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.