Orzo with Roasted Butternut Squash, Bacon, and Sage

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When the weather cools down, I start to crave flavorful meals like this orzo pasta with sage, bacon and butternut squash. The sage pairs beautifully with the salty bacon and slightly sweet squash. The flavors are perfect for a crisp fall day.

Orzo with Roasted Butternut Squash, Bacon, and Sage

This recipe is quick and easy to put together – great for a weeknight. You could even roast the butternut squash and cook the orzo ahead of time, to make the prep even faster.

Ingredients
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup orzo pasta
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper
Shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Add the chopped butternut squash and olive oil to a large bowl, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt (to taste) and toss again. Spread the squash evenly on a large baking sheet, and roast for 30 minutes, stirring once.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo al dente, per the package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

While the orzo is cooking, cook the chopped bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon to a plate and carefully pour all but about 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings into a glass measuring cup (or small bowl). Reduce the heat to low.

Add the sage, onion power, and crushed red pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the roasted butternut squash, cooked orzo, and bacon to the skillet, stirring gently to combine. Gradually add the reserved orzo cooking water until the sauce reaches the desired consistency (you may not need to use it all). If needed, you can also add more of the reserved bacon drippings. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook over low heat until the ingredients are heated through.

Serve topped with shredded parmesan. Enjoy!

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Bourbon Pecan Peach Crisp

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The fall season has officially begun, and what better way to celebrate than to dust off your oven and make this amazing Bourbon Pecan Peach Crisp. Peaches aren’t a typical fall fruit, but they are still in abundance in my neck of the woods, which makes this dessert the perfect transition from summer to fall. If peach season has already passed, this would be amazing with apples too!

Bourbon Pecan Peach Crisp

Of course, no crisp would be complete without a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Bourbon Pecan Peach Crisp with Ice Cream

Serves 6

Filling Ingredients
3-4 peaches, sliced (about 3 cups sliced)
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping Ingredients
1/3 cup pecans
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Butter a 7 x 11 baking dish (or other medium-sized baking dish) and set aside.

Spread the pecans evenly onto a baking sheet, and bake until toasted, about 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Add the sliced peaches (no need to peel) to a large bowl. Sprinkle the bourbon over the peaches and gently stir to coat the peaches. Add the brown sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla to the bowl and stir gently until coated. Set aside.

To prepare the topping, stir together the flour, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Stir in the toasted pecans. Pour the melted butter over the top, and stir to combine.

Spoon the peaches into the bottom of the baking dish, leaving most of the residual liquid in the bowl. Crumble the topping over the peaches, using your fingers to distribute evenly.

Bake in the preheated oven, for about 30-40 minutes, or until the topping is golden-brown and the fruit is bubbly. Let cool for at least 20 minutes.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and enjoy!

Adapted from The Bojon Gourmet and Host the Toast.

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Hawaiian Chicken with Grilled Pineapple

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Wow, I can’t believe it’s already September! I feel like I’m travelling through this year in light-speed. Pretty soon it will be fall, and I can start using my favorite appliance: the oven!

As much as I love my oven, I’m not ready to give up on grilling season just yet. How else could I make amazing recipes like this Hawaiian Chicken with Grilled Pineapple? Feast your eyes . . .

Hawaiian Chicken with Grilled Pineapple

Infused with teriyaki and pineapple flavors, the chicken is the perfect combination of sweet and savory. Grilling the pineapple caramelizes the natural sugars in the fruit which adds amazing flavor to this dish.

A thick teriyaki sauce works best in this recipe. I used a Kona Coast teriyaki sauce that was chock-full of sesame seeds (yum!).

Ingredients
3/4 cup teriyaki sauce with sesame seeds
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 can sliced pineapple

Whisk together the teriyaki sauce, pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and pepper.

Put the chicken in a large zip-top bag, or a large bowl. Pour the marinade over the chicken and toss to ensure that the chicken is thoroughly coated. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, and pour the marinade into a small saucepan.

Grill the chicken for 6-8 minutes per side. While the chicken is cooking, bring the marinade to a boil and cook for about 3-5 minutes over high heat, stirring occasionally. (Note: if you want the sauce to be thicker, continue cooking until the sauce is reduced to the desired consistency.)

When the chicken is almost done, add the sliced pineapple to the grill, and cook for about 1-2 minutes per side.

Serve the chicken and grilled pineapple with the sauce drizzled over the top, alongside rice and your favorite veggie. Enjoy!

Adapted from LWSL.

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Tandoori Grilled Pork

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Hello everyone! I hope you had an amazing summer! We had lots of fun adventures this summer, but our biggest was the road trip to Colorado that the girls and I took with my dad to celebrate my grandmother’s 85th birthday. We were gone almost two weeks and saw some great sights along the way, like this beautiful view in Arches National Park.

