Thursday, January 17, 2013

Baby, it's cold outside

The sun may be shining and the sky may be blue, but it's cold here in Loreto and all one has to do is look around to know that's the case. The standard issue Baja uniform of t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops has been replaced with socks, jeans and jackets, and, in some cases, even woolen hats and gloves. George and I are bundled up whether outdoors or in, but still my toes are cramping and I have to pull a blanket over myself - and Zoe - while watching television or reading. I turned the heat on for the first time in three years and we're even taking hot showers now and that just doesn't happen in this part of Baja! Good grief, we're freezing to death down here.

Zoe keeping warm  in the sweater she got from her BFF Maryanne

Last year at this time daytime temps were in the upper 70s to low 80s. This winter we've seen highs that only reach 60 (gasp!) and lows near 40 degrees. Those of you north of the border may scoff, snort and send me photos of people shoveling out from under several feet of snow. My response to all that potential scoffing and photo sending is this: What the heck are you doing there? Get thee to Baja where you can at least lose the snow shovel!

We've been staying indoors a lot lately, only venturing out to take Zoe on her walks or when cabin fever propels us out the door and into the wind and cold. We've been hit with blustery 20-30 mph north winds during this cold snap, which really makes it seem cold - as in up north cold.

I've been keeping busy, though, by baking and cooking. And, of course, what I'm baking and cooking is good, old comfort food. Bread and rice pudding have been at the top of my list. I thought I'd take a page from my friend Sue's blog and post a most awesome recipe for rice pudding I found online. Thank goodness for the Internet and Mr. Google. I honestly don't know what I'd do without them. Credit for this recipe goes to The Frugal Chef at

Creamy Rice Pudding

1 cup short grain rice

1 1/2 cups water

2 cinnamon sticks

1 cup whole milk

1 – 14.5 oz. can evaporated milk

1 – 14.5 oz. can of condensed milk

Powdered cinnamon

Wash the rice well and place it in a pan with the water and cinnamon sticks. Simmer it for about 10 minutes, until most of the water is evaporated. Add the milks, mix well, and bring back to a simmer. DO not cover the pan and make sure it does not overflow on you. If it starts overflowing give it a stir. Cook the rice for about 20 minutes or until it is fully cooked through.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the pudding to a bowl or individual ramekins. If you are not going to eat this warm, cover the bowl or ramekins with plastic wrap, placing it directly on top of the pudding so as to prevent a crust. Sprinkle some powdered cinnamon on the pudding when you are ready to serve. 

In my humble opinion it is the sweetened condensed milk (nectar of the gods!) that makes this so wonderful and creamy. But I also learned an important lesson when I made this the first time and it's a simple thing we can all learn from: Don't leave out one of the ingredients when making this pudding! I forgot to add the whole milk which resulted in a very hard pudding. But it was still good, just not very creamy.

I also learned something about cinnamon, which I couldn't have discovered without help from my friend, Mr. Google. I used the last of my McCormick's cinnamon sticks when I first made this recipe earlier this week. The pudding was gone in a flash, so I decided to remake it but had to run into town to find more cinnamon sticks. The type I found is very different in appearance from what we get in the States, but I figured cinnamon is cinnamon so I bought it anyway. Not so! The type sold in Mexico is Ceylon cinnamon which is much lighter in color, more brittle and flaky and much less flavorful. My research also revealed that the type used in the States is mostly from Indonesia and is darker and more dense with a much stronger flavor. I didn't let that stop me from making the pudding again, but I am going to order some of the good stuff and ask a friend to bring it down for me, along with vanilla beans which I haven't found anywhere in Baja. Which is odd because Mexico is renowned for its vanilla. Just another strange anomaly and one of many that keep us scratching our heads.

The good news is that our cold spell is on its way out with the forecast calling for warmer temperatures every day this week, which means I can get out of the kitchen and try to work off some calories!

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