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.
Before shot of uncooked pancetta…
Food sidebar: My husband just came across this little gem at our local supermarket.
Pre-cut AND gluten free, score!
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!
And after! The crispy saltiness is awesome.
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.