Quinoa Risotto

Risotto is a decadent, delicious and extremely versatile side or main dish. You can make a quick version in your rice cooker or put the kids in front of a movie and make this slow version. The slow version is much, much better. Forty minutes of cooking in peace is also much better 🙂 You can choose to make it vegetarian, vegan or full of meat. It is naturally gluten free. Here is my basic recipe:

Quinoa Risotto


32 ounces of chicken or vegetable stock

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon of chopped fresh sage

½ cup of sweet onion, diced finely

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 cup quinoa

Salt and pepper to taste


In a large measuring cup, like this Pyrex one, mix stock, garlic, rosemary and sage. In a medium soup pot brown the onions in olive oil. Add the quinoa and stir for a couple of minutes. Add about 1 cup of the flavored stock and stir until it soaks in. Then repeat, until the quinoa is cooked and creamy. Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed. Then you can either serve as is or add in some cooked chicken and acorn squash or just the squash or roasted mushrooms, cooked peas, whatever you like.

You can make it more decadent by adding 1/2 cup of your favorite cheese. For example, cheddar and some broccoli or mozzarella and tomatoes, or just Parmesan.

To make risotto in your rice cooker, start the same way, heat the oil and onions in the rice cooker, then add the risotto. Add as much of the seasoned stock as your rice cooker will allow. Stir, cover and let cook. Then about 15 minutes later open the lid and stir again, adding more of the stock. Repeat until the risotto is the consistency you like and then add the meat, vegetables or cheese.

This could be a great side dish or main meal for a romantic dinner or for an elegant holiday meal. You can even wow your co-workers with this and bring it to a potluck. Keep it warm in a rice cooker or crock pot. I made it with cheddar and broccoli the other night and served it along side one of my cooking bucket list items: poached salmon. It was delicious! You’ll have to wait for that recipe 🙂



Pasta, Quinoa and Barley, oh my!

Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter or are planning a spring escape it is time to empty out your fridge! Here are a couple of quick and easy meals I have made over the last couple of weeks that were big hits in my family.

Carrot and Squash Pasta with Turkey Bacon, Spinach and Peas

 The Piccolini line from Barilla was on sale at the grocery store last week, so I decided to try a couple of them out. This one is carrot and squash. It was good. My husband even liked it. I wanted to use up some things in my fridge since we were having friends over and I needed the space.

1 Box of Carrot and Squash pasta (use whatever you have), 1/4 package of turkey bacon, diced, 1 clove of garlic, 1/2 bag of frozen peas, 1/2 bag of fresh spinach, 1/4 cup of yogurt, 1/4 of a jar of tomato sauce, 1/4 of a bag of shredded cheddar cheese.

Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Saute bacon in pan. Add garlic once bacon starts to crisp. If using turkey bacon you may need to add some olive oil in the pan. Add tomato sauce, spinach and peas until warmed through and spinach is wilted. Add yogurt and cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. If your pan is large enough just add drained pasta to it and mix. If you are using a serving bowl, pour in sauce and vegetables and then add pasta. You can add any vegetables, meat, pasta that you have leftover. Cream cheese works just as well as yogurt. A couple of tomatoes that are about to go bad are just as good (if not better!) than the jarred sauce. You can make this with whatever you have on hand.
Lemon Chicken with Quinoa and Barley risotto-like-side dish, and peas.

lemon pepper
1/4 large onion (white or yellow), sliced thin
olive oil
1 lemon (zested and juiced)
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar will work too)
1 3/4 cup water
2 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup barley
2 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of water
2 Tbsp butter
1/8 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 bag of frozen peas

Saute onions in olive  Salt and pepper the chicken and brown each side in the same pan, pushing the onions off the side. While chicken is browning mix the lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, water, garlic and rosemary in a separate bowl. When chicken is brown move onions around and pour in lemon mixture. Place in 375 degree oven for about an hour. Check temperature of chicken. It should read 180 degrees when done.

White chicken is cooking, add quinoa and barley to the rice cooker with 2 the chicken stock and water. If you have any lemon zest or rosemary still on your cutting board add it in for some more flavor. Cook until rice cooker says its ready! Taste. If still too al dente for you, add a little more water and cook again until its the right consistency for you. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter and shredded parmesan and mix together.

Defrost the peas in the microwave and you have dinner! 

