Grilled fall lamb and delicious risotto!

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The meal completed and ready for eating!

The meal completed and ready for eating!

Now I know that when you think of fall you don’t automatically think about grilling, right? But I’m here to tell you that fall is a wonderful time to grill. I don’t grill steaks and corn at this time of year, though that is always good. No, my grilling in the fall is more, well, fall-like, with fall inspired meats and recipes. The other night I made a perfect fall grilling menu that I’d like to share with my wonderful readers. It was simple and delicious highlighted by Mediterranean lamb loin chops, amazing asparagus risotto (made in the kitchen, not on the grill), and delicious grilled tomatoes (we still have plenty in our garden!). It was a memorable meal and I couldn’t wait to blog about it with all of you!

First marinate the lamb chops!

First marinate the lamb chops!

The first thing I did was marinate the lamb chops. I started with two bone in lamb loin chops. They are thick, meaty chops that respond quite well to grilling. I used 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and 2 tablespoons of herbs de province (this is an herb combo consisting of thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley, marjoram, lavender, tarragon and fennel seed). I let it marinate for about an hour in the fridge and then took the bag out of the fridge about 20 minutes before grilling to let the meat return to room temperature and the olive oil to turn back to liquid.

Heat chicken broth in the microwave!

Heat chicken broth in the microwave!

White and green asparagus ready for the pan!

White and green asparagus ready for the pan!

Olive oil and onions in the risotto pot!

Olive oil and onions in the risotto pot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So maybe you’ve heard that risotto is a really difficult thing to make? Well, let me tell you it’s definitely not, and I have figured out some cheats to make it even easier! Risotto is comprised of Arborio rice which is an Italian rice. What makes it so delicious is the fact that it’s really starchy, the secret to risotto is cooking it for a longish time and stirring it constantly to allow the starch to release. There is no cream in risotto, the creaminess is just chicken broth and stirring.

The first step in making risotto is to heat 7-8 cups of chicken broth in a pan on the stove. That is in addition to the risotto pan and I’m not into washing so many extra pans so that leads me to my first cheat. Instead of getting another pan out and heating the chicken broth, I measure out the broth and put the measuring cup in the microwave for two minutes on high. I keep it in the microwave until I’m ready to use it and then I get it out and ladle it into the risotto one ladle at a time. When I get to the bottom of the liquid in the measuring cup I add two more cups of chicken broth, put it back in the microwave and so on until I’ve added all the broth. The next thing you do is chop up a bundle of asparagus and put it aside until later. Then, take one large chopped onion, add it to a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil in the risotto pan and sauté until soft.

Rice, chicken broth and my risotto pan!

Rice, chicken broth and my risotto pan!

The next step is to add two cups of Arborio rice (the rice used to make risotto) to the risotto pan and sauté it for about a minute until it gets SLIGHTLY browned. I start by adding a cup of good dry white wine to the rice. Stir until it is absorbed. This is the point at which you start adding the chicken broth. As I said I use a ladle and add it to the rice one ladle at a time. Then, you stir stir stir! The good thing about that is you get a really great arm workout when making risotto! When the ladle of chicken broth is mostly absorbed into the rice, that’s the time to add another ladle of chicken broth. And that’s really about it, you just keep adding chicken broth and stirring until all the chicken broth is absorbed into the rice. I admit, it takes about 30 minutes for this to happen so it’s not an incredibly quick recipe but it is definitely worth the time it takes!

Just added the asparagus to the pan!

Just added the asparagus to the pan!

Here’s my next cheat: usually you would steam asparagus, again in a separate cooking vessel (another pan- yuck!), until it’s mostly cooked and add it to the rice at the end of the rice’s cooking time. However, I don’t do any of that, instead I just keep the asparagus raw and then I throw it into the risotto pan about 15 minutes before the rice is done and it ends up perfectly cooked; not too raw, not too mushy.

At this point I heat the grill to medium heat and quickly sear the lamb chops on each side for about a minute. Then, I grill them about 6 minutes per side and check them at that point. I’m looking for medium rare on the chops. When the chops have about a minute left I put some tomato slices with a little olive oil, salt and pepper on the grill. I also cut a lemon in half, add a little olive oil to the top of it and put it on the grill at the same time as the tomatoes.

There's the parmesan and the almost done risotto.

