Week 26 – Italian Orzo Soup + One Bag, Three Meals!

Well this was my first full week back at work since before Christmas (before you get jealous…recall my misery this past September/October and think of my upcoming misery).  Nothing too eventful, we won’t be in full-on busy season in my group for another month so that’s good.  Friday night was our holiday party for work.  This year they split it up between the three lines of service (tax, audit, consulting) and each had their own.  For reasons unknown to me, tax had their party after Christmas.  But whatever, it was a good time.  A bit smaller than what I’ve been use to in Chicago and then the big one this office has last year, but we had fun!  And then our Saturday was so good.  We did a much needed apartment cleaning, worked out, hung out with James for the SU game (I don’t want to talk about the game.  We just aren’t good this year and my expectations are now so so so low.), and then Matt and I caught up on some TV shows and had our own family game night.  I’m not ready to give my weekends back to tax season…


Our recipes!  First, we made a soup last Sunday.  It was perfect, we had all of the ingredients at home and winter Sundays are made for soup making in my opinion.  The rest of the recipes go back to my cookbook from Christmas that I’m obsessed with.  One of the chapters is “One Bag, Three Meals.” This is huge for me.  One of my goals has been for us to spend less on groceries.  All of the new recipes have resulted in the need for a larger grocery budget.  It’s been fine because we rarely go out since we’re always cooking (and DC has less options for affordable/reasonably priced restaurants with actual good food, we we’re better off cooking, way cheaper and tastier).  Basically I’ve been trying to plan meals better and pick meals with ingredients that go together. Anyway, all of the meals were delicious!  There was an asian dish, a pasta dish, and pizza!  For the pizza we didn’t exactly follow the recipe so I’ll just leave the recipe below. Scroll all the way to the bottom for the grocery list too. And I forgot to take a picture of the pasta dish, which Matt gets 100% credit for, he made it while I was at a last minute happy hour for work.  But it was delicious and will definitely get made again so I’ll add a pic later.

Also!  Check out the new page I added – Our Favorites So Far.  I went through and pulled some of our absolute favorite recipes from the blog so far, with a little blurb about why we thought it was great.  If you just started following and are looking for where to start, start there!

Italian Orzo Soup

Makes: 8+ Servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 4 cups loosely-packed spinach, roughly chopped
  • salt and black pepper


  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes, until soft.
  2. Add carrots, celery and garlic and saute for an additional 3 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, orzo (pasta)*, thyme, oregano, rosemary and stir to combine. Bring soup to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.
  4. Stir in the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes until it is bright green and wilted. Season with salt and black pepper to taste (if needed) and top with some fresh grated parm, if desired. Serve warm.

*Optional:  Cook pasta separately and add right before eating.  If saving leftovers the orzo absorbs almost all of the broth.



Skillet Penne with Sausage, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Spinach

Makes: 4 Servings


  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin onlive oil
  • 1 lb hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings (if any) removed
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 8 oz (2 ½ cups, half a box) penne
  • ½ cups oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and chopped fine
  • 6 oz baby spinach
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper


  1. Heat 1 ½ tsp oil in a 12 in nonstick skillet. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink.
  2. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in brth, water, tomatoes, and ½ tsp salt. Bring to vigorous simmer and cook, stirring often, until pasta is tender and sauce has thickened, about 15-18 minutes.
  4. Stir in spinach, 1 handful at a time, and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.
  5. Season with S&P to taste, serve, and top with grated parm.

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

Makes: 4 Servings


  • ¼ cup Hoisin Sauce
  • ½ cup water, divided
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Grated Ginger
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 ½ pounds flank steak, trimmed and sliced thin across the grain
  • 1 pound Broccoli Florets
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch long, thin matchsticks
  • ½ Red Onion, sliced thin
  • Optional: Sesame Seeds for Topping, Rice, sliced green onions


