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Thanks so much for the enthusiastic response to my back to school post! It was fun to watch all of you light up with enthusiasm about the student life, just as I have this week.

I’m in the middle of deciding my curriculum, and it looks like the choice is between an accelerated study track that will be rigorous, but expedite my post-bacc, and a slower course that will mean waiting for a few months before I dive into the serious work. I’m leaning toward the former, so I’m simultaneously preparing myself to kiss leisure time goodbye. I don’t know that it’ll be worse than the last year (two jobs and night school), but it’s at least equal, so my little stint as a domestic goddess is about to draw to a close. Before it does, I must properly pay tribute to the long, labor-intensive, and awesome dinners that I enjoyed with M in D.C. last week!

First up? Risotto.

I love risotto. It’s warm, carb-y, delicious, and even though it’s easy to prepare, it looks and tastes professional. It’s often my go-to for entertaining—provided there are enough people around to entertain themselves for a while while I stir—or for holidays. And in spite of how long risotto takes to prepare, I have yet to churn out a batch that was a failure. It’s as close to an error-proof dish as I’ve ever found.

Last week, I decided to combine two of my favorite things—rice and butternut squash—and create my first ever butternut squash risotto. Naturally, the pairing of two such stellar main ingredients was a success. I loved this dish, and I hope you will, too!

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Vegan Butternut Squash Risotto (serves 4)

1 tbsp Earth Balance or olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 standard box (about 29 oz) reduced-sodium vegetable broth, mixed with about 1/2 cup water
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage

1) In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, melt Earth Balance or heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onion and squash; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring now and then, until the squash is getting tender. It should take about 10 minutes. While you do that, empty your veggie broth into a pot, and keep it heated on a low flame.

2) Add rice; stir to coat, and pan fry it a little. Add the wine next, and cook until almost all liquid has evaporated. It should take about 2 minutes.

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3) Reduce heat to medium-low; add 1/2 cup hot broth mixture. Cook, stirring, until almost all liquid is absorbed. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until all liquid is absorbed and rice looks creamy before adding more. You’ll probably need 40 minutes total.

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4) Stir in nooch, sage, and more salt and pepper to taste (I used about 3/4 teaspoon). Serve immediately, and hot!

Served up with simple salads, this was a perfect winter dinner. And keep in mind that, if you disregard the long prep time, this was by far the easiest dinner I made all week for me and M; all I had to do was stir.

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M noted that cold leftovers were even better than the original bowl. I didn’t have a chance to test this theory, but I can believe it.

Cook’s note: one of my favorite things to do with leftover risotto is to pan fry little patties of it in a touch of olive oil. If you make this recipe and want to switch it up with the leftovers, try it!

And that, friends, is how to make a perfect and deceptively chef-like dinner on a cold winter’s night. As school fires up, I’m going to feel gratitude for every night on which I have an hour or more to cook. For now, you can look forward to a few more of last week’s highlights, including homemade pizza (dough and all) and a mystery recipe I can’t wait to share. Stay tuned!


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