Deck the Halls with Balls of Risotto

I often find myself naming foods based on their shape. It makes sense to me, but at times makes the food sound less appetizing. For example, we made “Risotto Balls” before we knew they had a name; Arancini.

My best friend, Jenny, and I love Stoney River. We love their “Stoney Balls”. Our favorite bartender of all times , Ken, HATES when we call them that. “They are Stone Pups”, Ken tells us. I guess people like to use words like “pups”, “fritters”, “bites”, etc for things that are round. Where did the love for shape descriptors go?

Have fun, and try some variations.  Blake loves jalapeno and ham filled Risotto Balls with a pineapple cheddar sauce.  You can also make them any shape you want.


Serves 6 (appetizer)

Total Price- $4.23

Total per Person- $0.71

Average Retail Price- $11.29

Total Savings- $7.06

Fried Risotto Balls

1 cup Arborio rice

2 ½ cups chicken stock

½ cup milk

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp oil

½ cup ricotta cheese

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup mozzarella cheese

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

1 tsp pepper, garlic powder, oregano

3 cups of oil (olive or olive mixture preferred)

2 eggs

2/3 cup Italian bread crumbs

1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs

½ cup marinara sauce

1. Heat chicken stock and milk to medium heat in a saucepan.

2. Heat butter and 1 tbsp oil to medium-high heat in a large sauté pan.

3. Add Arborio rice to the butter and oil and stir to evenly coat and roast for 2-3 minutes.

4. Add 1 cup of the chicken/milk broth to the rice, bring to a simmer, and stir often until

most of the broth is absorbed into the rice.

5. Repeat with the remaining 2 cups of broth, adding 1 cup at a time and stirring until the

rice has soaked it up.

6. After all of the broth is soaked up the rice should be a rich, creamy texture.

7. Remove the rice from heat and place into a large mixing bowl.

8. You can add the fillings/seasonings that you like at this point.  I will give you the

recipe for a great cheesy risotto ball.

9. Add ricotta, sour cream, mozzarella, Parmesan, pepper, salt, garlic powder, oregano

and mix together while the mixture is hot.

10. Taste the mixture and season to taste.

11. Refrigerate mixture until cold and setup. (Roughly 2 hours)

12. This mixture can be stored for up to 5 days and used to make Risotto Balls as needed.

13. Heat 3 cups of oil in a medium saucepan to high heat.

14. Combine the breadcrumbs and Panko breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt, pepper, and

preferred seasonings.

15. Beat the eggs and set aside.

16. Roll the cold rice mixture into balls roughly 1 ¾ inch diameter.  (The size of a plum)

17. Roll the balls into the egg mixture, and then in the breadcrumb mixture and evenly

coat with breadcrumbs.

18. Place the risotto balls into the hot oil and fry until a dark/golden brown.

(Roughly 5-8 minutes.)

19. Serve immediately with heated marinara sauce or sauce of choice.

20. Enjoy!

Sales used in this recipe:

Olive Oil (Publix BOGO $9.99 for 2)

Ricotta Cheese ($0.75 manufacturers coupon, doubled at Publix making it $0.29)


Jicama Dicama Dock

SNACKS:  The enemy to anyone who is watching their figure. Sure, you can bring an apple to work, but are you really going to choose that over the chocolate snacks in the break room? I don’t think so!

The snacks that we made are crunchy, salty, refreshing, cheap and low calorie. Talk about a win-win. Snack away my friends!

Jicama Sticks

Jicama Sticks

–          One bulb of Jicama, peeled and cut into sticks

–          1 tsbp lime juice

–          2 tbsp fresh cilantro

–          ½ tsp garlic powder

–          1 tsp sugar

–          ½ tsp salt

–          ½ tsp paprika

–          ¼ tsp chili pepper

  1. Combine salt, sugar, cilantro, garlic powder, paprika and chili pepper into a bowl.
  2. Coat jicama with lime juice
  3. Sprinkle jicama with spice blend.
  4. Snack away!
  5. Keep refrigerated

*The cool thing about Jicama is that they are a blank slate. If you want a sweet snack, try cinnamon and sugar. Feel free to mix up the spices for some variety.*


Jicama- $1.99/lb at Kroger. Average Retail $2.99/lb

‘Tis The Season to be Green and Fried

When I was 10, the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was released.  The young actress, who played Idgie Throughgood, in the movies was about my age, and we looked exactly alike.  For one solid year; I was a fake movie star. We had the same color hair, rebellious personality, tomboy mentality and hairy legs.

