Mushroom and Pea Risotto

A bowl of risotto on a chilly rainy night is so warming. Since I love mushrooms and peas and had both on hand I decided to put them together in this dish and it came out beautifully! I used Shitake but you could easily sub with Porcini too. The bit of white wine adds an extra layer of flavor, as does the broth since the dried mushrooms are reconstituted in it and then added to the risotto to cook it.  You could serve this either as an appetizer or as a main course, depending on the portion size.  It doubles easily. The recipe below made 2 main course servings or 4-6 appetizer servings.


Mushroom and Pea Risotto

  • 3-4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 oz dried Shitake or Porcini Mushrooms
  • 1/8 cup (1/4 stick) unsalted butter plus 1 tbsp separated
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup Abrorio rice
  • 1 tbsp brandy
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed or fresh peas
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium-sized sauce pan bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cover and cook until the mushrooms are tender-about 5 minutes. Using a spider remove the mushrooms, shaking off the liquid, to a board and chop roughly to desired size. Keeping the broth in the pan over low heat, add the wine and brandy.

Melt the butter in another large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft. Add a bit of the broth, the mushrooms and garlic and sautee until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid has evaporated. Add the rice and 1 cup of broth and simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until nearly all of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat the process until the rice is tender and creamy about 30 minutes. Add the tbsp of butter and stir. Mix in the peas and the Parmesan cheese and then add the salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Note: an easy way to defrost the peas:  place one small bowl (large enough to hold all of the peas and room enough to stir them) into another larger bowl.  Pour hot water into the larger bowl so that it surrounds the peas. Stir occasionally. They will defrost in the time it takes to make the risotto above.

For the Parmesan cheese use only freshly grated from a block. A microplane works the best for the finest grate.


Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Onions

I made these pork chops and had these     as the side dish along with some Mexican Rice.  The flavor of the apples and onions together is really nice. They’re roasted so the apples were still slightly crisp but a nice light apple-y flavor.  I adjusted the recipe a bit-I didn’t use the frozen pearl onions as I had an onion at home to use and I also doubled the amoung of sauce.


Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Onions

  • 2 1/2 tsp canola oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced onion
  • 2 cups Gala apple wedges
  • 2 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 4 pork chops
  • 1 cup fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp AP flour
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 400.

Pat pork chops dry, season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over med/high heat. Add 1 tsp oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add onions to pan and cook 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the apple to the pan and place in the oven.  Stir in 1 tbsp butter and bake for about 10 minutes or until apples are slightly soft.  Set aside.

Heat another large skillet over med/high heat.  Add remaining oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add pork to the pan, cook 3 minutes on each side or until just before desired doneness-set aside, tented with foil to keep warm. Combine broth and flour in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add the broth mixture to the pan, bring to a boil scraping the pan to loosen the browned bits. Cook 1 minute or until reduced halfway.  Add onions and apples to broth, stir in vinegar and remaining butter and stir.  Serve sauce over pork chops.

From Cooking Light, September 2012.


Roasted Root Veggies

Carrots, Parsnips and White Sweet Potato all roasty. Yum.  I don’t cook with Parsnip often, or White Sweet Potato for that matter, but the combination of them with Carrots was perfect for a fall side dish. Super easy and the only time involved is the peeling and chopping of the veggies.  Next time I make these I will add some peppers or green veggies. It needed some color and some texture difference but all around they were pretty tasty. The original recipe called for a regular sweet potato but, since I’d never had a white one and my grocery store had some I figured I’d use that instead.


Roasted Root Veggies

  • 1 large carrott (1/2 lb) chopped
  • 1 large parsnip (1/2 lb) chopped
  • 1 white sweet potato, peeled (or leave the peel on, it’s up to you)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley minced or 1 tsp dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 400. Chop veggies into similar sized pieces-I cut mine into 1/4 inch rounds.  Arrange the veggies on a foil lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Roast for about 20 minutes or to desired done-ness, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with parsley and additional salt and pepper if needed and serve warm.

Slightly adapted from this recipe from Simple Gourmet Cooking, who cites it from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics.

Thanks to Sarah from for organizing the swap!!


Shredded Beef Tacos-slow cooker

Yummy yummy yummy!!! I love tacos. I love tacos even more when the beef has been cooking all day, the house smells awesome, and there’s creamy avocado, tangy sour cream, bright red tomatoes, oniony scallions and cheese on the taco. It’s like a bite of heaven.

I’m a big fan of the Skinnyms website. They have great recipies and hey-why not eat a healthy version of something delicious that won’t make you pop the button on your pants?


Shredded Beef Tacos-slow cooker


  • 2 lb chuck roast
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can green chilies, drained
  • 1 small onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup lime juice-1 lime
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper

For taco assembly:

  • Shredded (not pre-shredded) cheddar and monterey jack cheese
  • A super-ripe tomato sliced, seeds and watery parts removed
  • Avocado-sliced
  • Scallions-chopped
  • Fat free sour cream


Place the onions, chilies and garlic in the bottom of a 5 quart slow cooker. Season the beef with salt and pepper on all sides and place on top of the onions.

