Tomato-Corn Risotto with Shrimp

Tomato-Corn Risotto with Shrimp

Yesterday on my A Love Letter to Food Facebook page, I got a notification that read something like this: “You haven’t posted anything in five days. That means your followers haven’t heard from you in almost a week! Post now!!! (Or your readers will start to riot in the streets! Or jump off of bridges! Or you’ll be forever cast upon the trash heap of their minds!)” I may have embellished that last part. But it really kinda stressed me out. Like social media pressure has become the new peer pressure…and it’s not even from real people–it’s just a Facebook robot. “Keeping up with the blogging Joneses.” Thaaaaaaaanks, Facebook.

Anyway, this post is not a response to that nudge. (Or maybe, subconsciously, it is?) I’ve been wanting to share this summery risotto recipe for awhile. I knew it was good when my husband suggested I create a sidebar on the blog called “Husband-Approved Favorites” and put this on it. The man doesn’t even like shrimp and he literally ate the leftovers of this for breakfast. I was shocked. But I had to agree it was delicious–the mix of corn, tomato, and basil offering the flavor package of summer in a bowl. (The good kind of summer, like running-through-the-sprinklers-with-a-4th-of July-parade-rolling-by, not the get-me-out-of-this-face-melting-inferno kind we experience in Phoenix.)

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So perhaps the timing of posting this risotto now is serendipitous, because it reminds me in the wake of Facebook robot peer pressure that, like risotto, good things take time. I’ve been on a blogging roll last month, but it’s probably not sustainable. I’m never going to be the kind of food blogger who posts five times a week. (Let’s face it, I can’t get my family to NOT eat that many things long enough to take pictures of them.) As much as I enjoy food blogging, I’m not ready for it to take over my life. There are more important things in life than giving to the pressures of Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/OtherFoodBloggersAreCoolerThanYou.com. I can stand to go five days without posting on Facebook, and so can my (small group of) readers. So thanks for reading, whoever you may be, and give this recipe a try when you’re feeling summery–in a good way.

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Tomato-Corn Risotto with Shrimp

Ingredients:

6 c. vegetable broth, low-sodium preferred
2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 1/2 c. frozen corn, thawed
shrimp
1 1/2 c. grape tomatoes, quartered
3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chiffonaded
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 Tbsp. heavy cream

Directions:

1. In a saucepan, heat vegetable broth over medium-low heat until warm.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté about 3 minutes until translucent. Add rice and stir to coat with the butter. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute.

3. Ladle about 2 c. of the warmed broth into the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed, about 3-5 minutes. Continue ladling broth into rice mixture about 3/4 c. at a time, cooking 3-5 minutes after each addition and continuing to stir occasionally, until liquid is absorbed. Add corn and shrimp to the skillet with the final addition of broth.

4. While the rice is simmering, combine grape tomatoes, olive oil, basil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

5. After final addition of broth is absorbed, add Parmesan and cream to the skillet and stir until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and fold in the tomato-basil mixture. Top with any additional basil and serve immediately.

Serves 5.

Spicy Pan-Fried Noodles with Tofu

It’s rare that one dinner gets made twice in two weeks at our house–or even twice in a month. I’m too fond of variety (and of trying new recipes) for that to happen very often. But every once in awhile a dinner recipe comes along that makes me want to make it EVERY. DAY. Like these spicy pan-fried noodles with tofu:

I gave these a try a couple of weeks ago on a Friday when our family was gathered around the TV for our semi-monthly Family Movie Night. It’s kind of a shame I was in the kitchen cooking during part of the movie, because it was Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the Second Dimension. I may have mentioned before that Phineas and Ferb is, in my opinion, the greatest kids’ show of all time. I’ve actually thought about getting on Twitter just so I could stalk follow Dan Povenmire, one of the show’s creators. Anyway, since I made this delicious meal to the sounds of the movie in the background, I now associate the tantalizing blend of lime, brown sugar, and Sriracha with the voice of Dr. Heinz Doofenschmirtz (AKA the best character in the best kids’ show of all time).

Fast forward two weeks to our next Family Movie Night. I had been craving these noodles so much since the Phineas and Ferb movie night, I decided to bend my usual rules and make them again. Now I’m going to associate their taste with a combination of Dr. Doofenschmirtz and Judy Garland’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow, because this time around we watched The Wizard of Oz. So that’s a weird mental picture.

