Butternut Squash Risotto and a Fall Salad

Monday already? The weekends always go by way too fast. This past weekend Chris and I had the pleasure of getting to spend time with both of our families. My family lives a few hours away so I don’t get to see them as often, but it was great to have them drive down for a visit 🙂 As we all sat around watching football (good effort Browns), laughing and discussing the upcoming holidays, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of excitement build. I look forward to this time of year and somehow I feel like it sneaked up on me this year. How is Thanksgiving next week already??

A little Christmas music may be in order this afternoon 😉

To begin getting myself into the comfort of the holidays, I decided to make a warm and savory dish for the parents last night. Risotto is one of those meals that comes to mind when I think of comfort food ( I even have a lightened version when cravings hit during the summer) and I thought using seasonal butternut squash would be perfect for the occasion. Pair it with a Fall salad and fresh baked bread and you have a wonderful meal for a Fall or Winter evening.

Makes for great leftovers too!

Butternut Squash Risotto
(recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)
Serves 6
1.5 butternut squash, peeled and chopped in 1 inch pieces
1.5 cups Arborio Rice
2 Tbsp Earth Balance
3/4 cup dry white wine
5-6 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage (add to your liking)
coarse salt
fresh ground black pepper

1. Heat the vegetable broth in a saucepan over medium heat. Keep warm.
2. In a heavy sauce pan, melt the Earth Balance. Add the chopped butternut squash and season with salt and pepper. Stir and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, until squash begins to soften.
3. Add the Arborio rice and stir to mix well with squash. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the white wine and stir until completely soaked in.
5. Now begin adding your vegetable broth in 1/2 cup increments, stirring with each addition. Wait until it is completely soaked in before adding the next 1/2 cup batch. Continue for about 35-40 minutes, until the risotto is cooked well and creamy in texture. You should use most of the vegetable broth.
6. Add in your Parmesan cheese and sage and stir to combine. Serve along with the following Fall salad recipe and warm, fresh bread.

Fall Salad

5 cups lettuce of choice ( I used butter lettuce because I wanted a lighter, softer taste)
2 apples
1/3 cup candied walnuts
1/3 cup dried cranberries
salad dressing of choice (balsamic or a raspberry vinaigrette work nicely)

Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and toss to combine. Simple and delicious.

Risotto may be intimidating to some and its high maintenance quality may be off putting, but once you have the technique down, the add-in options are endless. There is so much variety with risotto and it works well as the main dish or as a nice compliment to almost any meal. The time and attention required to make a great risotto makes it so worth it in the end. Warm. Comforting. Perfect. 🙂

Now, you didn’t think I would cook a meal for family and not have dessert, did you? Since risotto can be quite filling, I wanted to keep the dessert simple and light. I decided to go with Angela’s Pecan Pie Truffles. These little energy bites work well for a light dessert or as a great snack that won’t leave you with a sugar high. I made a few slight changes to the recipe and added chocolate, of course….it is dessert afterall! Plus I knew I had a better chance of Chris liking them if there was chocolate involved 😉

Pecan Pie Truffles (adapted from Angela’s recipe)

1 cup pecans
1 cup almonds
3/4 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup oats
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup (if necessary)
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/4 cup almond milk

1. Place pecans and almonds into a food processor and process until finely crumbled. Don’t process too long or you will begin to get nut butter.
2. Add the oats and process until coarsely chopped
3. Add the vanilla, sea salt, powdered sugar, and spices and process until mixed well.
4. Add the pitted dates and process until mixture begins to stick together. You may need to add a tiny bit of maple syrup to help a dough-like mixture form.
5. Form mixture into shapes of your choice. I chose to make balls, squares and rectangles for a “box of chocolates” look when serving them.
6. Stick in freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up.
7. To make chocolate coating, combine the chocolate chips and almond milk in a bowl and microwave in 30 second increments until melted. Stir until creamy and smooth.
8. Next, choose how you want to coat your truffles. You can cover them completely in chocolate, drizzle the chocolate over the truffles, or partially dip them. I chose a combination to add variety.
9. Store in freezer.

The energy truffles were a great way to end the meal. Different, fun, and you don’t have to worry about crashing like you do with a typical, highly-sugared dessert.

It was such a great time visiting with family and I can’t wait for the holidays 🙂 I hope everyone else had a wonderful weekend as well!

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