Creamy Vegan Risotto

I received free samples of Progresso Cooking Stock mentioned in this post at no cost. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Progresso Cooking Stock and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Risotto has always been an intimidating dish to me. I always assumed it takes a lot of culinary skill to make it properly. In fact, my first attempt at making risotto in the oven failed miserably. Fortunately, my sister is a chef and she took the time to show me the right way to make it. Turns out it’s not very difficult or time consuming! The most important thing is to pay attention to the rice to keep it from getting overcooked and gluey.

Agata taught me to make a very creamy risotto with parmesan and mascarpone. It was incredibly delicious!! For this Recipe Redux challenge, I decided to make a risotto that is just as creamy without the addition of cheese. I’m so excited to show you that it’s possible to make a flavorful, creamy risotto dish that is completely vegan! Thanks to Progresso’s Vegetable Cooking Stock, you get depth of savory flavor without animal products. The #ProgressoEatsContest gave me the opportunity to experiment a bit.

In case you didn’t know that Progresso launched a line of tasty cooking stocks, here are some details about the products:

  • Now available in grocery stores nationwide in the soup aisle, Progresso premium Cooking Stocks are made by simmering real bones, vegetables and herbs to create a flavor that’s close to homemade.
  • Due to the process Progresso’s chefs use to simmer the real bones, Progresso Cooking Stocks have rich, meaty flavor and are full of body, making them ideal for adding deep, complex flavor to many dishes including soups, stews, sauces and gravies.
  • Made without artificial flavors and with just 15-45 calories /95-420mg sodium /0-1g fat per serving, Progresso Stocks offers a clean way to boost your flavor game.

I used the chicken stock to make a delicious soup, but was even more impressed with the depth of flavor imparted by the hearty vegetable stock. It really shines through in this recipe!

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Ingredients:

(Serves 3-4)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

1 clove minced garlic

3/4 cup arborio rice

1/3 cup dry white wine

3 cups simmering Progresso Vegetable Cooking Stock

1/2 cup diced mushrooms

1/2 cup frozen peas

salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation:

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and stir constantly until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the minced garlic and arborio rice to the saucepan. Stir constantly to coat with olive oil and toast, another 3 minutes.
  3. Add the white wine and stir until the liquid is absorbed and some of the alcohol has cooked off, another 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add enough vegetable stock to just cover the rice. Stir constantly until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add another 1/2 cup of stock to the rice. Repeat this process of adding the stock gradually and stirring frequently until the rice is cooked al dente. Do not overcook! The process of adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time should take about 15-20 minutes over medium-high heat.
  5. Fold in mushrooms and frozen peas. Stir for about 2 minutes until the vegetables are heated through. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

The whole process takes less than 45 minutes and is well worth the effort! This risotto is creamy like mac n’ cheese and maintains a nice texture from the al dente cooked rice and pop of the green peas. Enjoy!

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Freezer Meals for Beginners

It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? To cook one day and eat for a month and save money in the process? So many moms on Pinterest do it like it’s no big deal. For some reason, though, the idea of making a bunch of meals and freezing them for the week or month has always seemed intimidating to me. Thankfully, this month’s Recipe Redux theme is freezer meals, so I had some motivation to overcome my fear of cooking in bulk. I did my research and have compiled some tips for other beginners (like me) right here:

Things you’ll need:

  • Freezer bags or freezer safe plastic containers
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • 6 quart crockpot (but not for today’s recipe)
  • Freezer space
  • Large mixing bowls
  • Permanent marker

Honestly, that’s about as far as I got in my research before realizing I can totally handle this and so can you! So let’s get right to it. My very first freezer meal is a seasoned turkey burrito bowl. I chose this recipe because you can easily freeze each component separately to use in other dishes if you get tired of eating burrito bowls. I was also inspired by the cooking philosphy in the cookbook “Well Fed,” in which Melissa Joulwan does all the chopping of vegetables and cooking of meats on Sundays like a CrossFit workout for time and then assembles the prepped ingredients on weeknights to finish off her meals in just a few minutes. Thinking of meal prep as a timed workout helps to make the process more efficient! By the way, if you’re cool with eating the same thing every night, you could store this meal in the fridge instead of the freezer and enjoy dinner for one 5 nights in a row. 

