Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quiche: Delicious and Nutritious, and Dairy-Free!

Here's me on the last day of the Naturally Frugal Challenge, squeaking in my big entry at the last minute. But I have a decent excuse, besides the business and travel I've been up to this month! See, the idea of the contest is to come up with an all-natural, in-season entree (no problem there) without using dairy (eeeeep!).

I knew my entry would have to be a pie of some kind. So of course I set myself the ultimate challenge - can I make quiche without milk, including soymilk or almond milk, which might count as processed foods?

My first attempt, while edible and not too bad, was not a winning contest entry. Simply leaving the milk out of the quiche doesn't work, since the milk is what fluffs up the eggs and produces that light, melt-in-your-mouth texture. What did work, on my last attempt, was separating the eggs and beating the whites separately. Air is even lighter than milk, and it will fluff your quiche beautifully with only one extra step!

Also in the first attempt, I tried to make the quiche gluten-free and wholegrain by making a crust out of brown rice and eggs. It was decent, and I could've made it work, but it made the whole dish a bit heavy on the egg front, and to be honest I like a nice pie crust under my quiche. I do make an excellent gluten-free pie crust (the recipe is at my other blog), which has butter, but this time I used my regular whole wheat crust and tried it with coconut oil. It worked beautifully. You use whichever homemade, whole wheat or gluten-free pie crust you like for this one.

The result of all this experimentation was the Ultimate Autumn Quiche. A variety of seasonal ingredients play off each other so that each bite is a unique experience; sometimes it's fruity, sometimes it's warm and toasty, sometimes it's complex and spicy. The ingredients may look sweet, and it does have a pumpkin pie texture to it, but the eggs, spices, nuts, and arugula just perfectly balance the cranberry and apple. I will definitely make this for company at the first opportunity!


1 frozen homemade pie shell
1 cup pumpkin puree
3 eggs, separated
¼ cup natural or homemade applesauce, unsweetened
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
⅛ tsp paprika
1 cup arugula, chopped
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ coarsely-chopped hazelnuts or pecans
1 Tbsp finely-chopped hazelnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Leave the pie shell in the freezer for now.

Combine the pumpkin, egg yolks, and applesauce in a large mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly to blend. Add the nutritional yeast - you don't have to use it if you can't find it, but it does add a nice cheesy dimension - as well as the maple syrup, mustard, and spices. Whisk again until it's all evenly blended.

One at a time, stir in the arugula, dried cranberries, and coarsely-chopped nuts. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the pumpkin mixture. Retrieve the pie shell from the freezer and carefully pour in the filling; sprinkle the finely-chopped nuts over the top.

Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 F and continue baking another 25-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Suggestion: If you have to have meat in your entree, this is an excellent use for leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Just add ½ cup diced turkey when you add the arugula, cranberries, and nuts!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal

This is not just a breakfast post; it's also an attempt to win a gorgeous set of holiday bakeware as part of the Naturally Frugal Challenge blog event!

After all the indulgence of Thanksgiving weekend, it was time for a healthy and nutritious breakfast. But it was also a lazy Sunday morning. We wanted something rich and delicious, and we didn't mind waiting half an hour for it. Enter steelcut oats.

But not just any oatmeal - this is fall, after all, when the fireplace crackles all morning and we watch the rain beating down the last of our garden. So it had to be a pumpkin oatmeal, warm and spicy with a nutritional boost from one of nature's healthiest veggies. Top it with some toasted nuts and dried fruit, and you have a decadent breakfast (or, what the hey, dinner!) that's actually good for you.

serves 4

4 cups water
2 Tbsp coconut oil (or butter)
1 cup steelcut oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup almond milk (or any milk)
Maple syrup to taste
Toppings of your choice (see note)

Heat the water in a kettle or pot until it boils.

Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil in a separate pot over medium heat, and stir in the oats. Toast the oats for a minute or so, then add the spices and continue to toast until it all smells warm and fragrant. Pour in 4 cups boiling water. Stir, cover, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let it simmer 15 minutes.

