Friday, January 28, 2011

Baked Risotto with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

Risotto is delicious. It is creamy, dreamy, Italian rice goodness. It also requires at least 20 minutes of near constant stirring. And while I currently have more free time than I know what to do with, I am well aware that most people have better, or at least more important, things to do than stand over a stove stirring a pot of rice for 20 minutes. But what if you didn’t have to stir your risotto? What if you could have perfect, rich and creamy risotto with almost none of the work? Would you be tempted to make risotto all the time?

Folks, get ready to be tempted because you can bake risotto in the oven.

For a basic baked risotto, all you have to do is combine Arborio rice, chicken broth, and white wine in a baking dish. Cover it up and bake it until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is creamy, yet still a bit toothsome. When the rice is done baking, stir in some butter and cheese to make it extra luscious. Season it up with a little salt and pepper and you are good to go without ever breaking a sweat.

From there you can flavor it up any way you like, simply by stirring in some fun ingredients at the end. The possibilities are endless – roasted butternut squash, bacon and onions, sun-dried tomatoes and basil, or one of my personal favorites – mushrooms and goat cheese. The combination of earthy mushrooms and tangy goat cheese makes this baked risotto extra special. And it’s still easy enough for any night of the week – no lengthy stirring required.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Crispy BBQ Chicken Fingers

I’ve told you many times how Stan’s not a foodie and how that’s hard for my food-obsessed brain to comprehend. That being said, there are certain foods that I know my hubby loves. His mom’s traditional Russian cooking, pretty much any dessert with cherries, Trader Joe’s lime popsicles… Yeah, he’s a random one. I also know that at the end of a long day, there’s nothing Stan likes more than some finger food that tastes like junk food (but really isn’t since I’m the one making it).

Enter these Crispy BBQ Chicken Fingers. I made these the other night for Stan after he’d been up ‘til all hours writing a paper for school, gotten three hours of sleep, worked all day, and then went to class for three hours. Needless to say, by the time he got home at 9:30 at night, I thought he could use a little culinary comfort – and a big hug. I gotta say, I think he was more excited about these chicken fingers than the hug. The tater tots I served with them didn’t help. Guess I know my place. Joking… he wanted the hug before the chicken. Then again, that was before he saw the chicken...

All kidding aside, we loved these chicken fingers. They have all the crunch of traditional chicken fingers, but they are baked instead of fried so you can feel good about eating them. Marinated in buttermilk and bbq sauce, the chicken is tender and juicy. The crispy coating has just the right amount of spice, and the bbq sauce you brush on at the end gives them the perfect amount of smoky tang. Plus you get to eat them with your fingers (if you are so inclined), and that’s always a good time.

P.S. These would make an awesome appetizer for a Super Bowl party!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Molasses Spice Cookies

College roommates are great for a lot of things. They’ll lend you clothes and jewelry so you look extra cute for an important party. They’ll sing indie rock and show tune duets with you even though you can’t sing on key. They’ll even go out with you in the pouring rain so you can meet up with a boy you like. (Just make sure you thank your roomie for that at your wedding when you marry that same boy.)

College roommates are also great for introducing you to new recipes – like these cookies, for instance. Until recently, I was convinced I did not like spice cookies even though I love spices in everything else. Perhaps I had a less than tasty specimen when I was a kid. Whatever the reason, spice cookies have never been on my radar. Until now that is, and I have my former college roomie to thank!

These molasses spice cookies are sweet and buttery. They are spice-kissed with a touch of salt. They are soft and chewy with a crunchy sugar coating. Basically, they rock. They are also quite easy to make. Just make sure you leave enough time to let the dough chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. You need that time to let the dough firm up enough to roll it into balls – and to call up your old roommate and thank her again for changing your mind about spice cookies, helping you get together with your future husband, or you know, whatever else you might need to thank her for.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Swiss Chard

For the last few days, Nashville has been gray. All day. The sky is pretty much the same color from sunrise to sunset – and let me tell you, it is not such a pretty color. Where is the warm and sunny South I’ve come to love? I tell you, I think it’s hibernating for the winter. And really, that’s what this weather is making me want to do too. Put on some sweats, cozy up under a pile of blankets with the remote control, and hibernate ‘til spring.

Since giving up on leaving the house for the next few months isn’t really an option for most of us, I offer you up the next best thing – a warm and cozy meal that will help you through these chilly nights and give you lunch leftovers to look forward to on an otherwise dreary day. My cure for the gray-day doldrums? Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Swiss Chard.

This sweet and savory dish may not be the most glamorous looking meal you’ve ever made, but I promise you, its taste more than makes up for its looks. Imagine, if you will, creamy sweet potatoes, hearty lentils, and tender Swiss chard cooked together with garlic, onions, and just the right amount of spice. Take that flavor combo, brighten it up with lime zest and juice and a healthy dose of cilantro and scallions, and you’ve got a flavor power punch coming your way. Admittedly there are a lot of ingredients in this dish, but don’t let that dissuade you. The prep work is easy and most of the cook time is hands-free so you can sit back and enjoy a glass of wine… or head to the couch and curl up under a blanket.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chili Mac with Corn and Green Chiles

Okay, I held out as long as I could. I know it’s January, the month of healthy eating and dieting resolutions. I tried to give you as many healthy recipes as I could. I haven’t even mentioned dessert so far this month. But the time has come for me to cave. I just have too many delicious (slightly fattening) recipes to tell you about. I hope you’ll forgive me.