Iggie in the movie

Me, much younger but as close as I get digitally

Until my adulthood, I thought Fried Green Tomatoes was just a movie.  Now I know it’s a wonderful asset to any meal as a side dish, an appetizer, an addition to a sandwich or  a salad topper.  Right now is the season since all of our tomato plants are starting to ease off and we have the extra green ones that just won’t turn! Tonight, in honor of our own appetizer week, we have made it a wonderful first course. Add a little homemade mustard sauce and voila!

Fried Green Tomatoes

Serves 4

Total Price $0.79

Total Price per Person $0.20

Average Retail Price $3.61

Total Savings- $2.82

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes


2 green tomatoes (Garden- FREE Average Retail $2.99/lb)

2 tsp olive oil (Costco $9.99/ 64oz Average Retail $4.99/16oz)

1 cup of flour (Publix BOGO $1.99/2)

¼ cup panko bread crumbs (Super H $.100 off from Average Retail $3.99)

pinch of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, mustard powder, cayenne pepper and powdered sugar (BIG LOTS)

1 egg (Costco 36 eggs for $1.18 $0.06/egg Average Retail $2.99/12 $0.25each)

¼ cup milk (Costco $1.89/gallon Average Retail $3.49/gallon)


2 tbsp Spicy Mustard (BOGO Heinz at Publix $1.99/2)

1 tbsp Mayonnaise (Publix Buy one Get one Free $3.99/2 Average retail $3.99/1)

1tsp lemon juice (Super H 5 lemons/ $0.99 Average Retail $2/$0.99)

1tsp milk (Costco $1.89/gallon Average Retail $3.49/gallon)

dash of worscershire

pinch of paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder (BIG LOTS)

  1. Mix spicy mustard, mayonnaise, lemon juice, milk, worscershire, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder into a bowl and set aside. This is the sauce, and feel free to spice it up however you want.
  2. Cut Green Tomato’s into thick slices (1/2 inch) and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. In a large Ziploc bag add ½ cup flour, and salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper.
  4. Place tomato slices into the bag and shake until evenly covered.
  5. Mix egg and milk in a bowl.
  6. Mix the remaining ½ cup flour and panko bread crumbs in a plate.
  7. Heat ½ cup of oil in a sauté pan on med-high heat.
  8. Dip each tomato slice into the egg and milk mixture and then coat in the flour and panko mixture before placing into the sauté pan.
  9. Repeat with each slice and place tomato slices 1 inch apart.
  10. Flip tomato slices so they are evenly browned. (Roughly 2 mins per side.)
  11. Remove from pan and serve hot with the sauce mixture drizzled on the top or served on the side.  Goes great with a bit of fresh chives.

Driving Down the Gluten-Freeway

I have mentioned before and I will mention again, I LOVE WHEN READERS COMPLIMENT THE BLOG AND TELL ME WHAT THEY LIKE. One of my dear friends from middle school, Laura, and I reconnected on Facebook. She sent me an email about how she loved the blog. She and her family are gluten and soy free, so Blake and I took it as a challenge to make something that we wanted for dinner, but cater to her family’s diet.

If I ever fulfill my dream of being a professional chef, culinary teacher or TV food personality, I will be sure to incorporate the needs of people who have unique diets. I have a best friend, Kelly, who is a vegetarian. She says she loves to read the blog, but doesn’t cook much from it because we always use meat.  After looking back at our recipes, she was right, and now we are aiming to make more vegetarian-friendly dishes.

So for all of those of you who are steering away from gluten and/or soy, enjoy this dish!

