Sunday, March 11, 2012

Porcini Mascarpone Risotto

Hi everyone! This is Sara writing a guest post about my house specialty, risotto. I know there's a certain fear factor that people have when attempting risotto- yes, it takes a while and yes, there's lots of stirring, but if I can make it well, anyone can! For me, making risotto is a zen-like experience- an hour in front of the stove by myself, chopping, stirring, tasting and watching the arborio plump up. It also helps to drink a glass of whatever wine you are putting into the dish!

I like making it now, but my first attempt at risotto was an unqualified disaster. It was back when Megan and I lived in Somerville and I was not exactly a practiced cook. Ok, I was a terrible cook. I wanted to make a nice dinner as a surprise, and followed a pumpkin risotto recipe exactly as it was written. I didn't taste the risotto until it was already out of the pot and in bowls, so I didn't realize that I hadn't put in nearly enough liquid until it was too late. The arborio was hard as a rock! We had to throw out the whole thing, and I was so disappointed. That was the beginning of my mission to become an excellent risotto maker.

This recipe is a family favorite, and came from Cooking Light magazine. I have tweaked things a little over time, based on some cooking chemistry that I've learned (mostly from TV!) Sometimes when making this dish, I noticed that the shallots took on a harsh, almost bitter taste. I switched to using a bit of butter to saute them in, instead of olive oil or cooking spray, and that made a huge difference. I'm sure it's less healthy, but much tastier! Also, I never understood why risotto recipes had you toast the rice before adding the liquid. This question was answered by Lidia Bastianich on one of her shows- apparently initially toasting the arborio allows it to absorb more liquid and get that creamy consistency. And one last risotto tip- you are always going to need more liquid than the recipe calls for, so plan ahead!

Original Inspiration: Cooking Light
Serving Size: 4
WW: ?


1 1/2 cups boiling water 
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 ounce) 
1 (14-ounce) can less-sodium beef broth (didn't have any tonight, so I used mushroom broth- worked well!)
1 tbs butter1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
3/4 cup chopped shallots 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1/2 cup dry white wine 
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
1/4 cup (1 ounce) mascarpone cheese 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme 
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine 1 1/2 cups boiling water and mushrooms; let stand 10 minutes or until soft. Drain through a colander over a bowl. Reserve soaking liquid; chop mushrooms.
  2. Bring reserved soaking liquid and broth to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep broth mixture warm over low heat.
  3. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter. Add rice, shallots, and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add wine; cook until liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add 1 cup broth mixture to rice mixture; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Add mushrooms, Parmigiano-Reggiano and mascarpone cheeses, thyme, salt, and pepper; stir gently just until cheeses melt. Serve warm.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter

I finally made a dinner worthy of the blog. As much as I normally love my quality kitchen time,  I've been a bit lazy about trying new recipes lately. This one is exceptionally delicious. I always say that, I know, but really, it is awesome. I actually went back for a second serving, because I couldn't resist the spicy, warm taste. I can't wait for lunch tomorrow! 

I served the soup with a piece of toasted garlic naan. The original author recommended pan frying a few paneer cubes in the leftover brown butter and topping the lentil soup with them. I must try that!

Original Inspiration: Super Natural Every Day
Serving Size: 5 big servings
WW: 8 pointsplus per serving


2 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil or unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 1/2 cups of vegetable broth 
1 1/2 cups (10.5 oz) green lentils, picked over and rinsed (you could also use green split peas)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 3 or 4 pats
1 tablespoon Indian curry powder
1/2 cup light coconut milk
sea salt
fresh chives, minced 


Melt the 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or butter in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions soften. 

Add the vegetable broth and lentils, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender. This will likely take between 25-45 minutes, depending on the lentils. It took about 30-35 minutes for me using sprouted green lentils. 

When the lentils are almost done, it is brown butter time. Listen carefully, my friends, as I had to do this twice since I burned my first batch.  This whole process will take about 3-4 minutes. Pull out a small, thick-bottom saucepan or skillet and set the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk the butter frequently as it cooks. Once the butter melts, it will start to foam up - keep whisking. When the foam subsides, watch the butter carefully and remove from the heat as soon as the butter starts to smell nutty and light brown specks start to form on the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the curry powder and stir until the spices are fragrant, which should take less than a minute. 

When the lentils are tender, remove them from the heat and stir in the coconut milk and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Then, puree with an immersion blender to your desired texture. You can leave it a bit chunky, as I did, or puree it until it is smooth. Stir in half of the curried brown butter and taste. You may need to add more salt at this point, depending on the saltiness of your stock. Serve drizzled with the remaining spiced butter and a healthy sprinkling of minced chives. 


