Lemon and Spinach Orzotto

I hope everyone had a great weekend!  Busy season has officially started so I worked a bit on Saturday.  Not too much, but enough to feel caught up and good going into my Monday.  And not enough to make me hate busy season yet 🙂

Despite busy season starting, we made time for some fun!  Friday night our friend Katie had extra (free!) tickets to the Nats game so we went to that after work.  And they just called someone up from the chiefs so we got to see him in his first at bat.  Kid can run super fast!  Saturday I went to a movie after working and then James came over and hung out with us later.  Sunday I was with the preschoolers at church and boy are those kids still adorable!  We got some things done during the day after church and then headed to our friend’s house to celebrate our friend Chris’ birthday!  It was so much fun to have everyone together, and we got to use our cornhole boards (finally!).  It’s so fun to look back at how our community here has grown over the past two years, and even though some people will be moving away this year, we still have some good ones sticking around 🙂

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Last week we finished off our weeknight dinners with this last quick and easy one for Thursday’s dinner.  Lemon in my dinner in the summer just really hits the spot (we had another dish with lemon in it tonight for dinner…recipe coming soon).

Lemon and Spinach Orzotto

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1½ cups orzo
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more.
  2. Add the orzo and stir to combine with the shallots and garlic. Add the white wine and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has been mostly absorbed into the pasta, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the broth gradually, about 1 cup at a time. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook until the orzo has absorbed the broth before stirring in the next cup. Continue until the orzo is completely tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in the spinach and let it wilt in the warm orzo. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, butter and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

*We topped ours with grilled chicken for some added protein

Note: To reheat leftovers, add a little broth or water and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, pausing to stir once or twice.

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Week 42 – Garlic Butter Asparagus Pasta and Strawberry, Spinach & Cashew Salad

Ahhh such a perfect weekend!  Great weather, great company, and such a beautiful and refreshing time in our beautiful city!  I’m back to my between busy seasons trend of not working on Fridays so Friday I took the day to clean, go to a barre class, run some errands, and study a bit.  My parents drove down for the weekend and got here in the afternoon.  We went to Pasta Mia for dinner on Friday night, one of my absolute FAVORITES in DC.  If you go to DC and want Italian, look this place up.  Saturday was my mom’s birthday and we had a full day!  We went to Great Falls Park in the morning and hike through some of the trails.  The weather could not have been more perfect.  And it’s really just beautiful up there, we bought an annual pass to the park so we’ll definitely be going back several more times to get our money’s worth.  After the ark we took a break for lunch and then headed to Alexandria for the afternoon.  We picked up some Sugar Shack donuts and then headed into Old Town Alexandria for some window shopping and walking around.  For dinner we went to the Old Ebbitt and then walked around the monuments a bit, a very full, wonderful and tiring day!

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My parents headed back to NY Sunday morning and Matt and I headed to church.  I was with the preschoolers teaching Sunday School, always a fun time!  After church some friends came over and we had lunch on the balcony and then walked over to the tulips by the Netherlands Carillon in a nearby park, right by the Marine Corps Memorial.  A perfect day for a walk to the park, I can’t get enough of this weather!  Matt and I joined a wine club at a nearby wine store so we went to pick up our May bottles after our friends went home.  I’m excited to try different wines with this club, 2 specially picked bottles per month.

We made both of our new recipes tonight and boy are these keepers!  I modified the salad from the original recipe and really only followed the proportions when making the dressing, everything else I kind of just chopped up and threw in.  This was some good stuff.  Matt made the orzo while I studied, said it was really easy and that he added more parm than the recipe says so it’d be better (and it was quite perfect) Sat on the balcony and ate these with a glass of one of the wine club picks, such a nice evening to end a great weekend.  Life is great these days.

Strawberry, Spinach & Cashew Salad (Recipe from here)

Makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper

Salad:

  • One package (10 oz) fresh spinach, chopped (about 10 cups of torn leaves)
  • 4 cups sliced fresh strawberries (cleaned and hulled)
  • 1 cup peaches, finely chopped (we used mangoes since peaches aren’t quite in season yet)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup cashews

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the dressing ingredients, and whisk together well. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can serve the dressing immediately or you can cover it and chill for an hour.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all of the salad ingredients, except the cashew nuts. Add the dressing to the salad and toss. Sprinkle cashew nuts on top of the salad.

