Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dad’s Butternut Squash, Chicken and Pasta, Risotto style

Dad’s Butternut Squash, Chicken and Pasta, Risotto style.  Low calorie, low fat, all delicious.

This is cooked risotto style - that is to say the pasta is sauted in a pan then cooked in chicken stock with the rest of the ingredients.  As it is not boiled, merely simmered,  the pasta takes longer than normal to cook.

Calories are approximately 194 per cup.  Approximately.  It depends on how much you cook down the sauce, how much cheese you put on, did you measure the oil, how big was your butternut squash, etc.  So basically, with 2 tbs of grated parm on top, I call a two cup serving 400 calories.

1 onion, small dice
1 stalk celery, small dice
1 red bell pepper, small dice (or large, if a food fusser wants to pick out theirs)
2 cloves of garlic, smashed and diced fine
1 medium to large butternut squash, cubed (½ inch cubes) - mine ended up being 5 cups diced.
1 lb raw chicken breast, no skin, bone or fat,  cubed (½ inch cubes)
2 oz white wine or white vermouth
3 cups chicken broth
4 oz Creamette 150 calorie pasta
½ lemon
1 tbs italian seasoning (dried basil, thyme, etc.  I use Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset)
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese (not included in above calorie count - 1 tbs grated is 20 calories)

Heat pan (burner at 6 or so (medium heat)  add olive oil.  Put chicken in Pan, brown chicken  in a teflon coated chicken fryer that has a lid.  You could do this in a Le Crueset pot, but you will probably need another ½ tbs of olive oil if you do.  Don’t forget to adjust your calorie count. You do not need to cook it all the way through at this time - just brown it.  It will finish cooking later.  After brown, put to the side in a bowl, leaving any remaining oil, juices in frying pan.

Return pan to heat.  Saute the onion, celery, red bell pepper and italian seasoning.  If you need to add oil , adjust your calorie count.  Since I used a teflon coated pan, I did not need to.  When just about turning brown (or browning a little bit) add the garlic, saute for another couple of minutes.  I am generally at medium heat for this.

Add Pasta, saute with veg.  Pasta will get coated with oil and start to toast.  Feel free to cook for a while, or not.  Add vermouth or wine and stir.  When the pasta has absorbed the vermouth, use a spatula to scrape out the pan into the bowl that is holding the chicken and set aside.

Return pan to the burner and add the butternut squash and chicken stock.  Bring to a low boil (still at medium heat), cook for 5-6 minutes.  Be sure to cover the pot at this time to keep the chicken stock from evaporating too much.  When you taste a piece and it is getting cooked, but still firm, that is where you want it.

At this point, add all the ingredients back to the pan that is cooking the squash in the stock.  Stir, and cover.  A nice thing about the teflon chicken fryer I have is that it is a glass top, so you can observe the cooking without pulling the top.  This keeps the cooking temperature up, the evaporation down.  

Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring two or three times  Basically you are cooking the pasta till al dente - just slightly chewy.  The sauce is going to thicken and become very creamy, even though you did not add any dairy nor flour nor cornstarch..  Basically this is a combination of the starch from the pasta and the butternut squash forming a nice thick sauce.  You may need to add a little boiling water if it is getting too thick and the pasta is not cooked yet.  I usually just get the electric tea kettle going and keep the water hot in case I need it.  If the pasta is cooked and it is to liquidy, I take the top off and cook it down some.  Generally if you use the same proportions I do, you won’t need to do much of this.

When the pasta is just about cooked, and the sauce is nice and thick, I turn off the heat and let it sit for a minute or two. If you wanted to  you could mix in a bag of frozen peas which would make a little more food and add some nice green color (adjust calories if you do, although I think the per serving calorie count would be near about the same).

Just before serving, squeeze the juice of half of a lemon on top and stir.  Serve, with grated parmesan on top.

This will make four servings of two cups each. More or less, depending on how thick your sauce is.

A great dish, the takes some work but not to much.   It should be served immediately as you do not want the pasta to overcook.

A nice green salad would be perfect with this.  If you wanted to make this vegetarian, I would add a can of drained chick peas in place of the chicken.  Adjust the calorie count as required.

If you had some left over chicken sausage, that would be great also. Adjust calorie count.

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