This 17-year-old does most of the meal planning, shopping, and prep for his family. And he loves every bit of it. That's why he's one of our #FamilyDinnerHero nominees. Read about all our nominees, and vote for your favorite.
Credit: Justin Walker

Hometown: Jericho, New York

COOKING LIGHT: What’s your key to being a dinner hero?

TYLER BLOCH: Meal planning is so helpful. I love the whole shopping experience—I’m a bit of a food nerd that way. You also can’t be afraid to try new things in the kitchen. It’s when I learn the most, and it really makes cooking an adventurous activity, like climbing a mountain.

CL: What’s your most vivid cooking memory?

TB: Being in the Chopped kitchen. I was on a teen episode [of the Food Network show]. It was the craziest cooking experience of my life—so high pressure, and I was completely overwhelmed. I didn’t make it through to the end, but I was so grateful for the experience.

CL: You start college this fall. Will your cooking change?

TB: I’ll have to get creative being in a dorm. It won’t be an easy adjustment, but I’ll be like 99% of people my age. Maybe that’s not a bad thing! At home, my mom’s going to have to step in to do the family’s cooking. I’ll try to teach her some of the basics before I go.

Vegetarian Spinach and Mushroom Risotto

You don’t need meat to make the meal. This vegetarian risotto uses rich vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, with meaty cremini mushrooms and fresh spinach stirred in just before serving. Sautéing the mushrooms separately cooks out their liquid and gets them gorgeously browned—you can do this while the risotto slowly simmers away. Pecorino Romano is an excellent choice here; it’s sharper and slightly saltier than Parmesan, so it really stands out in the finished risotto.

  • 21/2 cups unsalted vegetable stock (such as Kitchen basics)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 shallots, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. presliced cremini mushrooms
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 oz. pecorino Romano cheese, grated and divided
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chives

1. Bring stock and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low; keep warm.
2. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add shallots and garlic; sweat 4 minutes or until shallots are translucent, stirring occasionally. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring to coat. Add wine; cook 3 minutes or until the alcohol cooks off.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 1/2 cup stock mixture to pan; cook 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring frequently. Add remaining stock mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring almost constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes). Remove pan from heat.
4. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; cook 8 minutes or until browned and liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat; stir in spinach until wilted. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
5. Stir remaining 1 tablespoon butter, mushroom mixture, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons cheese into risotto. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon cheese and parsley over top. Serve immediately.

SERVES 4 (serving size: about 1 cup) CALORIES 350; FAT 12.1g (sat 5.9g, mono 4g, poly 0.6g); PROTEIN 10g; CARB 50g; FIBER 4g; SUGARS 23g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 23mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 595mg; CALC 109mg