My First Risotto

We love to watch Food Network, Top Chef, and sometimes we even watch Hell's Kitchen. On every show, someone is always cooking risotto. I have had it in restaurants and love it, but for some reason it seems really intimidating to me. Well, those fears are gone now. Tonight, I cooked my first risotto. I never played football, but to me, this feels like I just threw my first touchdown. That didn't sound right coming from me, but you get the drift.

I will say, that this is a very time-consuming dish. The recipe and pretty much every TV chef says you have to constantly stir this or it will stick and burn. It was really creamy and delicious and you could add or subtract any of the flavors depending on what you like. Jason actually thought this was a bit too lemony. So, if you don't like lemon flavor, hold off on some of the lemon zest. I hope you try this....you would really impress someone if you took the time to make this!!!

3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound Arborio rice
5 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper
Lemon zest (from 1 whole lemon)
Lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)
Splash of white wine

1. In a saucepan, warm the 5 cups of chicken stock.
2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.
3. Saute onions and garlic.
4. Add rice to the butter, garlic, and onions and cook for 1-2 minutes to coat the rice.
5. Then start add 1/2 cup of the chicken stock to the rice, stirring constantly until absorbed.
6. Keep adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time....make sure it is completely absorbed before you add more. This is the time-consuming part.
7. Once all of the stock has been added, pour in the juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt, pepper, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese.
8. Hit with a splash of white wine and once that is absorbed, you're ready to serve.


Mom's Hamburger Casserole

Growing up, my mom would cook dinner for us every night.....maybe that's where I get this from. Anyway, she never took the easy way out. I didn't have Hamburger Helper until I met Jason (very telling, isn't it?). Tonight, I pulled out a recipe that mom would make for us all the time. It sort of reminds me of Hamburger Helper, but way better. It definately brought back some good memories eating this tonight....enjoy my mom's Hamburger Casserole.

Hamburger Casserole:
1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Salt & Pepper
1 small can corn
1 small can tomato sauce
2 cans of water (just use the tomato sauce can)
5 shakes of Worcester Sauce (I maybe used 10 shakes)
3/4 of a package of egg noodles (not sure why you don't use the entire bag, but just don't)
Shredded cheddar cheese

1. Brown ground beef and onion in a large oven-safe skillet.
2. Add garlic and salt/pepper.
3. In another pot, cook the egg noodles according to package directions (about 8 minutes).
4. Once ground beef is cooked, add corn, tomato sauce, Worcester sauce.
5. Add cooked egg noodles to meat mixture.
6. Top with cheddar cheese and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Here's what the finished product looks like.....way better than anything from a box, and it's really easy. The Worcester is the secret to making this so good....that and all the cheese on top.


Homemade Granola

I love granola. I saw Barefoot Contessa make granola that she packaged and gave to her neighbors as holiday gifts (I Tivo all of her episodes). This could not be easier. I'm going to give you the recipe with the ingredients that she used, but you could add anything you want really. It would be a nice gift for co-workers....who knows, maybe I'll bring some.

Homemade Granola:
4 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups dried cherries (if the dried cherries are big, just chop them up a little)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Add the oil & honey....if you put the oil in the measuring cup before the honey, the honey will slide ride out.
3. Mix well and bake on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
4. Stir the mixture about halfway through to make sure it all gets browned.
5. Let cool and enjoy!


Shrimp Scampi

After tonight, I realized that we didn't have to go to Red Lobster for good shrimp scampi. This is one of those dishes that just seems really intimidating. It's so easy though!!! Like many of my other recipes, I got this one from the Barefoot Contessa. She recommends buying your shrimp fresh, not frozen if possible. I bought mine from the seafood counter at Publix....that as fresh as I can get, right?

In case you've never had shrimp scampi, it's a wonderful baked shrimp dish. The shrimp is swimming in butter, wine, and lemon juice and it's so good. If this is your first time making it or eating it, don't freak out over all the butter - it's supposed to be like that.

Shrimp Scampi:
1 lb shrimp with the tail on (I bought 26/30 shrimp)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
Salt & Pepper
1 1/2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
4 teaspoons minced garlic
2 shallots, minced
1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) -- I forgot to buy these, so I used regular bread crumbs and they turned out fine.

