Pause for screeching as my real life kids, "I'm HUNGRY!" and "I HATE SQUASH!", clamor for food NOW, followed by the sound of something crashing that will probably take a dustpan, vacuum cleaner, tub of Clorox Wipes and a double time-out to clean. Risotto, I love you, but it ain't happening tonight.
So when I received Debbie Koenig ("Words to Eat By" blogger)'s new cookbook: PARENTS NEED TO EAT TOO: Nap Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals, and Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents (William Morrow), I was thrilled to see "Zucchini and Spinach Risotto" listed among dozens of other delicious sounding "Quick Suppers," "Nutritious Nibbles" and slow cooker recipes I can't wait to try. Now, I'm not exactly a new parent (G is almost 11, R is almost 6). But I still want to have my risotto and my sanity, too - I'll take any time-saving tips I can. The publisher invited FFUD to participate in their Blogger Cooking Party - asking me to try a recipe and write about it, and in return they will send a lucky FFUD reader a free copy. A win-win-win!
How did it go?
First of all, I'm the kind of mother who cheers "Antioxidants!" whenever a kid takes a bite of a leafy green vegetable. So the fact that the recipe calls for 2 whole zucchini and half a bag of spinach made me cheer from the get-go.
Second, it calls for a cup of wine, which meant I had to open a bottle and pour myself a glass while I was at it.
Third, it says to prep everything and then put it in the pot and...step...away...from...the...risotto. No stirring! For almost 20 minutes! Well, good god, what am I suppposed to do with myself in that time? I put in a load of laundry, sorted the groceries, helped my kids write out Valentine's cards, and sat down and sipped my wine. This could not get any better!
The only risk was that Little Miss "I HATE SQUASH" would protest about all that zucchini but I had a feeling it would melt into the dish, and it did. The verdict?
G (almost 11): "This is very good. Creamy, cheesy, yummy!"
R (almost 6): "Best dinner ever" (Don't tell her she ate squash).
DH (dear husband, between bites): "Mm. This is good."
Me: Lovey eyes for everyone!
PARENTS NEED TO EAT TOO promises a lot: delicious, nutritious dishes that are easy to make, and that adults and kids will enjoy eating, and this dish totally delivers. After 10 years as the head cook of my house I am still somehow stymied every night by what to make. Searching online for recipes is a gamble. I can see myself starting my search between the pages of this cookbook, instead.
Want a chance at a free copy? Throw your hat in the ring here - post a comment about what cooking is like for you, and I'll enter you into a drawing. Or, you can buy you, your sister and your best friend, a copy here. If you purchase before Feb 21 you get access to bonus recipes online.
Zucchini and Spinach Risotto(from Parents Need to Eat Too, by Debbie Koenig)
Serves 4 to 6Yes, you can make risotto with a baby in the house! Here’s a little secret: Risotto doesn’t
actually need to be attended to like, well, a baby, with you hovering over the stove,
adding liquid in stages, and stirring, stirring, stirring. Heresy, perhaps, but wouldn’t you
rather eat a creamy, satisfying bowl of inauthentic risotto than yet another frozen pizza?
1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium zucchini, shredded
Half a 5-ounce bag of baby spinach, roughly
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Arborio rice
4 to 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth,
vegetable broth, water, or a combination
1 cup white wine or vermouth
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Stage 1 (10 minutes)
1. Prepare the shallot, garlic, zucchini, and spinach.
2. Put each in a separate bowl, cover, and refrigerate.
Stage 2 (15 minutes)
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the
shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the zucchini and
a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until zucchini has released most of its liquid
and almost all liquid has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. If it will be more than two hours before you cook again, cover pan and refrigerate. If
not, it’s OK to keep at room temperature, covered.
Stage 3 (25 to 30 minutes)
1. Heat the broth or water until nearly boiling (I usually do this in the microwave).
2. Return pan with the zucchini mixture to the stove, and heat over low heat. If mixture
looks dry, add a glug of olive oil.
3. When mixture is heated through, raise heat to medium and add the rice. Cook,
stirring frequently, until each grain is coated with oil and rice begins to make a
4. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has been
absorbed, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of the broth or water all at once, and bring
to a boil. If you’re using plain water, add
1⁄₂ teaspoon salt; if using broth, don’t salt
at this point.
5. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until rice is almost tender,
15 to 17 minutes. Toward the end of this time, chop the basil (it will turn black if
chopped too early). When the rice looks moist and creamy but not soupy, add the
basil and the chopped spinach (a handful at a time) and stir until spinach is just
6. You want to maintain that creamy-not-soupy consistency, with rice that is just slightly
firm in the center, so add some of the remaining broth or water if needed.
7. Remove from heat, stir in the butter and Parmesan, and season with salt if desired.
MAKE BABY FOOD: Texturally this one’s ideal, just as it is. There is alcohol in the
recipe but most of it will have cooked off. I did feed this to Harry when he was a
baby, but that’s a decision each family must make on its own.