Mushroom Risotto and Important Dates

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season and is settling in to the New Year. We prolonged our holidays by taking our extended family on a trip to Walt Disney World. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know that it didn’t quite go as planned. Fortunately, we’re all home and mostly recovered – just one pesky broken toe left as a souvenir! 

So now it’s back to reality, which means two things: writing and cooking. On the writing front, I’m happy to say that WITCH’S STONE will be available on May 3rd from Soul Mate Publishing, and CAPTAIN’S LADY will be out in August! Stay tuned here for a cover reveal for Duncan’s story very soon! And stay tuned on Twitter and Facebook for sneak peeks at Jack’s story as I write it.

In the meantime, it’s been a while since I posted a recipe here. So how about some risotto? My kids love pretty much anything if it involves rice, and this is no exception. It’s also good for toddler fork scooping practice, since it holds together. I serve it in various ways; sometimes with seared scallops or roasted chicken. Tonight, I served it on a bed of baby arugula and tossed a fried egg on top. It was delicious.


Mushroom Risotto

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (feel free to add more. Garlic is good.)
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat or olive oil
  • 2 pint containers mushrooms, sliced (I like a mix of baby portobellos and shiitakes)
  • 1 cup uncooked arborio rice (or any short grain rice)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 5-6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you’re keeping it veggie)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper 

Heat the bacon fat over medium high heat (or olive oil, if you’re boring) in a large pot such as a Dutch oven. Sautée the onions in the fat until they’re starting to become translucent, about five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste (I use about a teaspoon of each. I went to see Ina Garten talk recently and she got very snippy about people who don’t specify what ‘to taste’ means. So there you go.) Add the garlic, and sautée for another minute.

Add the mushrooms, and stir to coat everything in the fat. Add the rice, and stir more to make sure that all of the rice grains get coated in fat. Sautée for about two minutes. 

Add the wine, and stir to get any brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. Let it cook, stirring frequently, until the wine has bubbled nearly completely away.

Add enough chicken stock to cover the rice and mushrooms (usually about two cups). Stir, then again let cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is basically gone. Repeat this process with the remainder of the stock, a couple cups at a time, until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked through when you test it (just bite a grain – if it’s still hard in the center, keep going).

Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan. Serve.

(Risotto texture is basically goop; you shouldn’t have any actual liquid left, but the grains of rice will all be surrounded by a pasty, goopy sauce. Hard to describe, delicious to eat.)

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Recipe: Red Beans and Rice

Given that I’ve been busy with a certain book release, it’s been a while since I posted a recipe here, and I’m feeling the urge to share. I’ve cobbled this recipe together from a combination of places that include Pinterest, somebody else’s blog comments section, and sheer necessity. My husband frequently requests it as one of his pre-triathlon carb-loading meals, and my children love it (presumably because it is full of beans, the toddler’s natural prey).

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And bonus: this post is actually two recipes in one. The main recipe calls for creole seasoning, but if you’re like me and consistently forget to buy things at the grocery store and/or don’t like buying things that are only used for one purpose, I’ve got a recipe for the seasoning blend here, too. It’s just pretty standard spice cabinet staples, so I always make a large batch and then keep it in a baggie in the cabinet (because one of the other things I regularly forget to buy is a spare spice container).

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Home Sweet Home: Perfect Roast Chicken

The first meal I cook in any new kitchen is roast chicken. It’s a genetic thing, I can’t escape it. A house is not a home until a roast chicken has been made and consumed therein.

Which is to say, we have moved. And I have made roast chicken. So we live here now.

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(Confession: This picture is actually of the roast chicken I made when we finished renovating the kitchen in our old house – the first meal I cooked in that new kitchen, of course. I was not organized enough to take a picture of the chicken I made here in the new house, but rest assured it looked very similar. And was delicious.)

