My favorite risotto recipe

My favorite risotto recipe

Risotto is a magical thing. The Italian dish is made up of some simple building blocks: rice, broth, cheese. Some butter, too, to ensure a creamy finish. But the truth is, it's not about all that dairy. The magic of risotto comes from slowly and attentively building flavor and broth into short-grain rice. 

I made this for a vegan in my family recently, stopping the process before I added the cheese, and even I was surprised by how creamy and complete the dish still tasted. 

The trick is to cook a particular type of rice, arborio, by adding a cup or so of broth at a time until the rice is cooked. That arborio is pretty crucial; it's the reason this recipe cooks the way it does. It's available in most grocery stores, so buy a bag and get to work on this dish. 

I can't stop making curries, like this chicken and sweet potato one

I can't stop making curries, like this chicken and sweet potato one

I. Can't. Stop. Making. Curry.

It might be because I just recently realized how easy it is to make the dish (a spice-filled, usually soup-like meal from India) at home. The secret is coconut milk and lots of fun spices and from there it is a fast train to curry town. 

My obsession with curries coincided nicely with two recent developments: I am slightly crazed this week pulling together the Tampa Bay Times' annual Top 50 Restaurants package, editing our food critic's words and salivating over all the straight gems on this year's list. AND, I tried out a new recipe delivery service called Sun Basket. 

One of the recipes in the basket was this chicken curry, which was so easy to make and so that I made it again using my own recipe here.

Turkey Meatloaf and Potatoes, and it all cooks on one sheet pan

turkeymeatloaf (2).jpg
turkeymeatloaf (6).jpg

You probably aren't making enough meatloaf. I definitely am not, and I can't figure out why.

Is it because of the weird school lunch stigma meatloaf still seems to carry? (Five points if you can still recite your school lunch menu. Shouts out to Cypress Springs Elementary, where it seemed like every day we ate "pizza, corn, green beans, ice cream and milk," as announced on our school's morning show.)

It can't be because it doesn't taste good, at least not the homemade version, because homemade meatloaf is delicious: a great way to eat a hamburger without the carby bun, a good thing to load with secret veggies, a fun way to get some protein into your diet. For god's sake, it's meat you cook in a loaf pan!

I made this turkey meatloaf recently, and was pretty surprised at how good it was. I cook with turkey meat all the time, but I'm not sure I've ever made a meatloaf with just ground turkey. Turns out if you load the sucker up with spices and flavorful veggies and Worcestershire sauce, it all works! I highly recommend adding it to your weeknight dinner roundup, especially because in this recipe, everything cooks on one blessed sheet pan. 

Click here for the full recipe.

A chocolate-hazelnut, champagne-sprinkle, coconut birthday cake

A chocolate-hazelnut, champagne-sprinkle, coconut birthday cake

Every year, I try to eat healthy after the caloric terror that is the holiday season, and every year my husband's January birthday comes around, and I go crazy making an elaborate layer cake. 

Okay, so that last part is a relatively new tradition, but it's one that you can go ahead and mark on the calendar from here until eternity because I am officially obsessed. There is a reason so many food bloggers and Instagrammers go all in on the cake aesthetic: MAKING CAKE IS SO FUN. 

This is the three-layered cake I made for the husband last night. Why three layers? Why the heck not! The first layer is this champagne cake from Molly Yeh plus some sprinkles I dumped in the batter; the second is a chocolate-hazelnut cake I came up with after consulting a bunch of similar recipes; and the top layer is a coconut cake also from Yeh that I have made four times in the past 12 months because it is so freakin amazing and coconuty.

A recipe for classic pita from scratch

It's been about a year-long love affair, between me and pita. Those warm, fluffy pockets of round breads that can be stuffed, smeared with toppings, or drizzled with olive oil and a boat load of Everything Bagel Seasoning. I adore it, in all of its many bready forms.  

As with most bread products you can make in your own kitchen, making pita is surprisingly straightforward. It's also just straight-up magic. After a dozen batches, I still don't fully understand how it puffs up and forms the pocket that is so crucial to good pita. 

And the flavor is shockingly fresh compared to the processed kind you buy in the store. 

