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Published November 03. 2010 05:00PM

When it comes to milk, cows seem practically passe.

Grocers these days are jammed with milks made from almonds, rice, hazelnuts, cashews and - of course - soy beans. The trick to enjoying these beverages is to match the best variety with how you plan to use it.

In general, you'll get the smoothest, most dairy milk-like flavor from soy, which is low in fat. Producers have been making it - and trying to make it similar to dairy milk - for a long time. Plain varieties can have a bit of a soy flavor, which some people dislike. But this often isn't the case with flavored soy milks, such as vanilla.

Milks made from almonds, hazelnuts and cashews will have a rich flavor and thick texture, as well as a pleasantly nutty taste. Rice milks tend to be a bit thinner than soy or nut milks and have a slightly sweeter flavor.

Regardless of what they are made from, most nondairy milks are available in a variety of flavors, including plain, vanilla and chocolate. When using these milks in baking or other sweets, vanilla is ideal, as these tend to have the creamiest flavor. But for savory recipes - such as a creamy soup - stick with plain (and, ideally, unsweetened).

This basmati-almond rice pudding with mango uses a vanilla flavored almond milk both for its nutty flavor and its sweetness. No additional sugar is required for the recipe.

Basmati-Almond Rice Pudding with Mango

Start to finish: 50 minutes

Servings: 8

1 1/2 cups water

cup white basmati rice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 1/2 cups vanilla flavored almond milk, divided

teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 cup chopped, dried mango

4 teaspoons cornstarch

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, combine the water, rice and salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over very low heat, stirring occasionally so the rice doesn't stick, until most of the water is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in 3 1/2 cups of the almond milk, the cardamom and mango. Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is very soft and most of the milk is absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup of the almond milk and the cornstarch. Whisk the mixture into the pudding. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 138 calories; 14 calories from fat (10 percent of total calories); 2 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber; 238 mg sodium.

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