Risotto

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Last night I went to another cooking place called The Learning Kitchen to take the risotto workshop. It was a really great class! Chef Jamie was very knowledgeable and very helpful. We started by making a basic risotto, and then divided it in half and made two different recipes. To the first one we added bacon, sautéed mushrooms, herbs, and a little parmesan. For the second recipe we added some roasted butternut squash and nutmeg. I also added just a small sprinkle of parmesan cheese to this as well because Chef Jamie said it would a nice nutty flavor to the dish. Plus, who doesn’t like a little cheese? It was just a little sprinkle, so you could leave this out if you want.

 

I really enjoy taking these classes. I get to learn new techniques, like how to chop an onion, how to properly hold a large knife, and why you should taste fresh herbs before putting them in a dish. In case you’re wondering, it’s so you know what you’re putting in your meal. That way you know that you’re putting parsley in instead of cilantro, which looks very much alike, but tastes very different! If you get a chance to take a cooking class, I highly recommend it. They are a lot of fun!

 

Making risotto isn’t as hard as it seems – it just takes some TLC. For a basic risotto, you start by adding some olive oil or butter to a pan over medium heat, add some diced onion, and cook until tender. You want to make sure not to give the onions any color, you just want them soft. Once the onions are done, add rice and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until the grain is translucent around the edges. Remember to make sure the rice and the onion do not brown. After the 3-5 minutes, turn the heat down to medium-low and add enough chicken stock to cover the top of the rice. Stir the mixture often, until the liquid is completely absorbed. Then add more chicken stock to cover the rice again, continuing to stir. After the third addition of liquid (about 20 minutes), the rice should be cooked through. Test the rice to make sure it is tender. Season the risotto with salt and pepper, and add a dab of butter to give it an extra creaminess. This is your basic risotto, and now you can begin adding whatever flavors you like.

 

For the bacon, mushroom, and herb risotto, add cooked, diced bacon, sautéed mushrooms, fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, or chives, a little parmesan cheese, and some lemon zest. You can dice the bacon and cook it in a skillet while the risotto is cooking. Once it is done, take the bacon out and cook the mushrooms in the same pan. When the mushrooms are finished, mix all the ingredients together, and combine with the risotto.

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For the roasted butternut squash risotto, peel, dice, and roast some butternut squash in the oven with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil for about 20 minutes. The butternut squash should be diced fairly small. Once that is done, set it aside until risotto is finished. Mix the roasted squash with the finished risotto, and add some grated nutmeg. If you’d like you can also add a small amount of parmesan and stir to combine. Enjoy!!

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Basic Risotto (serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp, butter or olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup arborio rice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a pot or saute pan over medium heat, melt butter or olive oil. Add the onion cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the grains are translucent around the edges. Be careful not allow the rice or onion brown. Reduce heat to low and add enough chicken stock just to cover the top of the rice. Stir often, until the liquid is completely absorbed into the rice. Once absorbed, add more liquid just to cover the rice and continue stirring. It should take approximately 20 minutes or three additions for all of the liquid to be absorbed and the rice cooked through. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon of butter for creaminess.

 

Bacon Mushroom and Herb:

  • 1 slice of bacon, chopped, and cooked
  • 1 oz mushrooms, sauteed and coursely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme or chives
  • 2 oz grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp grates lemon zest

Mix ingredients together and add to finished risotto

Butternut Squash:

  • 1/2 cup butternut squash, cubed and roasted in the oven with salt, pepper, and olive oil
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of parmesan cheese

Mix roasted butternut squash, nutmeg and Parmesan with finished risotto

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Caramelized Butternut Squash with Pecans

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I am so excited for Christmas! Baking cookies with my mom, drinking cozy warm drinks, and spending the whole week with family, it’s going to be awesome! My mom and I have already been planning all the cookies and treats we will be making this year, and we have a good list. I enjoy planning things out like this, especially when it comes to food. I usually have most of my meals for the week planned by Monday afternoon, and since Christmas is such a big holiday with so many great options, I usually start thinking about Christmas food right after Thanksgiving. If you are like me, then this side dish is something you should plan for your Christmas dinner. Or just any day of the week, because it was that good!