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Place shrimp in a bowl and toss with olive oil, white wine, and salt & pepper.
3. In another bowl, combine the softened butter, garlic, shallots, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt & pepper, bread crumbs, and the egg yolk.....mix well.
4. Line your shrimp around the edge of an oval baking dish with the tail up. I used a glass pie plate and it was perfect.
5. Once all of the shrimp are in the dish, pour the remaining wine/olive oil marinade back over the shrimp.
6. Spread the butter mixture all over the shrimp (see the first picture below, this isn't pretty).
7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until hot and bubbly.

This is what it looks like before it goes into the oven. It looks like shrimp covered in bread crumbs and butter. Well, essentially that's what it is, but it will look and taste much better after it comes out of the oven.

Here's the final product. I served it over rice, but pasta would also be nice. For the rice, I cooked minute rice in chicken broth (instead of water). Once I took the rice off the heat, I stirred in garlic and 2 Tablespoons of lemon zest (I had some left over from the zest for the shrimp). This rice would be good with anything, but it really brought out the lemony taste in the scampi.


Cornish Hens

I don't cook Cornish Hens very often. They're not hard to cook but they are a little messy to eat. I decided to try them again this week (and since Publix had them on sale). Of course, you can use any good chicken recipe on these and they will turn out fine. Tonight, I decided to use shallots, butter, and orange to flavor these hens and they turned out great.

Here's what they looked like before they went into the oven......poor things.

This is what they looked like on the plate.....looks delicious right? (unless you don't eat meat)

Easy Orange Cornish Hens:
2 Cornish Hens
1 orange -- you'll need the zest and the juice
2 shallots, chopped
3/4 stick of butter
Salt & Pepper
1. Allow butter to soften to room temperature.
2. Mix butter, chopped shallots, and orange zest.
3. Rub butter mixture under the skin of the hens, all over the outside and inside the cavity.
4. Squeeze orange juice over the hens and season with salt & pepper.
5. Cook on a baking sheet for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees.....until the juices run clear.


Sharla's World Famous Pork & Taters

Pork & Taters....this is our friend Sharla's best recipe. Her family is from Alabama like us, and our people love called potatoes "taters." This recipe is super simple and can be cooked in the oven or in a crock pot. All you need is pork, taters, and a can of cream of mushroom soup. The pork is tender and delicious. The potatoes are flavored from the soup and the pork chop drippings that run down on them. Sounds yummy, right?

Sharla's Pork & Taters:
2-4 bone-in pork chops
1 can cream of mushroom soup
4-6 potatoes, sliced thin
Salt & Pepper

1. Slice potatoes very thin and place in the bottom of your crock pot or casserole dish.
2. Pour cream of mushroom soup over potatoes.
3. Place pork chops on top of soup and season with salt & pepper.
4. If using a crock pot, cook on low for 6-8 hours. If using the oven, cook at 350 degrees until the pork chops and potatoes are done (anywhere between 45 minutes - 1 hour, depending on the thickness of the pork chops).


Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from the folks at "Feeding Jason." Jason has been in the kitchen recently getting ready for the holidays. Jason doesn't cook that much, but he loves baking sweet treats. He has a huge glass jar full of cookie cutters and this time each year he breaks them out to make cookies. Below is a picture showing off some of his work. If you would like Jason to decorate some cookies for you, please let us know. These cookies are from a roll of Pilsbury sugar cookies....delicious and festive!!!


Jason Goes to Africa

Tonight, I decided to bring it. I found this recipe from an African cookbook at the library and I told Jason to call me Simba (ok, not really). Basically, this recipe is a stew that you serve over couscous. It's pretty easy, but you have to let it simmer for close to 2 hours. It was pretty spicy but the flavors were great and I think I will make this again soon.

Go ahead and break out all of your spices, because this one calls for several of them. If you don't have a bottle of Garam Masala, you should pick some up in the spice section. It's a blend of
several spices that is used in Indian, African, and Middle Eastern cooking.

