Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bacon and Wild Mushroom Risotto with Baby Spinach

I've learned that risotto is only fun to make when you're not trying to break up arguments between your two small children at the same time. But it didn't make it taste any less yummy. And it didn't make us any less sad when we noticed that we had eaten the whole pot and had no leftovers. Oh well. We'll know to double the recipe next time.

I decided that the risotto would go quite well with a little bread and some olive oil in which to dip it. So I tried my hand at French bread. And it came out really well. I made a loaf, but I think I'll try a baguette the next time. There were no leftovers of the bread either... What can I say? We really like bread in this family.

Bacon and Wild Mushroom Risotto with Baby Spinach
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light


4 cups chicken stock
6 bacon slices, chopped
1 cup chopped shallots
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 garlic cloves, minced
12 ounces wild mushrooms (creminis, shiitakes, oysters, etc.), sliced
1 cup uncooked Carnaroli or Arborio rice or other medium-grain rice
1/3 cup Madeira wine or dry sherry
4 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Asiago cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil); keep warm over low heat.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon to pan; cook 8 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon. Add shallots, oil, thyme, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes or until shallots are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in mushrooms; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in Madeira; cook 1 minute or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 cup stock; cook 4 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Stir in spinach; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in cheese, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with bacon.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bacon, Ranch, and Chicken Mac and Cheese (made with Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup)

This is very good. And it was one of those preschooler breakthrough meals... Benjamin was very hesitant to try it, doing his usual whining about how he doesn't like it, even though he's never tried it (yeah, my almost 5-year-old doesn't eat mac and cheese). But he took a bite and loved it! Success!

This recipe can (and probably should) be easily doubled. The original recipe only serves 4 very small portions, so definitely try doubling it if you're serving people who like mac and cheese.

Also, since the recipe called for only 1/3 cup of it, I tried my hand at homemade cream of mushroom soup. And it was super easy because it was done in the crockpot. So I'll include that recipe on here as well.

Bacon, Ranch, and Chicken Mac and Cheese
Courtesy of Cooking Light


8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
1 slice applewood-smoked bacon
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1/3 cup cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded six-cheese Italian blend
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded colby-Jack cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings in pan. Finely chop bacon; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add chicken to drippings in pan; sauté 6 minutes or until done.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; sprinkle flour evenly into pan. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Combine milk and soup, stirring with a whisk; gradually add milk mixture to saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat; let stand 4 minutes or until sauce cools to 155°F. Add Italian cheese blend, onion powder, garlic powder, dill, and salt, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in pasta and chicken.

Preheat broiler.

Spoon mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with reserved bacon and colby-Jack cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts.


Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup
Courtesy of

2 lbs mushrooms
2 cups water
4 cups vegetable broth
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 quart of milk (to add later)

Wash your mushrooms well and cut them into fourths. Put into your stoneware and add the spices and lemon juice. Pour in the vegetable broth and water.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

CAREFULLY use an immersible hand blender and blend until soupy. If you don't have an immersible hand blender, very, very carefully blend in batches in a regular blender.

Stir in an entire quart of milk. You can use any percentage you'd like; even cream.

Let cool on the counter for quite a few hours (or refrigerate overnight), then pour into freezer bags or plastic containers to store.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Vegetable Fried Rice with Bacon

We just happened to have bad Chinese food last night, so this dish was an especially pleasant thing to have today. It was simple and delicious. I know I will be making it again and again.

And can I just add that it's so very helpful that Food Network Magazine includes the nutrition information for their recipes? I'm using SparkPeople to track my food in my efforts to lose weight right now, so it makes me very happy to have that extra help. So not only do they provide amazing recipes, they make it super easy to see how much damage each of those delicious recipes will do (or not do, as the case usually is). Woo!

Vegetable Fried Rice with Bacon
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 pound thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 small head broccoli, florets and stalks cut into 1/4-inch pieces
5 cups cooked long-grain white rice
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
4 large eggs
1 bunch watercress, stems removed
Spicy mustard or chili sauce, for serving (optional)

Place a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the vegetable oil and bacon and stir-fry until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar over the bacon and toss. Add 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce (watch out -- the oil will bubble up) and continue to stir-fry until the bacon is glazed, about 30 seconds. Transfer the bacon to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to the drippings in the pan and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli and cook until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice, the remaining 2 teaspoons soy sauce, the broth and glazed bacon. Toss to heat through.

Push the fried rice to one side of the pan, crack the eggs into the other side and scramble until set, about 1 minute. Mix the eggs into the rice and stir in the watercress. Divide among bowls and serve with mustard or chili sauce, if desired.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tuna Cakes and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce with Spinach and Arugula Salad

YUM! This was so so tasty. All the components of the dish complimented each other beautifully and also tasted wonderful on their own. I couldn't believe how especially great the salad tasted.

I did make a change to the original recipe that helped save some money though... Cod is ridiculously expensive, so I used tuna instead. I don't know if I've had cod recently, so I'm not sure how different it made the dish, but it was lovely the way I made it. Try this as soon as possible.

