Get Off The Couch and Cook

Get Off The Couch and Cook -

Tomato & Mushroom Risotto (+ a giveaway!)


Many risotto recipes require 25-30 minutes of constant stirring.  This recipe which is full of tomatoes, mushrooms and fresh basil uses a more hands-off approach and still yields wonderfully creamy results!


I know this will seem weird since I’m not a fan of most rice dishes but I loooove a good risotto, specifically tomato-based risotto dishes.  There’s a local pizza place that has okay-at-best pizza (my opinion only… a lot of people rave about it but they can be wrong.  It’s okay) but they have a chicken tomato risotto on their menu that makes me drool just thinking about it.

So when Red Gold reached out to me about their spring campaign and offered to send me (and one of my readers!  More info at the end of this post) some free maters, I knew exactly what I wanted to make this time.  And, as it happened, they has a mock risotto recipe in their pamphlet that used shredded turnips in place of the arborio rice.  While that was intriguing, I had my own ideas.


Oh, just look at that pan of creamy tomato goodness!  And one of the best things about this risotto… no, make that 2 of the best things about this is 1) I followed this technique so I wouldn’t have to stand at the stove stirring for 30 minutes and 2) I did not use all the cream and cheese that many recipes utilize so it is actually a healthier take on risotto.  Yay for winning!

And another win!  I got the 16oz bag of arborio rice on sale that week AND I had a coupon for money off the mushrooms. 🙂  Free tomatoes and sales?  That certainly made for a happy Sashi!


And speaking of happy, I could NOT stop making yummy sounds while eating this!  I used Tuttorosso’s crushed tomatoes with basil which, honestly I would not ordinarily buy since I prefer to add my own flavors but these were really good!  I will certainly buy these the next time I am doing a tomato dish with basil, like when I make this again.

And I will.  Oh, yes… I will.  🙂


Tomato & Mushroom Risotto
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Makes: 8 servings (as side dish), 4 servings (as main dish)
  • 4 Tbsp (1/4 c) olive oil
  • 1 lb sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 heaping Tbsp jarred, minced garlic
  • 16 oz bag (2½ cups) arborio rice
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ⅛ - ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 c low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2-3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 c freshly grated Parmesan
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, rolled and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and rice and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes, oregano and red pepper flakes then 3 cups of the broth. Increase the heat to high and heat until it begins to simmer, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir the rice, cover the pan with the lid and reduce the heat to the lowest setting possible.
  6. Cook, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring only once halfway through.
  7. Remove the lid and add the chopped tomatoes and remaining 1 cup of broth. Increase the heat to high cook, stirring constantly until the rice is thick and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and Parmesan until the butter is melted. Stir in the fresh basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve immediately.


The giveaway is closed and the winner has been notified. Thanks to those who entered!

Wanna try the tomatoes?  Well, you are in luck because you have the chance to…


Here are 4 ways that you can enter:


Leave a comment below answering this question:

What is your favorite real food dinner idea for busy weeknights?

Be sure that you enter your email address in the comment form (only I can see it and I promise you will not be spammed) so I can contact you if you win.


  1. Follow me on Facebook and leave a comment letting me know
  2. Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know your Twitter name
  3. Follow me on Pinterest and leave a comment letting me know

This giveaway is open 11:59pm EDT Friday, April 3, 2015.  The winner will notified by email and have until 11:59pm EDT Monday, April 6 to respond with their mailing address and Red Gold will ship the prize.


Red Gold/Tuttorosso sent me the tomatoes for free and are sponsoring the giveaway.  All opinions in this post were 100% mine.



Cheesy Penne with Chicken and Bacon


Penne pasta, 3 kinds of cheese, chicken, vegetable and, of course, bacon in a satisfying casserole that can be made a day ahead then baked the next for a quick dinner on the go!


With these long days that I am working now, I am still trying to find quick, easy meals that don’t leave me eating dinner at 9:00pm but I want to do more than the typical fast meals of taco, burgers, and spaghetti.  Not that there is a single wrong with those.  I love them, in fact!  I just know that if I get bored with food, it will become even more easy for me to revert back to the foods that make my stomach hurt so bad: boxed dinners and fast food. Yeah, they’ll hurt but they’ll be quick and filling.  I really don’t want that happen.


When I saw this recipe on Taste of Home, I realized that it was  something I could make on Sunday then bake on Monday for a meal that would be hands-free while I caught up on a few other needed household tasks.  AND it gave me leftovers for lunch for the rest of the week which is a big plus in my book.

