Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

Another asparagus recipe while it is still in season.  We are now able to get asparagus from Colorado!  I always love when produce starts being local again.  Very ready for farmers markets to open around here and our CSA share to start. 

Asparagus Risotto Recipe

Source: Simply Recipes


  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 package mushrooms -we used Maitake mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp plus 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 cup arborio rice short grain brown rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • About 3 1/2 5 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian option) we used more since we used brown rice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper


1 Prepare the asparagus by breaking off discarding the tough ends (about the last inch of the spear). Cut into 1 to 1 1/2-inch pieces (tips longer, base shorter). If your asparagus are especially large, cut into even smaller (bite-size) pieces. Bring a saucepan with a quart of water to a boil. Blanch the asparagus pieces for 2 minutes. At the end of two minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the asparagus pieces to an ice water bath to shock the asparagus into a vibrant green color and to stop the cooking. Drain from the ice water bath and set aside. 

2 In a 3 or 4 quart saucepan, heat 3 Tbsp butter on medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes until translucent. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring until nicely coated.

3 While the shallots are cooking, bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan.  Add in mushrooms and saute for a few minutes. 

4 Add the wine. Slowly stir, allowing the rice to absorb the wine. Once the wine is almost completely absorbed, add 1/2 cup of stock to the rice. Continue to stir until the liquid is almost completely absorbed, adding more stock in 1/2 cup increments. Stir often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking and stirring rice, adding a little bit of broth at a time, cooking and stirring until it is absorbed, until the rice is tender, but still firm to the bite, about 15 to 20 minutes 45 minutes, it took longer since we used brown rice. Remove from heat.
Note the stock amount given is approximate. You may need a little more or less. If you end up needing more stock and you find yourself without, just use water or the cooking water from the asparagus.

5 Gently stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining 1 teaspoon butter, and the asparagus. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day

Earth Day, Earth Day, Earth Day... so much to say and so much emotion that goes along with the day.  Somehow I have always had some connection to the earth.  As a kid I had a big back yard that backed up to a big cow field with an awesome creek.  During the summer, that creek was where we lived, we walked along it and just wandered the fields.  That was before video games became cool and then we would hide up in a house and soak in the A/C.  But there was still that connection that never left.  Then there was the lake, also known as Table Rock Lake.  My grandpa had a house there so we would go there a few times in the summer.  There is something awesome about just laying on the dock or a raft and just enjoying the outdoors; having the waves bump you along.  For this reason, I want to live on a lake someday.  There were also the family vacations to National Parks and camping.
But the point I am getting to is there was always a connection to the environment and that connection only grew once I went the college.  I am not even sure how it all began but it did and I am glad it did, I am who I am because of it. So in college I joined the environmental group on campus and became a very active member, was secretary, then VP, then President my last year.  It was a great experience and I learned so much from it, and I cared even more about the earth.  I lessened my meat intake drastically and I have felt much better about it ever since.  With the group I went to conferences, recycled at a major music festival, camping, a wind farm, and Green Festivals and made a group of great friends.  All part of a great learning experience.
Recently I have been reading a lot of books about our food system, such as "Omnivore Dilemma", "Eating Between the Lines", "In Defense of Food", "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", etc.  They have all been very informative and have made me change my diet even more.  I have also watched Food Inc. and it is a great movie for people who are wanting to know what is in their food and more about our food system, without having to read a book. 
I feel like I can never know enough about the environment and our environmental impacts.  But really the most important thing a person can do is just pass on the information.  Whatever they find is useful tell one other person and the word will get out there.   That is how it all starts. 
And I think informing/educating children is very, very important.  They are the ones that will take charge and rule the world eventually.  Just letting them know what is out there, the plants and animals, they can make their own decisions and will see how important it all is.  And the kids these days are so smart they already know what is happening in the world.  I worked at a zoo one summer as a camp counselor.  Part of this job was to create lesson plans on different animal species, families and the environment.  During that time, I was so amazed by how much information these kids already knew and what they already thought.  It was a great experience. 
So with tomorrow being Earth Day, I hope my journey and connection with the earth will continue and grow as I grow.  It will always be my greatest passion. 

Happy Earth Day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I decided to make carrot cake cupcakes because I can make some great cupcakes.  Which is nice since every time I try to make cookies they come out flat, flat, flat.  This really irritates me, I am still trying to figure out why this happens.  But until then, cupcakes will have to be the dessert of choice.  Another great thing about cupcakes is that I can make butter cream frosting and lets just face the facts, butter makes everything better.

