Roasted Vegetable Risotto

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – risotto is not that hard. It does take time, but it you are okay without perfection, risotto is a great dish to make. It is my go-to dish when I’m tired and can’t think straight, but don’t want to go out for dinner. It can be made with whatever you have on hand and is a very filling meal. I love risotto and think more people should make it.

This version was better than I thought it would be. I had extra vegetables in the fridge from earlier in the week and had a long, tiring day at work. So … roast the vegetables in the oven, grate some cheese and make a risotto.

Recipe:

  • 1/2 large yellow squash (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 handful asparagus (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 1/2 large sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup aboro rice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pat butter (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup shredded pecorino or other hard grating cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine (totally optional)

Heat the oven to about 375 degrees. (Ovens vary, so some may need to be at 400 and other 350 – just use whatever temperature you generally roast vegetables at). Set vegetable stock/broth to simmer in a pot on the stove.

Cut vegetables to about 1 inch pieces. Coat in a tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 12-15 minutes, tossing half way through. Vegetables should be roasted, but not burnt. Remove from oven.

While the vegetables roast, dice the onion and garlic. Heat a large pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes until onion is soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add aboro rice. Toss rice to coat with the onion and oil then let toast for a about two minutes, stirring frequently. If using wine, add here and stir until it is absorbed/evaporated. Add one cup of broth and mix. Let simmer over medium heat until absorbed. When the rice/pan is dry, add more broth and stir. Continue adding broth, 1/2 to 1 cup at a time until rice is fully cooked – about 25-30 minutes. Before the last of the broth is fully absorbed, add the roasted vegetables and mix well.

Once the last of the broth (you may not use all of it) is absorbed, remove from heat and add butter and half the cheese. Mix well. Squeeze the lemon over the pan of risotto and mix again. Add a little more cheese and mix. Plate and top with a little cheese.

 

Three Bean Chili

Whole Foods had canned beans on sale the other week and I stocked up. I figured it’s October and we should be getting chili weather soon. It’s not to be. We are still in the upper 80s and low 90s half way through the month. I finally decided I didn’t care that the weather is still saying summer – I want chili.

img_20181014_090920So … clean out the fridge and the cabinet and let’s see what we come up with. Three cans of beans, 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes, some vegetable broth, spices, a needs to be cooked now yellow pepper and half a red onion. That’s it. At the end – shredded cheddar cheese that I picked up a while back for tacos and you have a meal. I was a little surprised at how well this turned out – and it was even better as enchiladas later in the week. (I forgot to take a picture of that though.)

Recipe:

  • 1 can fire roasted, diced tomatoes
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans
  • 1 can white bean (pick your variety)
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 1 pepper (I had yellow on hand, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Olive Oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated/shredded cheese for topping (optional)

Peel and dice the onion. Dice the pepper. Drain and rinse the beans – set aside.

Heat about 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan that can be covered. When hot, add onion and pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Onion should be translucent and peppers should be softer, but not mushy.

Add spices and toss to coat. Cook about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, then add tomatoes and half the vegetable stock. Mix, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add beans and mix well. Add the rest of the broth. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Uncover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Check and adjust seasonings.

 

 

Bacon Bread

It has been a very long time since I made bacon bread. A very long time. But it was Dad’s birthday and I wanted to make him something that I knew he would like. So … bacon bread.

Bacon bread was inspired by the bacon buns grandmom use to make. She never wrote down the recipe so when I started to try to figure it out, the bread never turned out exactly right. But eventually I got it right. There is a slight sweetness to the bread which matches to the salty bacon. Add some onion and keep some of the fat from cooking the bacon and you get a moist bread that tastes delicious. I’ve thought about trying to make a vegetarian version, but I don’t think it would work nearly as well.

The nice thing about this dough is that there is enough for two loaves. I could have made one large one, but making them slightly smaller means less baking time. It is also easier to tell when the bread is done and the crust is pretty without getting overly dark.

Recipe:

  • 3-4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon yeast (or one packet)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg (optional) for brushing on top
  • 12 oz. bacon
  • 1/2 large sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (if using uncured bacon – skip if bacon is cured)

Heat milk, water and butter until warm (120 degrees). Add yeast and let sit for five minutes until foamy. Combine one cup of flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and stir together. Slowly combine the yeast mixture, the mix (using a dough hook if using a mixer) until a very soft dough forms. Add the eggs and one additional cup of flour and mix well.  Beat on medium-high speed (if using a mixer) for two to three minutes. If mixing by hand, mix until soft dough forms and is smooth. Mix in about a half cup flour and mix well (about 8 minutes with mixer).

Flour a clean surface. Turn dough onto floured surface and add about 1/3-1/2 cup flour to the top. Mix and knead the dough by hand for about ten minutes. Add more flour as necessary to prevent sticking, but keep dough soft. Return to bowl, cover and let rest while you make the filling.

Rough chop the onion so the pieces are small enough to be in a filling, but large enough to be noticed. (No, this isn’t very precise, but that’s okay – the onions can be a variety of sizes and it still works). Chop the bacon into pieces, discarding some of the fat as you cut.

Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat and once heated, add bacon. Cook, stirring frequently, until bacon is cooked. Drain the fat. Reduce heat to medium and add the chopped onion. Cooke, stirring frequently, until onion is soft. Drain fat again. If your bacon is uncured, add maple syrup and stir well. Remove from heat.

Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface roll dough into large rectangle. Add half the filling and spread evenly over the dough. Tightly roll the dough starting from the long edge. (Fold dough over edge, pick up and roll onto itself until you reach the end.) Form rolled dough into a circle and place seam side down on a baking sheet. (I like using a Silpat as I find it keeps the bottom from burning for me.) Repeat with the other half of the dough. Cover and let rest/rise in a warm area for about an hour.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Once pre-heated, beat remaining egg and brush onto the loaves the bake for about 35 minutes. If loses sound somewhat hollow when tapped, they are done.

Let rest and cool on wire rack.

Israeli Couscous White Bean Salad

In my quest to pack my lunch, and pack things that A) can be eaten in a car, B) do no require a microwave or refrigerator, and C) will fill me up I’ve started eating more beans than I ever had before. I’m still not crazy about the texture of beans, but I’m getting there.

This salad I found in the NY Times Cooking section and have to say, I kind of love it. It holds for a while and has both protein from the feta and beans and grains from the couscous to fill me up. Add in some heirloom tomatoes and basic from the garden and what is not to like. Admittedly I can’t eat this while driving, but it can be eaten in a parking lot and it holds up well with an ice pack in my lunch bag. We had this for dinner one day as is, then I added some celery and yellow pepper to the leftovers to stretch it for lunch for a few days. The only real change I made to the original salad was using cannellini beans instead of pinto and adding a little more garlic (I think 2 large cloves instead of one).

Homemade Margherita Pizza

The ten year old in me sometimes (ok often) likes basic food and one classic kid-friendly food is pizza. You can justify it by saying it contains several food groups including vegetables (tomato sauce), dairy (cheese) and grains (the crust) but really, it isn’t the healthiest of foods. However, you really can’t beat a good pizza.

The best thing about a basic sauce and cheese pizza is that it is fast and takes almost no brainpower – perfect after a long day at work. I cheated on the crust on this and bought the dough at the grocery, and used leftover sauce and cheese. Add a few sun-dried tomatoes and basil from the garden and you have a near perfect pizza.

 

Chickpea Quinoa Salad

I love salads for lunch, but the issue is always the dressing. With lettuce based salads the issue tends to be either finding a container to put the dressing in and hoping it doesn’t spill, or pre-dressing the salad and hoping the lettuce holds up. Some salads also leave my hungry a few hours later so I want something that will hold me until dinner. This week’s option – chickpea quinoa salad.

This recipe is based on a recipe from the New York Times. I’ve changed a few things, but I’ve also made this as written before and it is still fabulous. This dish comes together very quickly, especially if you keep cooked chickpeas and quinoa in your freezer. If you don’t, go with canned chickpeas and just make the quinoa as you chop the celery and make the dressing. Sumac (I generally sub Zatar) can be hard to find, but if you have a spice shop, they should carry it – if not, try Amazon. Really, you can find just about anything on Amazon. The recipe is best with the dill and chives in it, but if I don’t have them on hand, I just leave them out and it is still delicious. I also never include the mint. I’m just not a fan of mint in my salads.

 

Crustless leftovers quiche

So I have a new job! Yay! This new job is back in public schools and at a district level which means I am not in one school all day. I’m not even in one place all day or the same place two days in a row. It’s exciting, but it makes lunch a little more complicated. I decided to take a page from a former colleague and try to make lunches for the week on Sunday. I don’t know how long this will last, but if I can get in the habit of doing it, it could work out well.

One thing I need to keep in mind is that I don’t know if I will have access to a microwave on any given day. Lunch, therefore, need to be a not heat required lunch. If I can make it “eat on the go” friendly, all the better. Up first – mini quiches.

The weekend I made these I had not been to the farmers market or the store. I was sick Saturday and just lazy Sunday morning (if lazy includes walking the dog, feeding the pets, litter boxes, dishes and laundry that is). I had to come up with something that would not require me to go to the store, and would not use what I had on hand for dinner for Sunday or Monday. The result – mini crustless quiche filled with tomato, sweet pepper and scallion.

I started with roasting the vegetables. I did this mainly to soften them and eliminate some of the excess moisture. I didn’t want my quiches to leak or get soggy. I also added pre-shredded cheddar cheese. Yes, I know I could have gone for better cheese, but I kind of like the low moisture stuff for cooking. The result – cute and tasty quiches. I packed them two together and that should satisfy for lunch – maybe with grapes and a granola bar if I ever get around to making granola.

Recipe:

  • ~1/3 cup cherry tomatoes
  • ~1/2 cup chopped sweet peppers
  • 1 bunch scallions, whites and light green parts only
  • ~1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (can substitute yogurt – I generally do but didn’t have any on hand)
  • oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375. Chop tomatoes, scallions and peppers and place on large baking sheet. Coat in about 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread on sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Mix 5 eggs and 1/2 cup cream together. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the cheese and roasted vegetables and mix well. Use an ice cream scoop to put into prepared (greased or lined) muffin tins, filling each tin about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes.

Allow to cool in tins, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack, unless eating right away. Makes 12 mini quiche.

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