Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

Rice has always been a staple at our house. I think Brion could eat rice almost everyday without problem. Although the steamed long grain would be his favorite, I can’t resist making a risotto periodically.

A properly cooked risotto should form a soft, creamy mound on a dinner plate. It shouldn’t run across the plate, nor should it be stiff and gluey.

Risotto’s signature tenderness is traditionally achieved by slowly adding spoonfuls of liquid while the rice cooks. This shortcut version eliminates most of the stove top stirring, but produces equally silky results.

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Chicken & Mushroom Risotto
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Course Main Dish
Keyword risotto
Servings
Course Main Dish
Keyword risotto
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tsp oil in a LARGE POT or DEEP SKILLET over high heat. Add bacon & cook until golden. Transfer to a small microwave-proof bowl.
  2. Leave about 1 Tbsp bacon drippings in pot & discard the rest. Add chicken & cook until browned through. Transfer to a separate bowl. Add mushrooms & cook until light golden. Add to bowl with chicken.
  3. Turn heat down to medium & return pot to the stove. Add butter & melt; then add garlic & onion. Saute for 3 minutes or until softened. Turn up heat, add rice & stir until grains become partially translucent, about 1 minute (do NOT overcook).
  4. Add wine & cook, scraping the bottom of the pot to get any brown bits, about 2 minutes. Turn down heat to medium-low; add about 3 cups of chicken stock. Leave, uncovered, stirring just once or twice, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Check firmness of rice & add 1/2 cup of broth at a time, stirring in between until absorbed & rice is cooked to YOUR taste. Add the chicken & mushrooms back into the risotto towards the end, just to heat through. Right at the end when the risotto is ready, add a 'splash' more chicken broth to make the risotto slightly soupy, then take it off the stove.
  6. Add butter & Parmesan cheese, then stir vigorously (this will activate the starch & make it super creamy). Serve immediately. Garnish with reheated bacon & extra Parmesan if you wish.
Recipe Notes
  • Risotto is best made with Arborio rice which is starchier than other types of rice, making it essential to achieve a creamy risotto.
  • In order to use this 'no stir' method of cooking risotto, you MUST use a large pot or deep skillet so the rice & liquid is spread out & not too deep.

Sweet Corn Risotto w/ Sauteed Shrimp

Comforting, creamy risotto is one of those dishes that isn’t difficult to prepare but it can be quite time consuming. I find it works best for me when I’m doing other things in the kitchen at the same time.

Risotto is typically made with arborio rice, but pearl barley is a good substitute; it produces a similar texture but with a nuttier taste.

Over the years, I have made various kinds of risotto. Brion is the eternal rice lover. He could eat rice everyday of the week. Even though his favorite is just plain white rice, I can’t resist adding risotto to the mix now and again.

As a rule, if you are using corn in risotto, it would probably be fresh. In February, ‘fresh’ is not happening in our part of the country yet. One of the most favorite canned vegetables in North America is corn. Personally, I love corn no matter if its canned, frozen or fresh. Without trying to sound like an advertisement, I found that Green Giant Steam Crisp was real nice for this recipe. It’s supposedly picked at its peak and then quickly steamed in the can to preserve as many vitamins and nutrients as possible. I added some bacon and mushrooms to give it some extra pizzazz!

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Sweet Corn Risotto w/ Sauteed Shrimp
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth to a simmer.
  2. In another large saucepan, saute bacon until lightly browned but not crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain off fat & wipe out pan with paper towels.
  3. Add butter to pan & melt over medium heat. Saute mushrooms until moisture evaporates; add onion & green pepper. Saute for 5 minutes or until tender crisp then add barley (or rice) & hot chicken broth; simmer, stirring occasionally until all broth is absorbed, 15-20 minutes. If you need to make more broth, do so but be sure it is hot before adding it.
  4. When barley (or rice) is cooked & broth is absorbed, remove from heat & stir in corn, butter, Parmesan & parsley. Season with salt & pepper & transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Add remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil to skillet & heat over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallot & red pepper flakes & cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add shrimp & cook until pink & beginning to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add 1/4 cup chicken broth & let simmer until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt & pepper & stir in basil. Add risotto & bacon back to skillet, stirring to combine with shrimp. Serve.

Fajita Chicken w/ Zucchini Noodles

Despite having a fairly short history, Mexican fajitas are one of the most popular dishes in the world today. Apart from the fact that fajitas are incredibly tasty, they are actually very healthy not to mention the ease in cooking and assembling them.

As with many foods, time has changed the contents of the fajita and has evolved slightly from the original simplicity of the ranch worker’s dish, with different cuts of meat being chosen such as chicken or seafood. The vegetables have not changed as much as the meat, with peppers, onions & chilies still being predominant ingredients in the dish.

