It’s no secret how much I love risotto. But sometimes I want to indulge without feeling like I, well, overindulged. Sunday night I set out to make a more perfect risotto, or at least one I can eat and feel relatively guilt-free.

After a request from a fellow BC9-er for a butternut squash recipe (Thanks, Courtney!) I was inspired to create a vegan-friendly risotto, too. Surely there has to be a way to savor the creamy goodness without heavy cream and excess amounts of cheese, I thought.

Here’s what I came up with. The short grain brown rice takes a little more time and liquid than white Arborio rice, but the end result is definitely worth the effort. If you just can’t bear the thought of a cheese-less risotto, go ahead and add some parmesan at the end (confession: I did). You’ll still respect yourself in the morning, I promise.

Brown Rice Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash

1 1-1/2 lb. butternut squash
preferred seasoning for squash
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup white wine
2 quarts mushroom (or whatever stock you prefer) plus 1 quart water
1 cup short grain brown rice
olive oil
½ c parmesan (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

For the squash:
Cut the squash into inch-sized cubes and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast on a rimmed baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. After they come out, you can add seasoning of your choice. I used Caribbean Jerk seasoning with thyme, sugar, and red pepper, but you could use chile powder, brown sugar, or nutmeg—or just leave them plain.

For the risotto:
Sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent. While the onion is cooking, add the stock and water to a stockpot and bring to a low simmer. Add pepper and minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add the rice and allow it to toast for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine to the skillet and stir, allow the rice to soak it up a bit. Then begin adding the stock to the rice, 1-2 cups at a time. Make sure to stir regularly to help give the risotto its creamy consistency. When most of the stock is absorbed, add 1-2 more cups, repeating until you’ve used all the stock and the rice is tender.

Season with salt and pepper, stir in parmesan cheese, if desired, plate risotto and top with roasted squash.




Thanksgiving Remix

Carrying on with the theme of using fall and Thanksgiving flavors in different ways, I wanted to really step out of the box on this one.

And boy did I, on a number of levels. First, I’d never had Brussels sprouts before. Ever. I wouldn’t say it is because I was afraid of them or had some traumatic experience as a child that left me hating all things green, in fact, I like greens quite a bit (I am from the South, after all). My family simply never cooked them. Before a little Googling, I had no idea what to even do with them.

Second, I knew that my husband really hates Brussels sprouts. Making something he’d even consider trying was going to require some creative thinking for sure.

I decided the best possible way to approach the situation was to combine something that lands far beyond “strong dislike” with something that ranks at “highly enjoy” on the food preference continuum.

I needed to find a way to package the Brussels sprouts that brought out the best of their qualities, while minimizing the less desirable ones. With potstickers often having a cabbage filling, and Brussels sprouts being mini cabbages themselves, realized I just might be on to something.

Finely shredding the sprouts really adds a nice, delicate texture and balance to the crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside potstickers to come in for the win on this one, and the flavor of the sauce and the sprouts is sensational.

Next time you’re up for a mini food adventure, I highly recommend giving these a try.

Brussels Sprouts Potstickers

¼ pound Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed (enough for about 3 cups of Brussels sprout “slaw”)

½ large onion

6 strips of bacon, cut into small slices

12 oz package of dumpling wrappers

1 egg white

salt and pepper

canola oil


Dipping Sauce:

1 tbsp. Sriracha chili sauce

¼ cup soy sauce

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tbsp. sugar

Shred the Brussels sprouts and onion as finely as possible (I used a mandolin and highly recommend it) and combine in a bowl.

Fry the bacon pieces in a skillet until crispy and brown, remove from the skillet and set aside to drain.

Using the leftover bacon drippings, turn the skillet to medium heat and add Brussels sprouts, onions and salt and pepper. Cook the sprouts and onions until they turn bright green and slightly soften—do not overcook or the filling will become mushy as it will still steam again inside the potstickers.

Put the sprouts and onions in a bowl and toss with bacon pieces. Spoon about a tablespoon of the filling onto the center of the dumpling wrapper, brush the edges with egg white and seal. Make sure the edges are sealed tightly and cover with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.

When you are ready to cook, heat about 3 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan with a lid until it is hot but not smoking. Add the potstickers – in one layer, with plenty of room in between, and allow them to fry for about 1 minute. Then carefully (with lid in hand) add ¼ cup of water and cover to steam for about three minutes (the oil will splatter and pop, so be careful!) Uncover the potstickers and allow to cook for about another minute, until any remaining liquid has evaporated. You can flip them to brown both sides at this point, if desired. Repeat with the next batch of potstickers.

Serve with dipping sauce.

Makes about 50.

Still inspired by the flavors of fall, despite the rise in temperatures again, I decided to pick up some squash at the Town and Country Farmer’s market last Wednesday.

I love finding new ways to use squash, and after a request to incorporate penne pasta, here’s what I came up with.