Zucchini-Chicken “Lasagna”

(Eliminate chicken or replace with tofu for a delightful vegetarian dish)

Serves 6

Total Price with Savings- $4.49

Total Price per Person- $0.75

Total Average Retail Price- $12.59

Total Savings- $8.10

Gluten-Soy Free Lasagna

–         2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, boiled and shredded (Super H $1.49/lb Average Retail $4.99/lb)

–         2 cans of plain tomato sauce (Costco 12/$5.99 Average Retail $0.99/each)

–         1 can diced tomatoes (Costco 12/$5.99 Average Retail $0.99/each)

–         1 tbsp olive oil

–         1 tbsp minced garlic (Costco 48 oz/ $3.99 Average Retail 6 oz $2.99)

–         1 tbsp Italian season (BIG LOTS $1.00 Average Retail $2.29)

–         ½ cup grated Parmesan (Costco $5.99 24 oz/ Average Retail 8 oz $3.99)

–         ½ cup shredded mozzarella (Costco $6.99 5/lb bag Average retail $3.49/1 lb bag)

–         1- 8oz container ricotta cheese (Publix brand $1.09 Average Retail $2.29)

–         1 tbsp fresh basil (FREE Garden Average Retail $2.99/pkg)

–         1 tsp fresh thyme (FREE Garden Average Retail $2.99/pkg)

–         2 medium zucchini, sliced thin lengthwise (Super H $0.38/lb Average Retail $1.99/lb)

–         Salt and pepper (BIG LOTS)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, olive oil, minced garlic, 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning into a pot and cook on low heat for 30 minutes. (If you are in a hurry, use higher heat).
  3. Boil chicken breast for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Shred when cool.
  4. Mix together ricotta, basil, thyme, ¼ cup mozzarella cheese, 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside for assembly.
  5. In a 9-inch glass-baking dish, drizzle olive oil in the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add thin layer of tomato sauce.
  7. Top with ½ sliced zucchini to cover surface of pan.
  8. Spread ½ of cheese mixture on top of zucchini.
  9. Top with shredded chicken, evenly dispersed.
  10. Coat chicken layer with more sauce to ensure it doesn’t dry out when cooking.
  11. Top with remainder of zucchini.
  12. Coat with one more layer of tomato sauce.
  13. Top with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella.
  14. Bake covered with foil for 30 minutes.
  15. Uncover and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
  16. Allow 20-30 minutes for “lasagna” to set.

The whole dish

The Kitchen Sink that Helps Babies Think

I was a nutritionally unhealthy kid. My taste buds were constantly dancing, but my arteries and my waistline were taking a beating. After my first year in college, I had about 80 pounds to lose to be “average” for my age, gender and height.

My parents raised me with all of the love and compassion that great parents do. They are amazing, but in the 80’s in North Carolina and Georgia, eating a balanced and nutrient-rich diet was not something people thought about. People had just learned that cigarettes had a negative impact on your health and artificial sweeteners, in the likes of Tab Soda, were the talk of the town.

I became a mom in December of 2008. I knew that I wanted my child to be exposed to a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins. In fact, it drives my friend, Melissa, crazy that I have still never fed Lottie Mac ‘n Cheese from a box.

When Lottie started on solid foods, it was simple. We made our own purees and she loved whatever we gave her. The concept of something besides breast milk was a novelty to her. Then Lottie turned one, and she got several fun gifts, and I got a toddler with an attitude. This is when Lottie started throwing her avocado at me and dissecting her egg white omelets to remove the spinach. I never thought I would be there, but I was.

In the winter, I love to make butternut squash soup. It is simple. One day, I decided to take the method of my butternut squash soup but use broccoli. It was delicious and creamy. Then it hit me, Lottie loves whole-wheat pasta topped with butternut squash soup. I could make a veggie pasta sauce. I went to Super H Mart and bought all of the nutritious veggies that were on sale. I used the healthy method from the butternut squash soup with the veggies that were CHEAP and before I knew it I had healthy, nutrient-rich pasta sauce that Lottie (and my husband) absolutely LOVE!

