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.

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!

I never remember eating Brussels sprouts growing up but discovered them once I was living on my own. I’m always looking for healthy and simple side dishes!

I’ve made Brussels sprouts a bunch of times, always the same way. I first cut them in half and place them on a baking sheet. I then brush them with olive oil and minced garlic and sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top before roasting them at 350* for about 20 minutes. They turn out perfect, if you like Brussel sprouts that is!

Last night, I expanded my use of Brussel sprouts by including them in a pasta dish. I actually saw a recipe for Penne with Brussels Spouts and Bacon on Boston.com. Boston.com actually has a pretty decent Food section online but this is the first recipe I’ve tried from the site. Based on the results, I already have another recipe from the site lined up for tonight.

I love pasta dishes and bacon makes anything better so I figured this would be a tasty dish and it was. I recently discovered that Whole Foods sells center cut bacon by the strip at the meat counter. This was an exciting find for me because when I normally buy a package of bacon, some of it normally goes to waste. Not this time, I just ordered what I needed for this recipe. 

This weeknight dish was easy to prepare and had a nice light flavor. Brussel sprouts have a distinct taste on their own but worked really well in this dish. And, as expected, the bacon was a welcome addition!

What’s your favorite vegetable side dish?

It’s Friday! I’m relieved, how about you?

Halloween is tomorrow and the weather is supposed to be nice (a high of 70*!) here in Boston. With the crazy New England weather, we’ve been known to have a warm Halloween one year and snow the next. It’s just sad to see the little kids wear their winter coats over their Halloween costumes. It’s just not right. This year the kids will be comfortable in their costumes while trick or treating.

While it isn’t my favorite holiday, I do hold a special place in my heart for Halloween because it’s right near my birthday (next Tuesday). Growing up, a lot of my birthday parties were Halloween themed. I remember parties in my backyard where my friends and I would be in costume, bobbing for apples and eating donuts on a string (BEST game ever).

bobbing-for-apples

As I got into middle school, I had the brillant idea to have a pizza party then have all of my friends go to a haunted house. My poor parents. They ended up having to deal with 10-12 wimpy, screaming girls  at a haunted house – for several years in a row. Some of my friends refused to even go inside the haunted house. I remember one girl being chased by Beetlejuice one year and losing her shoe. I can laugh now but it was frightening back then. I’m better with donuts on a string. 🙂

la10275134_1007_doughnuts_l

Well, enough reminiscing. This past week I was craving a hearty salad.  I found a recipe online for a Warm Fall Spinach Salad at everydayhealth.com. The preparation seemed pretty straightforward and I liked the combination of ingredients (dried cranberries, shallots, pecans, bacon!). In creating the dish I added a bit of crumbled blue cheese…because cheese makes everything even better.

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The results? A very flavorful salad. The different elements worked really well together! Next time, I would use a little less cider vinegar and I bet it would be perfect.

This salad is great for a light dinner or a nice side dish. While the dressing is warm, it doesn’t wilt the spinach much so if that’s what you’re looking for, just put the finished plate into the microwave for 15 seconds. Delish! I had the salad both ways and preferred the wilted spinach a bit more. Yum!

Now onto my Friday Favs. There has been a lot of goodies in the blog world this week, especially with Halloween coming up. Here are my picks:

  • Tina at Carrots ‘N’ Cake made a delicious-looking Pomegranate Coconut Quick Bread this week. She has just returned from the POM orchards in California so I’m sure she knows the best way to cook with pomegranates now. I bet the tart pomegranates and the sweet coconut are a nice combo in this bread.
  • Erin, over at Erin Cooks, made a mouth-watering Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza this week.   Sometimes I find that homemade pizza isn’t as good as I find in a pizzeria but Erin’s looks better than any BBQ chicken pizza I’ve seen in a restaurant. This is a must try for me.
  • Last but not least, a Halloween treat. How could I not include this one? It’s a simple recipe that includes candy and chocolate. Maria and Josh at Two Peas and Their Pod made a batch of Halloween Chocolate Candy Bark  this week. It’s just so festive and would make a great gift. Adorable and delicious, you can’t go wrong!

I told you about my childhood birthday parties…what’s your favorite Halloween memory?

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Happy Mother’s Day! Today I prepared brunch  for 12 of my family members. It’s not very often that I get to cook for many people so it was a (fun) challenge. We celebrated the day at my parents’ house which meant I was able to use their kitchen (more space than in my apartment). I really enjoyed trying some new recipes and spending the day with my family.

My brunch menu consisted of: Cooking Light’s Lemon Blueberry Muffins, Fruit Salad, Bagels and Cream Cheese, Nicoise Salad with Dijon Dressing, Cooking Light’s Pork Tenderloin with Dried Cranberry Sauce, Crepes (with toppings), Scrambled Eggs, Roasted Potatoes, Healthy Cooking’s Bacon Twists (recipe below), and Ultimate Black Bean Brownies.

First Course:

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Second Course:

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I’d have to say that out of the entire brunch my favorite items were the Lemon Blueberry Muffins, Crepes and Bacon Twists. I’ll definitely make these again!

The recipe for the Lemon Blueberry Muffins makes 12 regular muffins but I wanted to make mini ones. I followed the orginial recipe, which made about 30 mini muffins. Each batch took about 10 minutes to bake and came out light, fluffy, golden and delicious.

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The Crepe recipe came from a cooking class I recently took at the Cambridge Culinary Institute (recipe to be posted soon). At first it’s a little tricky to get the hang of making the crepes but they’re actually easy plus they cook fast and are really yummy!

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I served the crepes with a Mixed Berry Compote (mix two cups of berries with two teaspoons of sugar), Chocolate Sauce and Fresh Whipped Cream.

Try the Bacon Twists too – a nice change from regular bacon.

Recipe: Spiced Bacon Twists

10 center cut bacon strips 

1/4 c. packed brown sugar

1-1/4 tsp. ground mustard

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Dash of cayenne pepper

1. Combine spices and rub on each side of the bacon strips.

2. Twist bacon to make twirls. Place strips on 15″ x 10″ x 1″ baking pan.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Bake a bit longer for crispier bacon.

They are so simple and very tasty. The recipe was in this month’s Healthy Cooking magazine.