Winter weather = winter squash.

October 11, 2009

We had another cold day, so I cranked up the oven and stovetop again to heat things up in here. The heat has come on about 3 times since yesterday, and we woke up to an even colder room this morning than we did yesterday. Awesome!

This dinner kept things toasty for a little while at least.

barley risotto-stuffed winter squash

barley risotto-stuffed winter squash

I made the barley risotto the same way I usually do, though this time I had no broth so I made a quick Parmesan broth by boiling some water with a Parmesan rind I threw in the freezer a few weeks ago. I let them simmer together for about 10 minutes, took out the rind, and got started.

While the risotto was cooking, I roasted a (halved, with seeds and pulp removed) acorn squash that I picked up for 50 cents at the farmer’s market yesterday. This guy was pretty little, so I just rubbed it with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted at 375* for about 50 minutes, until the skin pierced easily with a knife and both halves looked dangerously close to collapsing. I did the first 20 minutes face up and the last 30 face down.

I always like roasted acorn squash but this was especially good, I think because I roasted it longer than I have in the past, and because the olive oil helped it brown up nicely. Also, I didn’t have to bother adding vegetables to the risotto, since I was serving it in a vegetable. So clever.

Plus, the window in the kitchen actually fogged up while I was cooking. I think it’s going to be a long winter.



May 15, 2009

If there’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way it’s that risotto is not a weeknight food. At least not for someone who is consistently dead asleep by 10pm. It’s actually perfect for Friday nights for me, because I find the whole process very soothing and I also usually have just enough of that frantic pre-weekend energy to push me through.

Tonight was a good risotto night, as it’s been kind of dark and rainy all day, my back isn’t hurting as much – which is either progress or doctor-approved high doses of Aleve – and, oh yeah, we’re broke and couldn’t go out on a date like normal people.

In case you’re new, you might not know that I do not make traditional risotto because I don’t really like arborio rice. I can’t put my finger on why, but it just never really does it for me. Barley, though, barley is like gold in this house. Gold that sells for 1.31 a pound.

Anyway, it’s made the same way. Let’s take a little journey supplemented by photographs, shall we?

  1. Heat 5 cups of liquid (any combo of broth and water) over medium in a saucepan.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  3. Add about a cup of chopped onion (embarrassingly, I didn’t have an onion on hand, or even frozen chopped onions, so I had to skip this step).
  4. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and heat until fragrant.
  5. Add a little over a cup (probably about 1 1/4 cup) and cook, stirring, until coated with the olive oil.IMG_2199
  6. Add about 1/2 cup of dry white wine.IMG_2200
  7. When the wine has cooked down, start adding the broth. Add about 1/2 cup at a time and let that absorb before you add more. Repeat until all of the broth is absorbed. This usually takes about 40-45 minutes.IMG_2201
    Okay, true confession: sometimes I just dump all five cups of the broth in with the barley and let it go. I know, I know. They’re going to take away my home chef identification card. To my credit, I did it the right way this time.
  8. I made spinach risotto this time around, so I added 1/2 a bag of frozen cut spinach when I poured in the last of the broth.
  9. When all liquid is absorbed, add salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese to taste.
  10. Stir and heat over low until all cheese is melted. IMG_2202

I had mine with baked tofu and some roasted asparagus and zucchini.

I really need to take Food Blogging 101: Plating

I really need to take Food Blogging 101: Plating and Food Photography

I’m having kind of an insane craving for oatmeal cookies, so I think I may need to go deal with that.

Taking a break

December 13, 2008

I started seeing a physical therapist last week, and yesterday he gave me the order to take a break from exercise, at least until my next appointment. Usually, this would drive me nuts, but my knee is hurting enough that, for now, it feels like the right thing. Let’s see how long that attitude lasts.

Last night, Matt made dinner while I coached him from the couch. We had some whole wheat penne with turkey sausage, red peppers, and spinach. I had him stir in some goat cheese near the end, which made kind of a sauce without the effort of, you know, a sauce. Then we had some Parm on top. There’s never enough cheese.