Creamless, Creamy Veggie Pasta Sauce

Serves – 1 toddler for 6 weeks

Total Price with Sales- $5.28/batch

Total Average Retail Price- $16.19/batch

Total Savings- $10.91/batch

Tell them it's PESTO!

– 1 medium sweet onion, chopped (Super H 3lb bag $0.98 Average retail 3 lb bag $2.99)

– 3 stalks of celery, chopped (Super H $0.69/package Average Retail $1.49/package

– 2 unpeeled, chopped carrots (Super H $0.18/lb Average Retail $1.49/lb)

– 3 cans of chicken broth (Costco 12 cans for $6.99 Average Retail $1.19/can)

– 1 cup or more water depending on amount of veggies

(Use the veggies that you want your child to have, but I used the following)

– 1 bunch of spinach, cleaned (Super H $0.99/bunch Average Retail $3.99/container)

– 1 head of broccoli, chunked (Super H $0.69/lb Average Retail $1.99/lb)

– 1 lb asparagus, chopped (Super H $0.98/lb Average Retail $3.99/lb)

– 1 head of cauliflower, chunked (Super H $0.78/each Average Retail $2.29/each)

  1. Get the largest pot you have so you can make/freeze more sauce at one time. We use our lobster pot.
  2. Add enough olive oil to the bottom of the pot to keep the veggies from sticking.
  3. Add carrots, celery and onion and cook on medium heat until onions are translucent (about 5-7 minutes).
  4. Add all other veggies except leafy greens that cook fast .
  5. Pour three cans of low-sodium chicken stock over veggies and add water until the veggies and covered in liquid.
  6. Do NOT add more liquid once veggies are submerged.
  7. Boil veggies until they are all soft.
  8. Add leafy greens and boil 1 minute.
  9. Allow boiled veggies and liquid to completely cool (about 1-1.5 hours).
  10. Blend in batches and freeze in weekly portions.
  11. Surprisingly, the sauce is extra creamy and your kids will love it! It looks pretty gross, but serves in under Parmesan cheese and they won’t know!

* I freeze these in one-week portions, so I only have to make it once ever 6 weeks.

* Use what is on sale, the specific veggies don’t matter.

* Top with Parmesan cheese

* Use in your toddler’s other favorite dishes- omelets, quesadillas, rice, etc

* Veggies I would NOT use, cucumbers, potatoes, peppers or eggplant simply based on texture for the soup.

HAVE a BABY that doesn’t love to sleep?

Contact Laura Hunter at

She can help!

Peter Piper Picked A Pepper Relish

So far one of my favorite things about this blog is when people ask me for ideas. I like the challenge of finding ingredients for what they want on sale and making them into something delightful.

Last week I posted about home grown veggies. One of my friends, Christy, told me that she had so many banana pepper that she was throwing them out before she could use them. First off, I would say compost them. In fact, it was her mom, during my childhood, who introduced me to composting.

I thought for a while about what to make with a plethora of banana peppers. At first, I considered a casserole with a biscuit topping, but no matter how savory you make it, that would still be pepper overload.

So I went in the direction of a relish. The coolest thing about pepper relish is that it stays good for a while. Generally when anything is cooked in vinegar, it will last a lot longer than you would think.

Banana Pepper Relish

Total Cost- $1.49

Total Cost at Average Retail- $6.34

Total Savings- $4.85

Banana Pepper Relish

–         7-9 Banana Peppers, seeded and deveined and chopped finely (Garden FREE- Average Retail- $3.99/lb)

–         2 jalapenos, finely chopped and deseeded (Garden FREE- Average Retail $1.99/lb)

–         1 cup of vinegar (Publix Manufacturer’s Coupon $0.50 off doubled so $1.00 off from Average Retail $1.99)

–         1 tsp salt

–         ¼ cup water

–         1 tbsp mustard (Publix Manufacturer’s Coupon $0.40 off doubled so $0.80 off from Average Retail $1.79)