More leftover ideas and some comfort food for those cold snowy nights

I feel like I’m finally getting a hang of using up all my leftovers and not just as the same dish it was, but transformed so my family doesn’t get bored. There are a couple of dishes that are great for transforming meats, veggies, like quesadillas or chili or a baked pasta dish. Here are a couple of things I have made recently.

Eggplant Rolotini with Orzo
Olive oil
1 small onion diced
1 small/medium eggplant sliced thin to make rolls, and extra pieces chopped
1 28oz can of tomatoes (diced or crushed. Substitute 3-4 medium tomatoes in the summer)
Garlic powder (can use fresh garlic, 1-2 cloves minced depending on how garlicky you like it)
1-1/2 cups Fresh ricotta
1 egg
12 ounces orzo
4 cups of stock (veggie or chicken) or water
Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add chopped pieces of eggplant and more olive oil if needed. Sprinkle salt, pepper, oregano and thyme onto eggplant and onion mixture. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add in tomatoes. While that is cooking, take ricotta cheese and egg and mix together with a little pepper, garlic powder and salt. Take mixture and spread across top of long, thin piece of eggplant and roll up. Take the sauce off of the heat and place roll up in the sauce. Repeat.  Drizzle eggplant roll ups with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover and place in 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.
Make orzo according to package. Serve with eggplant and sauce.
I made this recently for a cooking club and we had to bring something that started with the same letter as your last name. Very fun!

Leftovers: Added the orzo and some of the diced cooked eggplant in with a white pork chili (see below)
Barley risotto, Roasted Butternut Squash and Balsamic Garlic Pork Tenderloin
(a recipe for when you have lots of time to cook. If you don’t, make some baked potatoes or even sweet potatoes instead of the risotto)

2-3 lb pork tenderloin (you could also use beef or boneless chicken or turkey breast)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup apple juice
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup soy sauce
3-4 sprigs of thyme
1 medium sized onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced salt
lemon pepper
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
olive oil
2 cups pearl barley
8-10 cups broth (veggie, chicken or beef or even water or a mixture), heated

Turn crockpot onto low. Pour in balsamic, apple juice, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, thyme, 1/2 of the onion and 2 of the garlic cloves. Mix the sauce and taste. If too acidic for your taste, add more apple juice. If you want it to have a little more of a savory bite add more Worcestershire sauce. Dry the pork and rub it with salt and lemon pepper and then place it in the sauce in the crockpot. It should cover it about 3/4 or so the way up the pork. Close and let cook 6-8 hours on low. When it reads 170-180 degrees on a meat thermometer, the pork is done. Take it out to rest. If you want gravy, add the cooking liquid to a large saucepan and bring to a boil to reduce by about 1/2. Then strain. I use a spoon that is a large strainer since its easier than pouring it out and then back in the pan. Taste. I usually add a little more apple juice, a Tbsp of brown sugar and some black pepper. Lastly add a cornstarch mixture (2 Tbsp cornstarch to 1/2 cup water) and whisk until thick.

Spread the squash out on a sheet pan and toss with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper. Roast in oven at 375 degrees for about 30-45 minutes.

In a medium sized sauce pan on medium high heat, put enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Add remainder of onion and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent. Add barley and cook while stirring for 2-3 minutes. Add about 1 cup of the broth and stir until absorbed. Keep adding a ladle or 2 of broth at a time until absorbed and the barley is the consistency that you like to eat it. This can take about 45 minutes. Finish with a handful of parmesan.

Leftovers: I used the pork and barley, along with the eggplant and some orzo from another meal to add to 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, 1 diced zucchini, 1/2 jalepeno (seeded and taken out before eating), cumin and chili powder to make chili. I put everything in the crockpot and cooked on low for 2-3 hours. I used the butternut squash in a quesadilla with cheddar. The kids loved it! Well, 2 out of 3 did at least 🙂

Another good idea for leftovers is to make an Asian noodle dish. For some reason, my 4 year old has decided she LOVES Asian food, so I’m trying to make it more. The other day for a quick week night meal, I took some shredded turkey out of the freezer (from the holidays) and made a turkey, broccoli and edamame noodle dish with whole wheat spaghetti noodles.