Couscous de Timbuktu:
4 llbs stewing beef cut into 2 inch chunks (you can find this already cut up in your grocery store)
Salt & Pepper
1/3 cup oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 Tablespoons garam masala
1-2 Tablespoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
3 medium onions, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pitted dates, pureed in a food processor

1. Heat oil in a large pot and brown meat. Season with salt & pepper.
2. Add cumin, fennel seeds, garam masala, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
3. Add tomatoes and water.
4. Bring to a boil.
5. Lower heat and simmer for 1 hour.
6. Add onions, cinnamon and dates.
7. Simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.
8. In a separate pot, make 1 box (or 1 cup) or couscous according to package directions.
9. Serve stew over couscous.


Cookies & Cream Fudge

Jason actually made this.....it's not your traditional fudge, but if you're a fan of cookies & cream ice cream, then you will love this. It looks really pretty and it is really easy to make. I thought it was just ok...I prefer traditional chocolate fudge. This would be a nice gift for neighbors or co-workers though.

Cookies & Cream Fudge:
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (12 ounce) package white chocolate chips
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow creme
1/2 cup finely crushed Oreo cookies
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup crumbled Oreo cookies (crumble these in big pieces for the top of the fudge)

1. Combine sugar, butter, and milk in a saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
3. Boil for 3 minutes then remove from heat.
4. Stir in white chocolate chips, marshmallow creme, finely crushed Oreo cookies & vanilla extract.
5. Pour into a greased pan (we lined our pan with foil).
6. Sprinkle crumbled Oreo cookies on top.
7. Refrigerate for 1 hour and cut into pieces.


Thai Chicken & Rice

We love Thai food and this is one of my easiest Thai dishes. It isn't authentic.....I mean, you won't find this in any Thai restaurant (at least not a reputable one). It's my version of Thai Chicken & Rice. This is really better if you let it sit in the fridge so that the flavors can meld together. I try to make this the day before we eat it or at least the morning of.

At the bottom of this post, I have pictures of the Thai products I find at my grocery store. If you've never tried Thai food before, this is a nice introduction. You will get a real feel for the flavors of Thai food without it being too spicy or weird.

Thai Chicken & Rice:
1 lb chicken tenderloins, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cans lite coconut milk
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1-2 Tablespoons red curry paste (depending on how hot you like things)
1 box coconut rice
***If you have veggies and you want to add them, do it. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. Tonight, I didn't really have anything in the fridge, however onions, carrots, zucchini, or peppers are all great additions to this dish.

1. Pour olive oil in a skillet and let it get hot.
2. Add curry paste and cook until you can smell the paste. This sounds weird but is actually says to do this on the bottle. It will smell spicy and good.
3. Add one can of coconut milk and cook over low heat until the curry paste has dissolved into the milk. Do not let milk come to a boil.
4. Add chicken to the milk mixture and add until done.
5. In another pot, bring 1 can of coconut milk to a boil.
6. Add contents of rice box, stir and remove from heat.
7. Once the rice has cooled and the chicken/curry mixture has cooled, combine the two in your skillet and place in the fridge.
8. When you are ready to serve, simply stick in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

I use Thai Kitchen brand coconut rice and red curry paste.....here's a picture of what they look like. If you can't find this exact brand, use whatever you can find.


Deep Dish Pizza

Tonight I made a really quick and easy deep dish pizza. Usually, we order thin crust pizza. This crust turned out pretty thin, so we really it. You can flavor this however you want. I just happened to have ground beef on hand, so I used that. You could really do anything though.

I also used spices that I like (fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, Greek seasoning - which I put on just about everything), but feel free to use spices that you like or just whatever you have on hand. This is a good recipe to know though, because it took less than 10 minutes to assemble and it cooks in 13 minutes -- much faster than delivery, and it was really, really good!!!

Deep Dish Pizza:
1 lb ground beef
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 jar pizza sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon Greek seasoning
Salt & Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Cook beef with seasonings in a skillet until browned.
3. Unroll pizza dough, press into bottom and up the sides of a greased 13x9 casserole dish.
4. Pour pizza sauce on the dough.
5. Spoon meat mixture over sauce.
6. Top with chopped green onions and then top with cheese.
7. Bake for 13 minutes.
8. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.


Taco Soup

The picture didn't turn out so great, but the soup was great. This soup is REALLY easy. If you can chop and onion and open a few cans, then you can make this soup.

