Rice pudding is one of those decadent-tasting desserts that lend themselves readily to a healthful upgrade. The vanilla-scented liquid in which the rice simmers can be made rich and creamy without involving actual cream, and in ways that also add flavor and nourishing power.
For one, using short-grain rice gives full-bodied thickness to a reduced-fat-milk base because it releases more starch than a long-grain variety would. And making it brown rice contributes a lovely nutty taste and texture, as well as whole-grain goodness.
Another way to amplify creaminess healthfully, while adding a delightful hue, is to stir dessert-friendly pureed produce into the mix. The pumpkin puree used here, with the addition of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, turns this dessert into a fragrant flavor mash-up of rice pudding and pumpkin pie. I have had good results from adding pureed mango for a more tropical taste profile, and I imagine pureed peaches or even sweet potato would work as well.
Although there is no cream in the pudding itself, a dollop of real whipped cream on top is just the right way to use the ingredient: in small amounts for maximum impact, front and center, where your eye can register it and let your taste buds know there is more rich lusciousness on the way.
Krieger’s most recent cookbook is “Weeknight Wonders: Delicious Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.