Veggie-Packed Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta, Sage and Peas

Veggie-Packed Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta, Sage and Peas

Risotto is one of my all time favorite gluten free foods. It’s super satisfying, creamy, and easier to make than I had originally anticipated. When I first thought of making risotto I felt overwhelmed by all the nuances and the attention the dish would need. However, once you have the steps down, it can be surprisingly meditative; a good risotto takes a little more TLC than your standard rice and veggies dish, but in the end the payoff is always worth it. The trick to making a stress-free risotto is planning; having all of your ingredients on-hand and ready to go before you start cooking is essential.

So what do you absolutely need to do to make your risotto a success? Prepare your vegetables in advance, of course, but also make sure you have all your liquids in their proper proportions on-hand right next to the stovetop. For this recipe, you’ll need chicken stock (I reconstitute mine from bouillon, but packaged or fresh works just as well), a dry white wine (a perk of this recipe: use a little of the wine for cooking, and enjoy the rest while you cook!), and butter on hand for cooking.

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To retain some of the brightness of this dish, I opted to roast the vegetables and pancetta in the oven together, save for the peas, which I would typically stir into the risotto directly a few minutes before it was done. My dad, however, hates peas, so I cooked them separately and let people add them in as they wanted. This recipe would also support sauteed spinach if you wanted to substitute that for peas, and is flexible enough to accommodate other vegetables that you have on hand.

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Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta, Sage and Peas
Serves: 4
Time Required: Approx 55 minutes – 1 hour
Skill Level: 🔪🔪  (Medium)

Ingredients:
3 tbsp butter
2 cups Arborio rice
1-2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic (I use the Dorot frozen garlic pods)
1 small-medium butternut squash
1/2 lb pancetta
3/4 cup frozen peas (optional)
1 1/4 cups dry white wine
5-6 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup of parmesan, more to taste or garnish
several small sage leaves

Instructions:
1) Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2) Prepare your vegetables and pancetta. Cut butternut squash into roughly 1/2 inch cubes, mince garlic, mince shallot and cut pancetta into approximately 1 inch squares.
3) Toss butternut squash in olive oil and place onto a greased baking sheet. Salt and pepper, then cook for approx 20 minutes, until squash begins to soften.
4) Meanwhile, melt butter in a large pan on the stove. Once melted and pan is warmed through, add shallots and cook for approximately three minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add in garlic and cook another 30 seconds, then add in rice and cook for another two minutes, stirring constantly to coat rice in butter.
5) Once rice begins to go translucent on the edges, add in white wine and stir often until all wine is absorbed.
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6) While rice is cooking, check on your butternut squash. If it has begun to soften, remove from oven and add pancetta, turning squash over to ensure even browning on all sides. Return to oven and continue to cook for another ~20 minutes, until pancetta begins to crisp.
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7) Once wine has absorbed into the rice, begin to add chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until absorbed. Once the first 1/2 cup is absorbed, add another 1/2 cup and so on, until all stock is absorbed and the rice is firm, but not crispy or crunchy. Add parmesan cheese and stir thoroughly. If adding peas, add them now and stir in, heating until no longer frozen.
8) In the last five minutes prior to serving, remove squash from oven and sprinkle with sage leaves. Return to oven and allow sage to bake until it just begins to crisp, then remove from oven and test that the squash is soft and the pancetta is crispy. Add squash, pancetta and sage to risotto and stir.
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9) Serve and top with additional parmesan and sage, if desired!

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Easy Gluten Free Poutine (That Tastes Like The Real Thing)

Easy Gluten Free Poutine (That Tastes Like The Real Thing)

One of Canada’s tastiest exports, poutine has been a favorite of mine since I was too young to safely use the stove by myself. I was first introduced to this simple-but-delicious combination of gravy, potatoes and cheese when I was at summer camp in Ontario, the savory, satisfying splendor of a hearty serving of poutine is something I haven’t been able to forget. Much to my disappointment, I learned the hard way that poutine was not served in all American restaurants. Over the years, I tried a few times to recreate the childhood comfort dish of my dreams on my own, to little avail. It seemed like I would be doomed to only enjoy poutine during those short summer months, and suffer for the other 10 months of the year without my starchy, cheesy favorite.

Every time I tried to make poutine it felt like something was just wrong. Most of my attempts were made in the early days of the internet, when food blogs weren’t quite as prolific, nor were they as prescriptive as they are today. When I first became gluten intolerant, I mourned the loss of the meal that was already all-too-absent from my life, and it took me a few long, hard years to realize that I didn’t have to be poutineless for the rest of my days. After doing some research, I decided I would try and find the best gluten-free poutine substitute, because sometimes you really just need a simple, comforting classic dish from your childhood to get through the week.