Taco Soup:
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 large cans tomato sauce
1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn
1 (15 oz) can stewed tomatoes
1 package taco seasoning
1 handful of cilantro (optional)
1 lime (optional)
5-6 Jalapeno pepper rings, diced (optional)

1. In your soup pot, brown ground beef green pepper and onions.
2. Add tomato sauce, corn, tomatoes, and taco seasoning.
3. Cook over medium heat until the soup is warmed.
4. Add Jalapenos, cilantro and squeeze in lime juice.
5. Top each bowl with cheddar cheese, sour cream or sliced green onions. Serve with Fritos or tortilla chips.


Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies literally only take 5 minutes to assemble and only 12 minutes to bake. They are really easy and good, so you should make them tonight.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg (lightly beaten)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix sugar, egg, peanut butter, baking soda, and salt.
3. Stir in chocolate chips.
4. Roll the dough into balls, about 1 inch in diameter.
5. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes, or until golden brown.
6. Depending on the size of your balls, this recipe makes between 10 - 12 cookies.


I'm Pretty Good, Huh?

This morning I woke up early and surprised Jason by making homemade cinnamon rolls. At Jason's old job, they had a cafeteria for the employees. Everyone morning this old woman would get up at the crack of dawn and make cinnamon rolls by hand. She rolled out the dough with her knuckles and made icing from her tears. Ok, ok, I'm kidding about that part. They were probably frozen and the old lady just warmed them up.

I found this recipe to make cinnamon rolls using frozen bread dough. Surprisingly enough, my Kroger had frozen bread dough. The package comes with four long oval pieces of bread dough. You have to let it thaw pretty much overnight. The dough didn't roll out very easily. It kept springing back together, but they tasted good and I was able to make a roll out of them, so I don't guess it matters too much.

(Stacy -- Before you get started, realize that these have to rise for 1 1/2 hours before you can bake them. I don't want another banana pudding episode!)

Since I have 3 more loaves of frozen bread dough in the freezer, I'll probably be making these again.

Easy Cinnamon Rolls:
1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I used pecans)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
1 Tablespoon milk
Dash of vanilla extract
Dash of Jack Daniels (this is totally optional...just my way of saying "Good Morning")

1. Roll out thawed dough into a rectangle shape (about 18x6 if you can).
2. Brush with melted butter.
3. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and chopped nuts and sprinkle over dough.
4. Starting at the long edge, carefully roll up the dough into a jelly roll shape.
5. Moisten the edges and seal with melted butter.
6. Cut the roll into 20 slices (somehow I only got 14....I guess I slice big).
7. Place rolls into a lightly greased casserole dish or greased cake pans.
8. Leave the rolls on the counter and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours, or until they have doubled in size.
9. Pour the cream over the rolls and bake at 350 degrees fro 25 minutes.
10. To make the icing, combine confectioner's sugar, milk, vanilla, and Jack Daniels. If you like your icing thick, add a little more sugar. If you like it thin, add a little more milk (or Jack).
11. Drizzle icing over rolls while they are still warm.

This picture sucks, but this is what they look like before they are cooked. Sad huh?

This is what they look like after the have cooked. Delicious, yes?


Drop Cookies

Today I made some of Jason's favorite cookies....drop cookies. You've all probably had these before, but have you ever made them? There is no baking involved. You just heat everything up in a pot and drop on wax paper to cool. They are really good so if you have oats on hand (and who doesn't? kidding) then you should make these cookies this weekend.

Drop Cookies:
1/2 cup milk
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1 stick butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 cups oats
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Bring butter, cocoa, sugar, and milk to a boil, stirring constantly.
2. Boil for 3 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, oats, and vanilla.
4. With a spoon, drop cookies onto wax paper or a Silpat.
5. Let cool completely (they cool pretty quickly though).


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Today, we spent Thanksgiving with our dear friends Ashley & Julia. I had to bring the mashed potatoes. This week on Food Network, they've been playing show after show on how to cook Thanksgiving dishes. I saw Ina Garten make these buttermilk mashed potatoes and I knew that's what I wanted to make. Jason really liked them, so I will probably make them again for us (just not so many). The buttermilk gives the potatoes a great flavor....it almost tastes like you've added sour cream.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes:
1 - 3lb bag of Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup milk
1 stick butter
1 cup buttermilk
Salt & Pepper

1. Peel the potatoes and cut into small pieces.
2. Boil the potatoes in salted water for 10-15 minutes or until done.
3. In a sauce pot, warm butter and milk.
4. Drain potatoes and return to the same pot you cooked them in.
5. Add butter/milk mixture to potatoes and mash.
6. Once potatoes are mashed, add buttermilk, salt and pepper.


