Category Archives: Quick and Easy

Orzo with Veggies and Feta

Orzo with Feta

Orzo with Feta

I’ve been thinking about making something with orzo for a while, and saw a good recipe on Tasty Kitchen and thought I’d give it a try.  But you know me, I can’t follow directions when it comes to food, so, as always, I added my own touch on the recipe.

The asparagus I had was already roasted (LOVE! roasted asparagus) so that was one variation from the original recipe.  Another was the tomatoes.  I love tomatoes, and Sendik’s had cute little cherry tomatoes on sale.  These aren’t good enough to eat on their own yet, but are good enough to cook with (the added spiced and other things in the dish help out the paper-like taste of winter tomatoes).

Ingredients:
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 lb spinach
1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
1/2 cup roasted asparagus (sliced on the diagonal in bite-sized pieces)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
Feta (as much as you like)
2 TB olive oil
Salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder to taste.

Steps:
1. Cook orzo according to package directions
2. Let the minced garlic infuse the olive oil on relatively low heat, so it doesn’t burn, until you can smell it (or about 5 minutes)
3. Add the spinach and cook down a bit
4. Add the tomatoes, season, and cook together for about 5 minutes
5. Add the roasted asparagus and orzo
6. Add the feta

Garlic infusing oil

Garlic infusing oil

Cooked spinach

Spinach cooked down

Tomatoes

Added the tomatoes

Orzo

Added orzo and asparagus

Added feta

Added feta

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Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

After making the Mushroom Stroganoff I wanted to make the real thing. Especially considering that I haven’t had beef stroganoff in at least ten years. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either when I started thinking about it. I actually don’t remember the last time I had it. And after I made the mushroom stroganoff, I started searching for recipes. But as you know, I have a hard time following a recipe. So, I decided to combine a few and the ones I liked were the Paula Dean version and a Cooking Light version.  Here is what I came up with:

Ingredients:
1 lb of beef (I used the already-cut-up beef that you can find at your local grocery store)
3 TB of flour (this depends on your beef; you could use more or less)
24 oz. of mushrooms, sliced thinly (less mushrooms if you like less)
1 cup of low-fat sour cream
1 large onion, diced
Spices to taste (salt, black pepper, paprika, chipotle pepper)

Steps:
Cook noodles according to package directions.
1. In a zip bag, season and flour the meat. Shake it to make sure the flour, salt, and pepper cover the meat.
2. In a large skillet, saute the onions and then the meat.
3. Add the mushrooms once the meat is done.
4. Once the mushrooms reduce, add sour cream and cook over low heat till you have a nice sauce and no lumps and the meat is cooked through.
Add seasonings as you go along to deepen the depth of flavor.

Serve over noodles.

Onions and meat

Onions and meat

Mushrooms added

Mushrooms added

Sauce for stroganoff

With Sour Cream

Puff Pastry “fingers”

Puff Pastry "Fingers" with Jam

Puff Pastry "Fingers" with Jam

This recipe is even easier (I know it’s really hard to believe) than my other puff pastry desert. It’s equally delicious, but I think that my dad likes this better because the can control (read pile on) the amount of strawberry jam.  Here, I just placed a small bowl of softened jam so people can dip and eat as much as they’d like.

Ingredients:
1 box Puff pastry dough (I used one sheet)
Jam (which ever you like, as much as you like)

Steps:
1. Cut the puff pastry dough in half lenghth-wise and then in about inch intervals.
2. Bake until golden and puffy (about 400 degrees for about 12 minutes)
3. Dip the “fingers” into warmed jam. Or, split the “fingers” and fill them with jam (so the jam is sandwiched between the pieces of puff pastry).

Puff Pastry Dough

Puff Pastry Dough

Puff Pastry "Fingers"

Puff Pastry "Fingers"

Mushroom “Stroganoff”

mushroom-stroganoff

YUM

I was reading a few yummy recipes, some for beef stroganoff and some for a mushroom and pasta dish, and the wires must have gotten crossed and this creation emerged.  I had a rather large packet of mushrooms from Costco and I’ve been trying not to waste them (again).  So I figured I’d saute them and server with ribbon pasta and some sort of sauce, but that’s not exactly what happened.  Here is what I did:

Ingredients:
24oz packet of mushrooms (thinly sliced)
1 cup of low-fat sour cream
Roasted asparagus (optional; I just had some in the fridge so decided to use it)
1 large onion (diced)
Salt, freshly ground black pepper, sweet paprika, smoked spanish paprika (all to taste)
Noodles (I used half a pound of whole wheat ones)

Steps:
Cook noodles according to package directions
1. Saute onion.
2. Add mushrooms and saute them too. If you see it sticking, add some stock or pasta water.
3. Add sour cream. Season.
4. Add asparagus, if using.

mushrooms_onions

Mushrooms and onions

mushroom stroganoff

With Sourcream

mushroom stroganoff with pasta

With Noodles

Chicken Soup

chicken soup

Look at the golden glow!