Probably, the most important thing when making fajitas is the marinade. It not only makes the ingredients incredibly tender but very flavorful.

Fajitas usually require some tortillas. While they are wonderful tasting, using zucchini noodles (or zoodles) as a base for the fajita chicken gives this meal an amazing flavor. Zucchini is perhaps the most popular choice for vegetable noodles. It’s long, thin shape makes it easy to spiralize and its neutral flavor allows it to pair well with almost any sauce or topping. This meal has such eye appeal along with a great taste.

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Fajita Chicken w/ Zucchini Noodles
Instructions
  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine oil, lemon juice & seasonings (RESERVE a small bit of seasoning for zucchini noodles); add chicken, seal & turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Wash zucchini & trim off ends. Using a spiralizer, cut zucchini into 'noodles'. Set aside. Prepare peppers & green onion.
  3. When chicken has finished marinating, Add 1 Tbsp oil to a griddle & saute peppers & onion until just tender crisp. set aside & keep warm. Add another Tbsp oil to griddle. Saute zucchini noodles for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with reserved seasoning & keep warm.
  4. Grill marinated chicken strips until cooked through. Divide zucchini between serving plates. Top with peppers, onions & grilled chicken. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

Mexican Lasagna

Having just returned from Merida, Mexico and holiday memories are still fresh in our minds, we wanted to share a few of the city’s highlights.

Merida is the cultural heart and soul of the Yucatan with multiple museums, art galleries, restaurants, theaters and stores. Brion and I have made a point of staying in hotels which are a close walk to Paseo de Montejo. This main avenue of the city was named after the founder of Merida, Francisco de Montejo. Built at the end of the 19th century and inspired by the boulevards of France, Paseo de Montejo used to be the site of mega mansions belonging to the well-to-do families in the city. While many of them now are the headquarters of national and international banks and companies, they still retain the heritage of the city.

Music and dancing play an important role in the day to day life of Merida’s residents. Outdoor, live performances can be seen frequently around the city. Cultural activities are plentiful on Saturday and Sunday evenings. The main road is closed off to traffic on Sundays for ‘Family Bike Day’, a day when families are encouraged to get out and ride their bikes along Montejo avenue. This historic city offers a wonderful insight into its rich culture, incredible cuisine and friendly people.

If you care to read about some of the tours we took last year while we were in Merida, check out my blog articles on this site from February 2019.

Today’s blog recipe is called Mexican ‘lasagna’ due to the layering of tortillas in place of lasagna pasta noodles.

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Mexican Lasagna
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Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, scramble-fry ground beef with celery, onion & green pepper. Add tomatoes, enchilada sauce, olives salt & pepper; simmer covered for about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in skillet. Cut 2 tortillas into quarters; cook remaining 6 tortillas & the quarters in oil till crisp & golden. Drain on paper towels. Set aside quartered tortillas & break up remaining six. In a bowl, combine cheddar, cottage cheese & slightly beaten egg.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a 9 X 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of meat mixture. Top with 1/2 of the cheese mixture then 1/2 of the BROKEN tortillas. Repeat layers, ending with meat mixture. Top with quartered tortillas.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes then allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.

Rosca de Reyes

The tradition of a New Year’s Cake is one that spans countless cultures and is meant to symbolize wealth, prosperity, health and good luck for the coming year. The cake or bread usually contains symbolic items baked inside which is believed to give good luck to the receiver.

Most of the cakes are consumed at midnight on new year’s eve … though some cultures cut their cake on Christmas or the Epiphany on January 6th.

In January of 2019, Brion and I spent some vacation time in Merida, Mexico. We stayed at a wonderful boutique hotel called Hotel Del Peregrino. On the morning of January 6th we were served some Rosca de Reyes (cake/bread) at breakfast. This was the first time either of us had tasted this traditional bread. It was absolutely delicious and yes, you might have known, I would not only have to make some, but learn the history behind it.

January the 6th is a special day in Mexico, known as ‘Three Kings Day’, which represents the height of the Christmas season. This date marks the culmination of the 12 days of Christmas and commemorates the three wise men who traveled from afar, bearing gifts for the infant baby Jesus. The day when the wise men found the baby Jesus is known as Epiphany which is the event represented by the Rosca de Reyes.

The circular form of the rosca represents God’s eternal love which has no beginning or end. The dried candied fruits that adorn the bread symbolize the King’s crown, while the traditional figurines placed inside the bread represent the baby Jesus. Whoever finds this token is obligated to host an upcoming party on the occasion of ‘Candlemas Day’, a Christian holiday which occurs each year on February 2nd. The traditional menu for this event would be tamales and hot chocolate.

