Butternut Squash Risotto

October is my favorite month. I love when the leaves begin to change colors and creates a magnificent palette in the sky. The weather is perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. I call it shorts and hoodie weather and it is the time of year, I wish I could capture and keep the whole year.

Although there are plenty of funny memes out there about the attack of pumpkin during this time, I look forward to pumpkin, spice and everything nice about the season. Although I do like pumpkin, I also love squash, especially butternut squash. (since pumpkin is actually a type of squash, this totally makes sense.)

Today’s recipe is a complete new one for me. I have never made risotto before, and I must admit, I was pretty intimidated before starting. In the end, what they say is true, risotto isn’t difficult, but it is a PiTA. (click here if you don’t know what that means)

Butternut Squash Risotto

This recipe makes A LOT of food! And I only paid $8 for the whole meal. You can’t beat that.
one small to medium sized butternut squash, chopped
one small onion, chopped
one 16 oz. box of risotto. (I used Bellino)
32 oz. vegetable broth
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil
4 Tbs. butter
ground sage
salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Peel butternut squash, clean out center and chop into small pieces. (Here’s a life hack for you – place butternut squash in microwave for 2 minutes in order to make it easier to peel and chop.)
  • Coat butternut squash in 2 Tbs olive oil. Sprinkle with salt (I use sea salt) and pepper. Spread on baking pan and place in oven on top rack. Bake until soft. Start checking around 45 minutes.
  • With about 20 minutes left on the timer for the butternut squash, begin to heat the vegetable broth. It is important that the broth is hot when you add the risotto.
  • Melt 2 Tbs of butter in a pan, and cook onions until translucent, add garlic – do not allow to brown.
  • Pour approximately 1/4 of the broth into a pot. Add risotto to the hot broth, and here’s the tough part, stir constantly until all the broth is absorbed, approximately 15 minutes. Once all liquid is absorbed, add another 1/4 broth and continue to stir until broth is absorbed. Continue this process until all broth is gone.
  • Add the remaining 2 Tbs butter and parmesan to risotto, stir vigorously. Add the onions, garlic and butternut squash and stir again until well mixed.
  • Sprinkle with ground sage and serve immediately.
  • I paired this Butternut Squash Risotto with a 2015 Materra Cunat Family Vineyards, Right Bank Merlot. Read about the winery and my tasting notes by clicking here.

    Mediterranean Baked Pasta

    I was participating in a group Twitter chat for #winePW and was challenged (it’s a tough life, I know) to pair a biodynamic Pinot Noir with a dish. The most suggested pairings are typically, pork, dishes with mushrooms, game dishes and ham. All of which I do not eat.

    When I was deciding what to make, I thought about the nuances of Pinot and thought that a smoked gouda would be a nice pairing. Yes, I created an entire meal around on ingredient.

    Knowing that this wine deserved more than just a cheese pairing, and that I am a carbohydrate maniac, I devised up a pasta dish. I ran to the store to obtain the ingredients, not really sure what I was going to get until I was wandering through the aisles. In the end, I must admit, it was a fantastic pairing.

    Mediterranean Baked Pasta


    1 pound uncooked penne. (I like penne, but you could use any shape)

    1 red bell pepper, diced

    1 yellow squash, diced

    1 green zucchini, diced

    olive oil for drizzling

    1/2 cup smoked gouda, cubed

    1 cup shredded mozzarella, separated

    10 oz. jar halved kalamata olives (I use half)

    1 jar favorite tomato pasta sauce


    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    In a 13×11 baking dish, toss the bell pepper, squash and zucchini lightly in olive oil and bake for 15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta for half the amount of recommended time.

    Drain pasta. Do not run under water.

    Place vegetables, gouda cheese and 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese in the pot.

    Return pasta to pot and stir to help melt.

    Pour tomato sauce (leave a little) and kalamata olives into the pot and stir until well mixed.

    If the baking dish doesnt’ have enough olive oil in it to coat it, spray Pam

    Pour pasta into the baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.

    Take pasta out of oven, turn off heat. Pour the remaining sauce and sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Return to oven to let melt. (about 5 min)

    Serve and enjoy!

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this recipe. Leave a comment on how you would modify it, or let me know how your taste buds loved it!

