Monday, August 15, 2011

Nothing, Nothing at All... Rice Pudding

That's interesting.  I keep finding that I relate to other bloggers, particularly those who write of more than only food.  My latest discovery in the world of food blogging is 17 and Baking (I know, I'm late, she started more than 2 years ago), and her posts contain amazing insight.  One that I read spoke about the lack of motivation and boredom that accompanied her vacation.  I also have been struck with a strange lack of motivation.  My summer was full of potential, a full 6 weeks (summer classes for the first half, alas) in which to catch up and get ahead.  Of course, this is never quite accomplished due to the sheer volume of ambition.  I sometimes feel like I've lost a great deal of my inspiration, that my get-up-and-go has get up and gone (I can't take credit for that clever phrase, but I don't remember where I read it).  That I have accomplished nothing, and am not accomplishing anything, and if I continue this path of sloth, I will accomplish nothing.

The difference is that I am never bored, due in part to my eclectic nature and (probably in a greater) part to my constant procrastination.  I love to bake.  I like my classes that I am trying to get a head start in, with the exception of differential calculus.  I really ought to do more work for robotics.  I like to run.  I like to knit, and I have a half-finished pair of gloves I am making for a wonderful friend.  But I haven't really done a lot of these, with the exception of make food.  I sometimes fear that anything I pursue too seriously will become like my reading.  I will admit right here.  

I have a reading addiction.  

It started when I was about 5, having just moved to the United States from Hong Kong.  I am Chinese.  I understand Cantonese just fine.  I even speak it reasonably, enough to get by in daily life.  But I cannot read.  In my first language, I am illiterate, just capable of reading and writing my own name and about a kindergarten level.  This is in part due to my family moving to the States and in part to my choice of gymnastics over Chinese school, both on Friday nights.  When I began to learn English, some family friends had me read aloud from a book, called Draw Me a Star by Eric Carle.  I still think of that book very fondly and we are still in touch with those friends.  But to my detriment, I discovered that reading English was easy.  Incredibly simple, compared to the thousands upon thousands of Chinese characters required to read the newspaper or any book.  And because it was easy, I began to do it more. 

I also found that it was incredibly easy to dive into the world of words and lose track of time.  From the first grade on, my mum found me library books every weekend and let me devour as much as I had time for.  I don't get motion sick, and would often be deep into or done with books by the time we had driven back from the library.  I quickly moved past beginner books, reading as fast as I could see the words, and dove into books more interesting and deemed higher level.  I was reading far above my grade level until they stopped counting grade levels.  Books are my escape and a reliable source of information.

But this pleasure came with a price.  In middle school I was usually reading in class after I finished my work, earning me the dislike of one 5th grade teacher.  In high school, I didn't really have time for this eternal head-in-a-book mentality and generally acted like an addict on withdrawal when faced with any new book (or any old favorite-I can reread until a book falls apart).  Books were my drug.  I can't really rest until I've finished a book.  I am irritable when someone interrupts my reading.  When I finish a book, I often immediately look for another so I can procrastinate some more and just lose myself.  When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out,  I told my parents I was not hungry for dinner, locked the door and read from 8 that night to 3 in the morning.  

This recipe from 17 and Baking pulled me from my reading coma-induced sloth and kick-started my zest for life again.  After finding those wonderful vanilla beans again, this recipe caught my eye as the perfect vehicle to showcase my flavor of the week.  I was reminded that I don't appreciate things (like these beautiful beans) enough.  Right now, though, I appreciate the comfort of this rice pudding.  I never had it growing up, because my parents didn't buy it.  I do have a love of puddings, custards and jelly foods.  This one was perfect, with the addition of slightly crunchy vanilla bean seeds.  I didn't taste the jasmine tea, but I had an interesting incident where I accidentally left the stove for a minute while the milk was boiling.  The pot has a spout and I had left the lid turned so that steam could escape through said spout.  As the milk boiled over, it shot out of the spout in a stream and I was stunned for a moment before lifting the lid to relieve the pressure in attempt to save the jasmine milk.  Had I foresight, I would have taken a picture, but alas, the moment passed.  In any case, I didn't want to make more of a mess than I already had.

Vanilla Bean Jasmine Rice Pudding from 17 and Baking
½ Recipe, makes about 6 small servings

¾ cup water
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons short grain rice (I used a Chinese milled rice)
Somewhat less than ¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups 1% milk (yep, still have no whole milk)
1 bag jasmine green tea (I suggest using 2, since I didn't taste any jasmine)
½ cup heavy cream
 ¼ cup sugar
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2 small pots, 1 for rice and 1 for jasmine milk
1 wooden spoon
¼ teaspoon measure
1 tablespoon measure
¼ cup dry measure
2-cup liquid measure


1. In one pot, combine the rice, water and salt.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the fire and simmer until all of the water is absorbed.  Do not stir the rice-it won't cook properly. 

2. In the other pot, bring the milk to a boil with the jasmine tea bag(s).  Turn the fire off and leave to steep until the rice is done, about 10 minutes.  Unlike the name of this blog, try not to set the tea bags or the paper tags on fire.   

3. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the cooked rice.  Add the whole vanilla bean, cream, sugar and jasmine milk.  Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until all the liquid is absorbed and the pudding is creamy, about 20-30 minutes.

4. Scoop into bowls or simply cool as it is.  Enjoy!

Delicious, comforting food, eaten in soft daylight...

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