Tis the Season (Sorta)– Wintry Veggies and the Christmas Countdown

GUYS.  I have the BEST.  NEWS. EVER.  Christmas is only 50 days away!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is everything I want.  SO PRETTY SO PRETTY I CAN'T STOP THE OBSESSION HAS BEGUN

This is everything I want. SO PRETTY SO PRETTY I CAN’T STOP THE OBSESSION HAS BEGUN.

http://www.xmasclock.com This website should be your best friend for the next 50 days.  It snows.  It snows ON the website!

Correction: THIS is everything I want.

Correction: THIS is everything I want.

In case you can’t tell, I’m listening to Christmas music as I write this.  I held out until after Halloween, and even for a few days after.  But I just couldn’t wait!  And in my defense, BF started listening to Christmas music before I did.  Which means I am starting to rub off on him after over a year of living together.  Now if only my turning-lights-off-when-you-leave-a-room habit would rub off on him too.  Baby steps!

Is this the best ornament ever or is this the best ornament ever?

Is this the best ornament ever or is this the best ornament ever?

Can I tell you something?  Despite all this blathering on about my favorite day of the year, this isn’t really a Christmas post.  Do you feel betrayed?  I bet you don’t, but just in case, I’m sorry.  This IS, however, a post about delicious veggie side dishes (or, if you’re lazy me, main dishes).  And those are kind of exciting too, no?  Besides, you could always use them as side dishes ON holidays.  Like, ahem, Christmas.  Because I for one would very much like some wine-braised cabbage with my holiday cheer this year.   Please and thank you.

Cabbage

Seriously though, braised cabbage is my new jam (in the figurative sense– please don’t try to eat this in a sandwich with peanut butter.  Or do, I guess.  You do you).  It’s SO easy and so yummy!  Plus, it’s another excuse to cook with wine, and we all know how much I love that.

Braised Cabbage

Cabbage

So, to make your new favorite side dish happen, quarter a cabbage, core it, and slice it into ribbons.  This makes a TON, so you might only want to use half the cabbage– I did, and we wound up with way more than enough cabbage for two dinners, and that was with the cabbage acting as more of a co-main dish than a side dish.  Luckily, it reheats really well, so don’t fret if you wind up with way more than you expected!

It's also helpful to pick a pan that nicely accommodates the veggie you're trying to cook.  Or you can do what I do and not do that.  Dare to be different, I say.

It’s also helpful to pick a pan that nicely accommodates the veggie you’re trying to cook. Or you can do what I did and not do that. Dare to be different, I say.  Oops.  It still cooked down alright!

Heat a bit of butter in a pan (3 T. for a whole cabbage head) and toss in a few smashed garlic cloves.  Cook for a minute or two til soft (but not brown) and add the shredded cabbage, stirring til cabbage is coated in butter.  Cook 10 (ish) minutes til cabbage has softened, then add 1/2-2/3 c. (cheap) white wine.  I’ve never tried this with red wine, but I have a feeling that’d be pretty good too.  Because it’s wine.  Duh. I give a range in the liquid amount here because I always start with 1/2 c. and wind up adding a splash more.  Bring whatever amount of wine you add to a boil, then reduce heat and cover.

Cabbage

Cook for about 15 minutes, til cabbage is completely tender and the liquid has been absorbed.

Cabbage

It’s such a fun color!  This works with green cabbage too, but I like the color of the red.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with grated parmesan.

Last night we had the cabbage for dinner along with some roasted butternut squash, another quintessential winter veggie.  It’s impossible to be on the Internet for five minutes this time of year without coming across a MILLION butternut squash recipes, but don’t let that make you feel like you have to get all fancy every time you make it.  Sometimes the simplest way of cooking is the best.  I just cook it the way my momma does, and it’s darn good.

Butternut Squash

There are probably few things easier in this world than roasting (I know you’ve heard this from me a zillion times, but it bears repeating).  You definitely get the most bang for your buck– serious flavor and minimal effort.  To roast a butternut squash, cut it in half (no easy task, at least for me, but you can do it, I promise!) and season with salt and pepper.  Place a dab of butter in each half and pop it in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, til tender.  That’s it!  I mashed one half and we had it for dinner, and I saved the other half for tonight’s dinner.  It’s just the easiest, and a delicious classic.

Yum.

Yum.

Since I had leftover squash today, you get a bonus recipe: butternut squash risotto!  Now, my love of risotto is WELL-documented on this blog (see here.  And here….).  But this one is extra exciting, because it has butternut squash in it, which makes it seasonal!

Butternut Squash Risotto

Fall colors 101.

To make Butternut Squash Risotto, chop half an onion and cook in 3 T. olive oil for 5 minutes (til soft) over medium heat.  Add 1 c. arborio rice and toast for a few minutes til golden.  Stir in 1 c. white wine (again, cheap.  Always cheap– save the good stuff for drinking!) and 5 T. butternut squash puree.  Simmer til the wine has been almost entirely absorbed, then add 1/2 c. chicken (or veggie) stock.  Again, when liquid is almost completely absorbed, add another 1/2 c. stock.  Repeat until you’ve added 2 c. chicken stock.  If rice isn’t tender yet, add more stock.  But it will be, so don’t worry about it.  Stir in 2-3 T. squash, salt/pepper, and a bit of cheese (parmesan if you’re feeling traditional, or goat cheese if you’re feeling adventurous.  Or if you’re like me and are just plain obsessed with goat cheese.  You’re not alone, there’s at least two of us)!  Serve, gobble up at an alarming rate, and repeat.

Hellooooooo, gorgeous.

Hellooooooo, gorgeous.

Now if you’re really feeling fall-y, you will eat the cabbage and the butternut squash risotto together.  And then you will wear a sweater.  And sit in a wing-back chair by a fireplace.  And drink a cup of tea and read an English novel.  And I will be sitting in the chair next to you doing the same.  Glad we got to spend this quality time together.

Seriously, these are the falliest (it's a word.  It wasn't until today, but it is now!) colors ever seen on a plate. I just decided.

Seriously, these are the falliest (it’s a word. It wasn’t until today, but it is now) colors ever seen on a plate. Don’t you feel warmer, in the depths of your soul??

In my humble opinion, there is no better time of year than the holiday season.  Don’t get me wrong, I love spring and summer, but when the leaves turn and life gets cozy, there’s just a magic that I can’t resist.  I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, but it’s never to soon to get excited about this season!  These dishes are healthy as heck– little more than veggies with a supporting cast to coax out their best performance– and they actually taste good too.  It’s always a plus to be able to use seasonal ingredients, and fall is a GREAT time for that.  Everybody’s always sad to see fresh summer goodies go, but fall has got a pretty great lineup itself.  Pomegranates, brussels sprouts (yes brussels sprouts.  I promise someday soon I’ll post a recipe or two– they’ll win over even the most stubborn resistors!), cauliflower, squash…the list goes on and on!  I hope you are enjoying the change of seasons as much as I am.  Ain’t nature grand?

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