Birds Eye Chef’s Favorites: Creamy Primavera Risotto

I am full of so much food blogger fail the last two weeks.  Y’all, I swear I’ve been cooking.  I’ve even been cooking new stuff.  But I’ve also been in the middle of launching my latest book (a YA paranormal called Red–more on that here, if you’re interested), and almost breaking my nose (more on THAT here, if you want to be entertained by my ludicrous klutziness).  My brain’s been kinda addled.

In the middle of all the crazy, I got the fabulous opportunity through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker’s program to try out Birds Eye Chef’s Favorites.  Now these aren’t out yet (they hit stores next month), but you should be sure to keep your eyes peeled.  They’ll be in the freezer section near the nifty steamer veggies you already know and love (because how awesome is it to throw something in the nuker and have actual GOOD vegetables come out in five minutes when you don’t feel like cooking and are trying to avoid take out?). Well, Birds Eye has upped their game with the Chef’s Favorites.  Same concept as the steamer things–a good side ready in about five minutes–but with a little extra kick.

Can you imagine RISOTTO in FIVE MINUTES?  Let that sink in for a minute.  FIIIIIIIIVE MINUTES.

That’s one of the things Birds Eye has given us.  Below you will see their Creamy Primavera Risotto.  This is one of two risottos I got to try (the other being a green bean and mushroom, which was fine, I just really hate the texture of frozen green beans, so that didn’t work for me).

As the name suggests, it’s creamy and studded with carrots and peas.  While it will never hold a candle to real, homemade risotto (of which I am a huge fan), it’s a lovely and flavorful side and a marvelous option when you don’t want to hang out stirring a pot for 30-40 minutes for the real deal.  A must for busy families every where.  And best of all, it’s gluten free, so it’s also a lovely FAST side dish for those of us with dietary restrictions.

Oven Fried Eggplant

I’ve been away.  Bad food blogger.  But I’ve been finishing up my latest book, knocking out revisions and getting it ready to go out the door, and sadly, food blogging is what typically slides because I’m back to old favorites rather than creating new recipes.  But one of the things I did try was a new preparation for eggplant.

My husband’s grandmother makes the best fried eggplant.  Like, I could sit there and eat a plateful of nothing else.  But of course it’s not what you call GOOD for you.  I have a recipe for zucchini fries that I really love and I once tried adapting it to eggplant with soggy results.  Then I saw an episode of–I’m ashamed to say I don’t know what–on the Food Network where I found that you’re supposed to salt and press it for a while to get the excess moisture out.  Ah ha!  So I tried it again.  And this time, success!  I served it up with some marinara sauce as a marvelous appetizer.  Serves 2.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Japanese eggplant (you could certainly do this with regular eggplant, I just happen to prefer the Japanese) cut into medallions, a bit less than a quarter inch thick.
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1-1.5 cups breadcrumbs (if you’re doing the gluten free thing, use gluten free breadcrumbs…I made mine from this sandwich bread)
  • pinch paprika
  • pinch garlic powder
  • pinch salt
  • pinch pepper
  • 1/2 tsp parsley

Directions:

  1. Slice your eggplant and lay out on a cookie sheet.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and cover with another cookie sheet.  Press down with a couple of cans.
  3. Let it hang out for half an hour.
  4. Remove the cookie sheet and blot the excess moisture with paper towels.
  5. Flip the eggplant and repeat.
  6. Mix the breadcrumbs and all the spices until well combined.
  7. Once the eggplant is suitably dried out, dip it in the egg, then coat it in the breadcrumbs.
  8. Place on a wire rack over a cookie sheet.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Printable version.

Sesame Rice

I made a sort of Asian themed salmon last week (recipe coming on Wednesday) that I really wanted an Asian sort of rice as a side.  But I didn’t really have the calorie budget or inclination to make any kind of fried rice.  So I tried this experiment in my rice cooker.  It was easy and delicious.  Hubby didn’t dig it, but he’s not a fan of sesame as a dominant flavor.  Serves 2.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chicken stock+enough water to get up to the line for brown rice on the cooker
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 scoop (ok, this is the scoop that came with my rice cooker…I think it’s about 1/2 cup) of brown rice
  • 1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. This hardly bears breaking down into steps.
  2. Add your rice, onion, stock, sesame oil, and however much water you need to get to the brown rice line on your cooker.
  3. Cook however your cooker works (mine you turn on and it kicks off when it’s done).
  4. Plate up your rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Printable version.

Pepper, Bean and Pasta Salad

I love pasta salad.  It’s just one of those things that says “summer” to me.  Toss in some pasta, whatever’s in season, some kind of dressing, maybe some cheese, and voila.  Instant and delicious side.  This one isn’t gluten free, though it could be made so easily by using your preferred GF pasta.  Serves 5 at 277 calories and 3.5 grams of fat per serving.

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. whole wheat pasta
  • 2 cups white beans
  • 1/2 cup sweet peppers
  • 1/2 cup Roasted Red Pepper Italian Dressing
  • 2 scallions (just the green part)
  • 1 tbs parsley chopped

Directions:

1. Drain and rinse the beans.

2. Dice the red peppers.

3. Dice the scallions.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions.

5. Drain pasta.

6. Combine pasta with beans, peppers, scallions, parsley and dressing.

7. Chill.

Printable version.