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this or not but with my longer hours, my first break falls between the breakfast and lunch times that the cafeteria is open and my lunch break falls right at the time the cafeteria is closing.  So if I don’t bring my food from home, I either have to leave the building for lunch or skip lunch altogether.


I hate leaving the building at lunch.  I know a lot of people who use that time to take a break from being in the building and I totally understand that but, for me, the added stress of dealing with lines in stores/restaurant, dealing with Atlanta traffic and finding a places to park while trying to get something accomplished in less than hour is not something I want to bring on myself.

I am also not one to skip lunch… or any meal for that matter.  I love food. 🙂


So the 20 minutes or so that it took me to get this casserole ready Sunday afternoon was totally worth it for a number of reasons.  In fact, my mouth watered just thinking about this.  Mmm… I think I will need to make this again soon!

Does anyone have any experience freezing something like this?  I could see making a double batch and freezing one for later.


Cheesy Penne with Chicken and Bacon
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Makes: 10-12 servings
  • 12 oz penne pasta
  • 10 slices of bacon, chopped to ½" pieces
  • 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1" pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbsp white wheat flour
  • 32 oz (4 c) skim milk
  • 2 c (8 oz) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1½ c (6 oz) shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 c (4 oz) shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 12 oz sliced button mushrooms
  • 10 oz frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 c panko bread crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil while cutting the bacon and chicken and while shredding the cheese. Set the meats and cheese aside.
  3. Once the water starts boiling, add the pasta to the pot and cook 2 minutes less than the package directions. Drain and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring often, until the bacon is golden brown and crispy, about 7 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Drain all about 1 Tbsp of the bacon grease from then pan.
  5. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until the chicken is just barely no longer pink on the outside, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Do not drain the pan.
  6. Stir in the flour until smooth then whisk in the milk. Bring to a quick simmer and let simmer 1-2 minutes or until the milk starts to thicken,
  7. Whisk in the cheese, a handful at a time, until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken, bacon, raw mushrooms, thawed peas and cooked penne.
  8. Coat a 9"x13" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and pour in the pasta mixture.
  9. In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter and panko until it resembled sand. Sprinkle over the pasta and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the panko turns a golden brown and the sauce is bubbling.
  10. Let set for a few minutes before serving.
To make ahead, do everything up through pouring it into the casserole dish. Let it cool then cover tightly and refrigerate up to 24 hours. When ready to cook it, remove it from the fridge while preheating the oven. Uncover then top it with the butter-panko mixture and bake 40-45 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Adapted from Taste of Home


Maple-Apple Pot Roast


A bit of apple juice and a touch of maple syrup along with garlic and herbs give a classic pot roast just a hint of savory sweetness.


The frugal foodie in me gets unbelievably excited when I find otherwise expensive cuts of meat on sale.  When Mr. O and I found chuck roast at a great price, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.  I’ve seen a number of Maple-Cider Glazed Pot Roast recipes bouncing around the internet but most of them seem like they’d be just a bit too sweet for what I wanted, but I loved the idea of putting a little syrup and apple juice in with the roast.


I love it when I have good ideas. 🙂

I had also thought about doing this in the slow cooker but wanted the roast to be a little more… firm, for lack of a better word.  Yeah, it would have turned out super moist but I wanted slices instead of shreds or chunks.  So I loaded the bottom a large casserole dish with potatoes, carrots and celery , topped them with the seared chuck roasted, covered it all with a blend of beef broth, apple juice, maple syrup, and dried herbs then roasted it all for a couple of hours.

The apartment smelled SO good while this was roasting and it was still hands free enough that I was able to just relax and veg with a movie while it was cooking.  The perfect way to spend a quiet Sunday!


While the roast was resting and being sliced, I skimmed the fat off the pan juices and brought them to a boil on the stove to reduce them a bit.  It made for a wonderful pan sauce without any additional doctoring.  And the potatoes absorbed so much of the yummy flavor that they didn’t really need gravy so I didn’t feel the need to thicken the pan juices into a gravy.