After many failed attempts at making the gravy to coat my coveted potato and cheese combination, I finally found a balance of ingredients that really tastes like it should. A base of butter, chicken stock, beef stock and pepper bring out the buttery, peppery flavors that make this recipe the delight that it is. This recipe can be made vegetarian with the substitution of vegetable stock for the meat-based stocks that I use below. A vegan version of this recipe can be made using a vegan cheese, like this one by the Minimalist Baker. Originally, I tried to round out my gravy after I’d made my roux with corn starch — I do not recommend this, as it will make the gravy clump in a way that’s really difficult to break up with a whisk.

Easy Gluten Free Poutine
Serves: 4
Time Required: Approx 20-25 minutes
Skill Level: 🔪 (Easy)

Ingredients:
Ore-Ida Shoestring Fries (gluten free, check package for labeling if you opt for a different variety)
8 oz cheese curds
3 tbsp sweet rice flour (can likely be substituted for corn starch in a pinch)
3 tbsp butter
1 cup beef broth (warmed)
1 cup chicken broth (warmed)
Pepper to taste

Instructions:
1) Heat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. Add fries in a single layer to the baking sheet, and put into oven while you prepare your gravy. Fries will take approximately 13-17 minutes to cook.
2) Melt butter in large pan over medium heat. Add 3 tbsp of rice flour and whisk until bubbly and browned.
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3) Once butter/flour roux begins to brown, add beef stock and whisk together. Whisk in chicken stock until well combined.
4) Continue to whisk together until gravy is smooth. Once gravy is thick, continue to heat through, stirring often to prevent clumping.
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5) When fries have reached desired doneness, remove from oven and serve on warmed plates. Top with cheese curds, then immediately with gravy. If a little green is desired, sprinkle with fresh parsley and eat immediately. It isn’t the most beautiful dish in the world, but it is one of the most delicious!

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Supergreen Spaghetti Squash with Pancetta, Shallot, and Goat Cheese

Supergreen Spaghetti Squash with Pancetta, Shallot, and Goat Cheese

Winter took its sweet time coming to Colorado this year. Only recently did temperatures really drop and stay dropped, and as such my family and I have been turning to those foods that tend to bring comfort as the weather gets colder. Thankfully, comfort food doesn’t always have to be heavy or make you more likely to pack on the pounds (yuck). Squash is one of my all-time favorite winter foods, because what’s cosier than seeing beautiful, earthy colors deepen as they brown in a hot oven on a cold, snowy day?

Even before I discovered that I was gluten intolerant, I was never really a huge fan of pasta. Squashes, even spaghetti squash, never felt like a direct substitute for me; instead, squash worked its way into my diet in a fairly organic way. Pasta purists out there will decry spaghetti squash and zoodles as poor substitutes, but I’ve never found much success in trying to replicate something you love with something that you don’t. I’ve gained an appreciation for squash in its own right, and know that the key to enjoying squash-based meals is in learning to work with their natural flavors and consistencies rather than trying to reinvent the spaghetti wheel.

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That said, this dish hits on a lot of the same feel-good properties that the right bowl of pasta can deliver. This easy dinnertime meal is super satisfying, and has quickly become one of my favorites out there. It’s rich but simple, with bold, complex and unexpected flavors that come together to make a truly tasty suppertime dish. This is a great way to warm up wintertime blues, and is an impressive and fulfilling dish all on its own.

Traditionally, I’ve cooked my spaghetti squash by slicing it in half, de-seeding it and coating lavishly with oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder until it’s easy to pull apart with a fork. This time around, I decided to do a little more research, and found that Buzzfeed (of all places) posed a solution to the sogginess of cooking squash in the traditional fashion. Instead, I ended up cutting the squash into rings (an imperfect art, to be sure, and not for the faint of heart or weak of hand). This allowed the water to bake out of the squash rather than absorb into it, and left me with longer strands that were less gooshy and more crisp. I wouldn’t quite call it al dente, but it’s close enough.

Without further ado: on to the recipe!

Supergreen Spaghetti Squash with Pancetta, Shallot and Goat Cheese
Serves: 3-4
Time Required: Approx 45 minutes
Skill Level: 🔪 (Easy)

Ingredients:
2 Medium Spaghetti Squashes
1/3 lb pancetta
1 box (~5 oz) mixed baby spinach and kale
3 oz goat cheese
1 small shallot, sliced thinly
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp red wine or champagne vinegar
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder (optional)
Pine nuts (optional)
Olive oil

Note: this recipe is flexible and totally adaptable! Other great add-ins include pine nuts and sundried tomatoes, which can be added just before serving. It can be made nut-free with the omission of pine nuts, though I wouldn’t advise making it dairy free as the tanginess of the goat’s cheese really elevates the other flavors of the dish.

Instructions:
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by covering with aluminum foil, then drizzle with olive oil.
2) Prepare your squash. Note: the squash may be a bit difficult to cut, and doesn’t need to be precise. Slice into approximately 1 – 1 1/2 inch rings, then use knife or spoon to de-seed the interior.

