Lemon Basil Parmesan Risotto with Peas

One of the dishes I was most afraid of making from scratch was always risotto. It seemed like a daunting task of perfect measurements, constant stirring, and cooking for exactly 22 minutes. Now it’s one of my go-to dishes. And I barely follow a recipe anymore. But for you, I’ll tell you exactly what to do.

It’s very versatile. You can add all sorts of flavorings to it and veggies to create a perfect bowl of flavor. I personally like the zesty, tangy lemon, the sweet ‘pop’ of peas and salty Parmesan flavor.

Lemon Basil Parmesan Risotto with Peas

finished bowl of risotto

finished bowl of risotto


2 small sweet onions or 1 large Vidalia onion

5 T unsalted butter, divided (3 and 2)

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 1/4 C Arborio rice

1/2 tsp salt (depending on how salty your stock is. Mine is home made so it’s not as salty as store-bought)

1/2 C Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc (optional)

5-6 Cups chicken stock

2 T fresh basil chiffonade

juice from 1/2 lemon

zest of whole lemon

1 C frozen peas

1/2 C Parmesan cheese

dash of heavy cream (optional)


Start out by placing all the chicken stock in a sauce pan over medium heat. Place butter and oil in a separate larger heavy sauce pan over low heat to melt. Add finely chopped onion and allow onion to soften for about 10 minutes. (I place the onion in the food processor to chop it up as finely as possible. It ends up being about the same size as the grains of rice. Which is nice when you are trying to get your picky kid to eat it.) Add rice to onion and stir to coat. Allow to toast in butter/oil for about 5 minutes. Add the 1/2 tsp salt and stir. (note: if your stock is super salty, don’t add too much salt at this time. Keep in mind the Parmesan is salty, too.) Add wine and pat rice down into liquid. The liquid should be at a slow simmer. If you cook the rice too hot it will cook too fast and the starch won’t be released. If you cook the rice too low the rice will get mushy. A nice slow simmer is good…. a couple bubbles, not too much.

Once the wine is absorbed you can start adding the hot stock at about a cup at a time. Add one cup stock, stir, and allow to simmer. Add another cup stock, stir, and allow to simmer.

risotto, stock, measuring cup for scooping stock and a glass of wine for me to drink. Yum.

risotto, stock, measuring cup for scooping stock and a glass of wine for me to drink. Yum.

Once you add about half the stock, add the lemon zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon.


Continue adding the stock and stirring the rice. Taste to see what the texture is like. It should have a little bit of a bite in the center of the rice but the general ‘feel’ should be creamy. I tend to cook the rice for about 30 minutes. Once it has a creamy texture, add the basil and peas and Parmesan and stir. At the end, stir in 2 Tablespoons of butter and even a dash of heavy cream if you have it. Voila! Easy.

Aside: you can drink wine while you are cooking this dish. That’s really why it’s my favorite meal to make.





Sweet and Spicy Sticky Sauce

This recipe is for the sauce. It’s all about the sauce, baby. You don’t have to limit yourself to chicken and broccoli as I have done here. You can grill shrimp skewers and top the shrimp with this sauce. You can make chicken wings and toss them in this sauce. Topped with some toasted sesame seeds and red pepper flakes – forget about it!
I made this meal one night, just for myself, because I was craving Chinese take-out. I pigged out. OINK OINK. This portion size was probably too big for one but since the family was gone I put on my pj pants and went for it! The sauce keeps well in the fridge for another drizzle over something a day or two later. You can adjust the spice to your liking. For me, I wanted that sticky, sweet sauce that had a bit of heat in the back.

sweet and spicy chicken and broccoli

Sweet and Spicy Sticky Sauce


1/2 Cup apricot preserves

1 T ketchup

2 T soy sauce

2 T rice wine vinegar

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

2 tsp sweet chili sauce

1/4 tsp finely diced jalapeno, seeds and vein removed

1 or 2 pinches of hot pepper flakes

s&p to taste


Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Dump it in a non-stick pan and cook over low heat until preserves are melted and combined. Now taste. If it needs more heat, add another pinch of pepper flakes. That’s it. Toss your favorite food in this sauce and enjoy.


sweet and spicy chicken and broccoli with wine

If you are craving Chinese take out like I was… this is what I did.

I placed 2 cups of frozen broccoli florets in a pie plate and tossed them with olive oil, a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. I baked at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

At the same time the broccoli was roasting I had a bunch of chicken tenders sizzling away on a baking stone.

When the chicken and broccoli was finished I doused the chicken in the pan of sauce and piled it on top of the broccoli.


Spicy Southern Style Stew

Years ago I found a recipe on All Recipes called Sunday Gumbo. I never made it exactly as it was written because I never had the right spices and I didn’t use okra. But it helped guide me when I was venturing out to bigger and better one-pot meals. I have written a recipe all my own but I am not calling it Gumbo or Jambalaya. I’m calling it a stew. Spicy Southern Style Stew… because I don’t want to insult anyone by calling it something it is not.

Spicy Southern Style Stew

Boom! Spicy Southern Style Stew!

Boom! Spicy Southern Style Stew!

  • 1 pound package of sweet Italian sausage links
  • one small sweet onion
  • 2 Cups of chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  •  2 T Ketchup
  •  1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  •  1/2 tsp cumin
  •  1 tsp red pepper flakes
  •  1 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 small bay leaves or one large leaf
  • 1/2 C uncooked instant brown rice
  • 1 Cup peeled, thawed shrimp

Before you start, if you have frozen shrimp with the shells on, place about 1 cup of shrimp in a single layer on a plate with cool water. It will thaw by the time you need it.

