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EATING well

Take comfort in a healthy rice pudding

Rice pudding is a treat everyone will love.

Betty Wedman-St Louis Special to the Times

Rice pudding is a treat everyone will love.

Healthy comfort food can be hard to find in the supermarket, especially when you want something that's tasty and inexpensive and appeals to everyone. But homemade rice pudding can fulfill all those desires. This ultimate comfort food is found on almost every continent where rice is available (I didn't find any on Antarctica during my month there) and has many names: arroz con leche in Spain, risalamande in Scandinavia, pulut hitam in Malaysia, riz bi haleeb in Lebanon.

But when you make your own rice pudding, be selective when it comes to the milk.

Cow's milk, usually the most commonly used milk in this dish, is among the big eight allergens, with increasing numbers of people avoiding the highly processed homogenized, pasteurized milk in the dairy case. I remember the days when milk spoiled in a week. Today, the expiration date on the carton is roughly four weeks from the day you buy it.

Hemp nondairy beverage is becoming more available and offers a non-GMO and gluten-free advantage: It has no lactose, unlike cow's milk, which can cause flatulence and gastrointestinal distress. (Hemp beverage has no THC, the psychoactive substance found in hemp's cousin, marijuana.)

Hemp "milk," which is made by soaking hemp seeds and grinding them into a creamy, nutty-flavored beverage, is a great vegan source of all essential amino acids. Research is under way, however, to determine whether hemp seed beverages contain phytates, which can interfere with essential nutrient absorption.

Another good "milk" choice for a healthy rice pudding is coconut milk. It provides a creamy texture and delicate flavor. Don't worry about the saturated fat content in coconut. It is not a factor in coronary heart disease until the oil is hydrogenated into nondairy products and toppings.

Bring home that extra rice from the Asian restaurant and make it into rice pudding, or choose your favorite rice — jasmine is mine — and transform it into a sweet treat.

Betty Wedman-St Louis is a licensed nutritionist and environmental health specialist in Pinellas County who has written numerous books on health and nutrition. Visit her website at betty-wedman-stlouis.com.

Rice Pudding

2 cups hemp or coconut nondairy beverage

¾ cup uncooked rice (1 ½ cups cooked)

1 tablespoon honey

Pinch of salt

2-inch piece of vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Grated nutmeg

Pomegranate seeds or raisins, optional

Cook nondairy beverage, rice, honey, salt and vanilla bean, if using, in saucepan over medium heat about 30 minutes until rice is soft, stirring frequently. Lower heat to simmer. Cover for 10 to 15 minutes until rice kernels soften and take up liquid.

Stir in vanilla extract (if vanilla bean is not used).

Divide into serving dishes and sprinkle with nutmeg and top with pomegranate seeds or raisins.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 88 to 112 calories, depending on beverage choice; 3g to 4g protein; 19g carbohydrates; 2g to 5g fat.

Note: For special occasions, soak raisins in rum and serve on top with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.

Take comfort in a healthy rice pudding 06/26/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2014 6:09pm]
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