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 love when I find new, easy recipes that also taste great!

Sorry, let’s back up. How was your weekend? I hope it was relaxing and fun. I was excited to put away my suitcase since I’m done traveling for a little while. It’s the simple things. Now, I just have laundry to tackle.

During the weekend, I went into Boston and got a new car! It was a fun few days. I even had a chance make a tasty pasta dish this weekend. As I mentioned earlier, it was easy to toss together and made leftovers for lunch! Perfect.

The recipe for Easy Penne and Tuna Salad came from the May 2010 issue of Cooking Light.  Meant to be served cold, it’s going to be a great addition to my summer meals. The dish is light with a nice touch of Mediterranean flavor (I love red peppers!). I used whole wheat pasta for extra fiber but followed the recipe as written otherwise. It was my first time using  tuna packed in oil and I really liked the moistness.

I honestly don’t know how people give up carbs as I swear I gravitate towards pasta and bread. I enjoy these types of foods so as long as I choose healthier options (whole grains) and limiting my portions (to one), I’m okay with it.

What’s your carb of choice?

Finally, a new recipe! I have been traveling for work with little time to cook (more about that later) but I have a yummy recipe for you today. As I’ve mentioned before, I rarely cook a big breakfast. I normally stick to toast, cereal or oatmeal but a bigger breakfast is always a treat. This morning I made Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes with Cinnamon and Fruit.

Whole wheat pancakes can sometimes be dry and bland but this recipe is great for fluffy, moist pancakes. While I followed the recipe for Cooking Light’s Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes, I also added a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the batter. The cinnamon/vanilla flavor enhances these already-tasty pancakes. I served these pancakes with fresh fruit which was a perfect addition to my weekend meal.

 

This batter seems very versatile and could easy be used for making waffle or pancakes with chocolate chips or blueberries. I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of loving chocolate chip pancakes…it’s a real treat for breakfast. I say, the more chocolate chips, the better.

While I haven’t been cooking lately, I have been eating out quite a bit. Last week, in Chicago, I had one especially memorable meal at Ditka’s. I ordered an 8 oz. filet with blue cheese which was extremely moist and cooked perfectly. For dessert, I enjoyed decadent homemade ice cream. If you’re in Chicago or Pittsburg, I highly recommend it.

I won’t be cooking much this week but hope to get back to my old ways soon. With the spring here, we’re starting to see fresh vegetables in Boston. It will be great to buy local again soon! I’ll be back with another recipe ASAP.

Enjoy your week!

What to have for dessert? The big dilemma. Chocolate? Cheesecake? You can actually have both…without the guilt. Over the weekend, I made Cream Cheese Brownies from one of my Cooking Light cookbooks.  

A chocolate brownie with a layer of cheesecake? I’m in. The recipe is pretty straighforward and simple, full of easy-to-find ingredients. The best part? One brownie is only 130 calories and 4 grams of fat.

Now I have to admit that I love a good brownie, that means it has to meet two criteria. It must be fudgy and moist. If it’s not super chocolately and dense, it falls into the cake category in my book. This recipe was more of a cake brownie than a brownie brownie…if you know what I mean. Flavorful? Yes. And, chocolatey. Plus, the cheesecake topping is oh so creamy. But, the brownie itself was fluffier than what I was consider to be ideal.

None the less, this dessert turned out sweet and decadent and I look forward to making them again.

Someone recently said to me that I seem to make a lot of “stuffed” recipes. Of course this was after I’d just prepared Caramelized Onion-Stuffed Baked Potatoes. 😉

1020 018

Looking back at my recipe listing, I realized that, so far, I’ve posted PB-Stuffed French Toast with Bananas, Quick and Easy Stuffed Quesadillas, Stuffed Acorn Squash, Stuffed Spinach & Feta Turkey Burgers, and Summer Stuffed Peppers. I never realized it but I guess I’m all about “stuffed” dishes.

My most recent recipe, Caramelized Onion-Stuffed Baked Potatoes, came from Cooking Light. While I’m not a huge fan of baked potatoes in general (they tend to be kind of bland in my opinion), this recipe caught my eye because the ingredients included cheese and caramelized onions. Aren’t caramelized onions just delicious?! I love the texture and sweet flavor plus they are so easy to prepare. So much better than raw onions!

This dish calls for Gruyere cheese but I replaced it with crumbled blue cheese – just because it’s what I had in the fridge. I’m sure any cheese would work well.

