Saturday, October 24, 2009

Risotto Round-Up

It was Saturday evening, after the third batch of risotto in four days that I realized I was in a risotto rut. But, really, a risotto rut isn't such a bad place to be.

I'd always been intimidated by the concept of risotto from scratch. Terrified, in fact, by the prospect of straying away from my stirring duties for just one moment and returning to a ruined pot of risotto. It was a shame really, because I love risotto and the most fabulous varieties don't seem to come in a box! It was the discovery of pumpkin risotto on Foodbuzz that finally convinced me to attempt risotto making - and I'm so glad I finally did!

Now, it seems to me, the secret to good risotto is commitment. You just have to accept that for the 30-40 minutes it takes to cook, you won't be going very far from the stove. But, it smells ah-mazing the whole time, kind of makes up for that.

The risotto making was also a good chance for Joe to see all of my type-A tendencies on full view - he might as well know what he's getting into!

First, we measured and set out all the ingredients. It was super-neurotic, but made the risotto making much smoother.

Then, after the triple confirmed all the ingredients were ready, we started cooking.

Wednesday night, we made Pumpkin Risotto with Thyme and Scallops from the Streaming Gourmet. It was absolutely divine - very, very highly recommended! The combination of the pumpkin (which was very subtle for those who perhaps don't love pumpkin the way I do), thyme and scallops was delicious. I made one small change to this recipe, I switched one cup of chicken stock for one cup of white wine. I believe risotto should always include wine (actually, I think that about most things!). All pumpkin lovers should check-out this blog: 31 days of pumpkin recipes to celebrate October!

Friday, minus Joe because he hates mushrooms and was off gallivanting in the woods ROTC-style (no, I did not exclude him from the risotto making for his limited palate), I made Mushroom Risotto, this time discovered on We Are Not Martha. It was divine. The sauted mushrooms garnish was absolutely brilliant. I very happily enjoyed this for lunch the next two days.

Saturday, - again minus Joe who, although he grew up mostly in Georgia, dislikes sweet potatoes! - I made Sweet Potato Risotto. Maybe it's a New England Yankee prejudice, but I always imagined all Southerners loved sweet potatoes. This recipe was also found on Foodbuzz and while I was excited by the concept of this recipe, I was not thrilled by the execution. I followed the recipe, but the sweet potatoes never had a chance to fully cook. If I make this again, I'll definitely pre-cook the potatoes before adding them or even follow a similar method as the Pumpkin Risotto (did I mention that was so, so good?).

I'm taking a break from risotto making for a week or two at least, but now that I've learned it isn't quite as complicated as I originally thought, I'll be enjoying homemade risotto on a regular basis. Especially as it keeps getting colder here in Maine, risotto seems like perfect cold weather comfort food.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Don't be a Grouch!

I'm inclined to get grouchy if I don't eat regularly and, for me, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. I can't start my day off on the right foot without something in my stomach. But, my mornings are also super busy between getting ready for work, squeezing in a run and my non-morning person persona. I need something grab and go.

Recently, I've been reading about this smoothie all over the blog world. It seems any blogger who is anyone enjoys a green monster in the morning. I was definitely skeptical about the addition of spinach (the green that lends its hue to the smoothie's name), despite assurances that you can't taste the spinach. But, they were blogs I trust and I was curious, so I decided to try the green monster. Now it's become part of my morning routine. It's filling, easy to enjoy at my desk and, major bonus points here, it's healthy. I changed the ingredients slightly to fit my taste and my nalgene, it appears below. Disclaimer: I can taste the spinach, but I kind of like it - makes it seem more healthy.

Rachel's Green Monster

3/4 cup vanilla soy milk
3/4 cup orange juice
2-3 handfuls of spinach
large dollop French Vanilla yogurt (I like Stoneyfield Farms)
1/2 cup frozen berries

Blend and enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gluten-Free in the City

Over Columbus Day weekend, Joe and I hopped on a plane for a couple days in New York City. That sentence makes it sound like a spur-of-the-moment adventure, but it wasn't. It was (we thought) a carefully planned trip of sightseeing and theater.

It wasn't.

Friday, October 2nd will now forever be remembered as the anniversary of our first fight. The Reader's Digest version: because Joe had booked our hotel in Laguardia and hadn't deciphered the subway system and just when exactly was I supposed to have time to do that? On the plus side, we did discover that my sister can very conveniently experience Hispanic culture by traveling to New York rather than, say Puerto Rico. And I was hungry and tired, those were pretty big factors in the genesis of our fight. It wasn't a very dramatic fight, people passing us on the sidewalk probably didn't realize our fighting couple status. It mostly consisted of angry walking, a lot of angry walking from Union Square to 248 Broome Street. Which is a mile and a half, in case you were wondering. No words were exchanged, except when Joe asked if I was ok and I glared at him. I just keep walking because I knew I was headed towards these:

Chocolate/chocolate and vanilla/chocolate gluten-free cupcakes from Babycakes. I'd like to say we ate these cupcakes and completely forget all our problems because I'd like Babycakes to get that sort of word of mouth advertising, but that wouldn't be entirely true. They weren't all-problem-solving delicious, but they were delicious nonetheless. The frosting was richly chocolatey and the cakes themselves were moist and well flavored. The vanilla had too much lemon flavoring for a so-called vanilla cupcake, but if they had called it a lemon cupcake, I would have been delighted.

