Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Satisfying Fall Butternut Squash Risotto

I love this time of year when I start seeing butternut squash at the Farmer's Market. I bought one over the weekend without a specific plan for what I was going to do with it. I waffled back and forth between a lasagna and risotto, and finally went with the risotto after 2 of my coworkers and my husband unanimously voted on it. 

**So I must first make a disclaimer which may make this recipe seem to take longer or have an extra step. Before I knew what I was going to do with it, I roasted it. Very simply, I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and placed the halves face down on a cookie sheet and cooked at 400 degrees for 55 minutes. My squash weighed about 1.5 lbs. I did not actually make the risotto until the next day. The night I roasted it I let it cool and wrapped it in foil and put in the refrigerator. I did this because I LOVE roasted butternut squash, and it turned out to make the following recipe go a little faster because I did not have to wait for the squash to soften in the pan. Peeling the squash is much easier when it is already roasted, the peel practically falls off. Greatly reduces prep time. The following recipe is how you should proceed if your squash is NOT roasted.**

Here is what you'll need:
1.5 lb butternut squash with the peel and seeds removed and cut into 1 inch chunks
Salt and pepper
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 14 oz. cans chicken broth
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
a couple dashes each of savory, rosemary and marjoram spice

*Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. While its melting, take a smaller saucepan and put both cans of chicken broth in on low heat and add 1/2 cup of water

*Add the squash and some salt and pepper. Stir often until the squash starts to soften, about 8 minutes.

*Add rice into the saucepan with the squash and butter, and stir to mix it in. Pour in the 1/2 cup of white wine and cook until the wine is absorbed and nearly evaporated.

*Add a ladle of broth mixture into the the squash pan and cook, stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Continue this process, adding liquid and letting it absorb while continuously stirring for about 40 minutes.

*At this point do a consistency taste-test to see if you like it. I myself do not like my risotto firm, so I usually let mine go another 5 minutes before I add in 1/3 cup of the cheese and a bit more salt.

Serve into wide and shallow pasta bowls and sprinkle a bit more cheese when serving.

YUM. It was creamy, delicious and filling. If you make this as a main course with a salad and bread for a simple yet tasty dinner, this recipe should easily serve 4.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ocean of My Soul

It is mid-October and we are having more summer weather now than we had all summer! I'm not complaining, even though I LOVE skiing and all that goes with winter (sweaters, holiday decorations), I am truly a beach person at heart. Actually, I even love the beach in the winter. No lie.

We went on a great trip last week, and I am still on vacation high. We spent several glorious days in Malibu, CA and visited Santa Monica a couple times. It is so beautiful down there, I told my husband that even the traffic is prettier. Going to sleep and waking up to the sound of crashing waves is my idea of paradise. It was in the mid 80's and perfectly sunny. We had leisurely mornings and after breakfast headed to the beach. I love watching my 4 year-old Monkey build sand castles with the serious expression of a scientist. It was such a joyful feeling to watch him run to the small waves breaking on shore and jump over them and run back laughing. My little Buddha, who is only 23 months old, could not get enough of the sand. Literally. He didn't care to walk on it much, he just wanted to scoop it up, fill up a bucket, fling sand in the air and all over himself. The tub was full of sand during his shower. For all I know he ate some, the way he was flinging it everywhere.

What I love about the beach is the relaxed, slow pace...not much to do but sit back and people watch. You sit, you talk, you might doze (if someone else is keeping an eye on your kids), you get hot, you jump in the water, dry off, snack, repeat. The beach can be an active place too. There were plenty of people roller-blading, running, biking, playing volleyball. And when I was younger and lived at the beach I did that too. But now that I'm older (but not too old!), married with kids,  and stretched thin on most days - when I hit the beach I just want to chill.

We also spent some time at the Santa Monica Pier which I highly recommend if you have small kids. They have a few rides such as the Ferris Wheel you see in the beginning of all the TV shows that take place in Southern CA when they do an aerial pan along the coast. Plan to also visit the beach that day, as the pier will only keep you busy for so long and the beach right there is great for kids. Parking was $6, which wasn't bad considering there were lots right next to the pier and right behind the beach. No crazy traffic-filled streets to cross or anything.

The Third Street Promenade  in downtown Santa Monica is awesome. Blocks and blocks of stores and restaurants, and a nice stretch of it is closed to traffic, so you can stroll, shop, eat and hang out. We happened to be there on the day of the Farmer's Market, which was just AMAZING. I live in a small town so for me to see such a huge Farmer's Market that went for several blocks (just 2 blocks from the coast) is heavenly. The selection of items for sale was way beyond your typical fruits and vegetables that we see here where I live. Since we were out of town on the day our market usually occurs, I was having withdrawals since that is something I look forward to every weekend. I was tempted to buy many things but I stopped myself since buying hoards of vegetables, fruit and other food items I really don't need while on vacation wasn't realistic. We had lunch at this great Italian place called Locanda del Lago. We were first drawn to it because of the al fresco dining and we really wanted to eat outside since it was such a nice day and there was plenty of people watching to be had. And we were also suckers for the yummy bread on the tables with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Our service, salads and entrees were fabulous and we would definitely eat there again.

