Quinoa + Veggie Casserole

Happy belated Valentine’s Day!  I hope your weekend was filled with tons of love and affection.  And, if it was anything like our weekend, filled with food.  TJ and I never celebrate Valentine’s in the most traditional of ways. We always celebrate a day or two (sometimes a week) before or ahead (who needs to fight all those crowds?!).  We have opted for cheap, delicious meals in lieu of fancy shmancy overpriced restaurants.  We have gone to Disneyland instead of doing anything too romantic.  We’ve even done a scavenger hunt race.  Now, that we have Olivia, we wanted to continue our non-traditional celebrations, but also sprinkle in a little of that cheesy heart stuff that a little kid loves.  

So, our weekend was full of food.  It is the way we would celebrate, after all!  Instead of boring you with all that we ate, I’ll share with you what we had last night.  We went to an incredible restaurant downtown, Marugame Monzo.  They specialize in handmade udon noodles. Oh man.  We had such a fantastic time.  Olivia had a whole bowl of Zaru Udon (chilled noodles with a dipping suace) to herself! Man, can that girl eat!  After dinner, we headed to The Pie Hole, a fantastic place that specializes in all things pie, both sweet and savory.  We, of course, had a little sweet treat to end the night.  Needless to say, we need some healthy meal alternatives to counter-balance all those indulgences!  If you’ve read some of my past posts, then you already know that I’m heading straight to our Quinoa.  It’s such an easy choice for us. High in fiber and protein and, best of all, Olivia loves it!  We chose to make a casserole dish.  We saw a recipe that was similar to this that used brown rice, but since we’re on our quinoa kick, we decided to substitute it.  This is a lovely cheesy casserole dish with tons of vegetables.  It’s super easy to make – which is always a great perk!  As always, you can substitute whatever veggies you have on hand.  Today, we used carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and peas.  Also, Enough chattin’ – let’s get started!

What You’ll Need

1 small onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 cup of cauliflower florets, chopped

1 cup broccoli florets, chopped

1 cup peas

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/3 cup + 1/2 cup of your favorite tomato sauce

1/3 cup + 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

8-ounces of mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 cups cooked quinoa (we cooked ours in chicken broth)

salt, to taste (we omitted the salt due to the sauce + chicken broth + cheese, but if it’s for a mainly adult audience, go ahead and pop some salt in for added flavor!)

What You’ll Do:

Preheat your oven to 375.  Grease an 8×8 baking dish.  We greased ours with a little coconut oil.  Make sure your veggies are chopped up into bite-sized pieces.  

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Heat your oil in a large saute pan and add your veggies.  Saute the vegetables until the vegetables are tender.  

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Transfer the cooked vegetables to a large bowl.  Add 1/3 cup of pasta sauce, 1/3 cup of ricotta, and 1 cup of the mozzarella.  Stir to combine.  

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In another bowl, combine your quinoa, salt (if you’ve chosen to include it), 1/2 cup pasta sauce, 1/2 cup ricotta, and 1/2 cup mozzarella.  

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In your baking dish, press half of your quinoa mixture into the baking dish.  Spread all of the vegetable mixture on top, followed by the remaining quinoa mixture.  

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Bake for 50 minutes.  Once it’s done, allow it to cool for around 30 minutes before you serve it up.

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Fiber? Check! Protein? Check! Veggies? Check! Healthy? Check! It passes a bunch of tests!!  And, more importantly, it Tastes Oh So Good!  Enjoy!

~ M ~

Creamy Tomato + Spinach Pasta

Ahh…family dinner time.  What a wonderful concept, right? A gathering of your most loved ones around the table eating a healthy, delicious meal with fuzzily loving conversations going on.  This happens every night in your home, right?! Sure, in theory, this is wonderful. But what I’ve learned as a new mom is that getting together a family dinner that is nutritious, delicious, easy/fast, and affordable is…well…it’s not always so feasible. Or, at least, I don’t always have the energy for it.  I’d love to think I could be that mom who could whip up together an amazing meal my family fawns over every night, but I’m not.  When I’ve had a particularly rough day, sometimes the food bar at Whole Foods will just have to do (hey, at least it isn’t fast food, right?!).  However, there are those few tricks up my sleeve that I can pull out on those days I have the energy to pull together such a meal.  Pasta is always a safe bet in most households.  You probably have all the ingredients you need in your pantry at any given time to make this quick pasta dish.

Delicious? ✓

Nutritious? ✓

Fast & Easy? ✓

Affordable? ✓ (In fact, I priced out this dish, and it comes out to roughly $0.90/serving!)

Did those check marks pique your interest?  If so, then let’s get started, shall we?

What You’ll Need:

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced (minimum 4 cloves! Throw in more, like we did, if you love garlic!)

1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 Teaspoon dried basil

Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Fresh cracked black pepper

Pinch of salt

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

2 ounces Mascarpone cheese **

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 pound of Penne Pasta

A big bunch of fresh spinach (about 9 ounces or so)

What You’ll Do:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the penne and cook until tender (or according to your package directions).  Drain the pasta.  While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and cook the diced onion and minced garlic until translucent – about 5 minutes.

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Add the diced tomatoes, with the juices, oregano, basil, red pepper, salt, and black pepper to the skillet.  Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and 1/2 cup of water. Stir until the tomato paste is dissolved.

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Add the mascarpone cheese to the skillet.  Turn your heat down to a medium-low.  To help this go a bit faster, you can use a whisk to stir the sauce until the mascarpone has fully melted in and the sauce is creamy.  Add half of your Parmesan to the skillet and whisk again until it is melted.  Add the rest of the cheese in and whisk again.  Add the fresh spinach and gently stir until the spinach has wilted. Don’t forget it will look like a LOT of spinach at first, but spinach wilts down considerably!

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Add the pasta and stir until everything is well coated in the sauce.  Salt & pepper as needed.

**VARIATIONS**

If for some reason you don’t like mascarpone cheese (huh?!) or simply can’t find it, you can substitute cream cheese, which is a bit denser and creamier.

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Tonight, we served up our dish with a hearty side of sauteed tomatoes (simply sautee the cherry tomatoes in olive oil and garlic until they blister and turn soft).  So yummy!

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This dish is not only chock full of healthy veggies/fruits, it is also a great affordable family meal that Tastes Oh-So-Good!

~ M ~

Savory Breakfast Pudding

Ahhh, Fall.  My very favorite season.  I’ve lived in Southern California for most of my life now so we, unfortunately, don’t get too much of an Autumn chill and I miss it so (I spent my childhood on the East Coast where there are actual seasons).  Nonetheless, Fall remains one of my favorite seasons.  The chill in the air (though today is supposed to be a toasty 85 degrees) and the start of my favorite holidays (um…hellloooo Thanksgiving!).  

For the past few years, our dear friends have hosted a Fall Breakfast at their place.  Oddly enough, even if we are lucky enough to have a chilly weather streak, without fail it is always unseasonably warm the day of Fall Breakfast!  This year, with our friends having moved into a beautiful new place, Fall Breakfast was a wonderful way to help break in the new place.  Only thing is, our friends also have a brand new baby.  Those of you who have been through new parenthood know that the last thing you want to do is to host a party and cook up a storm.  The natural solution? Your friends do most of the cooking and you just sit back and enjoy.  And that’s what we did.  All the friends were responsible for a dish or two and breakfast came together quite nicely.  It was also Olivia’s first Fall Breakfast with our friends and their baby girl’s first official Fall Breakfast.  Quite momentous.

For our dishes, we thought we would do one sweet dish and one savory dish.  TJ and I figured that he’d make some pumpkin pancakes at their house the morning of.  I decided the savory dish to complement that would be our Savory Breakfast Pudding.  It’s a bread pudding – but savory.  That description kind of throws people off a bit, but I promise you it is delicious.  It is like a breakfast sandwich – in casserole form.  I originally got this recipe from an Emeril Lagasse recipe.  I’ve changed a few things about it to suit out tastes a bit more.  Either way you go, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

What You’ll Need:

2 tablespoons of butter + 2 tablespoons of melted butter

1 large yellow onion, sliced into thin rings

About 6 ounces of bacon, roughly chopped

About 6 ounces of sausage, casings removed and crumbled **

Few teaspoons of minced garlic

8 large eggs

3 cups of whole milk

1 cup of heavy cream

1 teaspoon of Essence (recipe below if you want to make your own, which I highly recommend)

Large pinch of salt

Pinch of fresh ground black pepper

8 stale croissants, torn up into 1/2 inch pieces

2 cups of grated Fontina or Gouda

1/2 cup of bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated Paremsan

What You’ll Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish.  We just lightly greased our dish with butter.  In a skillet, melt 1.5 tablespoons of butter and toss in your onions.  Saute the onions until they are soft and starting to caramelize. Throw in your chopped up garlic and cook another few minutes.

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In another skillet, melt the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter.  Add your bacon and cook for about 3 minutes.  Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel.  In the same pan, cook up your crumbled sausage for about 3-5 minutes until browned.  Remove the sausage and drain on a paper towel.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs up.  Whisk in the milk, cream, salt, pepper, and Essence.

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Once it is all mixed in, throw in your torn up croissant pieces.  Make sure the croissant pieces are covered in the egg mixture.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

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Now, throw in your sausage, bacon, onions, and 2 cups of grated Fontina or Gouda (we used Fontina here because..well, because that’s what Trader Joe’s had on hand that day!).  Stir to combine and let sit for another 5-10 minutes.

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Pour the mixture into your lightly greased baking dish.

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Bake covered for 40-50 minutes, until almoat completely set.

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What we did is prepare the dish the night before the breakfast.  You can assemble it up to this point (before you pop it in the oven).  Cover it with foil and pop it in your fridge, unbaked, for 8 hours/overnight.  The next morning, we simply started by uncovering the dish and baking it for the 40-50 minutes, as directed above.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs (feel free to use seasoned bread crumbs, etc. It is quite delicious), grated Parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter.  Uncover the pudding (if you’ve covered it with foil to prevent crazy browning) and spread the Parmesan bread crumbs evenly over the pudding.

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Increase your oven temperature to 375 and pop the pudding back into the oven for another 15-20 minutes (yup, pop it in while the oven is increasing in heat…no need to wait for it to fully get to 375).  It is done when the top is nice and toasty and the rest of the pudding is set (just insert a knife and see if it comes out rather clean). Wait 15 minutes before eating. There you have it! This is best served hot.

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** VARIATIONS **

Play around with the type of sausage you’d want to put in.  Hot sausages are great to use and gives this dish a nice kick.  We have even used Kielbasa and just chopped it up super small.  Whatever you’re in the mood for, try it out!

This is a great dish to bring over for a potluck, great for holiday breakfasts when the family is all gathered around.  It is so easy and you can just let it soak up all the great flavors overnight.  Next morning, pop it in the oven and there you have it – a great breakfast ready for the family (or friends, of course!) that Tastes Oh-So-Good.

Emeril’s Essence

This is a great combo of seasonings to have on hand and you can find his recipe here.  I have also listed out the ingredients below for your convenience (I’m so nice, right?!).

2 1/2 tablespoons of Paprika

2 tablespoons of Salt

2 Tablespoons of Garlic Powder

1 Tablespoon of Black Pepper

1 Tablespoon of Onion Powder

1 Tablespoon of Cayenne

1 Tablespoon of dried Oregano

1 Tablespoon of dried Thyme

MIx it up. And, in the words of Emeril – “BAM”! You’ve got yourself some Essence.

~ M ~

Vegetable Casserole

On the menu tonight is macaroni & cheese and our vegetable casserole.  The macaroni & cheese we are making tonight is my Mother-In-Law’s recipe and it is a closely-guarded secret.  Unfortunately, for you, that means I won’t be sharing that delectable recipe here!  What I can tell you about the recipe, though, is to use large elbow macaroni.  I’m telling you – it’s genius! It means all the yummy, cheesy goodness is guaranteed to get into all those large nooks & crannies.  So good.

