Coconut and Cracked Brown Rice Pudding

Earlier in the fall, I got an email from the folks at Goya. They were writing to tell me about one of the ways that they’re working to reduce hunger and asked if I’d be interested in helping spread the word. You see, every time someone has bought a can of Goya Coconut Milk in November and December, Goya has been donating products to Feeding America.

The donated food is then distributed to hungry families through local food banks across the country. This ‘Can Do’ campaign is part of Goya Gives, a national initiative committed to supporting local communities through social and environmental causes. By the end of the year, Goya will donate at least 600,000 pounds of food (the more you buy, the more they give).

They asked if they could send me a few ingredients with which I would develop a recipe featuring coconut milk. Of course I said yes (anything to help feed more people). The only problem is that I missed one word in the email. Savory. They wanted me to create a savory dish that could be served for dinner (makes sense, since Meatless Mondays was also part of the partnership). I blame the amount of space my new book is currently taking up in my head.

I made rice pudding before I reread the email and realized my mistake. And I just didn’t have time to create something new. So I’m here with a recipe that’s only in partial keeping with the campaign. But if it encourages you to head out and buy some Goya coconut milk, then I will still have done my job. And if savory is what you want, here are some other recipes to try.

I still encourage you to try this recipe. It’s lush, not-too-sweet, and is the perfect foil to bright, tangy jams. It’s cooked in the oven and only stirred occasionally, so it’s wonderfully hands off. The only trick is that you need to blitz the rice in a blender or food processor before combining it with the rest of the ingredients, to ensure a truly creamy texture.

This oven cooked technique borrows from recipes published by Laurie Colwin, Jane Grigson, and others. I use lengths of lemon peel to help balance the richness of the coconut milk, but you could also try lime or even cardamom pods. This time of year, a few cloves and some clementine peel would also be nice.

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Spiced Pear Jam

Earlier this fall, I found myself in possession of a lot of pears. I frozen some. I made a big batch of pear butter. And I made this jam, which I never managed to tell you about. Part of the reason it’s taken me so long is that I had some inner conflict going on about it. You see, I initially developed it for a demo event at which I called it Pumpkin Pie Spiced Pear Jam.

Now, I’m not someone who goes crazy for pumpkin pie spice in the fall (I’ve never even had a pumpkin spice latte, but that’s mostly because I don’t really dig sweetened coffee). But I’m not a hater either. In fact, when it comes to canning and baking, having a little jar of pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice is one of my favorite short cuts (I’ll often put a dash in my oatmeal as it cooks).

However, with Hanukkah upon us and Christmas hurtling ever closer, I came the realization that I’ve not posted a single new thing that you could make and share with your friends, neighbors, teachers, and family members. And in all the years that I’ve written this blog, not one has gone by where I didn’t serve up at least one holiday-centric preserve. So I’m getting over my hesitations and offering up this one.

Just to clarify, my reluctance wasn’t about the flavor (it was really whether to wade into the pumpkin spice pool). I gave a jar to a neighbor, who told me that it was the best jam she’d ever had. Everyone at the demo raved about it as well. It’s good. It’s easy. It’s quick. And if you can’t bring yourself to use the pumpkin pie spice, use a few dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove (just go light on the clove!).

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Folk Potions for the Holidays

One of the things that runs in my family is the drive to etch a fresh path and create something that is uniquely ours. At various times in their lives, my parents have made films, opened toy stores, published volumes of poetry, recorded albums, and run music-centric businesses.

My own career path over the last nine years has been one of writing, teaching, making, and inventing the roadway with each step. And my sister is much the same. She’s been a working folk singer and song writer for over 15 years. She spent the bulk of her twenties traveling, playing music, and collaborating with fellow musicians.

Since having her babies (now three and six!), Raina hasn’t been able to travel as much. While she’s still playing music, last year she started up a little business that allows her to satisfy her need to make and engage with others while staying closer to home. It’s called Folk Potions and she sells an array of handmade, organic body butters, salves, balms, and deodorants.