There’s the parmesan and the almost done risotto.

The very last thing to do is to add a tablespoon of butter and shave 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese into the risotto. Now this is not the time to use the Kraft parmesan cheese in a can. Only freshly grated parmesan will do and it’s not difficult at all, just hold the grater and the cheese over the risotto and go to town until you’re done!

Look at that plate of grilled loveliness!!!

Look at that plate of grilled loveliness!!!

You may be wondering what to do with the grilled lemon; I squeeze it over the lamb before serving. Grilling the lemon gives it a mellow quality that just adds to the flavor of the lamb perfectly. This meal made me so happy, it was warm and comforting, just what you need for fall, but the tomatoes and lemon still make it light and citrusy. So that’s my perfect fall meal with a Valerie twist to it. Let me know what your favorite fall meal is. I hope you try this meal, it will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

From Soup to Nuts, Soup’s got it all!

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You might be thinking, “why is she writing about soup in August?” Here’s the reason, because I LOVE SOUP! I eat it year round because it is so homey and satisfying. It is also a nutritional powerhouse IF you don’t eat or make creamy soups with no vegetables in them. Although I must admit that I like an occasional bowl of clam chowder, when I eat that kind of soup I make it my meal and I have a salad before I eat it so I get my vegetables in.

I have written in past blogs about how I use soup as an appetizer before meals to fill up and get my veggies in before my entrée comes, which is a healthy eating strategy that I love to utilize. But sometimes I love to eat soup as the main part of my meal. If I do I make sure that the soup has protein in it; that’s not the time for the vegetable barley for me. My favorite soup to make, though, is chicken and rice soup. It’s another recipe from my cooking mentor, my stepmom, who got it from her cooking mentor, her mom. It’s simple and delicious. I’m delighted to share it with you!

Ingredients assembled and ready to go!

Ingredients assembled and ready to go!

Chicken and Rice Soup (Don’t be scared, it’s easy!)

  • 1 whole chicken cut up
  • 1 onion cut into big chunks
  • 1 cup of celery also in big chunks
  • 1 cup of carrots again big chunks
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 8 cups of water, chicken broth, or some combination of the two
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (A departure from my stepmom’s recipe but I like a little heat. Don’t use if heat’s not your thing.)
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence, or fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley (mine came from the garden!)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
All of the ingredients in the pot and ready to boil!

All of the ingredients minus the rice in the pot and ready to boil!

Put all the ingredients in a large pot, minus the rice, and boil the chicken for an hour with a low, rolling boil. After an hour, use tongs to remove the chicken from the pot and put it on a plate. Reserve the contents of the pot. Add the cup and a half of rice to the pot and boil for another 30 minutes. Wait for the chicken to cool for at least 10 minutes before touching it because it’s HOT.

This is what it looks like after the chicken and other contents have boiled for an hour!

This is what it looks like after the chicken and other contents have boiled for an hour!

After the chicken has cooled, I use my fingers to pull the chicken apart from its bones and skin. My dogs enjoy the skin and other parts I don’t use in the soup, except for the bones.  Dogs shouldn’t eat chicken bones because they are very splintery and could choke them. Ok, back to the soup, after I get done “picking the chicken” as I call it, I put most of the chicken into the pot but not all of it because that’s too much chicken for my tastes. I save it and make chicken salad or use it to make chicken tacos, but use as much as you’d like. I let the chicken, rice, and broth contents simmer on medium low heat for another 30 minutes. You may have to add a bit more water or salt, pepper and herbs at that point but again, use as much or as little as you’d like.

 

Finished chicken rice soup minus carrots because I didn't have any!

Finished chicken rice soup minus carrots because I didn’t have any!

That’s all there is to it! I personally think it is even better the next day after the flavors have time to marry, but we can’t usually wait until the next day to eat this delicious soup. I serve it with a salad and grilled cheese on gluten free bread but you can eat it however you want! When I’m pressed for time I substitute the whole chicken for boneless skinless chicken thighs but if you do that remember to use all chicken broth instead of water so the soup broth has enough flavor.

I hope you enjoy this soup, and if you make it please comment and let me know how it turns out. Thanks so much to all who’ve read and commented on my blog in the past.  Eating soup is something I love and sharing it with you brings me so much joy. It’s another way to live a life of vitality- like Valerie!