In researching the internet for a traditional recipe for the cake/bread it seems orange and vanilla were usually in the actual dough but as for the decorations, there were a lot of fruit and nut choices. Apart from the circular shape it looked like personal preference dictated your decoration design. Here’s my best interpretation of Rosca de Reyes!

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Rosca de Reyes
Instructions
Bread Dough
  1. In a small bowl, combine lukewarm water, yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir with a fork until dissolved. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes in a warm place until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, salt, anise seed & cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the flour & add eggs, yolk, cooled butter, orange zest & vanilla. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry; using a wooden spoon, mix until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
  3. Place on a lightly floured work surface & start kneading until you have a smooth dough. It will take about 10 minutes to get good results. Be careful not to add to much flour to your work area, the texture should be soft, smooth & holds a ball shape.
  4. Place in an buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to proof in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 -2 hours.
Bread Decoration
  1. In a bowl, cream butter with sugar; add egg yolk & mix until combined. Add flour & continue to mix until a soft dough forms. Refrigerate if your not quite ready to use it yet.
Assembly
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. When dough has doubled in size, turn onto a lightly floured surface & knead a few times. Shape the dough into a large ring & place it on the prepared baking sheet. Seal the ends to close the ring. Loosely cover with buttered plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or more until almost doubled in volume.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small dish, whisk together egg wash. Divide the 'decoration dough' into 4-6 equal sections. Roll each with your hands until you get a strip long enough to decorate the ring. Brush dough with egg wash.
  3. Place the 'decoration dough' strips around the ring, try to place them facing one another, then decorate the ring with candied or dry fruit such as mango, pineapple, cherries, figs, citron, orange or lemon peel or quince paste strips or any personal choice you wish. Once the ring is decorated, sprinkle it with sugar & sliced almonds.
  4. Bake the bread for 20 minutes or until the bread is a nice golden brown color. Ovens vary so it may take a bit longer. Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool. After bread has cooled insert the plastic baby dolls from the bottom of bread. Some times the plastic dolls are inserted into the bread before baking, personally I think inserting them afterwards works just fine.

Cheesy Shrimp & Rice Casserole

One of the first things Brion and I noticed when we lived in Ecuador for three months, was how much rice the grocery store had on its shelves. Brion is a true rice lover, so when we went grocery shopping, it was definitely on the ‘list’. To our amazement there was an entire isle, from top to bottom, dedicated to rice alone.

Rice has been a staple of the Ecuadorian diet forever, both along the coastal regions and in the mountainous areas. A large scoop of white, starchy rice accompanies most meals. In stores, you can buy brown rice, white ‘new rice’, aged rice (but not minute rice).

Shrimp rice is a classic Ecuadorian and Latin American dish. The fact that Ecuadorians love rice, anything you can think of, there is a rice-based dish for it, especially if it concerns any type of seafood. Because of the fertile soils and the humid, tropical climate of the coast, Ecuador also produces a stunning variety of fruits and vegetables, most notably bananas, melons and other exotic fruits like guava and passion fruit.

This is a short cut version of their ‘arroz con camarones’ (rice & shrimp) dish. Great little meal!

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Cheesy Shrimp & Rice Casserole
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Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, saute onions, peppers & garlic in oil until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce & salsa; simmer 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in shrimp & corn; simmer 2 minutes. Stir in bacon.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spoon cooked rice in a buttered, 9 X 13-inch baking dish; top with shrimp mixture & cheese. Cover with foil. Bake casserole, covered, 35 minutes or until heated through, uncovering the last 20 minutes.

Spicy Chicken, Bacon & Avocado Pizza

Ever since I made pizza with yeasted potato crust it has become a staple in our meal rotation list. It seems like all it takes to come up with an amazing filling combo is just a little inspiration so the influence of flavors Brion and I tasted in Mexico became a natural choice for me.

Although avocado on pizza may sound weird, if you are a guacamole lover, its glorious. When you think about it, tomato or tomato sauce is a big part of pizza most of the time. Often guacamole is made with tomato, so it compliments pizza well. I used all the ingredients you would normally fit into a tortilla for toppings. Spicy chicken, bacon, avocado, onion, tomato, cheese and GUACAMOLE!

When I make guacamole for pizza, I like to keep it simple: mashed avocados, onion, garlic, lime juice, salt and cilantro. Another thing I found, was that any left over pieces can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag and frozen. When you want to use them, thaw at room temperature then heat slightly in the microwave. Most often pizza is frozen unbaked and needs assembly and baking. This pizza tasted just as good as when it was freshly baked!

