Shrimp, Mushroom, and Asparagus Risotto

Rice is a staple food in many cultures and is a very versatile ingredient.  Growing up with an Indian (and jewish) background, we had a lot of rice with our meals.  But surprisingly it wasn’t until college that I actually made rice by myself.  It’s a pretty easy process, and if you have a rice cooker (which I have not yet invested in) it’s even easier.  It’s a great grain to eat with sauces too because it soaks it right up.

Risotto is also a type of rice (Arborio Rice) but unlike many other types of rices, it is much more starchy.  This scared me a little because I wasn’t sure what that mean cooking-wise.  I had only really eaten risotto in restaurants before this, so I was cautious around the idea of making a risotto dish.  But my roommate Liz seemed to know the basic process, so I decided to give this recipe a try.

Here is the recipe for Shrimp, Mushroom, and Asparagus Risotto:

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Ingredients

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound white mushrooms, chopped
  • 10-15 spears of asparagus, chopped
  • 12 oz uncooked shrimp
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.
  2. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms and asparagus and cook until mushrooms are soft, about 3 minutes. Add shrimp and cook until barely firm.  Remove all contents from pan and set aside.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet.  Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. After the rice is done, turn heat to low and add the mushrooms, asparagus ,and shrimp back to the rice.  Cook for about 3 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper, and serve.

This recipe ended up being a lot easier than I anticipated.  It took a little longer than regular rice, but because of the chicken broth, the rice was a lot more flavorful then I expected.  This is now one a go-to recipe for Liz and I because the steps and ingredients are simple and the result is delicious! Enjoy!

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It’s Soup Season!

Fall and winter are always the best time to make and eat soup and there are two reasons why.  One, it’s cold out, so a bowl of soup warms you up from the inside out.  Two, it’s cold and flu season, and what better remedy for a sore throat and headache then a piping hot bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup?  As I am in college, I wanted this to not take too long, and I came across this recipe that is very time flexible   Now I have my very own batch of chicken noodle soup that I made all by myself, and on this cold day of November, it’s the perfect comfort food!

Here is the recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup:

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INGREDIENTS:
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1-3 garlic cloves, to taste
1 1/2 pounds (about 6) chicken thighs, preferably bone-in
1 bay leaf
1-2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 pound noodles
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1-3 teaspoons salt

EQUIPMENT 
6-quart soup pot
Long-handled spoon
Pasta pot

DIRECTIONS

1. Cook the Vegetables: Warm a teaspoon of oil over medium heat in the dutch oven or soup pot. Add the diced onions, celery, and carrots with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables just start to soften, 3-5 minutes. Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add the garlic. Cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds, then stir the garlic into the vegetables.

2. Sear the Chicken: Remove the skin from the chicken thighs, but leave the bone in. (Boneless chicken thighs are also fine in this recipe, but the bones add richness to the broth.) Move the vegetables to the edges of the pan and warm the remaining teaspoon of oil in the middle of the pan. When hot, add the chicken thighs, fitting them into a single layer. It’s ok if they are snug. Cook without moving for about 3 minutes, until the underside is seared golden. Flip the thighs and sear the other side until golden.

3. Add the Broth and Simmer: Add the bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the pot. Pour in one quart of the broth, reserving the remaining quart for later. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes.

4. Shred the Chicken: Move the pot off the heat and transfer the chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon. Use two forks to pull the meat apart into shreds (or chop into cubes). Remove and discard any bones. It’s ok if the meat is still a little pink in the middle at this point.

5. Cook the Pasta: Bring a separate pot of water to a boil for the pasta. When boiling, salt the water generously and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is barely al dente and the drain. 

6. Finish the Soup: Return the shredded chicken to the soup and bring to a simmer. If the chicken wasn’t quite finished cooking, continue simmering until it has cooked through.  If a thinner broth is desired, add additional chicken broth. Remove the bay leaf, and taste the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.  Spoon some of the pasta into a bowl and spoon the soup over the pasta and serve.

**REMEMBER** If you add the pasta directly to the soup, it will keep absorbing moisture, which often makes the pasta soggy.  To avoid this, store the pasta separate from the soup and serve it with the soup in individual portions.

Recipe courtesy of theKitchn.com

With a bowl of this homemade soup in hand, all you need is a blanket and a good movie, and you are ready for the fall and winter months! Enjoy!

Halloween Popcorn

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.  It is the one day (or multiple days in college) of the year when you can dress up as anything you want and no one will question why.  I take a lot of time to figure out my costume and I have never in my life bought a costume.  I always put it together from pieces of clothing I own or sew it myself.  It’s more fun and creative that way.  The other thing I love about Halloween is the candy (who doesn’t).  Just like all the trick-or-treating kids, I can’t wait to get my hands on some candy.  But eating that much candy is obviously not very healthy, so I came up with something just as tasty but consisting of less sugar.

