Risotto with Asparagus and Lemon

Risotto with Asparagus and Lemon

Risotto is one of my favorite things to make when I have a large batch of chicken stock. This version features fresh asparagus and lemon zest.  Its light, fresh and perfect for Spring.

Making risotto is easy but does require technique and timing along with good ingredients in order to produce a restaurant quality dish.  Some of the best risottos in my opinion are the simplest with the chosen ingredients shining through.  A good risotto has a  silky, creamy texture with each rice kernel soft and flavorful on the outside and just slightly al dente in the center.  When plated the risotto should have body but still be loose enough to relax on the plate.


2 cups arborio rice

1 – 2 tablespoons butter, splash of olive oil

1/2 cup white wine

6 – 8 cups homemade broth

2 shallots minced fine

1 clove garlic thinly sliced

1/2 cup Parmiggiano Reggiano grated

1 bunch fresh asparagus trimmed and chopped – blanched

zest of one lemon

fresh rosemary micro diced

salt and pepper to taste


Heat stock on stove in a separate pot that you can easily use a ladle in.  Keep at a constant temperature, just below simmer.

In a large heavy pot melt butter and a bit of olive oil.  Add minced shallots and saute for 1 min, add garlic and rosemary and saute until fragrant.  Add rice and saute until all grains are nicely coated and edges appear translucent.

Deglaze with 1/2 cup of white wine.  Stir quickly to distribute and until liquid is evaporated.

Now begins the process of adding the hot stock and stirring until each addition is absorbed.  The slow additions of liquid and the continual stirring with a wooden spoon is what gives risotto its creamy texture.  This is a process that cannot be rushed and generally takes about 20 minutes.  Your pan should be kept at as even temperature as possible with a noticeable sizzle when the stock hits the pan but not so hot that it all evaporates instantly.  The adding of stock and having it absorb and evaporate while cooking is something that should be an even an unhurried process.

When the risotto has almost reached its desired consistency add in the asparagus along with another ladle of stock and completely heat through.  Remove from heat, add additional stock if needed to loosen.  Add in 1/2 of the cheese, stir together. Check for seasonings, add salt and pepper to taste then serve.

For service, have plates warmed and portion out risotto onto each one.  Garnish with additional cheese, generous amounts of lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve immediately.

Tips for a great risotto:

  • Choose the right rice.  I always use Italian Arborio rice which can easily be found in most grocery stores.  Other varieties of rice for making risotto include baldo, carnaroli, vialone nano, and Calriso which can be found at specialty markets.  All of these varieties are a short grain rice which is what you want.
  •  The pan should have a large surface area and distribute and retain heat evenly.  I use large enameled cast iron pot.
  • First saute your shallots or other aromatics to soften but do not allow them to color.  Then add your rice and saute until each kernel is coated and the outside edges become translucent.  This step will give each kernel a protective outer shell that will ensure the outside becomes perfectly cooked while the center remains al dente.
  • Your first addition of liquid should be wine.  This produces a more flavorful rice.
  • Each addition of stock (1/3 to 3/4 of a cup at a time) must be hot.  This to ensure the correct absorption and releasing of the starches.  Have this in a pot on the stove and keep just below simmer at all times.
  • After each addition of liquid, stir your rice until almost completely absorbed but not dry.  Adding the stock slowly and stirring until each addition is absorbed ensures the rice releases its starches slowly, thereby cooking at the correct speed and developing the creamy consistency.
  • Any additions (vegetables, seafood, meat) should be already cooked and folded in as the final additions of liquid are being added.
  • If using cheese this should be the last addition.
  • Taste and season throughout.  Check for flavor and doneness as you cook.
  • Use really good ingredients.  For me this means homemade stock and good cheese that I grate myself.  If budget allows I use Parmigiano-Reggiano if not, then a Domestic Parmesan.  This is not the time for any pre-grated powdery stuff in a plastic container. If using any herbs I like to use fresh.
  • Risotto must be served and enjoyed right away to be at its best.  Have your wine poured and your favorite dinner companions at the table.  Enjoy!

Celery Soup and Herby Garlicky Dough Knots


Celery soup and buns

This meal is rated triple E for everyone and is Economical, Easy and Elegant.   Perfect choice for a late summer supper with the family.

