Whiskey Mushroom Risotto *Updated with Photos*

Guys, last night, I made something pretty fantastic. I did not take any pictures because I wasn’t sure it would turn out well (and then once we knew it turned out well, we were too busy scarfing it down to pause for artistry). I promise to update this with pics the next time I make the dish — which will probably be pretty soon since my husband loves Mushroom Risotto.

Usually when we make risotto, I saute the mushrooms in red wine and butter the way my mama taught me (with a nice large glass for myself, of course). Last night, we were out of Red. I had an opened bottle of White I usually use in soups and such, but it struck me that we have a full liquor cabinet that gets almost no cooking love from us at all. I made the off-handed suggestion of trying whiskey in place of wine, to which my husband enthusiastically agreed. He set about stirring that risotto like a champion, and I tasted my options and settled on Eagle Rare for this dish.

There’s only the barest hint of grains on the tail end of the dish, enough to notice but not enough to overwhelm. The whiskey mixes deliciously with a pinch of thyme and the melted butter, and gets absorbed at the last minute by the fat risotto grains. Even if you don’t like drinking whiskey (I personally am not a fan), give this dish a try!

Whiskey Mushroom Risotto – serves 4

1 tbs Olive Oil
1 cup Arborio Rice (Risotto)
3 cups Chicken Broth
2 tbs butter
2 shots of whiskey (I used Eagle Rare, but a cheaper brand would probably work just as well)
1 package Sliced White Mushrooms
1 tsp Dried Thyme
Pinch of Kosher Salt and Fresh-Cracked Pepper

  1. Heat olive oil in sauce pan over Medium. Add the risotto and saute ~2 minutes, until they start to turn golden.
  2. Add 1 cup of broth, stirring constantly until all absorbed. Add another cup of broth. Continue until all broth has been absorbed.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in saute pan over slightly more than Medium (but not quite Medium-High).
  4. Add whiskey and mushrooms. Toss to coat.
  5. Saute 3-4 minutes, until mushrooms start to soften.
  6. Add thyme, salt and pepper. Continue sauteing until mushrooms are soft and brown, ~3-4 more minutes.
  7. Pour mushrooms and remaining sauce over the risotto. Stir until liquid mostly absorbed. Can garnish with a sprinkle of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese and sprig of fresh thyme.

*NOTE: If you can get yourself a risotto-stirrer, it makes everything so much easier. In the past, my husband and I have traded off turns stirring, but this time he did it the entire time like some sort of Herculean hero, and it was amazing. For me. He complained of a sore arm, but I was too busy enjoying our culinary masterpiece to pay attention.

My risotto stirrer hard at work

I should probably learn how to plate better

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And Now the Apartment Smells Like French Fries

So there’s a cold going around, because it’s that time of year. Also because some people like to show up at work and cough and sneeze and touch everything and moan about how they hope no one else gets this cold because it’s just awful.

I’m not bitter.

I just have a sore throat and my nose is runny. But I’ve been assured if I picked up the office cold, it would have happened before now. Because I mean, it’s been three whole days since they were really feeling badly.

Regardless of the culprit, despite the day randomly feeling like spring instead of January, I needed soup. Loaded up with carrots and turmeric and ginger, just in case it *is* possible to catch a cold from someone three days after the fact.

We’ve recently changed our diet at home, because one of us needs to try out the FODMAP elimination diet and the other is spectacularly supportive. So coming up with a healthy, anti-cold soup without using my usual go-to ingredients like garlic and onion presented a challenge.

Because of the low-FODMAP diet (basically, we’re temporarily cutting out simple carbs/sugars, but we’ve also had to cut out a lot of spices, dairy, wheat…like pretty much everything) we’ve started eating more potatoes (and eggs, if you’re wondering what else is left). Therefore, my husband recently learned how to peel and chop potatoes. He loves when I let him help in the kitchen, so, as I was feeling scratchy and stuffy and not-happy, I figured our soup would be potato-based and set him to carefully cubing potatoes. We threw in carrots and celery, along with a bunch of turmeric, ginger, and a few other spices I know are easy on the tummy (at least in small little sprinkle-quantities). I “cheated” and sauteed a crushed clove of garlic in olive oil for about a minute before removing the garlic and adding the rest of the veggies. Obviously, this would be great with minced garlic and chopped onions, so feel free to add along with the other veggies.

Low-FODMAP Cold-Fighting Potato Soup:

Ingredients:
3 large brown potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots (or about a dozen baby carrots), peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed with the flat side of the knife
olive oil, for sauteeing
Salt and Pepper
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
Turmeric
Ginger
Oregano
Basil
juice of 1/2 a lemon

  1. In large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat olive oil over M heat. Add garlic and saute about 1 minute, until fragrant. Remove garlic and discard.
  2. Add vegetables. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Saute until slightly golden, about 7-10 minutes.
  3. Add the broth and water. Bring to a boil. Stir in generous sprinkles of turmeric and ginger, and pinches of oregano and basil. Cover and reduce heat to M-L.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until all veggies are soft.
  5. Stir in lemon juice.
  6. Remove from heat and puree smooth, in a blender or with an immersion blender. Return to pan and heat through.

This could be good with a generous pinch of cheese on top. We stirred in avocado chunks into our individual bowls, which was delicious, too. And, it reheats well for lunch the following day — always a plus in my book!

Bonus: all those browning potatoes will leave your apartment smelling like French fries, in the best possible way.

Salty Meatballs

It sounds inappropriate, but it’s what I just told the head of security at my office I was going to eat. Which yes, was inappropriate, but I did not mean to say it out loud. I meant to just say lunch. This is why I try not to interact with people.

Following this Pinterest recipe kick, I decided to make Salisbury Steak Meatballs last night. I went to the grocery store without my husband, which (depending on how you look at it) was a huge mistake. I got everything on my list…and then a bunch of snacks (because 2/$3 cracker snack packs was a great deal…and because I was freaking hungry, man!).

I got home and got ready to make this tasty-looking dish, only to remember I didn’t get potatoes to mash for a side. I kind of did that on purpose ’cause I wasn’t really feeling like cooking potatoes, but I still felt all “aw, man” when I realized I’d want some sort of starch. My husband was not feeling great (and has had horrendous experience with ground beef in the past) so he opted for a rice-and-Chick’n nugget-burrito instead. Therefore, I made him cook extra rice. Problem solved.

The meatballs turned out pretty spectacular. Side question: why is meatloaf pretty gross, but tiny meatballs made with condiments and spices are not? My best guess is because tiny food is always awesome (it’s adorable and you can justify eating a TON). Basically, it’s science.

Anyhoo, I turned to making the gravy only to realize I don’t have any cornstarch. I feel like that’s a lie because I really hate cornstarch, therefore I’m super aware that it’s in my cupboard. It’s weird to me that something powdery can create such friction on your fingers when rubbed together, and now I’m giving myself a minor seizure just thinking about how to describe it SO needless to say, I know about cornstarch. It sits with my baking stuff and laughs at me when I need it for cookies or whatever. I get a weird burst of triumph when I throw out a box. I think I would have remembered such an occasion.

Sadly, I couldn’t find it. I suspect my husband went on one of his raids to throw out all the expired food in our home and tossed it, which is rude because he stole my moment and also didn’t let me know I had to buy more of the stupid stuff.

I could have asked the Google for other suggestions to thicken up gravy, but I decided to just add a cup or so of water to the recipe and toss in a heaping handful of egg noodles. Because they make starchy water, right? It kind of worked, too. It was pretty thin gravy, but still a decent sauce so I’m counting it as a win.

Where I went wrong: I told my husband I didn’t need anything in the dishwasher before he ran it. I knew things like measuring cups/spoons were in there, but I was feeling superior about my eye-balling skills (especially after that fantastic soup turned out so well). Word to the wise: DO NOT TRY TO EYEBALL 1/4 TSP OF SALT. Or 1 tbs of Worcestershire Sauce. Especially if you are the type to err on the “little more than necessary” side like me. Because I way overdid it on salt and sauce and it made everything a bit salty. This is coming from a gal who loves salt. Pretty much anything “salted” is better than not. Still, I was chugging water with this dish.