Source: Simply Recipes


  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup of shredded coconut
  • 1/2 pound of carrots
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk (or add a teaspoon of lemon juice to regular milk and allow to stand for 10 minutes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil applesauce (I refuse to use oil in baking, so I always replace it with applesauce or butter)
  • 1 tablespoon of orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoons of ground cardamom
  • 3/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon


  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Toast the walnuts in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  • Rinse the carrots and peel the rough skins off, then grate the carrots.
  • Place the carrots, buttermilk, oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and orange zest together in a bowl and whisk thoroughly.
  • In another bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon.
  • Fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture, being sure not to overmix. Fold in the toasted walnuts and coconut until evenly incorporated.
  • Scoop into cupcake papers about 1/2 to 3/4 full and bake for 19-21 minutes at 350F, being sure to rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes of baking. Afterward allow to cool for 5 minutes before taking the cupcakes out of the cupcake tin and allowing them to fully cool on a wire rack. Frost cooled cupcakes.
  • Makes 12 cupcakes.
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz of Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 3/4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until well combined. Sift in the powdered sugar and mix. Spread onto cooled cupcakes. 


Pizza again!

I love pizza and the past few times we have made it has been amazing!  The crust is just so good, and it is awesome we can make it at home.  And it's super easy!  So last night we made pizza again using this crust recipe.

Then we topped it with fresh basil, roasted red peppers, roasted garlic and fresh mozzarella.  It was amazing!  This is the first time in a very long time we did not top our pizza with cream cheese and it was still really good.  By the way, cream cheese is the best thing to put on pizza, if you have not tried it you are missing out.

Roasted garlic is so good and can be super easy.  If you do not have time to do the long process involving the oven, there is a simpler way!  Just throw some cloves with their peel in a sauce pan (no oil) and turn up the heat.  Once the peels start to get a little brown you can take the garlic out and let it cool a bit.  Then peel it and chop it up.  It gets soft and has the same flavor as roasted garlic in the oven.  And it only takes 10 minutes!


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Walnut Pesto

Okay that is not what the recipe is really called, but that is basically what you are making.

I took this recipe from The Complete Pasta Cookbook.

Spaghetti with Walnut Sauce   Serves 4

1 cup walnut pieces or halves
3 Tbls plain bread crumbs
3 Tbls olive oil
3 Tbls chopped fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
2 Tbls heavy cream
14 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Drop the walnuts into a small pan of boiling water, and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Drain, then skin if needed.  Dry on a towel.  Coarsely chop and set aside about a quarter.  
  2. Place the remaining nuts, the bread crumbs, oil, parsley and garlic into a food processor.  Process to a paste.
  3. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water, according the the package, until al dente. ( Tip: if following package time reduce this by a couple of minutes, otherwise it will most likely be overcooked.)  Drain, the toss with butter.  Once butter is fully melted add walnut sauce, then cream.  Add salt, pepper and cheese to taste.  Sprinkle with the reserved nuts and add more Parmesan cheese if desired.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Inflammation Syndrome

I recently read The Inflammation Syndrome by Jack Challem.  It was a pretty interesting book about how the current American diet is causing lots of issues with our heath.  In the book he promotes his diet, the AI diet, that allows you to only eat lean meats, fruits and vegetables.  Personally, I would never follow his diet plan but there is still lots of good information and tips in the book on how to live an anti-inflammation lifestyle.  I found it interesting that many diseases and health problems stem from long term inflammation.  Hopefully you check the book out and find some helpful information on how to live a healthier lifestyle, too. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Our First Turkey

On Sunday we got the day off because of the holiday so we decided to cook a turkey that had been sitting in our freezer since November.  And this just isn't any ol' turkey it was a Mary's Heritage Turkey.  A breed that is similar to the wild turkeys that roam around, so no it did not have white feathers all over.  It also did not have a huge breast muscle because it wasn't bred for that, but it was awesome.
Along with this beautiful bird we had homemade buttermilk biscuits, turkey gravy, mashed yams, collard greens and blood orange sorbet.

For the bird we just followed the recipe that was on the packaging and it turned out amazing, very tender and moist.  I was really nervous about cooking my first turkey but I am glad it turned out so well.

The buttermilk biscuits came from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

Ingredients: (we doubled the recipe to make about 20 biscuits)
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 scant tsp salt
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 tbls cold butter
7/8 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 450
2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a food processor.  Cut the butter into bits and blend it into the food processor.  All the butter should be thoroughly blended before proceeding.

3. Move to a medium bowl and stir in buttermilk, just until the mixture forms a ball.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it ten times; no more.  If it is very sticky, add a little flour, but very little; don't worry if it sticks to your hands.
4, Press into a 3/4-inch and cut into 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter or glass.  Place the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet.  Gently reshape leftover dough and cut again.

5. Bake 7-9 minutes, or until the biscuits are a golden brown.
 They are amazing with some honey on them.

We also made some collards with onion and garlic and just sauteed them until wilted.  For the mashed yams we just added a little cinnamon and coconut oil.  For the gravy we just used pan drippings, some water/milk and a little flour.

The meal was amazing and I was very pleased that everything turned out at planned.
Happy Eating.