Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vegetarian Week, Part Two: Pea, Mushroom, and Parmesan Risotto

Welcome back! I am continuing on my journey through the world of vegetarian cooking and enjoying it quite a bit.

DISCLAIMER: In no way does Stacy Chudwin or this blog advocate a full vegetarian diet. In fact, it's downright un-American.

Anyways. This week I decided to take a crack at something that has always intimidated me. No, not trying to imagine Ina Garten and her husband making love. I'm talking about risotto.

From what I have gathered from countless hours of Food Network watching, making risotto is time-consuming and difficult to do well. When a roommate moved out and left a canister of arborio rice abandoned in my pantry, I figured it was fate urging me to give it a try. My Pea, Mushroom, and Parmesan Risotto was a smashing success, and if I can do it, you can, too!

Food Porn Description: Take one bite of my warm, creamy risotto, and your mouth is filled with the luscious flavors of rice softened in rich vegetable broth. Layered into the risotto like hidden gems are silky mushrooms and peas that provide a surprising pop of flavor and texture, all bound together with tangy parmesan cheese. Hearty and delicious, you won't find yourself aching for meat for one second with a bowl of this comfort food.

  • 1 cup uncooked arborio rice. This is the secret weapon to good Italian risotto. Believe it or not, there is no cream in risotto! It gets that creamy texture from the starches released from the arborio rice.
  • 3 cups vegetable broth. You can also use chicken broth, but hey, it's Vegetarian Week!
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1 package white button mushrooms. You can experiment with wild mushrooms if you'd like (notice I did not say "shrooms"), but button mushrooms are the least expensive.
  • 1 cup frozen peas. I actually have no idea how much I put in, I just kinda eyeballed it. No need to thaw the peas first.
  • 1 big handful of shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves or 1 tbsp. dried thyme
See, not too many ingredients! Once you have mastered the basic technique of risotto, you can experiment with all different types of vegetables and herbs. This recipe makes a big ole pot of risotto and actually reheats pretty well if you can't eat it all in one sitting. But you're gonna want to.


Dice up your onion.

Melt your butter in a saucepan over medium high heat.

Add the onions and mushrooms to the saucepan and stir to coat with the butter. Let them cook and soften for a few minutes until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are nicely browned.

Add the rice to the pot and stir to coat with the butter. Let the rice toast up for a couple minutes.

Add the thyme leaves and one cup of the vegetable broth to the pot. Stir continuously until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid (should take about five minutes or so.) This is the labor-intensive part of risotto, but it will be worth it! I promise!

Add one more cup of broth and stir continuously until absorbed.

Add your last cup of broth, and the frozen peas, and stir until absorbed. By now, the risotto should be plump and creamy.

When the final cup of broth is absorbed and the peas are nice and warm, stir in your parmesan cheese. Magnifico!

Spoon into a bowl and enjoy your rich, hearty vegetarian meal. Enjoy!

Do YOU have any great vegetarian recipes to share?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Vegetarian Week, Part One: Homemade Falafel

In case you haven't noticed yet, I am definitely a carnivore, and have always enjoyed my place at the top of the food chain. Growing up in the Midwest, I was a steak-and-butter child, and always looked down on vegetarians with a mixture of disdain and pity. In fact, I even took a picture of this rather humorous t-shirt to send to my recently vegan friend:

However, due to popular request, I decided to give some vegetarian dishes a try. And was pleasantly surprised.

Vegetarian dishes CAN have flavor, are less expensive, and are generally easier to make (after all, you can't get salmonella from under-cooking veggies.) So for this week, I will share some great recipes with you.

It all starts with my Homemade Falafel, or chickpea fritters. I first tried these delightful gems when I was in Israel, and I fell in love. Though they are a bit time consuming to make, they are well worth it. Enjoy!