Edited to add (3/24/2015): I tried this again, the first time since I originally made it, and it was a disaster. The cakes wouldn't stay together and ended up making a kind of fried tuna stuffing-type pile. The oil also kept spitting at me, which has left some pretty marks on my arms. Then there's the gargantuan amount of dishes and lovely lingering tuna stink it creates. It still tasted good, but man, what a pain in the ass. I'm not sure it's worth the hassle to try it again. 

Tuna Cakes and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
A variation on this recipe by Rachael Ray


4 5-ounce cans tuna, drained
Grated peel of 1 lemon and juice of 2 lemons, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano
A few dashes hot pepper sauce
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons grated onion and its juice
3 cloves garlic, grated or minced, divided
2 cups cracker crumbs or breadcrumbs, divided
2 eggs, beaten
Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying
3 roasted red peppers, patted dry and coarsely chopped
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Put tuna in a large bowl. Season with the lemon peel, half of the lemon juice, the parsley, Old Bay Seasoning, marjoram/oregano and hot sauce; season with salt and pepper. Add the onion and two-thirds of the garlic, then add half of the cracker crumbs and the eggs; stir to combine. Divide the mixture into quarters and form 3 patties from each quarter (12 patties total), about 3 1/2 inches wide. Coat the patties in the remaining cracker crumbs.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch olive oil over medium heat. Add 5-6 patties at a time and cook, turning once, for 6 minutes.

Using a food processor, mix together the roasted red peppers, yogurt, dill and remaining lemon juice and garlic; season with pepper. Serve 3 patties per person, with the sauce and salad.

Spinach and Arugula Salad

4 cups spinach and arugula mix
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges

Dress greens with salt, pepper, and lemon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mushroom Goulash with Pierogi

Very smoky, good vegetarian meal. Though honestly, I think pierogi make any meal better. Yum.

The only thing I did differently was use homemade Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for the topping.

Mushroom Goulash with Pierogi
Courtesy of Rachael Ray


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 pound cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika (about 2 palmfuls)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh marjoram
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
A few dashes hot pepper sauce
2 cups vegetable stock
1 pound frozen potato pierogi
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
Sour cream or Greek yogurt, for serving

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, paprika, marjoram and coriander to the pan; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are softened, 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked mushrooms, the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and hot sauce for 1 minute. Add the vegetable stock and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pierogi and boil until they float, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain.

Heat another large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter to melt, then add the pierogi and cook until lightly browned. Stir in the chives and dill; season with salt and pepper. Serve the goulash and pierogi in shallow bowls with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.

Greek Yogurt

This is kind of ridiculously easy, but I wanted to include it on my blog since I'm happy to know that I can make it in case I can't find it in the grocery store. Here's what you do...

Take 4 cups of whole milk plain yogurt (I imagine this would work with yogurts with less fat content, but I used whole milk). Pour it in a fine-mesh sieve that's been lined with a coffee filter and place over a bowl. Stick it in the refrigerator for 12 hours or until yogurt has reduced to about 2 cups. Enjoy as a substitute for sour cream, as is, or mixed with whatever flavors you want (honey, nuts, fruit preserves, etc.).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Salad with Grapes and Pistachio-Crusted Goat Cheese

This is fantastic salad. I will definitely be making this a lot this summer.

The only thing I did differently was use extra-virgin olive oil in the dressing rather than the canola oil that it called for. I think it probably made it a little sweeter of a dressing, but it was very very tasty, nonetheless.

Spring Salad with Grapes and Pistachio-Crusted Goat Cheese
Courtesy of Cooking Light


1/4 cup shelled dry-roasted pistachios, finely chopped
1/2 cup (4 ounces) goat cheese
1/4 cup Easy Herb Vinaigrette (recipe to follow)
1 (5-ounce) package gourmet salad greens or spring lettuce mix
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place pistachios in a shallow dish. Divide cheese into 12 equal portions, rolling to form 12 balls. Roll each ball in the pistachios until well coated. Set pistachio-crusted cheese balls aside.

Combine Easy Herb Vinaigrette and greens in a large mixing bowl, and toss gently to coat evenly. Divide greens mixture evenly among 4 salad plates. Top each serving with 1/4 cup grapes and 3 cheese balls. Sprinkle salads evenly with pepper, and serve immediately.

Easy Herb Vinaigrette

9 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons wildflower honey
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup oil (canola oil, olive oil, extra-virgin olive oil, whatever you prefer)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; slowly whisk in oil until combined. Stir in basil and chives. Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Caramel Sauce

I'm so happy to finally have been successful at making caramel sauce. This was my 3rd or 4th attempt, and I was feeling hopeful since the directions were so specific. Using the candy thermometer really helped to know when the sugar and water mixture was cooked enough to add the rest of the ingredients. It took longer than the original recipe said it would, but it was well worth the wait.

The picture I've added shows both the caramel and the chocolate sauce that I've made before. Jonathan says that the caramel sauce wins, and I think I agree.

Caramel Sauce
A variation on this recipe by Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)


1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mix 1/3 cup water and the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook, without stirring, over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until most of the sugar dissolves.

Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown (about 350°F on a candy thermometer), gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Be careful; the mixture is extremely hot! Watch the mixture constantly at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly.

Turn down the heat to low. Stand back to avoid splattering and slowly add the cream and vanilla. The cream will bubble violently and the caramel will solidify; don't worry. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. The mixture will be runny when you first take it off the heat, but it will thicken as it sits.