Even though this meal did take a few hours total, it was still very simple and comforting which was perfect for my last day off from work before starting another long week at work.  All thanks to a surprise sale at the grocery store. 🙂


Maple-Apple Pot Roast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Makes: 6-8 hearty servings
  • 6 medium russet potatoes, skin on, washed and quartered
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled, cut into 2" pieces
  • 3-4 ribs of celery, cut into 2: pieces
  • 1 c low-sodium beef broth
  • ½ c apple juice or cider
  • ¼ c maple syrup
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 4 lb beef chuck roast
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp jarred minced garlic
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°.
  2. Arrange potatoes, carrots and celery in the bottom of a 9"x13" pan. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the broth, apple juice, syrup, thyme, basil, and oregano. Set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle one side of the roast with salt and pepper. Place it in the skillet seasoned side down and brown for 3 min. Sprinkle the top with more salt and pepper then flip to brown the other for 3 min. Remove from the pan and place on top of the vegetable in the casserole dish.
  5. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the apple-syrup mixture and stir to mix. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Pour around the roast. Cover the top of the pan tightly with aluminum foil.
  6. Roast for 2 hours - 2 hours 15 minutes until the roast is cooked through.
  7. Carefully remove the foil then remove the roast to a cutting board. Recover with the foil and let the beef rest.
  8. Use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes, carrots and celery to a bowl. Cover to keep warm.
  9. Use a spoon to skim as much of the fat as possible from the pan juices and pour them into a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high and bring to a simmer. Simmer for a couple of minutes to reduce the pan juices slightly.
  10. Slice the beef thinly across the grain and serve with the potatoes, vegetable and reduced pan juices.


Smothered Chicken (inspired by Alice Springs Chicken from Outback Steakhouse)


Chicken breasts browned in bacon grease then smothered with honey mustard sauce, mushrooms, bacon and cheese… healthy?  Maybe not.  Delicious?  Absolutely!


I’ve only been to Outback Steakhouse a handful of times and the last time was probably 10 years ago but I still have fond memories of their Alice Springs Chicken: chicken topped with mushrooms, bacon, cheese and honey mustard.  Sounds wonderful, right?

I decided to do my take on it before looking up other versions and I’m glad I waited.  There are a lot of wonderful, delicious versions of this on the internet and I don’t think I would have been able to decide on one to base mine off of.  My take on it is certainly heavier on the honey mustard sauce than most but that’s because I love honey mustard.  A lot.  Like, A LOT.


There is no way I can even pretend to pass this off as a healthy entrée.  The chicken is the star, though, so simple healthier sides balance out the decadence, making it not so bad.  We had roasted broccoli and simple mashed potatoes.    After taking the pictures, I decided to use the honey mustard from the chicken as a sauce for the mustard which was so, SO good.

Since this makes enough for 4 servings, I got to have a couple of amazing lunches during the week which was a total yay during the work day.  Great lunches have become even more important to me now that I am working the long hours.  I also like people jealous, I’m not gonna lie. 🙂



You almost got a picture of a half empty plate.  It was REALLY hard to not keep eating the chicken while taking these pics.

Smother Chicken (inspired by Alice Springs Chicken from Outback Steakhouse)
For the chicken
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4 pieces)
  • 4 slices of bacon
For the honey mustard sauce
  • ⅔ c yellow mustard
  • ½ c honey
  • ¼ c real mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz sliced button mushrooms
  • 8 oz Colby-Jack cheese (or 4 oz each of Colby and Monterrey Jack cheeses), shredded
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the seasonings for the chicken. Set aside.
  2. Place the chicken between to sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper and pound to ½" thickness with a can, flat side of a meat mallet, or small skillet.
  3. Sprinkle one side of the chicken pieces with half the seasoning mix. Flip the chicken pieces and sprinkle with the rest of the seasoning. Place in the fridge until needed.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a 9"x13" baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  5. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy, about 5-7 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  6. While the bacon is cooking, mix together the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.
  7. Place the bacon on paper towels to drain. Drain off all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon grease from the skillet.
  8. Cook the chicken for 3 minutes per side until browned but not cooked through. Cook in batches if needed.
  9. Spread ½ cup of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.
  10. Arrange the 4 pieces of chicken over the honey mustard sauce. Drizzle the chicken with another ½ cup of the sauce. Arrange the raw button mushroom slices over the chicken and drizzle the remaining sauce over the mushrooms. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle over the mushrooms. Top everything with the cheese.
  11. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling.




Lemon Olive Oil Chocolate Banana Bread


Olive oil and lemon zest plus dark chocolate add an amazing richness to ordinary banana bread.


Happy Secret Recipe Club reveal day!

This month I was assigned Little Bit of Everything, a blog run by Julie who has been blogging for the past 6 years from Nebraska.  I almost made her slow cooker French Onion soup but decided that wouldn’t be a very nice thing to do to Mr. Onion-hater whose allergy to onions is so bad that the very smell is a bad thing for him.  So I looked at Julie’s Butter Dips and Cinnamon Swirl Banana Chocolate Bread but ultimately decided on making her Lemon Olive Oil Banana Bread.

