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Archive for the ‘Main Meals’ Category

I have a sick toddler at home right now, so this weekend I took a stab at creating my own version of chicken noodle soup. I used whole-wheat orzo pasta for easy scooping (I hate it when the noodles are so long they fall off of the spoon), and added several vegetables I had in the fridge, including a big bunch of Greenling arugula – an unusual choice, but it blended right in, and it never hurts to work in extra veggies.

I like a high stuff-to-broth ratio in my soup, so this one is pretty thick. Feel free to add more liquid if you like your soup more brothy.

Chicken-Orzo Soup

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (about half a large onion)
1 carrot, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 bunch arugula leaves, chopped
1 bunch mustard greens, stems removed, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (or 2-3 smaller sweet peppers, like banana)
1 tsp dried sage
1 cup whole-wheat orzo
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium-high heat in large Dutch oven. Add chicken and season with salt and pepper. Cook for several minutes, until the pieces start to brown. Add veggies and sage and cook another 10 minutes or so, until the veggies start to tenderize.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Stir in orzo, return to a boil, and cook 8-10 minutes, until orzo is tender.

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There are two failproof ways to dress up a food item that you are either not so fond of or are tired of eating. One involves covering the item in question with cheese. The other, invariably, involves sausage.

Now, I like squash. A lot. But we have eaten a lot of it this summer, and so I decided to come up with a fun way to serve it up. I combined sweet turkey Italian sausage with bell peppers, arugula, garlic, and fennel seed, added some jarred pasta sauce, and voila! We had epic stuffed squash. If you have any leftover sauce after stuffing your squash, save it to top spaghetti.

After the squash finished baking, I spotted some Pure Luck parsley and garlic chevre (which you can buy from Greenling) in the fridge and dotted our servings with it. It turned out to be a great final touch — just added a bit of tanginess to the sweet sauce. I’m listing the chevre as an optional ingredient, but I highly recommend it if you have some lying around.

Sausage-Stuffed Squash

4 summer squash (I used two 8-ball and two yellow)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 bell peppers, finely chopped
1 bunch arugula, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
20 oz pkg sweet turkey Italian sausage
1 tbsp fennel (anise) seed
24 oz jar pasta sauce (I used Classico Tomato Basil)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chevre (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tops off of the 8-ball squash and scoop out the innards, leaving a thin rind. Halve the yellow squash and do the same. Be sure to get all of the seeds.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove sausage from casing and add to skillet, stirring to crumble. Add peppers, garlic, arugula, and fennel seed. Cook 10-15 minutes, until sausage is browned, veggies are tender, and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add pasta sauce and cook another 5 minutes or so, until heated through.

Using a small spoon, fill squash with sauce. Bake for 25 minutes, until squash is tender. Dot with crumbled chevre, if using.

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Do you ever get in a breakfast rut? I do, often. In fact, it’s the meal at which I’m most likely to repeat the same foods over and over again. We’re talking months in a row of oatmeal. It gets old.

This casserole will add some variety to your breakfast routine. Roasted peppers and tomatoes combine with oregano and feta cheese for a combination of flavors not usually found on the breakfast table. Try this casserole on a weekend, as it takes a little while to prepare. It would be a great addition to a brunch spread. I made this one on a Sunday evening and reheated portions throughout the week.

Egg Casserole with Roasted Peppers, Roasted Tomatoes, and Feta (adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen)

2 cups sweet peppers, such as banana or bell, cut into strips or sliced into rings
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes (or halved cherry tomatoes)
1/2 bunch garlic chives or green onions, chopped
3/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese
10 eggs
1 tsp. lemon pepper
salt to taste

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 375 degrees. Spray a square baking dish with nonstick spray, or rub with olive oil.

Place peppers into baking dish, sprinkle with oregano, and roast for 10 minutes.

Break eggs into a bowl and beat until egg yolks and whites are well combined. Season eggs with lemon pepper and salt, and stir in chives.

After peppers roast for 10 minutes, add tomatoes and stir to combine. Put dish back in oven and roast 15 minutes more, or until tomatoes start to look slightly shriveled.

Sprinkle feta cheese over roasted peppers and tomatoes, then pour beaten eggs over. Return pan to oven and cook for 25-28 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and eggs are set. (It will puff up a bit when it cooks, but after it cools for a few minutes the casserole will settle.) Serve hot.