Because we didn’t want to bring over just macaroni & cheese (because, after all, a new mama needs some veggies to help her stay nourished and strong), we decided to make our vegetable casserole.  This casserole dish is a great way to get a ton of veggies in one bite.  I got this recipe from a friend, originally, and she put in bell peppers.  I’ve got to admit. I’m not a bell pepper fan.  Never have been.  Interestingly enough, I asked my mom and she doesn’t like them either.  Perhaps I don’t like them because they were rarely cooked in our household (although we rarely ate artichokes and I could bathe in artichokes I love them so much).  Because I don’t like bell peppers, I omit them from my own recipe and tweaked a few more things about it to suit our tastes.  This casserole dish is incredibly easy to throw together and from start to finish takes only about an hour.  It is a great dish for dinner parties and is a welcome side addition to many of the heavy, creamier casserole dishes typically found at parties.  Ready? Let’s get started.

What You’ll Need:

1 medium potato, peeled & cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 medium yam, peeled & cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 medium carrots, peeled & cut into 1/2 inch pieces

5 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 red onion, sliced thinly into rings

2 small zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick pieces

Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Cayenne Pepper

2 large red tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

1/2 cup (or more) of freshly grated Parmesan

2-3 Tablespoons of Italian Bread Crumbs

A few fresh springs of basil, for garnish

What You’ll Do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the potato, yam, and carrots and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 9×13 baking dish.  Sprinkle with the pepper, salt, garlic powder, cayenne (really, any seasonings you’re prone to!) and toss to coat the vegetables evenly.

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Make sure the vegetables are spread evenly at the bottom of your baking dish.  Now, arrange your onion slices evenly over the vegetable mixture.  Think of it as your ‘lasagna’ noodles, if you will.

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Next, arrange the zucchini slices on top of the onions evenly.  Drizzle another 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the zucchini and sprinkle a bit more salt/pepper/seasonings.

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Top it off with your slices of tomatoes.

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In a separate bowl, combine the grated Parmesan and bread crumbs.  Once it is mixed, sprinkle the mixture evenly over the tomatoes.  Drizzle your last remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the top.

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Bake uncovered until the veggies are tender and the Parmesan bread crumbs are toasty brown.  This will take you about 40 minutes (it could be longer depending on your oven, etc.).

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Garnish with your fresh sprigs of basil to finish.  And there you have it!

Our macaroni & cheese with our side of vegetable casserole was delicious and hit the spot!  Though I can’t give you the recipe to my Mother -In-Law’s mac & cheese, here is the final product, fresh out of the oven!

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Our dinner was comfort food at its finest! Easy, Simple, and Tastes Oh-So-Good!

~ M ~

New Toys: Vitamix Tomato Soup

My mom is a funny woman. She is a very frugal woman – saves money like crazy, rarely ever shops for new clothes for herself, refuses to spend money on cable and other luxuries.  But the woman also knows how to splurge on fun items – things she deems ‘worthy’.  She rarely spends money on clothes, but a luxury watch? Check. She won’t spend money on cable, but loves to travel the world.  Saves every container that food comes in so she doesn’t have to buy new Tupperware, but likes to buy the newest camera out there.  You see, while she is frugal on items that she sees as fleeting (clothes – fashion goes in and out of style so quickly), she thinks everyone should have a good quality watch.  She loves to travel and see the world because, let’s face it, the TV ain’t got nothing on the beauty of the world.  A recent addition to this splurge list is the Vitamix.   My mom kept trying to tell us that she would get us a Vitamix and insisted we needed one.  We weren’t so convinced.  While we had heard wondrous things about it, we weren’t sure we needed such a luxury.  My mom kept insisting and then, during a sale at Costco, she bought us one.  Boy, are we happy & grateful she did.