  1. Heat 1 ½ tsp oil in a 12 in nonstick skillet.
  2. While the oil heats, whisk Hoisin, ¼ cup water, and soy sauce together in a bowl, set aside. Combine 1 tsp oil, ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Once oil is heated and just smoking (it is important that the pan be very hot!), add half the beef. , breaking up any clumps, and cook without stirring for 1 minute.  Stir beef and continue to cook until browned around the edges.  Transfer to a separate bowl and repeat with another 1 ½ tsp oil and remaining beef, transfer to bowl.
  4. Heat remaining 2 tsp oil in the now empty skillet. Add broccoli, carrots, and onions and cook for 30 seconds.  Add remaining ¼ cup water, cover skillet and lower heat to medium.  Steam veggies until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
  5. Push veggies to the side of the skillet. Addginger mixture to the center of the skillet nd cook until fragrant, 15-30 seconds.  Stir mixture into veggies.
  6. Return beef, with any accumulated juices, to skillet and toss to combine. Whisk sauce to  recombine and add to skillet, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and evenly distributed.
  7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and/or sliced green onions and enjoy!

Optional: Serve over rice.


Skillet PIzza


  • 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, plus 1/4 cup packing oil
  • 1/2 cup warm tap water
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 oz broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 lb package store-bought pizza dough
  • 8 oz mozzarella, shredded (2 cups)
  • 2 oz parmesan cheese (1 cup)


  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees
  2. in a blender or food processor, blend tomatoes, 2 Tbsp tomato packing oil, 1/4 cup water, 1/3 the garlic, and the salt until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  3. Combine broccoli, onion, remaining 1/4 cup water, and remaining garlic in a large bowl, cover, and microwave until broccoli is tender, about 2 minutes.  Drain well.
  4. Divide dough in half.  Press and roll 1 piece of dough into an 11 inch round on a lightly floured counter.
  5. Grease 12-inch oven safe skillet with 1 Tbsp tomato packing oil, then lay dough in the skillet and reshape as needed.  Spread half of tomato mixture on the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border.  Sprinkle pizza with 1/2 the mozz, vegetable mixture, and parm.
  6. Set skillet over high heat and cook until edge of the crust has set and bottom is spotty brown, about 3 minutes.
  7. Transfer Skillet to oven and bake until edges are brown and cheese is melted, about 7-10 minutes.
  8. Carefully remove skillet from oven and transfer pizza to wire rack to cool.
  9. Wipe out skillet using paper towels and let cool slightly, then repeat the process (beginning at step 5).

3 Meals, 1 Bag:

The Bag:

  • 1 1/2 lbs flank steak
  • 1 lb Italian Sausage, either Hot or Sweet (we used Hot)
  • 8 oz mozzarella
  • 1 1/2 lbs broccoli florets
  • 2 Carrots
  • 6 oz baby spinach
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 knob fresh ginger
  • 1 (1 lb) package store bought pizza dough
  • 1 1/4 cups oil packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds (Optional)
  • 2 Green Onions (Optional)

Check the Pantry:

  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Rice
  • Garlic (10 cloves)
  • Penne
  • Chicken Broth (2 cans)
  • Soy Sauce
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Week 25 – Zuppa Toscana, Goat Cheese Biscuits, and Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies


What a crazy week.  It was back to work for me on Monday (Matt had to go back last Friday), but then Tuesday-Thursday we went up to Rochester to attend the wake and funeral for Matt’s grandma who passed away last weekend.  It was great to see everyone, we just wish it had been for a different reason.  And oh boy, the weather up there.  It was Chicago-style cold.  Just reaffirming our current location and how not ridiculous the winter is in DC (although you wouldn’t know based on how the city reacted to the whole 1 inch of snow dumped on them early Tuesday morning…it took us 2 hours to get out of DC on our drive to Rochester!)  Friday Matt went back to work and I took a vacation day because work is pretty slow and I have studying to do (see below #2).  The weekend was pretty uneventful, which we needed, just some more studying for me and hanging out.

Did anyone make new year’s resolutions?  I didn’t officially write anything down but I am trying a couple of things differently in the new year:

  1. Facebook only on Sundays.  That thing is a black hole with all the articles and meaningless updates that get posted and I am amazed at how much more time I have in my life (and how much less time I spend looking at my phone!)
  2. Pass the CFP exam this year.  I bought some books, signed up for a class and review class, and studying is how I spend most of my spare time.  Which really isn’t that bad because I’m a nerd and am learning about things that interest me.  The exam is only offered 3 times a year, I’m going to be taking it in late July.
  3. Meatless Mondays.  Which leads me to a couple of our recipes….