 Cook the noodles as directed on package. Put a little bit of vegetable oil in a large sauce pan or a wok if you have one, on medium high heat. Add 1/2 onion sliced thinly and 1 clove of garlic, minced. Cook until onions are translucent. Add turkey and cook until heated through. Throw in a handful of frozen broccoli and a handful of frozen edamame (shelled). Then add sauce. I made a sauce with leftover pineapple juice I had in the fridge, with terriyaki sauce, soy sauce, a little brown sugar and a drop of sesame oil. It was so good! Let cook for 5-10 minutes on medium. Add a little cornstarch if you want the sauce thicker. Add noddles to pan, mix and serve!

Quinoa Butternut Squash Risotto

This was an experiment that worked! I wasn’t sure if the Quinoa would get creamy enough to make risotto, but it did and mixed with roasted butternut squash = fall in a bowl 🙂

Quinoa Butternut Squash Risotto

1-2 cups water

1 med size butternut squash (cut in half) (or 2 pkgs already cut up from Trader Joes)

2 Tbsp butter

1/2 med onion minced

1 clove garlic minced

2 cups quinoa (or aborrio rice, brown rice or barley)

4-6 cups broth (vegetable broth or you can use water + add herbs, or chicken or beef broth. I use 1/2 chicken broth + 1/2 beef for best flavor)

2-3 sage leaves

2 tsp salt (may need more to your taste)

2 tsp pepper (more to your taste)

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese (you can leave this out if making the dish vegan)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour water in baking dish (like a lasagna dish), enough to cover bottom. Place squash halves face down in water and prick the backs with a fork. Place in oven and roast for about 45 minutes.

Heat broth/water in a saucepan or glass bowl in microwave. In a saucepan melt butter then add onion and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes or until onions begin to become translucent. Add quinoa and stir to coat with butter, onions. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add about a cup of hot broth and stir until incorporated. Repeat until you taste the quinoa and its creamy, probably about 30 – 45 min. Then remove from heat and add sage, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese (add more or less of any of these to your taste).

Take finished squash out of the oven and allow to cool enough for you scrape out the flesh and mix it into the quinoa mixture. Add more seasoning to taste. Then serve!

[You can also make this an easy way. I make it in the rice cooker with a little less liquid and its not as smooth and creamy, but still yummy and takes less time and effort]

Just got the computer back, so photos finally next time!

My new finds…

Hi all. Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while. It’s been a crazy month. As I’m sure many of you understand, time is not always on our side. Even during this crazy busy time, I still have managed to cook for my family most nights. Although, we still order out or have eaten out of course once or twice a week 🙂

Especially with the economy the way it is right now, it is on all of our minds, how can I be more frugal? I have started meal planning for the week. This is something I never thought I would do. I used to be the one who went to the grocery store and bought what looked good and what was on sale regardless of what I had a home. Now I have taken stock of what I have in my pantry and freezer and decide on a menu for 5 nights, then I go shopping.

I also used a gift card my husband’s grandparents gave me for Christmas at Macy’s and spent one wondeful afternoon off in the kitchen section of Macy’s. I came across the Jessica Seinfeld cookbook, Deliciously Deceptive. It is amazing! Now, I have to admit I have a daughter who loves her vegetables, but mommy doesn’t always like to eat them 🙂 The recipes that I’ve tried so far have been big hits. One is tortilla cigars – mix cream cheese (I used the low fat neufchatel cream cheese), with some shredded cheese, carrot purree and sweet potato purree and whatever you have leftover, like chicken or pork. I also added some black beans. Roll in a wheat or multigrain tortilla and bake for 5-10 min. Soooo good! I cut them in half and Karina ate it all! She loves it.

Seinfeld’s cookbook just gave me alot of ideas. I also used a modified version of one of her recipes and made mashed potatoes but just added a cup of purreed cauliflower. Again, sooooo good! Another good tip is to add some purreed vegetables (I’ve been buying canned pumpkin) and adding that to soups. I made a chicken and brown rice soup the other day and just added a 1/4 cup of canned pumpkin to the broth. It adds flavor and nutrients, sooo good! Karina loved it!

The other new discovery I’ve made is barley risotto. Oh my. It was sooo good! I have become the person who makes risotto in my rice cooker because its easier, but I saw a recipe somewhere for using barley instead of aborrio rice and wanted to try it out by hand. I added some parmesan, sage and canned pumpkin. It used alot more liquid than aborrio rice, about twice the amount actually. Next time I’ll try the barley risotto in my rice cooker, but I don’t know if its big enough for all the liquid.