Living the veg life, one meal at a time
Christmas Rice Pudding
Rice Pudding

I did not grow up on meals prepared by gourmet cooks by any means. The seasonings of choice for my parents and grandparents were salt, pepper, and garlic powder. In fact, the only exception to this trio of spices was the cinnamon shaker in the back of the cupboard that was brought out only at Christmas for pies and –my favourite part of the holiday – rice pudding. Most of my family would overlook the rice pudding at the dessert table after a huge feast, but not me. I would save room just for that rice pudding. I can remember the long grain white rice swam in a perfectly sweetened, creamy pool. It was dotted with raisins and served in my grandmother’s 70’s-style, mustard-yellow bowl. She would set aside a small glass bowl of cinnamon sugar so that people could help themselves to however much they liked. I always asked my grandmother to serve me the cinnamon sugar because I thought she sprinkled on the perfect amount.

Grandma and Me

Grandma and I making pies in our pyjamas. Could be why I usually cook in my pj pants? 

My grandmother always insisted on putting together a feast every Christmas despite having back problems from a workplace injury. She would sit in front of the oven with a hanky stuffed in her bra in case she got too hot and needed to wipe her face (when I was very young and didn’t know about puberty I thought my grandmother stuffed her bra). She would summon people from their seats if she needed something in the cupboard that was too high, and no one was allowed in the kitchen unless they were called for. When I was seven years old I was called into the kitchen because my grandmother needed my help. I felt honoured because children were never allowed in the kitchen –especially during meal preparation. Since I was still too short to reach the cupboards I climbed the counters to retrieve whatever my grandmother needed. My mother hated that the hem of my crushed green velvet Christmas dress was covered in flour from the messy countertops but she didn’t make a fuss about it until we left. My grandmother said she was impressed by my climbing skills and how I didn’t ask a lot questions. I think I was too fearful of being kicked out of the kitchen to speak at all. I watched her season, stir and taste the meal we were about to share. I knew it was just right when she took a bite and nodded to herself. Then she called in one of my uncles to pull out and carve the turkey with her fancy new electric knife.

There would never be a table big enough for all of us to eat together, so the kids ate together and the adults dined at another table. You would move up to the adult table based on how well you behaved, and not necessarily if you were an adult. Once dinner was finished the tables were cleared for the traditional euchre game and the dessert was put out on the buffet table. Pies were always served, but there also would be squares, confections, and fudge that my aunts brought. I passed on all of these and saved my bowl for the rice pudding. I brought my bowl and the cinnamon sugar over to my grandmother who, by this time, was shuffling cards and getting her quarters ready. She sprinkled the cinnamon sugar on my pudding and thanked me for my help in the kitchen. She placed my bowl and the cinnamon sugar on the table and asked me to shuffle the cards for her. She said I might be good luck for the game and until this day I have never felt more honoured. Kids weren’t allowed to touch the cards out of fear that they might have sticky fingers, but I got to shuffle them. I remember feeling in that moment that I had become a little more grown up, and it is memory I will not soon forget.

Due to my grandmother’s ailing health she later ceased preparing Christmas dinners. She passed away in June 2012. It wasn’t until after her death I came to know that the rice pudding that I adored was actually from a can that she heated up over the stovetop. I had mixed feelings about it since I had told everyone all the time that my grandmother made the best rice pudding, but at the same time I was touched that she went out and bought this specific brand of rice pudding every year just for me. It was special to me because she made it special. To me this is what the holidays are about, these treasured memories that live with you forever.

me, sarah and grandma

As much as I complain about the holidays: the shopping, wrapping and travelling is all worth it when you can remember special moments like these. I hope wherever the holidays take you, you will be surrounded by people who you love.

Serves 2

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup white basmati rice
  • 1 ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ¾ cup full fat coconut milk, can well shaken before measuring out the milk
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup

Optional Garnish

  • 1 teaspoon organic cane sugar and ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, mixed together

Bring water to a boil over high heat in a medium, heavy bottom saucepan. Stir in salt and rice; cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until water is almost fully absorbed, about 12 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, increase heat to medium high and bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium low to maintain simmer.

At 0 mins Rice Pudding

Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently until mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. You should be able to drag a wooden spoon through the pudding so it leaves an empty trail.

Rice Pudding Thicken 20 minutes

Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with cinnamon mixture if you choose to. Serve warm or at room temperature. My ex’s family had a great tradition to put an almond in the bottom of one bowl and pour the pudding over top. Whoever found the almond in their bowl got a giant chocolate bar as a prize. I like Green and Black’s Organic Chocolate bars.


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