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Butternut squash is a favorite of mine, especially roasted, so when I found this recipe, I jumped all over it. The squash is cut up into bite size pieces and drizzled with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and little butter, then roasted in the oven for 40 minutes. Near the end stir in some pecans, and ten minutes later you have heaven. It’s almost like candy, except it’s squash, so you are getting some vitamin A.

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To make the dish, start by peeling and dicing the butternut squash into 1 inch cubes. Then place into a casserole dish in a single layer. Mix together melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Then pour over butternut squash and mix around so all the squash is coated. Place in a 400° oven for 45 minutes. When there is only ten minutes left of roasting, stir in some pecans, then continue roasting for remaining 10 minutes. ENJOY!

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Caramelized Butternut Squash with Pecans

Ingredients
  • 3 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
Directions:
Cut both ends of the squash. Halve the squash, and peel the skin. Halve each halves again and remove seeds. Cut the squash into small cubes. Place them on a large baking sheet in one layer. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients, except for walnuts. Pour over the squash and mix everything together so that the squash is evenly coated. Roast in 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Add pecans last 10 minutes.

Caprese Orzo

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After filling up on turkey and all the fixings last week, I decided to share some lighter dishes with you to keep your meals fresh and less calorie dense. This dish that I’m sharing is a side dish made of orzo that has been cooked in chicken broth with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. It’s a prefect side dish! You could also make this a main course by adding chicken or sausage to it. Because we are now in the holiday spirit and all we want to do is bake mass amounts of cookies (or at least I do), I thought that we could use some lighter meals.

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This is a pretty simple dish, and doesn’t take much time to make. Start this dish by adding some olive oil to a pan over medium heat, and add some onion and garlic. Cook this for about 30 seconds, until fragrant, and then add the orzo. Stir this around to coat the orzo in the olive oil. Then start adding chicken broth in ½ cup increments. Stir quite often, and once the broth is absorbed by the orzo, add more chicken broth. Continue doing this until the pasta is tender. It will take about 15 minutes. This is same process as risotto, except it takes less time. Once all the broth is absorbed and pasta is tender, add tomatoes, stir those around, and let it cook for a minute or two. Then add the mozzarella, stir to combine and cook for an additional minute. Stir in basil, and serve!

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Caprese Orzo (ADAPTED FROM EMERIL LAGASSE)

  • 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup onion, minced
  • ½ Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 2 cups of chicken stock, heated
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cups of diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup of diced fresh mozzarella (I increased this amount)
  • thinly sliced basil

Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the orzo and stir well to coat.

Gradually add the hot chicken stock in ½ cup increments, stirring until all of the stock has been absorbed before adding more. Continue doing this until all the stock is used, the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is just tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes to the orzo and cook until just heated through, 1 -2 minutes. Add the mozzarella and cook for another 2 minutes or just until  incorporated. Stir in the basil, and serve.

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Smashed Red Skin Potatoes

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Well the weather is certainly colder here in Cincinnati. It’s dark and gray and cold, and I’m not ready for it. I’m fine with 60 to 70 degree weather but this 40 and 50 degree stuff is not fun. I guess the cold brings great things such as fall leaves, cozy blankets and hot cup of tea. But still I would rather be basking in the 80 degree sun, it’s just so lovely.

Alas, it’s not 80 degrees anymore, so I made this side dish to get with the weather. To go with my pecan crusted chicken the other night, I made these smashed red skin potatoes. And they were very good. There wasn’t a single potato left in the bowl. They are soft on the inside with a little crunch on the outside. A perfect side.

