Orzo & Feta Salad

This is a very refreshing salad to bring to a party or serve at lunchtime. We used to have a grocery store that made an excellent version of this, and The recipe that follows is the inspiration. I also borrowed heavily from a version that Gia DeLaurentis makes. The beauty is you can add or sub in any ingredients you want – There are versions with fresh tomatoes or garbanzo beans, for example.

Recipe level: easy

Serves: 6

Time: 20 minutes

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 c. orzo
  • 4 c. Chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 3/4 cup feta
  • 1/2 cup sweet pepper, chopped fine
  • Sundried tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 1/4 c pitted kalamata olives, quartered

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 c. Red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 c. Virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. fresh basil
  • 1/4 c. Fresh mint

Step one:

Boil the chicken broth and add the orzo. Make sure to stir, because orzo can get starchy. Cook for about seven minutes and then drain and set aside.

Step two:

Assemble the dressing and then toss with drained orzo.

Step three:

Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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Caprese Chicken

This was a delicious choice for the summer. I used fresh basil and tomatoes from my garden, and the result was a really simple, refreshing meal. I served it with mashed potatoes, and would definitely add more tomatoes next time, as they were the highlight of the meal, in my opinion. Using a good quality balsamic vinegar is also important – there are many types that are infused with flavors that would be interesting to try.
Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast
  • Olive oil, 2-3 tbs
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, good quality.
  • Fresh basil, chiffanade (cut into strips)
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half.
  • Mozzarella, fresh and thinly sliced. (you may substitute shredded)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Step one:

Heat olive oil on medium heat. Salt and pepper the chicken liberally. Cook chicken for six minutes on each side, and then remove from heat.

Step two:

Saute garlic in the balsamic vinegar for several minutes, until softened. Add the basil and tomatoes and cook it down for a couple of minutes, until they begin to soften.

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Step three:

Add the chicken back in the pan, and thinly sliced mozzarella on top. Cook until the mozzarella is melted, and serve. Enjoy!

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Mongolian Beef

I am not sure there really is such thing as an authentic Mongolian beef; from what I understand this is an Americanized concoction. Regardless, I enjoy the flavor very much and decided to look out into the internet universe for some ideas. Here is what I found (with some of my own twists).


I served this with white rice, and used fresh veggies from the garden. Green beans and spinach would be my top choice, but you could certainly use bok choy or broccoli for variation. I got the beef (thin sliced top round) from my favorite butcher. It’s perfect for strifry and cost effective.

You can adjust the heat by adding more chili or ramp up the sweet by adding more brown sugar.Adapted from: http://thewoksoflife.com/2015/07/mongolian-beef-recipe/

Serves 4:

  • 8 ounces top round thinly sliced or flank steak cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4  cup vegetable oil, for frying the beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 5 dried red chili peppers or 1 Tbs chili paste
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • one shallot, sliced* (optional)
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce for cooking
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 scallions cut on the diagonal
  • Vegetables of your choosing – green beans, bok choy, broccoli

Step one:

Combine soy sauce with brown sugar and set aside.

Marinate the beef in one teaspoon of oil, 1 teaspoon of soy cause, and 1 tbs of cornstarch. . Make sure it is room temperature before going to the next step. 15 min- 1 hour

Step two:

Dredge the marinated beef in the remaining cornstarch. Heat the oil on medium so that the meat will be seared and crisp up quickly. Brown the beef on either side, ideally getting a bit of a crust on the side. Set aside the beef out of the pan. 4-5 minutes

Step three

Reduce the heat to medium. Saute garlic for 2- 3 minutes. Add in chili peppers and continue cooking for several more minutes. Make sure to scrape the pan for any cracklings from the beef and mix it in. Add ginger, chicken broth, and then desired vegetables. Cook for 5 more minutes.Finally, add back in the beef and drizzle the soy sauce mixture over the pan. Stir and continue cooking until the liquid is mostly absorbed. 15-18 minutes

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Great Smoothies

 

Mango, pineapple, papaya & banana

I’m not a big breakfast eater, especially if I ate a good dinner the night before. Smoothies are my go-to to get some nutrition in my body before going to work. I especially like them in summertime for breakfast, or as an afternoon pick-me up to hold me until dinner (I tend to get crazy hungry around 4). Smoothies allow me to get extra fruit and dairy into my diet which is always great for your skin and health.

Instead of sugar, I always use one banana as it provides enough sweet for me. If you hate bananas, I would suggest some honey, instead. I feel like most smoothie recipes that call for added sugar negate the healthiness of the treat.

 

ch ch ch chia!

