf.  Spray a 2 qt casserole with cooking spray.  Pour in half the noodles. Top with the creamy cheese mixture. Then top with the rest of the cooked noodles.  If you want the butter sprinkle it on now. Top with the tomato meat sauce. You can refrigerate this for up to 48 hours at this point. Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Enjoy!

Refreshing Winter Salad Choices

Winter is not known as the season for great salad but it could be! It has been so cold here in PA I am longing for summer fruits so these winter salads can fill that bill when you are meal planning.

I am giving you two salads for this post plus variations for each. Try your own blends but it is best not to throw everything in the fridge in it.  Try to be selective and highlight one or two ingredients.  Simple salads I like have only three – five ingredients and I use my homemade vinaigrette dressing.   They are pretty healthy and probably fairly low in calories yet high in nutritional value.  These are basic recipes which you can tweak depending on the ingredients in your fridge and pantry.

Here are two versions of my winter salad.  This is a repost from my blog a few years ago. I eat these salads all winter long and think you should too. Recently I bought a few blood oranges and used them in lieu of a navel orange; totally different look but pretty much the same flavor; fun!  Another change is I use cubed papaya in lieu of the orange.  Love that one too.

Super Winter Salad (serves 1)

½ an avocado

1 celery stalk

3-4 leaves of green loose leaf lettuce

2-3 tbsp. fresh pomegranate seeds

Or try this yummy winter salad which shows off citrus flavor and color:


Citrus Fennel Salad (serves 1)

1 inner stalk of celery cut in 1/3 inch rounds

1 navel orange

¼ cup fennel bulb, cut in ¼-1/3 inch slices

Peel the orange, either by hand or using a paring knife.  Cut across into rounds about ¼-1/3 inch across.  Cut again across into halves.

Fennel has a sweet crunch to it, faintly tasting of licorice, kinda sort of and it marries really well with citrus.  I also like to use blood orange or cara cara navel oranges in this recipe.  Even grapefruit slices are great.  Cara cara oranges have an interesting orange-pinkish cast to the fruit and a lovely sweet flavor.  The local Giant grocery store has them on display right now.  You can also mix two citrus in your salad; a navel and a blood orange.  Fantastic!

Finishing directions for both salads:

Place the salad ingredients in your salad dish; I have some very low sided ceramic bowls I got a long time ago that I love for salad. Then sprinkle the salad with vinaigrette which you just shook up one last time! Please don’t add too much salad dressing or you will have soggy salad, really not a good thing.

Margie’s Vinaigrette

I named this after my older sister who passed away several years ago.  She made fantastic vinaigrette.  Mine is not quite like hers but close enough to masquerade as it.  She would approve….

So, I like to use one of those Good Seasoning’s jars but add my own ingredients, use a pint jar if you like; the main thing is a tight fitting lid. I confess I bought a new jar; it is plastic but what I like is the metal mixing ball in it; mixes my salad dressings to perfection in moments. If you use the Good Seasons one, fill it to the vinegar line with red wine vinegar, please don’t use the cheap store brand (skimpy 1/4 cup).  Then some filtered water to the water line (about 1/3 inch more or two tbsp.). Next I add ½ tsp Dijon mustard, ½ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp dried oregano, a sprinkle of dried thyme, 1 tsp mayonnaise, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, ½ tsp sugar and [optional] one garlic clove (peeled and mashed down a bit to release flavor),. Then add extra virgin olive oil, stop a bit before the oil line and finish it with lighter olive oil (1/2 cup plus one Tbsp. of combined olive oils).  Shake it up really well. Then shake it some more, you need to get the mayo to blend in as completely as possible. It tastes best at room temperature and plan ahead – let it rest for at least an hour before you use it the first time.  Keep it in the refrigerator if there is any left over, lasts like a month in there. The mustard adds snap and the bit of mayo helps the dressing stay emulsified (fully blended) longer than it would without the mayo.  If your salad is delicate and you don’t want as much olive oil flavor use only mild olive oil and skip the EVOL.  If you chill the dressing you will need to let it warm up before using it; ten seconds in the microwave can help with that process.

Note: You could up the nutritional value with a few almonds or walnuts if you like nuts in your salad.

More thoughts: I make any number of salad combos.  Two of my favorite ingredient combinations are: shredded carrot, sliced radishes, chickpeas, romaine and half rounds of European cucumber or a mixture of torn kale leaves, shredded raw Brussels sprouts, scallion rounds and julienned raw summer squash.  Both mixtures are great with this vinaigrette.  Just don’t put more than say five things in any one salad or it will have a mixed up taste.

Last thoughts: I generally avoid tomatoes in winter although some grape tomatoes are pretty tasty; use them if you feel the need for tomatoes.

So, go get your healthy green on and enjoy a fruity salad, even in the winter.

Reposted from February 2015 with minor changes.