In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the tomato sauce, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Pour the spice mixture over the beef and cover.  The beef will not be completely covered-and it’s ok.

Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours, then keep warm until serving.

Once the beef is cooked and tender, use two forks to shred the beef. If there’s any fat bits floating in the mixture pull them out with a spider and discard. Stir the beef with the cooking juices and keep warm in the slow cooker until ready to serve.

This makes a ton of meat for tacos. I bought carb-balance Mission Tortillas (the small ones) and nuked them in the microwave for a few seconds to heat them up then set up the assembly line-tomatoes, sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado and beef.  Other ideas too: chipotle sauce, hot sauce, lettuce etc…

The beef also reheats really well for left overs. I had myself a nice lunch at the office the next day.

Recipe adapted from:

Twice Baked Potatoes

I love potatoes and don’t make them often enough. I found the original recipie for these in a great book by America’s Test Kitchen and tweaked it to taste. I omitted the Pepper Jack Cheese that the recipe called for and used cheddar instead because, in my opinion, nothing goes better with bacon than cheddar. These potatoes came out great-crispy skin, great textured filling-and the taste was really great.




  • 4 russet potatoes (7 to 8 ounces each), scrubbed, dried, and rubbed lightly with vegetable oil
  • 8 strips bacon cut cross-wise into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded (about 1 cup) **don’t use pre-shredded**
  • 1/2 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of chives, chopped small
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • Ground black pepper

For garnish: extra sour cream, extra chives, extra bacon and extra shredded cheese.


Preheat oven to 400.

Place potatoes on a microwave safe dish, poked many times with a fork, and microwave on high until a fork inserted into the thickest part goes into the flesh easily and they feel soft. Set them aside and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.

Fry bacon in medium skillet over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove bacon to paper towel-lined plate to drain; set aside.

Following illustration below, using an oven mitt or folded kitchen towel to handle hot potatoes, cut each potato in half so that blunt sides will rest on work surface. Using a small dinner spoon, scoop flesh from each half into medium bowl, leaving a 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thickness of flesh in each shell. Arrange shells on foil lined baking sheet and place them in the oven until dry and slightly crisped, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mash potato flesh with fork until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients, including bacon and pepper to taste, until well combined.

Remove shells from oven and change oven setting to broil. Holding shells steady on pan with oven mitt or towel-protected hand, spoon mixture into crisped shells, mounding slightly at the center, and return to oven. Broil until spotty brown and crisp on top, 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Notes from ATC:

The Right Slice

Most potatoes have two relatively flat, blunt sides and two curved sides. Halve the baked potatoes lengthwise so the blunt sides are down once the shells are stuffed, making them much more stable on the pan during the final baking.

Why this recipe works:

We had a head start on our twice-baked potato recipe, having already developed a recipe for the Best Baked Potato. Starting there, we let the baked potatoes cool slightly before slicing them open and removing the flesh. We found that we could keep the skins from turning soggy and flabby by keeping them in the oven while making the filling. And for the filling we found it best to combine the potato with a tangy dairy ingredient like sour cream or yogurt, a small amount of butter, and ingredients with strong flavors like cheddar cheese, bacon, or chipotle peppers. For a perfect finish, we placed the filled potatoes under the broiler, where they turned brown and crisp.

Black Bean Soup-slow cooker

I really am loving having a slow cooker that works perfetly. After years of thinking they were all like that old one that I had (which wasn’t old really) that sucked I had pretty much sworn off of them. But not anymore!

Black bean soup. Thick, yummy, hearty, a bit of heat, delicious. That’s it. Make it 🙂


Black Bean Soup-slow cooker


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 medium onions, minced
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped medium
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped medium
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound dried black beans (about 2 1/4 cups), picked over and rinsed
  • 2 medium smoked ham hocks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 cup hot sauce (to taste)
  • fresh cilantro leaves chopped for garnish
  • fat free sour cream for garnish
  • chipotle sauce for garnish


Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, cumin, pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

 Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker and stir in the water, broth, black beans, ham hocks, and bay leaves until evenly combined. Cover and cook on low until the soup has thickened and the beans are tender, 8 to 10 hours. (Alternatively, cover and cook on high for 6 to 7 hours.)

Remove and discard the bay leaves. Remove the ham hocks and any portion of them that may ramin in the soup (there are fat pieces and small bones so be careful to remove everything-a spider works best), let cool and discard. Puree 2 cups of the soup with a stick blender until smooth, then stir back into the slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste, and serve.

Note: I added some Frank’s Hot Sauce in the last step as the soup needed a bit of a kick. It didn’t make it spicy-just gave it some heat.  Add it a little at a time and stir and taste until you reach your desired heat level. When serving I added a few squirts of my Goya Chipotle Sauce, a spoonful of sour cream and cilantro. The Chipotle Sauce gave it another dimension of taste without adding too much more heat.