  
Turkey Burrito Bowls

Ingredients:

(Serves 5)

-20 oz lean ground turkey

-2 tablespoons taco seasoning

-1 cup brown rice

-1 tablespoon olive oil

-1 large onion, sliced

-1 green bell pepper, sliced

-1 red bell pepper, sliced

-1 can black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed

-For serving: shredded lettuce, salsa, avocado, shredded cheese, and/or sour cream

Preparation:

1. Brown the ground turkey in a 10″ skillet, breaking it into crumbles until no longer pink inside. Add taco seasoning and stir to thoroughly coat the turkey. Set the meat aside to cool.

2. Cook the brown rice on the stovetop or in a rice cooker by combining 2 and a half cups of water with the cup of rice, bringing to a boil, and reducing to a simmer until all liquid is absorbed (30-45 minutes).

3. Heat the olive oil in a 10″ skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, sauté the vegetables until they begin to soften and caramelize, abot 5 minutes.

4. Divide the ground turkey, cooked brown rice, sautéed vegetables, and black beans among 5 sandwich sized zipper bags or pint sized plastic freezer containers. Freeze until ready to serve.

5. When ready to eat, transfer the contents of the freezer bag or container to a microwave safe dish and defrost according to microwave instructions. Alternatively, you can thaw the contents of the freezer bag/ container in the fridge during the day and zap for a minute or two on high power when ready to eat.

6. Top with shredded lettuce, salsa, avocado, shredded cheese, and/ or sour cream and serve! 

That really wasn’t so bad! I don’t have much freezer space, but I’m excited to try some more freezer meals for a family of two. Pre-prepped meals will definitely be useful over the next few months while I’m studying for the MCAT and have no time to cook!

  
Check out some more healthy freezer meals below:

Supreme Pizza Quinoa Bites

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by California Ripe Olives and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Football season is upon us! Here’s a game day snack that makes football worth watching! Have 4-6 of them and make it a meal that works for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Bite sized foods are just the best, and these are nutritionally balanced so you can feel good about munching on them. These mini pizza bites get a flavor boost from California black ripe olives, which contain monounsaturated fat, vitamin E (0.25  mg per serving), iron (.49 mg per serving), vitamin A (60 IU per serving), and fiber (0.5 grams per serving). If you have a can of these in your pantry, think beyond the typical Greek salad and try out these  pizza bites!

  
Ingredients:

(Serves 2-3 as a meal, 3-6 as a snack)

-1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked

-1 cup water

-1 tablespoon olive oil

-1/2 cup onion, diced

-1/2 cup zucchini, diced

-1/2 cup California ripe black olives, about 10, diced

-1/3 cup roasted red pepper, diced

-1/3 cup cooked and drained lean ground turkey

-1/2 teaspoon dried basil

-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

-1 teaspoon garlic salt

-1 egg

-4 egg whites

-1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

-1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

-Cooking spray or olive oil for greasing muffin tins

-Pizza sauce, for serving

Preparation:

1. Begin by rinsing and draining the quinoa well in a mesh strainer. Combine the rinsed quinoa and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15 minutes and remove from heat.

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a 10″ skillet, add the diced onions and zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in diced black olives, roasted red pepper, cooked ground turkey, basil, oregano, and garlic salt. Set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in egg, egg whites, mozzarella cheese, and cooked vegetable/ turkey mixture. 

4. Scoop the mix into a well greased muffin tin (12 cups) or mini muffin tin (24 cups). Sprinkle each with a bit of feta cheese and bake. The regular muffin tins will require 25-30 minutes and the mini muffins will require 15-20 minutes. 

5. Remove carefully from the tins using a spoon and serve warm with pizza sauce. 

  
I hope that you’ll enjoy these Mediterranean inspired supreme pizza bites this football season! They reheat easily in the microwave and store well in the fridge or freezer. 

Thai Steak Frittata

I sooo wanted to enter this recipe in the Beef Checkoff recipe contest because I think it stands a good chance of winning. Unfortunately, the nap I took this evening took a little too long and I didn’t post it in time. It’s ok though, I’m more interested in sharing it with you all because it’s awesome.