Arches National Park

When we got home, I found the freezer stocked with a bountiful assortment of meat (apparently my hubby made a trip of his own – to Costco). After fishing around in the freezer for a while, I pulled out a multi-pack of pork sirloin tip roasts. My first thought was “what on earth am I going to do with this?” I could use it for carnitas, but the sirloin cut is probably too lean. I put on my thinking cap and this is what I came up with:
Tandoori Grilled Pork. Tandoori Grilled Pork

I sliced the roast into steaks (like pork chops) and marinated them in plain yogurt with lots of deliciously-aromatic spices. The acidity in the yogurt tenderizes the pork, but be sure not to marinate for more than 4 hours because the meat can actually get overtenderized. After marinating, cook the pork on a hot grill, and then enjoy this extra-tender and flavorful pork with your favorite side dishes. Next time I make this, I plan to include naan bread and maybe a mango chutney. Yum!

This recipe is kid-approved!

Ingredients
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pork sirloin tip roast

Add all of the ingredients, except the pork, to a small bowl and whisk together until well blended. Spoon the yogurt mixture into a large zip-top bag, or a large bowl.

Cut the pork roast against the grain into slices about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick. Add the pork to the yogurt mixture and combine until the pork is thoroughly coated. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 2-3 hours (4 hours maximum).

Preheat an outdoor grill to high heat, and lightly oil the grate. (Note: I like to take the pork out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes prior to cooking it, to allow the meat to come up to room temperature. This allows for more even cooking.) Grill pork chops for 5 to 7 minutes per side, being careful not to overcook. Serve with your favorite side dishes and enjoy!

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Creole Red Snapper

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For years I’ve been trying to convince my children that fish is wonderful and delicious, but they’ve rejected every offering I’ve made that wasn’t heavily breaded and deep fried. That is, until I made this delectable Creole red snapper.

Creole Red Snapper

I never would have guessed that this would be the recipe to change their minds about fish, but even I was surprised how much I liked this tender, savory fish. My entire family loved it, which almost never happens (there is usually at least one dissenter).

Ingredients
1 large carrot
1 rib of celery
1 stick of butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 lb red snapper fillets, bones removed
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated parmesan
Lemon slices

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Chop the carrot and celery into pieces roughly 1/2-inch wide by 3-inches long and place on the bottom of a large baking dish. (Note: the veggies add flavor to the fish and also prevent the fish from sticking to the baking dish.)

Add the butter, garlic, paprika, Worcestershire, salt, black pepper, oregano, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, green onions, and parsley to a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Brush both sides of the red snapper with the butter sauce, and place the snapper in the baking dish on top of the carrot and celery pieces.

Stir the panko bread crumbs and parmesan into the remaining butter sauce, and then spoon the breadcrumb mixture on top of the snapper, spreading evenly.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-20 minutes (depending on the size of the fillets), or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Be careful not to overcook. Serve with lemon slices, and enjoy!

* adapted from Menu Musings

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Caprese Chicken

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I don’t know who originally invented the caprese salad, but I would just like to say “thank you”! I cannot get enough of the delicious combination of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. It just might be best flavor combination ever invented . . . seriously.

Here’s what I’ll be eating this summer. A lot.

Caprese Chicken

So good, and so simple! Take a sautéed chicken breast and top it with delectable caprese salad with a balsamic reduction, and you have beautiful Caprese Chicken.

To make a good caprese salad, you must have the proper ingredients. This means fresh basil (not dried), fresh mozzarella (not that string cheese stuff), and the ripest tomatoes you can find. This is definitely a dish to make during the summer when tomatoes are at their peak. Quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar are important too. Reducing the balsamic vinegar concentrates the flavor and really makes this dish, so don’t skip that step.

The best way to keep fresh basil on hand is to buy a basil plant or two. I have a couple of basil plants by my kitchen window, so I can simply pluck off a few leaves whenever I need to (try adding basil leaves and a slice of lemon to your water).

Fresh basil

Unfortunately, California is going through a drought, so I decided not to plant any tomatoes this year (sniff), but I should be able to get some awesome tomatoes from the local farmers market.

This should feed about 2 people, but we had very large chicken breasts, so we were able to feed 2 adults and 2 kids with this recipe.

Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup fresh mozzarella
Fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste

First, pound the chicken breasts with a meat mallet (or your weapon of choice) until uniformly thick. Season with salt and pepper, and then set aside.

Add the balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a high-simmer (or low boil) and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vinegar is reduced by half. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When the olive oil is hot (you should start to see small ripples in the oil), add the chicken breasts and let cook, undisturbed, for 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat, if needed. When properly browned, the chicken will release from the pan with little effort. Flip the chicken and cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until cooked through. (Note: adding a lid to the pan during the last few minutes of cooking will help the middle of the chicken get done faster.) Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let rest a few minutes before cutting.