  1. Cook peppers and vinegar on medium heat for 5-7 minutes until translucent.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and cook for 5-7 more minutes.
  3. Quickly strain, still reserving some of the liquid.
  4. Allow time to cool and transfer to an empty jar.
  5. Refrigerate and serve

All it takes to make a pepper relish

The ingredients

Sweet TOMATO Pie and I Shut My Mouth

Growing up in the South, my meals included mayonnaise, butter, cream, buttermilk, fried flour and/ white gravy. Since I left home as a teenager, I have changed my diet to represent culture and essence of southern cooking, but with a healthier (much healthier) spin on the classic dishes.

I think this summer I decided that Tomato Pie has moved into my top 10 All Time Favorite Foods. Since we have had a plethora of tomatoes this summer, I was experimenting with new ways to uses them so they wouldn’t go to waste. When I saw Buy One, Get One Free piecrusts on, I knew just what I wanted.

I clipped three of the buy one get one free coupons for piecrusts, so I knew I had some room to experiment with modernizing a southern Tomato Pie.

Since the Southern traditional one is always a hit at dinner parties and family gathering, I am going to include that recipe too.

Traditional Tomato Pie

Total Price- $2.01

Average Retail Price- $10.22

Total Savings- $8.21

Traditional Tomato Pie

1 pie shell (Publix $2.49/2 Buy one get one free. $0.62/each Average retail $1.25/each)

3 tomatoes- thickly sliced, seeded and dried- dry very well with paper towel (FREE- garden, Average retail $2.99/lb

2 tbsp fresh chopped basil (FREE–garden Average retail $2.99/pkg)

¼ cup chopped sweet onion (Super H 3lb bag $0.98 Average retail 3 lb bag $2.99)

½ cup Mayonnaise (Publix Buy one Get one Free $3.99/2 Average retail $3.99/1)

1 ½ cups extra sharp shredded cheddar cheese (Costco $6.99 5/lb bag Average retail $3.49/1 lb bag)

½ tsp salt

½ pepper

  1. Baste rim of piecrust with egg white prior to baking to make it brown better.
  2. Bake crust 5 minutes at 425 degrees.
  3. Combine salt, pepper, basil and onions.
  4. Place seeded tomatoes in crust to cover the bottom.
  5. Spread onion mixture over tomatoes.
  6. In a mixing bowl, mix cheese and mayonnaise and spread over tomatoes.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes at 400 degrees.
  8. Allow pie to cool/set before cutting and serving.

Medium Healthy Mozzarella and Basil Tomato Pie

Total Price- $2.01

Average Retail Price- $10.22

Total Savings- $8.21

Medium Healthy Tomato Pie

1 pie shell (Publix $2.49/2 Buy one get one free. $0.62/each Average retail $1.25/each)

3 tomatoes- thickly sliced, seeded and dried- dry very well with paper towel)

½ cup fresh chopped basil (FREE–garden Average retail $2.99/pkg)

¼ cup chopped sweet onion (Super H 3lb bag $0.98 Average retail 3 lb bag $2.99)

½ cup Mayonnaise (Publix Buy one Get one Free $3.99/2 Average retail $3.99/1)

1 ½ cups shredded mozzerall cheese (Costco $6.99 5/lb bag Average retail $3.49/1 lb bag)

drizzle of balsamic vinegar

½ tsp salt

½ pepper

  1. Baste rim of piecrust with egg white prior to baking to make it brown better.
  2. Bake crust 5 minutes at 425 degrees.
  3. Combine salt, pepper, basil and onions.
  4. Place seeded tomatoes in crust to cover the bottom.
  5. Spread onion mixture over tomatoes.
  6. Drizzle balsamic vinegar on onion mix
  7. In a mixing bowl, mix cheese and mayonnaise and spread over tomatoes.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes at 400 degrees.

Allow pie to cool/set before cutting and serving.

