Blogging is serious business!

Ok I had nooo idea how intense blogging has become -- and I'm speaking of food blogging, let alone all the other blogs out there on who knows what. This new discovery combined with my revisited trait of perfectionism is dangerous. Last night I couldn't sleep because I had ideas up ideas of how to have a perfect blog - beautiful design, need a much better camera, have to read about blogging tips etc. I was dreaming of better names for my blog, better recipes - better everything!  Leave it to me to make something like blogging so serious that I will have to drop out of this too (well I'm not really a 'drop out' but let's face it, I have toyed with the possibility of 'not facing the music' one too many times)
But this morning I woke up with a renewed feeling that my blog will and can only do its best - so friends...I will try and make this blog the best that I can make it. Lowered expectations always help.

Dinner of risotto and red wine

So for dinner last night I made a trusted favourite of mine - risotto! sooo easy and soo yummy AND with red wine! sounds funny to some people but the Italians do this so it must be right. I usually use white wine in my risotto - to keep the flavours light and fresh, especially when using seafood. With this risotto, the red wine provides a warm, deeper flavour and matches well with sauteed radicchio, fresh peas and/or borlotti beans - basically any rich, velvety vegetable or legume. Giada De Laurentiis (an Italian American tv chef) has a great recipe that I tweak a little depending on what I feel like. Risotto seems time consuming but it's one of those 'one pot wonders' - that isn't mushy and old fashioned. And it sounds so much more fancy than it is.

red wine risotto with grilled red peppers, portobello mushrooms and borlotti beans
serves 3-4 depending on how much you love it
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup red wine - use red wine you would drink and I prefer full-bodied reds
1 cup - chopped leek (use onion if you don't have any), carrots and celery
1/2 cup peas - use fresh if you can, frozen works just fine too
a few garlic cloves
freshly grated parmesan cheese
fresh dill
fresh parsley
2-3 cups (depending) of vegetable stock
1/2 cup borlotti beans (use canned if you didn't soak and cook them)

The vegetables
I use a bbq to grill red peppers and mushrooms - I grill them with a little olive oil and that's it. Use a hot oven or stovetop grill if you don't have a bbq. Remove skin from peppers and keep them aside for later.

The risotto
I start with keeping the stock on at a medium/low heat (use fresh stock if you have it, or bought if you don't). Then put a large enough pot on medium heat - with olive oil (1 - 2 tbsp) sweat onions, celery, carrots together for 6-7 minutes then add finely chopped garlic and cook for another 1 minute.

Add the rice and cook 2 mins until toasted a little (don't brown it). Add the red wine and let it get somewhat absorbed by the rice (2 mins or so), then add a little hot stock (one ladle of stock - don't worry about the exact amount, the rice will let you know when it's full!) Cook a few minutes until absorbed and then do the same at least two more times until the rice becomes creamy. At this point (just when the rice still has some bite) add in all the vegetables and the borlotti beans, add in chopped dill (to taste) and 1/4 cup parmesan.

Stir and add in the last bit of stock - cover 2 mins. Once finished, ladel out into big bowls, add more fresh parmesan, fresh black pepper and fresh chopped good. I promise you'll love it.

The first step to food...spice

Where to begin with food. I'm obsessed with spices...I don't mean a little obsessed I mean A LOT obsessed...I want to know about every spice in the world and what use they have in terms of health and taste, and what recipes they are used in. I like finding creative ways to use spices in more contemporary and non-traditional ways. I think this is a new trend in the chocolate world (eg.vosges chocolates) and it seems to be picking up in the world of pastry and desserts. There are books galore on the spice route (I find the history of the relationship between colonialism and spice quite fascinating) Spices have healing qualities and there is new research all the time proving the benefits of eating (or drinking) spice. Here are a few of my favourite little spice additions to everyday classics.

spiced up coffee 
recipe for one...just multiply recipe for more folks

1 cup of espresso
soy milk or whatever milk you prefer (everyone likes a different amount)
1/4 tsp cinnamon or cinnamon stick
a teeny weeny drop of ground clove or a whole clove
1/4 tsp cardamom - ground or pod

To start steep the spices in your milk over the stove or in the microwave (for the cheaters) and then add hot espresso...or for the quicker version, what I do is place the ground spices in a mug, add the hot milk and then pour (from high careful not to spill everywhere - this happens) the hot espresso. There you have it, hot and frothy spiced up coffee. Perfect to have with a fresh banana (my perfect compliment with its creamy texture against the spicy, hot smooth coffee) or morning muffin (muffin recipes to come soon - promise)

cardamom vanilla infused ricotta cream
recipe for 2
This is an absolutely easy and delicious (and even low fat!) alternative to cheesecake. I make this dessert often when I don't feel like heating up the house with my oven.

150-200g low fat ricotta cheese (basically a small little tub)
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp vanilla bean paste - use fresh vanilla bean please - if you don't have it than use real vanilla extract
2 tbsp sugar/something sweet - I use maple syrup sometimes or unrefined demerara sugar
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice and zest (this keeps it fresh)

Basically place all ingredients into bowl and whip with whisk or beater until all mixed. I don't like to have the ricotta too sweet as you can serve it with sweeter items.

some ideas...
Cut up some fresh fruits - mangoes, strawberries, kiwis (whatever might be in season where you live) or use frozen blueberries and other fruits if not in season. Let them defrost and place the ricotta cream on top. I crumble homemade biscuits (or graham crackers, granita cookies) on top and voila! delicious and healthy dessert.
You could also serve this ricotta with pancakes or crepes for a delicious accompaniment. What a yummy morning that would be...