    Spinach Quiche

    Spinach Quiche

    2 Tbs butter
    3 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 onion, chopped
    1 (10 oz) package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
    4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
    1 (8 oz) package of Mexican combination shredded cheese
    1 (9 in) unbaked pie crust
    4 eggs, beaten
    1 cup milk
    1 tsp rosemary
    1 tsp oregano
    1 tsp thyme
    salt and pepper to taste
    Dracaena Wines

    1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
    2. In a medium skillet melt butter over medium heat, saute garlic and onion in butter until translucent

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    3. Remove from heat and stir in spinach, goat cheese,half the Mexican blend cheese, rosemary, oregano and thyme

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    4. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Place spinach mixture into pie shell and cover with egg mixture.

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    6. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
    7. Sprinkle with the remaining Mexican cheese blend and return to oven for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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    We paired this meal with our own 2016 Reserve Plummer Vineyard Cabernet Franc.

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    There is a new Mediterranean grill restaurant in Fresno called Tofas. Last week, I checked out the menu and saw a Falafel wrap. I had never heard of this before, but according to the menu it was a combination of fava and chick peas with spices, lettuce and tomato in something called a juju sauce.  It sounded delicious, so I placed the order and let me tell you it was love at first bite! I modified a recipe I found on Epicurious by Joan Nathan.


    1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
    1 can lima beans (drained and rinsed)
    1/2 onion sliced
    1 Tbs red pepper (can be modified to your palate choice for heat)
    2 Tbs dried parsley
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp chopped garlic
    1 tsp baking powder
    flour (about 1/2 cup)
    2 tomatoes, chopped
    chopped lettuce
    pita bread
    Tahini sauce (see below)
    vegetable oil for frying
    1. place first eight ingredients into food processor and pulse until blended. Do not puree!
    2. Remove mixture from processor and place into a bowl. Add flour, a handful at a time, and roll “dough” until it forms a ball and no longer sticks to your hands.
    3. cover and place in freezer for one hour.
    4. heat 3 inches of oil in a deep pot.
    5. shape dough into 2 inch squares and drop into hot oil until browned.(about 3 minutes) I cook about 6 at a time, but it would depend on the size of your pot.

    6. place pita on plate, cover with chopped lettuce and tomatoes. Add several pieces of falafel.
    7. drizzle Tahini sauce on top and serve immediately
    Tahini Sauce
    I purchased a can of Tahini sauce. Which is sesame paste and followed directions. I mixed equal parts of sesame paste with water, then added lemon juice, salt and garlic to taste.

    Dracaena Wines

    I paired this meal with a 2017 Nasiakos Moschofilero (SRP: $12.99) for my post “The Case of the Confused Country.”


    White Pizza Pie

    If you know me, you know I love pizza and Mike loves pizza even more. So there is a lot of it in our lives. I don’t like ordering out all the time, so I started making homemade dough.  I rotate through about six different recipes.

    You can use the dough recipe to make your favorite pizza, but tonight, I decided I wanted something a little different, so I made a white pie.

    White Pizza

    Ingredients for dough:

    For the crust:
    2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and dusting pizza peel
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 ounces (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
    2/3 cup warm water
    1 teaspoon instant yeast
    olive oil for coating

    for the topping:
    2 cups balsamic vinegar
    1 pint of part skim ricotta cheese
    olive oil
    3 cloves garlic chopped
    1 8oz bag of fresh spinach
    1 small Vidalia onion sliced
    4 oz. of shredded mozzarella cheese


    1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the cubed, chilled butter and, using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it is mostly incorporated and looks like coarse sand.

    2. In a large measuring cup or small bowl, combine the warm water, sugar and instant yeast. Let sit for about ten minutes or until frothy.

    3. Add water/sugar/yeast mixture to the flour mixture and using a folding method, combine until the mixture is evenly moistened. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or so until the dough comes together and is smooth. Coat bowl with olive oil, roll the dough in the oil. Cover with a dish towel and let sit for at least an hour, allowing to double in size.

    4. Scoop out the ricotta cheese and put into a strainer lined with a paper towel, to help remove some of the extra water and let sit.

    5. Pour balsamic vinegar into a pot and heat over medium heat until reduced to about 1/4. (you can reduce it to the thickness you like)

    6. Put a Tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and heat over medium heat. Put in garlic and cook. Do not let brown.  When garlic is cooked, add the fresh spinach and let wilt. Remove from heat and put aside.

    7. Put another Tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and heat over medium heat. Put in onion and cook until translucent. Remove and put aside.

    8. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F (or as hot as your oven will get). If using a pizza stone, preheat it along with the oven.

    9. Stretch and shape the dough to fit your pan or baking stone.  I use my hands so that there is a light touch. With a fork, prick the surface of the dough and bake for approximately 5 minutes. Remove from the oven.

    10. Mix the wilted spinach into the ricotta cheese.

    11. Spread the reduced balsamic vinegar over the top of the pizza crust.

    12. Cover with the onions and then with the ricotta/spinach mixture.

    13. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top. Use as much or as little as you like.