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Spicy Chicken, Bacon & Avocado Pizza
Instructions
Pizza Dough
  1. Cook potato, peel, mash & cool. Combine yeast with lukewarm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well.
  2. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Chicken Marinade
  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine all ingredients. Seal & turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
Guacamole
  1. In a large bowl, coarsely mash avocados with lime juice & salt. Stir in garlic, onion & cilantro. Blend well. Cover & set aside until ready to use. You will have extra for something else.
Pizza Topping Prep
  1. In a skillet, cook bacon until fairly crisp, drain on paper towels & chop coarsely. Wipe skillet with paper towel. Add marinated chicken, stir-fry until cooked then remove to a dish. Add peppers & onion to skillet; sauteing until tender crisp.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer with paper to a baking sheet.
  2. Using some grated cheese, make a ring around the outer edge of the dough. Roll dough once over cheese ring. Carefully spread the 1/2 cup of guacamole over the bottom of pizza, then sprinkle with a bit more cheese. Layer with avocado slices, onion, bacon, chicken, tomato & remaining cheese. If you prefer, brush to top of the outside ring with egg wash.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, Remove from oven & slice.
Recipe Notes
  • You may choose to prepare your marinated chicken & guacamole before you start making the dough.

Summer Sangria Parfaits

For years, Sangria has been enjoyed at many summer picnics and outdoor events. This Spanish wine punch has deviated so far from its simple origins it has become nearly unrecognizable. The concept seems endlessly adaptable not only as a drink but as dessert.

Tradition goes back a long way when it comes to sangria. Early Greeks and Romans mixed wine with sugar and spices because their water was bacteria filled and unsafe to drink. Adding a touch of alcohol made the liquid drinkable and mixing the watered down wine gave it flavor. This drink, called Hippocras, was likely the common ancestor of both sangria and mulled wine.

Our love of sangria in North America dates back probably to the sixties and it has never really fell out of vogue to this day.

These sangria parfaits let you enjoy some summer fruit combined with the flavor of sangria. You can make them either with or without wine —your choice.

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Summer Sangria Parfaits
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Course dessert
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Course dessert
Servings
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Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, bring wine to a boil over medium-high heat. In a medium bowl, stir boiling wine into dry gelatin mix for about 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Stir in club soda, lime & orange juice.
  2. Place bowl of gelatin in a larger bowl of ice & water. Let stand 10 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 cup EACH grapes & strawberries. Pour into 6-1 cup parfait glasses. Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. Garnish with remaining fruit.

Kahlua Marinated Fruit

It’s summer and there’s nothing better than the simple sweetness of fresh fruit. Barbecues are the highlight of the season and no doubt you will be making numerous ‘cool’ desserts.

I realize fruit marinated in alcohol is not for just any barbecue but if it fits the occasion, it adds a nice finishing touch.

Marinating fruit in alcohol is nothing new. Many cuisines have special recipes that include dried fruits such as raisins, currants and prunes. You can create endless combinations using fresh fruit with wine, spirits or liqueurs. Of course, the added bonus is this dessert does not require you to turn on the oven.

This simple fruit salad uses Kahlua in the marinade. Fruit is thirsty stuff and will soak up basically any kind of wine or liqueur you chose to pour over it. Put together your own personal ‘magical’ concoction and enjoy!

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Kahlua Marinated Fruit
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Servings
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Instructions
  1. Cut up an assortment of fresh fruits. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar & kahlua; fold into fruit & allow to marinate for about an hour before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • Estimate about 1 3/4 cups fruit per person.
  • Fruit choices could include:
  • Pineapple, Mango, Papaya, Kiwi, Strawberries, Plums, Star Fruit, Grapes, Cherries, Apricots,  Peaches, Oranges & Tangerines

Baked Seafood Stuffed Avocados

Very often when you browse through ideas for preparing avocados the comment is made that they should never be cooked. Avocados are most often eaten raw, chopped up in a salad, spread on toast or made into guacamole. This is usually because they can very quickly become bitter once heated. However, if cooked just right, they are delicious.

Roasting avocados is more of an art than a science. If you choose to roast slices, adding some oil, garlic or chili powder with a little salt and pepper helps to draw out the natural flavor. If you want to slice them in half and remove the seed, you can add any number of fillings. Just bake and enjoy, knowing that the flesh just next to the skin, is the most nutritious part of the fruit.

These crab and shrimp filled avocados make an extraordinary Sunday or special occasion brunch entree. If you like avocados and seafood, this one’s for you!

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Baked Seafood Stuffed Avocados
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Slice & pit avocados. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients; mix well.
  2. Spoon the mixture equally on top of each avocado half. Place in a glass 9 X 13-inch baking dish or 4 individual servings dishes. Make sure your avocados will not tip over during baking time. Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked. Serve immediately.