Friday, October 16, 2009

GOTTA EAT THIS: Elliott's Risotto!!!

When I first moved to Seattle, Eric and I were invited to a dinner party from a friend who had just gotten back from India and wanted to share some of the local fare with us!  I LOVE Indian food especially, authentic street food, and was eager to attend the party.  We all had sat down for a beautiful family style meal full of curries, grilled paneer, aromatic rices, perfect nan, chai tea, and decadent desserts.  It was love at first smell!!!  After digging in with much excitement, one of the roommates stood up suddenly and scurried off to the kitchen.  He returned with a huge stockpot, saying frantically, "I almost forgot the risotto!". 

WHAT?? Did I hear that right? We are eating Indian there is no way that guy just said risotto.  Did that guy just say RISOTTO?? Now if you know me, you know I can't live without, will always order if on a menu, absolutely die for, well made Risotto!!!  I have had my fair share of this perfectly creamy, flavorful delight! There is a huge range of quality in this dish.  I would say most restaurants are brave to serve it.  If not done right it's just an overpriced bowl of rice. Believe me, I have had too many watered down, pathetic, luster lacking attempts of this dish.  But, if made with heart and skill, like how I imagine short, plump, old Italian women have been for centuries, it becomes life altering comfort food!!! 

The guy, whose name I later I discovered was Elliott, plopped the huge pot right in the middle of the table next to the tikka masala and coincidentally right in front of ME! Lifting the lid, he said,  "I know we are having Indian and it's so good, but with all this rain I just had to make this Risotto! Enjoy!". The sex appeal of this guy shot out of the roof!  The risotto looked perfect, like bursting buds of white flowers swimming in a bath of cream holding hands with porcini mushrooms and tender grilled asparagus!!!  After eagerly serving myself a large scoop and slowly savoring the quality of the dish, I was in love with Elliott, I mean Elliott's Risotto!!! I licked my plate and after dinner ran immediately back to Elliott's room and without any grace desperately asked for the recipe.  I just needed a starting point for this kind of perfection.  Stunned by my need, Elliott ever so coolly, hand wrote me a copy of his recipe. 

I know Elliott would be proud of my sharing this recipe with you today!  Risotto really is that good!  If you already know, You Know!  If you aren't sure about or haven't had it yet, seek it out at good restaurants, and then you will know!!! But, don't be fooled!  Risotto is not for the weak of spoon!  This dish will take you a few attempts before you have the swagger of a pro.  Risotto can slip from underdone to overdone in a glance.  It takes a lot of heart to make it well.  So give yourself some room for growth and adaption.  But, this recipe is the perfect starting point to you're very own Risotto obsession!!!  I also threw in my all time favorite risotto leftovers recipeArancini di Riso (Stuffed Risotto Balls) which are equally decadent!!! I know you will, but in the words of Elliott, Enjoy!!!

Elliott's Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto:
1 bunch fresh young asparagus, cleaned w/ ends broken off
3 cups Arborio Rice (MUST be arborio)
1 package of dried porcini mushrooms or a porcini mushroom mill
1 pint of heavy whipping cream
1 medium shallot, diced
1 medium sweet yellow onion, diced
1 cup white wine, a good quality Riesling
1 quart good quality mushroom stock or chicken stock (1/2 of each is awesome!)
3-4 large cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp fine dried herbs: oregano, thyme, and/or sage
1 1/2 tbsp savory (if can't find the dish is still fantastic!)
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup+ of really good quality Parm Reggiano cheese grated and extra shaved for garnish
Good quality olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Good quality balsamic vinaigrette

 In a heavy bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven, drizzle with olive oil and sauté chopped onions for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and shallots for about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

 Once sweated, add rice and stir until coated and cooked with oil about 5 more minutes. Add porcini’s and wine.

 After about 5 more minutes, add stock, 2 tbsp salt, whipping cream, and butter. Simmer about 25 minutes. Stirring occasionally with wooden spoon until thick. The longer this simmers the thicker this rice dish gets (and in my opinion the better!).

 For asparagus, clean, break ends, and toss in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill or bake until soft yet crunchy about 15 minutes, flipping about half way through.  Once done, chop into bite size pieces.  Add to thickened risotto. 