We hadn't wanted to visit Mozarelli's Friday evening, a pizza place with both gluten-free and gluten-full pizza I've been reading raves about on other blogs, but they were closed by the time we got there! So, we had to save that eating adventure until Saturday lunchtime. When we entered, the cashier very apologetically told us only the GF pizza was available because they were having trouble with the other oven - perfect! I enjoyed spinach and mushroom and three cheese while Joe dined on two more carnivorous options, pepperoni and sausage. The crust was the best GF crust I've ever eaten, great texture and flavor - I wish it was closer!

Mozarelli's also carried fabulous cookies (which I neglected to photograph) from My Dad's Cookies. We grabbed a package of raspberry sandwich cookies and some chocolate dipped cookies. If the pizza had sucked, these cookies would have made it worth the trip.

Saturday evening we ran back to our hotel to get all gussied up for an evening of theater. We saw the revival of South Pacific at Lincoln Center and it was FANTASTIC. Before the show, we had dinner at O'Neals' and it was also FANTASTIC. Both Joe and I ordered the grilled black angus sirloin and arrived grilled to perfection with grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes that tasted just slightly of bleu cheese (more cheese and it would have been perfect). Apparently, although I don't really remember this, I chose this restaurant based on their dessert menu and I did an excellent job. The creme brulee was perfect (but not photogenic) along with espresso.

After dinner, we walked over to Lincoln Center for South Pacific which was absolutely wonderful. If you get the chance to see it, jump on it! Someone enjoyed it SO much he may or may not have purchased a South Pacific key chain.

(Yeah, he totally did.)

We ended the evening with a quick trip to Times Square. We were in NYC afterall and we felt like we just had too.

We rounded the evening by getting Joe a hot dog in Times Square. Luckily, I don't have any ketchup accidents to report.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Restaurant Review & Giveaway!

About a week ago Joe and I traveled down to Boston to meet up with Joe's BFF, Neil (I suspect both Neil and Joe would want me to mention they don't use that acronym, but I do and it is entirely fitting). A few weeks earlier, while enjoying lunch at Anello's Gluten-Free Cafe, I overheard the owner and a patron talking about a GF restaurant in Boston's North End. Now, generally I subscribe to the old adage that eavesdroppers seldom hear anything good of themselves, but in this case I overheard something very good for my stomach. Meeting Neil in Boston was a great excuse for dinner at Nebo. Plus, I'd been looking forward to meeting Neil and I just so happen to enjoy Boston.

Nebo was . . . sophisticated with a menu and price point to match, but I have declared it completely worth it. We arrived just after opening and they already didn't have any tables for three left (I love to see a GF restaurant that's also popular)! So, we ended up sitting at the bar, which was perfect. From our seats we could see into the kitchen (which was immaculate - Nebo is not exclusively GF, but I wasn't worried about cross-contamination) and when Joe and Neil started talking about boring Army stuff (yawn), I was perfectly content to watch the bartenders mix drinks.

The service was friendly and they were very conscientious about my dietary restrictions. The gluten-free menu was extensive, almost a complete replica of the regular menu. Ordering GF was slightly more expensive, $3 to substitute GF pasta and $4 for GF pizza crust. And the food was delicious, the GF pizza crust was amazing!

For starters, Joe and Neil shared calamari. All the fried food was GF, so while I don't particularly care for calamari - too fishy - I tried some for the sake of my blog. The bread was light and crisp, the mediterranean aioli was a welcome departure from the usual cocktail sauce and the calamari tasted like squid, per usual.

This is a dreadful picture, the lighting at Nebo was not meant for photography, but you can see Joe's gluten-full pizza with fried egg topping. Which is, apparently, the greatest pizza topping ever. He won't eat perfectly normal and ordinary foods like onion, but he was very excited about the egg pizza - weird. And you can also see Neil putting some of his order, seared sea scallops with a light mascarone cream sauce, on a dish for Joe to try. I don't think he tried (picky), but it was very bro-mantic all the same. In honor of Joe and Neil and their bro-mance, I'd like to direct you to this YouTube clip.

Left to my own devices, I selected the prosciutto e fichi pizza (fig, prosciutto, gorgonzola, rosemary and mozarella) for the gluten-free pizza that was mine, mine, mine. It was absolutely delicious. The combination of the sweet fig, salty prosciutto and tangy gorgonzola was phenomenal.

It was gluten-free heaven. Definitely some of the best Italian food I've had in a very long time. The rest of our visit in Boston was also great with a stroll of the Freedom Trail and a quick stop to visit John, Paul and Sam (Hancock, Revere and Adams that is. We're historians, hence the first name basis), an unsuccesful attempt to take a tour of the Sam Adams Brewery (another time for sure) and a hair-rising car ride through Boston to Harpoon Brewery's Octoberfest.

In fact, it reminded me of the many times exploring Boston with family as a kid - trips to the USS Constitution, Science Museum, etc. Which leads me to the giveaway! Boston reminds me of being a kid and so do . . . fruit snacks! I distinctly remember being slightly jealous of my friends because my Mom never bought fruit snacks. But thanks to the friendly folks at My BlogSpark and Betty Crocker, I have two boxes of yummy fruit snacks now newly guaranteed gluten-free and a prize package including two boxes of fruit snacks, a frisbee, pick-up-stix and one very cool light-up yo-yo that my cat adores.

To enter, leave a comment with your favorite childhood snack! I'll pick the winner next week.

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