Otherwise, the meatballs were tender and juicy and delicious, and the noodles were a nice (ingenious — if I do say so myself) addition. Again, the recipe I butchered can be found here. I would highly recommend trying it out — just be sure to measure that salt appropriately! 😉

 

P.S.: In case you were concerned about a minor plot point — My husband way overdid it on the rice. I was a sport and ate a bowl of straight up rice (partially to neutralize all the salt) but there was still so. much. left. I now know to be more specific when asking him to cook “extra” rice.

 

Stoplight: A Snapshot

 

The light clicks from yellow to red.

A mud-splattered truck stops short at the line, its driver blaring Lynyrd Skynyrd. He openly scopes out the blonde in the Jetta beside him. She pretends not to notice as she taps out a mortified text to her BFF of the week. Behind her, a balding businessman strums his fingers along the dashboard of his leased Mercedes and frowns at his knock-off watch. The ’06 Subaru next to him rocks with four teen boys’ motion as they take turns playing air drums and ironically head-banging to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off,” while the dusty new Honda behind them houses a woman’s quiet sorrow. Tears roll over her chin as she sobs silently into the steering wheel.

The light turns green. The snapshot becomes a picture in motion.

The truck engine revs.

The Jetta driver drops her phone into the passenger seat.

The business man reaches for the shifter only to remember he now drives an automatic.

The boys burst into the intersection with shouts of laughter.

And the woman drags a hand down her cheeks, blows out a heavy breath, and swallows the rest of her pain.

Until the next stoplight.

Mockingbird

“I was like a well trained pianist who knows which note to hit, but can’t make the music his own.”
― David Benioff, City of Thieves

I’ve come to discover I’m something of a mockingbird. My art is often more mimicry than original.

My funniest moments usually entail bringing up something that has already been deemed hilarious, the memory even funnier in a new context. I have decent comedic timing and quick wit, but most of my jokes are not my own.

I’ve noticed it in my writing, too. My personality is a bit obsessive so once I get into a show or a book I can’t stop until I’ve absorbed it entirely. I start thinking in terms of the story, using similar vocabulary and diction as the characters, and when I try to write my own stories, this mimicry flows through.

I got the full series of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman for Christmas one year, and I wasn’t halfway through the box-set before my characters were using words like “ma” and finding rugged, outdoorsy ways to occupy their time. While reading Robin LaFevers’s His Fair Assassins trilogy, my own writing stopped using contractions and took on the elevated diction of a medieval noble.

Usually upon editing I can get back into my own character’s heads, my own story’s voice, and I can make the necessary word adjustments to return to my own style.

There are a few writers whose actual style lingers deep in my subconscious, though. Mark Zusak (The Book Thief, I am the Messenger) is probably my favorite. Every so often, I’ll write something oddly poetic, and I’ll have a burst of gratitude for Zusak and his impeccably beautiful prose.

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Mark Zusak, The Book Thief

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And like a child watching her world with awe-filled eyes, I am easily shaped by the words and experiences I’ve immersed myself in. I only hope I will continue to tug out my own, original voice from the web of adoration I gladly weave around myself with each new book, with each beloved movie.

The Painful Joys of Writing: Oblivion

Writing is both cathartic and stressful. In my mind, I see a story unfold or envision an excellent conversation or picture a vivid scene, but when I’m ready to translate the images into words, many times I end up frustrated with the result.

But there are times, glorious times, when the perfectionist in me can let go. I draw a blank–literally, a blank on the page–to be filled in later, I’ll put big question marks over something I’m not sure of or at the end of an awkwardly worded sentence and just move on. My writing picks up and the world melts away.

I ran cross country in high school. (Stay with me–this is related). It was hard and painful and I told myself and my parents and coaches and friends that I did my best but honestly, I’m not so sure I ever did. My brain and my lungs and my legs were all like “yep, that’s all I’ve got,” but looking back, I don’t think my heart got there. See, everyone talked about this idea of a “Runner’s High,” where a person pushes herself beyond the pain and the struggle and the fatigue and suddenly, it all disappears. I never broke through that wall with running. I ran for a lot of reasons and a lot of people; I ran with the varsity team during several meets my sophomore year and all of junior year, I medaled at a meet (once), and I did push through shin splints and stiff knees and sore ankles, but it was never for me. I never ran just for myself, and so I never really experienced that promised high.

I get it with writing. My hand cramps up and my eyes strain and my back aches and my neck pops. But I keep going, sinking further into the words coming out of me, the life swirling inside of me, until there’s nothing and no one but my characters. My handwriting turns nearly illegible, or my typing is filled with those obnoxious red squiggles, but perfection can wait as the letters and words tumble out faster than my fingers can form them.

When this happens, time has no meaning. I’ve sat at a desk for six hours after work without noticing the sun setting. I often have to be jarred out of this trance-like state if there’s any hope for me to rejoin the land of the living in a timely manner. And don’t expect me to be pleasant if I’ve been pulled away just when my story is flowing well. In general, it is usually better to let me taper off.

My husband is getting very good at this. There have been times when he’s come home to me furiously typing or scribbling and I’ve told him there’s no dinner and I’m not sure when there might be (side note: I’m the cook in the family. He can boil up some rice like nobody’s business, sure, but dinner is my forte). He’ll remind me I need to eat, too, before going across the street for sandwiches. Then he’ll return, gently trying to coax me away to eat something. I tell him just a little bit longer and I’ll grab something. The next thing I know, all the lights are off and the apartment is silent and it’s past midnight, and I’ve completely forgotten that I was supposed to eat.

I’ll show up at work the following morning bleary-eyed and ravenous, but the worst part will be struggling to pick up the fast-unraveling thread of a story from the night before. Too often, it slips through my stiff, swollen fingers.

But the promise of another Writer’s High keeps me going. Because I’m doing this for me. And nothing energizes my spirit like a solid night of bleeding my story onto the page.

The Painful Joys of Writing: Introduction

I am a writer.

Can I just say that one more time? I am a writer.

I have a hard time owning that statement, probably because in the eyes of the world, I have nothing to back it up. When a stranger asks “what do you do?”, I freeze before mumbling some nonsense about property management and commercial real estate. It always comes out like an apology, like I’m sorry for wasting their time with my dull answer. Really, I think I’m apologizing to myself for lying.

Because I’m a writer. I write. Constantly. I’m in my head most of the day and all of the night. I put words on a page almost every day, usually the old fashioned pen-and-paper way.image

I craft worlds and nurture characters and explore life’s questions. When I’m stuck–when I hold a pen and my mind is blank–I feel like my soul is dead. Panic sets in and I start to sink into the depths of despair. Writing is that all-encompassing for me.

Sure, I get paid to sit in an office and make sure the lights are on in people’s workspaces. I type up service contracts and submit invoices for payment and answer phones.

But property management doesn’t consume me. It doesn’t make me get up in the morning (if anything, it makes me snuggle deeper under the covers). It doesn’t drive me. So why do I let it define me when answering the age old “what is it you do?” question?

Probably because I know the follow up question would be “Oh, what do you write?” or “Anything I might have heard of?”. And the answer to the first would lead to the terrifying scenario of me describing my current work-in-progress the only way I can: in the lame, detached voice one must use to protect the core of her heart from unnecessary exposure. The answer to the second would end the conversation abruptly with a self-deprecating “not yet,” which is far more preferable than shouting “I’M WORKING ON IT!” even though that’s the real answer. Like, relax world, I’ll get your stupid validation eventually.

But I’ve made up my mind to own who I am: I’m a writer. Maybe I’ll be published someday, maybe I’ll only write stories for myself, but regardless, I write. It’s what I do.image

And now, in answer to those follow up questions, I guess I can say I have this blog. Even if it only has one reader (hi, Mom).