Take the lid off and mix in the pumpkin until evenly blended in with the oats. Add the almond milk and continue cooking, uncovered, for another 5-10 minutes or until the oats are creamy and rich and excess liquid has cooked out. Serve it up in individual bowls and top with maple syrup, plus the toppings of your choice.

Topping Ideas: Dried cranberries, currants, or raisins; toasted nuts of any kind; all-natural or homemade applesauce; apple butter or pumpkin butter; a spoonful of jam; toasted coconut; fresh chopped apples or other fruit; candied ginger... use your imagination. And if you have a great topping idea, please share it in the comments!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just in Time for Thanksgiving: Boozy Sweet Potatoes!

Stay tuned, y'all, apparently I'm in a generous mood because I'm sharing all my greatest hits this week.

My boozy sweet potatoes are probably my most popular recipe. I've been making them for every Thanksgiving, and almost every Christmas, for about ten years now and I've never had any leftovers the next day.

Don't worry about the name; the alcohol cooks out, but it leaves a strong flavor behind. What that flavor is, is up to you. I nearly always use rum, and occasionally spiced rum, but every once in awhile I substitute brandy instead and it's still good. I think I prefer the rum flavor, personally - it's stronger - but if you have brandy on hand, use it, because it's delicious.


2 to 3 lbs sweet potatoes
½ cup maple syrup, brown sugar, or honey
2 eggs
⅓ cup milk
1 Tbsp vanilla
½ cup melted butter
⅓ cup dark rum or brandy
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup flour
⅓ cup melted butter
½ cup finely chopped nuts (optional)

Peel and chop sweet potatoes, and place into a large pot. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer until sweet potatoes are soft enough to cut in half with a fork. Drain the sweet potatoes and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Use an electric mixer or a potato masher to thoroughly mash the sweet potatoes until they're smooth. One at a time, mix in the maple syrup, eggs, milk, vanilla, ½ cup melted butter, and rum/brandy. Once thoroughly mixed, pour into a casserole dish (*see note).

In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, melted butter, and nuts if using. Using your fingers to break it up, sprinkle this mixture in small chunks over the top of the sweet potato mixture, covering the surface as much as possible. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the streusel topping has browned into a soft crust. Let cool for at least half an hour before serving; it'll be best if you give it a few hours to come to room temperature.

Bring this one to a potluck - it travels really well!

*Note: You can use any size casserole dish here and it'll be fine. If you use a 9x13 or similarly large one, double the streusel topping. If you use a smaller one, the potatoes will be a little deeper and hence cook a bit longer, which is fine. It's really hard to screw this one up.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Perfect Pot Roast

Inspired by a friend the other day who was having trouble producing a pot roast, I decided to treat Keith and his dad to one of my own, setting a challenge for myself in the process. See, the easiest way to make a pot roast - BY FAR - is in the crockpot. Slow-simmering at low heat keeps the moisture with the meat, preventing it from drying out as it often does in the oven.

But here in Redondo, we don't have a crockpot. So I had to take a leap and see if I could produce a moist, juicy roast in a dry heat. I am pleased to report that it was a resounding success; Keith proclaimed it the best roast he'd ever had, and I can't say I disagree. So here's the tricks I figured out.

First: The meat. Chuck roast is best - and, fortuitously, cheapest. You actually want a fatty cut here. Don't use nasty cheap feedlot beef, of course, but since you're paying the higher price for organic/grassfed, take some comfort in the fact that you're getting the cheapest cut of it. The tougher meat and chunks of fat are going to break down together in the oven and make that succulent, tender pot roast you've been daydreaming about.

Second: You need a TIGHT seal. Use the smallest container that will fit the roast, which means a small casserole dish and not a huge roasting pan for your 3- or 4-lb. roast. Then, just before you pop it in the oven, fold a sheet of foil in half and cover the top of the dish before you put the lid on. This makes a tighter seal and keeps the steam from escaping from around the lid.

Third: Let it rest, still sealed, for half an hour when you pull it out of the oven. This allows the steamy goodness to settle back down into the meat, rather than poufing out in a huge cloud when you take the lid off.

