butternut squash

Butternut Squash Risotto Skillet

When your husband says, “THIS belongs in a cookbook!” you know you’ve hit a homerun with dinner. Not only is it great to have your other half’s approval, but it’s even more of a winner in my book when half the dinner is already taken care of before you step into the kitchen.

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When you’re pressed for time, how often to you rely on pre-cut or pre-cooked items? Seeking out shortcuts in the kitchen does not make you LAZY, it makes you SMART! If a ready-made or prepped ingredient helps you to actually cook at home, rather than getting take-out, then I say that’s the smartest move you can do for your health. Food companies are picking up on this trend and catering to the busy mom/dad/young adult professional by creating unique ways to serve and package these convenience items, especially for vegetables. Check to see if your local stores carry items from Mann’s or CeCe’s Veggie Co- they carry some of my favorite dinner savers (p.s. this is totally unsolicted, I just like ‘em!).

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Some of my favorite pre-prepped ingredients are:

  • riced cauliflower

  • shredded brussels sprouts

  • zoodles

  • chopped kale

  • squash or sweet potato zig zags

  • roasted red peppers

  • peeled shrimp, rotisserie chicken, canned beans, and tinned fish

Shredded cabbage is another prepped favorite!

Shredded cabbage is another prepped favorite!

The other night I was ready to throw in the towel and not cook a thing. I was exhausted and had random ingredients at home that were not inspiring me; however, on the other hand, I wanted to use up those ingredients and also couldn’t pinpoint a place I wanted to get food from instead. Classic Casey situation that my husband just looooves. So, a quick decision was made to pick up a rotisserie chicken and the rest was going to figure itself out.

As I got into the kitchen though, the stress from the day melted away. Usually chopping brings me some calm, but my butternut squash zig zags didn’t need much breaking down and the baby kale was pre-bagged from either in the week. So all I had to set about doing was removing the meat from the chicken, and then tend to stirring the risotto. It was nice. Cooking was peaceful. And in the end, my stress from the day was taken care of by something that could’ve caused a world of worry had it not been for my ingredient shortcuts. Plus, this dinner was dang delicious and definitely something I can agree to cook much more often.

What shortcuts do you take in the kitchen?

Butternut Squash Risotto Skillet- serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup arborio risotto rice

  • 2 garlic cloves, diced

  • 1/4 cup diced yellow onion

  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable stock

  • 2 cups butternut squash zig zags or small diced squash

  • 6 oz. shredded rotisserie chicken

  • 2 large handfuls of baby kale

  • 1/4 cup Parmesan grated and more for garnish

  • Olive oil as needed

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan add stock and bring to low simmer, then lower the heat to keep the broth hot as you cook the risotto.

  2. In another large, heavy-bottom saucepan add a drizzle of olive oil and once heated add diced onion. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and rice. Briskly stir with a wooden spoon so that the grains are coated in the oil, then continue to cook for a minute or two so the grains begin to toast but not burn.

  3. Add a ladle of heated broth to the rice and stir until liquid becomes fully absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry add another ladle, and continue the process one ladle at a time until rice softens, but grains are not crunchy. You’ll want to continue stiring as you add the stock, and the full cooking process takes about 15-20 minutes. Once cooked turn off the heat and set rice aside while you prepare everything else.

  4. To a cast iron skillet add a small amount of olive oil and squash. Saute for about 10-15 minutes until squash softens and browns a bit- the smaller the pieces, the quicker they will cook through.

  5. To the cooked squash add shredded chicken and kale. Mix everything with a wooden spoon to heat chicken and wilt kale. Once everything is cooked and heated through add risotto and grated parmesan to the skillet. Give everything a few turns to combine together. To serve, divide into bowls and top with extra parmesan.

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Bison Butternut Chili

It’s officially freezing here in NYC and that means all the chili recipes! I love a good silky soup, but much prefer something with more chunks going on, so I tend to cook up a chili once or twice a month.

This week I’m sharing a chili concoction with an ingredient that may be new to a lot of you- bison! My mom used to make bison burgers growing up, albeit not all that often, but I have never cooked it myself, nor did I know much about what else to do with this type of meat. Danny brought this home last week thinking I was up for a challenge!

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For a little nutritional wisdom before getting into the recipe, bison meat is very lean and is overall much lower in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol compared to beef, pork, or chicken. This is mostly due to the fact that bison raised for meat consumption are fed a grass-based, vegetarian diet and there is very little if any use of antibiotics or hormones. To be honest, I don’t always have the finances to choose grass-fed beef, but when possible it’s really nice to select an animal protein source that’s not only good for the environment, but also better for your health too.

Now bison isn’t the only protein source going into this recipe. I’m tossing in red kidney beans too, which if you asked a sample of people you’d get a dozen different answers on whether or not beans in chili is “allowed” or not. Since I was dealing with a small amount of ground bison leftover from making bison burgers for dinner, I decided some extra plant protein wouldn’t hurt.

This chili is also bumped up with butternut squash and warming spices like ancho chili, corriander, and cumin. I’ve made enough for 3 days of lunches and even decided to mix up how it owuld be served; two days I’m tossing it with Banza pasta a la Cincinnati chili style, and the third day will be straight chili in a bowl with a more Southwestern flair by adding diced red onion and jalapeño, maybe with some brown rice to go with it.

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Have you ever tried bison before? Let me know in the comments!

Bison Butternut Chili- serves 3

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ground bison- we bought Nature’s Rancher

  • 1 can low sodium red kidney beans, drained and rinsed well

  • 3 cups cubed butternut squash

  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 cup tomato sauce

  • 2 tsp ground cumin

  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder

  • 1/2 tsp corriander

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 3 cups cooked Banza spaghetti

  • Olive oil as needed

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, rinse under cold water, and set aside.

  2. In a large dutch oven pot, add a small drizzle of olive oil and ground bison. Use a wooden spoon to break apart meat and cook until crumbled and no pink remains. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

  3. To the same pot, add onion and cook 3 minutes until begins to become translucent. Then add garlic and butternut squash. Cook for about 2 minutes, mixing everything together. Add 1 cup of water, then cover and let cook until squash is just able to be pierced with a fork. You don’t want to overcook the squash at this point because it still has plenty of time in the pot.

  4. Add in drained and rinsed beans, ground bison, tomato sauce, another half cup of water, salt, and spices. Bring to a simmer and cover to let cook for about 30-40 minutes. Taste half way through and adjust seasoning to your liking- more chili for spice, more corriander and cumin for warmth.

  5. The chili is finished cooking when the liquid has reduced and the consistency has become thicker. Serve in bowls over cooked pasta- you can even garnish with some shredded cheddar cheese and green onions. Or serve over brown rice and add diced red onion and jalapeño.

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