Risotto & Red Velvet

This past Sunday was the football playoffs between the Packers & the Bears and the Steelers vs. the Jets.  I love football, despite the fact that my team, the Patriots, made a poor showing against the Jets last week.  I’m still getting over it.  Nevertheless, I decided that in honor of these games (and the Steelers KILLING the Jets) I would make 2 new things.  The first, risotto; the second, Hungry Girl Red Velvet Cupcakes with my own buttercream frosting.

I found the risotto recipe from Food Network courtesy of Giada but I, of course tweaked it alittle bit.  Instead of regular butter, I used my favorite substitute Brummel & Brown which is a type of margarine made with all-natural yogurt.  I swear, it tastes just like the real thing and has a mere 50 calories and 5 grams of fat per serving.  A whole lot less than regular butter.

It took longer than I expected.  I browned a shallot in the butter, coated and toasted the rice, simmered in some wine and then slowly added the 2.5 cups of stock/water the recipe called for.  I think I ended up using an extra 2 cups of hot water because after the 2.5 original cups were gone, the risotto had thickened but the grains were still uncooked.  No problems though; just add more water and keep stirring like its your job and eventually, creamy risotto will be your result.

Stage one: Simmer in white wine (I used chardonnay, but feel free to use whatever white wine you have on hand.) This will take between 5-6 minutes.

Stage 2: Continue to add broth/water to rice (about 1/2 cup at a time), stirring constantly until each addition has completely evaporated.  It should continue to thicken and the rice will puff and become tender but still firm.  Depending on how much rice you are cooking will determine the time it takes for the liquid to completely evaporate.  Taste testing is always the best way to tell.  When I ran out of my original chicken stock/water mixture, I simply added water 1/2 cup at a time and continuted to stir until the rice was done.  I found it to be quite soothing.

Stage 3: Remove from heat and stir in a couple tablespoons of mascarpone cheese, a little extra butter (1 pad should be plenty) and some parmesan cheese. Pile into a bowl and eat!

It really was fabulous.  My family ate all of it in one sitting – even my mother who insisted that she DOES NOT LIKE risotto.  Well, I showed her what’s what.  She had 2 helpings and has already asked me to make it again.

Lemon Risotto

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large shallot, diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1/2 a lemon, zested amd juiced
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan bring the broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep hot over low heat.

In a medium, heavy saucepan, melt tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of the broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, mascarpone cheese, the lemon zest and juice, and the salt and pepper.

For dessert – red velvet cupcakes and buttercream frosting.  My cousin Ali gave me this amazing mechanical piping set for Christmas.  You pick whichever tip you want to use (there are 10!) and spin on the part that holds the tip to the barrel.  You then fill the barrel with frosting, put the cap on and push the cap for the icing to come out. It’s from William Sonoma and I LOVE it. 

I made Hungry Girl cupcakes because I figured I’d go with a lighter cake for a rich frosting.  Using reduced-sugar cake mixes, fat free hot cocoa, a few mini chocolate chips and some egg beaters, you’d be surprised how moist, fluffy and decadent these cupcakes are, even though they are better for you.

Enter: The Buttercream.  However, I again used Brummel and Brown to significantly reduce the fat and calories from the frosting.  Of course, I used real powdered sugar and a touch of vanilla extract but I always go a little easy on the sugar – I hate when frosting, especially buttercream, is too sweet.  My method is to cream the butter (leave it out beforehand to soften), then gradually add powdered sugar until it tastes right to you.  Right before you add what you think will be the last of your powdered sugar, add a teaspoon of vanilla and blend it in.  You can’t go wrong with that.

Once the cupcakes were cooled, I was free to try out my piping technique.  If I do say so myself, not too shabby – but I’ll keep working on it!

Hungry Girl Red Velvet Insanity Cupcakes
from www.hungry-girl.com

1 cup reduced-sugar chocolate cake mix
1 cup reduced-sugar vanilla cake mix
2 fat-free hot cocoa mix packets
1/2 cup fat-free egg substitute (I like Egg Beaters)
1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Red food coloring
1 tsp Splenda (or your favorite no-calorie sweetener)
1/8 tsp salt

Place 2 TB of chocolate chips and contents from both hot cocoa packets in a tall glass.  Add 12 ounces of boiling water and stir until chips and cocoa have dissolved completely.  Place glass in freezer until cold (about 30 minutes.) 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Once the cocoa mixture has chilled, give it a stir and pour into a large bowl.  Add cake mixes, Splenda, salt, egg substitute, remaining chocolate chips and red food coloring (until desired color is reached.)  Whisk until smooth and blended.  (Batter will be thin – this is okay.  The cupcakes will puff up while baking.) 

Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Evenly distribute batter amoung cups and bake 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  The cupcakes will look shiny.  Let cool before frosting.

It’s snowing, I’m cold.. time for chili.

So I’ve been a horrible blogger.  No new posts since December.  Not that I haven’t been busy working 2 jobs, applying to grad school and trying to keep myself from drowning in debt… I have.  Nevertheless, I’ve been neglecting it.  But not anymore!  Oh, and good news… while I don’t have a fancy-shmancy camera that most other bloggers have, I can upload my not-so-creatively-taken iPhone pictures to my blog now! So, if you feel so inclined, flip back through some of my old posts because hopefully now, I will have some pictures to edit in!

I cooked a lot for Christmas.  I made everything from spinach appetizers to family raviolis to cupcakes and an ice cream cake for my cousins birthday..seriously.  Look at it:

 Not bad right? Yay for pictures!

And then, for about a week or so after New Years, I will a little cooked out, I won’t lie.  But I’m back in the swing of it and, proud to say, that I’ve been on a healthy eating kick for a while now (New Year’s Resolution…duh).  And whoever says healthy food is boring is WRONG.

It’s snowing here in Boston – again.  Third time in three weeks.  It’s actually getting a little ridiculous.  THERE’S NO WHERE TO PUT IT ALL!!!  And, if you didn’t know this about me before I’ll tell you now… I HATE SNOW.  This is why:

Yep, that’s my car….Nevertheless, cold weather and snow call for a few things.  First, hot cocoa with frothy milk (which I can now make thanks to my new milk foamer!)  Second, a warm, cozy fire and a fleece blanket.  Third, comfort food.  Normally, I’d be all about the mashed potatoes but since I’m being good, I’ll go for the amazing veggie chili I mentioned in a previous post.  And once I have perfected my recipe, I will post it… with a picture.  Gotta love iPhones.

Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Cake

2 quarts Cookies & Cream ice cream (or your favorite)
Homemade or tub whipped cream

Leave ice cream out on counter until soft but not melted.  Spread 1 container at a time evenly into a 9″ spring form cake pan.  Place in the freezer to firm completely (best if done for several hours or overnight.)

Remove cake from freezer to thaw slightly before serving.  Cover in a layer of whip cream (a relatively thin layer) and garnish with oreo cookies. 

To serve: Run a sharp knife under hot water between each slice.