When you’re busy or tired and don’t want to spend a whole lot of time in the kitchen, one-pot recipes can be a life-saver. Risotto is one of these dishes in my repertoire that fits the bill. It’s easy, versatile, adaptable to a lot of different ingredients, and makes a satisfying meal.
One thing that makes it even easier is using frozen vegetable mixes. When we lived in Texas and Baltimore, it was difficult to find frozen vegetable mixes that weren’t from the giant multinational companies such as Birds Eye (owned by a European equity group) and Green Giant (a subsidiary of food giant General Mills). Here in Salem, where a lot of produce is grown in the Mid-Willamette Valley, we thankfully have a local option from a Salem-based food cooperative, NORPAC, which packages frozen vegetables under three brands: Flav-R-Pac, West-Pac, and Santiam.
In the food industry, NORPAC Foods, Inc. has always been an innovator.
According to NORPAC, it was the first company to pack frozen vegetables in the poly bags that are now the industry standard, the first to introduce “value-added” vegetable blends, and the first variety of frozen stir-fry vegetables.
According to NORPAC:
- NORPAC Foods, Inc. is Oregon’s largest fruit and vegetable processor
- NORPAC is a nationally recognized farmer cooperative owned by 240 Willamette Valley family farmers
- NORPAC’s farmer-members farm over 45,000 acres and produce over 600 million pounds of product annually
- NORPAC farmers produce 27 different crops, including strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, corn, beans, and peas
- NORPAC products go from harvest in the field, through processing and freezing, to packaging in one of five state-of-the-art processing plants in Oregon – all in less than four hours!
Being an Oregon company, NORPAC also reflects the values that many Oregonians place on sustainable and “green practices.” The company works with farmers to reduce water consumption, use integrated pest management systems to reduce the use of pesticides, conserve and enhance wildlife habitat, and refrain from using genetically modified crops.
So when I reach in the frozen vegetables section, I can feel good about taking home a bag of Flav-R-Pac frozen vegetables. My two go-to choices for Flav-R-Pac frozen vegetable mixes for risotto are Gumbo Mix, a combination of okra, corn, celery, onions, and red peppers, and the Mixed Vegetables, a blend of carrots, corn, peas, green beans, and lima beans.
You can also vary your risotto by using seafood such as shrimp or scallops, or meats such as sausage, chicken, or pork. And if you like mushrooms, you can use a variety of mushrooms instead of the frozen vegetables.
There’s really no way to go wrong with risotto as long as you follow one basic rule: You need to periodically add either water or chicken stock and periodically stir so that the rice doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pot.
Shrimp Risotto with Pancetta, Okra, Celery and Red Bell Peppers
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup chopped pancetta
1 cup chopped white onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups risotto
2 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth (I use Swanson’s chicken broth)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3-5 cups water
½ pound 21- to 25-count shrimp, peeled and de-veined
2 cups frozen Flav-R-Pac Gumbo Mix frozen vegetable blend, or frozen vegetable blend of your choice.
1 cup grated Parmesan
In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat, add pancetta and onions, stirring frequently until onions are translucent. Add garlic and stir until garlic begins to soften.
Add butter and stir in until it melts. Add risotto, chicken broth, and salt, and bring mixture to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.
Cover pot, stirring occasionally until liquid is nearly absorbed, then periodically add 1 cup of water at a time, stir in and cover, stirring periodically until liquid is absorbed before adding another cup of water. When the risotto has reached the consistency you want, add the shrimp and frozen vegetables, and stir occasionally until shrimp is cooked. Add grated Parmesan and stir. Spoon into large bowl and serve.