When it comes to sugar free, the lines blur a bit depending on who you are talking to. I personally call a recipe sugar free if it contains no refined sugars such as white granulated sugar, brown sugar or powdered sugar. However, most of those recipes do contain honey, rice syrup, molasses or fruit which are natural sugars, therefore technically not completely sugar free. Take it as you will.
Which leads me to my final topic of 'healthy'. If I say a dessert is healthy, I don't mean healthy like a bowl of broccoli so eat as much as you want, I mean healthy as in healthier than a piece of mile high mudd pie brimming with chocolate, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup and refined sugars. A dessert made with natural sweeteners and whole grains can still be high in calories and carbs, so always practice moderation when it comes to sweets, but at least you'll be eating natural, wholesome ingredients with some nutrients and proteins to balance out the natural sugars.
So now onto today's all natural healthy dessert! It's not called Brown Rice Pudding because it's brown, but because it's made with brown rice. For some ridiculous reason some day back in history, it was decided that we as a society prefer foods that are bright white and clean - white rice, white bread, white pasta. Why? Who knows. 'White' foods are simply overly processed, nutrient stripped and sometimes bleaches versions of their natural brown counterparts.
When it comes to rice, brown rice contains about four times more fiber, dozens more nutrients and also takes less energy to produce, therefore making it a healthier and more eco-friendly choice. If you're not used to eating it (plain), it may taste a little different at first, but when used in a recipe like this one, you won't even know the difference.
If you're a fan of rice pudding, please do give this healthy version a try, I was amazed at it's deliciousness and it's very easy to make. You'll find a printable recipe card at the end of the post.
1 3/4 cups milk
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups cooked short grain brown rice
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Using 2% milk makes a creamer pudding than nonfat milk, but you can also substitute plain or vanilla soy, rice or almond milk.
I'm not usually a fan of raisins in my food, but I love them in this. You can leave them out, however, if they make you think you're eating bugs, or you can sub in another dried fruit such as cranberries.
You may have just read the list of ingredients and thought, what is rice syrup? Can I find that here? It's a delicious natural sweetener, similar to honey, and you can read all about it here. You probably won't find it in your average grocery store but you can find it at any Whole Foods Market or similar health food grocer and you can also order it online. If you can't find it or don't have the time, you can also use honey in this recipe, it works just as well though I prefer the flavor of the rice syrup for this dish.
Now when a recipe calls for vanilla, use the pure stuff. It's important, trust me. Not only because pure vanilla is natural (rather than being synthesized from sapwood or coal extracts) but because it has a pure, spicy, delicate flavor that cannot be achieved with imitation vanilla, which can often leave a bitter aftertaste. I'll warn you now, you may be surprised to see the pricetag of a bottle of pure vanilla compared to imitation vanilla, but it is the second most expensive spice in the world, next to saffron, we just never realize because we're used to buying imitation.
Begin by cooking the brown rice. You'll need 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice so check your package to see how much dry rice to make and for full cooking instructions. This recipe is also a great way to use up leftover rice you may have from a dinner or other recipe.
In a large mixing bowl, blend the the eggs, milk, rice syrup and vanilla until well mixed. Stir in the rice, raisins and cinnamon and mix well.
Spoon into a one quart casserole dish. Don't worry if it seems the rice and raisins are settling to the bottom and the cinnamon is floating to the top, it'll happen.
Bake at 350° for one hour, take it out of the oven, give it a good stir and sprinkle some additional cinnamon on top. Return it to the oven and bake for another 20 – 40 minutes until center is set and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
It's delicious served warm or cold, plain or with a garnish of whip cream or ice cream. Makes about 8 – 10 servings depending on who's dishing the serving size. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
And stop back this afternoon for another new recipe – Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Yogurt Frosting!