Add butternut squash for a sweeter risotto


When I make risotto, I usually add asparagus and a couple drops of white truffle oil and call it a day. But last week I wanted to play around and see what I could come up with. The result was a butternut squash risotto that I will definitely make again.

I like the natural sweetness of butternut squash, so I thought it would be a good starting point to choose a different vegetable to add. That gave me direction in choosing the rest of the seasonings for the risotto, which ended up being slightly sweet, really creamy, and full of flavor.

Beware if you’re cooking for one, because this makes a large amount of risotto. If you just want enough for a few servings for yourself, I recommend cutting the recipe in half.

1 large butternut squash
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (I used riesling)
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons butter, cut into smaller cubes
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of white pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Peel the butternut squash and remove the seeds. Place the butternut squash, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Rub with cooking oil or spray with cooking spray. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add a splash of cooking oil, the onion, and the garlic. Once onions are translucent, add rice and stir until slightly browned. Turn heat to medium-high and add riesling. Simmer until wine is absorbed. Stir. Add 2 cups of the chicken broth and simmer until absorbed. Add the remaining two cups and simmer until absorbed. Add cream and stir until just combined. Rice should be tender. Turn off heat. Add butter and seasoning ingredients. Cut squash into small cubes and stir into risotto. Serve.

Growing up with goulash


Did anyone else grow up eating goulash? I’m not talking about the stew so much as the pasta version. Is that a weird Midwestern dish West Coasters haven’t heard of? I had an odd hankering for it last week, so I made a batch and, when I took some of the leftovers to work for my lunch, my coworkers didn’t seem to know what it was when I told them. The only one who had heard of it was from the Midwest, which is where my mom’s side of the family is from. I didn’t know if this was a dish grandma concocted and mom carried on making, or something more people ate. For those of you who haven’t had it, it’s kind of a more deluxe, less cheesy version of macaroni and cheese.

In any case, my mom wasn’t home to answer the phone when I called for the recipe last week, so I made a version of it based on what I remembered eating when I was a kid. The store didn’t have large elbow noodles—which is traditionally used for this—so I went with rigatoni, which I ended up liking because there was more room for the sauce inside of the noodles. The sauce in this version was a little thicker than I remember it being in my mom’s version, but it was good. Not bad for making it from memory. If you don’t want to add the cheese and bake it, you can serve it right out of the frying pan.

1 pound ground beef
10 ounces rigatoni
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can fire-roasted corn
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
Dash of black pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the rigatoni and boil until cooked. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium heat, cook the ground beef until browned. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and corn and simmer. Add the pasta, garlic, herbs, and spices. Stir until combined.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour a third of the goulash into a dutch oven. Top with 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat three times. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

An introduction to homemade chili


Since I began teaching myself to cook years ago, I’ve always wanted to try making chili. But I was intimidated. It turns out I had no reason to worry. I finally worked up the courage to try it, and used this recipe for my first-ever batch of homemade chili.

It was really quite easy, and it had a much fresher flavor than the canned stuff I’ve been eating my whole life.

The only thing I was concerned about with this recipe was how soupy it was before simmering, but giving it the full hour to simmer helped to thicken it. Next time I’ll probably make it a little spicier and add some fresh garlic, but this was a great recipe for a first attempt.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped sweet onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped yellow bell peppers
1 pound ground turkey
1 (28-ounce) can crushed organic tomatoes, undrained
1 (16-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
11/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

In a large skillet, sauté onions, garlic and bell peppers in olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add ground turkey and cook until browned.

Add remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Keeping it simple with brussels sprouts and apples


I’ve only had brussels sprouts a few times in my life. My best friend makes them by shaving them and adding bacon—it’s so good. Since I’m trying to eat more vegetables lately, I’m trying to mix it up more, so I bought my first bag of brussels sprouts at the store last week. It was a Wednesday, so I wanted to do something simple to go with the baked chicken thighs I was baking. I also had a few apples from the farmers market that I wanted to use, so I looked up some recipes that used the two and settled on this one.

Keeping it simple worked. Next time I might be a little more adventurous, but this was a great introduction to cooking them for the first time.

1/2 cup diced apple
8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
2 tablespoons apple cider
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine apple and Brussels sprouts in an 11×7–inch baking dish. Add apple cider, olive oil, minced fresh thyme, salt, and freshly ground black pepper; toss well. Bake for 25 minutes or until sprouts are tender.

Swapping potatoes for cauliflower


One of the great things about Facebook is when someone raves about a recipe they’ve recently tried and loved. This happened last week with one of my friends who tried mashed cauliflower. I reached out to her and she gave me the link. Since I don’t have much experience with cauliflower or how to use it creatively, this seemed like a great, simple recipe to try.

I thought using cauliflower instead of potatoes wouldn’t be able to compare to mashed potatoes. I was wrong. Not only did boiling the cauliflower take a lot less time to boil than potatoes would, but the entire recipe took less than 15 minutes. Just make sure you get the cauliflower as dry as possible after taking it out of the boiling water. My friend said she put the cauliflower in a tea towel and wrung it out.

This is a great addition to any meal where you’re short on time.

1 medium head cauliflower
1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon straight chicken base or bullion (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry chives, for garnish
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Set a stockpot of water to boil over high heat.

Clean and cut cauliflower into small pieces. Cook in boiling water for about 6 minutes, or until well done. Drain well; do not let cool and pat cooked cauliflower very dry between several layers of paper towels.

In a bowl with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, puree the hot cauliflower with the cream cheese, Parmesan, garlic, chicken base, sour cream, and pepper until almost smooth.

Garnish with chives, and serve.