Everything Raina sells is made by hand in small batches in her kitchen in Austin, Texas. I use her Lavanilla Body Butter on my hands and feet nearly every day and swear by her Melty Minty Lip Balm.

If you’re still on the hunt for holiday gifts, you have until December 20th to place a Folk Potions order! I highly recommend the five piece Natural Skincare Gift Pack for an easy, sure-to-be-appreciated present! Oh, and make sure to follow Folk Potions on Instagram. She often posts about new products and announces when beloved items come back into stock!

Disclosure: Folk Potions is a business created and run by my baby sister. She did not pay me to post this (though occasionally she will drop her new products into the mail for me to try). Her stuff is simply so good that I had to share. 

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Tomato Jam Pizza from The Harvest Baker

The Tomato Jam Pizza from Ken Haedrich’s The Harvest Baker is a tasty way to transform a jar of homemade tomato preserves into a dish worthy of a dinner party!

Tomato jam is one of my favorite homemade condiments. I serve it with cheese. I use it as a dip for roasted sweet potato chunks. I spread it on egg sandwiches. I stir it into vinaigrettes. I use it to glaze baked chicken. However, until a few days ago, one of the few things I hadn’t done with it is spread it on pizza in place of a more traditional sauce. And what an absolute shame that was!

This brilliant idea comes from The Harvest Baker, a gorgeous book by Ken Haedrich about baking with fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Every time I pick up my copy, I find myself flagging more recipes to add to my to-make list. It’s a volume that feels entirely fresh and new, while also maintaining a familiarity that keeps it accessible and welcoming.

When the folks from Storey asked if I might be interested in participating in the virtual book tour for this book, I said yes immediately. The only struggle I faced was choosing just one recipe to feature. However, when I spotted the aforementioned Tomato Jam Pizza, I knew it was the recipe for me (thought the Double Crusted Cabbage Pie regularly haunts my culinary dreams).

The recipe starts by instructing you to make a batch of pizza dough. There are two options in the book, one made by hand and another made in a food processor. I opted for the food processor version and was really pleased with it (I plan on adopting the technique moving forward, as it was so easy).

While the dough rises (of course, you can also use store bought dough if that’s easier), you caramelize some onions. Ken says it should only take about 12 minutes, but I prefer a much longer cook and let mine go for about 45 minutes, until they were honey-hued and nearly as spreadable as room temperature butter.

Once the dough has had a chance to rise and the onions are cooked, it’s time to make some pizza. Take a half batch of the dough (most recipes, including the ones in this book, make enough for two pies) and work it out as thin as you can on a sheet pan.

Top the flattened dough with a thin layer of tomato jam, a more generous layer of caramelized onions, and goat cheese (you can also use a combination of goat cheese and feta, if you prefer something a bit zippier in flavor).

To make the process of getting the goat cheese onto the pizza neatly, I let it come to room temperature, worked it a little with a fork to fluff it up, and then used my meatball scoop to portion it out onto the pie. Then, I used a damp fork and pressed those lumps of cheese down, the same way you would a peanut butter cookie. Worked like a charm.

Once the pizza is fully dressed, you bake it for 18-22 minutes in a 450F oven, until the crust is brown and the cheese bubbles.

I could see making this pizza as an appetizer for a party (just cut into small squares for easy eating) or adding ribbons of prosciutto just before serving. I ate a hearty corner with a pile of kale salad for lunch the day I made it and have been rationing out the leftovers ever since. There’s one, lonely piece left that is destined to be warmed and topped with a fried egg and eaten for breakfast tomorrow.

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A Trio of Cookbooks – Smorgasbord, The Simple Bites Cookbook, and Bravetart

I have a big round-up of this year’s canning cookbooks coming next week, but I have a few favorite cookbooks from this year that I wanted to call out before the holiday shopping season wraps up. These three are worthy of gifting or getting for yourself and would each bring fresh inspiration to your December table.