Homemade Pita

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
½ teaspoon sugar
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine yeast and water in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and let that sit until it is kind of bubbly and frothy. This is a standard way to get yeast started for most bread products.

Add flour, salt and olive oil. Stir until you've got a shaggy ball of dough, then turn the dough out onto the counter and knead for about 2 minutes. At this point, it should be smooth.

Clean the mixing bowl, coat it with more olive oil, and put the dough back in it. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel, and let the bowl sit in a warm place for about an hour. (Room temperature is also fine, but heat helps the dough rise.) It should double in size.

After that time (you can also let the dough sit for much longer, if needed), punch down the dough, divide into 8 equal pieces, and form each piece into a ball. Place on a heavy-duty baking sheet covered in parchment paper and cover with the damp towel again. Let rise for 10 minutes, then form into flat, pitalike circles. Make them pretty thin.

Place the circles on the baking sheet (as many as will fit; you will likely need to repeat the process more than once) and bake in a 500-degree oven for 5 minutes. Pitas should puff up and become slightly crispy. Serve immediately or let cool and refrigerate, then rewarm in a 350-degree oven before serving.

This hearty, warm Turkey and Wild Rice Casserole takes no time at all

This hearty, warm Turkey and Wild Rice Casserole takes no time at all

Hello everyone!!! It has been a while. And while today is a Monday that feels particularly Monday-ey, Oprah was on TV last night preaching about how a new! day! is on the horizon and it inspired me to get on here and share a yummy casserole with you. 

I made this last night while watching the Golden Globes, which are like the Oscars but also give awards to TV shows and are usually much boozier and looser and fun. Most importantly, they feature a lot of celebrity, and if you know one thing about me, it is that I get very invested in celebrity culture. Shows like these make me giddy. And especially this one, which was all about female solidarity in the face of the recent #metoo movement. I yelled "YAYYYY" at the TV in an empty living room last night when Lady Bird won an award. (Have you seen Lady Bird yet?! Please go see Lady Bird ASAP.)  It was an empowering evening.

Build a cheese board for New Year's Eve

Build a cheese board for New Year's Eve

A cheese plate is an easy way to impress a crowd with very little effort. And it’s great fun to get out your largest serving tray and build a custom mix-and-match medley of finger foods.

That’s how I usually do New Year’s Eve, the wide variety of morsels a good fit for the grazing that happens from dinnertime till midnight. Plus, cheese goes great with bubbly.

Here are my recommendations for building a low-key yet delicious cheese plate you can put together quickly for New Year’s Eve noshing. 

Recipes for your Christmas Eve feast

Recipes for your Christmas Eve feast

My family doesn’t get into Christmas meal planning the same way we get into Thanksgiving preparations. But we do go nuts on Christmas Eve, assembling a smorgasbord of different indulgences and eating them throughout the evening.

There must be pigs in a blanket, mini hot dogs wrapped in Pillsbury biscuit dough, two things we never eat during the year but without which it would not be Christmas Eve. Also on the dining room table are chips with salsa and some sort of cheese dip, potato skins, meatballs or mini hot dogs simmering in a warm barbecue sauce, some sort of fruit or vegetable, a wheel of Brie melted with nuts and dried fruit, and loads of cookies.

Here are some suggestions for ways to make your Christmas Eve spread an all-out nosh fest.

Make Macaroni and Beef Casserole, share it with all your loved ones

Make Macaroni and Beef Casserole, share it with all your loved ones

It took about 10 minutes into making this recipe for me to realize that it was merely fancy Hamburger Helper. It is so what I need right now: warm, hearty, comforting. And it was easy to make, and didn't take a lot of time, which is great, because I have exactly zero of that until at least Jan. 1.

Also: It's a perfect thing to bring to any Christmas gathering you may be going to in the next few days. It’s not the healthiest thing in the world, but it is completely homemade down to the cheesey sauce, and that counts for something. Come on, we’ve got all of January to promise to eat more vegetables.

Every ingredient is crucial here, from the green pepper to the dried Italian spices to the cubed cheddar cheese. Serve it with a nice big spinach salad to counteract the heaviness of the cheese. Definitely don't wash it down with a handful of Christmas cookies. That is not something I did. Nope.