Country Rice & Sausage

Well, it's the night before Thanksgiving, so I wanted to cook something "light" for dinner. Ha! I found this recipe the other day in a cookbook at the library. One great thing about working in the library is that we have hundreds of cookbooks. If I ever get a free moment, I'll grab a cookbook off the shelf and just thumb through until something interesting pops out at me. Well this one jumped off the page. Jason loved this dish. He said it reminded him of "dirty rice" but since I used sausage, it would be more like a "poor, white trash, dirty rice." Thanks Jason.

White trash or not, this was really good. Be careful with the red pepper flakes if you don't like things spicy!!

Country Rice & Sausage:
2 cups cooked rice
1 (16 oz) package of pork sausage (I used Bob Evans)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 large carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4-5 fresh sage leaves (or 1/4 teaspoon of dried sage)
Salt & Pepper

1. Cook rice according to package directions.
2. Cook sausage until brown and crumbled.
3. Remove sausage from pan and drain on paper towels.
4. Add celery, onion, carrots, red pepper and salt & pepper to pan and brown.
5. Add water to veggie mixture.
6. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes.
7. Return cooked sausage to pan and stir in cooked rice.
8. Check seasoning and add more salt & pepper if needed.


Stuff It!

Tonight, I made a chicken recipe that Jason actually gave me. He used to make this chicken all the time once he graduated from college. I'll give it to him....it's really good and pretty easy. It's too cold outside to grill, so I cooked this chicken in my iron skillet. It turned out great, but it's still a little better on the grill.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts -- flattened out
4 slices bacon
4 slices white cheddar or any white cheese that you enjoy
12 jalapeno pepper rings, chopped
Salt & Pepper

1. Place chicken breasts in a large ziploc bag and beat with a rolling pin until flattened.
2. Place chopped peppers and cheese inside each chicken breast.
3. Roll each chicken breast up and surround with a piece of bacon.
4. Secure each chicken breast with one or two toothpicks.
5. Season with salt & pepper.
6. Grill or cook in an iron skillet for about 20-25 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear.


Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese.....we all love it. There is a restaurant here in Nashville called "Park Cafe," which makes some of the best Mac & Cheese in the world. It's full of green chile peppers, which adds just enough heat to make it interesting. A friend of mine snagged the recipe so here it is. I will warn you that there are quite a few steps involved here, but any homemade Mac & Cheese will be this involved, so just do it. I'm sure this won't shock anyone, but Jason loves this.....cheese, pasta, bread crumbs, no veggies, it's his kind of dish.

Be warned that you will gain at least 3 pounds by eating this.....and it's so good that you'll probably have seconds, so make that 6 pounds.

Park Cafe Green Chile Mac & Cheese:
2 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded
2 cups macaroni
1 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 Anaheim Green Chiles, seeds removed, chopped, and roasted in the oven
2 cups parmesean cheese
2 Tablespoon bread crumbs
1 cup melted butter

1. Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain.
2. In a pan, melt butter and slowly add flour, whisking constantly.
3. Cook for 5 minutes over low heat.
4. Add milk, cream, and green chiles to flour mixture.
5. Turn up to medium heat and bring to a boil.
6. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheeses and cooked macaroni.
7. Pour into a greased baking dish or into individual ramekins.
8. Combine bread crumbs and melted butter and pour over mixture.
9. Bake at 400 degrees until cheese is bubbling and top is golden brown -- for ramekins this will take 10-15 minutes, for a large baking dish, try 25-30 minutes.


Meemaw E's Ham

The holidays are here!! Jason decided to decorate the house (and himself) today. I decided to really get festive and bake a ham. Every year since I can remember my Meemaw E would bake a ham for Christmas. Her recipe is really easy and I swear this is the best ham you will ever put in your mouth.