Add cheese to risotto. Be heavy handed.  Let sit 10-20 minutes until thickened.  Let cool slightly. Top with grated cheese or shaved Reggiano, drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

For Leftovers: Arancini di Riso (Stuffed Risotto Balls)
2 eggs, beaten
2 c leftover risotto
½ c grated Parmesan
½ c breadcrumbs
1 c breadcrumbs to roll in
Grated parmesan for garnish
Fresh chilled mozzarella or havarti cubed
1-cup good quality marinara sauce slightly warmed or room temperature
Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Mix first four ingredients into a shallow dish. Roll into small bite size balls like a meatball. Then stuff one cube of mozzarella into the middle of each risotto ball. Finish rolling so cheese is hidden. Fry in hot (350 degrees) vegetable oil deep enough to cover about half the height of the risotto ball. Cook a few at a time. Gently spin the balls so all sides are golden and cheese doesn’t pop out.  Cook till golden brown and drain on paper towel. Lightly garnish with salt and Parmesan cheese. Serve warm with marinara for dipping! Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My INsecurity Blanket!

Everyone has one. They come in different shapes, sizes, and conditions.  Some people  can't leave home without 'em, while others successfully shove them in a closet.  Even as grown ups, they are oh so much apart of our fabric and can pop up uninvited at any moment.  They are really the only thing keeping us from loving ALL of ourselves.  

Regardless of what your insecurity blankie looks like there is no mistaking how they feel.  For me it's those weird first day of school jitters you get when you know you should hold your head up high and be proud of who you are but everyone else seems more confident, secure, beautiful, happy, perky, pulled together, and effortless than you do.  No matter what you tell yourself you can't seem to put one foot in front of the other without doubting every shred of your being and of course with each step those feelings tend to multiply.  

Perfect example, I recently ventured out on my first trip away from husband and kids since morphing into motherhood (3 1/2 years to be exact) to visit an old college and beyond girlfriend who was about to be married.  I was so excited to see this person who knew me for who I was and who I wanted to be before the fleece, pony-tails, exhaustion, and dare I say-minivan took over.  But, I vowed not to be that mom!  I had a renewed bounce in my step with anticipation to do something hip, go somewhere trendy, and most of all talk about anything other than kids. 

That was until my insecurity blankie whispered in my ear a translation of what was really happening.  Blankie titled my trip...

Frumpy, No longer cool, "Hot for a Mom", Boring, PTA Freak, Who wears Faded Cotton and Flats... Visits ... Hot, Bikini wearing, Uber stylish, Always cool, Jet setting, Living life and Sleeping well, Kid-less, Awesome sex having Diva

OMG blankie was right!!! This trip was a mistake! Once you're in momma mode how do you fake it around people who aren't there yet? Sweaty, sleepless, panic set in.  

My heart knew this was just my stupid insecurity blanket trying to bring me down because NOTHING is more awesome than the fundamentals of motherhood, well maybe pizza.   But still, my head needed to feel satisfied and in love with my whole life in front of this friend.  I needed to pull off this air of  contentment mostly for my own beat down self worth.  There was just something about being around a cool, kid-less friend that unfortunately made me doubt who I had become.  I had been so busy getting through this phase of my life, I forgot and maybe conceded who I was and definitely where I was going.  Don't get me wrong I love my life as a momma but I also loved who I was before I had kids. There was something stressful about remembering and desperately attempting to reignite the best parts of my former self.  Somehow being around a person who knew that version made me want to prove that I hadn't changed  that much or at least only for the better.  I was forced to look at current state vs status quo.  Let's just say that swallowing a less shiny, stretch marked, grey haired, parent mode vision of ones self was hard.  

So, like a crack addict I grabbed my insecurity blankie and went shopping!!! New makeup. Check.  Awesome blue suede, peep-toe heels. Check.  Trendy boyfriend jeans. Check. Other unnecessary accessories. Check.  Bikini wax-just in case. Check. Haircut. Check. Mani/Pedi. Check. Cool/Hip wedding gift. Check. 

As I boarded the plane in my overly thought out outfit, reality sunk in.  No new hairdo or already passe trendy jean was going to make my friend like me more or else. If it did maybe it was time to reconsider the friendship because this really is who I am now. Desperately, I didn't want that outcome, but as I sat down in between two super funny, insecurity blanket toting guys, I decided I would make the most of this trip, frumpy momma or not!!!  As I poured myself a plastic cup of wine from Delta's high end house red, I ever so subtly dropped my blankie on the ground.  No one seemed to notice.

