Never Enough Time

Another new recipe – this one Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Pancetta. I can never get enough of butternut squash and sage flavors together, so this recipe sounded right up my alley. And I had some ventreche (french pancetta, we learned this weekend) leftover from a recipe George made over the weekend that I thought needed to be used or tossed.

My mistake was that I forgot a few things about making risotto: 1) you can not do anything else while making risotto. I came home from a crazy day at work needing to continue to monitor my work email into the evening. Oh, and I have a 5 year old who needs attention all the time, and needed to eat (something other than the risotto). In other words, the interruptions to my stirring were plenty. Luckily I made it in my Le Crueset pot, the one pot I own to which nothing sticks permanently (best cookware ever), or I might have had a bit of a mess to clean up. 2) risotto takes TIME.  I came home from work later than usual (see aforementioned crazy day), and had to cut apart the squash (which didn’t have any seeds – is that weird?) and chop the pancetta before I could even begin the constant rice stirring. Let’s just say that I skipped both the onion (just couldn’t make time to chop anything else) and the last cup of chicken broth (because I didn’t want to stir and wait anymore). I reduced the butter a bit because man, that’s a lot of butter.

Verdict: Well, since I was the only one who ate it (the other members of my family had given up and eaten while I cooked), you only get my opinion.  I think that it could have used a bit more broth (my fault for skipping the last cup), but the flavors were really good. Who can go wrong with sage, butter, butternut squash, pancetta and parmesan cheese?  The recipe was time-consuming, but easy – if I’d been able to just keep stirring!  I’m looking forward to the leftovers!

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Winter Warmer

Today was a warm day in Alexandria. Yesterday was gray and gloomy pretty much all day, so today, it was nice to be able to get outside. Our yard looked very unloved, so we spent several hours raking and mowing, and now 1 part of the yard looks presentable (3 more to go – and no time until next weekend). I even took Charlie to the park for a bit to run and play, which he loved. I had planned on trying a new pasta recipe tonight, but after all that activity, I wanted something easier/less hands-on than the recipe I was ready to try.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese is probably better suited for colder weather, but I had picked up some San Marzano tomatoes when I was at the store earlier and a new cheese (taleggio) that the guy at the cheese counter said was fabulous grilled. So the decision was made.

I’m not always a huge fan of tomato soup. I love gazpacho, but I generally feel like tomato soup has too much acid and not enough depth of flavor. But this Classic Tomato Soup recipe delivered. The onion, garlic, chicken broth, and thyme (my sprigs were small, so I put in 2) gave it more flavor than I generally associate with tomato soup.  And the taleggio cheese on Trader Joes Tuscan Pan was great for dipping. Can’t wait to make this again when it’s actually cold out!

Honey Chai Roasted Almonds

I bought some raw almonds the other day at the store – and that was literally ALL I had to buy to make Honey Chai Roasted Almonds. (I cheated and used nutmeg out of a spice jar instead of grating it fresh.) I really like spiced chai lattes, and I love almonds, so when I found this recipe, I figured I had to try it.

I had a baptism and first birthday party of a good friend’s child to attend mid-day, so I figured it would be a good time to try this recipe and take some to the party to share. It was super-fast – 18 minutes in the oven total, and easy to mix all the spices together while the almonds roasted. And the spices baking in the oven made my kitchen smell wonderful.

Verdict: I love the spice mixture. It is wonderfully fragrant and made me think of Christmas. I think I may make more just to keep handy, as I think I’d like it stirred into some coffee, apple cider or black tea, or even mixed into some vanilla yogurt.

And the almonds were good. I thought 3 tablespoons of honey seemed like a lot, but after baking, they really weren’t very sweet. I might even drizzle a little more over them next time. My friend was appreciative of having a snack to add to the  table, and they seemed to be enjoyed by the guests. I’m thinking they might make a good addition to the list of homemade Christmas goodies that go to teachers, therapists, and co-workers each year, especially if packaged in a pretty jar or bag.

I definitely plan to make these again!