I always buy a bone-in ham, because it has more flavor. I try to find a smoked ham. These hams are technically already "cooked," but we're heating it up and adding great flavor.

Meemaw E's Ham:
1 bone-in smoked ham
1 cup of brown sugar (maybe a little depending on how big the ham is)
1 can or bottle of Coca-Cola (not diet, not pepsi, not some off brand, get the real thing)
Black pepper to taste

1. I cook this in the crockpot, but you can also cook this ham in a 300 degree oven.
2. Score the ham with a sharp knife.
3. Rub entire ham with brown sugar.
4. Pour coke over entire ham and sprinkle with black pepper.
5. Cook the ham for about 4 hours, basting every 30 minutes.


Game Night

Tonight, we had some friends over and we just wanted to have appetizers. You know, easy finger foods that weren't too messy. Most of the food we had just came from the supermarket, but I did make some spiced pecans. They didn't turn out so great at first, but after baking them for a few minutes, they were perfect!

Spiced Pecans:
4 cups pecan halves
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Combine sugar, water, and spices in a saucepan.
2. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
3. Add pecans and vanilla extract.
4. Cook until syrup is absorbed and pecans are cooked, stirring constantly. (this takes a while)
5. Spread pecans on a greased baking sheet.
6. Add baking sheet into the oven at 350 degrees until the syrup has cooked away (20-30 min)


Oven Fries

It's been a long week for the both of us. So tonight was a "sandwich" night, but I wanted to try to do at least one thing special. I had two baking potatoes in the pantry, so I decided to make some easy oven fries.

These fries are quick and easy and you can flavor them 10,000 different ways. I like them a little spicy.

Oven Fries:
2 large baking potatoes, cut into wedges
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Fennel seeds
Red pepper flakes

1. Cut each potato in half, so that you have two humps.
2. Cut each hump into quarters, so that you have 8 wedges.
3. Coat all of the wedges with olive oil and then add spices.
4. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees.
5. These takes about 30 minutes, just keep checking on them and flip them at least once.



A few years ago, we found a recipe for tostadas. I'm not sure how traditional this recipe is, but we love it regardless. It's very simple. The hardest part is frying the tortillas. I usually leave this job for Jason. We've tried toasting the tortillas in the oven, but they just aren't nearly as good as they are when you fry them until golden brown, which only takes about 30 seconds.

When the tortillas are fried, they puff up and become crispy and golden brown. Fry up about two tortillas per person. We use the small size. Let them dry on a paper towl and cool for a minute before you start adding your toppings.

We make a simple bean dip and use as the base of our tostadas. The bean dip is really good on it's own, all you need is salsa, refried beans, and a little shredded cheddar cheese. The recipe is down below. Once you've added your toppings, throw the tostadas under the broiler just long enough for the cheese to melt. This dinner is really quick and easy and you'll love how good these are!!!

1 package small tortillas
1 package shredded cheddar cheese
1 can refried beans
1 jar salsa
The other toppings are up to you......we used the following:
1 tomato, diced
Shredded lettuce
Sour Cream

1. Heat about 2 cups of oil in a frying pan.
2. Add tortillas one at a time and fry until golden brown then flip and fry the other side.
3. Place tortillas on paper towels to drain.
4. For the bean dip, mix salsa, refried beans, and a handful of shredded cheddar cheese.
5. Place bean dip in the microwave for 1 minute and stir, continue process until hot.
6. Spread bean dip on each tostada.
7. Build other toppings and place under broiler for 2-3 minutes until cheese has melted.


What's that brown stuff on your plate?

Is that some sort of chutney? No. Did you burn something? No. Is that even food? Yes.
Well, it's not the prettiest dish I've ever made, but it tasted great. Yesterday, I decided that I wanted to make a German potato salad, or something like that. I didn't want anything cold with mayonnaise, I wanted something warm with that vinegar taste all through it.

I was fumbling through recipes until I realized that the only vinegar I had in the house was balsamic vinegar. I just happened to find a warm potato salad recipe using balsamic, so that's what I made. If you've never used balsamic vinegar, it's very dark, almost black, and the color takes over just about everything in the dish. It was good though. The recipe has sauteed shallots, celery and lots of bacon crumbles. I would totally make this again, but I might think about using a different type of vinegar next time (maybe apple cider vinegar). If you feel like you can take the looks of this dish, then you should try it. It really did taste great!!