And now for the recipe.


3 or 4 lb chuck roast
1/2 tsp salt (no more!)
Fresh-ground pepper to taste
Garlic powder and/or onion powder to taste
Worchestershire Sauce
Hot sauce of your choice (I had Cholula)
1 Tbsp organic canola oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 bottle of GOOD beer
2 Tbsp flour (white or whole wheat, doesn't matter)
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Sprinkle the seasonings all over the meat and rub them in. Be generous with the Worchestershire, liberal with the hot sauce; whatever your tastebuds can handle. Meanwhile heat the oil in a heavy skillet until it's quite hot, then sear the meat for two or three minutes on each side.

Remove the meat to your casserole dish. Tuck the rosemary in with it, pour what's left in the skillet over it, then open up the beer and pour it in until it almost, but not quite, reaches the top of the meat. (You should have just a little beer left over to drink.)

I can't stress enough how important it is to use a decent beer - this is NOT the time for Bud or Coors or whatever you might drink while watching the game. Break out something darker. Last night I happened to have Sam Adams Cherry-Wheat Ale, which was just okay for drinking but the sweetness really brought a lot out of the beef. Better beer would obviously be better.

Cover the casserole dish with the foil and then the lid like we talked about before. Leave it in the oven for about an hour per pound of meat (cutting it short by 15 minutes or so is fine if you're rushed). Take it out of the oven and set aside, without removing the lid, for 30 minutes. Then transfer the meat to a plate and strain the juices into a measuring cup or bowl with a pour spout.

Heat a skillet to medium and toss in the flour. Give it a minute or two to toast a bit, and then add the butter or olive oil, whisking with a fork or whisk until it makes a smooth paste. Splash in a bit of the strained juices, whisk smooth, then add the rest of the juices in a steady stream while whisking continuously. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until it thickens - this will only take a minute or two. Serve the gravy with the pot roast and your favorite mashed potatoes, with a salad or green veg on the side.

And just because I gotta gloat: This is the dessert we had after the pot roast dinner last night. It's an experiment I've been kicking around for awhile, maple-bacon cream pie, and I have finally declared it a smash hit. The pie is filled with a smooth, delicious maple cream and topped with chopped bacon, which has been candied in maple and brown sugar. The sweet-salty-smokey flavors all play so nicely off each other, and it was the perfect ending for this dinner in particular - especially since we had it with port!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Outta' Town Banana Muffins

(Apologies for the pic - I had coffee on the brain at 5:30 a.m.)

'Tis the season for holiday travel! We got a jump on the season yesterday, when Keith got a quick job in L.A. and I decided to join him just to get out of town for a couple of days. So yesterday we hit the road about 5:45 a.m. and hauled our exhausted selves into Redondo Beach just after 11 p.m. Of course there was a nasty weather system which drifted south along with us, so we spent most of the day wrestling rain, snow, and high winds, and just for good measure another storm blew into Redondo in the wee hours of the morning, waking us up with a chilly bath from the window.

But it's sunny now, and we're well-rested, and we're also well-nourished. We do this road trip thing fairly regularly, and I'm a seasoned road tripper in my own right, having crossed two continents all by my lonesome on several occasions. So I've learned a lot about travel, especially the fact that there is precious little to eat out there by the highway.

Oh sure, there's a fast food joint at every exit, and the gas stations are loaded with candy and chips. But c'mon, when you're spending an entire day with one eye on that swerving semi and the other on that cop in the rearview, you need FOOD. Something that's not going to drop you into a bloated coma ten minutes after you eat it; something that's not going to gas your travel companions out of the car. And even if you're flying (though I can't imagine why you would nowadays), you still need inexpensive fortification to get you through the journey in good health and cheer.

So pack a bag. Yesterday on our trip, I brought some cashews, cheese, sliced carrots and kohlrabi, two refillable water bottles, and a batch of these rich, moist banana muffins. I think I can safely say I'll be bringing these muffins on every trip from now on. They're the perfect road snack - easy to eat one-handed, a little sweet but not sugary, with whole grains to keep you full longer than a sugared white-flour muffin would, a dose of protein from nuts and eggs, and a rich soft texture that makes them feel like a treat. They travel well and don't dry out (actually, they get more moist as they sit).