Food Porn Description: Take a bite of my falafel with pita, and descend through a layer of flavors, each building in intensity....first the warm, toasted pita bread....then the crisp romaine lettuce....then the tangy, creamy hummus....and finally, just when you think you can't stand any more flavor, you are transported to a Middle Eastern market. An array of warm spices folded into tender mashed chickpeas, all fried to golden perfection.....

  • 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained. Also called garbanzo beans, which I have always found strange.
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying. I used vegetable oil, enough to cover the falafel in the pan.
This makes about twelve falafel. You can enjoy them atop salads, or make a pita sandwich slathered with your favorite hummus and topped with some lettuce and tomato. Go crazy!

NOTE: If you don't own a blender or food processor, you can get physical with it and mash everything yourself. You really should at least own a blender though. How else are you gonna make margaritas?


Peel and chop up your onion into pieces. They can be large since you will be putting everything in the food processor anyways.

I started off using a blender but my blender sucks, so I switched to a small food processor. Double the clean-up....yay! I would recommend a food processor if you have one. Anyways, first process the onion, parsley, garlic, and chickpeas until combined, but still thick.

Add the rest of the ingredients and process until the mixture is smooth and sticky, but still with a lot of nice texture. After all, you're not making baby food here. Then roll the mixture into ping-pong ball sized balls and press flat. It's fun!

NOTE: Take the blade out of the processor before reaching in, or take the mixture out with a spoon! I cut the shit out of my finger with the blade and ended up having to roll my falafel balls with my one non-bloody hand (that's how baller of a chef I am) (get it? baller? no?)

Oh, and Phil helped, too. Phil is a young twenty-something, sports-watching, frozen-dinner eating guy friend of mine, and if he can roll falafel, anyone can.

Heat about two inches of oil in a pot until it is bubbly. Then carefully drop your falafel patties into the oil. Hey, I never said this recipe was healthy. Ironic that this was both my first foray into vegetarian cooking AND deep frying? I think yes.

After a few minutes, check to see if the bottom of the falafel are toasty brown. Then carefully flip them over to fry for a few minutes on the other side.

Take the falafel out and put them on a paper towel to soak up the excess oil. Repeat as many batches as necessary (don't overcrowd the pot).

Slather some hummus in a warm pita pocket, stuff with lettuce or any other toppings you might like, and stick a couple of falafel in there. Delicious and vegetarian!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cod and Potato Stew

Sometimes you gotta take a look in your pantry and fridge, see what you have, and just go crazy with it. Be bold! Even if it tastes like shit, at least you got rid of some ingredients and cleared some space.

That is how my Cod and Potato Stew was born. In this case, I had some ingredients left over from my Grilled Cod, Potatoes, and Corn in Foil. I had several fillets of frozen cod and wanted to put it to use, even though whenever I think of cod, I always think of Captain Hook calling Peter Pan a "codfish!"

Anyways. This stew turned out quite delicious, and I would definitely make it again. Enjoy!

Food Porn Description:
One bite of this warm, comforting stew will fill your mouth with the flavors of tender flakes of cod, hearty potatoes, sweet tomatoes, and soft white beans, all suspended in a rich, creamy broth. Skip the spoon altogether and dunk a thick piece of crusty bread into the stew, letting it soak up all the flavors for you.....

  • 1 cod fillet. The thick cod holds up well to stewing and reheating.
  • 1 can low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can white beans, drained. Also known as Great Northern Beans, which makes me think of Vikings.
  • 2 cups diced potatoes. I used fingerling, but you could also use Yukon Golds or small yellow potatoes. They have a lovely waxy, creamy texture.
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice. The acidity helps cut the sweetness of the tomatoes, and citrus always pairs well with fish.
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves. I love these lil guys. They add a delicious savory quality to soups and stews. Just make sure to take them out at the end, cause they are too tough to eat!
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Olive oil
If you have other veggies on hand, feel free to add them as well. This makes quite a bit of stew, but it reheats very well, so you can enjoy it for days.


