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I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post such an amazing recipe. Risotto, yum! This Bacon and Wild Mushroom Risotto with Baby Spinach has a ton of flavor and is pretty healthy, too.

This recipe comes from the May 2010 edition of Cooking Light. Just looking at the photo made me drool my mouth water. I finally cooked this risotto up a few weeks ago and it did not dissapoint.

Risotto is a fancy name for a rice dish. There are a lot of varieties (from seafood to butternut squash) and normally arborio rice is used. I have used arborio rice in the past which is great, but this time I used a whole grain rice mixture for this recipe. I also used all natual bacon from Trader Joe’s and because you cook the bacon first, there is no added oil or fat.

You may have heard that risotto is difficult to make or it takes to long. While I wouldn’t call this recipe difficult, it does take some time but it’s so worth it. Just turn on some good music and prepare to be in your kitchen for about 30-45 minutes. Between cutting vegetables and stirring the risotto often, this recipe does take a bit of patience. But, the recipe is very straightforward and it’s a great risotto to make for guests – they will  surely be impressed!

A warm risotto dish is great for the fall. Interested in other risotto recipes? Check out my Butternut Squash and Spinach Risotto here.

I hope you’re having a great August so far. (Today’s my mom’s birthday actually – Happy Birthday, Mom!!) I’ve enjoyed a little vacation in Maine so far this month and I’m happy to report that it’s starting to cool down a little here in the Boston area. We’ve had a hot and humid summer and I’m excited for a little relief from the heat. Although, I’d take it over snow anyday. 🙂

The one nice thing about the summer is I’m able to catch up on reading books and magazines. I had a growing stack of cooking magazines that I was able to begin to tackle in Maine. It’s such a great way to relax – on the beach flipping through magazines.

I have been subscribing to Bon Appetit magazine for about a year now. While most of the recipes look delicious, I’m often intimidated by the number of ingredients or amount of preparation for some of the recipes. I’m always afraid that if I try a recipe, I won’t be eating dinner until 10 pm! That being said, I have a pile of Bon Appetit clippings of recipes I want to try…when I have the time.

In the June issue, a recipe caught my eye and I recently made it for dinner at my parents’ house. I’m a sucker for Asian-inspired dishes, including this one – Grilled Asian Chicken with Bok Choy, Shitake Mushrooms and Peppers. (Please note, the original recipe calls for radishes but I left them out. I also roasted the vegetables instead of grilling them). I especially like this dish because making the main dish prepares you to make a noodle dish with the leftovers…only if you don’t use up all the sauce like we did!  

This meal is pretty easy to prepare and takes three main steps – making the sauce, roasting the veggies and baking the chicken. When you’re done, you have a unique but delicious chicken and vegetable stirfry. This sauce was really tasty – lightly sweet with a lot of citrus and Asian flavors. The mix of vegetables added addiitonal flavor and textures and the chicken was moist. We used brown rice for this dish, instead of the recommended Asian rice.

I will definitely be making this one again and I suggest you try it too! It’s a light but filling dinner, great for a summer night.

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I posted last. Bad me. But, I hope you’re enjoying the summer so far. Any big plans?

One exciting thing a few of my friends are doing this summer is splitting a CSA share from a local farm. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and, basically, we pay a fee to get a share of the farm’s vegetables each week from June to November. I really enjoy going to farmer’s markets and this takes things a step further. It’s been fun so far and has allowed me to try a few new recipes. I am a big proponent of supporting local farms and businesses plus, by being apart of the CSA, we are getting fresh organic vegetables soon after they are picked. Oh, and we get fresh, organic eggs, too! 

Included in our share last week was escarole – a hearty green and part of the endive family. Have you had escarole before? I had eaten it in a restaurant but I hadn’t cooked with escarole so I quickly went onto my favorite recipe website, allrecipes.com, to find the perfect dish. I immediately saw a recipe for Escarole and Beans which was simple and healthy so I gave it a whirl. I actually had all of the ingredients on hand, which is always a plus!