1020 016

Not only was this dish tasty, (the combination of sweet onions, savory cheese and smooth potato was excellent), but it opened my eyes to what other ingredients could be stuffed into potatoes. How about prosciutto and fontina cheese? Mmm. Or BLT-stuffed potatoes?

You can prepare these potatoes as a side dish (a serving = 1 half potato) or as a meal (a serving = one whole potato). Either way, you’ll be stuffed!

What’s your favorite stuffed dish?

Is it weird that I just made my third pumpkin dish in a month and I’m not sick of pumpkin yet? You’ve seen my pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Now I bring you a recipe I’ve been making for a few years now, Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread. The recipe comes from Cooking Light but you’d never know it’s so healthy.

1020 042

I followed the recipe, just replacing the all-purpose flour with whole wheat. I also used 60% cacao bittersweet morsels from Ghiradelli. I love that dark chocolate and red wine is good for your heart. It’s a great excuse to indulge! Plus, the Ghiradelli morsels I used are larger than your average chocolate chip. Bonus!

This recipe is meant for two 8×4″ breads but I halved the recipe and made two mini breads. This tasty and moist bread makes for a great fall gift or flavorful snack. It’s a quick and easy recipe – you just can’t go wrong! Plus, a slice of the mini bread is under 100 calories. Woohoo!

 1020 038

I have a feeling this may the end of my pumpkin treats but I will be enjoying a few more pumpkin lattes before the season is over. Now that it’s nearly November, I’ll have to find a new flavor to become obsessed with!

1020 028

1020 031

1020 037

What’s your favorite flavor right now?

Have a great day!

As my friends and family know, I love random facts and trivia. I sometimes torture humor them on holidays with trivia about that specific holiday. For example, where are the most Thanksgiving turkeys raised? Answer: North Carolina.  

920-2 015

So, with the start of fall this week, how about some apple facts? Did you know…

  • 40 varieties of apples are available in New England
  • Macintosh apples are the most commonly grown variety in the US
  • China produces more apples than the US (the US comes in #2)
  • An apple a day really does keep the doctor away (they are high in fiber, fat-free, a great source of vitamins A & C and have many cancer-fighting antioxidants)

920-2 003

Last weekend, my friends and I hiked Mt. Monadnock in Jaffrey, NH then went apple picking. I’m not really a hiker but like to hike every now and then. It’s a great way to get out of the city and get some fresh air – nevermind that it’s great exercise. The entire hike took us about four hours roundtrip and the first half was a steep uphill climb. Mt. Monadnock is actually the #2 most hiked mountain in the world – after Mt. Fuji in Japan. I know, here we go with the facts again but how cool is that?! Hiking was a lot of fun but my legs were pretty sore for a few days afterwards – a good sore, of course.

920-2 006

On the way back to Boston, we stopped to pick apples at Washburn’s Windy Hill Orchard in Greenville, NH. (We had a fall-filled day as you can tell.) Apple picking is a great fall activity in New England…it’s fun, easy and usually means candy apples or cider is involved.  This was our first visit to the particular orchard and it was fairly small but very cute.

Despite the size, we still took a (2 minute) tractor ride to the apple trees. We learned that apple season wasn’t going very well so only Macintosh apples were available at the time. I was happy because I love Macs but it was a little disappointing not have other options. Hopefully the rest of their season gets better. While the variety was limited, the apples that were available were beautiful. Large and crunchy!

920-2 011

Once we filled our bags, we headed back to the country store. A few of us had our eyes on the caramel apples so we had a little snack. After the exercise we did earlier, there was no guilt in enjoying the gooey treat. Check out the chocolate drizzle…

920-2 014ca

Once I had my fill of caramel apple goodness, I had to decide what to do with 10 lbs. of apples. Eating them would take me about a month so I decided to make Cooking Light’s Maple Walnut Apple Crisp. Sounds great, right? Well, it was pretty awesome and easy to make, too. My basis for choosing a recipe was to create something reasonably healthy that used up a lot of apples. This recipe used nine apples and is only about 200 calories per serving. Plus, there’s at least a serving of fruit in each scoop, too.

920 013

The flavor of this apple crisp is very classic and it smells great while in the oven. While it uses less butter and sugar than traditional apple crisp, the flavor doesn’t suffer. The texture, soft apples with sweet and crunchy topping, was perfect – especially because of the walnuts.

920 008

920 009

920 010

920 012

What’s your favorite apple treat?