Week 21 – Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, Chicken Alfredo Baked Ziti, 5-Ingredient Pear Pomegranate Salsa

Dang, the weeks really do fly by around the holidays, don’t they?!  I ended up traveling to Wytheville, VA for work Tuesday-Thursday.  It was great in that what I was doing is my favorite part of my job – teaching not high net worth people about their retirement plans.  I have always loved teaching people and whenever I get to help out our Financial Education Group at work, I’m a happy camper.  What I don’t like is driving 5 hours alone each way.  I really just hate driving in general.  Thank goodness I’ve lived in cities with ample public transportation!  But one of my coworkers suggested that I listen to the NPR podcast ‘Serial’ on my drive.  That’s a pretty fascinating podcast for those of you who need something interesting to listen to.  The other notable thing this week was that on Saturday we volunteered with Wreaths Across America to lay wreaths on all the graves at Arlington National Cemetery.  That was pretty amazing.  James met us at our place and we walked over (gotta get our steps in!) and met up with a group from PwC.  It was definitely a good use of our morning, and it was also pretty shocking how many volunteers there were, and therefore how fast it went!

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Our recipes for the week were all winners – we will definitely make all of them again.  The soup was delicious and a little different than the other soup recipes I’ve made.  I will recommend that you make the orzo separately and store it separately, it soaks up most of the broth and therefore our leftovers were more of a risotto consistency, and less of a soup.  But it still tasted delicious!  The pasta bake was soooooo good, we ate way too much of it the first night we had it.  It’s a healthier alfredo sauce so that made us feel a little better?  And then I didn’t know if I was going to like the salsa.  But the picture on the blog where I found it looked pretty so I went for it.  It did not disappoint.  With the tortilla chips it was the perfect mix of salty and sweet.   I’m pretty sure Matt’s mom has made a similar one with a mango instead of pears, it’s also delicious and I’d recommend that as a variation on the recipe below.

Have a good week everyone!

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup (Recipe from Here)

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks (you could also use chicken breasts, we used thighs this time but will be using breasts next time, I just like them better)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 5 cups chicken stock (or we used two of these and 7 cups water, to get extra broth)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, to taste. Add chicken to the stockpot and cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes; set aside.
  2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the stockpot. Stir in garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in thyme until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Whisk in chicken stock, bay leaves and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Stir in orzo, rosemary and chicken; reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and parsley; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Serve immediately (or else the orzo will soak up all your broth!).

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Chicken Alfredo Baked Ziti (Recipe from Here)

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

Chicken Baked Ziti Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces ziti (or any pasta shape)
  • 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken (about 2 chicken breasts)
  • 1 batch alfredo sauce (see below)
  • 1 1/2 or 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • chopped fresh parsley

Alfredo Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup low-fat milk (I used skim)
  • 3/4 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Directions:

Alfredo Sauce:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute one minute, stirring occasionally, until fragrant. Sprinkle with flour, and stir to combine. Saute for an additional minute to cook the flour, stirring occasionally.
  2. Slowly add chicken broth, whisking to combine until smooth. Whisk in milk, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let cook for an additional minute until thickened, then stir in Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until the cheese melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

Chicken Baked Ziti:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cook the pasta al dente in a large stockpot of well-salted boiling according to package instructions. Drain. Return pasta to the stockpot and add chicken and alfredo sauce. Gently toss to combine until the pasta is evenly coated.
  3. Pour half of the pasta into a greased 11×7-inch or 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the chopped parsley and 1 cup of cheese. Layer the remaining half of the pasta evenly on top. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining parsley and cheese.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and just barely starts to turn golden. Remove and serve immediately, sprinkled with additional toppings if desired.

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5-Ingredient Pear Pomegranate Salsa (Recipe from Here)

Ingredients:

  • 2 fresh pears (any kind), cored and diced
  • 1 fresh pomegranate, seeded
  • Half a red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • juice of half a lime

Directions:

  1. Toss all ingredients together until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Serve immediately, or store in a sealed container for up to 2 days.

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