Let's make cooking and entertaining fun and stress-free
Author: Jenn Mandell
Born and raised in NYC. Professional Chef and Owner of Grazie Restaurant for 27 years. Follow my insider tips on recipes, entertaining and fabulous food finds. I'm married and a mother of 2 children ages 16 and 22 and I believe that food should be fun and bring friends and family together.
Risotto is an extremely versatile dish that can be prepared in many ways. Risotto originated in Milan where the tradition of slow cooking was used in preparing rice. Risotto alla Milanese was created by using short grained rice slowly cooked with broth and saffron. The bright yellow color of this dish is absolutely gorgeous and is a staple in the cuisine of Milan. Risotto can also be made with mushrooms, seafood or other types of vegetables. I like to make risotto with prosciutto and parmesan cheese. It is a simple preparation that I serve for dinner and then use the leftovers to make Arancini. Arancini can be served as an hors d’oeuvres or an appetizer. Arancini taste great with my recipe for quick tomato sauce.
The key to great risotto is to not leave the stove. It is important to constantly and slowly stir the broth into the rice. Risotto needs to be prepared right before serving and will be ready in 20 minutes. Risotto prepared ahead of time tends to be gummy and does not have the correct consistency. The rice needs to be sautéed for a few minutes before adding wine and allowing the wine to absorb into the rice. This preps the rice for the broth and will result in tasty risotto with the correct tenderness.
Can I make this Vegetarian
Yes, you can replace the prosciutto with mushrooms and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. If you do use mushrooms you should remove them from the pan after sautéed and stir them back into the risotto after it is cooked. If you leave the mushrooms in for the entire cooking time they will break down and become too mushy.
Another idea is to leave out the prosciutto and stir in green peas at the end. Use your imagination to experiment with new variations just be sure to use the recipe as a base. I would love to see what you come up with. Tag me on instagram or use the #itsjennsview or email me your beautiful creations.
Italian rice balls made out of prosciutto and parmesan risotto
This is a great idea for an appetizer or hors d’oeuvres. I stuff each ball with a little fresh mozzarella so the cheese melts in the center. The best part is that they can be prepared ahead of time up to the point of frying. Truthfully, you can even fry them ahead of time and warm them in the oven before serving but they won’t be quite as crisp and delicious as frying them right before serving. The good news is that they are so delicious so even when reheated they taste amazing. If you are serving the arancini as an hors d’oeuvre make the balls the size of a melon ball so guests can eat it in one or two bites. Serve the arancini with my quick tomato sauce recipe
Please note that I recommend using packaged bread crumbs like Progresso for this recipe. The texture of the bread crumbs will create a thin crisp crust around the Arancini and works much better than fresh bread crumbs.
I am dreaming of Greece. The beautiful whitewashed buildings that enhance the turquoise water in Santorini. Santorini is one of the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea. There are some great white wines that are produced in Santorini. It is a volcanic island so the blend of the mineral rich soil with the sea air yields white wine that is crisp and dry. Vinsanto is Santorini’s biggest contribution to the wine world. It is a sweet wine that requires grapes to be dried in the sun for weeks before being fermented. It is then barrel-aged for several years before being bottled. The result is a dark, golden-colored wine that is served after dinner as a dessert wine. Vinsanto is not to be confused with Vin Santo from Italy. While they are both sweeter wines, they are made from different grapes. Vinsanto from Santorini dates back to the 16th century and is still produced in the traditional method. The food in Greece is perfect. Fresh fish from the sea is simply prepared with a little olive oil, oregano and capers. Squeeze a little lemon on top and you have a healthy and tasty lunch or dinner. In Greece they also serve delicious lamb and chicken.
I have put together one of my favorite dinners to prepare. The marinade will make the chicken very tender and is complimented by the char created by grilling the chicken. I prefer using chicken tenders rather than chicken breast cut into strips. I just think it works better. This grilled chicken recipe is so healthy and delicious. The paprika and cumin add just the right amount of spice and flavor to the grilled chicken. It balances well with the cool greek salad with salty feta. My son, Max, likes to make his own gyro but I prefer to eat the Grilled Chicken over the Greek Salad with the Flatbread on the side. No matter how you choose to eat it I am sure you will love it.
Grilled Chicken marinated in Greek yogurt and spices
Course: Main Course
Keyword: greek food, chicken
Grill pan or barbecue
1½cupplain Greek yogurt
2tbspred wine vinegar
1garlic cloves minced
2poundschicken breast or tenders
Mix ingredients together and add chicken tender strips or chicken breast cut into strips.
Marinate for at least 3 hours and up 10 hours.
Remove chicken from marinade and grill for approximately 10 minutes, turning chicken over half way
If you do not have a grill pan or barbecue you can broil the chicken in the oven. Set your oven to broil, place chicken on pan and place in top third of oven for 10 minutes turning chicken over half way. Chicken should have a little char on it.
