Meatless Monday: A Holiday Side Dish

I love this recipe because it takes what can be a time-consuming dish and converts it into a slow-cooker recipe. I did not adapt this one at all.

From Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

Wild Mushroom Risotto

1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced (okay, I usually use 2)
1 1/4 cup arborio rice
2 cups chopped cremini mushrooms
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup white wine
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or soy cheese substitute)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsely leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Soak the dried porcini in the boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the soaking liquid. Chop mushrooms and set aside.

2. In a medium-sized skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until fragrant and slightly softened, about 1 minute.

3. Transfer shallots and garlic to a 3 1/2-4-quart slow cooker. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil. Stir in all the mushrooms, the reserved soaking liquid, stock, wine, thyme and salt. Cover and cook on high for about 2 hours, until all liquid is absorbed.

4. About 5 minutes before the end of cooking time, stir in the cheese and parsely and season with pepper. To serve, spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and serve hot.

I will be making this as a side for Thanksgiving. We are heading to my parents’ house. My mom is gracious enough to get Tofurky for me and the girls, and most of her sides are vegetarian, too.

Someone at NaBloPoMo had a post about stress-free holidays or entertaining. If I can find the discussion, I’ll link to it. I think I am a fairly successful hostess, and here is what I try to do:

1. Keep it simple. I don’t put out a lot of different types of hor d’oevres if I’m making a full dinner. If I am cooking dinner, I make it a very straight-forward meal. For example, pesto-encrusted salmon, pasta with marinara, salad and bread (with another type of protein for the vegetarians). For my daughter’s birthday, I put out a big veggie tray with dip, and chips and salsa for people to munch on. The meal was soup (2 kinds. 1 veg and 2 meat), panini (4 types, 2 veg and 2 meat) and salad. Everyone had cake for dessert.

2. Delegate, delegate, delegate. My sister Earthmother helped me make the panini (she put them together, and I cooked ’em, basically). My other sister-in-law played with the kids — she even took them for a walk at one point. My brother fed Bun (even though he is ethically opposed to tofu *smile*). My mother and my MIL each brought one of the soups. In other words, let people help. It’s too hard to do everything yourself. Even Martha Stewart has staff!

3. Plan ahead, but be flexible. Have a timeline that you want things to run on, and then let things roll. Try not to get too bent out of shape if, for example, present opening takes too long. You’re not trying to get the trains to run perfectly on time; you’re entertaining people.

4. If you can make things ahead, do it. The various panini had various sauces, and I either made them ahead or, in the case of pesto, bought it pre-made (I miss my fresh basil plant).

The holidays can be — should be, make that — fun and enjoyable times, not dreadful (i.e. full of dread). Just let yourself off the hook, know your limits, and your children’s limits, and bring back the joy. This season is about love, sharing and family, not spending too much, eating too much, and running around trying to please everyone! For me, also, the Christmas season especially, is about Christ, and I am trying to teach my girls that he is the centerpiece of the season, not Santa and big shiny gifts.

Good Luck. Happy Thanksgiving, no matter how you spend it!