July 30, 2009

Cooking During a Recession & Eating Black Truffle Risotto

The only food blogging session at the BlogHer conference last weekend was about food blogging during a time of recession, which I didn't attend but read online. At dinner on Friday night, Elise of Simply Recipes asked a few of us what we would like to hear about during the discussion. I couldn't really answer, because I don't have a strict budget for food. I splurge when it comes to eating. It's pretty much the only thing I really spend money on. In fact, I made black truffle risotto for a weekday meal last week (recipe below).

Black Truffle Risotto

But, if black truffles aren't in your food budget (they are not in mine either; one was given to me by a friend) or you don't have time to stir risotto, you don't have to sacrifice when it comes to eating well. All you have to do is plan your meals, shop smart, and take just a tiny bit of extra time to prepare healthy, tasty dishes for you & your family.

1. Stay away from pre-packaged meals and those meal-in-a-box things. They are expensive! It really doesn't take that much longer to make your own. For example, instead of buying that boxed mac -n-cheese, simply boil & drain some macaroni. Return it to the pan with a bit of butter, a handful of shredded cheddar cheese, and a splash of milk. Stir until the cheese is melted. That doesn't take any more time than making the boxed stuff. It's so good...and so much better than powdered cheese sauce.

2. Buy whole chickens & cut them into pieces yourself. Freeze parts to use later. Or, better yet, roast the whole chicken & use the leftover meat for a second meal (soft tacos, maybe). Not into chopping & roasting? Try chicken thighs...they are less expensive yet more delicious than boneless/skinless breasts.

3. Buy fresh veggies. If you only grocery shop a few times a month and worry about fresh food spoiling before you use it, buy frozen veggies instead. They are both better tasting--and cheaper--than canned.

4. Canned beans are fine to use, as is canned tuna & tomatoes. Jarred marinara sauce is okay, too.

5. Make soups or baked dinners (and bake bread) on the weekend, then eat them during the week.

6. Use a crockpot. Fill it before you go to bed, store in the fridge overnight, then in the morning set it to cook while you're at work. There is nothing better than coming home to find dinner ready & waiting for you! Check out A Year of Slow Cooking for recipes.

7. Encourage your kids to eat what you're eating. It gets pricey making separate meals for picky kids. If you have small children who are just eating solid food, start them out eating real foods (steamed & mushed veggies) instead of baby foods.

8. Most importantly, cook as a family. Make dinner time a special time that you spend together. It will make cooking seem less like a chore. Give your older kids a night each week when they have to plan & cook a meal.

Or, if you're like me...believe that since there is nothing more important than the foods we eat and feed to our loved ones, it is worth time and money to give them the best meals you can make. This is why I made black truffle risotto for Jerad last week. He is worth my time.

Black truffles smell rich and only slightly earthy...like chocolate.

Black Truffle Risotto

4 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small white onion, finely diced

1/4 teaspoon truffle salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup risotto rice

1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)

1 black truffle, thinly sliced

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated *

* It's imperative that you use a good quality Parmesan that you grate yourself. Don't skimp here. Homemade chicken stock is nice, too (and easy to make if you save those chicken bones!).

  • Heat the stock in a sauce pan over medium heat until simmering.
  • Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion, truffle salt & pepper and cook onion until soft, stirring frequently. You don't want them to brown at all.
  • Add the rice and cook until all grains are coated with oil. Deglaze with the white wine and cook until evaporated.
  • Add in ½ cup of the hot stock. Stir until the rice absorbs the stock. Add another 1/2 cup of stock and cook, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Keep adding & stirring until the risotto is cooked through & the sauce is thick.
  • Remove the rice from heat. Stir in half of the cheese.
  • Garnish each plate with truffle slices & a sprinkling of Parmesan.
Black Truffle Risotto

Black truffles are also delicious shaved (with a Microplane) and mixed into soft scrambled eggs.


Little Ms Blogger said...

I recently saw an ad for hamburger helper. A mother was driving through a fast food drive-thru and the hamburger help hand told her to go home and cook a great HOME COOKED meal using hamburger helper.

OMG. I was annoyed and actually caught myself saying Really? Hamburger Helper is what people think is home cooking?

Luckily, my hubby walked into the room before I went further.

a.eye said...

Good tips.

And I agree with Little Ms Blogger -- it seems that television commercials, magazine ads, and internet ads are making people think that buying some prepackaged foods adding one or two "fresh" ingredients and then heating it up is considered home cooking. And a lot of times, they claim it is healthy despite the high sodium contents and all the other bad ingredients needed to preserve the food in its cardboard/plastic/foil.

KBO said...

That's some faulty Sandra Lee logic.

I'm a fan of growing your own food. Seeds are cheap. Tomatoes are plentiful.

KELLY said...


I know!

I saw a commercial for a chicken & rice meal-in-a-box and all I kept thinking about is how frickin' easy (and so much cheaper!) it is to make chicken & rice in a skillet without that box. And it takes no more time to do.