Making flatbread is so much fun. My daughter Olivia and I look forward to making the dough and rolling out the pieces. It is such a quick and great way to make homemade bread. Cut the bread into triangles and serve with Tztziki or Hummus as an hors d’oeuvre or make some to serve at lunchtime with tuna or egg salad. Another idea is to make flatbread in the morning and serve with sautéed spinach, poached eggs and crumbled goat cheese on top. Let me know some ideas that you come up with for serving flatbread.
Tzatziki is a creamy, refreshing spread that can be served in a variety of ways. Works well as an hors d’oeuvre or as a side spread for chicken and lamb. Also works well served with a simple grilled salmon.
I like to serve the grilled chicken with potatoes and a greek salad. The Greek salad is cool and salty and compliments the chicken perfectly. I like to serve my air fried potato recipe as well so I can crispy potatoes into the Tzatziki Sauce. Another bonus is that all this food can be easily served the next day for lunch. The leftover grilled chicken can be eaten cold or warm on a sandwich or over the leftover Greek Salad.
Summer is in the air so it’s time to start making and baking our favorite summertime treats. This time of year is perfect for making recipes using fresh fruit and berries.
These blueberry muffins can be made in the traditional size or as mini muffins. I like to make them in the mini size so each tiny bite is packed with fresh whole blueberries. They are quick and easy to make in the morning and leave out on the counter for your friends and family to grab during the day. Assuming, of course, that you resist eating them all yourself.
The blueberry muffins are topped with a white sugar crumble that creates a delicious crunch on the top of the muffins. The muffins are delicious eaten right away but also freeze beautifully. Simply defrost on the counter or warm them up in a 300 oven.
Can I Substitute the Blueberries with other Fruit?
Yes, you can put chopped chopped peaches or strawberries in the muffins or substitute the blueberries with fresh raspberries.
This is a great easy weeknight dinner. The lamb is placed in the marinade for at least two hours and up to six hours. This gives you lots of flexibility when timing dinner. After the lamb has marinated, dinner will be ready in 20 minutes. I like to serve this dish wish Jasmin rice and Asian Cucumber Salad. The cool cucumbers balance the hoisin perfectly.
What is Hoisin Sauce?
Hoisin is Cantonese and the name translates to ‘seafood’ even though there is no seafood in it. It is made from fermented soybeans, spices and sugar to create umami. Umami is the fifth category of taste in food. Umami is typically tasted in fermented products and meat broth. It is a savory taste that is one onto its’ own. Hoisin is usually used in in meat and poultry dishes and is a wonderful sauce for Peking Duck. In this recipe the Hoisin sauce is mixed with soy sauce to create a depth of flavor and thin out the sauce. The addition of chili flakes adds a little kick to the dish.
Can I substitute the Lamb with Something Else?
Yes, you can absolutely substitute chicken or beef instead of the lamb. Try using the marinade on sirloin steak, skirt steak or filet mignon and grilling it on the barbecue in the warmer months. The sauce creates the most delicious char on the steak
This dish can also be made using only vegetables. Try adding eggplant or Bok Choy instead of meat. I would avoid using leafy greens since the sauce will over power them.
Two variations of the same recipe – One sweet, one savory
Have you ever tried pull-apart bread? I saw this recipe posted by King Arthur Flour in a savory version layering garlic, herbs and butter between thin layers of dough. It looked so delicious I absolutely had to try it. I then decided to bake a sweet version of this recipe by spreading Nutella in the layers instead of garlic and butter. It is a positively beautiful bread and so delicious.
The recipe calls for two tablespoons of potato flour which I think is essential in making a soft bread that doesn’t dry out too quickly. The bread can be wrapped in foil and placed in a sealed plastic bag to stay fresh for three days.
Pull apart bread requires time to make. The dough comes together very quickly but requires 90 minutes for the first rise and another 90 minutes for a second rise after the loaf has been formed. I decided to make the savory garlic and butter version when I was having some friends over for dinner. I started to make the bread early in the day and the second rise was done by 4:00pm. My friends weren’t due to arrive until 6:30 and I wanted to serve the bread fresh from the oven. I put the loaf in the refrigerator after the second rise was complete. Putting dough in the refrigerator won’t reverse the rise but it will slow down the yeast. I took the loaf out a half hour before I baked it so that it would be room temperature when it went into the oven. The pull apart bread came out great. This pull apart bread is so beautiful to serve and the buttery garlic layers in between the dough ensures equal flavor in every bite.
Next, I decided to use the same dough recipe but used Nutella in the middle of each layer to create a breakfast version. My son Max could not get enough of the Nutella bread. Three mornings in a row he woke up and warmed a piece of the pull apart Nutella bread to have with his coffee. The dough worked equally well with the sweet version as it did with the savory.
