Archive for January, 2009

Carrot RisottoI was preparing a parmesan-carrot risotto (rice cooked with broth and sprinkled with cheese) as part of my family’s dinner recently and thought to myself, I wonder if my son (5 ½ years old) will like this, or even try it?  This was a new dish for us and even though he likes rice, carrots and sometimes cheese, combining them in this new way was likely to be met with a “no thank you.”  Characteristic of his age and given his personality, he is somewhat hesitant to trying new dishes. When it was done, he and his friend walked into the kitchen and I asked them if they would be taste testers and tell me what they thought of this risotto.  Both were eager to help and offer their opinions.  They tasted and then asked to taste more. They had almost a serving each and offered positive feedback about the dish, a little more parmesan cheese perhaps, just right on the salt and pepper, but otherwise it was good. 


Comparing this to how this new food experience typically would have gone had I just had it on the table at meal time for him to serve himself, the results would have been much different.  I realized that offering new food or dishes to my son as a “Little Food Taster” gave him the ability to try it out of the context of meal time and do what he does best, give me his opinion.  How refreshing for him.  Typically, he spends most of his time listening to me give him my opinions on what he is saying or doing – I call it parenting but he is likely to name it something else when he gets older.   Taking the new food experience out of the context of family meal time where power and control have been known to make an unwelcome appearance allowed my son the freedom to try and accept this new dish on his own terms.  


When feeding young children, the “how to” feed is of equal importance to the “what to” feed.  Helping your child become a competent eater is recognizing and respecting their approach to trying new foods within the boundaries you, the parent, have set for meal and snack times.  And, yes, he has asked for me to make it again.


Parmesan-Carrot Risotto Serves 4


2 cans (14.5 oz each chicken broth)

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

6 medium carrots, grated or 1 bag matchstick cut carrots

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1 ¼ cups long-grain white rice or Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese


Heat broth in a saucepan to a bare simmer over medium heat.


In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium.  Add onion and carrots; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in rice.  Add wine; cook stirring, until absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes.


Add 2 cups broth; simmer over medium low, stirring frequently, until mostly absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes.  Continue to add broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring occasionally, until absorbed before adding more.  Cook until rice is creamy and just tender, about 20 minutes (you many not use all the broth).  Remove from heat.  Stir in cheese and 1 tablespoon butter, season with salt and pepper, and serve.



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A piece of nutrition advice that I like to share with those who love cheese yet struggle with cholesterol or weight management issues is to buy high quality cheese with lots of flavor.  The richness of a small piece – a serving is 1 ounce or the size of 2 dominos, is all that you will need to get your cheese fix and keep saturated fat to a minimum. 


Some types of cheese come with a rind – or hard outer layer.  The job of the rind is to protect the cheese and help it develop flavor.  Rinds can be found on many cheeses, specifically parmesan, Stilton, and aged cheddar.  Most of us probably toss the rind after using the soft more edible part of the cheese.  Well given the cost of quality cheese and our shrinking budgets, save the cheese rinds – you paid for them!  Cheese rinds can offer much flavor to your cooking.  There are many uses for parmesan rinds which will add a cheesy essence and depth to your dish.  From soups to tomato sauces to risottos, adding a cheese rind while cooking is a best kept secret of Italian cooks.  Just toss the rind in and remove what remains of the rind before serving.  Some rinds have a wax coating on top of the rind which needs to be removed before adding it to your dish – parmesan does not.


I recently made this soup, which is made with a parmesan rind and the flavor is amazing – especially given that it contains no broth – just water, tomato puree and the rind!  This is a simple vegetarian soup recipe that offers a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.  I used rainbow chard with colors that are brilliant (pink, yellow, orange, red and white).  This soup freezes well, so don’t be afraid to double the recipe!  Freeze in single-serving containers that you can grab for your lunch.  The soup thaws as it keeps your other lunch items cold.


Acquacotta (vegetable soup) Acquacotta means “cooked water”

1 pound Swiss chard or kale

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

½ tsp. salt, or to taste

½ tsp. crushed red pepper, or more to taste

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 cup tomato puree

1 can cannellini or white beans, drained and rinsed


Rinse chard or kale in water.  Drain, stack leaves on cutting board and finely chop.  Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add onion, carrots and celery, and cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes, or until softened.  Stir in salt, crushed red pepper and tomato paste; cook 2 minutes.


Reduce heat to medium-low, add 8 cups water, tomato puree, Parmesan rind, beans, and chopped greens.  Cook, partially covered, 45 minutes, or until very thick, stirring occasionally; add more water if needed.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove rind.


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