By the way, if you’re looking for something to do with all the seeds from your squash, check out Eliza Domestica’s recipe for roasted winter squash seeds here.

Here’s the fruit of my efforts from last week’s market selection:

Penne with Roasted Acorn Squash, Vidalia Onions and Chile Rubbed Pork Chops

1 lb whole-wheat penne pasta

1 large Vidalia onion

1 acorn squash

3 1-inch-thick pork chops

salt and pepper to taste

3 tbsp olive oil

¼ c parmesan cheese

For the pork chops:

2 tsp ancho chile powder

1 tsp chipotle chile powder

1 tsp garlic powder

3 tsp brown sugar

½ tsp salt

Combine spice mixture and rub on pork chops. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour up to overnight.

Cut the acorn squash in half and then into slices, lengthwise, and cut the onion into wedges.

Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet.

Roast the squash and onion at 375 for 20 minutes. The pork chops can go in the oven at the same time, but roast them for 20-35 minutes, or until they’re no longer pink in the center.

Allow the pork chops to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing to retain juices.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions.

After the squash and onions have cooked and slightly cooled, remove the skin from the squash and dice. Toss squash and onions with pasta. You can either dice the pork chops and toss with the pasta, squash and onions, or place on top.

Top each dish with some of the parmesan cheese.

Serves 3-4.

November graced us with it’s presence yesterday, and along with it the approach of one of the best holidays of the year: Thanksgiving. From now until the big day, look for my recipes and posts to take on a seasonal twist—I’ll incorporate items you’d find on the traditional Thanksgiving table, but in a new way. Hopefully they will help you put a fresh spin on one of the best opportunities to experiment with new foods for family and friends.

To get the ball rolling, I made one of my favorite (and healthier) snacks for this week’s Fantasy Football Fuel: sweet potato fries. Since these are baked in the oven, they aren’t quite as crispy as traditional fries, but I’ve found some ways to make them really delicious. I highly encourage you to give them a try—I promise they’re irresistible.

For this recipe you’l need:

Sweet Potatoes

Olive Oil to Coat Fries

Caribbean Jerk Seasoning

A Touch of Honey (think a tablespoon or less)

Garlic Powder


Here’s the easiest way to cut the sweet potatoes into fry-size.

First, cut off the top and bottom.

Next, cut the potato in half, lengthwise.

Then cut each half into strips, about 3/4 inch wide.

Cut each strip in half.

Put the fries in a bowl with seasoning, oil and honey and toss to coat.

Here’s a secret: use a cooling rack on top of a rimmed cookie sheet to allow air to circulate between the fries.

Place the fries on the rack, allowing for as much room to breathe between fries as possible.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until they begin to shrivel up a bit.  Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce.

Fall is in the air!

The cooler temperatures this week definitely inspired this post.  I wanted to find a way to incorporate a lot of the wonderful fall flavors in-season produce has to offer, and while browsing Epicurious, I stumbled upon this gem of a dish: Wild Rice with Butternut Squash, Leeks and Corn.

This definitely fit the bill.  The squash is roasted to bring out its rich, nutty flavor, and the rice worked well to bring all of the vegetables together.

Not only would this make a wonderful side dish, it would also be great solo, especially if you subbed the wild rice for quinoa.

Classing it up…

I got the idea for these adorable deviled eggs from the Second City Soiree blog. Although I’m not entirely sure “football” and “adorable” go hand in hand, these were really good. Because I’m more of a fan of spicy, I swapped the chives for Serrano peppers, with the white veins cut out. (By the way, removing the membrane and seeds reduces the heat for any pepper.) I also used a more traditional deviled egg recipe than the one Southern Living uses. I used salt, pepper, paprika, Dijon mustard, Tabasco and mayonnaise, but I’m not quite sure I had all of the ratios correct, so I’ll leave you to use your favorite recipe.

Next time you’re looking to class up a football watching party, I highly recommend giving these a try. It’s an easy way to add a little fun to a traditional snack.

I think we all can recognize that sometimes making it through the week is no small feat. When you finally do make it to Friday, celebration is definitely in order—even if it’s something small. I’m a firm believer in celebrating the little successes in life.

Remember the eggplant from the farmer’s market? I told you they’d be back again. They were the centerpiece of our Friday celebration—eggplant parmesan. I used Bobby Flay’s recipe, which you can find here.

I’ll be honest—I don’t like eggplant. At all. But this recipe was amazing! There are several steps to the recipe, but it is well worth it. This will definitely become a regular menu item. The sauce recipe would be great just to have on hand. I’ll probably add a more red pepper flakes, and maybe some chipotle powder next time, just because I like a spicier, smokier sauce.

So, whenever you’ve had one of those weeks—or even just one of those days—and need something to turn it around, I definitely suggest this recipe.

Fresh eggplant, ready to go!

Seasoned and ready to fry.

Finishing up the assembly.

The final product. Happy Friday!