This recipe was really simple to put together and made plenty of leftovers. I would actually consider it a comfort food based on it’s thicker consistency so you can definitely enjoy this dish year round. Escarole and beans makes a fiberful side dish or a light dinner. I was expecting it to be basic in flavor but the garlic and red pepper flakes gave it a nice kick and I really enjoyed it. Leafy greens, such as escarole, are a great source of fiber as well as vitamin A and K. Who can’t use a little tasty nutritious dish in their life?

I’ll be back with another easy summer recipe in a few days so stay tuned!

If it’s hot where you are, like it is here in Boston, hope you’re staying cool. It’s supposed to be in the mid 90’s here tomorrow! Have  a great week!

Happy Memorial Day weekend! The weather in Boston has been very summer-like…and you’ll hear no complaints from me. While I love cooking, the summertime calls for simple, lighter meals that don’t involve much stove-time. Don’t you agree?

Not only do I crave colder foods, I also want to maximize my time outdoors (especially after working in an air-conditioned office all day). Salads are a great option for this time of year and they are so versatile.

I wasn’t recently catching up on one of my favorite food magazines, Cooking Light, and found this recipe for Bell Pepper, Tomato and Cucumber Grilled Bread Salad. I immediately folded over the page. Not only is this dish easy, it’s light and involves using the grill (another summer favorite, although I use an indoor grill right now).  Another plus…it includes BREAD.

Just as I suspected, I loved this recipe. The veggies were delicious mixed with the light dressing and grilled bread (I used a wheat baguette). Mixing bread into a salad just makes life better. The recipe suggests adding grilled shrimp or chicken as an option. I had the salad vegetarian-style the first night and, for lunch the next day, I added tuna for a little protein. It was a great addition.

If you’re looking for a salad that’s a little different but still easy and delicious, give this one a try. The bread alone will win you over.

PS – Last year, I made a delicious Panzanella Caprese – another bread salad. With fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, basil and bread, it was a perfect Italian-style summer meal.

Last Sunday, for Mother’s Day, I hosted a brunch at my parents’ house. Actually, my first blog post was from our Mother’s Day brunch last year! I guess it was my little blog’s first birthday too. 🙂

 This year’s theme was “Queen for a Day.” I decorated the table with colorful glitter, jewel rings and sparkly wands. Five moms were present (my mom, grandmother, two aunts and cousin) and they wore crowns for the day. It was a fun theme!

Now, onto the food. Last year, the menu consisted of both breakfast and lunch foods plus dessert. This year, I focused on mainly breakfast but didn’t forget about dessert.

My family members brought delicious additions for the brunch including fruit salsa, pecan rolls, fruit salad and pineapple upside-down cake. Here’s the menu, based on what I made:

Appetizers

Homemade Granola with Vanilla Yogurt (I’ve made this before – it’s so easy!)

Banana Nut Muffins (I replaced half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat and added chopped walnuts to the batter)

Entrees

Cheesy Crustless Quiche (I replaced the all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour)

Hashbrown Casserole with Bacon, Onion and Cheese

Spiced Bacon Twists (I made these last year, they are always a hit!)

Scrambled Eggs from the Oven

Simple French Toast (See recipe below. Thanks, Sara!)

Dessert

Heavenly Chocolate Mousse

The meal turned out really well. I was able to prepare the granola, muffins, quiche, hashbrown casserole and chocolate mousse ahead of time so I wasn’t stressed during the morning. All I had to do in the morning was cook the casserole, warm the quiche and make the bacon twists, scrambled eggs and French toast. Check out my great results!

Quiche. I’m not really a fan of quiche normally, but this quiche turned out great! It was a different texture than traditional quiche and was  full of savory flavors. I will definitely be making this quiche again, it’s a go-to recipe and has a nice wow factor. 

