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Deli meats can help rescue you from usual dull weeknight dinners

Some deli-sliced turkey can make a meal out of creamy risotto.
Some deli-sliced turkey can make a meal out of creamy risotto.
Larry Crowe, Associated Press

For fast and flavorful weeknight meals, think deli meats. But don't think about sandwiches.

The beauty of deli meats — we're talking thinly sliced ham, turkey, chicken and beef — is that they are moist, flavorful, easy to work with and already cooked. This makes them perfect heat-and-eat ingredients for fast meals.

But we're not talking about dining on lunch box castoffs. I make a mean spaghetti carbonara by sauteing (for about 2 minutes) some chopped deli ham and smoked turkey breast in olive oil and garlic. Add cooked pasta, plain yogurt and grated Parm and you're done.

A similar approach can be used with sliced roast beef for an easy beef stroganoff. And don't forget, just about any chopped deli meat will work in omelets and frittatas, as well as on pizzas.

In this easy risotto, I used diced and crisped turkey breast to up the meaty, savory notes. Ham or prosciutto would be great, too.

Creamy Risotto with Crisp Smoked Turkey

Start to finish: 45 minutes

Servings: 4

4 tablespoons butter, divided

4 ounces smoked deli-sliced turkey breast, chopped

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1 cup white wine

1 quart chicken stock or broth, warmed to a simmer

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add turkey and saute until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then set aside.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion and saute for 4 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until completely absorbed.

Add half of the chicken stock or broth, stir several times, then let simmer until nearly completely absorbed. Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time and stirring constantly until absorbed between each addition.

When all of the stock has been added and absorbed, the rice should be tender but still just barely firm at the center. Stir in the cinnamon, salt and pepper. Add the cheese and mix until melted and creamy. Adjust seasonings.

Divide the risotto between serving plates, then top with crispy smoked turkey.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 514 calories; 203 calories from fat; 23 g fat (12 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 68 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrate; 26 g protein; 1 g fiber; 1,356 mg sodium.