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.


Black Bean and Avocado Quesadillas


These quesadillas are easy to make, take almost no prep time and are delicious!! The black beans, avocado and cheese create somewhat of a uniform texture so next time I make them I will add grilled chicken or crisp red peppers.  I also did not cook them stove-top but in my panini press as the tortilla gets nice and crispy and leaves pretty grill marks.  I also didn’t feel like washing a pan.  If you’re going to cook on a press just heat it up (I used the ‘low’ setting on mine), put the quesadillas on, close the cover, watch for the melty cheese magic and remove.

Try to avoid using pre-shredded cheese as there is a substance added to keep the cheese from sticking together in the bag-so it won’t melt as well as if you just grate your own.

After you rinse the beans well let them sit in a colander in the sink for a few minutes to let the excess water drain off. 

Black Bean & Avocado Quesadilla


  • 4 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cheese-I used extra sharp cheddar. I also used about 1/2 cup more
  • 1 ripe avocado, roughly mashed
  • 1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • sour cream for dipping
  • lime wedges, if desired
  • chipotle powder for seasoning the sour cream


  1. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.
  2. Place 1 tortilla down flat and spread the cheese and beans onto it.  On the other tortilla spread mashed avocado then lay on top of the bean and cheese tortilla.
  3. Cook until the bottom tortilla is slightly browned and little crispy, then flip over with a spatula.
  4. Cook until cheese is melted and bottom is slightly browned and crispy.
  5. Remove from heat and cut into 4 triangles. Repeat process with remaining ingredients.
  6. Serve with lime wedges and sour cream sprinkled with chipotle powder.

Makes 2 quesadillas.  Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: about 5 minutes. Like I said-fast!

Adapted from Sing For Your Supper and

Ali’s Lightened-up Eggplant Parmesan


I LOVE this dish! After years of trying to find an eggplant parm recipie that wasn’t totally slathered in sauce/fried etc… I created this one. I love eggplant and this one totally lets the eggplant shine-the texture, the taste-it’s not mushy, it’s not bitter-it’s just right.

The beauty of this dish is the feeling the texture of the eggplant, the melted cheese and pieces of tomato in the marinara sauce. This dish is not a typical eggplant parm as the eggplant is baked instead of fried-saving a ton of calories. Since there are so few ingredients use the best quality and freshest ingredients possible. This is the time to splurge on the San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce and a gorgeous ball of hand-made, super fresh mozzarella and wedge of parmesan. This dish is not one drowned in sauce or cheese (you can add more if you like) but I find that using less keeps the eggplant from becoming mushy. Enjoy!!


Ali’s Lightened-up Eggplant Parmesan


  • 3.5-4 cups home made chunky marinara sauce
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
  • ¾ lb fresh salted mozzarella cheese, sliced to 1/8 inch rounds
  • 1-1.5 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 3-4 tbsp salt
  • Cooking spray


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350. Coat 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Place eggplant in a colander in the sink, sprinkle with salt and mix to coat. Let rest 20 minutes.
  3. Combine breadcrumbs, 1 tbsp of parmesan, Italian seasoning and garlic powder in a shallow dish. Place egg whites in another shallow dish.
  4. Rinse eggplant well and pat dry. Dip eggplant into egg then into breadcrumbs. Place on a non-stick baking sheet and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once.
  5. Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce onto the bottom of the baking dish, then 1 layer of eggplant, scatter 1 layer of mozzarella, sprinkle with parmesan. Spoon another layer of marinara sauce over the cheese and continue making layers until all of the ingredients are used-finishing up with a final thin layer of sauce and cheese. There should be about 4 layers.
  6. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes until cheese is melted and cooked thoroughly.
  7. Remove from oven and serve.

Servings: 6 Prep Time: 30 minutes Cook time 35-45 minutes total.