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After eight months of daring baking, Thanksgiving, a Christmas party, gallons of cream, pounds of chocolate, and bricks of butter, I had to take a cold look at my jeans I was having trouble buttoning.  No, the jeans weren’t shrinking in the wash – it was the almost 8 pounds I have gained in the past year.  So, I, along with millions of others, decided to shed those extra pounds this new year.

I dusted off my old Weight Watchers cookbooks and decided to try this recipe from In One Pot, a surprisingly good cookbook for those trying to lose weight while still wanting to cook with real ingredients (translation: nary a condensed cream of anything soup to be seen).  I decided to try this orzo recipe since it is similar to a mushroom risotto I blogged about a month or so ago.  Orzo is an easy alternative to the constant stirring risotto requires. 

CREAMY ORZO WITH CHICKEN AND MUSHROOMS
Adapted from Weight Watchers In One Pot
Yield 6
1 C. serving = 5 points

1 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 minced garlic clove
3/4 lb fresh shiitake, crimini or baby bella mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced
1/3 C. dry sherry
2 C. low-fat milk (1%)
4 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 C. cooked orzo
10 oz. cooked chicken breast
1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in large non-stick skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly brown, about 4-5 minutes.  Add sherry and cook until it evaporates, about 1 minute.

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Combine milk, cornstarch , salt, pepper and nutmeg in  a bowl until smooth.  Add the milk mixture into the skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture bubbles and thickens, about 3 minutes. 

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Stir in the orzo and chicken.  Cook, stirring occasionally until heated through for several minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the parsley. 

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It was been raining steadily all day and I’ve been in the mood for risotto.  Done properly, risotto can be stick-to-your-ribs good and perfect for a dreary day like today.  I came across this recipe in the RSVP restaurant recipe section of the November 2008 Bon Appétit (one of my favorite features in the magazine).  The recipe calls for fairly basic ingredients, all of which make for a classic risotto.  I liked the idea of pairing it with fish since fish always seems like a good idea to me. 

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I used oyster and shiitake mushrooms for this recipe.

Striped Bass with Mushroom Risotto (adapted from San Diego’s Quarter Kitchen’s recipe in Bon Appétit)
yields 4

Mushroom Risotto
6 C. low salt chicken broth
1/2 C. (1 stick) butter, divided in half
3 + 3 Tbs. shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
12 oz. assorted wild mushrooms (chanterelle, crimini, or shiitake)
1 3/4 C. arborio rice
1 C. dry white wine
1/3 C. chopped Italian parsley
1/3 C. Parmesan cheese (plus more to taste)

Fish
3 Tbs. olive oil
4 5 oz. striped bass fillets

Simmer broth in medium saucepan and keep warm.  Melt 1/4 C. (1/2 stick) of butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 3 Tbs. shallots, garlic, and the mushrooms.  Sauté until mushrooms are soft (about 10 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper.

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Melt 1/4 C. (1/2 stick) in another heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add 3 Tbs. shallots, sauté until soft, about 2 minutes.  Add rice and stir for 1 minute. 

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Add wine and stir until almost dry, about 4 minutes.  Add 1 C. warm broth and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 2 C. broth and simmer 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 2 C. broth, mushroom mixture, parsley, and 1/3 C. cheese.  Simmer until creamy and rice is tender, but still firm to bite, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Meanwhile, set oven on broil.  Add oil to ovenproof skillet on high heat.  Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper and cook, skin side down until skin is crisp (about 4 mintues). 

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Transfer skillet to oven and broil about 6 inches from heat for about 4-6 minutes until fish is cooked through.

Serve risotto with more parmesan cheese to taste and top with fish.  I drizzled with risotto with a truffle olive oil – mmmm.