I’ve never made chicken soup before. Mainly because I don’t really like it. I know, it’s an odd confession as an opening for a chicken soup recipe. But…. The soup I made wasn’t like the chicken soup I grew up with. What never appealed to me was the rich, clear broth that had little pools of chicken fat floating on top.

So I figured that instead of throwing a whole chicken into the pot with a carrot and an onion, I’d do something differently. I used a chicken breast, a chicken leg, and a bone in, skin on chicken thigh. As usual, I tried to remove as much fat as possible. I also added a lot more to the soup. There is the typical carrot, however, instead of just halving it, I diced it into half moons and sauted a little. The onion also got the saute treatment instead of being just halved and thrown in. Potatoes and a bell pepper also made their way into the pot. I wanted to add some more veggies (of the frozen variety) but there was no more room in the pot. Oh well. Here is what I did:

Ingredients:
1 large white onion (diced)
1 large carrot (diced in large half moons)
chicken (whatever you want, but I used cut-up chicken breast, thigh, and leg)
6 cups of water (pretty much the max for my pan, but you can use more if you’d like a looser soup)
2 small-medium potatoes (I use Yukon Gold)
1 bell pepper (chopped in large chunks)
1-2 bay leaves (optional)
Salt, pepper, turmeric, spanish smoked paprika, sweet paprika (all to taste)

Steps:
1. Saute the diced onion and carrots for a few minutes.
2. Add chicken and cover with water.
3. Bring water to a boil and add the spices.
4. Add the potatoes and bell pepper. Add the bay leaves if you’re using them. Check the spices in a few minutes (potatoes tend to absorb a lot).
5. Let simmer on low heat for a half hour or so.

soup-veggies-saute

Soup veggies sauteing

Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup Cooking

Crockpot Oatmeal

You must have noticed that I don’t have any breakfast recipes here. I’ve become a non-breakfast person in the last 10 years or so. But one of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat breakfast every day. So, another try at crockpot oatmeal was a must. I’ve been experimenting with this for a few months on and off and yesterday, I was telling a friend of mine how quick, easy, and healthy a crock-pot oatmeal is.
My experimenting involved different proportions as well as different things I added and when I added them. In one of the earlier versions, I’d add the dried fruit right away, but the raisins plumped up and were a little sour, the dried apricots became a yummy mush but the texture was barely tolerable, and dried cherries were really sour. Also, it seems that a 1:4 proportion of oatmeal to water seems to work well for me (1 part oatmeal to 4 parts water).
This recipe makes 2 generous portions or 3 average portions (in a 1.5QT crock-pot). I always have leftover oatmeal that I don’t know what to do with.
But here is the recipe that worked out:

Ingredients:
1/4 cup oatmeal (use steel cut oats, not instant)
2 cups water
brown sugar (a little less than a 1/3 cup)
pinch of salt
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (I used about a teaspoon of cinnamon and a generous pinch of nutmeg)

Optional Additions:
Nuts (I used a handful of chopped pecans)
Dried fruit (I used 3 apricots I cut up in quarters and a handful of dried cranberries)

Steps:
1. Combine all ingredients in the crockpot and mix them up a little, except the Optional Additions.
2. Turn on the crock pot to “warm” and leave on over night (about 8-9 hours).
3. Half hour before the oatmeal is done, add the dried fruit of your choice and add the nuts when you are ready to enjoy.

The reason I use the “warm” setting instead of “low” is because I noticed that there’s less oatmeal that sticks to the sides and burns.

Dirty Rice

Dirty Rice

Dirty Rice

I was looking online for a rice, sausage, and beans dish and stumbled upon a Dirty Rice recipe by the Neelys on Food Network. It looked easy, quick, and I had all the ingredients. But I’m sure you noticed that I have to add my own touch to recipes. The Neelys’ recipe didn’t have beans and I switched out a few of the ingredients. Instead of the pork sausage they used, I used buffalo hot dogs from Lakevew Buffalo Farm. I tried the hot dogs earlier in the summer and really liked them; they’re more like brats or sausages than hot dogs and a lot healthier too, probably. Here is what I had.

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked rice
2.5 cups of stock (2 cups for the rice and .5 cups or so for the “sauce”)
1/2 large onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (large, finely diced)
1 red bell pepper (diced)
2 buffalo hot dogs
1 can of black beans
greens, scallions (optional, for garnish; I used a bunch of cilantro)
Olive oil, salt, pepper, ground chipotle, ground cumin to taste

Steps:
1. Cook the rice according to directions, substituting the chicken stock for water
2. Slice the sausage on the diagonal and brown in a bit of olive oil. Regulate the amount of oil based on how much fat is in the sausage.
3. Once the sausage is browned, add the onion and brown it. Then add garlic.
4. Add the bell pepper. If there is no liquid in the pan, add a little bit of the stock. Cover with a lid and let cook for about 5 minutes or till the pepper is crisp-tender.
5. Add the beans and spices.
6. Add the rice to the sausage mixture.
7. Add greens (optional).

Sausage, beans, bell pepper

Sausage, beans, bell pepper

Dirty Rice is Done!

Dirty Rice is Done!