First up is Smorgasbord by Johanna Kindvall. I was a huge fan of Fika, Johanna’s first book (co-written with Anna Brones) I am just as delighted with this one. Much like the first book, it unpacks a beloved Swedish culinary tradition. We in the US think of a smorgasbord as a giant buffet, but it translates more specifically to open sandwich table.

If you’re looking to liven up your holiday gatherings this year, make sure to open Smorgasbord up to the celebrations chapter. Bake up a loaf of Christmas Malt Bread (page 40), set a batch of Gravlax with Fennel (page 124) to cure, and cook up some Creamed Kale (page 154).

Readers of the blog Simple Bites will know that no one sets a more appealing table or makes cooking with the whole family seem more delightful than Aimee Wimbush-Bourque. Her new book, The Simple Bites Kitchen, packages up all that I love about her site and lets me carry it right up to the stove.

There’s a lot about this book that makes it worth the price of admission, but a few recipes you should not miss are the Spelt Date Scones (page 35), the Overnight Spiced Stollen Swirl Buns (page 37 and pictured above), the Roast Chicken with Bay Leaf and Barley (page 199), and the Fig, Rosemary, and Pistachio Crisps (page 239).

Last up is Stella Parks’ Bravetart. I have long been a fan of Stella’s work on Serious Eats and am so happy to have her wisdom gathered up in a book because she is truly a baking genius. This book serves up classic American treats, from cookies and cakes, to pies and ice creams.

This whole book is a worthy investment, but the pie section is the one I find myself turning to most often. I’ve been using Stella’s pie crust recipe since she shared it on SE last year and love it for its flexibility, durability, and crazy flakiness. I have a feeling you will too.

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Ball Fresh Preserving Products Secret Santa – Soup Mix Jars

Most years, much of my holiday giving to friends, neighbors, and colleagues falls into a pretty predictable pattern. I buy a bunch of plain brown paper kraft bags and then fill them up with mix and match assortments of jam and pickles. Sometimes I really shake things up and add a jar of granola or some scone mix.

However, this year my habitual patterns are getting a big old shake up, thanks to my friends at Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products. They asked me to come up with a delicious, crafty gift for a Secret Santa program that made good use of their Sure Seal Bail Storage Jars. Since these jars aren’t designed for canning, I couldn’t rely on my stable of friendly canning recipes.

I did some soul searching and came to the realization that I wanted to make soup mixes and I wanted them to be in the spirit of those classic Manichewitz soup mix tubes that my mom always kept in the pantry when I was growing up. Nostalgia and a dinner time helper, all in one handy package!

And so, I got down to work. I borrowed inspiration from the contents of those Manichewitz tubes and from this post on making five bean soup kits over on Wholefully and ended up with three soup mixes I am delighted to send off to my Secret Santa swap partner and share with you guys.

There’s split pea and barley, triple bean and rice, and red lentil and pasta. I also included a spice packet in each jar to make the process of cooking up a pot of soup as easy as possible. Each jar also comes with a slip of paper that walks you through how to go from jar to a steaming bowl of soup (I do recommend that folks start the cooking process with some fresh onion, celery and carrot for maximum deliciousness).

I used a scale to portion out my soup ingredients to ensure consistency. If you don’t have a scale, you can eyeball the quantities as you divide them between the jars.

If you’re shipping your soup mixes, make sure you have a sturdy box and plenty of packing material. In the picture, I make it look like I relied entirely on packing peanuts, but after I took that photo I had second thoughts. I ended up swaddling each jar in a length of bubble wrap, to ensure that it arrived safely.

And while it’s good to gift, it’s also delightful to receive. My Secret Santa sent me a DIY Bread and Butter Pickle kit. I was charmed by it, though I do wish they’d have identified themselves in the box! Alas, it remains a mystery!

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