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To begin making these potatoes, add water to a pot and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, and cook until mostly tender. You don’t want them to soft because you don’t want them to fall apart. Once the potatoes are finished, drain them, and place onto a plate or cutting board. Then with a large fork or a potato masher, smash the potatoes down. In a skillet, heat some oil or a little butter over medium heat. Once oil is hot add potatoes, cook until they begin to brown and crisp, and then flip and cook the other side. Season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy!

 

Smashed Red Skin Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 red skin potatoes
  • 2 tbsp. oil or butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

In a large pot add water and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, and cook until mostly tender (so they don’t fall apart when pierced with a fork). Once potatoes are done, drain and set on cutting board. Smash potatoes down with a masher. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the oil or butter. Once its heated, added the potatoes and cook on each side for a few minutes until golden browned and crispy. Season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Carrots

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One of the things that I love about cooking is how many different ways you can make something. Food can be so versatile and I’d love to show others how fun it can be to try something new.  A different spice or different technique can make a big difference in the way foods taste. Vegetables are one of the food groups that I love experimenting with. There is so much color and flavor, not to mention all the different nutrients.

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Now that I’ve gotten you all excited about new food, I decided that it’s also nice to go back to some classics. I made roasted carrots last night to go along with our chicken and potatoes, and they were delicious! Roasted vegetables are one of my favorite go to side dishes. It’s a simple recipe that can be made with a variety of vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper, potatoes (sweet or otherwise), Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and many others. Last night I had a bunch of carrots in the fridge so I thought I’d roast them. They were flavorful, crisp, and a tad bit sweet….a wonderful compliment to any meal.

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I started by peeling the carrots, and then cutting them in to smaller long pieces, but thicker than a julienne cut. I placed them on a baking pan and drizzled them with a little olive oil and sprinkled them some salt and pepper. Usually, I tend to add more spices foradditional flavor, like Italian spices, or cayenne for a bit of heat. But last night, I kept it simple. I roasted them in the oven at 350°F for about 35-40minutes. I hope you like them!

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Roasted Carrots

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 Carrots
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

 

Directions:

Start by preheating the oven to 350°F. Take you carrots, and peel the outside then slice into long slivers. Place into 9×13 baking pan and drizzle olive oil over carrots. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then put dish in oven and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

 

Enjoy!

Red Hot Apples

Today is Tuesday, my least favorite day of the week. I’m not sure why exactly, and I could probably bore you with a bunch of excuses, but today I woke not feeling so bad about Tuesday. I think it’s mostly because I knew that I had Red Hot Apples waiting in the fridge for me to put in my lunch. It’s amazing how food can change my mood instantly. One of the things I love doing is planning my next meal. It allows me to continue to look forward to something in my day, even when things aren’t going quite as well as I like. Needless to say, lunch is the best part of my work day.

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Red Hot Apples are a great side dish to any fall meal. We had these last night with some chicken and roasted vegetables. The apples are sweet and spicy and everything that makes up a nice healthy(ish) dish. There isn’t too much that goes into it, and it’s super easy to make. I’ve been making this recipe every fall the past several years now, and it’s become a family favorite.

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This recipe starts off by peeling, coring, and slicing up the apples. I do mine in larger chunks, but if you prefer slices that’s great too! I used Jonalicious apples for my meal yesterday, but any baking apple would work. Put apples in a pot with Red Hot Cinnamon Imperial candies, lemon juice, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, a little butter, and some water. Stir the mixture in the pot and let it come to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium and let the apples cook until tender when pierced with a fork. If you’re not worried about your sugar intake, you could probably add a little brown sugar for some extra sweetness. You could turn this into a delicious dessert by adding a little whipped cream or ice cream.

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Red Hot Apples

  • 3-4 Apples
  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1 tsp. Lemon Juice
  • 3-4 Tbsp Red Hot Cinnamon Imperial Candies
  • 1 tsp  ground Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp groung Nutmeg
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Water

Peel, core, and slice apples and place into a pot. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined, over high heat. Once apple mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until tender, about 20 minutes.