I had several bunches of celery in my fridge (we buy a lot of celery) and wanted to use up all the remains while they still had some good life in them.   Decided on soup and buns which ended up being herby, garlicky  knots.  Made for a great combo.

celery soup ingr

1 medium onion chopped, 2 Yukon gold potatoes, 2-3 cups celery, 2 – 3 Tablespoons butter, 4 cups broth or water, a splash of milk or cream if desired.  2 Tablespoons of fresh dill.

celery soup prepped in the pot

Sauté the chopped veg in the butter slowly – do not let the vegetables brown.

Add the liquid and 1/2 of the dill.  Simmer covered for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Let cool slightly then liquefy using a blender, food mill or stick blender.

The original recipe suggests that this soup then needs to be strained as there may be excess celery pulp.  Not the case for me, I whirred it all up in my super powerful mixer and it was silky and smooth.

The recipe for the celery soup can be found here:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/390476230165542858/

Herby Garlic Dough Knots

Garlic herb knotty twists

These twists, buns, bread-stick things were made using a 1/2 batch of pizza dough that I made using the bread machine.   So many variations on what can be done.  What I did here was a mixture of melted butter, tons of chopped garlic, chopped herb mix of rosemary, parsley and thyme and some parmesan.

Roll out dough into a somewhat rectangle shape.  Spread on the herb and butter mixture.  You can then slice them into strips as is or, roll it up jelly roll style and then bake them as pinwheels or twist them up like I tend to do.   When slicing, use a pizza cutter or sharp knife.  I like to slice these as soon as possible and then usually twist them into some sort of shape, giving them a chance to rise again prior to baking.

Bake @ 350 for about  20 min.


What Rheumatoid Awareness Means to Me

*Note: this post is part of a Blog Carnival, coordinated by RA Warrior at http://rawarrior.com/

February 2, 2014 is Rheumatoid Awareness Day and as a blogger in the rheum community, there is an invitation to participate in this awareness activity by featuring a blog post to talk about awareness. http://rawarrior.com/what-would-rheumatoid-awareness-mean-to-you/ I knew this was something I wanted to add my voice to.

Awareness, what would that mean? The reason for having a Rheumatoid Awareness Day according to the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation http://rheum4us.org/ is to overcome the misconception that rheumatoid disease is simply a form of arthritis. This is really important for those of us with RD as it is all too common that people hear you say you have rheumatoid arthritis but they think osteoarthritis. By taking the word ARTHRITIS out of the description it will help with the confusion. Awareness of that alone would make things a lot better.

Rheumatoid disease is more than stiff joints or aches and pains like those experienced with osteoarthritis. RD is a progressive inflammatory auto-immune disease with symptoms of joint pain and stiffness like osteo but it also brings with it severe fatigue, mobility issues, disability, extreme pain along with damage, (often permanent) to joints as well as other organs and tissues. When you are experiencing a flare, or active inflammation, the impact on your daily life is enormous. Heart health is also of particular concern for anyone with RD. Along with the disease itself, many of the medications used to manage RD also take their toll on your organs, specifically liver and heart function. Rheumatoid disease is a serious health condition that impacts people of all ages.  It is not JUST arthritis.

When asked what Rheumatoid Awareness Day means to me I would say that it is important to me as it will bring more relevance, understanding, education and facts to the forefront. Then, with heightened awareness, hopefully more study, research and development will be done for finding a cure and improving the lives of those with RD.

My life has been impacted by Rheumatoid disease since the age of eight. It is part of my daily life and plays a significant role in my overall health. Last year I had a diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer resulting in a year of treatments and surgeries. When making choices for the best treatment protocol for my cancer I worked closely with my medical team to ensure that while we were treating the breast cancer we were also taking my Rheumatoid disease into consideration. It made a difference and my treatment was altered as a result. So as all encompassing as a year of being diagnosed and treated for cancer may be it really was a small blip along my overall journey. My ongoing primary health issue is my Rheumatoid disease and I am aware of it every day.

I am feeling empowered by having a Rheumatoid Awareness Day and look forward to new developments being made in research. In the meantime, I will continue to be an advocate and a voice for awareness in my own way, and I encourage others to do so as well. While RD plays a significant role in my life I still like to think that I can kick it to the curb and minimize its control over my life. Attitude plays a big role, and I like to think that I am not just surviving but thriving. Some days I’m just better at it than others.

RA Kitchen Tips Draining Pasta

Today’s Tip is in response to a request from a reader asking for ways for a Mom with limitations in her hands to have an easier and safer way of lifting and draining pasta. Great question. Pasta can be the starting point for an endless variety of easy meals. Lifting, carrying and draining hot liquid can be extremely difficult for some and there can also be a safety concern.