So we tried out a meatless pasta dish on Monday, accompanied by some biscuits.  Holy wow, those biscuits!  Can’t wait to have those again!  The pasta dish…not so much.  Matt did have seconds, but he said he was just hungry.  He has even recommended that I don’t even give you the recipe, and that I never get recipes from this one blog again (it was a new food blog find).  Instead, I will give you a link and some recommendations on how I think it would actually be quite delicious if Matt would allow me to try it again.  We also made a new soup recipe after our drive back from Rochester – quick, easy, and delicious.  Definitely going to make that one again.  And for the soup, definitely use Kale and don’t let your husband/eating partner try to convince you to use spinach instead.  Thankfully I won that argument and Matt admits the soup was quite delicious, even with Kale it in.  The cookies were a last minute ‘I want some chocolate’ thing.  They might be a little healthier because they use coconut oil instead of butter, but the recipe isn’t too different from the usual.  They tasted great, we’d make it again but it also wasn’t so amazing that we’re never making them the tollhouse way again.

Caramelized Shallot, Spinach and Goat Cheese Garlic Butter Pasta (Full recipe is here)

Advice if you choose to make it (which you should, it would probably be delicious knowing these things now):

  1. Either double the pasta or cut the spinach and goat cheese amounts in half.  It was WAY too much of both.
  2. Use more shallots!
  3. The shallots do not need to cook for 10 minutes in the olive oil while covered.  They will burn after 5 or less, use your common sense when cooking those.
  4. Definitely eat immediately while it’s warm.  We’re also not convinced leftovers would be the best (we threw our 1 1/2 servings of leftovers away since we were going out of town) so good luck with that…


7-Ingredient Zuppa Toscana (recipe from here)

Makes: 6+ Servings


  • 1 pound ground hot* Italian sausage
  • 2 small or 1 large white onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups good-quality chicken stock
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced
  • 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped (and stems removed, if desired)
  • 1 pound potato gnocchi (I used mini gnocchi)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  • optional toppings: freshly shaved or grated Parmesan cheese, crumbled bacon


  1. Add Italian sausage and diced onion to the large stockpot or Dutch oven. Cook over medium-high heat until the sausage is completely browned, stirring occasionally and breaking up the sausage with a spoon.  Drain out as much of the excess grease as possible.
  2. Add in the chicken stock and diced roasted red peppers, and bring the mixture to a simmer (still over medium-high heat). Once it reaches a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and add the kale and gnocchi and stir to combine.  Continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until the gnocchi are cooked through and tender.  Stir in the heavy cream.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve warm with desired toppings.

*Definitely use “hot” Italian sausage for this recipe.  With so few ingredients, the sausage is actually the ingredient that provides most of the seasoning for this soup.  And much of the heat will be dispersed over the multiple servings.  I don’t like too spicy of things and it was perfect in this recipe.


Goat Cheese Biscuits (recipe from this book)

Makes: 12 biscuits


  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 c plain yogurt
  • 6 Tbsp cold butter
  • 4 Tbsp crumbled goat cheese
  • ¼ c grated parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚ F and place cast iron skillet (10″) into oven while it preheats.
  2. Pour flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium sized bowl. Cut 4 Tbsp of butter into small pieces and add to the bowl, add goat cheese and yogurt.
  3. Stir until the mix is moistened, adding an extra Tbsp of yogurt if needed.
  4. Remove hot skillet from oven and place 1 Tbsp butter into it. When the butter has melted, divide the batter into 12 biscuits, and nestle them into the skillet.
  5. Brush the tops of the biscuits with 1 Tsp melted better and bake 15 minutes, or until browned.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the grated parmesan.


Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe from here)

Makes: 24 Cookies


  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened but not melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream together the softened coconut oil, sugars, egg, and vanilla extract on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add in the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt, and beat on medium-low speed until combined. Fold in (stir in) the chocolate chips by hand until just combined.
  3. Shape the dough into balls, and place them on a large plate. Cover with plastic wrap and chill the dough balls for 1-2 hours.
  4. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place chilled dough balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes , cool, and enjoy!