What’s that? You don’t know what a Vitamix is? Simply put, it’s a blender.  But saying that a Vitamix is a blender is like saying Superman is just a man.  The Vitamix is a crazy, high performance blender that can blend, puree, grind, chop, cream, purée, and so much more.  From smoothies to juicing, from soups to frozen desserts.

Tonight, we planned on having dinner with our friends (our friends who just had the baby less than 2 weeks ago).  We wanted to bring over or make some sort of comfort food.  For me, one of the quintessential comfort food combos is tomato soup + grilled cheese.  And while I can make a grilled cheese, as I’m sure most of you can, TJ makes an amazing grilled cheese.  So, while TJ got the grilled cheeses going on the stove-top griddle, I got to work on the tomato soup.  This recipe is super easy and with the help of a blender, you’ll have a great rustic tomato soup in no time. If you’re lucky enough to have a Vitamix (or similar awesomeness brand blender), then you’ll have a velvetty smooth tomato soup in no time!  Ready?  Let’s go.

What You’ll Need:

6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 large sweet onion, chopped

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

1-2 tablespoons of butter

1 (28-ounce) can of whole peeled tomatoes, in their juices, preferably San Marzano

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water

2 bay leaves

1/3 cup heavy cream

What You’ll Do:

Heat the oil and butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Once the butter starts to foam up, throw in your onions and a large pinch of salt and saute for about 5 minutes.  Throw in your garlic and stir occasionally.

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Cook until the onions are translucent and just beginning to brown.  Add the tomatoes (everything, tomatoes + juice) and stir to crush up the tomatoes (though if you have a Vitamix, this isn’t too necessary).

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Add the broth or water (but come on…I really mean broth) and the two bay leaves.  Bring to a simmer and leave to simmer until the tomatoes start breaking apart (around 10 minutes).  Discard the bay leaves and let cool for about 10 minutes.  If you have a blender, your run-of-the-mill blender, you’ll want to puree up your soup carefully and after the soup has cooled down quite a bit.  If your blender is too small, you may have to do it in batches.  Then, just transfer it back to the saucepan and warm it up to your desired heat level.  Now, if you have a Vitamix type blender (and yes! I’m one of you now!), you don’t have to let it cool too much and you won’t have to warm it back up in your saucepan.  In fact, with a Vitamix, you can even cook up the soup in your blender! Yes, that’s right! It is so fast and powerful, it creates so much power and heat that it cooks up the soup while you blend!  I let our tomato soup cool a bit and then transferred it to our Vitamix.  Our model (Vitamix 6300) has a “Hot Soup” program.

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We hit start and it started blending – maybe 10 minutes or so?  When the Vitamix was done, I was so incredibly impressed at how incredibly smooth, light, and velvetty this soup was.

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I was never able to get our soups this smooth in the past with just a regular blender or our immersion blender.  Amazing.  The soup came out piping hot, too!  Once the Vitamix was done, we stirred in 1/3 cup of heavy cream. And there you have it.  Creamy Tomato Soup!  This recipe is perfect for a dinner party of 4.

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**VARIATIONS**

You can imagine you could add quite a bit to this soup, depending on what you like.  No garlic (well, that’s just silly, now isn’t it?!), add in oregano & thyme, parsley, red chili flakes, a touch of ground cloves.  You get the picture!

With TJ’s perfect grilled cheese sandwiches and these amazingly smooth tomato soups, our very ordinary comfort food turned into something a bit more elevated. And as always, it Tasted Oh-So-Good!

~ M ~

Risotto with Spinach + Peas

As much as I love vegetables, I will be the first to admit that I probably don’t eat enough vegetables. Scratch that. I know I don’t eat enough vegetables most days.  Although I always make sure to feed Olivia wholesome, nutritious foods, there are days I struggle with putting enough vegetables in her meals.  I am proud to say, however, that though it is a struggle at times, I have done a pretty darn good job 😀

Tonight’s dinner was a little indulgent, a lot of vegetables, and a whole lotta delicious.  I’m a sucker for Risotto. That creamy, oh-so-delicious risotto.  Makes my tummy swoon with joy. TJ makes a fantastic risotto with mushrooms that I’m sort of obsessed with.  Because mushrooms can be a bit on the rubber-y side and because Olivia only has about 4 teeth, I decided to make this risotto to share with Olivia instead.  It was also great because we had all the ingredients already on hand since most of these are staples in our kitchen.