Moving was chaotic, as moving always is. A snafu with the utility company wound up forcing us to postpone our move by a week literally the day before we were to move – there were many panicked phone calls to movers and childcare and the like. Fortunately, it all worked out – we moved out of our old house and into the new one, and spent a hectic week or so cleaning and touching up paint and getting the last projects done at the old house once it was empty. Then our renter moved in, paid her rent, and we took some deep breaths and turned our attention to unpacking the first priority: the kitchen. (Although we did find a fantastic Italian takeout place five minutes away. New York style pizza and fresh pasta, be still my heart!)

With roast chicken in hand (or in fridge, as the case may be) and a few more rooms unpacked, we’re starting to finally settle in. The babies’ room is nearly done – just a few pieces of artwork to hang and it’ll be even better than their old room. The office is finally unpacked, thank goodness, as I need to get back to writing Duncan’s story – I left the poor Earl of Kilgoran deep in an argument with a very pretty witch the day before we made an offer on this house and haven’t written a word since! More on that at a later date, I suspect.

In the meantime, if you’re needing some comfort or just a way to feel like you belong, here’s my roast chicken. Loosely based on Ina’s, of course.

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Vietnamese Chicken Salad

This is one of my favorite light summer lunches. It’s really easy – particularly if you have leftover cooked chicken around (or if you are lazy like yours truly and buy the big bag of rotisserie chicken meat from Costco…). It’s also a fantastic way to introduce toddlers to complex flavors, if you’re doing baby led weaning or just want to try some new things.

The original recipe comes from the domestic goddess herself, Nigella Lawson. I’ve adapted it to make it a little simpler, so I don’t have to shop for anything I wouldn’t normally be buying anyway. I’m also not too strict about the amounts I put in, as usual, so feel free to improvise.

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This is amazing served as I did here, just with some cut up mango (my kids love mango!). If you’re feeling even more inspired, you can make up a cold glass of fancy limeade or cucumber water and pretend you’re in a spa. At least until you have to help your toddler with his fork again. 

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Hunter’s Chicken

Chicken cacciatore translates basically to ‘chicken the hunter’s way.’ It’s a recipe that comes from the Italian countryside, where hunters and farm wives would use provisions that didn’t require refrigeration to turn the day’s catch into a meal that would feed a lot of people. Like many country recipes, it benefits from a lot of flexibility; you can play fast and loose with the amounts of pretty much anything in here, or substitute things for other things you haven’t got on hand, and it will still be delicious. You can even cook it over a campfire, if you’re so inclined.

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This recipe is also fantastic for feeding kids, particularly if you’re doing baby led weaning like we are. It expands to feed an army inexpensively (I cook double what the recipe calls for in order to have some hope of feeding our little bottomless pits). It also includes things kids like: chicken, beans, and tomatoes. Once our babies mastered the pincher grasp, they became deeply interested in beans.

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Easy Roasted Salmon

Here’s a confession: for all the cooking I do, I’m still sometimes a little leery of cooking seafood. I grew up in a landlocked area, so the wealth of seafood we have here on the coast still sometimes astonishes me. Here’s what we did have where I lived: salmon. The best salmon in the world, actually; but still – salmon, and salmon alone. For years, I avoided it, because I was tired of it. Why have salmon when there’s so much else out there?? But eventually I came back around, and this recipe is a big reason why. It is so easy, and practically foolproof. If you’re afraid of screwing up fish, try this. It’s a great confidence booster.

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My favorite place to buy salmon is (of course) Costco; I usually buy large fillets that are about 2 pounds, sliced from one side of the salmon. When it goes on sale, I buy several and stick them in the freezer. Right now, one package is enough to feed our family, but leftovers are growing scarcer as the babies’ appetites grow!

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How To Make A Construction Cake

My husband’s first kid birthday cake was, I have to say, an unqualified success. Not only was it delicious – vanilla cheesecake mousse filling! – and decorated to the nines with tiny excavation equipment in a very realistic scene, but it had a major surprise inside.

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The inside of the round part of the cake was diagonally striped in yellow and black, just like construction caution tape! It was a huge hit. I thought I’d do a quick writeup on how we did it.

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