Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Butternut Squash Risotto

This was the first time I ever cooked with butternut squash or made risotto, but it will not be the last.  This was really yummy and creamy and wonderful.

You will have several things going at once - squash roasting in the oven that needs to be stirred every 10 minutes, near constant stirring of the risotto on the stove and toasting of the walnuts - this will be much easier with another person to help (or at least keep kids occupied, phones answered, etc.) so you are not far from the stirring for long because the risotto will stick to the bottom of the pot if it goes unstirred too long.  The stirring would be a great job for an older child so you can focus on the squash and nuts (I burned over-toasted my first batch of walnuts).

I made a few alterations -
  • dried herbs (use 1/2 of the recommended fresh quantity)
  • vegetable broth
  • no mushrooms (DS is anti-mushroom at the moment)
  • it took more broth than stated in the recipe, so have some extra on hand
Recipe adapted from the September/October 2010 issue of Clean Eating magazine

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto with Walnuts
3 cups peeled, diced fresh butternut squash
EVOO or olive oil cooking spray
Sea salt and pepper to taste
4 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 tablespoon EVOO
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (2 cups)
1 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (I used dried)
1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced (I used dried)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas (thawed if frozen)
1/4 cup shredded fontina or Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted

  1. Peel squash with vegetable peeler and dice.
  2. Toss squash in EVOO, season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast squash rimmed baking sheet in a in 425 oven for 20 - 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
  4. Bring broth to a simmer in saucepan and keep warm.
  5. Saute onion in 1 tablespoon of EVOO over medium-high heat for 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and saute until they start to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute more.  Add rice and stir to coat with oil and vegetables.
  6. Add 1/2 cup of warm broth; simmer ans stir until liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add another 1/2 cup of warm broth, simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is almost all evaporated.
  8. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, allow to simmer until liquid is evaporated.
  9. Taste rice after 3/4 of the broth has been added.  Rice is done when it's tender but still slightly firm and white in the very center (not chalky).  Continue adding broth until only 1/2 cup remains.  (Add more broth to warm if necessary -- I needed an extra one cup of broth).
  10. Add thyme, sage, peas and chees to pan with last 1/2 cup of broth; stir until cheese melts.
  11. Remove pan from heat before all liquid is absorbed.  Gently fold in cooked squash and walnuts.
  12. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Banana Nut Bread

Recipe adapted from River Roads Recipes II

Banana Nut Bread
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour, measured after sifting
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup vanilla almond milk
3 small or 2 large bananas, very ripe
1 cup chopped pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugar.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until fluffy.
  4. Add sifted dry ingredients, alternating with milk, bananas and pecans.
  5. Beat well after each addition.
  6. Bake in well buttered baking dish (approx. 6 1/2 x10 1/2 or a little larger) for 50 minutes or until brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

This recipe got rave reviews from both DH and DS and they are both big banana bread fans.

The original recipe called for cake flour, which I did not have, so I substituted regular flour.  I may try partially substituting whole wheat flour the next time.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Meal Planning #2

It is still monstrously hot here, but with the start of cross-country practice, I have to up the calorie and carb content to keep up DS's weight and energy.  The real trick is for DH and I to avoid gaining any weight.

Monday - Dinner at Grandma's - Paneed pork chops, mashed potatoes*, peas and corn
Tuesday - Dinner at Grandma's - Coconut shrimp, garlic spaghetti and steamed broccoli
Wednesday - Butternut squash risotto and green salad
Thursday - Grilled chicken, boiled mini potatoes and steamed broccoli and green salad
Friday - Dinner and a Movie - Killer Shrimp Pasta and green salad with Free Willy Parfaits
Saturday - Roast beef, mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach and steamed broccoli
Sunday - Chicken Cacciatore over pasta green salad and garlic bread

Found a new quick and easy idea I will be trying breakfast tomorrow-- DS loves oatmeal, this sounds like it beats the instant stuff - 50's Housewife Baked Oatmeal.

*Have you ever tried Ore Ida Steam-n-Mash?  I am sure I laughed at this when I first saw the commercial (frozen chunky cut potatoes steam in the bag, then you mash and add milk and butter.)  If I am going to do the work of real mashed potatoes, I might as well use fresh not frozen mashed potatoes.  I assumed you would end up with a gluey, tasteless, watery textured poor substitute (frozen dinner mashed potatoes anyone?).  I WAS WRONG. 

These are WAY BETTER than instant mashed potatoes, and dare I say, come very close to homemade.  The only thing missing was the lumps.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

German Chocolate Cupcakes (Semi-Homemade)

1 box Duncan Hines German Chocolate Cake mix

1 can Duncan Hines Cream Cheese frosting
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/2 cup sweetened flake coconut
1/4 cup chopped pecans

I used a "Texas"-sized cupcake pan so I made 12 very generous cupcakes.  Next time, I will make these in regular or mini size.  They are very rich and just a little too large.

Prepare cake mix according to directions and bake in cupcake tins.

Add almond extract, vanilla and ginger to icing and stir to combine.  The ginger and almond help to cut the sweetness of the icing.

After removing cupcakes from oven, spread coconut and pecans on a sheet pan with sides and toast.  Just a few minutes, it goes from barely done to over done very quickly.

After cupcakes are cool, frost each and sprinkle with coconut and pecans.


Monday, August 16, 2010


One of my favorite Lebanese dishes is Kibbeh (also, Kibby, Kibbe).  It is usually shaped like a football-ish meatball.  It is a shell of meat and bulgar containing loose browned seasoned meat and deep fried.  It is a great introduction to Lebanese food.  There are several variations of kibbeh, including a Raw Kibbeh (the raw kibbeh is shaped into a flat meatloaf shape and topped with the cooked filling, hashwee, and drizzled with olive oil), and Baked Kibbeh (ingredients layered in a baking dish, cut into diamond shapes and baked).


2 lbs lean ground beef (or lamb)
4 cups #1 cracked wheat (bulgar)
2 medium onions
1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon and allspice
1 teaspoon dried mint (2 tablespoons fresh)
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Kibbeh stuffing (see recipe below)

  • Wash wheat and let soak about 20 minutes.
  • In blender, put onions, mint, basil and 1/2 cup water, blend for a few seconds.
  • Squeeze water out of wheat and place in large bowl.
  • Season wheat with salt, pepper and spices, knead with hands.
  • Add meat and blender mixture to wheat, knead.  Add a little water if necessary.
  • Set aside and make stuffing.

Kibbeh Filling (Hashwee)

2 pounds ground chuck
3 onions, chopped
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon all spice
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

  • Brown meat until liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly.  Drain fat.
  • Add onions and seasonings, simmer until onions are tender.
  • Add lemon juice.
Take about 1/3 cup of the shell ingredients and make a small patty.  Hollow the patty, fill with hashwee mixture and seal the hole. 

Deep fry kibbeh until done.

Serve with pita bread, hummus and yogurt sauce.

Yogurt Sauce (make the day before)

6 - 8 ounces plain yogurt (preferable whole milk, greek style)
1/2 cucumber, seeded
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • Strain the yogurt overnight in cheese cloth or a coffee filter.
  • Seed cucumber, chop into small pieces and dry with paper towels.
  • Mix cucumber, mint and a pinch of salt into yogurt.