Bring them on your next road trip, flight, train trip, or walk around the neighborhood. Don't forget the coffee.


2 large bananas, very ripe (soft spots okay!)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup ground nuts or nut flour* (see note)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, or raisins

* Note: You can buy almond flour, hazelnut flour, etc. But it's a lot cheaper to just get whatever nuts you like (pecans are cheap) and grind them yourself; they don't have to be as finely ground as a flour, a coarser grind is just fine. Just toss them into the blender or food processor for a minute.

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Break up the bananas and toss them in the food processor or blender. Add the maple syrup (or honey), applesauce, eggs, and vanilla; whiz it all up until smooth (a few banana chunks are fine).

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients except for the fruit, and whisk together with a fork until evenly blended. Pour in the wet mixture and stir gently, just until blended - don't overmix. Fold in the dried fruit and spoon into the muffin cups, filling to the top. Bake for 25 minutes or until done. Leave them in the pan to cool on a wire rack, then wrap individually or just throw them all into one gallon-size bag like I did.

These last for a few days outside the fridge, and can also be frozen for later.

Safe travels!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Biscuits (Gravy Optional)

I've probably mentioned before that Keith and I have a biscuit tradition. Whenever he goes out of town for work, his first morning home again means biscuits and gravy. This has given me plenty of opportunity to perfect my biscuit technique, and I don't mind saying that I make the best biscuits we've ever had.

The gravy varies a bit, but the biscuits don't; once you've perfected a recipe like this one, you don't need to mess with it anymore. Today I had the chanterelle mushroom duxelles that I made on Monday, so I stirred them into my usual and made mushroom gravy. And then, upon discovering that I've never actually shared my recipe here, I decided to go ahead and gift it over.

There are some tricks to perfect biscuits. The big one is the frozen butter - when I first made biscuits I couldn't get that lovely flaky texture until I decided to treat biscuit dough like pie crust, and it worked. Lumps of frozen butter go into the oven solid and then melt as the biscuits bake, creating air pockets and that gorgeous flaky melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

The other trick is to place the biscuits quite close together on the baking sheet or in the pan. This will keep them from spreading outward, and they'll shoot upward instead, getting thick and fluffy like this:

Makes 4-6 biscuits, depending on size.

3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 heaping tsp yeast
2 cups unbleached white flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
5 Tbsp frozen butter, divided

Pour warm water (not hot) into a small bowl and add the sugar and yeast. Whisk it up with a fork until the yeast is mostly dissolved, then set in a warm place (such as on top of the stove with the burners off).

In a separate mixing bowl, blend the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside 1 Tbsp of the butter; take the remaining 4 Tbsp and grate it into the bowl with a cheese grater. Use your hand to gently mix the butter into the flour mixture until it's evenly distributed but the butter is still solid and chunky.

By now, the yeast water should have a thick bubbly layer on top. Pour that into the flour-butter mixture, then gently stir it in until the dough gets too thick to stir. Knead it with your hands until it's even and all the flour has been worked in; at first it'll look like too much flour, but as you knead it, the whole thing comes together. Don't knead it for too long, just until the dough holds together and looks even throughout.

Sprinkle a little flour on the counter and run a floured hand over your rolling pin, then roll out the dough to about an inch thick. Cut circles with the top of a glass and put them close together in a cake pan or on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Roll the scraps together and cut until you only have enough dough left for one biscuit, and then shape that one with your hands. They don't have to look perfect - uneven is okay. (If you have little bits of scraps left over, and you know anyone with chickens, they LOVE biscuit dough.)

Preheat the oven to 450 F and set the biscuit pan on top of the unlit stove. Let the biscuits rest and rise for about 15-20 minutes. It won't look like they're rising much, so don't worry if yours don't double in size like bread does. Just give them the time and then pop them in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until they're golden in color.

Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp butter and brush it over the biscuit tops as soon as they come out of the oven. Serve immediately while they're still hot. Top them with any gravy you like, or go the other way and drizzle them with honey, or spread them with jam. They'll make a great little breakfast sandwich - go all out and stuff a biscuit with fried chicken and honey for a decadent treat!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wild Foraging: Chanterelles

Yay, today I'm writing for TWO blogs! This is also a guest-post on my friend's urban foraging blog, First Ways. I follow her blog avidly even though I'm not much of a forager yet - I eat the dandelions out of my yard, but I still have no idea where to find burdock or watercress in Portland, even though I know they're growing wild around here. One day I will take her class and learn. In the meantime, I'm here to crow about my very first wild foraging expedition!

That's me there, yesterday morning just after dawn, soaked with heavy rain out in the woods, bagging up chanterelle mushrooms. They're going for a relatively cheap $10 a pound at the farmers' market nowadays - I've seen them for two or three times that - so it's worth a good hike to go pick them yourself if you know where to find them. I didn't, but we have a friend who does.

If you know any mushroom hunters, or if you've read Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, then you know that mushroom hunters will go to any length to avoid telling anyone where their spots are. It can be incredibly frustrating for the novice mushroomer, to beg and plead for a lesson only to have someone politely change the subject. This time I got a promise back in the summer, when I first floated the idea of killing and eating our seven excess chicks; friends offered to take us mushroom hunting in exchange for chicken processing experience and two of the chickens.

So chanterelle season rolled around, time for us to collect on their promise. Everyone was busy with one thing or another, so it was only yesterday and quite late in the season when we all drove out to an undisclosed location in the woods (hey, I swore I wouldn't tell). We left well before dawn, and there was only just enough light to see through the hard drizzle when we parked the car. We set off with bags and buckets for a relatively easy hike, a few miles down a smooth trail, and then there was the first chanterelle - just sitting there, growing right next to the road.

As we went deeper into the woods, we found them everywhere! They seem to favor the places close to tree stumps and live trees, without too much undergrowth (other spots were carpeted in ferns, and there were no chanterelles there). We found most of them in the wetter spots - yes, even in the same forest, one spot can be considerably wetter than a spot just a few feet away - and they didn't hide underneath logs and such the way that some other mushrooms do. There'd be dark brown leaf litter and the yellow-orange mushroom standing bold against it.

I understood pretty soon why mushroomers guard their spots so jealously; the mushrooms make so little attempt to hide themselves that there would be none left for anyone if the word got out where they were.

By the end of the day, our experienced guide had scored just over ten pounds, and Keith and I had bagged about half that. Had it been earlier in the season, we would've gotten plenty more, but I'm thrilled with what we got! We had a wonderful time tromping around in the woods, and so far we're enjoying ourselves just as much eating these delicacies in our warm dry house. A couple of them even found their way into our scrambled eggs this morning.

But I spent the afternoon turning the bulk of them into duxelles. This is a lovely way to preserve mushrooms of any kind; the French use it to stuff meats and vegetables or to spread on omelettes, and the British use it for Beef Wellington. I now have a pint and a half of luxurious chanterelle duxelles, which I intend to stir into risottos and which will probably find its way into the cornbread stuffing and the gravy this Thanksgiving. (And now I'm all on fire to make a Beef Wellington too.)

Go get your own delicious mushrooms - chanterelles are the best but use whatever edible ones you have available - and make up a batch of duxelles. It'll give a rich boost of earthy flavor to almost anything. Here's my recipe, adapted from Well Preserved by Eugenia Bone.


3 Tablespoons good olive oil
3/4 cup minced onion
2 lbs mushrooms, best available, washed & finely minced
1 sprig fresh thyme (optional)
1/4 cup chardonnay
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1 heaping tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh-ground black pepper

Get down your biggest, heaviest skillet and heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in it. Add 1/3 the mushrooms and onions and saute; the mushrooms will let out a good deal of liquid, so keep cooking until the liquid evaporates. Transfer to a clean bowl, add another 1 Tbsp olive oil and half the remaining onion and mushrooms. Saute until the liquid evaporates, transfer to the bowl, then repeat with the remaining olive oil, onion, and mushrooms. When the last batch is cooked through, put the first two batches back in the skillet.

