Let’s get real for a second: everyone is a little lazy sometimes.
You are, I am, even BEYONCÉ probably is (okay, Beyoncé probably isn’t, I’m convinced she has no bad days), but it’s okay. Embrace it. I never thought I would be here posting pictures taken on my iPhone of tacos that I stuffed with LEFTOVER CHILI and covered with pretty toppings to hide the fact that, well, chili is perhaps the most hideous food on this earth. Yet, here we are, because life is messy sometimes.
I loooove risotto.
I love making risotto, I love eating risotto, and I love talking about how much I love making and eating risotto. I love everything. About. Risotto.
One of risotto’s many virtues is how easy it is to make, yet how fancy it pretends to be. The hardest thing about it is not getting bored while you sit there stirring it constantly. It’s perfect for the holidays just for that reason, because you can make it for a bunch of guests and pretend you’re a super fancy chef. For best results, serve your risotto to your guests with a slightly affected tone: “Our next cooourse is going to be a rather SCRUMPTIOUS rrrrrisOo0o0oHto with a touch of young spinach and pah-meZZAHN. I would NEVER have time to make this nooooormally, you see, I simply spent HOURS over the stove and NEARLY broke into a sweat, but FOR YOU my dahlings, I WILL stand and LITCH-RALLY watch liquid evaporate! Hah hah, we are having SUCH FUN, aren’t we?!”
Okay, so maybe don’t really do that if you’d like your friends to stay long enough to eat your risotto. And definitely don’t reveal to your guests that you basically just made them high-maintenance rice. But DO consider making this recipe for your next party, especially if you have guests who are trying to be more carb-conscious.
I’ve been re-watching “How I Met Your Mother” lately, and have been impressed all over again by just how real it gets sometimes.
Remember that time you had no idea what your life was about so you moved somewhere else on a whim, thinking it would fix all your problems? But then it didn’t? Lily did that! And remember when you dated that person who you stayed with against ALL your better judgment? Ted did that – like, seven different times! Or maybe you didn’t do either of those things, but I bet you know someone who did! It’s as if they know.
But you know what I find totally unrealistic about HIMYM, though? They’re always at the bar. I get that it’s their social hub, and I guess if I lived right over a bar I’d go there a lot too. But it really just seems like they are always freakin’ there. Tell me, real world humans, who seriously has the time to sit around drinking beers and acting ridiculous on a regular basis? Not me. Well, maybe I act ridiculous, but many nights, I don’t even have time to make my own dinner. That’s when I end up calling in a favor from my friend Amy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking for myself (probably obvious given the food blog). But whether you like to cook or not, sometimes the time crunch is real and a frozen meal is the best way to go, especially if you’re trying to save money and eat what you have in the house. Yes, some frozen meals can be considered “healthy’ – Amy makes a killer vegan mac and mattar paneer! – but what if there were a way to combine the convenience of a pre-bought frozen meal with the peace of mind that comes with preparing your food from scratch? Surprise! THERE IS!
“By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by USA Rice Federation and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”
I can’t figure out whether or not I’m a patient person.
If we were to find ourselves on an NYC subway car, for example, and an announcement came on that we were being held until further notice, you would never hear me shout, “AWH YOU KIDDIN’ ME?” I’m a rarity in New York. Also, I can practice violin for extended periods with (relative) success and with (debatably) good concentration, which I definitely consider one of my best achievements.
But in the kitchen, I’m super inconsistent. I love the mundane aspects of cooking that a lot of people hate, like chopping and measuring. But if a dish is slow to cook on its own, and yet STILL requires my constant and careful attention, like risotto? Bye. Also, oats made on the stove. What even are those? I’m hungry in the morning… Team watery, high-risk-of-overflowing microwave oats all the way.
I have been trying to improve my kitchen patience, though. I mean, I’ve gotten SUPER picky about cutting all of my vegetables perfectly into appropriately sized, even cuts. I know that’s not really anything special, but whatever, just humor me. I think I’m doing a good job here.
Another thing I’ve been trying to do lately is balance my food groups better. With my ridiculous, often unpredictable schedule, it becomes so easy to fall into food routines – and not necessarily good ones. It becomes so easy to miss meals and then rely on snacks during lunch and dinner hours, which has become more normal than I’d like. Example: I had popcorn for dinner a few weeks ago. It was homemade though, and then I covered it in cilantro (that I dried myself – boo yah!) so I guess there was a serving of greens in there? Ugh. Also, “lunch” has recently become a spoonful of plain greek yogurt with cinnamon, pomegranate seeds, and a tablespoon of homemade granola. There was one day last week I ate that twice… In one day.
But now I feel that things are looking up, because I conquered this risotto, and have thus conquered my two biggest food-related weaknesses; kitchen patience, and food group balancing. The patience is worth it though, because this risotto is the BOMB DIGGITY. Do people say that anymore? Also, because the base of this dish is rice, it makes for a great balanced meal, which is healthy and delicious!