I add some chia seeds for the omega-3’s, as you don’t notice the texture due to the other fruit. I prefer unsweetened almond milk for the nutrition, but any kind of milk will do, and usually I use greek yogurt, or an organic-plain. As for the fruit, I usually use frozen, but in the summertime when I have fresh options, I make sure to add extra ice.

 

Lately I am all about this flavor

It is also a great sweet treat for the kids, and they enjoy getting to choose their flavors. Its definitely a much better alternative to junk food.

Blend for a couple of minutes:

  1. 8 oz almond milk (or coconut or regular)
  2. 2-3 heaping spoons of yogurt
  3. A sprinkle of chia seeds
  4. one banana
  5. combo of fruit of your choice.
  6. Handful of ice

My favorite combos:

Tropical: mango, pineapple, papaya

Antioxidant: Berries – blackberries, blueberries, strawberries

Classic: Strawberry & banana

For further reading:

Benefits of Berries

Benefits of coconut milk

Benefits of almond milk

 

 

 

 

Drunken Noodles

 Recipe Ease: easy

Length: 25 minutes

I’m a big fan of Thai Food. My personal favorites are Tom Yum Soup and Red Curry; however, I will never turn down a bowl of Drunken Noodles. The spice, the aroma comforts me instantly.

When I did my research (okay, just googled) the name, I found many theories. Some say you have to be drunk to eat all of that spice, or that the chef must be drunk to throw in such a variety of ingredients, or that it is a famous hangover cure. Regardless, the dish didn’t seem that difficult to make.

While you could find most of the ingredients at a typical grocery store, I opted to go to an international market which had a huge variety of soy sauce, fish sauce and the like. The recipe calls for thick soy sauce, and this is far more thick than the soy sauce we are used to. You could add molasses or honey to regular or use Hoisin in a pinch. I pointed out in the ingredient list where you can use a substitute if you have trouble tracking down the ingredients.

The beauty of the dish is you can put in whatever you like. Many recipes called for egg or tofu. I added in some baby bok choy because it looked so fresh and nice at the supermarket. We served it with beer, and it was the perfect dish for a cold, snowy night.

You will need:

  • 12 oz bag rice flake noodles, soaked in warm water for 8 -10 minutes and drained.
  • 2-3Tbsp. Thai chili garlic oil (you can use sriracha)
  • 4 Tbsp thick soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Oyster sauce
  • 4 Tbsp Fish sauce
  • 3 tbs sesame oil (you can use canola)
    3 cloves garlic, minced.
    1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
    12 medium sized shrimp, cleaned
  • 1/2 1lb chicken breast, sliced thinly
    1 red bell pepper cut into bite-sized pieces.
    1 Cup packed fresh thai basil leaves. (you can use regular basil)

 

What gorgeous veggies

I found some great sauces at the local international mart

 

One package easily fed 5 people
Steps:
1. Whisk Thick soy, soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili oil and fish sauce together and set aside.

2. Heat a large wok or the biggest skillet you have over medium heat. Add oil to skillet and cook garlic, onions and shallots until light brown.


3.  Add chicken and cook for about 5 minutes. Add shrimp and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

4. Add drained noodles, bell pepper, sauce mixture, and stir fry five minutes

5. Add basil and cook for a bout two minutes or until some of the noodles are a bit crisp on the edges

Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes

Total cook time: 45-50 minutes

Recipe ease: easy

This is a recipe of Nigella Lawson’s that I have been meaning to try. If you are looking for a classic roast chicken dish and/or some comfort than this is perfect. I made it on a very cold night, served it with some wine, and enjoyed every bite.

I picked a spicy chorizo from Whole Foods and had to use a blood orange rather than a regular for the zesting. I then sliced up the blood orange and set it out at the table for something sweet.

The original recipe calls for two red onions, and 12 chicken thighs, but I felt it was a bit much. The large onion I used cooked nicely and caramelized in the pan, and contrasted nicely with the creamy potatoes. Delicious.

You will need:

  • 1-2 tablespoons regular olive oil
  • 6 chicken thighs (bone in, with skin)
  • 2 links chorizo sausages, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 lbs baby potatoes, half the larger ones
  • 1 large red onion peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • grated zest of one orange
  • salt and pepper to taste

Steps:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and put the oil in the bottom of a roasting pans. Rub the skin of the chicken in the oil, season with salt accordingly, then turn them skin-side up. Add the chorizo sausages and the new potatoes to the pan.

You don’t need to be precise with the veggies

 

The chicken thighs were from a store that had an in house butcher

 

That is some good-looking chorizo

 

All nestled in the pan and ready to go

Sprinkle the onion and the oregano over, then grate the orange zest over the pan. Cook for 20 minutes, then baste the chicken with the juices. Continue cooking for about 20 – 30 minutes or till chicken is done.

The end result

Instant comfort