Add the whole sprig of thyme and all the other ingredients. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have absorbed all the liquid; they should be a thick chunky paste by now. Fish out the thyme sprig and discard.

Spoon the duxelles into clean jars and refrigerate or freeze. You can also spoon it into ice cube trays and freeze into small servings, which can be added to gravy, pasta, eggs, etc. or just heated to thaw and spread on toast. If you want to save the duxelles in the fridge for more than a day or two, pack it densely into the jar with as few air pockets as possible, then cover it with olive oil and seal. The oil on top will keep it fresher for longer.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Incredible Autumn Risotto

When I'm feeling contemplative or morose, or when I just need some "me-time," I make risotto. There's something about that peaceful stirring and watching, ladling and absorbing, that makes the kitchen experience very zen for me. Risotto has an undeserved reputation for being difficult and time-consuming. It isn't! It does require your rapt attention, but only for 30-40 minutes, and that time can be a peaceful respite from whatever's going on.

And at the end, you have the ultimate comfort food.

This one I made last night was particularly incredible, loaded with apples, chanterelle mushrooms, turkey bacon, and gorgonzola cheese. The different flavors played off each other so well, and gave the dish a variety of textures to offset the lovely creaminess we all love in a risotto.

I failed to get a picture because Keith and I devoured it as soon as it was ready. Oh well, risotto isn't all that photogenic anyway. But it sure is delicious! I offer this recipe now in case anyone else needs a few minutes of kitchen P&Q and a warm autumn comfort dish.

(serves 2-4, depending on your side dishes)

2 strips turkey bacon (or pork, if that's your thing)
4 cups good-quality chicken or vegetable broth
3 Tbsp butter, divided
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup finely-sliced mushrooms* (about 1.5-2 oz, see note)
1 cup apple, peeled and finely diced
1 cup arborio rice
1/3 cup white wine
Scant 1/4 cup gorgonzola or bleu cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Salt to taste

*Note: Use the best mushrooms you can get. I got a good deal on chanterelles, which are normally pretty expensive but you only need a couple ounces so you can splurge. If you can't get a few chanterelles, then go for shiitakes or baby bellas, just don't use the cheap white ones - and for the love of G-d, don't use canned! Good mushrooms will really make a difference here.

Fry the bacon in a deep, heavy dry skillet until mostly cooked on both sides. While it's frying, add broth to a medium-sized saucepan and bring it to a low boil. Once it's boiling, cover it and lower the heat so it stays at a nice low simmer.

When the bacon is done, drain it and wipe out the skillet if necessary (it won't be necessary with turkey, it will be with pork). Chop the bacon into little pieces and set aside.

Turn the heat under the skillet to medium-low and melt 2 Tbsp butter in it; add the onion and saute until the onion begins to soften. Add the bacon and mushrooms, and continue to saute for another minute or two, until the mushrooms soften a little; add the apple and the rice, and saute another minute or two. Pour in the wine and stir until the wine is mostly absorbed.

Now we get into that peaceful risotto action. Ladle in about a half-cup of the simmering broth (I use a soup ladle), then stir slowly until the rice absorbs it. Ladle in another half-cup of broth, and stir until it's absorbed. Continue in this fashion until you're out of broth; this will take about half an hour. Pour yourself a glass of the white wine you just used and sip it while you stand and stir. Play a little music. Think about life. Enjoy your peace.

When you're out of broth, the rice should be cooked through and your risotto should look nice and creamy. If you still need to cook a little more, use water or more white wine (a half-cup at a time, just like the broth) until the rice is done.

When it's ready, add the remaining tablespoon of butter, the grated or crumbled cheese, a little salt, and the nutmeg. Stir until it's all melted and blended together, then serve immediately. You'll probably want a light salad or a little something green to go on the side, so hopefully you already made it, or had someone else make it.

Enjoy your bliss, preferably with some fuzzy socks and a crackling fire.