Balsamic Potato Salad:
8 slices bacon
3 tablespoons flour
1 shallot, chopped
1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon powdered dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon crumbled whole rosemary leaves
2 quarts cooked diced potatoes (I used 8 small yukon gold potatoes)

1. Dice potatoes and boil in salted water until done.
2. Fry bacon until crisp.
3. Remove from pan, drain and crumble.
4. Add flour and onion to the bacon fat left in the pan.
5. Stir in vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices.
6. Cook only until mixture is of medium thickness (only about 5 minutes or so).
7. Add to potatoes and crumbled bacon.
8. Mix carefully to prevent mashing the potatoes.


Cookie Drama

Tonight, I wanted something chocolatey. I found this recipe for espresso chocolate cookies a few weeks back. I get out all the ingredients, start putting everything together and then I realize that the recipe says to chill the dough for at least 2 hours (or overnight). So, I got up this morning and baked these cookies while I was making my morning coffee.

So, before you get started with this, realize that some "chill time" has to happen before you can bake these cookies. If you like coffee and chocolate, then these cookies are for you. Jason ate two right off the cooling rack on his way to work and he said they were awesome. He's a sucker for anything coated in powdered sugar!

Espresso Crinkles:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened chocolate - (I just semi-sweet chocolate chips that I had...worked out fine)
1 teaspoon instant espresso granules
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg whites

1. Place flour, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and mix.
2. In a saucepan, combine chocolate and canola oil over low heat until melted.
3. Add espresso granules to the pan and mix.
4. Let chocolate completely cool (5 minutes)
5. In another bowl, mix together egg whites, brown sugar, vanilla and corn syrup.
6. Add melted chocolate to the egg mixture and mix well.
7. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time and mix until well incorporated.
9. When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
10. Roll dough into small, 1-inch balls and roll around in powdered sugar
11. Bake for 10 minutes.

The recipe says that it can yield 2 dozen, but somehow I only got 18 cookies out of this. Maybe my balls were too big? :)

Here is the finished product, and I must say that they look exactly like they did in the magazine. I was very impressed. I like the way these cookies crack and all that powdered sugar just makes them look homemade, don't you think?


My First Encounter with Red Currant Jelly

Today was a good day. Jason was finally feeling better and I felt like cooking something new and exciting for dinner. I had a pork tenderloin that I wanted to cook but I didn't know what to do. I found this recipe for a marinade....actually, it's a reduction sauce, but I used it as a marinade. It was so good and pretty easy. It made the entire house smell good and I think I'll try it again on beef or maybe even chicken.

The recipe called for red currant jelly. I've seen this in the grocery store before, but it was always one of those jellies that had dust on the top of it, so you knew it wasn't something popular. The jelly by itself is tart and not very sweet at all. I wouldn't want any on toast, but in a marinade it was perfect!!

Red Currant Marinade:
1 shallot, finely diced
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 red currant jelly
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Add butter to a saucepan and cook shallots until tender.
2. Stir in chicken broth, jelly, vinegar, thyme, and rosemary then bring to a boil.
3. Cook mixture until it has reduced to 1 1/2 cups (cook about 17 minutes).
4. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt.

I cut holes in the pork tenderloin and poured the marinade all over it. Because I had time, I let this marinate for about 5 hours. I poured the meat and all the marinade into a baking dish and cooked at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes. It was pretty awesome!


A Manly Cheeseball

Is there such a thing as a manly cheeseball? If so, this might be it. You use dried beef and green onions, and the taste is amazing. Normally, we use Ritz or some type of club cracker. Today, we happened to have Rosemary & Olive Oil Triscuits. They are really good with this cheeseball, so I would recommend these. Because of the colors (green onions and the dried beef is red), this ball would be perfect for holiday parties!

Dried Beef, Green Onion Cheeseball:
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
4 green onions, chopped
1 jar dried beef

1. Chop up onions and dried beef into tiny pieces
2. Use your hand and mix all ingredients together until well incorporated
3. Roll into a ball and enjoy


Chai Spice Mulled Wine

Jason is still recovering from his virus, so I decided to make mulled wine. Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing medicinal about mulled wine...this is for me (Jason isn't the best patient). Plus, it's a cold, wet, crappy day today and I wanted a warm beverage but I had already had two cups of coffee earlier in the morning. I decided that this easy recipe was the best way to spend the afternoon!