Regardless, I stand by my fortnight-long craving for these spicy noodles and tofu. They are absolutely restaurant quality, like something you’d get at Pei Wei (and then order every time you go there from here to eternity, like I do with their honey-seared chicken). For little ones or picky palates, the spice level can be adjusted by scaling back the Sriracha. I also realized after making this twice that it happens to be vegan. So there’s that, too, if that floats your boat. Or if it doesn’t, forget I said it and enjoy this meal for the spicy-sweet deliciousness it is!

Spicy Pan-Fried Noodles with Tofu
(Adapted from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients:

1/4 c. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. Sriracha, adjustable to taste
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. vegetable or peanut oil, divided
14 oz. extra-firm tofu, pressed as dry as possible and sliced into 3/4 inch cubes
5 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1 1/2 inch long matchsticks
1/4 c. shallot, minced
16 oz. cooked Udon noodles*
2-3 c. green cabbage, thinly sliced

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, Sriracha, minced garlic, and 2 Tbsp. water. Set aside.

2. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add tofu, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until golden brown on all sides, about 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Off the heat, add another 1 Tbsp. oil to the pan. Return to heat and add sliced carrots, cooking and stirring occasionally 3-5 minutes or until tender and browned in spots. Transfer to bowl with the tofu.

4. Off the heat, add the remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to the pan. Add shallot and return to heat, sauté about 1 minute, then add cooked noodles. Saute 2-3 minutes until noodles have browned in spots. Stir the sauce and carefully add it to the pan. Toss well to coat and cook and stir until the sauce reduces to a sticky glaze, about 2 minutes.

5. Return tofu and carrots to the pan. Add sliced cabbage and toss until heated through.

Serves 4.

*To make preparation faster and easier, consider using microwavable steam-pack noodles such as these:

Microwave while carrots are cooking in the skillet–voila! Instant cooked noodles!

Lemon-Dill Orzo with Chickpeas and Artichokes

I have a friend who used to say in the summer that she had “broken up” with her oven. It’s a mental image I’ve carried with me for years. I always picture this friend engaged in a painful split from Mr. Kenmore Oven. She tells him she can’t take the heat. First he wheedles, then he sends flowers, makes promises–he even bakes cookies. He writes love letters to prove his emotional range. She resists, ignoring him each time she walks through the kitchen, flaunting her new-found relationship with no-cook meals in his shiny metal face. But we know where this cat-and-mouse game ends when fall rolls around. Every year she comes running back to his warmth–how could she stay away when he’s SO HOT??–and the sizzling romance resumes. (Are you rolling your eyes at the oven puns yet?)

Awful oven puns aside, I get what my friend means. The to-oven-or-not-to-oven question is a seesaw many of us who love to cook tend to ride as seasons change. It seems counterintuitive to heat a metal box to 450 degrees in the middle of your house when every other effort you make all day is to stay cool. So while June hasn’t started off too terribly here in the Phoenix area (no temps soaring over 110–that’s what we call moderate), I still feel the pull to keep the oven off and serve something closer to air-conditioned room temperature.

When we tried this vegetarian orzo salad last night, it hit the non-piping-hot spot. The recipe does, admittedly, use the stovetop to boil the orzo, but 15 minutes on the range beats a lasagna in the oven for an hour, and the end result is a refreshing blend of cool flavors perfect for a warm day. It’s packed with:

    • Chickpeas for fiber and protein (see my ode to the nutritional value of chickpeas here)
    • Feta for a non-fatty cheese indulgence (the Pasta Salad Code of Ethics states that every pasta salad needs a cheese indulgence)
    • Artichokes for veggie goodness including additional fiber and Vitamin C
    • Fresh dill, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil to add flavor without overdoing it on calories and fat (in keeping with the ideology of the Mediterranean diet).

Put them all together and you have a quick, light one-dish dinner or a hearty potluck side. So, sorry, Mr. Oven. Like my friend, I’m off for my annual summer fling without you. Or at least a few days’ break…you know I still need you for cookies.

Lemon-Dill Orzo with Chickpeas and Artichokes
(Adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 c. uncooked orzo
1/2 c. sliced green onions
3/4 c. crumbled feta cheese
1 14-oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
5 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
2 15-oz. cans chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), drained
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. cold water
scant 3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. minced garlic

Directions:

1. Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

2. In a large bowl, combine cooled, rinsed orzo, green onions, feta, artichoke hearts, dill, and chickpeas.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, water, salt, and garlic. Drizzle over pasta mixture and toss gently to coat.

Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Serves 5-6 as a main dish, 8-10 as a side dish.

Pesto Pasta and Bean Salad


Today was a pretty chill, laid-back Sunday for our family. The best kind, if you ask me. My mom generously took our kids overnight last night, so my husband and I got to have dinner at the fabulous Wrigley Mansion, a Phoenix landmark since 1932, and sleep in this morning. It was kind of shocking how late we were able to sleep without the kids running around/arguing/informing us about poopy Pullups. (Anybody have a sure-fire solution for nighttime potty training a 3-year-old?) Anyway, the two of us went out for a late breakfast, which we almost never do–partly because we rarely eat out with kids and partly because I have a thing about brunch. I hate it. Seriously, it ruins my whole day. I’m the kind of person who wants to get up and eat something light and drink my coffee pretty much immediately. Brunch basically flies in the face of these desires. You have to do your hair and get dressed, get in your car and drive somewhere, order and wait until they bring out your food. Then you always, ALWAYS eat way more than you normally would and at lunchtime you still feel full and kinda gross but you want to eat. So you eat lunch and you feel even more over-full and gross. See where this is going? Whole day shot. You’re dead to me, brunch.

Still, despite my issue with brunch, our day was a pleasant one. After we picked the kids up from Grandma’s we went on a family outing to Ikea, where we got some fun stuff for the house, then went to Guitar Center, where the kids enjoyed jamming on the 95 keyboards they have stacked in one room. But even after skipping out on the meatballs and lingonberry sauce my family had for lunch at Ikea, those lemon ricotta pancakes I had at brunch still hung like dead weight in my stomach. Thankfully, our plans for dinner were the definition of light: this super-simple pesto pasta and bean salad. Yay!

If there was ever a straightforward, what-you-see-is-what-you-get salad, this is it. I love it for its simplicity, its quick prep time, and its healthful vegetarian ingredients. It would make a great side to tote to a summertime potluck–but for our family, served with a side of crusty bread, this is plenty for a modest dinner!

Pesto Pasta and Bean Salad
(Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)

Ingredients:

8 oz. whole wheat penne or other small pasta
1 7-oz. container purchased basil pesto (or make your own)
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 c. arugula
2 oz. Parmesan/Reggiano cheese, shaved

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, make dressing by combining pesto, red wine vinegar, and salt in a large bowl. Add cooked pasta, beans, and arugula and stir gently to combine. Top with shaved cheese.

Makes about 8 cups.

Soba Salad with Chicken and Cabbage

Can we just raise a collective cheer for weeknight dinners that are fast, easy, tasty, healthy, and relatively inexpensive? My list of meals that fit all those criteria is pretty short. These last couple of weeks have been pretty crazy in my life, so finding healthy dinners I can whip up easily has taken top priority. The beginning of May is always a little extra busy in our family, since two of my kids have early May birthdays, but this year there’s been the added crunch of trying to finish up this semester’s courses toward my nutrition degree and preparing to head to the Nutrition and Health Conference in Dallas this Sunday (which I’m super excited about and plan to blog about soon!). So basically fast and easy are my best friends right now in all areas of life.

Fortunately, I happened to place this soba chicken salad on the roster of dinners for this week. As a perpetual fan of Real Simple‘s cookbooks, I’ve been working my way through this one that I got for Christmas and had been meaning to try this recipe for some time. I’m glad I finally did–it’s one of those one-dish meals that’s perfect for a weeknight when you’re slammed. With chicken for protein, noodles for starch, and cabbage and carrots for vegetables, you’re set. The sweet and sour dressing of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and ginger gives it a mild Asian flavor that even my kids enjoyed.

So sayonara for now–look for a post next week on all the cool stuff I’m expecting to learn at the Nutrition and Health Conference!

Soba Salad with Chicken and Cabbage
(Adapted from Real Simple)

Ingredients:

8 oz. soba noodles
8 small chicken tenderloins
salt and black pepper
6 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil, divided
3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
3 c. shredded red cabbage
1 large carrot, shredded
6 scallions, sliced

Directions:

1. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool.

2. Meanwhile, season the chicken with salt and pepper to your liking.

3. Heat 3 Tbsp. of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through. Cut into strips.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 Tbsp. of oil, the vinegar, soy sauce, and ginger. Add the noodles, chicken, cabbage, carrot, and scallions and toss.

Serves 4.