Friday, November 22, 2013

Lemon Risotto

I love the holiday season for two reasons--family and food.  I get equally excited to share and create new memories with family as I do to feed them.  I want all of us to remember the day for the fun that we had together and also for the great meal we shared.  Needless to say, I think long and hard about what to make for any holiday meal. 

This lemon risotto tops my list for any winter holiday feast.  It hits the comfort food mark, but is equally light and fresh.  The parmesan and arborio rice bring a nutty flavor that is perfectly contrasted by the tart sweetness of the lemon.  Add some asparagus for crunch and green veggie goodness and you have one heck of an incredible holiday meal.  For our past two Christmas dinners, we have made this exact risotto and topped it with seared scallops and king crab.  Honest to goodness, I look forward to it all year and save it as a special holiday dish. 

This year, we are going to serve this risotto as a side at our Thanksgiving dinner too--it's so good that just one holiday won't do.  Mashed potatoes and stuffing are certainly traditional and tasty as Turkey Day sides, however, if you're looking to shake things up a little without adding any additional effort to your feast, this risotto is for you.  In fact, we will be having mashed potatoes, stuffing, and this risotto.  Don't let all the hype about risotto being difficult to make dissuade you--it's not true.  It is very simple, has few ingredients, and is methodical.  You can easily add it to your holiday menu...and you'll be thankful you did.

I know that I will be enjoying family and food this holiday season.  I hope you do too.  :)

Lemon Risotto:
  • 1/2 of a sweet onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2ish tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup of arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup of dry white wine
  • between 5 and 6 cups of lower sodium chicken broth
  • 2ish tablespoons of fresh lemon zest
  • between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (for both the zest and the juice, use more or less depending on your taste preference)
  • about 2 cups of asparagus, loosely chopped
  • 1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1ish tablespoons of Italian seasoning
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet.  Add the onions and saute over medium-high heat until the onions are tender and translucent.
  2. Add the arborio rice and stir until shiny, about one minute.  (Be careful not to burn!)
  3. Add the wine and stir until evaporated, about 30 seconds.  Stir continuously.
  4. Add 1 to 2 cups of chicken broth and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.  Stir frequently!
  5. In the meantime, heat the butter in a different skillet.  Add the asparagus and saute until just past al dente.  Set aside.
  6. Add the remaining chicken broth to the risotto 1/2 cup at a time.  Continue to allow the broth to be absorbed before adding more.  
  7. When the arborio rice has become noticeably fat, do a taste test for done-ness.  You want your risotto to be just past al dente--not crunchy, but not mushy, and not liquidy.  (I taste often.)  This should take about 30 minutes.
  8. When the the risotto has reached your desired consistency, add the lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and cooked asparagus.  Stir to combine.  
  9. Taste and adjust any of the flavors.  I like my risotto to be both lemony and peppery.  :)
  10. Serve in a warm pasta bowl.  Top with more pepper and cheese.  
  11. ENJOY!  Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Buttermilk Cinnamon Bread

One of my favorite smells is cinnamon.  It can be straight out of the bottle, sauteing on the stove, or baking in the oven--I love it.  It smells of comfort, warmth, and love.  I really love cinnamon in the fall when all of the chaos of summer travel has come to an end, it's time to snuggle up with a blanket and a good book, and the appreciation for loved ones really comes to the forefront.  Cinnamon comes with memories. 

This buttermilk cinnamon bread is sure to cultivate fond memories.  It is extraordinarily easy to make and fills the entire house with a smell that is so decadent I can't describe it.  Seriously, if I could bottle this smell and sell it, I would be a millionaire.  A few times, I've just baked the bread so it will make the house smell good without particularly having any other reason in mind.

Not only does this bread smell good, but it also tastes fantastic as well.  The top is perfectly crusty with a hint of sweet, while the buttermilk provides a perfect tangy balance.  The ribbon of cinnamon-sugar in the middle is like a little nugget of heaven.  I don't know about you, but Cinnamon Toast Crunch was (is) one of my favorite cereals, and this bread is like a grown up sophisticated version of that in bread form...if that makes any sense.  I imagine that this bread would be incredible dipped in coffee with some Irish Creme.  In fact, I am going to try that next!

Buttermilk Cinnamon Bread:
  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup of applesauce
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 2 cups of buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of cinnamon
  • about 3/4 cup of sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Use cooking spray to prepare two 8 x 4 loaf pans.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the applesauce, oil, and 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  
  4. Add the buttermilk and eggs.  Mix well.
  5. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix on low until just combined.
  6. Mix the tablespoon of cinnamon and the 3/4ish cups of sugar in a small bowl.
  7. Fill each of the loaf pans about half full.  
  8. Sprinkle about half of the cinnamon/sugar mixture over each of the pans.
  9. Top both pans with the remaining batter, then top with the rest of the cinnamon/sugar.
  10. Swirl with a butter knife.
  11. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  12. Cool before removing from pans.
  13. ENJOY!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Perfectly Poached Eggs

I don't know if a Sunday has ever gone by without my dad eating poached eggs.  His Sunday morning breakfast is as routine as brushing his teeth.  I've never really been one for traditional breakfast meals and much prefer cereal with berries and yogurt.  After 30 years though, I suppose it is time I get on the grown-up breakfast bandwagon.  I now eat poached eggs on Sundays.

Poached eggs are great because they are so light and fresh.  No bells and whistles in the form of peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese, smoked salmon, bacon, onions, salsa, sour cream, black beans, or whatever other fixing one often puts in egg dishes.  For perfectly poached eggs, all you need is some multi-grain toast and some salt and pepper.  That's it!  The other thing I love about poached eggs is that they fuel me up for the rest of the day.  High in protein, low in fat--yum.  Finally, they only take 4 minutes to make!

Thinking about switching up your weekend brunch routine?  These perfectly poached eggs are for you.

Heat up up your water.  Make sure to add about a tablespoon of white vinegar.  It will help your egg whites to stay together.
Get your eggs ready!
When the water is ready, you have to move quickly.  That's why each egg gets its own bowl so I can use both hands to set them in the water.

Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat, swirl the water with a spoon, add your eggs, and set the time for 4 minutes.  (Yes, we are eating breakfast at noon.)
Cover your eggs.  Meanwhile, pop your toast in the toaster.
After the timer goes off, use a slotted spoon to remove your perfectly poached eggs.


Perfectly Poached Eggs:
  • a saucepan about half full with water + 1ish tablespoons of white vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • two pieces of lightly buttered multi-grain toast
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Heat the water and the vinegar on high and bring to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into separate bowls, get out the toast and the toaster.  Things move quickly, people.
  3. As soon as the water reaches a boil, turn off the heat, stir the water to create a vortex, and carefully place the eggs in the water, then cover with a lid.
  4. Set the timer for 4 minutes--no more, no less!
  5. While cooking, pop your toast in the toaster and lightly butter.
  6. When the timer buzzes, use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs from the water and lightly shake to remove excess water.  Be careful not to break the yolks.
  7. Place each egg on a piece of toast.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  8. Happy Sunday breakfast!