Chai Spice Mulled Wine:
2 lemons, sliced and seeds removed
2 oranges, sliced and seeds removed (I used tangerines)
1 bottle of Merlot
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 chai tea bags

1. Place sliced fruit, sugar, wine, and water in a large saucepan.
2. Place on medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved and mixture is hot. Do not bring to a boil or you will cook out all of the alcohol.
3. Remove from heat and add tea bags.
4. Let steep 10 minutes.
5. Remove teabags and discard.
6. Ladle hot punch into mugs to serve.


Chicken & Dressing Casserole

Tonight, I felt like making comfort food (I know, I know, most of our meals are comfort food). Jason is sick, so I wanted to make something special....not just chicken noodle soup, yuck! I found this recipe a few years back and decided it was time to break it out again. This chicken and dressing casserole has a few steps to it, but if you stay organized, it really isn't so bad. Once you taste it, I think you'll realize that it's worth the trouble.

Chicken & Dressing Casserole:
2 lbs of chicken -- I used boneless, skinless, chicken breasts that I cut into chunks
1/2 cup mayo
1 small onion, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
4 eggs
1 stick butter, melted
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 package Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix (I used the herb flavor)
1 cup milk
1 can cream of chicken soup
3 mixing bowls (trust me)

1. Boil chicken in salted water until fully cooked
2. Combine cooled chicken, mayo, chopped onion and set aside
3. Combine 2 eggs, melted butter, chicken broth and stuffing and set aside
4. In a small bowl, beat 2 eggs and add milk
5. Spray large casserole dish with cooking spray
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
7. In bottom of dish, spread half of the stuffing mixture
8. Add all of the chicken mixture
9. Add remaining stuffing over the top of the chicken
10. Pour the egg and milk mixture over the top of the stuffing
11. Pour one can of cream of chicken soup over the whole thing (this will look gross)
12. Bake for 45 minutes

Here is a picture of your mixing bowls. You'll have one for the stuffing mixture (your biggest one), one for the chicken mixture, and one bowl for the egg and milk mixture.

Here what the dish looks like before you stick it in the oven. Not to pretty, huh? It actually looks gross with all of that cream of chicken soup on top, but the finished product is wonderful!

Here the finished product.....ok, maybe it doesn't look that much better. The soup on top sort of forms a gravy. That plus the eggs and milk that you poured over this help keep this from drying out. Every bite is moist and delicious.

I served this with green beans and the leftover pretzel salad from the night before (see yesterday's post). This really made me ready for Thanksgiving!!


Kyle + Jason = Two Old Ladies

Let me start off by saying that I hate Jell-O. I hate it with a passion. However, I do like a good gelatin salad every now and then. I decided to make "Pretzel Salad" tonight, although I wish this had a different name, I hate calling this a salad....it just doesn't seem right.

If you didn't grow up in the south or if you're under 80, then you might not have ever eaten this dish....let me tell you about it. Pretzel salad includes pretzels, strawberries, cream cheese, lots of sugar and butter. It all just comes together in a perfect way. Each bite is delicious!! I love the combination of salty and sweet. So does Jason, he had three helpings of this after dinner tonight.

Pretzel Salad:
2 cups coarsely crushed pretzels
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
1 small container whipped topping
1 cup sugar
2 cups boiling water
1 (6 oz) box strawberry flavored gelatin -- the big box
1 (10 oz) box frozen strawberries -- if you buy frozen whole strawberries, then slice them

1st Layer
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Mix the pretzels, melted butter, and 3 Tablespoons sugar in a bowl
3. Place mixture into a 9x13 pan and bake for 8 minutes
4. Let cool

2nd Layer
1. Mix 1 cup sugar, whipped topping, and cream cheese
2. Spread over cooled pretzel mixture

3rd Layer
1. Mix gelatin, strawberries and boiling water in a bowl
2. Let sit for 10 minutes
3. Pour over cream cheese mixture
4. Chill thoroughly before serving