Here are some ways to approach the task of draining pasta to limit the strain and heavy lifting:

• If using short pasta (penne, rotini, maccaroni) use a Spider (see below) or a Large Slotted spoon. Remove pasta directly from the water to the pan with the sauce or bowl or however you wish to use it.

• If using long pasta (spaghetti, linguini) remove pasta strands from water using tongs and put directly into sauce or bowl. I use lightweight spring loaded aluminum tongs as shown below.

  •  After using one of these removal methods leave the water in the pot on the stove.  You can then ask for someone to help at a later time or, wait until water has cooled down so you can more readily handle without an immediate sense of urgency or risk of burns.

• Lighten the load – if not wanting to use one of the removal methods above you can scoop out some of the water from the pot before lifting so it won’t be so heavy. Using a 2 cup plastic measuring cup and wearing oven mitts makes short work of this task. Once you have removed most of the water, take the now much lighter pot to the sink to drain.

• I do not recommend the metal inserts that can be lifted out of a pot to drain pasta. I find these still to be awkward to deal with and dangerous with the hot water and steam.

Spider Kitchen Utensil – a spider is one of my more frequently used kitchen tools. It is a light weight large shallow wire-mesh basket with a long handle, usually made of wood. The wire basket is woven in a loose pattern that resembles a spider’s web, hence the name. Unlike a strainer the design and open weave of a spider allows it to be used with one hand to lift items out of hot liquid or oil instantly and with little effort. It’s low shallow shape allows you to get right to the bottom of a deep pot and remove all of the pasta. I always use this method for scooping out pasta, or perogies etc.

kitchen spider


Kitchen Tongs – a must have. I have a few pair so that If one is in the dishwasher I’ve got another pair on the ready. I use this style of lightweight aluminum with the closed tips. Easily picks up anything and holds it in a firm grip. Ideal for lifting strands of pasta out of a pot.  I find this style preferable to a pasta fork as you can get a better grip and have more control.

kitchen tongs

More like this?  If you liked this tip, check back often for more RA Kitchen Tips, an ongoing series.  Read more about RA Kitchen Tips here – https://arthritiskitchen.wordpress.com/ra-kitchen-tips-an-ongoing-series/

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup 011Onions 003I love a good French Onion Soup.  It’s a hearty, satisfying meal on its own.  Making it from scratch, starting with a homemade beef broth makes this a two day labor of love.  The secret to an excellent onion soup is time.  You need to sauté the onions low and slow until they are very well caramelized.  This can take up to an hour so be patient.  This time I used 3 types of onions, red, yellow and white.  When serving for the first night I always do the traditional crouton and Swiss cheese topping.  It is a terrific hearty yet light meal.

French Onion Soup

  • 6 cups onions sliced very thin
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry wine – red or white
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 – 2 Tbs flour
  • 4 – 8 cups beef stock
  • 2 – 3 Tbs brandy (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Slices of stale baquette or other      French bread.
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup gruyere or other swiss      cheese – grated

Saute onions in butter and oil on med high heat until beginning to soften, about 6-8 min.  Add ½ of the wine, reduce heat, cover and cook low and slow stirring occasionally until onions have reduced in volume and are golden, about 20 min or up to 45 minutes depending on amount of onions.

French Onion Soup 005

Take off the lid, raise heat and add 1 tsp of sugar.  Cook for about 10 min or more until the onions are a deep golden brown.  Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle 1 – 2 tablespoons of flour over the onions, cook 2 -3 minutes.   Deglaze with remaining wine and add warm beef stock.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Simmer soup for 10-15 min.  If using brandy, add just at the end of cooking before assembly.

Meanwhile, prepare the croutons.  Slice bread, toast under broiler until lightly toasted on both sides.  Rub each slice with the cut side of the raw garlic.  Set aside.

Ladle soup into bowls, float a piece or pieces of the toasted bread into the bowl, top generously with the grated cheese.  Broil until cheese begins to brown and is bubbly.

French Onion Soup 006

Chicken Stock

Chicken Stock 018

I make a lot of my own stocks or broths and use them frequently when preparing meals.  A delicious stock or broth, can be the base for a never ending possibility of soups which is what I often use mine for.  Stock is also as a prized ingredient when preparing stir-fry’s and pasta and can be turned into a terrific sauce without, or with less dairy or fat than traditionally used.  A luxurious stock is also the star ingredient for making a very fine risotto which in my opinion, must be made using a quality stock – no tetra packs on risotto day in my kitchen.