Here is the recipe for my Halloween Popcorn

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bag kettle corn or salted popcorn, popped by bag instructions
  • 1/3 cup candy corn
  • 1/4 cup semi sweet mini chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cover a baking sheet with wax paper and spread out the popcorn so that it is in one layer
  2. Put the candy corn in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals siring after each interval. Once the candy corn has melted, use a spoon to drizzle it over the popcorn.
  3. Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 30 second intervals siring after each interval.  When the chocolate has completely melted, add the vegetable oil to the melted chocolate.  This will help the chocolate drizzle better over the popcorn.  Use a spoon to drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn.
  4. After both the melted candy corn and chocolate have been drizzled over the popcorn, let the popcorn sit for about 20 to 30 min so that the candy and chocolate hardens.
  5. Once hardened, remove from baking sheet, break into smaller pieces, and serve!

This is a nice easy (and healthier) way to enjoy Halloween candy without actually consuming that much candy! A win-win situation all around.  It is also really quite cheap and one batch of this only costs about $1.50 to make! I ended up serving this at a small Halloween party I threw for my friends, and it went FAST!  So let the kids have the candy and help yourself to some Halloween popcorn! Enjoy!

Cheesy Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts have always been a weird food to me.  When I was younger, it was one of those taboo foods that I just wouldn’t eat.  But as I’ve gotten older and a little more willing to try things out of my comfort zone, I’ve warmed up to the idea of them.  My mom is an amazing cook, so she introduced brussels sprouts into my diet in a variety of different ways.  But I have never actually cooked them myself.  After having brussels sprouts in a few different ways, I realized that they can be overcooked very easily, and when they are overcooked they turn to mush…fast!

When I decided to make brussels sprouts for the first time, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t overcook them.  Obviously I asked my mom for a few tips because she is the expert, but I wanted to figure it out on my own as well.  I chose to use this recipe because, 1: I love cheese, and 2: because I was not ready to eat brussels sprouts plain…yet.  I wanted some type of sauce or other flavor to contrast the flavor and texture of the brussels sprouts.

Here is the recipe for Cheesy Brussels Sprouts:

 

Ingredients:

  • About 1.5 pounds of Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 3-4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • black pepper to taste

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 425°F

  1. Clean and trim stems of Brussels sprouts. Cut in half. Place all halves flat-side down on a baking sheet and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper
  2. When the oven is pre-heated, put the brussel sprouts in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the bottoms of the brussels sprouts are browned.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pan, melt butter then add flour and quickly stir with whisk to combine and remove clumps. Turn off heat.
  4. Add milk, salt, cheese, mayo and black pepper. Stir until cheese is melted.
  5. Add Brussels sprouts and combine with cheese mixture. Pour into baking dish and turn down the oven to 350°F.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until brussels sprouts are tender but not mushy and cheese sauce is barely bubbling.
  6. If desired, sprinkle extra cheese on top of the brussel sprouts.
  7. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.

Recipe adapted from Whiteonricecouple.com

I was so impressed with how these turned out.  I realized that whatever I wasn’t cooking I was missing out on.  Now I’m going to try and challenge myself to work with ingredients that I am not necessarily familiar with.  That way I can discover all kinds of new recipes!

Pumpkin Pie for Breakfast

I have always loved the amazing taste of pumpkin pie.  It reminds me of beautiful fall days and getting together with family and friends for the holidays.  But the problem I always have with pie is that it is served as dessert.  Being such a foodie, I am usually too full from an amazing dinner to have room in my stomach for pie.  I can’t fully enjoy my pie if I’m already stuffed full from a previous meal.  So this is the solution…have it for breakfast!!  That way I can start the day with the delicious flavor of pumpkin and I can fully enjoy the taste of it because I will not be suffering from the food coma of a prior meal.

Because this recipe is the breakfast version of pumpkin pie, it is in the form of a muffin (a traditional breakfast food) but it still has all the flavors and spices that a normal pumpkin pie would have.  It’s perfect for a crisp fall morning when I’m running to class and don’t have enough time to sit down and eat a bowl of cereal.

Here is the recipe for Pumpkin Pie Muffins

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Pumpkin Pie Muffins
Makes about a dozen

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs. Mix until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, and flour.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, and mix on low until just combined.
  5. Divide the batter among lined muffin tins, filling each cup ¾ full.
  6. Bake for 17-22 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out with just a few crumbs.

Recipe courtesy of SnixyKitchen.com

Although pumpkin pie is a classic fall food, it is sometimes fun to present those flavors in a new way.  I chose muffins because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  I hope you enjoy these muffins as much as I (and my roommates) did! Enjoy!

Not-Your-Typical Mac and Cheese

I have always loved cheese.  Growing up, cheese and crackers were a regular snack in my family.  Now that I’m in college, I can’t exactly go out and buy all those nicer cheeses because I just don’t have the money, so I try and find other ways to fit it into my eating habits.