Admittedly, I was little skeptical of using lemon zest and olive oil in conjunction with banana and chocolate but intrigued enough that I had to try it… just like Julie was when she tried it.


Of course, I made a couple of minor tweaks.  The main one being the lack of glaze over the top.  I’m sure it was delicious but a cup of sugars just sounded too sweet to me and, after tasting the bread without it, I think I made the right choice.  I also used sour cream in place of plain yogurt because that’s what I had on hand and I added a bit more chocolate because… well… chocolate.

Mr. O and I ate half the loaf ourselves the day I made it.  Ms. W came over after work the next day and also made many yummy sounds while eating a couple slices before dinner.  The lemon zest adds a very subtle back-end flavor that most people wouldn’t realize is lemon unless told and the olive oil adds a richness that was delightfully surprising.


This bread was SO moist but didn’t fall apart like some banana breads do.  I think this is going to be my usual banana bread recipe, with or without the chocolate pieces.  I’m thinking it would be amazing with chopped walnuts, too.

Instead of using really ripe bananas, though, I used some that I had in the freezer.  I just let them thaw which gave them that same consistency.  Of course, now I need more bananas for when I get in the mood to make smoothie but this was definitely worth that sacrifice.  🙂


Lemon Olive Oil Chocolate Banana Bread
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c white wheat flour
  • ¾ c brown sugar
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1½ c dark chocolate pieces
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ c olive oil
  • 3 - 4 ripe bananas, mashed (~1½ cups)
  • ¼ c sour cream
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat 9"x5" loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together both flours, the brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Gently stir in the chocolate pieces.
  3. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir in the olive oil, bananas, sour cream, lemon zest and vanilla until blended.
  4. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined and wet. Do not over mix.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and just set, 40-50 minutes. Try to not over bake or the bread may come out dry.
  6. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cook for 10-15 minutes then turn the loaf out fo the pan to cool completely.


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Potato and Vegetable Casserole

potato-vegetable-casserole-titleThinly sliced potatoes, chopped vegetables, cheese and BUTTER are baked together for a simple weekend side dish.


When I decided to make the spicy pulled pork this past weekend, I knew it needed a side that would complement it.  I wanted something hearty but with a light flavor so when I came across Taste of Home’s Herbed Harvest Vegetable Casserole, I knew that’s what I wanted to make… with a few tweaks, of course.

This is certainly not a weekday side dish, not at our house, anyway.  It went a lot more quickly with the mandolin but it still took a little while to put it together.  Plus, it takes 90 minutes to cook so, you know, there’s that.  But once it is together, it is really worth it.  It doesn’t have a strong flavor which makes it perfect for strong mains.


And since this, too, makes a lot, I had plenty left over for lunch all week.

Now, admittedly, I was a little skeptical of the rice in this.  I mean, it has potatoes so why add another starch?  Mr. O looked at it and pointed out that the rice was probably meant to act as a binder for some of the veg.  That made sense to me so I went along with it.


This ended up being an extremely comforting side dish so I can see it being added to our weekend rotation even though the prep is a little time intensive.  But I just parked my big ol’ butt at the kitchen table to pull it all together which was helpful.

When making this, be sure to thinly cut your potatoes and cut the zucchini and peppers more thickly else they will be kinda mushy when you take this out of the oven.  That happened to me this time around so I know for next time what I need to change.

Unless you like mushy vegetables.  I don’t judge.

Potato and Vegetable Casserole
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Makes: 8 servings
  • 4 medium russet potatoes, skin on, cut as thinly as possible (1/8" slice on mandolin)
  • 3 small zucchinis, cut slightly thicker than the potatoes
  • 3 sweet bell peppers (red, orange, yellow or any combination), seeded and cut into 1" pieces
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into ½" slices
  • 1 stick (1/2 c) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ½ c uncooked rice
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 2-3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat a 9"x13" pan with cooking spray.
  2. Layer half the potatoes in the bottom of the pan, overlapping the slices and seasoning with salt and pepper between layers. Top with half of the butter pieces.
  3. Layer half of the zucchini slices on top of the buttered potatoes, overlapping the slices. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a large bowl, toss together the peppers, celery, rice, basil, oregano, and parsley. Spread half of the mixture over the zucchini. Top with half the cheese.
  5. Repeat the layering with the potatoes, butter, zucchini and pepper-rice mix, seasoning with salt & pepper between layers.
  6. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake 90 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Top with the tomatoes and remaining half of the cheese. Bake 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let set 10-15 minutes before serving.



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