I haven't mentioned yet that our 6th wedding anniversary fell over this weekend. We loved celebrating in our "happy place" and even toyed around with the idea of living there someday. Our last night there we took our kids to the beach at sunset, and stayed long after the sun went down and just ran around. Unexpectedly a school of dolphins started hanging out in the water in front of us, and we watched them jump out of the water by the light of the moon. It was almost unbelievable. We had the BEST time, and I can't wait to visit Malibu again. We hope to have a couple beach days over Thanksgiving weekend - here in CA we can do that - and I very much look forward to it.

Hope you all make time to relax and rejuvinate your mind, body and spirit.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I Won't Be Stopped!

I love my kids wholeheartedly, from the depths of my soul to my fingertips at the end of the arms that I wrap around them so tightly. But twice this week they each innocently tried to interfere with my morning work out! I have to say, it would have been so easy to cave in and blow it off, but I stuck to my guns (no pun intended) and made it happen, even if my fitness time was a little bit limited after negotiating for a bit with the little buggers.

I have mentioned before that I am not really a morning person. Seriously. Before I am able to speak to anyone in the morning I have coffee. I'm one of those people. My biggest challenge with trying to work out in the morning has been to get up early enough so I can be finished before my kids wake up, and ideally even shower before they wake up. I have mostly been successful, but there have been a couple times that I got sidetracked by putting a load of laundry in or something insignificant that interfered with  rolling out of bed, changing and getting to it.

One morning, silly me, I went into my little Buddha's room (he's had this nickname since he was a baby due to a big belly and no hair...which has changed but the name has stuck) to make sure it wasn't too cold since I had left the window open the night before. Big mistake. He should have been sleeping soundly at this hour, but for whatever reason he perked right up. I tried to sneak out but he wasn't having it. So I had to take him out of his crib, and back to my room and snuggle with him for a bit to see if he'd relax. Then I resorted to the "no fail" in my arsenal - the TV. I was only going to work out in my garage so it was ok for him to be in the family room watching his favorite shows. He did come out to look for me, and thank goodness I as just finishing up. Success!

This morning, my little Monkey heard me rustling around with my coffee pot (damn!) and came out of his room in a daze saying "Mama, take me back to bed." Ok, who can say no to that? The child was half asleep and I just couldn't instruct him to go back to his room. So I tried to get him cozy back in his bed, but when I started to leave he wanted to come with me. Again, I turned to the TV. Ok, I don't condone using TV as a babysitter but sometimes it really helps out when you just need to get something done. This time, my husband was home and I was really eating into my work out time here so I needed maximum bang for the buck. So I went out the door and did a short run in my neighborhood. Then I came home and did a few of Gabby's glute and core exercises (yeah, because we are on a first-name basis now) with the stability ball and medicine ball. I'm not going to sweat it, I will just kick it up a few notches this weekend. Whew. I mean business. And, how.

Hoping you find time to get your body moving this weekend! 30 minutes is better than none.

Have you had any exercise or diet challenges this week? How did you overcome them?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Popchips GIVEAWAY!!!

Wouldn't you love to win a case of Popchips?? I have teamed up with the makers of Popchips to give you the opportunity to give you fellow Popchips lovers a chance to win! As I have mentioned in my previous post, Popchips are a delicious, healthier alternative to traditional, greasy potato chips. They are popped, not fried. One of the things I love about them (besides the fact that they don't make my hands greasy so they are easy to eat at my desk at work) is that they even seem to stay fresher longer. My only complaint? That the bags are too small...I go through them like crazy! However, they are now being sold at Costco stores in enormous bags that will keep me and my family poppin' away for days!

To enter: 
1. Go to the Popchips Facebook Page and "like" Popchips


2. Check out Popchips Snacker's Credo and post a comment on my blog with your own personal snacking credo 


Post a comment on my blog with your favorite Popchips dips and pairings. 

3. And don't forget to FOLLOW MY BLOG! 

Additionally you can follow Popchips on Twitter While you’re at it, follow ME on Twitter!

Looking forward to seeing your fun answers! The winner will be announced Friday, October 29!

Keep on Poppin'!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Turning Over a New Leaf

I have been able to get my lazy butt out of bed to work out before work! I didn't think I'd be able to do it, but its really not so hard. I had to tweak a few things to make it possible. First, I am going to try to forgo my nightly beloved glass of wine. Why? Well first of all, I don't need the extra calories. Although it is nice to relax in the evenings when my kids are in bed, having the glass of wine makes me lazier. It fosters my desire to plop my ass on the couch and catch up on my enormous cache of recorded TV shows and screw around on Facebook. It interferes with need to fold the enormous pile of laundry on the couch. I find that without the wine, I can still watch TV if I want but also do sit ups or other toning exercises. I think the wine also makes me sleep more soundly or something and its harder to wake up early.

Now, I don't like to get up too early, so some things have suffered. I have left the house to take my son to school and head off to work without drying my hair! And, I have also arrived at work a few times in a hat and sunglasses and put my make up on at my desk. But so what. I have to remember to keep my priorities in order, and the goal is to get moving in the morning. Also, since I have not had time to put together a lunch in the morning on a few occasions due to working out, I can use the time I am not relaxing on the couch with wine at night to make my lunch!

I am really digging Gabby Reece's website and her workouts that she posts. You should check it out! She even has a quick work out for when you are short on time and can't make it to the gym.