. . . is going very well here.
In these days of endless quarantine, we are finding hope in the small things. Like a cut-off celery bottom that, in water, sprouts. All credit to friend M.
When D and I started both having to work from home a few weeks ago (slash forever ago), it soon became abundantly clear that the single desk we had been using as a work space would not suffice for both of us. If I worked at the desk, he could sit in an armchair with his laptop, but he didn’t have access to his (hard-wired Cisco) work phone. If he worked at the desk, I felt unmoored and unhappy about not having a designated work space.
Enter three things:
- A new Chromebook to replace my tiny-screened and way outdated Macbook,
- A small TV we weren’t using and that D repurposed to become an external monitor for me, and
We reworked a corner of our bedroom to become my work space, and I am relieved and pleased about how it came out. Here are the Ikea pieces we used:
- Alex drawer unit ($79)
- Linnmon table top ($30)
- 2 Godvin table legs ($10 apiece)
- 2 Skadis pegboards — this one and this one ($17 and $15)
- various Skadis accessories, including the cups, a shelf, the lidded sliding containers, the hooks, the clips. the bar thingies, and the letter holder (various prices under $10 for multiples of each item)
I grabbed a lamp we were only sometimes using in the living room and a chair I bought (maybe also at Ikea) yeeeeears ago that was languishing in the basement.
And here is the result:
Making this risotto does involve a certain amount of patience. You can’t just dump everything in and leave it, as you can for this recipe or this one. This risotto is just so tasty and comforting, though, and has so many not-mushy vegetables in it (except the spinach, I suppose, which might be described as mushy). Plus, if you use a big pot, you can double the quantities and freeze some risotto for later.
Risotto Primavera | makes 10 cups
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 6-7 cups defatted chicken stock or canned chicken or vegetable broth
- 12 oz. fresh baby spinach
- 1 small yellow summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4 – inch slices
- 2 oz. snow peas, trimmed and halved
- 1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off, cut into bite-size lengths
- 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 2 Tbs chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan (or more to taste)
- 2 Tbs butter
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer.
Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft, 4 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the grains are translucent at edges but still opaque in the center, about another 3 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until absorbed, 1 minute.
Slowly add 1 cup of the hot stock to the rice. Stir and allow it to simmer. When liquid has been absorbed, add ½ cup stock. Continue to add stock to rice, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly until almost all the stock has been added, 15 minutes.
Add the spinach and stir. When it has wilted, add the snow peas, squash, asparagus and tomatoes. Continue cooking, adding the remaining stock in ¼ cup amounts, until rice is slightly creamy and just tender, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan, butter, parsley, and salt. Taste and season further with salt and pepper. Garnish with pine nuts.
Whatever your preferred plural second person is: Y’all, you guys, youse, yins: this meal is so easy and so delicious. The only think-ahead element is the marinade, but you’ll be happy to think ahead after you become familiar with how not-dry the chicken breast is and how very tasty the marinade-that-becomes-sauce is. Meanwhile, the cooking of everything except the sauce takes place in one oven, so you can do all kinds of things during the 25-minute cooktime.
In our house, for example, we’ve been spending time every single day for the last 16 days listening to my friend L read the first Harry Potter book chapter by chapter. L and I have known each other since 1989. The daily readings are via Zoom, but he is able to record them, so if we miss a day, we can catch up.
I’m old friends with Harry and the gang, but M, age 6, has never met them before, and finds herself totally drawn into the story despite her substantial fear of the scary parts. Tonight will be the final chapter of book 1 (HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone aka HP and the Philosopher’s Stone). We’ll see how M handles the big reveal and whether she wants to continue with book 2.
Honey Balsamic Chicken Breasts and Veggies | serves 6-8
- 3/8 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 Tbs honey
- 2 Tb Dijon mustard
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp table salt, divided
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 5 pounds chicken breasts
- 16 ounces baby potatoes, quartered
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 2 tsp corn starch
In a medium bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon, garlic, oregano, basil, 1 tsp salt, and pepper.
Place chicken in gallon size Ziploc bag and pour in the balsamic mixture. Refrigerate and allow to marinate for 30 minutes to 8 hours. Turn the bag over occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes and tomatoes with the olive oil and 1 tsp salt. Place mixture on baking sheets in a single layer. Remove chicken from the marinade and place on the baking sheet among the veggies, still in one layer.
Place the baking sheets in the oven and roast until the chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, about 25-30 minutes. Add the asparagus during the last 10 minutes of cooking time.
While chicken and veggies are roasting, empty the marinade into a small saucepan and add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until reduced by half. In a small bowl, mix the corn starch with 1/4 cup water and stir. Add the corn starch slurry to the saucepan. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the baking sheets from the oven. Move the chicken to a cutting board and slice it across the grain. Plate the veggies and add slices of chicken. Top with the sauce.
I made this up tonight, and it was good enough that I want to save the recipe — where better than here?
Instant Pot Southwest Chicken Stew | serves 10-ish
- 1 onion, chopped (The Chop Wizard can help, as always)
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- six ears’ worth of fresh corn removed from the cobs (or 2 cups frozen corn)
- 10 oz. baby spinach
- 1 14.5-oz. can (fire roasted) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 28-oz. can (fire roasted) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon cumin
- 2.5-3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Add all the ingredients except the chicken to the Instant Pot and stir. Lay the chicken on top in one layer. Close the instant pot.
Cook on high pressure for 7 minutes; then release the pressure. With pressure build and release, cooking time ends up being over half an hour. Open the lid and break up the chicken with a wooden spoon or a couple of forks. Taste and add salt and/or hot sauce if you like.
Serve with toppings, if so inclined. Put them all in bowls and pass them around the dinner (or lunch) table. Possibilities:
- sour cream
- shredded cheddar
- chopped cilantro
- diced avocado
- tortilla chips or strips
- lime wedges for squeezing