I think making risotto seems to intimidate people because it seems like it would require a lot of work.  While risotto does require a bit of ‘babysitting’, it truly isn’t a difficult dish.  Your efforts will pay off!

Ready to get started?

What You’ll Need:

2 cans (14.5 ozs) of reduced-sodium chicken broth (The recipe for a homemade one is at the bottom of this page here)

A Few Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 Finely Chopped Onion

Salt & Pepper (As I’ve said before, I try not to cook with salt in our house so I omitted the salt)

1 Cup Arborio Rice

1/2 Cup Dry White Wine** (I used a non-alcoholic wine. I’ve written more about it below)

1 bunch of finely chopped spinach (about 10 ounces or so)

1 package (10 ounces) of frozen peas, thawed

1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (who am I kidding, I used about 3/4 cup!)

2-3 Tablespoons Butter

What You’ll Do:

In a saucepan, heat up the chicken broth and 2 cups of water. Bring it to a simmer and keep it lightly simmering.  In another saucepan, drizzle in your olive oil and saute up your chopped up onions until they are translucent. This will take you about a few minutes.  Season your onions with some salt and pepper.

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Next, add in the arborio rice and stir until the rice is nicely coated and mixed in with the onions for about 1 minute.

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Add in your wine and stir for another minute or so.  The rice will absorb most of the wine up.

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Take about 2 cups of the hot broth and ladle it into your rice and onion mixture.  You’ll want to stir this occasionally. (Remember how I said you’ll have to babysit it a bit?)  Once that liquid has absorbed into the rice, ladle in about another cup of hot broth and stir occasionally.  Wait until the liquid has absorbed before adding yet another cup of broth.

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Keep going with this process until the arborio rice is tender and creamy.  You may not use all the broth up.  This whole process may take you about 20-30 minutes.  This is why people tend to think making risotto is difficult – it requires you to ‘stay’ with it.  But you can stir! I have faith in you!

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Once your arborio rice is ready, stir in your Parmesan cheese, peas, spinach, and butter.  Mix well.  Season with some more salt and pepper if you desire.

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You’ll want to serve this immediately for the best result.  If you’d like, top with a bit more freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

** VARIATIONS**

Contrary to popular belief, the alcohol doesn’t completely burn off when you cook with it.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have no problem with some wine.  However, since Olivia would be partaking in this dinner with us, I didn’t want her getting any leftover alcohol.  We ended up this wine for a traditional wine.  It was a bit citrus-y than I would have liked in my dry white wine I would have cooked with in a Risotto, but hey…better than a drunk baby, right? 😀

TJ and Olivia weren’t quite ready to join me for dinner just yet, but I couldn’t help but sneak in a few bites of my own first!  Decadent, chock full of vegetables, and Tastes Oh-So-Good!

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~ M ~

Jumuk Bap – Leftovers Edition

It certainly has been quite a bit since I posted a recipe, right?  Miss me? Hope so. Before I continue with tonight’s recipe, let me start by saying – I am no Korean cook.  I’m not going to try and convince you that this recipe is in any way authentic.  But what it lacks in authenticity, it makes up for in simplicity, deliciousness, and convenience.  Jumuk Bap are sort of the Korean version of the more well-known Japanese Onigiri.  Both are essentially little rice balls of goodness.  My version of Jumuk (meaning “fist” in Korean) Bap (or Ju-Mok Bap, however you’d like to spell it in English) , I love making when there are leftovers around.  It’s an easy way to incorporate those leftover veggies and meat you have laying around from last night’s meal.

I would also like to say that today’s recipe may frustrate you a bit.  You know when you read those recipes with no real measurements? A dash of that, some of this, and a large heap of that over there? Yeah…this is one of those recipes.  Don’t worry, use your cooking skills and judgment for this one.  I promise you it isn’t as daunting as you may think it is right now.

Tonight’s version of Jumuk Bap, I used carrots, onions, spinach, and ground pork as the veggies + meat.  I would’ve ideally loved to have incorporated some bulgogi (recipe here), but alas, ground pork is what we had.  Go ahead and use whatever veggies and meat you think would work well in this or whatever you have on hand.  Go crazy – experiment!  Now, let’s get on with the details, shall we?

What You’ll Need:

1 cup of short-grain rice (Sushi rice would be ideal)**

1/2 cup of minced carrots

1/2 cup of minced onions

1/2 cup of diced spinach

Toasted Sesame Seeds (maybe a generous tablespoon or so)**

Chopped up Seaweed (I used about one sheet)

Sesame Oil

Soy Sauce (optional)

1 tsp (or so) of Rice Vinegar (optional)

What You’ll Do:

Cook up the rice.  I use a rice cooker (what Asian girl do you know doesn’t own a rice cooker?!), but if you cook your rice stove top, you’ll cook the rice according to the package (or 1 cup of sushi rice and 1 1/4 cup water).  Toss in the sesame seeds and the rice vinegar (if you’re using the rice vinegar) into the rice at this point and mix well.  Once the rice is cooked, set it aside to cool a bit (enough so that you’ll be able to handle it with your hands).  Coat a pan with a bit of sesame oil, enough to coat your vegetables.  I sauteed my carrots and onions first since those take a bit longer to cook than the spinach.

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Once those softened a bit and the onions became a bit translucent, I added in the spinach.

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I don’t like to add too much salt to our food, but if you’d like, go ahead and add soy sauce or salt to your veggies.  I personally think the meat (especially if you’re using one that was already prepared with spices and some salt, like bulgogi, flavors up these rice balls just wonderfully without added sodium.  I’m assuming at this point, since you’re using leftovers, the meat is already cooked.  If not, just go ahead and cook up your meat.  Like I mentioned earlier, I’m using some ground pork we had leftover.  Add your veggies and your meat to your rice and mix well.

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Sushi rice (or other short-grain rice) is pretty sticky, so before you delve on in and get your hands dirty, you’ll want to wet your hands with some cold water.  Otherwise, the rice will just stick to your hands.  Scoop up about a few tablespoons of the mixture and form it into a ball.  Just keep shaping it – it will come together nicely.  Keep going until your mixture is all gone.  Once the Jumuk Bap are room temperature, they’ve probably set quite well.  Wrap each ball with saran wrap – how easy and portable is that?!  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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**VARIATIONS**

I usually include a “Variations” section, but I suppose this one is more of a “Miscellaneous” section this time.  I really urge you to use a short-grain rice/sushi rice.  It really sticks together much nicer (that’s why your sushi stays together so nicely).  If you must, must, must use another rice, instead of forming the balls with your hands, you’ll want to rip a little saran wrap and place that in your hand. Scoop up the few tablespoons of the rice mixture into the saran wrap and pull the saran wrap around the mixture.  Shape it into a ball and then twist the rest of the saran wrap to close it on up.

My other tidbit is about the toasted sesame seeds.  Toasted sesame seeds are super easy to find, especially in an Asian grocery store.  However, if you happen to come across just regular ol’ sesame seeds, don’t worry!  Toasting sesame seeds is so quick and easy!  In a pan, just sprinkle your sesame seeds and turn up the heat.  Shake sesame seeds so that the bottom doesn’t burn.  Remove them from the heat once your seeds have browned a bit and when they get fragrant.  Voila!

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This is a great picnic snack, a great way to stuff in some extra veggies, and, like I said, a great way to use up those leftovers.  Sure, you may be using leftovers, but this is a great way to transform those leftovers into something that Tastes Oh-So-Good!

~ M ~