Extra Healthy Mozzarella and Basil Tomato Pie

Total Price- $2.62

Average Retail Price- $9.72

Total Savings- $7.10

Healthy Tomato Pie

1 pie shell (Publix $2.49/2 Buy one get one free. $0.62/each Average retail $1.25/each)

3 tomatoes- thickly sliced, seeded and dried- dry very well with paper towel)

8 fresh whole basil leave (FREE–garden Average retail $2.99/pkg)

¼ cup chopped sweet onion (Super H 3lb bag $0.98 Average retail 3 lb bag $2.99)

1 tbsp cups shredded mozzarella cheese (Costco $6.99 5/lb bag Average retail $3.49/1 lb bag)

5 – ½ inch thick slices of fresh mozzarella (the kind in the big ball) (Costco $1.99/each Average Retail $4.99/each)

drizzle of balsamic vinegar

½ tsp salt

½ pepper

  1. Baste rim of piecrust with egg white prior to baking to make it brown better.
  2. Bake crust 5 minutes at 425 degrees.
  3. Combine salt, pepper, and onions.
  4. Place seeded tomatoes in crust to cover the bottom.
  5. Place fresh basil leaves over the top of the tomatoes
  6. Spread onion mixture over tomatoes.
  7. Drizzle balsamic vinegar on onion mix
  8. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese over onion mixture
  9. Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

Allow pie to cool/set before cutting and serving.

Home Grown Country Girl

I am a cold weather person. I don’t like hot weather, but if there is one thing that makes hot sunshine and high temperatures worth it, it is home grown vegetables and fruits. We live in a house that doesn’t get much sunshine. Even after taking down 15 pine trees from the front yard, we still only have one area of the yard that gets 6-8 hours of sun/day. So Blake built me a terrace in that area which became our garden. As any of you farmers out there know, you need tons of sun to grow veggies and fruit.

We plant our garden in March or April. We make it an Easter Saturday tradition. The crops require quite a bit of water and we are believers in composted soil and additional fertilizer (the kind that promotes the growth of fruiting, not foliage). Don’t cut corners on the stakes. We did that this year, but next year we will get the taller and sturdier stakes, so the plants have more support when they begin to bloom.

A neat tidbit that we learned this weekend was about blueberry bushes; ours is not doing very well at all, in fact, it is quite pitiful. We went to visit Blake’s uncle Brian this weekend. He lives out in the country and grows a ton of produce. He has a blueberry bush that is the size of a storage shed. I could not believe it! He told me that the trick is to plant at least two or three together to encourage cross-pollination. I never knew this tip, so we are picking up a buddy for our friend, Mr. Blueberry on My Shoulder this weekend.

This year, we are growing tomatoes, jalapenos, banana peppers, green/red/yellow peppers, blueberries, okra and cucumbers. In retrospect, I would have opted for one extra tomato plant, some beets and one less jalapeno plant. I LOVE Beets! We have way too many peppers. One good pepper plant of each type would be enough for us.


Here is a little shot of the crops we picked YESTERDAY! Looks like I am due to make a few tomato pies!

A day in the garden

A few tips to a prosperous garden:

1. Leave plenty of space (at least 18 inches) between the plants when you plant them.

2. Plant them around Easter weekend.

3. Be sure to bury the bottom 6 inches of the plant you are planting. It seems like you are covering up a lot of the foliage, but that is ok.

4. For tomatoes, pinch back the little leaves that grow in the joints of the plant. Go easy on pruning anywhere else.

5. Water regularly. We prefer in the morning. In the evening, the water can create bacteria from not having the sun and in the afternoon, it is pointless.

6. Plant cucumbers, squash and melon in the spot where your compost pile was.

7. Steer clear of planting vegetables in clay. Sandy or Sandy loam are your best bets.

8. The easiest crops to grow (in my opinion) are onions, peas, beets, rutabaga and zucchini squash.

9. Put some type of guard around you garden (mesh nets or chicken wire work well) to keep the precious, but hungry rabbits and deer away from your salad!

10. Don’t be afraid to grow a garden in the winter. Salad greens, carrots, beets, radishes, cabbage, collards, broccoli, cauliflower all take well to the cold weather.