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Mason and I headed over to our favorite taco joint, Torchy’s, for lunch today. They recently opened a location in north Austin, off of Spicewood, and since that’s pretty close to where I work, we popped in for a quick lunch. It was there that I saw the following:

Well. I usually get a green chile pork taco and a fried avocado taco, but I couldn’t pass this up. The Damn BP replaced my usual avocado taco, and damn, it was good. As good as the avocado one? Well, maybe not. But it was still a Torchy’s taco, which makes it better than 95% of the tacos out there.

I post this to let you all know about the Damn BP and that $1 from each purchase of one goes towards the Gulf cleanup that is currently ongoing as a result of the BP oil debacle. You can do something nice about the environment and eat some great food while doing it.

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Grain-based salads are filling, versatile, and wonderful picnic foods. For this one, I mixed barley with some maple-roasted carrots and tomatoes and pan-glazed tempeh, and then sprinkled with a bit of sliced basil to brighten up the flavors a bit. It’s just slightly sweet. Wheat berries would also work instead of the barley, or even brown rice. If you’re not a fan of tempeh, just use chicken instead.

Barley Salad with Sweet Roasted Vegetables

1 cup barley
3 cups water

8 oz carrots, cut into small pieces
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

8 oz tempeh, cut into thin slices
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup sliced basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine water and barley in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 40 minutes. If there’s any water left in the pan, drain it off. Set the barley aside in a large bowl.

Combine vegetables, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, or until veggies are browned and tender. Add to the barley.

In a small bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp maple syrup, broth, salt, and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add tempeh and fry about 5 minutes per side, until golden brown. Add vinegar mixture and cook, stirring as necessary to keep tempeh from sticking, until liquid thickens into a glaze. It’ll take about 10 minutes.

Add tempeh to barley mixture and stir to combine. Sprinkle with basil and serve.

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I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of cooked salmon. Smoked salmon or sushi? I’m completely on board with that. But I don’t looooove the flavor of cooked salmon. That said, I appreciate its subtle sweetness and the health benefits it provides, so I work with it.

This recipe gives it a ton of flavor. The simple spice rub gives it a nice crust, and the sauce adds a bright, summery flavor (and uses a lot of basil, which we seem to be overflowing with lately). Greek yogurt is yogurt that has been drained for a bit and is extra creamy. If you can’t find it at the store, line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth or heavy-duty paper towels, dump in the yogurt, and let it sit over the sink for about 30 minutes.

Salmon with Cucumber-Basil Sauce

Sauce:

2 cups Greek yogurt
2 cups packed basil
1 tsp cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp ground cumin)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 pickling cucumbers, peeled and seeded* (or 2 regular cucumbers)

Salmon:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb salmon fillet, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp red pepper

Roughly chop basil. Combine all ingredients except for cucumbers in a food processor and process about 30 seconds, until it’s pretty smooth. Roughly chop cucumbers, add to food processor, and pulse a few times until combined. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine cumin, salt and pepper, and coat salmon with cooking spray. Coat salmon with spice rub. You may not need all of it, but you at least need most of it — it’ll be pretty thick. That’s what helps get you that nice crust.

Place salmon skin-side up onto hot oil. Cook 6-7 minutes, resisting the urge to poke or move the salmon. You can tell it’s done with its bright pink color fades a bit. Serve with sauce.

You’ll probably have extra sauce. It would be great on grilled chicken or grilled veggies, as a dip, or just drank from a cup with a straw. Just kidding on that last one…kind of. It’s really good sauce.

*To seed a cucumber, first peel it. Then scoop out the seeds with a spoon, like so:

You’ll end up with nicely hollowed cukes, like this:

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I love orzo salads for many reasons. For one, they are easy to make — just cook the pasta, chop the ingredients, mix, and you are done. They taste good warm, cold, or at room temperature. Also the leftovers keep well for a day or two. This one combines a mix of veggies with whole-wheat orzo and a white wine vinaigrette, and it’s highly customizable so you can cater to the likes/dislikes of your family.

Orzo Salad with Chicken and Veggies

1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
5 oz cooked chopped chicken (rotisserie is good, or some of those frozen, pre-cooked chicken breast strips)
1 chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped spring onion (or red onion)
1/2 cup chopped chard
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1.5 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil

Cook orzo in boiling, salted water until tender, 8-10 minutes.  Combine all ingredients through basil and stir well. Add salt, pepper, vinegar, and olive oil, and toss until well combined.

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