Traditional boxed mac and cheese is a college staple.  All you have to do is heat up some water, add it to the pasta, and pour in the cheese powder.  But…CHEESE POWDER?? That is definitely not what I want to be eating.  If I am going to be eating cheese, it should at least be real and not have orange food coloring in it!  So this recipe is my solution.  Yes, it takes a little longer than instant mac and cheese, but it is so worth it.  It has other ingredients like broccoli and chicken that make you feel better about what you are eating too.  You also get REAL cheese in your macaroni, not some fake powdered nonsense.  So get rid of your boxed college food, and get cooking with some real cheese!

Here is the recipe for the Broccoli Sundried Tomato Mac and Cheese

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Serves 4

Ingredients:
8oz large macaroni noodles
3 cups small broccoli florets
2 large chicken breasts (about 1lb), cut into bite-sized pieces
salt & pepper
2 teaspoons oil (I used oil from the sun-dried tomatoes)
6oz Laughing Cow Lite Cheese Wedges (I used Garlic & Herb)
3/4 – 1 cup milk
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

Directions:

  1. Cook macaroni noodles in a large pot of salted, boiling water. Add broccoli to the pot 3 minutes before noodles are done cooking, then drain well and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add chicken and cook until no longer pink. Remove to a plate and set aside. In the same skillet, add cheese, milk, sun-dried tomatoes, salt, and pepper, then stir until cheese is melted, and sauce is thick. Add cooked chicken, noodles, and broccoli to the skillet then stir well to combine. Add more milk if sauce isn’t creamy enough, then serve.

Recipe Courtesy of http://iowagirleats.com/

For this recipe, I thought that Laughing Cow was a great idea because it is creamy, lite, and it is a really good melting cheese.  It also does not cost too much, and to top it off, only 35 calories a wedge! Enjoy!

EXTRA! Here is a little example of the prep process!

Let’s start with the basics…Bread

Bread. we eat it all the time and it is definitely a staple in college.  Although buying it at the supermarket is easy and fast, I have a few reservations when it comes to cheap bread. Why the heck do so many breads contain high fructose corn syrup?!  I was so surprised when I first found this out; I didn’t want to believe it, so I checked the labels myself.  And sure enough, there it was in the ingredients list of a variety of breads at the store, along with some other ingredients that I couldn’t quite pronounce.

It was then that I decided that I should just make my own bread! Then I could decide and know exactly what I was eating.  The only problem was time.  Real bread (with active yeast) takes about 4-5 hours to make (including rising time), and in between classes, practice, and other college life commitments, there was no way that was happening during the week.  But weekends were a different story.  On a normal Saturday I get up really late, go on Facebook, and watch TV.  So I figured if I devoted 4 of those hours to baking bread, it would not be a huge sacrifice….And boy was I right.  That was the best decision I ever made.  Not only did the bread taste WAY better (and fresher) than anything at the store, but it also made the whole apartment smell like a bakery. How can you argue with that?!

Here is the recipe for the scrumptious Honey Wheat bread I made.

Honey Wheat Bread

Honey Wheat Bread

This recipe makes 2 loaves of bread, but since this was my first time making it, and since there is only one loaf pan in the apartment, I made a half recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking) plus additional for topping
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105-115°F)
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast (from 3 packages)
  • 1/2 cup mild honey
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional for buttering pans
  • 3 cups stone-ground whole-wheat flour
  • About 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for oiling bowl
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Special equipment: 2 (8- by 4-inch) loaf pans

DIRECTIONS

Heat milk in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan over low heat until hot but not boiling, then remove pan from heat and stir in oats. Let stand, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cooled to warm.

Stir together water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon honey in a small bowl; let stand until foamy, 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.) Stir yeast mixture, melted butter, and remaining honey into cooled oatmeal.

Stir together whole-wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, and salt in a large bowl. Add oat mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead with floured hands, adding just enough of remaining unbleached flour to keep from sticking, until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes (dough will be slightly sticky). Form dough into a ball and transfer to an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel; let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Lightly butter loaf pans. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times to remove air. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a loaf, then place 1 loaf in each buttered pan, seam side down, tucking ends gently to fit. Cover loaf pans loosely with a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly brush tops of loaves with some of egg wash and sprinkle with oats, then bake until bread is golden and loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom, 35 to 40 minutes. (Remove 1 loaf from pan to test for doneness. Run a knife around edge of pan to loosen.)

Remove bread from pans and transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.

(Recipe courtesy of epicurious.com )

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Don’t be afraid to make something new, or put a little time into your cooking!  After making this bread, I realized that, not only was it cheaper in the long run to just make my own bread, but it was also a great experience.  And now, since I know the basics of bread making, I can make all different kinds!  So get off Facebook, and get in the kitchen and make some bread!  Everyone will be jealous, you’ll see! Enjoy!