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I love risotto. It's one of my favorite meals, and there are a couple of risotto dishes that are my go-to meals for when I'm tired and I want something quick, easy, and delicious.
Mushroom Risotto happens to be one of them.
I know better than to get my hopes up. To get really good, properly cooked risotto - with a little bite to the rice - you really have to cook it yourself. Even in the finest restaurants, most risottos are cooked beforehand and then reheated for service. That means overcooked rice at best, and downright mushy rice at worst. So the best I was really hoping for when I brought in Amy's Mushroom Risotto Bowl was that the flavor would be good and that the rice wouldn't be too overdone.
I have to admit, this is one meal that smells fantastic while it's cooking. This has a deep mushroom and Parmigiano scent and the rice itself is full of sliced mushrooms. To round out the meal Amy's has added peas, which complement the umami flavor with little hits of sweetness. As I feared, however, the rice is overdone nearly to the point of mushiness.
Even with that drawback, the flavor is so very intense that our panel insisted that it more than made up for the rice's texture. A quick look at the ingredients list revealed the source of that flavor: powdered porcini mushrooms. This is a chef's trick that my friend John Pearson shared with me: buy dried porcini mushrooms and whizz them in your mini-chopper until they are a fine powder. Just a little bit goes a long way, and the powder doesn't retain its flavor for more than a few weeks, so it's best to make some when you know you'll be able to use it. Just a tablespoon of the powder for four servings really brings out the mushroom flavor. This is 240 calories, 590 milligrams of sodium, and only 2 grams of fiber, but the umami flavor is intensely satisfying. This will make a great lunch.
The second item we tasted for today is quite different: where the Mushroom Risotto is intense and heavy, the Light & Lean Quinoa & Black Beans with Butternut Squash & Chard is light and bright, but no less tasty. The nutty flavor of quinoa is cooked with sweet, diced butternut squash and complemented with the bitterness of just a little sliced chard. The black beans are slow cooked almost to refried bean texture and spiced just enough to bring out their bean flavor. A much simpler meal than the mushroom risotto, with fewer calories (240) and less sodium (440 mg). This is perfect for when you want a lighter meal, but no less satisfying with the whopping 11 grams of fiber (!).
My other favorite risotto dish? Leek Risotto with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds.