Mr. Crumbs is a reformed picky eater. Yes, he still has his peculiarities, but since moving out to California and having a chef and former food & beverage director prepare Sunday night dinners for six years, he’s really broadened his horizons.
While he once hated tomatoes, he now favors tomato basil soup. He’s never been fond of fish, but he’s tried freshly caught salmon (literally) twice now this year, and even liked it enough to take more than one bite! Frankly, I’m quite proud of him for being a husband to tries my weird food experiments. He’s definitely a trooper, especially when they don’t turn out as planned.
The mushroom is one of those vegetables that seems to be trickier to prepare than others. It seemed like no matter how they were prepared – grilled, sauteed, baked, stuffed, raw – he didn’t like them. For all practical purposes, I gave up on mushrooms and stopped buying them unless they were REALLY cheap, and even then I was the only one who ate them.
As these type of stories typically go, one Sunday night dinner, my step-mom made risotto and my oh my, was it good! I recognized immediately that it had mushrooms in it, but Mr. Crumbs… well, not so much. He was too busy devouring the portion on his plate to even notice what the little grey things were. It wasn’t until later that night that I causally mentioned it to him.
Me: Hey babe… You don’t really like mushrooms, right?
Mr. Crumbs: Nope, not a fan.
Me: Did you know there were mushrooms in the risotto?
Mr. Crumbs: No, but that risotto was really good. I’d eat it again if Debbie [my step-mom] made it again. Even if it did have mushrooms.
Ladies and gentlemen, that was the go-ahead for me to once again attempt mushrooms at dinner. This time though, it would be via risotto.
A few weeks ago I came across a recipe for risotto with summer vegetables. Squash, zucchini and carrots were already coming in through the CSA box, so the only thing needed was Parmesan cheese and arborio rice. We picked up both of those that week, invited my parents over for dinner one night and made an AMAZING risotto. It got two thumbs up from everyone at the table, including the chef, the former picky eater and the up-and-coming picky eater (who apparently inherited the picky gene from her father).
While the risotto was delicious, I was quite bummed at how expensive the dish had quickly become. The rice was $2.50 for just 16 ounces, where jasmine rice at Costco is only 68¢ per pound. The Parmesan cheese – a key ingredient – was over $5 for a wedge that produced just over 1 cup of shredded cheese.
The rest of the ingredients were affordable, but all the little costs add up too, making this a fairly expensive dish that wasn’t intended on being the main attraction of the meal.
In an effort to reduce the cost a little bit on the dish, I started experimenting with different ratios of rice (a failure with 100% jasmine), different ingredients to impart additional creaminess (hurray for creamy cauliflower sauce!) and wondering just how much Parmesan cheese was REALLY necessary to still yield an amazing dish (not as much as you think!).
We tried different combinations of vegetables too, based on what we had in the house:
- yellow squash + Italian squash + carrots
- mushrooms + artichokes + zucchini
- carrots + broccoli + corn
The final result is a dish that is creamy, delicious, nutritious, packed with vegetables and best of all – affordable! I like to call it faux risotto, since it’s not made entirely with arborio and Parmesan like the traditional dish, but you can call it whatever you’d like. Our favorite name is “delicious.”
- 4 cups homemade chicken stock
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup diced onion
- 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 1 small yellow squash, sliced thinly
- 1 small zucchini, sliced thinly
- 1 medium carrot, grated
- ½ cup Arborio rice
- ½ white rice (we prefer jasmine)
- ¼ cup creamy cauliflower sauce
- ¾ cup fresh Parmesan, shredded
- ¼ tsp pepper
- salt to taste
- Measure stock into a medium pot and warm over medium heat.
- Prepare onion, mushroom, squash, zucchini and carrot.* Set aside.
- In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter with the oil. When the butter begins to bubble, add onion and stir to combine. Add mushroom and cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add all the rice at once and stir thoroughly, completely coating each grain in butter and giving them a chance to be toasted, about 1 minute.
- Ladle 1-2 cups of chicken stock into the hot rice and stir well. Keep heat on medium and continue to cook, adding stock slowly when the previous stock is absorbed, and stirring thoroughly after each addition. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes or so. If you need more liquid, add hot water or chicken stock if available.
- When the grains are just tender, but not completely done, add the remaining vegetables. Stir to combine and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add the creamy cauliflower sauce, Parmesan, pepper and remaining butter. Stir to just combine. Do not overstir.
- Taste the risotto and salt as needed.
Inspired by Simple Bites.
Additional Recipe Tips
If you’re slow at prep work, you’ll want to have all of your ingredients ready before you begin. Otherwise, chop and slice as you progress through cooking.
Feel free to substitute the squash, zucchini and carrots with whatever you happen to have. Be sure that the vegetables are complimentary in flavor, about the same size (so they cook evenly) and aim for about 3/4 cup of each.
Other substitution ideas include leeks instead of onions, finely chopped spinach and/or kale instead of carrots,
This is a great dish to use up any random vegetables you might have in the fridge or parts of vegetables you might not ordinarily use like the stalks of broccoli or rougher pieces of cabbage.
As written, this will make a nice main dish for a family of four when served with a side salad. You can double, or halve the recipe, as needed.
- homemade chicken stock: free
- onion: 25¢
- mushrooms: 50¢
- yellow squash: 25¢
- zucchini: 25¢
- 1 medium carrot, grated: 25¢
- 2 Tablespoons salted butter, divided: 12¢
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil: 10¢
- 3/4 cup diced onion (I like to use red): 20¢
- 1/2 cup Arborio rice: 63¢
- 1/2 cup white rice (we prefer jasmine): 17¢
- 1/4 cup creamy cauliflower sauce: 19¢
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan: $1.21
Total Cost for Faux Risotto with Summer Vegetables: $4.12
Remember, this price will change slightly depending on where you live and how you source your ingredients. Vegetables from the garden always cost less, and buying in bulk will help trim the total too.
Have you overcome any picky eater tendencies over the years? Is there a dish you love now, but used to hate? Share with us in the comments!
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