    14. Cook for about 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted. (I like it just a little brown on top)

    15. Pull out of oven and let sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the cheese to solidify prior to cutting.


    I paired this pie with a 2015 Botani Moscatel. The wine received an 88 in Wine Enthusiast and I would rate it similarly. I thought the pairing was quite good, toning back the lychee and enhancing the white peach. final (1).JPG


    Garlic Parmesan Asparagus

    I have just come back from a week in Bordeaux. I had the distinct privilege of tasting the 2017 en primeur thanks to Millesima.  My article Portugal’s Political History Affects Its Culinary and Wine Culture #WinePW won the prestigious Millesima Wine Bloggers Award for Wine and Food Pairing and my prize was a week in Bordeaux.

    Honestly, I am so humbled by this award. Never, when I started writing my blog, did I think people would really be reading it, commenting on it, and sharing it. To have been a finalist in this competition and to actually have won is something I never could have dreamed of and I thank all who voted for me.

    So, why am I talking about this award in this post? I swear there is a reason. While I was in Bordeaux, everyone made such a concerted effort to have food that I eat. I had such amazing vegetarian meals! One of the mainstays was asparagus.  I like asparagus, but it has to be cooked correctly… and they sure knew how to make it!

    I have been back home for 4 days and I guess I was missing Bordeaux, so I ran out to Whole Foods and picked up a bunch of asparagus and had it for dinner.  I thought I’d share my “recipe” with you. I have the word in quotes, because there was no measuring involved. It was a hodgepodge, but it was oh so good!

    I hope you enjoy. Please note, that I have it as 1 serving, because this is what I had as my meal, not a side dish. I paired it with a 2016 Weingut Geil Riesling Kabinett from Rheinhessen.

    Roasted Garlic Parmesan Asparagus

    1 bunch fresh asparagus; woody portion trimmed
    olive oil
    sea salt
    garlic powder
    grated parmesan
    1. Preheat oven to 400oF
    2. Coat asparagus in olive oil
    3. sprinkle sea salt over asparagus and toss
    4. sprinkle garlic powder over asparagus and toss
    5. Arrange in a single layer in a oven safe baking dish
    6. sprinkle grated parmesan cheese over asparagus
    7. cook until tender; approximately 12 minutes.
    8. remove and serve while warm
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    Chicken Saltimbocca

    I belong to a group of wine bloggers that get together every second Saturday of the month to discuss wine pairings. The group is #WinePW and anyone can join in the conversation. Even if you don’t have  blog, you can follow along with the chat at 11am EST and get some amazings wine and food pairing ideas.

    This past get together had the theme of #SonomaStrong.  I, of course, chose a Ferrari Carano wine. Their Fumé Blanc and paired it with Alfredo Spicy Sausage and Pasta. It was a great pairing. You can read that post and find the recipe here.

    When I was reading my fellow bloggers’ posts, Cindy of GrapeExperiences, made chicken saltimbocca and it sounded so good, that I had to give it a try.  As usual, I changed some stuff up to make it my own.

    Chicken Saltimbocca

    1/2 cup flour
    salt and pepper to taste
    4 chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless
    1 tablespoon sage
    4 slices prosciutto
    olive oil to coat pan
    1 1/4 cup vermouth
    2 teaspoons lemon juice
    2 tablespoons butter, cut
    1 tablespoon minced, fresh Italian oregano
    4 slices of swiss cheese

    1. Preheat convection oven to 425 degrees
    2. Prepare chicken dipping station by putting flour into a deep bowl and pressing dried sage into chicken cutlets.
    3. Coat chicken in the flour and put aside.floured chicken
    4. Pour enough olive oil to coat bottom of pan and heat. Cook chicken breasts until no longer pink inside and brown on the outside.

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    5. Remove from heat. Place on baking pan and put one piece of swiss cheese and one piece of proscuitto on each chicken.
    6. Place in oven and cook until the cheese is melted and the proscuitto is crisp.

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    7. In the meantime, prepare the sauce. Over medium heat, stir the vermouth into the pan, scraping up the browned bits, and simmer until reduced to about 1/3 cup, Stir in the fresh lemon juice. Reduce heat to low and whisk in the butter and add the oregano.

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    8. Pour sauce over finished chicken and serve immediately.

    I paired this dish with a 2016 Arrogant Frog Pinot Noir {Lily Pad Noir} that I received as a sample.

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    Be sure to check out my Dracaena Wines Blog post about Arrogant Frog coming soon!