Thursday, May 26, 2011

Comfort Food and Cabinet Organization

Sorry I've been MIA this week, but I've been miserable. I woke up Sunday morning (still in PA) and could tell that my allergies were a lot worse than usual. I spent the entire car ride back to DC sleeping and wondering why I felt so awful. As it turns out, I wasn't suffering from allergies. I have a sinus infection. Booooooo!

I spent Monday curled up on the couch in hopes that resting would solve my problems, but it didn't help. I had to go into the office on Tuesday, so I fought through it and left feeling worse. By yesterday, I broke down and went to the doctor. She put me on an antibiotic, but it hasn't kicked in yet. I'm back at home today, worse than I was yesterday.

The worst part of it all is that it's 90 degrees and sunny here. If I'm missing work, I want to be outside enjoying myself - not cooped up in my house feeling lousy. Woe is me.

Since I am stuck inside and feeling miserable (have I mentioned that I hate being sick?!), I made myself a little comfort food this morning. Whenever I was sick as a child, my mom would either make rice pudding or egg custard. So as an adult, I naturally want one of those two items when I'm sick. I called my mom this morning to whine catch up, and she immediately recommended the rice pudding. It takes about an hour to make, most of which is spent baking, and it's the perfect pick-me-up to soothe and comfort.

Baked Rice Pudding

Serves: 6
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hr. 10 min.

4 cups milk, divided into 2 cup portions
1/2 cup long grain rice
1/2 cup raisins
1 Tablespoon butter
3 beaten eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground nutmeg

In medium heavy saucepan bring 2 cups milk, uncooked rice and raisins to a boil; reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until rice is tender; about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter. 

Meanwhile, combine beaten eggs, 2 cups milk, sugar, vanilla and salt in a mixing bowl.

Gradually stir rice mixture into egg mixture (temper to avoid scrambling the raw eggs). Pour into 10x6x2 inch baking dish (or a dish of comparable size).

Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Stir well; sprinkle with nutmeg. Continue baking an additional 20 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Serve warm or chilled.

Waiting for something to bake is the perfect amount of time to tackle a small kitchen challenge. So while the rice pudding was baking, I decided to clean out my spice cabinet and reorganize a little bit. 

While the pictures don't look all that impressive, I managed to get rid of six spice bottles and a few sample spice packets that I don't need. I also checked for expired bottles, so I have a small list of spices that I need to replace. Lastly, I better organized the baking side of my spice cabinet, so I'll be able to find everything I need when I'm baking. I think that this small re-org is really going to help as I transition into my summer recipes. 

Here is a breakdown of my process:

Step 1: Empty out the cabinet and clean the shelves.

Step 2: Sort by date and throw out any expired spices. Make a list of any that you want to replace.

Step 3: Sort miscellaneous items by category. I sorted by wet and dry ingredients because that's how I wanted them to go back into the cabinet.

Step 4: Put everything back in the cabinets by category.

And admire the spices one more time ... 

The back row are spices I rarely use (i.e. fennel and ground mustard), the middle row is for my go-to spices, and the bottom row is reserved for small bottles.

Once you relish in your hard work, sit back, relax and eat rice pudding ...

And then go take a nap! :)

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