Drizzle some olive oil in a pot on medium high heat. Add your diced onion and cook a few minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic at the end and cook for a minute (don't put it in with the onion at first, since it cooks much faster).

Pour in your chicken broth, tomatoes with juice, lemon juice, the Italian seasoning, and the bay leaves.

Dice up your potatoes and add them to the pot as well. Let the stew come up to a boil and then reduce the heat to low so it can simmer for 25 minutes or so. This will give the potatoes time to become nice and tender and for all the flavors to meld together.

Cut up your cod filet into large chunks. Make them generously sized cause the fish will flake apart a bit when it cooks.

When the potatoes are tender (stick a fork in them to check), go ahead and add the beans and the cod chunks. It's okay if some of the liquid from the can of beans gets into the stew because it is starchy and will help thicken it. Cover the pot so it helps the fish steam.

Let the stew simmer with the lid on for another fifteen minutes until the cod is cooked (opaque all the way through and flakes apart easily.) Now stir in your cream and the parsley, and remove the bay leaves.

Spoon into a bowl and serve with a nice piece of bread for dipping, if you'd like. Comfort food at its finest!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken Breast

Throughout our lives, we enjoy stuffing things. Whether it's stuffing stockings for Christmas or stuffing your little sibling into a school locker, it's just plain fun!

I have a delightful trifecta of ingredients in my fridge that allow me to whip up Mediterranean flavors in no time: jarred sundried tomatoes, jarred pesto, and crumbled feta. I use this combo in many recipes because these ingredients are inexpensive, have a very long fridge life, and are just plain tasty together. Having some basic ingredients always on hand makes it easy to cook food that is fast and delicious.

So go ahead and stuff your face with my Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken Breast!

Food Porn Description:

As your teeth sink into the succulent flesh of the chicken breast, your mouth is suddenly transported to a farmstand in Capri. Crisp onion, soft mushrooms, fragrant garlic, rich basil pesto, and sweet tomatoes dried in the Italian sun surround your tongue. Just when you think you can't take any more flavor, the crumbled feta provides a creamy and salty finish.....

(Get your mind out of the gutter, people. This is serious business.)

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 cup minced mushrooms. I just used plain ole white button mushrooms.
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes in oil. You can buy jars of this at the grocery store.
  • 1 tbsp. basil pesto. You can also buy this at the grocery store.
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Italian seasoning
  • Salt 'n Pepa
This recipe is very easy to double or quadruple for company. Flavorful and pretty enough for company but quick and easy enough for yourself, this recipe I invented is a winner!


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Mince up your mushrooms and onion.

Heat a sautee pan to medium high heat and add the sundried tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms. The oil the tomatoes are packed in should provide enough moisture, but feel free to add a little olive oil if you'd like.

Once the vegetables are softened and slightly golden after a couple minutes, add the garlic and the pesto. Stir to combine and let the mixture cook for another minute or so until all the flavors are married together and heated through.

With a sharp knife, slice a pocket in the chicken breast lengthwise (or "hot dog style" as we learn in kindergarten), making sure not to cut all the way through! The chicken should open up like a book.

Cover a baking sheet with foil and nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the bottom of the chicken breast with Italian seasoning, and salt 'n pepa to taste. Lay it on the baking sheet.

Spoon the stuffing mixture into the pocket of the chicken breast. Sprinkle the crumbled feta on top and close the chicken breast, squishing it down a bit to seal it. Don't overstuff! Sprinkle the top with Italian seasoning and more salt n' pepa.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. The chicken will be cooked through but moist from the stuffing, and the feta will be melted and delicious. Dig in!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Grilled Cod, Potatoes, and Corn in Foil

For this 4th of July last week, I knew I had to grill. It's practically a constitutional law. However, I was sick of grilling the typical burgers, steaks, etc. So, I turned to the classic New England seafood bake for inspiration!

