Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fatten-Up-The-Baby Rice Pudding

Sam has not gained one ounce in three months. I just found this out two days ago at his 15-month well check and have been frantic ever since. After he was declared "lean" at his 12-month checkup, I made it my mission to get him to eat more. As a result, over the past three months I've introduced countless new and exciting foods of varying flavors, textures, temperatures, and colors. You name it, I've bought, chopped, steamed, melted, roasted, boiled, grilled, scrambled, toasted, blended, pureed, frozen and defrosted it. I serve him big chunks of fruit next to tiny, cut-up squares of fruit in case one is more appealing than the other. We've taken to stripping Sam down to his diaper before he eats and encouraging him to make as big a mess as he likes, hoping this will increase his mealtime joy. Feeding him has become exhaustingly frustrating, a fact that stands in exact opposition to the fantasy I fed when I was pregnant with him.

As he grew inside me, I daydreamed about the food I'd lovingly make and spoon into his eager little bow mouth. I bought a food mill for this sole purpose when I was just five months along and memorized Dr. Sears' recommendations for first foods. It never occurred to me that Sam would refuse to eat this food. Every bite he chews up and spits out feels like defeat, not just because I want him to like and eat the food I serve him, but because his health depends on it. He needs to gain weight. As a result, I've lowered my previously high nutritional standards just to get him to swallow something. Anything. Watching him push tiny fistfuls of the moist shredded Sysco cheese that came with my breakfast taco this morning set off happy little fireworks in my heart. Oh, sure. He'll eat Cheerios all day long, but he can't survive on just Cheerios and breastmilk. So I've shifted gears yet again. The name of the game now is FAT. To that end I decided to make rice pudding for the first time. It's warm, sweet, and creamy - like breastmilk - but loaded with much-needed calories.

Sam's response was lukewarm, but Karl and I flipped over it. I made it with mostly goat milk, for Sam's sake, but it doesn't taste the least bit goat-y. I also cut the called-for amount of sugar in half. It's voluptuously creamy, just slightly sweet, and almost as comforting as the hugs Karl has been wrapping my weary, downtrodden body in these days. This would be a luxurious winter dessert served warm with cinnamon, but when it's 104 degrees out, like now, it's best cold, alone or with peaches or strawberries steeped in sugar and a little rosewater.

Summer Baby Rice Pudding - For Sam
An adaptation of the Joy of Cooking's Stovetop Rice Pudding recipe

Combine in a large heavy saucepan:
3/4 cup medium- or long-grain white rice (I used Jasmine)
1 1/2 cups water
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt

Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in:
3 cups goat milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently, especially toward the end of cooking. The pudding is done when the rice and milk have made a thick porridge. Do not overcook.

Remove from the heat and stir in:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Spoon into a serving bowl or six 5- to 6-ounce ramekins. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Can be served warm, cold, or room temperature.

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