The hashbrown casserole also turned out exceptional, I really loved it. The flavors of the bacon, cheese and onion really blended well together and I enjoyed the bold flavors. Another go-to recipe for sure! It was just so tasty!

My friend Sara made a delicious French toast for her St. Patrick’s Day brunch and I knew I had to include it in this spread. It’s different from any other French toast I’ve had and when she said it was an easy recipe, I was even more excited to give it a whirl. Here’s the recipe:

French toast

1.5 c. brown sugar
1.5 stick butter
1.5 tsp. cinnamon  
1 large loaf of bread, crust removed and sliced in half                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 6 eggs, beaten                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 c. milk (2%)

1/2 c. maple syrup

1. Melt brown sugar and butter on the stove. Mix with cinnamon and pour on the bottom of a 13″x9″ pan.

2. Layer bread in pan. Combine eggs and milk and pour over bread.

3. Bake at 350* for 45 minutes.

4. Pour maple syrup over French toast and serve.

The chocolate mousse was divine. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll enjoy this treat. Even for a chocolate lover like me, it was too rich for more than a few bites. Delicious. I made this mousse the night before our brunch and let it sit overnight. It turned out creamy and decadent. Topping it with whipped cream, a raspberry and a mint leaf gave it a restaurant-quality presentation.

I hope you try some of these recipes for an upcoming brunch, or nice weekend breakfast. You won’t be disappointed.

Have a great week!

Hello! How’s your week going? Mine is flying by and I’m looking forward to the warm weather we’re expecting in Boston this weekend! We’re due for some nice weather after all the rain we’ve had.

As you know, I’m part of the Craving Ellie in My Belly cooking club and this week’s pick was Miso Glazed Cod. I’ve actually made this dish a while back and posted it here. In place of cod, I used another white fish, tilapia. The dish turned out pretty tasty and I also made a side of Ellie’s Sesame Stir-fried Chinese Greens which were delicious too! I really like bok choy because it has a different taste and texture than spinach or another common green.

I’ll have a new recipe in a few days so stay tuned. I’m trying to cook as often as I can before my work travel begins again in a few weeks.

Have a great Thursday!

I started my new job today so it’s been a busy Monday for me. It went really well and I met a lot of great people. The first couple of weeks of a new job are always tiring for me and I’m looking forward to getting into a new routine.

How was your weekend? It was beautiful in Boston both Saturday and Sunday. I did spend some time outside but my weekend was actually full of cake and frosting. In addition to attending the second part of my cake decorating class, I also baked and decorated my first layer cake for my grandmother’s birthday. I definitely have a new appreciation for professional bakers…the cake process was so time-consuming! Luckily, it turned out delicious so it was completely worth it. Phew!

In my class on Saturday, we made royal icing as well as two chocolate ganache frostings. Royal icing hardens once it’s piped so it works great for decorating cookies and writing on cakes. The ganache was pretty much chocolate mousse (yum!) and can be used to as cake fillings or frostings. We practiced a lot of writing with the royal icing and played with the ganache a little too.

Back at home, I made this chocolate layer cake for my grandmother’s birthday.  I made a two layer cake (instead of three) and baked a batch of cupcakes with the extra batter. Both turned out chocolatey and moist! I will definitely make this cake again.

For the frosting, I used a basic buttercream which consisted of a 1/2 c. softened unsalted butter, 3 c. sifted confectioners sugar, 2 Tbsp. skim milk and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. You can easily double or triple to recipe for additional frosting. I first frosted the cake and refrigerated it overnight before adding the decorations. To decorate the cake, I made a second batch of buttercream for the colored frosting.

To decorate the cake, I started by piping green leaves around the cake with the leaf tip.

I followed by adding purple flowers with the flower tip. To do so I held the piping bag upright, released frosting and stopped before pulling the piping tip off of the cake. I used the dot tip to add yellow centers to my flowers and also wrote on the cake with the dot tip. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy to write on the cake. 

Happy Birthday, Grammy!

Hope you have a great week with good eats!

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