Apologies and disclaimers aside, today’s recipe is one I’ve been waiting to tell you about for the last few weeks. It’s a new, fresh, kicked up take on the family-friendly classic chili mac. In this version, lean ground beef and macaroni are cooked up with a delicious mix of onions, garlic, and spices. Corn and green chiles are thrown into the mix to jazz things up a little. Oh, and did I mention the whole thing is topped with gooey cheese and fresh cilantro? Just telling you about it is making my stomach growl.

In addition to the fabulous flavors, let me give you three more reasons why you will love this chili mac. Number One: The entire meal is cooked in one skillet. That means you only have one thing to wash after dinner. Can I get a hallelujah? Number Two: The entire meal can be prepped and ready to hit the table in under 30 minutes. How often does that really happen? Number Three: Leftovers (if you have any) taste just as good as they did the first night. Honestly, I’m a little bummed I don’t have any ground beef in the house so I could make this for dinner tonight!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thai Honey Peanut Chicken

It isn’t very often that I post a recipe the day after I try it. It’s not because I’m indecisive about whether I liked it or not. Rather, it’s because I have a whole list of recipes backlogged and waiting to be shared. It takes a standout recipe to jump the line. That being said, today’s recipe is a line jumper. I knew it would be the second Stan said, and I quote, “This chicken sauce is amazing”. Even more compelling, he didn’t even bother to swallow his mouthful before heaping on the praise. (He dug in before I got to the table so I didn’t have to witness the whole talking-with-his-mouth-full thing. Thank goodness.) Rich, savory, and complexly flavored, this “chicken sauce” really is amazing. With relatively few ingredients and very little active prep time, you end up with a quick and healthy weeknight dinner that tastes special enough to serve to anyone lucky enough to be invited for dinner.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lentil Vegetable Soup

Stan and I just got back from a lovely visit with his family in Cleveland, Ohio. While the wisdom of traveling to the land of lake effect snow in January is debatable, finding $60 roundtrip tickets is a rarity that makes braving the cold a little more tolerable. (You read that right - $60 roundtrip! We caught a crazy Southwest sale back in October and jumped on those prices in a flash.)

To keep us warm and spoil us rotten, Stan’s parents cooked all of our favorite Russian foods, turning our visit into a four-day feast. (I’ve told you before that Stan is Russian, right? He didn’t move to the U.S. until he was eleven, and his family still speaks Russian at home.) Russian food is the perfect winter belly-warmer. It’s hearty and homey enough to fortify you through those Arctic Siberian winters – or January in Cleveland.

However, while we love traditional Russian foods and Stan’s parents’ excellent home-cooking, back in Nashville we are feeling the need to lighten things up while we recover from the feasting that embodies our family get-togethers. When it comes to eating healthier, lentils are an excellent choice. They are inexpensive, high in protein, and very filling.

While we already have a lentil soup recipe on this site, today’s soup is a bit different. It has a different flavor profile and a lot more vegetables. It also takes quite a bit more time to prepare, due to all of the chopping involved with those vegetables. Do not let that dissuade you though. This soup is fantastic – flavorful, colorful (as colorful as lentil soup can be), healthy, and filling. The recipe makes an enormous pot of soup, so you can have it on hand for healthy lunches or dinners all week. I imagine it would freeze well too, so you could make some now and save the rest for the next time you, like us, need to lighten thing up a little.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

French Onion Soup Stuffed Mushrooms

In my last post I mentioned how we stayed in for New Years this year. What I neglected to mention was that while we had an intimate gathering of five people, I made enough food for at least double that many. Four appetizers, a big entrée, and a dessert that serves sixteen. I realize that may sound nuts, but I don’t often have a reason to try out so many new recipes. Since it’s just the two of us, it takes us awhile to get through food. Stan eats enough for two, but we can still be eating the same dinner for two or three nights in a row. Having a party gives me a chance to experiment and try new things – and make a tiny dent in my ever-expanding file of recipes to try.

One of the big winners from our New Years dinner was these French Onion Soup Stuffed Mushrooms. A fun twist on a cocktail party classic, these savory babies combine two delicious dishes into one. Slow cooked onions are seasoned with traditional French onion soup flavorings and stuffed into juicy mushrooms. The mushrooms are then topped with nutty Gruyère cheese and baked until tender and bubbling. A sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley finishes them off, and then you are ready for the big ta-da moment.

And you will get a moment for these gems. Whether you use big mushrooms or small, they will disappear in an instant. If you are making them for a party, I recommend sneaking a few in the kitchen before you serve them, just to make sure you get to try them! If you don’t want to wait for a special occasion (and I don’t think you should), these stuffed mushrooms are easy enough that they’d also make a fun side dish at your next family dinner. I’m thinking they’d be fantastic alongside a steak or even a roast chicken. However you serve them, I think you’ll love them.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Healthy Recipes to Kick Off the New Year

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful New Year’s Eve with friends and family and have kicked off 2011 with a bang. We stayed in to ring in the New Year this year, and celebrated with friends, an enormous meal, and a whole lot of celebratory libations. After all of that revelry, Stan and I are feeling the need for some healthier meals and a little more exercise in our lives. While neither of us are big on New Year’s resolutions, eating better and moving more are certainly tops on many people’s lists for this time of year. So, in honor of those, like us, who need some holiday detox, or are trying to make good on healthy resolutions, today’s post features recipes that can help you cook your way to a healthier new year.

Soups and stews are always good in January, heating you up without filling you out. Here are some delicious, belly-warming options... (Just click on the recipe titles to link to the original posts!)

Coconut Curry Noodle Soup

Island Kale and Sweet Potato Soup

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

 Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Soup

Tortellini Soup

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Chickpea and Kale Stew

Chicken Posole


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