Today was pretty low key, but I got a little stir crazy from sitting around, so Matt took me to Target. It was 60 degrees today, which is just totally insane, so I’m really glad I got to enjoy it for a few minutes. Then, we had an awesome time putting up our Christmas tree!  This is the fourth Christmas we’ve spent together, but we’ve never put up a normal-sized tree. We got it at Target after Christmas last year for $5.99 and it’s a little Charlie Brown, so I love it. A strand of lights, a box of silver ornaments, and a glass penguin later, and we’re officially in the spirit of the season. To celebrate, I made two of my favorite foods for dinner: roasted vegetables and barley risotto.


Nothing says winter like things that are warm and make the kitchen warm because they take 45 minutes to cook. I’m really excited about this risotto because, for the first time, I made it without using someone else’s recipe. I’ll post it sometime. For the vegetables, I just added a little bit of olive oil, pepper, and a pinch of rosemary.

And now it’s time to ice my knee and let the holiday festivities continue with the classic film Die Hard 2: Die Harder.

Another Sunday.

September 28, 2008

Hey, I finally cooked. Quite an accomplishment, considering that I woke up this morning and basically decided I wasn’t going to do anything today. At all.

But after about 985 hours of whining, I summoned the energy to get out of bed and make oatmeal, and I’ve been going ever since. I got groceries, went to the library, went to the gym, came home and worked on my self-evaluation for work, and made some barley risotto. I realize that only one of those things is relevant here, but HA! I snuck the rest in.

I was planning to make this soup, but we’ve had a very sunny and warm few days here, so I didn’t feel like turning on the oven. I also wanted something labor-intensive, as I find cooking very therapeutic, and there are few things I find more stressful than writing up my accomplishments of the past year for my boss to read. It’s like one of those nightmares where you have all of your lines memorized for the high school play you’re in, but suddenly you’re in front of 1,000 (okay, 100) people and you can’t remember any of them? Except in this case, it’s that I know I’ve done 8 million things since last December, but I can only remember, say, five at a time.

Basically, it’s taking forever.

Also, that actually happened to me, the forgetting my lines thing. Although, instead of being silent, I just started reciting someone else’s. And then I started crying. But it was The Diary of Anne Frank, so the crying just made me look more authentic in my role as Mrs. Frank.

Anyway, here’s the risotto:

It was from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking, which is awesome and pretty and full of recipes that take a long time – perfect for taking a break from my self-evaluation. My love for whole grain risottos is well-established, but this one was extra fun because it had oranges in it. The recipe also called for creme fraiche. Yeah, I don’t really keep that around. I added some extra cheese and voila. It’s basically my ideal meal: a whole grain, fruit, greens, and cheese. All in one pot. Oh, and I took Heidi’s advice and garnished with walnuts. Lovely.

Refrigerator raider

July 19, 2008

This was a “clean out the stuff that’s going to go bad in the fridge” kind of night, so we had two mini-meals that didn’t necessarily go together.

First course was baked tofu and a spinach and carrot salad with a ginger-lime vinaigrette:

This is the first time I’ve actually used leftover tofu. I usually prefer to leave it in the fridge, forget about it, and throw it out when it turns black. Fun!

Second course was mushroom barley risotto with whole wheat sourdough toast:

I think it’s well-established that I love risotto, especially risotto that is not really risotto, but this was especially good. Probably because the recipe explicitly said that I didn’t have to stand there and stir it, so I just brought broth, barley, mushrooms, and a little soy sauce (this was a new one for me) to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and skipped off to read my book. Basically, I got 45 minutes of my life back.

Also, it was 92 degrees and I didn’t want to stand in front of the oven. I’m not ready to die yet. I have more to give.

I didn’t get much done today, so our list for tomorrow now has 39 things or something great like that on it, including cleaning every single room in our apartment, vacuuming, trying to get our carpet back to its original color, grocery shopping, looking for new running shoes, going to the library, writing wedding thank yous because we were finally able to get those printed, and possibly doing some deep breathing to ward off anxiety attacks. You know, no big deal. If I get started by, oh, yesterday morning or so, I should definitely be done in time for Sunday night yoga.