Because of its many benefits, the USA Rice Federation has encouraged the Recipe Reduxers to spread the love, and “Think Rice.” USA-grown rice is naturally trans fat-, cholesterol-, sodium-, and gluten-free, so if you’re watching your intake of any or all of those things (…or not), rice is a great choice. It’s also inexpensive, easy to buy in bulk, and goes well with pretty much anything you want to put on or in it. It gets this hungry-but-frugal grad student’s seal of approval, and you can definitely be “Thinking Rice” with this mighty tasty risotto! Although it takes some time, it’s pretty easy to make. It actually tastes way more complicated than it is. In the words of
my spirit animal Ina Garten, “How easy is that?!”
- 1 tbs. dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 c. boiling water
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 generous sprig sage, chopped
- 3 tbs. plus 1 tbs. olive oil
- 1 medium-large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 1/4 cups U.S.A. grown, organic arborio -or- short grain brown rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1/3 cup dried mission figs, chopped
- 1/3 cup pitted, oil-cured black olives, chopped
- 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste (if desired)
- Soak the dried mushrooms in the boiling water. Let soak for 30 minutes, or until fully hydrated.
- Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a saucepan. When boiling, reduce to a simmer.
- Chop garlic and sage. Set aside.
- Chop onion. Set aside.
- Chop figs and olives. Set aside.
- Once mushrooms are hydrated, strain and then reserve the soaking liquid through a cheesecloth or paper towel. Chop the mushrooms. Set aside.
- Add 3 tbs. of olive oil to a large, deep skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and sage and let sweat until fragrant.
- Add onion to skillet. Stir frequently, cooking until semi-translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add rice to skillet, plus one more tablespoon of olive oil. Toss to coat, and toast for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
- Add wine to skillet.
- Once wine liquid has cooked off, add mushroom liquid and a ladleful of the hot stock. Stir occasionally, until liquid is absorbed.
- Add 1-2 more ladlefuls of stock. Stir occasionally until liquid is absorbed, then add more stock. Repeat until rice is al dente. Add figs and olives to pan about halfway through the cooking process (when stock is half gone).
- Remove risotto from heat. Stir in cheese, plus salt and pepper to taste if desired.
- Garnish with sage leaves, thinly sliced fig, and/or extra pecorino. Because cheese.
- Save time by chopping your garlic, sage, onion, etc. while the mushrooms are soaking and the stock is heating up.
- Kill time while waiting for the risotto to cook by drinking the leftover wine 😉
My love for Chobani yogurt extends far beyond the little six-ounce cups of heaven that I like to stir granola into. It’s so creamy and perfect and delicious, and as you well know, I will put it in anything. Dinner is no exception, even when it’s savory!
Now, I have been wanting to make falafel for a while. It’s one of the easiest things you can make if you have a food processor, which I don’t during school months. So, out of the twenty recipe ideas I accumulated while kitchen-less in Aspen, I figured this was a good one to try before I leave for Philly. I also made a delicious Tzatziki (yogurt sauce with cucumber and dill) to go with it. Served in a warm pita with vegetables and a light drizzle of tahini, these really did the trick. These falafel are pan (not deep) fried until browned and then baked to make them even crispier. The insides are perfectly soft but baking them for longer would make them drier if that’s the texture you prefer.
Recipe for Falafel (makes 28-30):
2 15 oz. cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1 cup spinach
Juice of 1 lemon
1 small-medium white or yellow onion
3 sprigs fresh cilantro
2 sprigs fresh parsley
4-5 cloves garlic
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
Cayenne pepper to taste (I used 1/8 tsp, but you can use more depending on your heat preference)
1 cup oat flour
2 tsp baking powder
Coconut or olive oil for cooking
Rinse and drain chickpeas. Blend in food processor until smooth and then add spinach. Blend, adding lemon juice and tablespoons of water as necessary to help with blending. When completely blended, pour contents into a mixing bowl. In the food processor, combine onion, garlic, cilantro, and parsley and pulse until finely chopped. Fold that mixture into the bowl. Gradually stir in oat flour until the mixture becomes more stiff. Add baking powder and spices and combine.
Preheat oven to 375. Over low-medium heat, coat a pan with a thin layer of olive or coconut oil. Drop tablespoon-sized spoonfuls into the pan (2-4 minutes depending on your pan/stovetop) until they are able to be flipped easily. Flip falafels to the other side and let brown. Transfer falafels to a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes, or longer for a drier result.
Greek Yogurt Tzatziki:
2 6-oz. containers plain 0% Greek yogurt (I recommend Chobani)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
4 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves finely minced garlic
4 tsp. fresh dill, chopped
Combine in a bowl. Eat. Enjoy!