Back To School Dinner Planning Hacks

September is here and for many people, that means back to school, back to a routine and back to planning dinners. This can be a stressful and tiring task so here are some tips on making dinners easy and fun to make.

1) Plan ahead

Have an idea of what you are going to make each night. Using themes like “Meatless Monday” and “Taco Tuesday” really help to add variety to each meal.

2) Use your left overs

When cooking, make extra starch, vegetable and proteins. Re-purpose these ingredients in salads, pasta sauce or casseroles.

3) Get creative!

Try different spices and marinades to switch up flavour profiles. For example, Asian marinades are great on grilled salmon and seasonal vegetables.

I love making one recipe, then turning the leftovers into additional meals. My favourite is making a classic risotto with mushroom and thyme, then using the leftovers to make arancini rice balls and risotto stuffed squash. Check out the recipes!risotto

Fall Mushroom and Thyme Risotto

Yield 4 servings


400g Arborio rice
5 litres chicken stock (can substitute vegetable stock)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
2 sprigs fresh thyme


  1. In a bowl soak the dried porcini mushrooms in boiled water let them soak for at least 20 minutes to re-hydrate. Once the mushrooms are soft to the touch, chop and set aside.
  2. On high heat bring the stock to a boil, lower heat and set aside.
  3. Over medium low heat in a large deep saucepan add 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoon of olive oil, once the butter is melted add the chopped onions and celery, saute until the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the arborio rice, continue to saute for 2-3 minutes stirring with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the white wine and continue to stir for an additional 2 minutes until the wine has absorbed into the rice. (optional).
  6. Add one ladle of hot stock and stir, continue stirring unit the stock in absorbed.
  7. Add the thyme and chopped mushrooms, continue adding the stock one ladle at a time making sure to stir in-between and waiting until the stock is absorbed before adding the next ladle of stock. This should take between 15-20 minutes, the risotto should be tender and creamy when done.
  8. Finish the risotto with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and grated parmesan, cover with a lid and let the risotto rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Arancini Rice Ballsarancini-balls

8 balls


4 cups cold risotto
3 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
2 litres canola oil


  1. In a heavy deep pot bring the canola oil to 250 degrees over medium low heat.
  2. In a mixing bowl combine the risotto, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 1 egg, parmesan and parsley.
  3. Form the mixture into golf-ball sized balls.
  4. Take the remaining 2 eggs and crack into a bowl, using a fork whisk the eggs until yolks and whites are combined.
  5. Dip the arancini into the eggs, let the excess drain then roll into the remaining breadcrumbs to form a thin layer of breadcrumbs.
  6. Using a slotted spoon carefully place the arancini one at a time into the hot oil. Deep fry the balls until golden brown about 2-3 minutes.
  7. Season with Salt while still hot and enjoy!

Risotto Stuffed Squash

risotto-stuffed-squashServes 4


Take 2 squash, cut in half length wise with seeds removed
2 cups cold risotto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup goat cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Brush the squash halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet, roast for 40-50 minutes until the flesh of the squash is tender. remove from the oven and cool.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the roasted squash, goat cheese and risotto, this will the be filling for the squash.
  4. Spoon the filling into the hollowed out roasted squash.
  5. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and the breadcrumbs are golden and crispy.
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