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3) Place squash on the baking sheet and slide around to coat with olive oil. Drizzle additional oil over the top of the squash, or use a basting brush to brush additional oil overtop.
4) Season squash with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then pop into the oven. Cook time will be approximately 25-30 minutes. Note that you may need more than one baking sheet to fit all rings.
5) While squash cooks, heat a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Roughly slice pancetta into strips and squares, approx 1 inch or as desired. Peel, halve and slice shallot into thin strips.

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6) Add pancetta strips and cook on low for about 15 minutes, until the fat begins to render and pancetta crisps up. If you substitute bacon, note that this will take much less time. Turn up heat for another 2-5 minutes, until pancetta starts to brown and get crispy. Add shallot and cook for another 2 minutes.
7) Add vinegar and stir to deglaze pan. Reduce heat to low, then add maple syrup and stir to coat, until combined. Begin adding supergreens mix, cooking until just wilted. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to add in installments. While waiting for greens to cook down, proceed to step #8.

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8) Remove squash from the oven and let cool slightly. Once cooled, slice the skin and peel off. I like to do this into a warmed serving bowl to prevent it from losing too much heat. Use fingers to separate squash strands and add to bowl. Once all squash bits are added, pour stovetop mixture over the squash and stir to combine.
9) Top with squash and stir to combine, adding a few more crumbles on top if desired. Serve immediately!

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Pork Tenderloin with Figgy Balsamic Glaze and Roasted Green Beans

Pork Tenderloin with Figgy Balsamic Glaze and Roasted Green Beans

Tell someone you’re having pork tenderloin with a figgy balsamic-rosemary glaze for dinner and I can guarantee you’re going to see some impressed faces. This is one of those dishes that sounds — and tastes — far more complicated than it really is. This is one of my absolute favorite fall-y, wintery dishes and is perfect for a cold night when you’re craving some rich, amazing comfort food. It’s super simple and great when paired with a side of garlicky, rich roasted potatoes and a tall glass of wine.

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So what do you need to have on-hand to put this on your table tonight (or when you’re really looking to impress your mother-in-law)? Not a lot, thankfully! Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, fresh rosemary, butter and fig jam are all you need to create a bold, flavorful sauce. If you have any on-hand, a small dollop of chicken stock concentrate (I personally love Better Than Bouillon) adds a rich, salty complexity to an already flavorful sauce. Unfortunately, all of the photos I took while cooking the pan sauce made it look not super appetizing, but I will try and upload some better photos when I inevitably make this dish again in a week or two!

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Cooking methods for this dish are super simple; all you need to do is pan-sear your meat, then bake it in the oven for an additional 10-12 minutes. At most this is a two-pan dish; one to sear the meat and create the balsamic glaze, and one baking sheet to finish cooking the meat and to roast the green beans. For easy clean up, add foil to the baking sheet (like I did below)! This meal is perfect if you’re looking for something satisfying but easy (and fast) to whip up after a long day of work.

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Ingredients: (serves 3-4)
Time Required: Approx 45 minutes (10 minutes prep, 20-30 minutes cook time)
Skill Level: 🔪 (Easy)

1-2 pork tenderloin (approx 1.5 – 2 lbs of meat)
1 shallot, smallish
2 tbsp butter
6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fig preserve
1-2 tsp chicken stock concentrate (optional; I use Better Than Bouillon)
1/2 cup water
A few sprigs rosemary
4-5 handfuls of green beans
1-2 tbsp of olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prepare your veggies!! Wash and dry all green beans, then cut off the tips. Peel and finely chop the shallot. Chop the rosemary, then set aside.
  3. Salt and pepper both sides of your pork tenderloin, then set aside.
  4. Heat a saucepan on medium heat, then add olive oil. Once oil is heated, add pork tenderloin to the pan and sear until all sides are browned, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat, but do not discard drippings in the pan! You will need these to make your balsamic sauce.
  5. Once meat has browned, remove from pan and place on a baking tray. Add green beans to the same tray and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, then place in the oven. Roast both green beans and pork for another 10 minutes, testing pork to ensure doneness once removed from the oven. Tip: flip the green beans halfway through cooking to ensure they do not get overdone on one side.
  6. If the pork is still pink after ten minutes, cook a few minutes longer. Remove pork from oven and allow to rest for several minutes before cutting.
  7. In the meantime, prepare your balsamic glaze. Reheat the pork pan over medium heat, adding a dash more olive oil if necessary. Saute shallot until it begins to soften, about two minutes.
  8. Once shallot is soft, add balsamic vinegar, fig preserves, rosemary, chicken bouillon and water. Cook on medium heat until it begins to bubble, then reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer until the sauce thickens, and liquid becomes less viscous.
  9. Once sauce is at desired thickness, remove from heat. Add 2 tbsp of butter, and stir to assimilate into sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Slice pork into thin slices, then drizzle with sauce. Add green beans and pair with a starch — I personally love garlic roasted potatoes, but a simple baked potato is a great addition, too!

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Have any questions or suggestions? Feel free to throw them in the comments below! Otherwise, bon appetit!