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Let’s Get Started!

So, I love cooking, like, really love it. There’s something therapeutic about coming home with a big bag of fresh produce and goodies, walking into my kitchen after a long day and creating something delicious. It is the best transition from work to home life, and helps me move easily into an innovative space.

This past weekend was the exception, my handsome man was out of town.  I wholeheartedly believe that there is enormous value in going through the work of preparing a beautiful and yummy meal for yourself because you deserve it! But – sometimes, I just plain don’t feel like it. Also, sometimes a girl needs to channel her inner Olivia Pope and have herself a big ‘ol bowl of popcorn and a glass of red wine for dinner. 😉

So, after a long holiday weekend of too much take out and Valentine’s candy (salted caramels anyone? he returned just in time) I had someone else to cook for again.  I was ready to get my creative cooking juices flowing. It has been sunny and unseasonably warm here in Seattle for this time of year but I was feeling sympathy pains for those on the East Coast and was in the mood for something warm, comforting and after a long day, easy. That is exactly what THIS risotto is; simple, easy, delicious and filling. If you haven’t made risotto before, don’t be intimidated, it really is incredibly easy and hard to mess up.  It just takes a while, so be patient. I was feeling the need for greens so also included a kale salad, recipe below.


Sage Brown Butter Butternut Squash and Spinach Risotto

Serves 4 or one hungry dame and her partner

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

3.5 cups vegetable broth (chicken broth also works here if you aren’t veg)

1/2 a yellow onion

1 large scallion

4 tbps butter, divided

1 large butternut squash cubed, or 2 cups cubed

2 cups spinach

Olive Oil

Avocado oil

Salt & Pepper

Sage for garnish

Parmesan cheese (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Start with roasting your butternut squash, if working with a whole squash, slice in half, scoop out insides and peel, cubing into even bite size pieces. Most stores will sell this already chopped if you want to make your life easier. Toss cubes with avocado oil, salt and pepper. Roast 20-30 minutes checking often and stirring until sides are browned and squash is soft but not mushy, I personally prefer to taste test everything, feel free to pull a cube out and after cooling give it a taste. You want the squash to hold up once added to the risotto.
  2. Pour broth into a pot and warm on low heat.
  3. When squash is ready, pull out of oven and set aside.
  4. Next, finely chop scallion and onion. Add to large saucepan over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil and 2 tbps of butter. Saute for about 5 minutes until the onion has softened.
  5. Add rice to saucepan and saute for about 2 minutes until rice is coated and a bit toasted. Add white wine and cook until white wine is mostly absorbed, don’t worry a lot of this will burn off and just leave a hint of flavor.
  6. Add about 1/2 cup of broth, stirring until all liquid is absorbed. Continue this with remaining broth, adding about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring often until risotto is soft but slightly al dente. Highly recommend the tried and true taste test here 🙂
  7. While risotto is cooking, add remaining 2 tbps butter and 4 sage leaves to a small saucepan and cook on medium heat. This will be your brown butter, so you will want to melt the butter quickly and continuously stir until butter begins to take on a golden brown color and a slightly nutty aroma, this will happen fast so don’t walk away, it can burn very quickly. Look for brown specks on the bottom of the pan and as soon as you see it turning brown, immediately remove from heat. Pull out the sage leaves carefully and set aside.
  8. When risotto is almost done, add spinach leaves on top and gently stir in until wilted. Add brown butter and cooked butternut squash and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve immediately with caramelized sage leaves and Parmesan cheese if desired and enjoy!

Here is what ours looked like, I’ll get better going forward at photos throughout the process and up my photo game.

risotto

*I use avocado oil in this recipe for roasting because it’s safe up to 500 degrees. Olive oil has been known to release carcinogens when heated above 350 degrees. Not a huge deal, just a personal preference, avocado oil has no real flavor and you really can’t tell the difference with the finished product, I use it for all my roasting or high temperature needs. I use Chosen Foods, you can get it here or Costco :  http://www.amazon.com/Chosen-Foods-Avocado-Bottle-Naturally-Refined/dp/B00CYMF1CO

*This can easily be made completely vegan by omitting the cheese and butter completely. You can saute the onion and scallion in olive oil and just skip the brown butter. I think it adds a lot in the way of flavor but I have also done without and it will still be very delicious sans dairy.

*Risotto keeps very well and is great reheated for leftovers if for some crazy reason you don’t eat it all in one sitting.


Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad with Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette 

Serves 4

Salad

2 cups baby kale

1 cup raw shredded brussel sprouts

3 cooked beets, sliced

1/2 cup garbanzo beans

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup shaved pecorino

Dressing

1 lemon

2 tbps dijon mustard

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

I’m a huge fan of making my own dressing, after looking at the labels on store bought dressings there is just too much added sugar and chemicals for my taste and throwing together a homemade dressing takes minutes, can often be done with whats already in your kitchen and gives you lots of freedom.

  1. To make dressing, add juice of one lemon and mustard to a small mason jar. Add salt and pepper to taste and shake to combine. Allow to sit a few minutes and then add olive oil to taste. I like this especially mustardy so there’s no right amount of oil, just start adding and play around with this to get it to a flavor/consistency that works for you, just make sure you’re using a good olive oil.
  2. To assemble salad, add washed and dried kale and brussel sprouts to bowl. Add beets, garbanzo beans and almonds.
  3. Toss salad with dressing and add cheese on top.
  4. Serve immediately and enjoy!

salad

*Again, this easily becomes a vegan salad if you omit the pecorino, and no one would ever know, this salad is filling and balanced all on it’s own if you choose to leave the cheese out.

Hope you all enjoy these as much as I do, I think they compliment each other very well and were a hit in our house. Even our hairy baby was sniffing around for handouts. Cheers!

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