This soup also reheats well.

Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated. Their notes:

 Editors’ Choice Cookbook Collection.  From The Best Make-Ahead Recipe.

 Why this recipe works:

We found that unsoaked beans worked fine in our slow-cooker black bean soup recipe. It was well worth the time and effort to sauté the aromatics before adding them to the cooker; the black bean soup recipe that skipped this step tasted flat. As for flavor, we knew we wanted a robust smoked pork presence. We tested our way through porky ingredients like bacon, kielbasa, ham, and ham hocks before deciding that the latter contributed all the depth we wanted. Once the soup was done—eight to 10 hours later—we stripped the meat from the hocks and stirred it into the beans. (I did not do this as basically everything was off of the bone-I removed the pices of the hock from the soup with my strainer and discarded them).

PREP-AHEAD TRIPS:  can store the following ingredients together:

1. Cook the vegetables as described in step 1, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerator.

2. Pick over and rinse the black beans and refrigerate.

If the soup becomes too thick as it sits, thin to the desired consistency with either water or broth.

Quiche Lorraine

I’ve always loved quiche. My Mom makes a delicious spinach quiche and that’s what got me to love them when I was little.  I haven’t made a quiche in a while but over this past weekend I made this Quiche Lorraine. I used Cooks Illustrated’s recipe and adjusted it a bit.

Give yourself time to make the crust.  A homemade crust makes all the difference in quiche and, while the instructions are long for the crust, it’s really really easy-just time it out right. I rolled it between the 2 sheets of plastic wrap and it saved me from making a huge mess with flouring the board etc.. I used 2 sheets of plastic for the top and 2 for the bottom and overlapped them to allow for the correct size of the crust.  The dough can be made up to 2 days in advance.


Quiche Lorraine


For the Dough  

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for rolling out the dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 4 – 5 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling  

  • 8 ounces pancetta (cut to thickness of regular bacon) cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 7 ounces Gruyère cheese grated 


Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat with flour. Cut butter into flour with five 1-second pulses. Add shortening and continue cutting in until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about four more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl. Note: you can cube the butter ahead of time and then put it back in the fridge to get cool again.

Sprinkle 4 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, using folding motion to mix. Press down on mixture with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more ice water if it will not come together. Shape dough into ball, squeezing two or three times with hands until cohesive, then flatten into 4-inch-wide disk. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling.

 Remove dough from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature to soften slightly, about 10 minutes if dough has chilled for 30 minutes or 20 minutes if it has chilled overnight. (The dough should be pliable. Use your hands to squeeze the dough; if you can squeeze it without applying too much pressure, it is ready to roll.) Roll dough on lightly floured work surface or between two sheets plastic wrap to a 12-inch disk about 1/8-inch thick. Fold dough in quarters, then place dough point in center of pie pan. Unfold dough. Alternatively, roll dough in 2-gallon zipper-lock bag to a 12-inch disk about 1/8-inch thick. Cut away top of bag. Grasping bottom, flip dough into pie pan and peel off bag bottom.

 Working around circumference of pan, press dough carefully into pan corners by gently lifting dough edges with one hand while pressing around pan bottom with other hand . Trim edge to 1/2-inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is about 1/4-inch beyond pan lip; flute dough in your own fashion. For quiche or tart pans, lift the edge of the dough, allowing the extra dough to flop over the sides. Then run the rolling pin over the top of the pan to remove excess dough. Next use your forefinger and thumb, press the dough evenly up the sides from the bottom to increase the height of the rim. Refrigerate pie shell for 40 minutes and then freeze for 20 minutes.

 Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Press doubled 12-inch square of aluminum foil inside dough shell; evenly distribute 1 cup or 12 ounces ceramic or metal pie weights over foil. Bake, leaving foil and weights in place, until dough dries out, about 17 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights by gathering sides of foil and pulling up and out. For partially baked crust, continue baking until lightly golden brown, about 9 minutes more; for fully baked crust, continue baking until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes more. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Fry bacon in skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towel-lined plate. Meanwhile, whisk all remaining ingredients except cheese in medium bowl.

Spread cheese and bacon evenly over bottom of warm pie shell and set shell on oven rack. Pour in custard mixture to 1/2-inch below crust rim. Bake until lightly golden brown and a knife blade inserted about one inch from the edge comes out clean, and center feels set but soft like gelatin, 32 to 35 minutes. Transfer quiche to rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Helpful notes from Cooks Illustrated:

Published September 1, 1997. 

The center of the quiche will be surprisingly soft when it comes out of the oven, but the filling will continue to set (and sink somewhat) as it cools. If the pie shell has been previously baked and cooled, place it in the preheating oven for about five minutes to warm it, taking care that it does not burn. Because ingredients in the variations that follow are bulkier, the amount of custard mixture has been reduced to prevent overflowing the crust.