Butternut squash and saffron risotto for a savory entree on Meatless Monday

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​​No one's saying you have to go meatless just because it's Monday -- but as incentive to join the growing movement, every week we're offering an animal-free recipe.

If you think you can't enjoy creamy, rich foods like risotto on a plant-based diet, this recipe will prove you wrong. The saffron and butternut squash give it a vibrant color and a warm flavor. Like any risotto, it's time-consuming, but the results are well worth the effort.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Making your own broth is always optimal -- and if you're going to go through all the trouble of stirring for such a long time, you might as well do the dish justice with some good broth. We used three potatoes, three carrots, four onions, two heads of garlic, a half a bundle of parsley, four bay leaves, a pinch of salt, two pinches of thyme and several pinches of turmeric. Place all ingredients in a large pot, fill with water until covered, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for an hour; strain the veggies out of the broth before using. This makes more than enough for the risotto, but you can easily freeze the rest for later use; it's a savory broth that you can use to replace vegetable or even chicken stock in many recipes.

You will need:

1 3-pound butternut squash 4 tablespoons olive oil 2 teaspoons salt 6 cups vegetable broth 5 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance is our brand of choice) 4-5 shallots (enough for one cup minced) 1 1/2 cups arborio rice 2/3 cup white wine (the drier, the better) 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes a pinch saffron threads freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

1. Stab your squash ten to twelve times and place directly on the oven rack for about ten minutes (don't forget the potholders when you're pulling it out of the oven!). This will soften it up and make it a lot easier to peel and cube. 2. Peel the squash and cut into bite-sized cubes; toss in a bowl with three tablespoons olive oil and one teaspoon salt until evenly coated. 3. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spread the oil-coated squash in a single layer on the sheet. Bake for fifteen minutes while you work on the rest of the risotto. 4. Warm the broth in a saucepan until it is slowly simmering; cover and keep warm for later. 5. Chop the shallots. 6. Melt the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the vegan butter together in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Saute the shallots on medium heat until they are translucent and tender. Beautiful. 7.When your squash has baked for fifteen minutes, remove the sheet from the oven, stir the squash and return to the oven to bake for another fifteen minutes. 9. Add the arborio rice to the shallots and stir until the grains are coated with the butter-oil mixture. 10. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the wine, stirring often, cooking for two minutes. 11. Now, find your Zen place and steel your arm. Add two cups of broth to your mixture and sprinkle in the saffron, the remaining salt, and the cracked black pepper, stirring constantly. Keep stirring ... The broth will evaporate and the rice will become sticky. Keep stirring; when the rice seems just a tiny bit on the dry side, add two more cups of broth and continue stirring, cooking this batch down. Don't forget about your squash in the oven! When it's done baking, set it aside; you'll be mixing it in with the third and final batch of broth. 12. Add the squash and the nutritional yeast flakes to the risotto with the final batch of broth. You're still stirring, right? The squash, yeast and broth should be giving the rice a beautiful, creamy consistency right about now. It's definitely not health food -- but boy, is it tasty.

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