Instantly feeling lighter, I was able to enjoy the entire visit with Awesome Denver Diva and with my past.  All my insecurities were squandered by the reality that my friendship was based on something deeper than my looks or current successes.  It was built on a bond of laughter, listening, loving, and supporting each other through whatever phase we may be in at that time!! Throughout my stay, I was able to really rediscover a side of myself I was so afraid I had lost forever.  It was an amazing feeling of relief and warmth knowing that part of me was still there and it helped me let go of any doubts I had built up over the last few selfless years.  In fact it helped me fall in love with this new me, stretch marks and all because I earned them. I worked my ass off becoming this new person!!!   And finally I realized what I forgot to remind myself of all along.

I am still me! I am still all those things I have loved about myself! I am still beautiful, still cool, still hip, still fun, still worth other people's time!  I am still AWESOME!!! My friends see me for whoever they want to see me as.  Hopefully in a warm light. But, through this process I realized that what's most important is how I see myself!  And after all those sleepless, selfless, sacrificing years I have officially, in my eyes, turned into an even better version of my former self in endless, countless ways.  I am sure one day I will have a smaller waist but until then I am proud of the momma that looks back at me in the mirror!  I am a damn good mother, a decent wife, and fairly cool enough person.  I just need to throw my damn blankie in the back of my closet and forgive myself for this unnecessary pain.  

So learn from my mistakes and STOP beating yourself up and LOVE yourself already!!! As long as you love yourself, insecurities and all, updated versions or not, frumpy or trendy, life is going to be okay.  Just because you are a momma doesn't mean you are lost! You are still that awesome version of you but now with more layers to love!!! And don't feel bad when you feel insecure either. It's only natural.  Just get over it quickly. Because let's face it everyone has a blankie! 

Monday, October 5, 2009

Beauty Buzz: My First GIVEAWAY!!!!

I am sure by now you know I love trying out new beauty products. I am constantly seeking out something that will help me look and feel my best with the least amount of effort, cost, or care.  Really, what I want is that crazy tube machine in the Jetson's that you just walk into half asleep and magically come out looking perfect and caffeinated! If that came in a jar I would be a lifetime supply!!! 

With that said, I am probably only wowed by 1 out of 6 products I try. It's exhausting! I have such high hopes for all those semi-finalists that actually make it onto my face, hair, body.  So many of the times these start off as superstars and then after a few days/weeks they have some weird side effect that bumps them off my shelf.  So sad! But, I don't loose hope. I know there are awesome products just waiting for me to run into them that will transform my life!!! When I find them, I will let you know!!!  

With that said, I think I found one!!! Excited? I bumped into something new for my hair to love! I am kinda a loyalist when it comes to hair products. But, when the planets aligned for theBottom of the Bottle Breakout, I knew it was time to explore! Where better to look than my hair inspiration Kate Hudson.   She recently started a new line of hair products with her stylistDavid Babaii of which 10% of all profits are donated to WildAid, a global wildlife conservation group.  Plus, these products aren't tested on animals, free of sulfates, parabens, and petrochemicals, and have won tons of beauty awards already.  You can even find them in beauty stores like Sally's and online at If all that wasn't awesome enough to get you up right now, the price point is just right at $10 for shampoo/conditioner and they are good sized bottles at 13.5oz. 

I have been using the Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner for a couple weeks now and love, love, love, the feel and texture of my hair.  I have wavy, thick hair and this product seems to smooth out the frizz. I feel like I don't really need a leave in conditioner anymore.  My hair feels plump, smooth, healthy, and surprisingly light. With all the cupuacu butter in there I thought for sure it would leave my hair heavy or weighed down.  But what I love the most is the aroma! When I opened the package they shipped in I was flooded by the familiar scent of Hawaiian Tropic sun tan lotion and Lord do I LOVE that smell! (Sometimes I put it on as lotion in the summer!!!) It's the hydrating conditioner!!! So every time I take a shower it's like I am washing my hair under a waterfall in Hawaii!  Yet, after washed out, the aroma is a slight lingering memory on your hair. It makes me smile! 

Given all this new product love, I can't help but share it with you!! You just have to try this shampoo and conditioner; so, I am giving a set away!!!  I know I am so excited too!!!! Here's how to earn a chance at winning:

1. Become a follower of (make sure to leave contact info) and/or
2. Comment about this giveaway on your blog (send me a link so I can check out your blog too!)

Giveaway enrollment ends October 30Th 2:00 pm Pacific Time and will be announced Nov 1st 2009.  One winner will be chosen at random to win one bottle of David Babaii Hydrating Shampoo and Hydrating Conditioner. Check in to see who the lucky winner will be, maybe YOU!!!