Dinner is not my friend, to put it mildly.
Every day the question looms large in my mind, as in, what the hell am I going to feed these people? My family is picky, as I’ve mentioned dozens of times. Besides the whole gluten thing, we have veggie-phobes, meat neglecters, tofu snobs. There are VERY few things everyone will eat.
Sure, I could strong arm it and go all, one-meal-for-everyone-suckers, but I don’t. I do draw the line at not making more than two different meals on any given night… okay, that’s a lie. But I try not to, because that is just NUTS. Mostly my husband and I eat the same thing, Bunky eats another (or a slightly modified version), and Little Guy eats one bite of whatever I tossed on his highchair tray before throwing it on the floor.
Sidebar Alert! The whole toddler throwing food on the floor thing is getting really, really OLD. One of my hands has to hover next to his plate/bowl at all times, and if I move for just one second to say, take a bite of my own dinner, or get a drink of water, the food goes flying. It is NOT cool. He’s lucky he is so cute. Seriously.
Back to dinner angst…
Recently, I came across this cool idea about trying the ONE MEAL FITS ALL experiment and hyping it up like it’s a big exciting adventure, and if the picky people turn their noses, they are offered a few simple and healthy snacks (like, nuts, bananas, or cheese) that they can eat so they won’t starve to death (but the snacks remain the same so they are super boring and un-fun) but — I haven’t gotten the chutzpah (er, balls) to try that yet. It takes a resolve and strength that I simply do not have after seven years of broken sleep (not even kidding).
Thankfully I’ve discovered ONE SURE THING that every person in my picky family will eat and adore (am I jinxing myself or what?!) and that is Risi e Bisi, a delicious and creamy Italian rice and peas dish that you can totally modify to your family’s picky or less than picky tastes. For example, we cook up the pancetta on the side since my daughter doesn’t like it, and sometimes a few chicken breasts, too, for an extra protein boost. But it can absolutely be all veggie, which is how my kids eat it.
Mine is a rice cooker recipe, but don’t worry, for those of you who haven’t jumped on the rice cooker bandwagon yet (which I highly recommend you do!), I’ve included a link to a stovetop version, here. Just bear in mind, I’ve only made ours in the rice cooker.
Risi e Bisi
Lightly adapted from The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann.
*Machine should be a medium (6-cup) or large (10 cup) rice cooker, fuzzy logic or on/off, cycle: quick cook and/or regular or Porridge
*The above is rice cooker lingo, don’t be scared! Or be a little scared, I know I was when I started researching, but in the end I opted for a $60 on/off with a Porridge Soup option. But I pretty much just pour water and rice into it and turn it on.
- 1 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cup minced celery [or, 1/2 cup minced celery + 1/2 cup minced onion or shallots]
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons medium-grain risotto rice (Arborio)*
- 3 cups chicken, meat, or vegetable stock
- 1 + 1/2 cups frozen peas (if using fresh peas, see recipe for details)
- 3-5 slices of pancetta, chopped (cooked separately and optional)
You can also cook a few boneless chicken breasts to toss in at the end for a heartier meal.
* This recipe feeds 3 comfortably, but if you want more generous servings, or to feed 4, use 1 and 1/2 cups of Arborio rice and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup more broth.
- 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream OR milk
- 1 can of 14.5 ounce diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1. Set rice cooker for Quick Cook or regular cycle. Place olive oil and butter in rice cooker bowl. When the butter melts, add celery (and possibly, shallots). Cook, stirring a few times, until softened not browned, 2-3 minutes. Add wine and cook for a few minutes more. Add rice and stir to coat the grains with hot butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until grains of rice are transparent except for a white spot on each. About 5 minutes. Add stock and stir to combine. [If you are using fresh peas, stir in now, otherwise wait.] Close cover and reset for Porridge cycle, or regular cycle and set timer for 20 minutes.
2. While the rice is cooking, you can cook the pancetta in a skillet until crispy.
Food sidebar: My husband just came across this little gem at our local supermarket.
Chopped pancetta, be still my heart! It’s actually really HARD to cut into pancetta (I try not to think about why this is true, but, um, hello fatty meat?!) so this makes it loads easier. And I love easy.
Set aside to be sprinkled on top at the end. YUM!
2. After 20 minutes, stir rice with plastic rice paddle or wooden spoon. Rice should be only a bit liquid and rice should be al dente, tender with just a bit of resistance. If needed, cook a few minutes longer.