I like to make this dough with my hands, not a mixer. Mix the ingredients together as instructed and form it into a shaggy ball. Place ball on the counter and knead the dough until it comes together and is smooth and slightly stick. You do not want a dry dough. The dough should be stick but not wet.
After the dough has risen to about double in size divide the dough into 2 pieces. Roll each piece into a circle that is about 1/4 of an inch thick. Use a round cookie cutter or top of a glass to cut out disks that are 3.5 inches in diameter. You want disk to be about the same width as the loaf pan. If your disks are too small just roll each one out a little more before you put the filling on.
You will have leftover dough after you have cut out the circles. I like to roll pieces and tie knots with the dough. Place knots on a parchment lined baking sheet and let rise until double in size. Bake in 350 oven for 10 – 15 minutes until light brown. When knots come out of the oven toss them with softened garlic butter. You can also let them cool and place them in a plastic bag and freeze them for another day.
Fresh baked bread with layers of garlic and butter OR Nutella
Course: Breakfast, Main Course, Side Dish, Bread
Cuisine: Italian, American
Keyword: bread, breakfast
2 Standard loaf pans (8½x4½x2½)
4cupsall purpose flour
Filling Option 1
1garlic clove peeled and minced
½tspfresh parsleychopped fine
Filling Option 2
Heat milk, butter, sugar and salt in a sauce pan until butter melts. Do not boil
Let milk mixture cool to lukewarm
When milk is luke warm pour it into a mixing bowl and add yeast and eggs
add half the AP flour and potato flour mix until incorpoated then add rest of flour
form dough into a shaggy ball and place on work surface
knead dough by hand until very smooth. Should take 5 or 6 minutes
place into a lightly greased bowl and cover with a kitchen towel
Place in a warm place and let rice for 90 minutes until double in size
lightly grease (2) 8 inch loaf pans with butter OR line them with parchment paper
when dough has doubled in size press down gently to deflate
divide dough in half and work with one half at a time
roll into a circle that is ¼ inch thick
cut (12) 3½ inch circles out of the dough using a round cookie cutter or top of a glass
You can roll each circle a little more after it's cut out so it fits in the loaf pan
cover half of one side of circle with filling and fold circle in half
place folded side down in loaf pan and continue to line up circles in pan
cover with plastic and a kitchen towel. Place in a warm place and let rise for 90 mintues
preheat oven to 350
bake loafs uncovered on middle rack for 25 minutes until golden brown on top. If browning too quickly tent loaf with foil.
Remove from pan and serve
Wrap leftovers in plastic and foil and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. Tip 2: You can make recipe through the second rise and place in refrigerator if you would like to bake the loaf later. Remove loaf from refrigerator 45 minutes before baking to bring to room temperature.Tip 3: Roll leftover dough into 3 inch rods and tie into knots. Let rise on a baking sheet for 90 minutes. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes until golden brown. Toss knots in meted butter with garlic and herbs
A bit of spice and a touch of heat makes this a perfect side dish for grilled chicken, meat or fish
I adapted this recipe from Mexican street corn. Mexican street corn is corn on the cob that has been brushed with a mixture of sour cream, mayonnaise with Cotija cheese, lime, chili powder and cilantro. I wanted to lower the calories and remove the corn from the cob to make it easier to eat when serving a group. I added black beans for nutrition, color and because I love black beans but you can absolutely leave them out if you prefer a solo corn dish.
What kind of corn should I use?
Using fresh corn cut off the cob is ideal. Fresh corn has a sweet bite that is unmatched by frozen or canned. Summertime is corn time so I strongly encourage you to use the fresh corn when in season but in the winter you can use corn that has been cut off the cob and frozen. Please don’t use canned corn. It is much too soggy for this recipe. Visit a local farmstead in August and buy a bunch of corn to cut off the cob and freeze in plastic bags so you have fresh corn all winter long. Corn is a great starch to add to lots of side dishes, salads and soups. Corn is high in carbohydrates but it does also contain many healthy nutrients like Vitamin B, fiber, magnesium, iron and zinc. The sweet flavor of corn is perfect in off-setting spicier dishes.
How should I serve this dish?
This corn and black bean dish is very versatile. It can easily be reheated or eaten at room temperature. It is also extremely low in calories and big on flavor. Serve it alongside simple roasted chicken enchiladas. Buy a roasted chicken, pull meat off bone and place in pan, add 3/4 cup of my homemade enchilada sauce and 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, fill chicken in flour tortillas and place in a row in a baking dish that has a half cup of enchilada sauce on bottom. Top the enchiladas with remaining enchilada sauce and more shredded cheese. Cover and bake in 350 oven for 15 minutes until warm.
This dish also works great as a vegetarian entree when served with flour or corn tortillas on the side to fill with the corn, black beans and a touch of squeezed lime juice.
Serve this corn and black bean dish as a salad at lunch with grilled shrimp and avocado on top. It can be made earlier in the day so it is ready when you want to serve lunch.