Okay, so not quite THAT classic. Instead of fancy pants ingredients like lobster or clams, I used good ole New England cod. This recipe is easy to make, light and summery, and delicious! Enjoy.

  • 1 fillet of cod. Any other firm white fish will do, but cod holds up nicely to the grilling.
  • 1 ear of corn
  • 4 small red potatoes
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced
  • 4 tbsp. butter. Yeah baby!
  • 1 tbsp. Old Bay. This seasoning tastes fantastic on any seafood. Feel free to use salt, pepper, etc. instead if you'd like.
That's it! You also just need two large sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil. The fish, potato, and corn will steam in the foil and be delicious and moist. This recipe makes for two packets, so share with a buddy, or chow down yourself.


Cut your cod fillet in half and slice up your potatoes and lemon into thin slices. Take all the husk off the corn and cut the cob into two pieces. Put everything in a Ziploc and head out to the grill!

Turn on the grill to high heat to warm up while you prepare your packets. On a sheet of aluminum foil, put half the potato slices and top with some Old Bay (or other seasoning) and 1 tbsp. butter.

Put the fish on top of the potatoes and a half ear of the corn beside them. Put 1/2 tbsp. butter on both the corn and the fish and top with half the lemon slices. Sprinkle more Old Bay on everything (to taste).

Fold up the foil around the food into a packet and seal tightly. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients.

Cook on the grill for about 20-25 minutes until the fish flakes easily when you twist a fork in it and the potatoes are nice and tender. This gives you the perfect opportunity to crack open a beer and enjoy the great outdoors.

Open the steaming packet of deliciousness and dig in!

Do YOU have any fun and easy grilling recipes?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mexican Salad with Grilled Chicken and Honey Lime Dressing

Normally when you think Mexican food, you think giant, heavy burritos dripping in fat, or greasy chips dunked in cheese.

Case in point: a burrito I ate in San Diego. It has its own flag because it was the size of a small country.

However, amigos, it does not have to be this way. Many traditional Mexican ingredients, like beans and avocado, are super healthy for you. With some ingredients I already had in my fridge and pantry, I was able to throw together a delicious and nutritious Mexican salad. It is full of wonderful flavor, color, and texture. Ole!

  • 1/2 bag romaine lettuce
  • 1 avocado. Avocado is so damn creamy and delicious. It's like nature's butter.
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes, drained. You can also use fresh tomato, obviously.
  • 1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed. I think it tastes better than canned corn.
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese. Yeah, I know, it's Greek. If you have Mexican cotija cheese, or really any kind you like, feel free to substitute. Or don't even use cheese. See if I care!
  • 1 handful baked tortilla chips. This is a great use for those broken chips at the bottom of the bag!
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup Tequila Lime Marinade. I use the stuff from Kroger, but any Mexican style marinade will do.

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro. My cilantro plant suffered an untimely demise, so I used a cilantro paste from the grocery store.
  • 1 clove minced garlic
This makes a LOT of salad! It is great as an appetizer for company, or can even stand up as a delicious and healthy main dish.


Cut your chicken breast into bite sized strips and put them in a bowl to marinate in the Tequila Lime Marinade for at least a half hour.

Meanwhile, you can prepare and assemble your other ingredients. You can start by dicing your avocado. The easiest way? Cut it in half and pop out the pit. Then score the flesh into cubes, and simply cut them away from the peel with a spoon.

Drain your tomatoes and beans.

Pour your lettuce into a bowl and toss with the tomatoes, beans, avocado, corn, cheese, and chips.

Grill up your chicken pieces on a Foreman grill (or other grill, or sautee in a pan). Toss the warm chicken into the salad as well.

Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. TIP: Add the oil before the honey so it coats your measuring spoon and makes it easier for the honey to slide off. Go ahead and toss the dressing into your salad. Lots of salad tossing going on!

Your delicious Mexican salad is now complete. Buen provecho!