3. When you are ready to serve, add frozen peas, stir to combine. Add the butter and close cover for 2-3 minutes to allow it to melt and the peas to heat through. Stir in cream or milk, cheese, and salt to taste. Top with crispy pancetta and cubed up chicken, if you’d like a protein boost. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Do you have any tried and true meals that everyone enjoys? Any kid-friendly(ish) crowd pleasers? If so, please share! I could use another failsafe option.
Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.
Dana this looks delicious Im amazed your children eat peas. My boy only eats crunchy foods, he will eat some rice but a risotto is only something us adults eat. Just wanting to say, if your kids eat this wonderful wholesome meal you should be happy. I would be dancing a jig. My son’s sensory issue make dinner time challenging at best. Carrot, cucumber, chips and any kind of chicken is our winning dish. I feel your frustration but you are an amazing cook and inspire me to keep trying thank you.
It’s funny, neither kid would touch peas if it weren’t hidden among the creamy goodness of this dish! I am thrilled they eat this, it makes me feel so good to see them eating one meal, especially my toddler son who is SO picky these days and hardly seems to eat.
My daughter has some sensory issues too, and has a thing for food texture that makes things challenging. Yet, for all my complaining, they actually do eat a decent amount of things, just not the same ones 🙂
Thank you, as always, for your kind words!
I am just revisiting risottos but two members of the family don’t really enjoy stand alone rice dishes. So they get a bbq steak or grilled chicken with a side of risotto. Spaghetti bolognese is a winner and sometimes I will just have steamed vegetables instead of the pasta and then pour a scoop of sauce over the top. I am also experimenting with pasta bakes: I have three in my repertoire: Chorizo Macaroni N Cheese, Bocconcini Pasta Bake and the BEST – Carbonara Pasta Bake. I use a foil tray for the bakes so less cleaning at the end of the meal. (the last two can be found at http://www.taste.com.au)
Funny how food texture plays a large role in what foods our children eat. My gf son has a wonderful list of words he uses for gf foods he finds unappealing and to be honest for some products I tend to agree with him – furry, dry and chalky, spongy, rubbery… We should start a gluten free food critique word list 😉
Oh, I just love your son’s list of food descriptors! I wouldn’t want to eat anything furry, spongy, or rubbery either 🙂
I love spaghetti with meat sauce, but my kids won’t eat meat, so I would modify by giving them plain sauce. Pasta bakes sound really good, I’d love to try making one of those. Thanks for the recipe link!
Thank you! We do have bunch of rice eaters (5 out of 6) so I am going to try this. We love the recipes you share because they are quick, easy, and really good for families with small kids. I am sorry we haven’t connected much on here, but I think of of you often and I really appreciate your writings! I hope you’re having a happy spring!
Thanks so much Jess! I hope your family enjoys this. No worries on not connecting, I know you’re out there 🙂 Spring is good, a real relief from such a long cold winter.
That looks delicious; I love Indian rice dishes (and any rice dish, really). I’m glad it suits your whole family. I’m a little surprised your kids are down with the celery; I seem to recall that the kids in my family, myself included, were not particularly happy to eat celery in any preparation other than ants on a log. Big bro was definitely not down with peas. I used to be the most adventurous eater, so Mom or Dad would always have to make something plainer for Pat and Althea, which I’m sure was very annoying for them. It gets better! These days we can mostly all share a meal (when we’re all home) besides the gluten/my vegetarianism/Dad’s low-carbdom/we all still dislike certain very specific things. Okay, it gets a little better. 🙂
You know, the more I think about it, the more impressed I am by the fact that my kids eat this! Celery is my replacement for onions, since my husband won’t eat them, and I was worried the first time but they didn’t seem to notice them.
I’m glad to know it gets better, though! Even a little 🙂
As a mom with three picky kiddos (including one Celiac kid), I get it! I’m excited to try this recipe. I think my kids actually like everything in it! (Yeah!) Unrelated question — is that a plugin you are using for your “Share This?” I’d like to add something like that to my site.
Thanks and pinned!
Hi Heidi! Nice to hear from you 🙂 I hope your family enjoys this as much as mine does. We had it last night and I was the lucky recipient of the tiny bowl of leftovers for lunch.
The plugin for “Share This” is a function of WordPress, you can select it and include it on each post. Thanks for pointing it out! I have been making an effort to add a “Pin This” button on each recipe, but now I don’t have to!
Thanks for pinning 🙂
Thanks, Dana. I have a wordpress site, but it’s self hosted. I don’t have that feature. Lucky you! Thanks for taking the time to respond!