Benefits for your Health & Budget:

Making your own stock is a super easy cooking project that will have  you reaping the rewards for future meals.  Stocks made from bones, vegetables and aromatics are not only a tastier, healthier, more nutritious option than store bought but also a lot more budget friendly.

Whether you are saving your vegetable scraps or starting with fresh veggies from the grocery store, the resulting broth that is made is packed with both flavor and vitamins.  While just about any firm vegetables can be used, I always start with the traditional mix of onion, celery and carrots.  Be sure to remember to add aromatics like bay leaf and peppercorns.

Did you know?  When you make stock from carcasses or bones the slow cooking process melts the cartilage and is what makes your stock become gelatinous when refrigerated.  This liquid is said to be helpful for maintaining ease of movement in our own joints.  So eat your soup, it’s good for you.

Preparing to make chicken stock:

It seems like I’m always getting ready to make my next batch of stock.  Chicken stock that is.  For beef stock I always buy ingredients fresh and make it the same day.  I usually only make a beef stock about twice a year.  Chicken stock however is always an ongoing project.  I store chicken bones from whole roasted chickens and any raw trimmings from other chicken prep (wing tips, backs) in Ziploc bags in the freezer sorted by cooked or raw.  When I get enough of them, I make a big batch of chicken stock.  On stock making day, any uncooked portions are first roasted on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven until browned, sizzling and having rendered some of their fat.  Bones that are already cooked can go directly into your stock pot. Not necessary to thaw first.

Chicken Stock 009Building a basic stock:

In a very large pot put in all chicken pieces or bones

Add rough chopped pieces of 2 onions, 2 carrots, 3 stalks celery.  Vegetables should be washed but not peeled.  These are used for flavor only.

Add a couple of garlic cloves, about 8 peppercorns, 2-3 bay leaves

Cover with cold water to 3 inches above items in pot

Bring to a boil then turn to a gentle simmer, skim a couple of times if necessary

Chicken Stock 011

Simmer at a very low heat, partially covered for 4 – 6 hours

Remove large pieces with spider utensil, let cool slightly, strain

Cool completely.

Reap your rewards!!

Chicken Stock 014

Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale with Maple-Rosemary Glaze

Short Ribs 019

This is the second time making this recipe from Molly Steven’s book All About Braising.  It is one of my favorite cookbooks and I’ve taken it out of the library about 5 times.   I’m always on the lookout for a copy in Thrift Stores and Garage Sales but am not surprised to never find one as I’m sure once you have a copy of this book it’s unlikely that you will be getting rid of it anytime soon.

Braising is a relatively easy way to cook and taking the time to follow the steps and use the techniques in this recipe is worth it to develop the flavors.  Most all the work is done up front, in fact it is better if it is prepared the day before serving making it an excellent choice for entertaining.

I made this the other night for a dinner party and while it was good, it wasn’t until this morning that I realized I forgot a major ingredient.  There is supposed to be horseradish added to the maple-rosemary glaze that is brushed on the ribs before serving.  I completely missed that step and really wish I hadn’t because it adds an additional brightness and depth of flavor to the dish.  Reminder that it always works better to have all your ingredients prepped, pre-measured and ready to go.

There are two types of short ribs.  The standard rectangle block shaped ones referred to as English style and the Flanken style which are taken by cutting across the bones producing a flatter and often leaner rib.   I used Flanken this time and was happy with my choice.

Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale with Maple-Rosemary Glaze

Step 1 – salt ribs at least one day in advance, loosely cover with parchment or wax paper in the fridge.  This tightens the meat and prepares it for searing.

Short Ribs 002

Step 2 – brown the ribs.  I did this in batches in an enamel cast iron pot (same one used for the braise) however this step can be done in the oven.

Short Ribs 004

Step 3 – prepare the braising liquid.  Carrots, onion, homemade stock, dark beer, rosemary, bay leaves.

Short Ribs 007

Step 4 – add ribs to the braising liquid and cook low and slow covered in the oven.

Short Ribs 010

Step 5 – Ribs waiting for finishing glaze.

Short Ribs 012

There are about 8 more important steps along the way and these are covered in detail by Molly Stevens in the attached link.

Complete recipe and instructions here:  




Banana Walnut Loaf

There were about 6 frozen bananas in my freezer taking up room so, it appeared to be time to make a banana loaf.  To increase the nutritional value and add Omega 3’s, this loaf has walnuts but you could easily omit them or add something else. Banana Bread

I found a terrific Martha Stewart recipe.  The only thing I altered was to cut down on the sugar.  (use your own judgment) I’m not much of a baker so I need to pay attention to what I’m doing when baking.  Martha’s recipes are so clearly written, it helps me a lot.  I also found an excellent technique for dealing with frozen bananas in recipes.  By using Amy’s advice, there is no mess and no mashing required.  It wins a gold star for Arthritis Kitchen easy!