I had leftover steak from this recipe and wanted to use it to create a breakfast recipe. The frittata I came up with is pretty legit and takes only a few minutes to make!

  
Ingredients:

(serves 4)

8 oz leftover cooked steak, diced small

1/4 cup diced onion

1/4 cup diced bell pepper

1 tablespoon canola oil

Half a medium zucchini, grated

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce

6 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

Sriracha sauce, for serving

Preparation:

1. Heat canola oil in an oven safe 10″ nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the steak, onion, and bell pepper for about 1 minute before adding the zucchini, garlic, and soy sauce. Cook for an additional minute. Turn down the heat to low while performing the next step.

2. Whisk together the eggs and milk in a medium mixing bowl. Pour the egg mixture over the steak and vegetables.

3. Turn the heat up to medium and cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until the bottom of the frittata is set and the top is beginning to set around the edges. Sprinkle with grated cheese and green onion.

4. Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil for another 3-5 minutes, or until the top is golden and the eggs are fully set.

5. Serve immediately with sriracha sauce or allow to cool before storing in the fridge.

Leftover frittatas make great salad toppers! They’re tasty cold, so there’s no need to reheat if you want to save some for the work week. If you decide to freeze this dish, let me know how it is after it defrosts. 

  
I’m pretty sure my skillet isn’t intended to be placed in the oven over 400 degrees. I’m glad the handle didn’t melt! 

  One last thing! If you want to cut some calories from this recipe, use a lean cut of steak, such as flank or skirt steak, and swap 3 of the eggs with 6 egg whites. You probabaly won’t even taste the difference. 

Thai Marinated Skirt Steak

*By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by The Beef Checkoff and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

If you’re a regular around my blog, you’ve probably noticed that I am a protein fiend. It’s my favorite macronutrient by far! Here are a few ways that protein promotes weight loss:

1. PROTEIN SATISFIES: Protein is important because it helps you feel fuller longer. Having protein around slows down digestion making us more satisfied and less likely to go back for seconds or snack shortly after a meal.

2. PROTEIN MELLOWS CARB HIGHS AND LOWS: Pairing protein with carbohydrate-rich foods slows down the absorption of sugar from your stomach into your bloodstream, which may help keep your blood sugar and insulin from spiking and ward off future cravings.

3. PROTEIN TAKES MORE CALORIES TO BURN: The “thermic effect of food” (TEF) is the energy we use to digest food into small, absorbable components. Protein has a higher TEF compared to carbs and fat meaning you’re actually burning more calories to process protein than to process the other two.

4. PROTEIN SUPPORTS MUSCLE GROWTH AND REPAIR: Your protein needs increase especially after bouts of intense exercise so increasing your protein intake on days that you exercise is beneficial. Additionally, if you strength train consider having a high protein snack right after a training session when the muscle is sensitive to nutrients that it can use to repair and grow.

Check out this awesome infographic from The Beef Checkoff illustrating some of the ways to harness the benefits of lean protein. 

  Red meat, such as beef, can fit in a healthy diet! Choose lean cuts of beef, such as flank or skirt steak, or explore other lean cuts using this tool. This week I tried out three different steak marinades. Of those three, this was my favorite because of the savory, sweet glaze it forms on the meat and how well it tenderizes the steak. Have it for dinner and use the leftovers in another recipe the next day! 

  
Thai Marinated Grilled Skirt Steak 

(Serves 2 – 4)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon lime juice (about half a lime)

1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane

1/2 inch ginger root, grated on a microplane

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 pound skirt steak

Preparation:

1. Whisk together all marinade ingredients in a small bowl. 

2. Place the skirt steak in a gallon sized zip top bag and pour in the marinade. Press air out of the bag as you seal it and store on a plate in the refrigerator for 2-8 hours.

3. Remove the steak from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature as you preheat the grill to high heat on one end and low heat on the other side.

4. Shake excess marinade off the steak before placing on the preheated grill grates. Sear on the hot side first for 3 minutes on each side, then transfer to the low heat side until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees for a steak cooked to medium-rare or 135 degrees for a steak cooked to medium.

