Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ultimate comfort food done cheaply and healthfully!

I love risotto.  

And I have been making it for years based on Rachael Ray's recipe for "Sweet Pea Risotto".  Before I used to keep such a close eye on our food budget, I would happily buy whatever the necessary ingredients were to make it because it is so good and everyone loved it.  A short while back I was at the grocery, and balked at buying the $5 container of arborio rice that is normally used in risotto.  I wondered if a medium grain rice would work ok, and decided to try it with a cheap-o bag of Kroger medium grain rice.  As I understand it, arborio rice is a short grain, so I was trying to get close and only pay like 89 cents.

Home made veggie stock and cheap rice
I also make veggie stock, which means it is free instead of pretty expensive (most grocery stores do not put veggie stock on sale, just chicken and beef stock).  Veggie stock is SO EASY and cheap to make -- seriously, it is free if you just save your veggie scraps (including onion peels, mushroom stems, etc.).  I would be happy to show you how to make veggie stock, but this is about my risotto recipe.  You can use chicken stock if you prefer or if you happened to stock up during a recent sale at the grocery store.

Here is how you make healthy, hearty, feel-good, CHEAP AND EASY risotto:

Use your biggest skillet.  Or maybe the bottom of a soup pot if you don't have a big skillet.
1 onion diced small
3 carrots, peeled and chopped thinly -- saute these 2 over medium heat in a few tbsp of butter (or evoo if you prefer) for 5 minutes or so.  I err on the side of cooking a little longer so everything starts to get tender.
Almost 1 pound of rice (use arborio if you want, but the medium grain was SO cheap and turned out fine!). Toss it in the butter and veggies in your skillet so the grains are coated
Add your stock, 1 cup/large splash/ladle's worth at a time.  I poured mine into a saucepan and kept it on low on the stove so it would already be warmish and not cool down the pan each time I added it.
Important: you must be diligent to stir your mixture quite a bit as it absorbs.  That is how your risotto becomes creamy.  The rice sort of breaks down as you gently stir stir stir.  I found myself almost dancing as I stirred it last night.
It will take somewhere between 4-6 cups of stock.  Sorry to be inexact, but I did not measure it, just tasted it when my pan looked very full and I think I'd used about 5 cups.  RR's recipe calls for 6, but she uses the whole pound of rice.
3/4 cups of Parmesan cheese -- stir into the hot mixture, and it will melt nicely.  I even remove it from the heat to do this.  You can use the nice shredded kind if you got it on sale, but the Aldi canned Parm is the kind I used and it was still good. 
2/3 bag of frozen peas -- stir these into the whole shibang, until it looks like a good pea/rice ratio to you.  If you thaw the peas first on the counter or fridge, they will heat up quickly.

Sooooo savory and hearty!
The whole thing takes slightly over 30 minutes to make.  You DO have to babysit it as you add the stock, but it's not like you never can walk away.  I was entertaining a 15 month old the whole time.

Here are the reasons you MUST make this:

It is so goooooood! I have gotten this feedback multiple times from non-vegetarians.  Josh and Sus and I all gobble it up.

It is HEALTHY! Easy way to get lots of veggies into your dinner.  

It is CHEAP!  I calculated this cost under $4, probably closer to $3.  It makes a big panful that would easily serve a family of 4.

It is Hearty!!  Lovely for fall (yesterday was the first day of fall, but still 97 degrees here).  

It is true comfort food!!  The only thing more comforting is snuggling with your baby after dinner. . . on the beach, if possible. :)



Rebecca said...

No joke, Gretchen, I logged onto my blog today to do a post about my first attempt at making RISOTO!! Too funny!!

sara's art house said...

MMMMMMMMMMMmm that sounds so good. I am going to make some soon!