Broccoli-Cheddar Risotto & A Book Review

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In my wildest dreams it never dawned on me that delicious dinners could be made with only five ingredients.  Breakfast with five or less is easy with things like Greek yogurt topped with berries and a drizzle of honey, a bowl of oats with milk, fruit, and nuts, or a bagel with lox, cream cheese, red onion, and capers…even a veggie omelet for the most part probably has less than five ingredients, but I think dinner with five ingredients is pretty impressive.  That’s why I was intrigued when I recently was offered a review copy of Robin Miller’s Robin Takes 5, which is a cookbook of 500 recipes with five ingredients or less and 500 calories or less. 

Looking through the book, quite a few of the recipes stood out to me, like Seafood Stew in Saffron Broth, Grilled Cheese Pizza with Smoked Paprika (this one really sounded unique…I think I’ll be making a version of it soon!), and Chicken, Roasted Corn, & Pimento Salad…and even desserts like Frozen Creamsicle Pie, Maple Brown Rice Pudding, and Orange Marmalade Tart with Chocolate-Covered Almonds.  

It’s obvious that Robin is super creative…but how does she pair a mere five ingredients to come up with a flavorful meal?  I’ve noticed that she makes every single component count.  She uses doubly-flavorful ingredients like garlic-flavored olive oil (which combines garlic and olive oil), fire-roasted tomatoes (for a smoky flavor with tomatoes), and prepared store-bought polenta (so you don’t need all the ingredients that would go into making homemade polenta).  Additionally, she uses certain cooking methods to really make the most use out of one ingredient (such as roasting corn instead of steaming it before adding it to a dish). 

I think this book would be perfect for someone who is just starting out cooking, or maybe someone who wants to cook at home but doesn’t have a lot of time to commit to it; however, I also think it has its uses for people who cook regularly.  For me, this book was a great source of meal inspiration.  Even though I’ll probably flesh out many of the recipes by adding an additional ingredient or two (even if it’s just an onion or another veggie, a dash of my favorite spice, or a bit of one of my favorite prepared sauces – like Worcestershire or Dijon), or I may make the homemade version of an ingredient (such as polenta or roasted garlic) instead of grabbing a pre-made component at the grocery store, I think the recipes in this book serve as a good basic structure for meals.  

Another great thing about this book is how versatile the recipes look.  The recipe that inspired my Broccoli-Cheddar Risotto was actually Risotto with Cheddar, Bacon, and Scallions.  Robin’s original recipe called for olive oil, Arborio rice, chicken broth with roasted garlic (another double-duty ingredient!), cheddar cheese, bacon, and scallions.  That’s all.  (Pretty impressive, right?)  I made a couple substitutions:  turkey bacon instead of pork bacon because we don’t eat pork, and fresh parsley instead of scallion because that’s what I had on hand.  I also made a couple of additions:  onion, lemon juice, and garlic (because I always make my risotto with them) and broccoli (because I had it in my fridge to use up).  It ended up being really tasty.  The best part is, going through the book it looks like many recipes can be adjusted similarly to suit your preferences.

 A Note on the Broccoli in This Recipe:  I wanted the broccoli to sort of melt right into the background of the risotto, so I cooked it right along with the rice (as described below).  If you prefer your broccoli to stand out a little more, you can blanch the broccoli florets until crisp-tender and stir them in to the cooked risotto right after you stir in the cheese and turkey bacon. 

Broccoli-Cheddar Risotto (Inspired by Robin Miller’s recipe for Risotto with Cheddar, Bacon, and Scallions in her book Robin Takes 5; published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC) 

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish 

4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 slices turkey bacon, minced

1 medium onion, diced

1 cup Arborio rice

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice mixed with 2 1/2 tablespoons water

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 cups broccoli florets, chopped small

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

3 oz sharp cheddar, grated

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves, or any fresh herb you like (optional; for garnish) 

Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat; turn heat down to low so it stays hot as you cook the risotto. 

Heat the oil in a separate medium saucepan over medium heat; add the turkey bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes.  Remove the turkey bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside for now.  Add the onion to the oil you cooked the turkey bacon in and cook until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the rice and cook until slightly browned and nutty smelling, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the lemon juice/water mixture and cook until evaporated, about 1 minute.  Stir in the garlic, broccoli, and black pepper. 

Turn heat down to medium-low.  Add 1/2 cup of the hot stock to the rice, stirring constantly until the liquid is almost completely absorbed, then adding more stock in the same manner.  Continue this way until the risotto is tender with just a slight bite to it, about 20 to 25 minutes.  (You may need slightly more or less liquid to achieve this; if you run out of stock, you can just simmer some water.) 

Turn off heat and stir in the cheese and turkey bacon; add salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle parsley on top (if using) and serve immediately.

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  1. says

    I always enjoy when recipes have less ingredients. Too many and my head spins ;). This looks jut perfect. Its so fun to make different takes on risotto.

  2. says

    This looks great! I’m a big fan of simple dishes…for many reasons, but mostly because I’m not patient and I’m terrible at having a lot of things on hand!

  3. says

    That is one great looking risotto. I love all the flavors and it is a great winter dish… cheesy and good for you too, Great picture too, Faith!

  4. says

    I think Robin Miller used to have a food network show I watched while working out at the gym back in 06 or 07…all I remember about it was that the meals were simple and fast so this might be her! Anyway, I like the sound of the cookbook and would get it for a new bride. I love your adaptation of the rice, adding broccoli, which is a classic combo with cheese and the turkey bacon I’m sure just puts it over the top! mmm

  5. says

    Great review of the book and I love how you’ve adapted the recipe, but still using 5 ingredients :)
    I think this book would be perfect for me ~ I’ve only just started cooking savoury dishes and whenever I see recipes that have more than 10 or so ingredients I get really nervous and end up putting off the idea of making it ~

    thanks for sharing a recipe with us!

    • says

      Daisy, I used a few more than 5 ingredients, lol, but I think that’s what makes this book usable for even people who cook regularly. It gives them meal inspiration that they can flesh out with more ingredients if they want to! :)

  6. says

    I would not have thought that any of those recipes you listed could be made with only five ingredients! Amazing.

    And now I’m seriously craving risotto. Want. Now.

  7. says

    Okay that’s true you did use more than 5 ingredients :) but i can pronouce all the ingredients you’ve used and hahaha can find most of them in my pantry so that’s not scary ~ can’t wait to get my hands on this book!

  8. says

    Looks fabulous, and it sounds like a great cookbook. I do a similar sounding vegetarian broccoli cheese barley risotto, a kind of healthy homage to the Campbell’s soup-based recipe popular when I was growing up. Mine is definitely not as pretty as yours, however :D

  9. says

    I found the same thing to be true of the recipes from that 5-Ingredient Meal show on Food Network. She uses chili oil and garlic oil to get a lot of use out of her ingredients, and she comes up with some great ideas. If you have Food Network, consider checking out her show!

    Oh, and that risotto looks to die for. I love that you mixed the broccoli in with the rice.

  10. says

    Great review, Faith!! Your observations of her methods are especially helpful. I like how she adds depth to simple dishes by those easy steps. Mmm, and your risotto looks marvelous. :-)

  11. says

    What a great concept! It’s a smart idea for cutting down extra work, and extra costs. You’ve definitely got me craving a simple, comforting risotto now, that’s for sure. :)

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