5. Allow the steak to rest for 5 minutes before carving. Slice thin, against the grain to serve.

A 4 oz portion of this grilled steak will have between 200 and 250 calories depending on the amount of marinade on it and 28 grams of protein! You can use flank steak instead for a very similar protein and calorie profile. Enjoy!

Perfect Quinoa With Veggies

I’m always surprised when people say they don’t love quinoa. Maybe they’ve been making it wrong. If you’re not convinced that quinoa is great, try this method and you won’t be disappointed!

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Ingredients
:

1 cup dry quinoa (I used tri-color quinoa)

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup diced celery

1/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced carrot

1/3 cup diced zucchini

1/2 teaspoon thyme

Salt & pepper

Directions:
1. Heat dry quinoa in a medium saucepan over high heat, stirring frequently until toasted (about 2 minutes).

2. Add chicken or vegetable stock and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

3. In a separate frying pan, heat the butter until it bubbles. Add the onions, celery, onion, and garlic. Sauté, stirring often to prevent burning, for about 3 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften.

4. Add the diced zucchini and thyme to the vegetables and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

5. Stir the cooked vegetables in with the quinoa once it has absorbed all the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

 Confession: I made this recipe a few months ago and forgot to post it! This was before I had my nice camera. Luckily, zucchini is in season a lot of the time in Vegas, so this recipe can be considered “seasonal” in the winter or summer here! For those of you in other parts of the country (or world), the zucchini will taste best and cost the least in summertime! Enjoy and check out some more seasonal recipes below:

Protein Pancakes with Cranberry Grapefruit Sauce

Like many of my recipes, this one is inspired by a single ingredient. In this case, I had about a cup of whole cranberries in the freezer that needed to be used up. The grapefruit and cranberries have a nice tart bitterness that is well balanced with rich brown sugar in this compote over protein pancakes.

There are dozens and dozens of recipes for protein pancakes available online. You can follow mine, choose another, or create your own! It’s amazing that almost anything can be turned into a pancake as long as you have something like egg to hold the batter together!  If you end up having extra cranberry grapefruit sauce after topping your pancakes, use the leftovers with Greek yogurt or swirled into oatmeal.

I made this dish over the weekend to recover from an evening of beer tasting and to lay a good foundation for a day of brewing our first beer with Colby! Our experienced home brewing friends came over to walk us through it, so I think the nut brown ale fermenting in our bathtub will turn out great! I’m excited to think of ways to use the spent grains in recipes too- maybe in cookies, blondies, or a hearty beer bread? …or pancakes!

Anyway, enjoy this recipe at your next summer brunch get together with your favorite people! 

 
Ingredients:

(Serves 2-3)

For the pancakes:

1/2 cup oats, crushed up in a blender

 2 scoops vanilla protein powder (I used whey protein isolate)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup egg whites

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

Milk of choice to thin the batter

Cooking spray

For the sauce:

1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries

1/2 cup grapefruit juice

1/4 cup brown sugar (or more, if a sweeter sauce is desired)

1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pinch of salt

Preparation:

1. Prepare the pancake batter by combining all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and stirring in the wet ingredients. Add milk as needed until a batter consistency is reached that will spread easily, but not thinner than 1/4 inch, when poured on a hot pan or griddle.

2. Heat a lightly greased pan or griddle over medium heat and pour 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Flip when bubbles begin to form (approx. 3 minutes). Continue to cook until both sides are golden and the pancake batter is cooked through.

3. To make the sauce, combine cranberries, grapefruit juice, and sugar in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to heat to low and simmer for 5-7 minutes. 

4. Add the cornstarch dissolved in water and stir until it is translucent and the sauce thickens. Stir in lemon juice and pinch of salt.

5. Serve sauce over pancakes and top with whipped cream or yogurt, if desired.

Do you have a favorite protein pancake recipe? I’m thinking of trying one with cottage cheese next time! Thanks for reading, my friends!

Avocado Chicken Salad

There are ingredients you should always have on hand in the summertime for easy, no-cook meals. Today’s recipe features most of my favorites. 

Rotisserie chicken – Less expensive than buying a whole, raw chicken! How could you pass this up? Use it in salads, on sandwiches, or serve with grilled vegetables this summer.

Avocado – Perfect on everything, from eggs to salads and sandwiches to guacamole on chips. 

Tomatoes, Red Onions, Limes, and Fresh Herbs – No need to cook these fresh tasting produce items! They’ll brighten up any summer meal. 

Since getting back from vacation I feel like working all day takes up so much time that I just don’t want to spend more than 20 minutes in the kitchen in the evening. I’d rather spend my nights feeling like I’m still on vacation with a glass of wine on the patio. This chicken salad is very refreshing with white wine. Try it with this amazing find at Trader Joe’s:

 
Pancake Cellars’ Big Day White is dangerously drinkable. It offers flavors of white peach, apple, cantaloupe, orange blossom, honeysuckle, and lemongrass. At least that’s what it says on the label. To me it just tastes like summertime perfection! Oh, and did I mention it’s only $5.99? 

Pour yourself a glass and get started on the salad!

   

Ingredients:

(Serves 1)

1 cooked chicken breast (5-6 oz, skin removed)

1 roma tomato, diced

2 tablespoons finely diced red onion

1/2 an avocado, diced

1/2 a lime, juiced

1/4 teaspoon cumin

Dash of salt and pepper

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped (optional)

Preparation:

1. Gently fold together all ingredients in a mixing bowl and serve. Boom.

Easy, right? I just took a break from house cleaning for 10 minutes to make and eat this. Tidying up the house is much more fun with a glass of wine, Spotify’s “Cleaning the House” mix playing, and fueled up with this refreshing salad. 

  
I used rotisserie chicken in my salad, but you could easily use poached or grilled chicken breast instead. I’ll bet this is good with a swirl of Greek yogurt or sour cream added in. Enjoy!

What are your favorite summer meals and wines? 

Bacon and Eggs Breakfast Salad

Breakfast salad? Yes, please! I wrote this recipe for a contest using Davidson’s Safest Choice Eggs, which are pasteurized using a water bath process that eliminates the risk of Salmonella in eggs without changing their flavor or nutrient composition. These eggs are a a particularly great choice for recipes that do not call for fully cooking the eggs. Examples include smoothies, ice creams, salad dressings, sauces, and poached eggs. 

The poached egg in this recipe combines beautifully with the tangy lemon juice and savory bacon fat to make a dressing that will make a salad lover out of anyone! Don’t worry, it’s lightened up with the use of center cut bacon and substituting olive oil for a portion of the bacon fat. Enjoy this summer salad guilt free as a light dinner with crusty bread or accompaniment to brunch with friends. Oh, and don’t skip the step of massaging your kale! It’s worth the extra effort, as the bitterness of the leafy green will be mellowed by the lemon juice.

  
Ingredients:

1 bunch kale, purple or green

Juice of half a lemon

Dash of salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 slices center cut bacon, diced

1 tablespoon thinly sliced red onion

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

2 large eggs

2 radishes, sliced

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preparation:

1. Begin by tearing the leaves from thicker stems of the kale. Discard the stems and thinly slice the leaves. Place the kale in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with lemon juice, salt, and olive oil.

2. Massage the kale for 2-3 minutes with your hands, or until it is beginning to soften.

3. Cook the diced bacon in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until golden. Add the red onion, sauté for 60 seconds longer, and remove from heat.

4. Bring 2 quarts of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Add the white vinegar. Break an egg into a small bowl or cup and gently pour into the simmering water. Using a slotted spoon, gather the egg white around the yolk. Repeat with the second egg. Cook for about 90 seconds for runny eggs, or up to 3 minutes for firmer eggs.

5. Top the massaged kale with the warm bacon and onion mixture and toss to combine. Divide the kale between two plates or shallow bowls. Top with sliced radishes, one poached egg, and freshly ground pepper. 

  
Don’t you love that poaching eggs isn’t as difficult as it seems? I think this method is fool-proof. I hope it works for you, too! 

What are you cooking this summer? Check out the links below for more safe egg inspiration!

*By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Davidson’s Safest Choice Eggs and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.