I think I’m going to need some ice cream.

Storm blogging

June 5, 2008

Last night was kind of busy, so I didn’t post. Tonight was kind of TOTALLY RIDICULOUSLY NUTS. But I’m posting. Because I know you care.

Last night I made another barley risotto, this one with summer vegetables and goat cheese. I also baked a pasta dish for a co-worker who just had a little girl, so by the time they were both finished I was so hot that I actually had to check and make sure that my person wasn’t on fire. So, I wasn’t that hungry. I made a smaller serving of the pasta dish for Matt to taste-test, so I picked at that and then ate some risotto and a salad:

The return of the monkey plate.

Here are some things you should know about me:

  1. If I have my hair pulled back and I’m not at the gym, that means that I Officially Mean Business and am probably doing some kind of web design and will likely have a migraine when I get done.
  2. If I am wearing shorts and I’m not at the gym, then I am… actually, no. That doesn’t happen.
  3. If I am using the monkey plate, I am in a bad mood.

I’ll try to think of a few more to really illuminate these dark corners of my Self.

Here’s the pasta I baked for my co-worker:

I hope she likes it.

Today was ridiculous. We had a tornado watch and then a fire alarm at work, and I had to herd people out of the building and then guard the door so that they wouldn’t go back in. Seriously, you have no idea how much people love a library until you tell them they can’t go in.

Then the tornado watch was supplemented by a severe thunderstorm warning and I booked it home, and managed to be here for about five minutes before the tornado sirens went off. Now, we don’t have a basement. Or, there’s one in our building but we don’t have access to it, and I obviously wasn’t about to go to critterville next door. So, anyway, I ran two blocks to this old hotel that is now a restaurant and apartments and hung out in the basement with a nice chick who had a weather radio and a few other people, including Ellen from work. All of the idiot people eating in the fancy restaurant were just standing by the windows. TORNADO WARNING, PEOPLE. One touched down pretty close to here, but we were spared. For now. If you’ve been watching the weather, you know that there’s a huge swath of storms from the Dakotas down to Texas, and, lucky us! We’re in it.

So I had some risotto and some bread and now I’m going to obsessively hit refresh on the six weather websites I have open.

If you never hear from me again, well, just know I took a Clif bar with me as I sought shelter.


May 22, 2008

It was kind of weird today, weather-wise. This morning I was actually kind of cold, because it was raining and really windy. I also stepped in a puddle and had to go back inside and change my clothes. It’s kind of sad to think how often this happens. If only I worked from home more.

Anyway, so I decided during that time that I would make this steel cut oat risotto for dinner, because it would be all warm and comforting, and because I’ve been experimenting with breakfasts other than oatmeal this week. It’s left me feeling kind of… wistful. Oh, oats. I just can’t quit you. Even when it’s 91 degrees in my home.

Later, it got sunny and nice and warm-ish, and I had the afternoon off so I got to hang out with Matt and run some errands and go to the gym at a different time, with all of the old people who hog the treadmills going like 1mph. That’s what the indoor track is for, old folks.

I also had to go to the mall twice. Once is enough to leave me paralyzed with anxiety, so you can only imagine what twice did. Plus, I have these out of body experiences where I go into the candy store and buy some candy “for Matt” and then I’m mindlessly reaching into my purse for it as I walk around the Gap or whatever and I CANNOT STOP MYSELF. Seriously. It’s like I’m watching someone else.

So, the point of the story is.

I was annoyed with the people who work at Victoria’s Secret and I was all tweaked out on too much sugar. So I needed something nutritious AND comforting. So risotto it was. I even found some frozen butternut squash in the freezer. Score!

And now I have to go talk to Matt about simulated basketball games.

As in, games that do not happen in real life.

Wait, he just said, “They DO happen in real life. They just don’t involve real people.”

Got it?