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Garlic Butter Asparagus Pasta (Recipe from here)

Makes: 3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry orzo
  • 1-pound fresh asparagus, cut into 2 to 3-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼-cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons skim milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Shredded parmesan cheese for garnish, optional

Directions:

  1. Prepare orzo according to the directions on the package.
  2. Add the asparagus tips to the orzo the last 2-minutes of cooking.
  3. Remove from heat and drain.
  4. In the meantime prepare the garlic-butter sauce:
    1. Add butter to a skillet and melt over medium heat.
    2. Stir in garlic and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring very frequently. Do not burn the garlic.
  5. Add orzo and asparagus to the skillet; stir in the cheese, milk, parsley, salt and pepper.
  6. Cook for 1 minute, or until heated through.
  7. Remove from heat.
  8. Garnish with parmesan cheese and serve.

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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…

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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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  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.

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

Makes: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  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.

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Skillet PIzza

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Directions:

  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 16 – Chicken and Orzo with Spinach and Feta

IMG_4063Normal life is the best.  Another week full of time to work out, catch up on TV shows, and not being stressed out about work.  On Wednesday I took the day to volunteer with a couple of coworkers at Junior Achievement’s Finance Park facility.  This place it the coolest.  A group of 8th graders (like 150 of them) come and learn about money and budgeting.  They get a life scenario when the arrive, it tells them their occupation, gross income, family situation, credit score and other stuff.  Then they get to see how much the pay decreases after taxes.  And then they have to budget for 18 different things – groceries, health insurance, school loans, entertainment, rent….  It’s great.  They should make college students go through that place.

Saturday we went to Great Falls State Park for a little hiking. It was 5-10 degrees colder than I’d want it to be but once we got moving it was fine.  It was really nice, I had no idea this place was so close to us.  Apparently the river is a training place of the olympic kayaking slalom team.  Andddd I recently found this article so next time we might have a buddy with us!  And next year I’ll probably insist on this hike a week or two sooner.  The fall colors were still pretty, but the trees would have been fuller a week or two ago.  So yeah, a pretty neat place and a good use of a Saturday afternoon.

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This week we finished up our blue apron delivery with Congee & Caramelized Pork.  It was pretty delicious but not something I’d seek all the ingredients out to make it again.  For our normal new recipe for the week we made Chicken Orzo with Spinach and Feta.  This was from a cookbook we got as a wedding gift – America’s Test Kitchen’s The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook.  We doubled the recipe so there’d be leftovers so everything below is doubled.  But cut it in half if you want something just for two of you!  Since the recipe was doubled I used our skillet with taller sides, instead of the standard frying pan, and it was the perfect size.  Very little prep work for this one, so that was nice.  Took about 25-30 minutes all together.  The recipe was delicious with little prep work, I’ll definitely make this again.

Chicken and Orzo with Spinach and Feta

Makes: 4+  servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup orzo
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (6-8 oz each)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tsp minced fresh oregano, or ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 or 2 pinches red pepper flakes
  • 2 ½ cups chicken broth, plus extra as needed
  • 6-8 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 ½ tsp lemon juice (½ large lemon, juiced)

Directions:

  1. Toast orzo in a 10 inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to bowl.
  2. Pat chicken dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tsp oil in the now empty skillet and heat just until smoking.  Brown chicken lightly, 3-4 minutes per side, transfer to plate (will finish cooking chicken later).
  3. Add remaining oil, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes to the now empty skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and toasted orzo.
  4. Nestle browned chicken into orzo, add any accumulated juices, bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until chicken registers 160 degrees, 10-12 minutes, flipping chicken half-way through cooking.  Transfer chicken to a plate, brushing off extra orzo.
  5. Continue to cook orzo until al dente and creamy, 2-5 minutes, stirring in additional broth, 1 Tbsp at a time, as needed to loosen consistency. Stir in spinach, until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Stir in feta and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve chicken with orzo.

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