Three Mushroom Risotto

I love mushrooms.  They’re such a marvelous vegetable.  Okay technically they’re a fungus, but who likes to think of them like that?  But they’re packed with nutrients, incredibly low cal and delicious.  So when I found, not only fresh oyster mushrooms, but fresh shitaki mushrooms as well at my local Asian market, I really wanted to make a dish that would showcase all that marvelous mushroom flavor.  Toss in some baby bella mushrooms and you get this delicious, creamy risotto.  Makes 4 3/4 cup servings at 374 calories and 13 grams of fat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1.5 cups white wine
  • 1.5 Tbs dried onion
  • 3 cups mushrooms
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp dried parsley

Directions:

1. Heat the oil and butter over medium heat, until butter is melted.
2. Add the rice and dried onion, stirring for about 2 minutes or until onion begins to brown.
3. Add 1 cup of stock, stirring frequently until liquid is absorbed.
4. Add 1 cup of wine and the mushrooms, stirring every minute or so until liquid is absorbed.
5. Add the salt, parsley, and remaining stock and wine and stir until liquid is absorbed.

Printable version.

Blackened Potato Wedges

We’ve been on a Cajun kick lately.  Hubby requested blackened potato wedges the other day to go with the andouille and gouda sausages I picked up from Sam’s over the weekend (jury is still out on those, btw…they need to be IN something, and I don’t yet know what).  I did a search and came up with this recipe for blackened seasoning from All Recipes rather than using the Slap Ya Mama I had in the pantry.

Ingredients:

  • 2 russet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • blackening seasoning

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425.
  2. Slice each potato lengthwise in half.  Then each half in half, then each quarter in half, until you have eight wedges from each potato.
  3. Toss the wedges in the olive oil.
  4. Add the blackening seasoning (your choice how much…careful, it has bite) and toss until well coated.
  5. Lay a wire rack over your cookie sheet and layer the potatoes across it.  This allows the heat to circulate all around the wedges so you don’t have to flip them.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes (I used smaller russets, so keep an eye out after half an hour).

Printable version.

Beef and Mushroom Cream Cheese Dip

Desperation is the mother of invention.   Hubby really, really wanted some kind of dip to watch with the game, we had no Velveeta, and I was so not going to the grocery.   So, making do with what we have, I put together this man-friendly dip out of cream cheese, beef, mushrooms, and rotel.  The end result was tasty and hit the spot for game day fare.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 6 oz. diced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 8 oz. block of neufchatel cheese
  • 1 can rotel, drained

Directions:

  1. Brown the ground beef.
  2. Drain and rinse.
  3. Use a little of the reserved grease to saute the mushrooms until soft.
  4. Add the beef back.
  5. Add the rotel and cheese.
  6. Stir until the cheese is melty and everything is well incorporated.
  7. Remove to large bowl.

Printable version.

Roasted Red Pepper and Corn Pasta Salad

Hubby declared we were going on a picnic this weekend.  In the name of “good served cold or room temp” I opted to make a pasta salad.  Pasta salad is one of those dishes that is a good “pull random stuff from the fridge and pantry” kind of thing.  Every time I make it it’s something different.  This one was centered around the Smoked Red Pepper Monterrey Jack cheese we picked up at the Osceola Cheese Store.  This one came out at 4 servings at 247.75 calories and 11.9 grams of fat.  I’m offering it up to both Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Claire of Chez Cayenne and Souper (Salad, and Sammich) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. smoked red pepper monterey jack cheese
  • 4 oz. whole wheat penne
  • 2 roasted red peppers
  • 1 roma tomato
  • 1/3 cup corn
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook your pasta according to package directions.  Drain.
  2. Dice the red peppers.
  3. De-seed and dice the tomato.
  4. Finely dice the cheese.
  5. Add the cheese, peppers, tomato, corn, olive oil, balsamic, parsley, and garlic powder.  Mix well.
  6. Add the pasta.   Mix well.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Printable version.

Retake Homemade: Baked Croutons

I don’t know about you, but I was never a natural salad eater.  My dad would eat it, drowned in ranch (thus eliminating the healthy part), and mom wouldn’t touch it.  So I was 12 or 13 before I was ever really exposed to salad eating families.  And what got me through was not dressing, it was the CROUTONS.  Because, for me, life is all about the bread.  The pumpernickel croutons at Ruby Tuesday are one of life’s greatest joys.  These aren’t pumpernickel, but this technique can be applied to any form of day old bread.  In this case, I used half a small loaf of artisan bread (the base recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day).  The end results were crispy and delicious.  This is really one of those recipes that has no measurements.  You use as much as you like.  A drizzle or a drench of olive oil.  Any seasonings you like.  This is sort of my generic whatever recipe.  If I was having a salad with Italian, I’d toss in Italian seasoning.  Mexican, a bit of chili powder and cumin.  Play with it, figure out what you like.

Ingredients:

  • day old bread cut into cubes
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • seasoned salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Toss the bread cubes in the olive oil until well coated.
  2. Sprinkle with whatever seasonings you like and toss until well coated.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees (keep an eye on these until you know how your oven cooks).
  4. Serve with your favorite salad greens.

Printable version.

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Scalloped Fingerling Potatoes

There is nothing healthy about this dish, so if you came by expecting my usual diet friendly fare, you might want to turn around.  This was what I decided to do with the other half of the fingerling potatoes I roasted.  Scalloped or au gratin potatoes.  OMG YUM.  I didn’t calculate the nutrition info on this because I just didn’t want to know. We had these as a side to steaks.  DELISH!  Serves 2-3.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of fingerling potatoes, sliced approximately 1/4″ thick (a mandolin slicer is great for this)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup skim milk
  • generous pinch salt
  • pinch pepper
  • pinch garlic powder
  • 2 oz. Swiss cheese, finely grated

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 7×11 baking dish (or larger) with cooking spray.
  3. Layer the potatoes across the bottom.
  4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  5. Dot the top of the potatoes with butter chunks.
  6. Use just enough milk to cover the bottom of the pan.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Add the shredded cheese and return to oven for another 15 minutes.

Printable version.