Friday, May 04, 2007

Two Insanely Easy Desserts

Last night I was worn out but in the mood to cook, or at least produce. So I made two desserts that took about five minutes each of hands-on time.

The first were Acai pops for M & T. I'm trying to wean them from the nutritionless supersweet popsicles that they love, and this recipe from Super Natural Cooking seemed perfect: Just vanilla yogurt, some acai smoothie blend, and maybe a teensy bit of simple syrup to make it a bit sweeter.

Acai berries are a fruit that grows in South America on acai palms. The fruit is said to be a SUPERFOOD, rich in dietary fiber, fatty acids, potassium, pixie dust, and I forget what-all. It's becoming available at natural food stores in frozen, pureed "smoothie packs" that are about three ounces each. I'd picked up a package of smoothie packs the last time I was at Wild Oats.

To make the pops, you just let the smoothie pack sit for five minutes, then crumble it into a blender with 1/2 cup vanilla-flavored yogurt. (The author suggests full-fat yogurt, but I couldn't do it and went fat free.) Mix this in the blender and taste the mixture; it it doesn't taste sweet enough, sweeten it with some simple syrup. Now use some more vanilla yogurt to fill popsicle molds about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Then fill the rest of the way with the acai/yogurt mixture. Use the end of a spoon to swirl around each pop so you get a lovely gradation when the pop is unmolded: cream-colored on the top, swirled purple and cream in the middle, and rich purple on the bottom.

I unmolded them tonight after dinner, and M was wary, but T, who could eat gallons of yogurt on his own, loved them.

I also made what I thought was a brilliant new dessert: rice pudding with risotto. Turns out I'm not the first person to think of making sweet risotto, I later dishearteningly found some recipes from other cooks. But it still was pretty fabulous. Here is the superquick version I made, and a little more dawdly traditional method.

Risotto Pudding Two Ways

2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups milk
1 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
1 or 2 tsp. vanilla
Raisins if you like (me, I don't)

SuperQuick Version: Melt the butter in a pressure cooker turned to the Browning setting. Add the rice and stir around to coat in the butter. Add the milk and cinnamon, give it a stir or two. Secure the lid and process on high pressure for 11 minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally; don't release it quickly. Now stir in the sugar and vanilla, and if you like, raisins.

Dawdly Version: In a saucepan, heat the milk to just warmed -- it shouldn't be boiling. In another, medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the rice and stir around to coat in the butter. Now lower the heat and add a ladle of the warmed milk and, using a wooden spoon, meditatively stir it around until much of the milk has evaporated, but some still remains; the rice shouldn't be dry. Add another ladle and keep doing this for 20 minutes or so until the milk has turned all creamy and the risotto is al dente. Stir in the sugar and vanilla, and if you like, raisins.

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