Banana-Walnut Loaf


Martha’s recipe was foolproof resulting in a beautiful, moist loaf with excellent texture.  The extra step of toasting the walnuts really makes them stand out.  I recommend doing this in a dry skillet or in the oven.  Just be careful not to burn them.

Banana Bread and Asian Dressing 023 (2)

Technique for using frozen bananas – so easy!


Check out this blog with a foolproof, easy way of using frozen bananas in baking.  By letting the bananas thaw in their skins and then squeezing them out and then draining you get recipe ready bananas without the need to mash or chop.  They fold beautifully into your recipe.

Apple Plum Crumble


plums 005We have a plum tree in the yard.  It produces beautiful prune plums that looks like this.  I’m not much of a baker but when the ingredients are in your back yard – how can you resist? There was not a high yield of fruit, just enough for one thing, Old Fashioned Plum and Apple Crumble. A fruit crumble or crisp is about the easiest desserts you can make and it is comforting and delicious served warm with some good vanilla ice cream.

Apple Plum Crumble


  • 4 cups sliced pitted plums
  • 2 cups sliced peeled apples
  • ¼ – 1/3 cup packed brown sugar or other sweetener, adjust depending on sweetness of fruit.
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


  • 1 cup large-flake rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ – ½  tsp cinnamon (to taste)
  • 1 Pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, cubed


Preheat oven to 350°F In large bowl, toss together the sliced fruit with sugar, flour, nutmeg and cinnamon; spread in lightly greased 8-inch (2 L) square glass baking dish. Crumble: In bowl, combine rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. With fingers or pastry blender, rub or cut in butter until mixture is in coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over plum mixture. Bake in 350°F (180°C) oven until topping is golden, and it is bubbly about 50 minutes.


Arthritis Kitchen Tip:

This recipe is loaded with cinnamon.  Cinnamon is an antioxidant, thins your blood and can reduce inflammation in the body.  Adding as little as 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to your daily diet is all that it takes to obtain health benefits.

Apple Strudel – Addiction and Rehab

Cinnamon and a hot pot 023

I been having a food craving recently that I’m shamelessly giving into.  Apple Strudel, the generic store-bought variety.  You know the kind…, rectangles of pastry with a tiny smear of apple pie product in the middle.  They are often not very good but, as I am confessing here, I have no self-control when they are in the house……they’ve been in the house often these days.  Giving into some guilty pleasures I guess.

I’m going try my hand at making them.  How hard can it be?  Store bought puff pastry (or how about something completely different, more whole grains?), then you add apples cinnamon.  I’m convinced I can make something healthier and tastier than the store bought version.  There is a tree of excellent cooking apples ripening in the yard and this is one of the things I plan to do with them.

In the meantime, here’s how to take a generic apple strudel and improve it by adding some fresh ingredients and extra flavor and nutrients.

Cinnamon and a hot pot 022

Using a table knife pry open the wide side of the piece of strudel.  It should open very easily like a hinge.  Add some jam if desired (I used thick cut orange marmalade), a sprinkle of cinnamon, top with very thinly sliced apples and more cinnamon – to your taste.  Close it up and you have a vastly improved treat.  The crunch of the fresh apples really make it.

Cinnamon 005Arthritis Kitchen Tips:

Have you heard people talking about Cinnamon?  It’s been making headlines as another superfood with some pretty impressive stats.  Cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest spices and medicines.  It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits of this potent elixir.  Just 1/2 teaspoon per day is all that is needed in order to gain the benefits.  Add it to your list of organic spices to purchase and buy in small quantities so it is always fresh.

Some health benefits of Cinnamon:

Cinnamon is a very powerful antioxidant, one of the most powerful of all the spices.

Cinnamon has positive effects on the blood, lowering blood sugars, reducing LDL cholesterol and thinning the blood preventing blood clots and reducing inflammation.  Adding cinnamon to a high carbohydrate food can actually reduce the negative impact on your blood sugar levels!

Inhaling the aroma of cinnamon is shown to increase brain function resulting in improved mental alertness, recognition memory and working memory.  Excellent for boosting cognitive ability.

Adding cinnamon to your daily diet is easy.  Add some into your morning coffee, sprinkle on toast, cereal or yogurt, add to your savory dishes too.  So spice up your life and improve your health at the same time.


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