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This seems like as good a time as any to point out that I don’t believe in diets. I’ve tried so many – I’ve cut out carbs, I’ve cut out dairy (yeah, I know). Last summer I even tried a juice cleanse and only lasted 3 days before passing out. Deprivation just doesn’t cut it for me. Everything I read and hear tells me that the only way to lose weight is lifestyle maintenance. You can’t cut out a food group and expect to be able to eat it in a few months or a year. Instead you have to retrain yourself to make healthier decisions. Why, then, am I trying vegetarianism for a year? Well for me it’s not a diet, it is actually a lifestyle. And if I find it sustainable, I’ll try to maintain it for longer than one year!

That being said, this is one of my favorite healthier-but-not-diet-food recipes. I’m a risotto junkie. I order it at restaurants whenever I can, I spent a few months living on pre-packaged, reheatable varieties from Waitrose when I lived in London, and now I’ve finally taught myself how to make it from scratch. Obviously risotto, a rice-based dish, is not suitable for a low-carb diet. Luckily that’s not how I roll. I instead choose to focus on the fact that this dish involved a box full of delicious shiitake mushrooms, low-sodium vegetable broth, a minimal amount of cheese, and no heavy cream (as some varieties of risotto often have). That sounds healthy to me!

For those who have never made risotto at home, I highly recommend the experience. It’s simple to make, but it requires patience and gets easier with practice. It’s really therapeutic to stand in front of a stove on a winter day and stir steamy, brothy rice for half an hour, and my absolutely favorite part is the addition of white wine – the smell is amazing. 🙂

Ingredients (makes 2 servings):

1 1/2 c. arborio rice (the kind traditionally used in risotto)

1 shallot

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/4 c. white cooking wine

32 oz. low-sodium vegetable broth

5 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced

Black pepper and shredded parmesan cheese to taste

– – – – –

Heat a deep non-stick pan on medium and melt butter into olive oil. Finely dice shallot and add to butter/oil mixture until pieces are transparent. Add rice and toast lightly. Reduce heat to low. Add white wine, stir until it cooks off – rice should be ever so slightly cooked by now. Add 2-3 oz. of vegetable broth to rice in increments. Stir after each addition until broth is absorbed, then add the next increment. All 32 oz. are not needed, but depending on the variety of rice, strength of the stove, etc., it may take a while. Routinely taste the rice to check for doneness. Once rice tastes cooked, add shiitake mushrooms and stir. The mushrooms don’t need to be cooked, but they taste amazing when you let the rice steam them a bit. Add black pepper to taste and top with shredded parmesan cheese. Serve in shallow bowls with plenty of extra parmesan and a glass of antioxidant-full red wine! I wish I could’ve done the last part, but my eating buddy for the night doesn’t drink. Next time!

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Recipe: Mushroom Risotto

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