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If you have as many chef-crushes as I do, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to break up with them to get skinny and stay skinny…

You just have to re-define your relationships….

Of the more than 250 cookbooks on my shelves, one of my favorites is Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking.

When I first bought this now dog-eared book, Michael had not yet become a Food Network star, but was a star in the culinary world as founder of Napa’s Tra Vigne restaurant.

A chef of Italian heritage living in the bountiful county of Napa, Michael knows well how to maximize fresh ingredients to create his delicious recipes and menus.

And his Insalata di Riso was, for years, high on my list of things to make when serving dinner to impress a crowd or just serving a supper to please my family.

But since the original dish was made with white rice, oil, cheese and ham, I knew that if I wanted to regularly have it at my table, I had to re-think it.

By just tweaking his recipe a little, I’ve reduced the calories and fat by more than half and reduced the work.

Now, the skinny version of this gorgeous dish is back on my buffet and we’re back to celebrating supper Napa Style.. but with NO guilt!

Once again Magic Rice is the key to skinny-fying this delicious dish.

Cauliflower Rice mixed, 50/50, with Idiot Proof Oven Baked Wild Rice immediately lowers the calories by half while boosting tummy filling fiber and nutrients.

Sun-dried tomatoes packed in a little super-flavorful oil stand in for the ham, adding a rich taste and punch of color but with a fraction of the fat of pork.

The calories are cut further by doubling the almost calorie free asparagus. And, rather than fresh fava beans–which I love, but are labor intensive–I use frozen shelled edamame (soy beans) to add color, texture and protein.

And by using those frozen beans– along with frozen peas–I save the step of an ice bath to retain the asparagus’ bright green color.

If you make the rice mixture the day before, as I always do before a party, the whole thing comes together in 15 minutes!


4 c Magic Wild Rice

1 c onion, chopped

1/4 c sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, finely chopped

1 lb asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1 c frozen peas

1 c frozen shelled edamame (soybeans)

Juice and zest of one lemon

1/2 c fresh basil, chopped

1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 c grated Romano cheese

Prepare your Magic Wild Rice and set aside in a serving bowl.

Saute onions and sun-dried tomato in a tablespoon of the tomato oil until soft. About 4-5 minutes.

Dump the mixture onto the rice in the serving bowl.

Add chopped asparagus to the same pan–no need to wash–and add enough water to cover and 1 t salt and place over medium-high heat.

As soon as the water begins to boil, allow the asparagus to cook just 3 minutes longer and drain the water but leave asparagus in the pan.

Immediately add the frozen peas and soybeans and toss, about 2 minutes, until peas and beans are thawed.

Squeeze in the lemon juice and then toss into the serving bowl.

Add in the lemon zest, basil and parsley and most of the Romano cheese and toss again.

Reserve about one tablespoon of Romano to garnish the top and serve.

A gorgeous side dish to any buffet, it’s delicious warm, cold or at room temperature.


Add just a little bit of roasted or grilled chicken or cooked shrimp to the dish for a delicious lunch or supper the next day.

About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
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  1. Felicity says:

    We ate this tonight: it was a hit!

    • Lisa McRee says:

      So happy you made that one! I always serve it when I have garden parties…Love the looks on friends’ faces when they realize it’s half cauliflower!! (And then, they always go back, guilt-free, for MORE! 🙂

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