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

Happy New Year to my beloved readers! The holidays were great, but I am happy to be back in my routine and on track food-wise. Today was my first day totally on plan in a long, long time. 
I received a plethora of cookbooks for Christmas, so I am starting to crack them open to find some tasty new recipes.  I was most excited about getting Heidi Swanson's first cookbook - Super Natural Cooking. When I saw this spoon bread recipe, I knew that I couldn't live without trying it. I had never tried spoon bread before, but the idea of a casserole-like dish with sweet potatoes and goat cheese was exciting to me. I was surprised by the texture (like a cross between stuffing and mashed potatoes - in a good way), but the taste was as fantastic as I envisioned. It could be served as an entree with a green salad or as a side dish.

I'm posting the recipe now, because I want you all to see its sweet orange-y beauty, but I do think that I can get the points down a bit lower. Maybe a little less butter? I'll play around with it next time I make it and edit the recipe if I can drop a few points.

Original inspiration:  Super Natural Cooking
Servings:  6 generous portions
WW: 9 points plus per serving


3 cooked medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled (I baked up some sweet potatoes last night and then just scooped out the flesh when I started cooking tonight)
1/3 cup unsalted butter
4 large shallots
6 ounces goat cheese
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (or white whole-wheat flour)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1 cup boiling water
3 large eggs


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 2 quart casserole dish.

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat and then add the shallots. Cook the shallots, stirring frequently, until they are golden and the butter has browned, which should take 8-10 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the goat cheese with a fork until it is fluffy and light. I needed to add a tablespoon of water, since my goat cheese was a bit dry.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Begin to add the boiling water slowly, first making a paste and then just working to make sure it is all incorporated. It is OK if the batter is a bit lumpy. Add 3 cups of the sweet potatoes to the bowl and blend. Stir in the shallots and browned butter. Then, stir in one egg at a time and mix until well combined.

Pour the sweet potato mixture into the prepared casserole dish and top with the whipped goat cheese. Using a spatula, press the goat cheese into the mixture and even out the top of the sweet potatoes. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the goat cheese begins to color and the sweet potatoes have set.

Heidi Swanson recommends serving the spoon bread topped with a little Parmesan cheese, but I found it unnecessary. The sweetness from the potatoes and tang of the goat cheese didn't need anything extra. Enjoy! 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cider-Glazed Chicken Sausages with Butternut Mash

I love cooking magazines, but I hate to have clutter all over my house, so I have started ripping out all of the recipes that interest me in Cook's Illustrated, Cooking Light, America's Test Kitchen, and Everyday Food, scanning them, and saving the PDFs. I now have a gigantic recipes folder on my laptop that gives me an absurd amount of pleasure. I'm on holiday break this week and I finally cracked open this ever-expanding file to make something.

I have been wanting to try this recipe since the beginning of autumn...I'm only a few months late.  It was a perfect cold weather dinner, my friends. I couldn't seem to get an appetizing looking picture of my final product, but I will try again the next time I make it.  Here is the picture from Everyday Food's blog -->

My plate looked a bit soupier than this, but every bit as tasty as this one looks. This is a really easy 'meat and potatoes' meal to add to the table. I think that people with more traditional palates than mine would also love it, so it would be a great comfort food to serve when parents or other relatives are stopping by.

Original Inspiration:  Everyday Food
Serving Size: 4
WW: 10 pointsplus per serving


2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 1" wedges
1 pound raw chicken sausage (Ideally 4 links - not the pre-cooked kind. I bought mild Italian chicken sausage at the butcher's counter. Any mild flavor would work well.)
7 fresh sage leaves
3 cups apple cider
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1/3 cup greek yogurt (I used 0% Fage)
1 tablespoon brown sugar (if needed)


In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or a small dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sausages to the pan and cook until the sausages are golden brown (about 6 minutes). Turn the sausages and stir the onions every 2-3 minutes.  Add sage and cider to the pot, and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a rapid simmer and let it cook until the cider is syrupy, which should take about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the squash, apple, and potato in a medium saucepan and cover by at least 2 inches of water. Bring the vegetables to a controlled boil at medium-high heat and let them cook until tender (around 15 minutes).

Drain the vegetables and add them to your food processor with greek yogurt, salt, and pepper.  Pulse until blended and then taste. Adjust the seasoning, if needed. My granny smith apple was really tart, so I had to add a bit of brown sugar at this point. You don't want to make the mash sweet, because the cider you add on top will bring a lot of sweetness, but just make sure that it isn't too tart.

Divide the butternut mash onto four plates (or 2 plates and 2 storage containers, like in my house) and top with a chicken sausage, onions, and a healthy amount of cider 'gravy'.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

This is the best cake I have ever eaten in my life. It is unique with a complex, interesting flavor that isn't too sweet. Right up my alley. It tastes like a cross between cornbread and pound cake. I brought a piece to work today and I ate it one bite at a time over the two hours before lunch. I couldn't wait. This cake is worth every single calorie.

I would recommend using a good quality olive oil and dark chocolate bar. You will really be able to taste the difference.

Original inspiration: Good to the Grain via 101 Cookbooks
Serving Size: 12 thick slices
WW: 11 pointsplus per serving (totally worth it)



3/4 cup (3 ounces) spelt flour
1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (4 ounces) white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I used sea salt and it turned out fine)


3 eggs
1 cup good quality olive oil
3/4 cup whole milk

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces (I used a 45% cacao Icelandic chocolate bar and I felt like it needed a bit more bitterness. Look for a 60-70% cacao bar.)
1 tablespoon cane sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Either line a long loaf pan (4 1/2" by 13") with parchment paper or spray a fluted tart pan or bundt cake pan with olive oil.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl and set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly and then add the olive oil, milk, and rosemary and whisk again.

Using a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry and mix gently until just combined. Stir in 2/3 of the chopped chocolate.

Transfer the batter into your pan, making sure to smooth the top of the batter with a spatula. Then top with the remaining chocolate and pat it into the batter a bit. Sprinkle the top of the cake with a tablespoon of raw cane sugar (or something else with larger crystals - for crunch).

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a skewer or knife comes out of the center of the cake cleanly.

You can enjoy a slice warm or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and eat cold over 2-3 days. Yum!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nameless Cookie Wonders

You are probably realizing by now that I have a thing for cookies.  Cake, pie, can have them. They aren't really my thing (although I will be making this in the next couple of days), but cookies are fantastic. I like cookies because they aren't usually too sweet and the best ones have a nice sweet/salty/savory balance.  I have had this recipe saved in my ever-growing recipe folder for a while now and I am thrilled to finally have tried it.  They are not like any cookies I have ever had before. They are actually healthy and surprisingly filling for such small treats.  I would feel great about feeding them to my 4 year old niece, since they do not contain any added sugar or artificial ingredients. AND they are delicious.  I can't quite come up with a name, since it would be something like "Banana-Chocolate-Coconut-Almond-Oatmeal Cookies". Hmmm...maybe trail mix cookies? The name is still in progress!

Original Inspiration:  101 Cookbooks
Serving Size: 2 cookies (I got 45 cookies out of this batch)
WW:  3 pointsplus for 2 cookies (loads of health benefits included!)


  • 3 large, ripe bananas, mashed (around 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (warmed slightly so it becomes liquid) or olive oil
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup almond meal  (*You can just pulse 2/3 cup raw almonds in the food processor to make this. You want the texture to resemble sand when you are done)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut, finely shredded (I had coconut flakes, so I just blitzed them in the food processor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 ounces chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar, chopped up (I used some leftover mini chocolate chips I had and that ended up being the perfect size chocolate pieces for these cookies. I used chocolate chips, since I have a ridiculous amount of them, but I can't wait to try them with a quality dark chocolate bar)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with your racks in the top third of the oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats. 

In a large bowl, combine the mashed bananas, vanilla extract, and liquid coconut oil.  Set aside. 

In another bowl, combine the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder.  When all of the dry ingredients are incorporated together, add them to the wet ingredients and stir well.  Fold in the chocolate chips or pieces.

Expect the dough to be dry and fairly loose. You will think you did something wrong, but no worries! Drop less than a tablespoon-sized dollops of dough onto the cookie sheets about an inch apart (the cookies really won't grow on the pan).  Bake for 13-15 minutes. The cookies should be beginning to brown around the edges. My oven is on the hotter side and I left them in for 14+ minutes. 

Let the cookies cool on the stove top for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.  

Make sure you eat at least one or two of the cookies warm - to die for!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sweet Tooth Fix: Coconut Cornflake Clouds

I have had the world's worst sweet tooth all week. I've been picking at candy and baked goods wherever I can find them. I sometimes get into these moods where sweets are all I crave and the holidays really bring that out.  I tried this recipe out to help satisfy my sugar jones without breaking the WW points bank. Super easy to make if you have a stand mixer and incredibly delicious! They taste like a cross between a macaroon and a meringue. I think that I might even try dipping the bottoms in chocolate next time.  

Original Inspiration:  SkinnyTaste
Serving size: 2 cookies (makes between 24-28)
WW: 3 pointsplus for 2 cookies!


  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes (I might try unsweetened next time)
  • 3/4 cup cornflake crumbs (I smashed 2+ cups of cornflakes in a large ziploc bag - you can buy cornflake crumbs at the store though)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Using a stand mixer or hand beaters (a stand mixer would be significantly easier), whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and sugar for 8-10 minutes until the meringue is formed. If you put a spoon into the mixture, it should leave a soft, thick peak when you take it out.

Fold in the cornflake crumbs and coconut and combine until just mixed.  Then, using two tablespoons, drop good sized spoonfuls of the mixture onto your prepared cookie sheets. I got 24 large cookies, but Gina on SkinnyTaste got 28. Expect somewhere in that range.

 Bake for about 17-19 minutes or until the cookies are golden. Let cool on the stovetop for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.  Enjoy!