1/16- HH6 January Challenge: Sausage and Roasted Vegetable Risotto

The challenge for this month was: Prepare a dish that you have never made before but always wanted to try. Tell us why you have taken quite some time to make this dish.

Something that I've always been a bit intimidated by is risotto. You have to stir it constantly, which is difficult to do with 2 small kids who always need my attention one way or another. You have to make sure it's cooked all the way through, which you don't really have to do with normal rice. Top Chef contestants have been sent home for risotto, for Pete's sake! If THEY can't do it, how can I?? This challenge made me man up, though. It was time to conquer my fears and attempt to make something myself that I've eaten before and absolutely loved. (Brian Voltaggio's butternut squash risotto at VOLT was by far the best I've had, and I have no delusions of ever topping that.)

Anyway, for this challenge I not only decided to brave making risotto, I decided to completely make up the dish I was making. I normally hunt up a recipe online and follow that, but not this time! (Ok, I did look up how to make a basic risotto, but the rest was all me.) I had some bell peppers, an onion, and half a butternut squash in the fridge, so I chopped it all up, seasoned it with salt, pepper, and basil, and tossed it in the oven to roast for about 30 minutes. I then cooked up a pack of Sweet Italian Sausage and sliced it after it rested for a bit. I made the risotto with chicken broth, and then tossed the vegetables and sausage in the pot and mixed it all up. I had originally intended to serve the veggies and sausage on top of the risotto, but I decided to mix them together to enhance the flavor of the risotto. I was skeptical of how it would turn out, but it was delicious! Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how it came together. [Well, to be honest, the rice was a tiny bit undercooked, but that was more because I knew everyone was really hungry and that I had to leave soon so I just took it off the stove and served it up, al dente or not.]

1/15- Homemade Pizza

I know I've posted about pizza before, but I tried a new crust this time so I figured it deserved a post of its own. We usually have Pizza Hut every Friday with my parents, but they were on a missions trip to Belize so they weren't exactly available. While I LOVE Pizza Hut, I decided to make our own pizza and to try to do it even more healthfully than I have before. The whole family loves the Honey Wheat Bread I make, so I decided to give a honey wheat pizza crust a try. It was a big hit! Well, actually, both kids are sick right now and hardly ate anything, but the adults sure liked it! I did a Hawaiian pizza (a requirement in this house), and a veggie pizza for the grown-ups. It's definitely a crust that I'll make again!

I just googled "honey wheat pizza crust" and clicked through the links that came up until I found one that I liked. This one was the winner:


1/12- Venison steaks with Rosemary Red Potatoes and Roasted Vegetables

Thanks to an old friend of mine, I got to try my hand at venison for the first time!(Well, technically the second time, but I hardly think substituting ground venison for ground beef in Hamburger Helper in an empty house with a big cooler for a kitchen table just days before moving halfway across the country counts.) So my friend Matt um..... ahem.... aqcuired some venison and generously passed some along to us. He's a good guy to know. :)

I used this recipe as inspiration: Sirloin with Tarragon Garlic Sour Cream. Since I had Round Steaks to use, I just substituted the meat. I was told to cook the venison on fairly low heat so that it would cook slowly. I put the steaks in the pan, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and let them gently simmer until I could see the juices coming out the top of the steaks. Then I flipped them. Since it was wild game, I cooked it all the way through instead of leaving it a bit pink like I normally like steak. Once it was done, I took it off the heat and should have let it rest for a few minutes, but dinner was late so I just sliced it right up (against the grain). It was tender and juicy, and paired perfectly with the Sour Cream sauce! I served the steaks with my Rosemary Red Potatoes, and roasted vegetables.

The kids were a little hesitant aboutthe venison, but they tend to be that way with plain old steak too. Scott is deathly afraid of eating fat in meats, so he's weird about just about anything but chicken. Rebecca is teething so she's just weird all around right now. She devoured the sauce, though, mustard and all! Anyway, after a little convincing, and a little honey, they both ate the venison just fine.

Rosemary Red Potatoes:

3-5 red potatoes, depending on how many you're feeding
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp crushed rosemary

Cut up potatoes in a big dice- kind of like home fries. Heat oil in a pan, then add potatoes. Stir around to coat with oil. Season with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Cook on medium-high, stirring occasionally so the potatoes can get brown and crispy on the edges. (I find that putting the lid on helps them cook faster.)

Roasted Vegetables:

1/2 small butternut squash
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow onion
2 carrots
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp minced garlic

Preheat oven to 400*. Spray 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Cut up vegetables and toss in dish to coat. Season with salt, pepper, tarragon, and garlic. Toss again. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover with foil to speed up cooking if needed.

1/11- Almond Chive Salmon

Well this one wasn't such a hit with either of the kids, but the parents sure liked it! It's super easy, and really flavorful. The herbs and lemon really come through. I served it with rice, green beans, and fruit salad. (I cooked the rice in chicken broth to give it a little more flavor.) I'll definitely be adding this one to my list of salmon favorites!

I actually didn't have any chives and substituted Dill. I really liked it, but plan to try it again with chives once my herb garden is going again in the Spring/Summer.


1/4- Creamy Four-Cheese Macaroni

So it's once again been quite a while since I posted on here. The Holidays got the best of me! I cooked quite a bit, but forgot to take pictures, must less post about anything. Anyway, this was our dinner one night, and it was delicious! It's another Cooking Light recipe that lived up to my expectations! I think they intended it to be a side dish, so I added some cubed cooked ham to it to beef it up for the entree. I served it with green peas. Try it, the kids gobbled it up!