BASIC RISOTTO WITH CAULIFLOWER

I was a risotto virgin before we made this recipe- John had made it before, and I had indulged in some great varieties at restaurants. But I had been wanting to try my hand at making risotto, and our five-week vegetarian challenge gave me the best excuse. I adapted this recipe from this Simple Risotto recipe found here. If you need a basic risotto recipe that you can add mushrooms or other veggies to, this one makes a great base. I was surprised at how well this recipe turned out considering everything I had ever heard about making your own risotto.



Ingredients:
1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 cups vegetable broth (you could probably make this work with 6 cups if you had to)
2.5 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, diced
3/4 cup dry white wine
1.5 cups Arborio rice
2 to 4 cups spinach leaves
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
 pepper to taste

Image 1 shows the first 1/2 cup of broth being added. Image 2 is what your rice will look like while it is absorbing the broth. Image 3 shows the creamy consistency once the rice is cooked and you no longer need to add any liquid. Image 4 is the final product.


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Place broth in a medium sauce pan and heat to a simmer; reduce heat and keep warm.
Cut the cauliflower into medium small florets. Toss the cauliflower, olive oil,and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a bowl. Place cauliflower on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes in the oven. You can stir them about halfway through baking. When they are tender and slightly browned they are done.

While the cauliflower is roasting, mince the shallot. In a large skillet add the shallot, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and heat to medium high. Once the butter is simmering, reduce heat to medium, and cook until the shalot is translucent.  Stir in the rice, coating it with the butter mixture.  Now you can increase the heat to medium-high and leave it there for the duration of the cooking process. Refer to the images above when adding your liquids.

Add  the white wine, I like to use Sauvignon Blanc when cooking. Stir the wine and rice constantly until liquid is almost evaporated. At this point, you can start adding the broth. Add the broth in 1/2 cup increments, and stir frequently until broth is almost absorbed. Repeat until rice is tender, but still al dente, you shouldn't let the rice absorb all of the water once it is ready because you want to have a bit of "sauce" left.

Stir in the parmesan cheese, and the cauliflower. We added spinach leaves because we had them, but you could also substitute kale or mustard greens. Keep stirring the ingredients until they are all incorporated and your greens have begun to wilt. Remove from the heat and season to taste.

PORTOBELLO SANDWICH WITH TZATZIKI

We made this recipe on Sunday, because we had some leftover tzatziki sauce and I was worried it was going to go bad. Being on our 5 week vegetarian challenge has made us a lot more creative in the kitchen, and has really gotten us out of our usual dinner rut. I can't wait to share the whole meal plan with you- only two weeks left! What has probably surprised me the most on this menu is how we don't really miss some of the old meat dishes we usually ate. I was sure I'd be craving a burger by week three, but this sandwich rivals some of the best burgers I have ever eaten!



Grilled Portobello Sandwiches

Ingredients
2 portobello mushrooms
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar (I love Nappa Valley Naturals brand)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Focaccia bread
Tzatziki sauce (see below)
1 Red onion
4 oz Feta crumbles



Directions

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. (We don't have a real adult grill so I did this on the George Foreman, which is what we use for paninis as well).

Lightly drizzle your mushrooms with olive oil. I also used balsamic vinegar because I have been putting it on almost everything lately, and it makes the flavors really stand out. Brush on for an even coat and let marinate.

Make the tzatziki sauce, see below, then slice the onion.

Grill the mushrooms for 4-5 minutes on each side.

Slice the focaccia bread, and drizzle a bit of balsamic. Add a dollup of tzatziki, and layer on some onions. Cut the mushrooms in half, and lay one of the halves on each sandwich. Then add the feta crumbles, and the other half of bread. Serves 4



Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup fresh dill – minced
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 garlic cloves – roasted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl check for seasoning. Add more dill, lemon, garlic or salt/pepper if you wish! Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

TOASTED GOUDA QUESADILLAS

Our Vegetarian quest continues. This recipe is primarily why I couldn't be a vegan- I have pretty much given up dairy except for cheese, its my food weakness. You can't make a tasty quesadilla without cheese. We had family from Germany visiting us last week, one evening for dinner we had a great cheese plate- but so much smoked gouda left over. John is a master of throwing together a bunch of crazy things and having them turn out great. (With the exception of the spinach olive chili- I know you just gagged- I gave him props for trying, and I also never let him forget how great the chili was once I picked out the spinach and olives!) So this tasty recipe was all on him. And by all on him I mean- he invented it, and got it all over his white T-shirt.



Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 large onions (white or yellow)
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
6 ounces smoked Gouda cheese
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup Italian parsley
4 flour tortillas

Directions:
Slice the onions. Chop the cilantro and parsley. Grate the cheese.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil, and add sliced onions. Saute for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add barbecue sauce and water; stir until the onions are completely coated. Turn off heat.

Spread onion mixture, cheese, and greens on half of each tortilla, and then fold in over, this way you can toast 2 at once. Place the quesadillas back in the skillet.  Cook until toasted and the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes per side. Cut quesadillas in half, and serve. I added a bit of avocado to mine, and John added hot sauce and salsa. We both loved them!


DIY PINBOARD


I have a box in my office filled with notes and cards that I like to keep around for inspiration. I find it helpful if I am stumped on the wording to a wedding announcement, need a reminder on a friend's child's birth date, or need an idea for a color palette. You'd be surprised how many small things you can find inspiration in. But first you have to get them out of the box. I have been meaning to make a pin board for a while and finally got around to it on Sunday, while watching the latest Mad Men. It really is that easy, it took about 20 min, excluding painting the frame. So here's how:



Find a great frame with character, I loved this one because it had some great carved details in it. I picked it up a few years ago at good will and it had been waiting for new life. I painted it white with some primer I had on hand but any type of paint will do on wood- prime before you paint plastic or metal.

Then I used an exacto knife to cut a piece of foam core to fit the opening. I had a few fabric remnants on hand and selected a black and white pattern for the inside. It had too much contrast for my taste- so I ended up using the back side of the fabric, which is grey and white.

Just pop the foam core into place. Arrange some cards and letters and pin them on! That's it, I told you so easy. And you can do it on a large or small scale. If you had a large frame you could duct tape your foam boards together to create a larger inspiration palette. I already know I'll be switching out the fabric panel all the time.



QUINOA AVOCADO CHICKPEA SALAD

John and I decided to try out being vegetarians for a few weeks. Because we do our grocery shopping one day per week now, I decided to make a simple meal plan. That way we could make multiple dishes, with similar ingredients, so fresh fruits and veggies wouldn't go bad before we could get to the market again. (We live a block away, and tended to go everyday- which is great for having fresh food- but we wasted so much time!) This week we had dishes that included tomatoes, cilantro and basil. We created a 5 week plan, so I'll share a few recipes from each week, and at the end of the plan I'll share a printable file of the plan so you can try it out too! Last night's dish was this salad, it was filling and I loved how the lemon dressing brought out all of the flavors of the veggies.


Ingredients:
1/2 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
2 avocados diced
2 cups spinach
1 bunch cilantro
1/4 cup onion
2 small cloves garlic

For the dressing:
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tsp. mustard
1 tsp. agave nectar or similar sweetner
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste



Directions:
1. Make your quinoa first. Add quinoa to the water and turn on the heat to medium high.  Let the quinoa come to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer. Cook quinoa for about 15-20 minutes, until the water is absorbed.  Remove it from the heat, but keep the lid on.  Set it aside.

2. Finely chop your spinach and cilantro. Add the greens to a bowl, and set aside.

3.  Next take your onion and garlic and finely dice those, and add to the greens mixture. Next add your chickpeas and diced tomatoes.

4. Dice your avocados, and add them to the bowl. I like to cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and slice them while they are in the skin (it's a lot less messy). Then stir in quinoa, and mix all of the salad ingredients.

5. Make your dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. Pour over salad, and mix until combined. I like to put it in the refrigerator for about 10 min. I think it tastes better slightly chilled.