Weeks 23 & 24 – Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bake, Spinach Artichoke Dip, Breakfast Casserole, & Risotto


Sorry for the little holiday break!  We were out of town, and on top of that I had this nagging sickness (of varying degrees) for the past TWO weeks!  That’s so long.  Yesterday was the first day I was feeling normal again.  Thank goodness.  The beginning and end of those two weeks it was more modified but there was 5-7 days in there that I really just wanted to lay down all day.  But Christmas was in there so I powered through and here I am.  We had a good time in Syracuse, but so many things to take part in, it was nice to get back to our home and relax a little before we have to get back to it.  I’m so thankful that Matt and I both work for companies that give us the week between Christmas and New Year’s off!

For New Year’s we had a little party at our place.  A bunch of Matt’s friends from college were in town so we hosted and invited any of our DC friends who were around to join us too.  The out of towners spent the night here and we hosted brunch the next day too.  So three of our four new recipes were for this two day gathering, and boy did they not disappoint! The risotto was just a result of ‘we need to make dinner, haven’t gone to the grocery store, and need to have all the ingredients for a recipe here already.’  And apparently Matt has been wanting to make risotto (I blame the cooking shows we watch) so he did most of the work on that one.  Everything was delicious and will be made again!

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bake (Recipe from here)

Serves: 8+


For the cooked apples:

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 large apples, peeled and sliced (your favorite variety)
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar

For the oatmeal:

  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 6 tbsp. brown sugar
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup dried fruit, such as cranberries or raisins
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Place the steel cut oats in a large bowl with 2 Tbsp butter.  Pour the hot water over the oats and cover the bowl.  Let stand for 20 minutes.
  2. Make the Apples: Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the apple slices, cinnamon, and sugar.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are golden brown and caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
  3. After the steel cut oats have finished soaking, stir in the old fashioned oats, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir in the dried fruit.  In a bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk, apple sauce, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Stir the liquid mixture into the oat mixture.
  4. Spread the cooked apples over the bottom of a lightly greased 2 quart-ish baking dish. Pour the oatmeal mixture on top of the apples.  Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.


Spinach Artichoke Dip (Recipe from here)


  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped canned artichoke hearts
  • 4 cloves roasted garlic*, smashed
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. roasted red pepper flakes


  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, Parmesan, sour cream, mayonnaise, roasted garlic, salt and red pepper flakes. Mix well with a rubber spatula until all ingredients are evenly blended.
  3. Add spinach and artichokes, mix well.
  4. Spread into a small baking dish (I used a quiche dish). Sprinkle additional grated Parmesan over the top if desired.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is slightly browned.
  6. Serve warm with baguette slices, pita chips, crackers, etc.

*To roast individual cloves of garlic, I just throw the unpeeled cloves into a baking dish or pan and bake at 350˚ F for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool before squeezing the cloves from the peels.


Breakfast Casserole

Serves: 12+


  • 12 eggs
  • 1 lb frozen shredded hash browns
  • 1 lb pork sausage, cooked
  • 12 oz shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese
  • 6 scallions
  • ¾ cups milk


  1. Mix all ingredients, except sausage, in a bowl.
  2. Pour into a lightly greased 9×13 or 10×14 pan, top with sausage.
  3. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.



Risotto (Recipe from this book)

Serves: 6


  • Olive oil
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cups aborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Other Toppings, as desired


  1. Place chicken broth in a small pot over low heat to warm it up.
  2. Chop the onions into bite sized pieces, not too fine.
  3. Cook onions in olive oil in a dutch oven or stock pot. Let the onions soften 4-5 minutes, then add the garlic.  Cook for a few more minutes, until the onion is translucent.
  4. Add the rice to the pot, stir until rice is coated thoroughly (use a wooden spoon).
  5. Add the wine and continue to stir, when the wine has been absorbed, add the 1 cup of the broth and continue to stir.
  6. When the broth has been absorbed, Add another cup and continue to stir every couple of minutes.
  7. Continue adding broth in this manner. The goal is to keep it from drying out, without drowning the rice.  This will take 25-35 minutes.  Keep tasting the rice along the way and once it’s soft with a little bit of bite in the middle you’re done.
  8. Stir in the Parmesan (we used ½ – 1 cup, we didn’t measure), add any other desired throw-ins (we used some parsley).
  9. Sprinkle the top with fresh ground black pepper and enjoy.

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