Dinner guests

I literally can not remember a week where we have not had dinner guests for one or more meals in our little humble home.  It has become a part of who we are. I shared that already here.  I want to remember these nights with friends to savor them on quieter days or a day where we may not have friends close by (for the record I don’t imagine the latter ever happening).  But I want to take time to soak it up with photos and stories.  I want to look back and appreciate these moments where we spent so much time in our kitchen, around our table, and sipping our wine glasses outside under our twinkly lights.  I don’t usually take photos when I’m sweating in the kitchen but I am going to try and get better.  The light is harsh at night in our home so I much prefer pictures of food in the day light but there are rarely leftovers.  Here is an example of a week with guests in our home, last week actually:

My friend Natalie and I met up for drinks on a Monday (we start the week off right) and then she came back to our home,  plopped herself on my kitchen counter and I scooped her up some fresh vanilla bean ice cream while my dog lavished her with kisses.  I love this girl, the rawness of her heart, the spirit of adventure she carries,  and the spark for life she has in her eyes.  I love that we have only known each other a short time but can sit and talk for hours about matters of our hearts, our struggles with this messed up world, and dreams of the future.

Drinks at Brewed: the locals living room.

Tuesday I invited my friend Carla over last minute because I saw her husband was out of town and my husband was meeting up for drinks with another friend (I clearly don’t prefer eating alone), so it was a girl night.  It was a last minute decision to cook up something fast, so I stir fried peppers, onions and broccoli and heated up pita bread (store bought folks) in the oven, I also threw a can of black beans on the stove to simmer and alternated between stirring my veggies and mashing the beans with tomatoes and spices.  I served the veggie pitas with a smash of hummus and feta, perfect for a vegetarian (which she is by the way).  We ended the meal with my vanilla bean and sweet cream ice cream (of course).  I have a thing for dessert. See, not fancy.   But filling and easy and better because it was shared with a friend over sweet conversation about life, her future baby, being neighbors, and normal girl stuff.  We can celebrate our love of food like no body’s business, just do not ask us about brunch in Fort Worth (sorry).

Wednesday we had a night for just the two of us and then Thursday another dinner guest.  We had our friend Jacob over and I knew he was coming so I had some time to start early in the day for the meal.  I roasted butternut squash with fresh rosemary.  I made yet another batch of ice cream but this time pear vanilla with salty pecans.  I roasted a few cups of pecans with salt and butter after the butternut squash finished filling my oven with the smell of rosemary. I could have stopped there because my house literally smelled like a fall candle but that would have made us extremely hungry and sugar delirious.  So, I made my favorite dish.  Risotto.  It is seriously so simple but one of my favorites to serve for guests.  You have to make it with love and patience.  You can pin point risotto down to 5 or 6 ingredients and most of them you probably already have on hand.  I make a risotto for every season and fall is no different.  I can cater to it with sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or pumpkin for a fall flare.  So that’s just what I did.  I made a classic risotto turned fall.  Pan fried some prosciutto for a bit of crisp.  As the risotto was finally to the consistency of my liking, I dumped in the prosciutto and rosemary butternut squash and gave it a stir, added some parmesan and turned off the heat.  Made a quick salad with ingredients on hand, arugula, nuts, pears and we keep a classic balsamic vinaigrette in our cabinet that we replenish weekly.  It was a perfect fall night for our patio so we ventured outside with our friend and poured rounds of wine, ate our salads, and devoured the risotto. Our twinkly lights were on and there was a slight breeze to keep the mosquitoes at bay.  We finished off the night with a salty pecan pear ice cream.  We talked music, life, and change.  This year has brought so much change for so many people we know.  Good change, bad change, heartbreaking change, and celebratory changes.  So as the weather is finally changing here in Texas I want to soak up more of these memories by sharing them here, life is too sacred and sweet not to.

Photo on left: our kitchen; Photo on right: our table with friends.

Classic Risotto:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion, finely chopped salt and black pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (for a vegetarian version use vegetable broth), plus more if needed
1/2 cup of parmesan, plus more if needed

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add minced or sliced garlic and stir for another minute until fragrant.  Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until absorbed.
Add one cup of the broth, stirring until absorbed.  I like very pregnant Risotto so as soon as the liquid is absorbed I add more (one cup at a time) and continue until I have used it all up.  If the rice is not cooked through and the mixture is dry, add more broth and continue to cook until tender.  If your adding any meat or vegetables add them right before you add the parmesan.  Stir in the parmesan right before serving. (I like to have enough for a little bowl for the table as well).

You can serve this as a side dish but I prefer to make it shine as the main entree.  You can top it with shrimp or scallops, you can butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin.  You can add any of your favorite herbs.  Risotto is a blank canvas and you can alter it and paint it with the ingredients of your choosing, I always have and no has ever complained.  Let me know how you alter it!  Happy Eating!

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