1 pound package of sweet Italian sausage links  cut into bite size pieces and browned in a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven or just a heavy bottomed pan. (You can use hot Italian sausage if you’d like even MORE spice)

Remove the sausage from the pan and drain most of the fat.

Add one small sweet onion, diced, to the pan.

Place sausage back in the pan with the onion and sautee and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.

Add 2 Cups of chopped cooked chicken and toss around with the sausage and onions. (If your chicken is raw cook it with the sausage and onions. I just happened to have leftover cooked chicken.)

Here comes the flavor:  1 T Worcestershire sauce, 2 T Ketchup, 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves,  1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp garlic powder

stir to coat the chicken, sausage and onions with these flavors

now add 4 cups of chicken stock and 2 small bay leaves or one large leaf

Add 1/2 C uncooked instant brown rice and stir.

cooking the stew BEFORE adding the shrimp

cooking the stew BEFORE adding the shrimp

Turn your attention to the shrimp. If you have cheesecloth you can place the shrimp shells in the cheesecloth and tie it up and place it in the stew. It adds flavor! If you don’t have cheesecloth, it’s no big deal to just skip this step.

shrimp shells in cheese cloth allow the flavor to permeate the stew.

shrimp shells in cheese cloth allow the flavor to permeate the stew.

Add the 1 Cup peeled, thawed shrimp to the stew and push down into the broth to cook. It will only take about 5 minutes.

raw shrimp added

raw shrimp added

It doesn’t take long for the shrimp to turn pink. You don’t want to overcook the shrimp so go. Eat some. Eat some now.

shrimp are done!

shrimp are done!

Remove the cheesecloth and squeeze it out to get all the yummy shrimpy broth out of it. Then put the leftovers in a container and put it in the fridge and eat it again tomorrow. It’ll be even better!!!

Sausage and potato soup from Homemade Ham Stock

Find the recipe for Sausage and Mixed Potatoes here.

Take leftovers of that meal and add ham stock to it. Voila. Soup. Seriously. That’s it.

Of course, if you want to know how to make a delicious ham stock you can do this:

Baked Spiral Ham and Ham Stock Recipe

Place a seven to eight pound spiral sliced ham (with bone) into a roasting pan. Drizzle the ham with 1/4 cup of honey and smear dijon mustard all over the outside. Add 1/2 cup of water to the base of the pan. And about 1/2 cup of white wine (water, beer or lemon lime soda would work too). You need one cup of liquid. Seal the pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and baked at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours. (Usually it’s 15 minutes per pound of meat.) Check the label. Make sure you are reheating a ready-to-eat ham and not cooking a RAW ham. If it’s a raw ham, I can’t help you. I’ve never made one of those. Follow the directions. ;-)

Once it comes up to temp you are ready to EAT the ham. Or pull the ham from the bone and freeze for future meals. Pour the broth from the roasting pan into a fat separating measuring cup and pour the broth into a large stock pot (discarding the fat) and add 4 cups of water. Stir and simmer for 15 minutes with the lid off. Taste it. It could be REALLY salty. If so, add more water and stir and simmer again for 15 minutes. There ya’ go. Ham stock.

Allow to cool a bit and place into quart size canning jars (leaving a full one inch of space from the top of the liquid to the rim of the jar) and place in the fridge. Once completely cooled you can place in the freezer for up to a year. I made the ham the same day I made the Sausage and Mixed potatoes so I used the broth and the leftovers and made soup. It’s a very loose broth. Crackers are this soup’s best friend.

Sausage and mixed potatoes

Growing up one of my favorite meals, that my dad always made, was sausage and potatoes. I always thought it was his recipe. I asked him about it recently and he said it was, in fact, my grandmother’s recipe. His mother-in-law, not his mother. My mom’s mom. So cute. She must’ve made it when they were dating or early in their marriage because I remember this meal from early in my childhood. And I remember my dad making it. Anyway, I’ve adapted it to make it a little more wholesome by adding sweet potatoes for fiber and vitamins but that doesn’t mean I’m not still dipping each bite into plain yellow mustard like I’m a ten year old.

Sausage and Mixed Potatoes

(I don’t have a picture of this. It’s potatoes and ground sausage on a plate. Use your imagination.)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

one pound of loose country sausage or sweet Italian sausage links (sausage removed from the casings).

1 large sweet potato cut into bite sized chunks

1 large russet potato cut into bite sized chunks

1 large or 2 medium yukon gold potatoes cut into bite sized chunks

1 medium sweet onion or half a large vidalia onion cut into small pieces (Make the onions smaller than the potatoes. This is a bite that accents the sausage and potatoes, not a giant chunk of onion that gives you the chills kind of bite.)

Spray a 9×13 casserole pan with nonstick spray. Mix the potatoes and onion in the dish. Rip chunks of the sausage and dapple/sprinkle/dollop it around the potatoes and onions. (Forgive me, I can’t think of the right word.)

Place the casserole dish, uncovered, into the oven and bake it until you smell it (isn’t that a song from the 60′s?). Mix the potatoes and sausage mixture around and poke each type of potato (because they are all different in density) and if it slides off the knife, you’re done. If you don’t trust your nose, open the oven and toss the sausage and potatoes after about 30 minutes. Poke a chunk of each type of potato with a sharp knife and if it slides off the knife you are done. If not, close the oven and allow to cook another 15 minutes. It could take up to an hour. You are looking for roasted, fork tender potatoes but not so soft they turn into mashed potatoes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a little bit. Oh and serve with a little childish pile of yellow mustard. Or ketchup… if that’s your thing.