To serve, cut the chicken into slices on the diagonal (or however you like) and carefully transfer the chicken to the dinner plates. Top with the tomatoes, and then tear the mozzarella into small pieces and place on top of the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and the balsamic reduction, scatter a few basil leaves on top, and then add fresh ground pepper, if desired. Enjoy!

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White Chocolate Key Lime Pie with Coconut Crust

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This luscious White Chocolate Key Lime Pie is as good as it sounds. It’s sweet and tart at the same time, with the creamy texture of cheesecake. Best of all, there’s no baking required, so it’s perfect for summer!

White Chocolate Key Lime Pie with Coconut Crust

It’s really easy to put together too . . . well, except for squeezing the juice from all of those @#$% tiny key limes. The key lime flavor really is worth the effort, but I won’t judge if you choose to use regular limes instead. My grocery store sells bags of key limes that happen to yield exactly the amount of juice need to make this pie. I neglected to count the number of key limes in the bag, but I’m guessing it was around 15 or so.

I’ve been on a coconut kick lately, so I decided to jazz up the standard graham cracker crust with some unsweetened shredded coconut, which was a perfect complement to the tangy lime flavor of the pie.

I made this pie for Easter, but it would also be perfect for Mother’s Day (hint-hint dads). It is very rich, so plan to serve small slices. We had 8 adults tackle this pie (some of whom had seconds), and still only made it through ¾ of the pie (I have the rest of the pie in the freezer, but haven’t had an excuse thaw it out yet. I’ll be sure to let you know if it freezes well or not).

Ingredients
Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
Filling:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
11 ounces white chocolate chips*
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/3 cup key lime juice
Optional: additional white chocolate for garnish

To make the crust, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and sugar in a medium bowl. Pour in the melted butter and stir until thoroughly combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before filling.

To make the filling, add the cream and white chocolate chips to a small saucepan over low heat. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream, lime zest, and lime juice.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours, or overnight. Before serving, garnish with white chocolate, if desired. Enjoy!

* Note: some chocolate chips contain fillers that help them keep their shape, but can result in a grainy texture when melted. I had good results with Ghirardelli White Baking Chips. You can also use baking bars, but they are generally more expensive than chocolate chips.

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Moroccan Chicken

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I really love chicken legs. Maybe because they come with their own handle, or maybe because they’re also called “drumsticks”, which reminds me of those yummy ice cream treats. . . but I digress.

This delectable chicken is coated with olive oil, lemon juice, and lots of fragrant spices, and is allowed to marinate for at least 24-48 hours. Be patient; the tender flavorful chicken will be worth the wait.

Moroccan Chicken

I broiled my chicken, but this would also be great on the grill. The cooking time should be about the same.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice from 2 large lemons
4 teaspoons sea salt
4 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 pounds (approx.) chicken legs

For the marinade, mix all of the ingredients, other than the chicken, together in a large zip top bag. Add the chicken to the bag, seal the bag, and then toss to coat the chicken. Place the bag in the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 24-48 hours, turning the bag every 12 hours.

When ready to cook the chicken, move an oven rack to the lowest position in the oven, and move another oven rack near the top of the oven, about 5 inches from the heating element. Preheat the broiler.

Line the bottom of a broiler pan with foil, and place the slotted broiler pan on top. Remove the chicken from the bag and place it on the broiler pan, skin-side down. Discard the marinade.

Broil the chicken on the bottom rack of the oven for about 12-16 minutes, or until the chicken begins to brown. Use tongs to turn the chicken skin-side up and continue broiling on the bottom rack for another 10-15 minutes, or until the meat registers 165 degrees. Move the chicken to the upper rack and broil until the chicken is well-browned, and the skin is crispy, about 1 minute.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad

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My local grocery store sells the most delicious quinoa salad in the deli case. It has quinoa, tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, artichoke hearts, and red onions, all mixed together with a mildly sweet lemon basil dressing. The salad is light and refreshing and has a great combination of sweet and savory flavors. I took one bite and I immediately started thinking about how I could recreate this salad at home.

Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad

I served this salad at my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner last night, and it was a big success! The bowl was practically scraped clean, but I managed to save some leftovers, which I had for lunch today, topped with some left-over salmon (yum!).

I omitted the artichoke hearts and red onions from my recipe, since they are not part of my low FODMAP diet, but feel free to add them to your salad, if you like. You can adjust the ingredients and quantities shown in my recipe below, but be sure to only use fresh basil. I had some trouble finding fresh basil in the grocery store, so I went to my local nursery and bought a basil plant for about the same price I would pay for a handful of basil as the grocery store. Now I can plant my basil plant and have fresh basil all summer long!

The quinoa will need time to cool in the fridge, so be sure to cook the quinoa the day before, or at least a few hours before you plan on serving the salad. This recipe will serve about 6-8 as a side dish.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
1 container of grape tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/3 cup feta cheese
1 tablespoon sliced green onions
2 lemons, juiced (approximately 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

To prepare the quinoa, first add the quinoa to a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly under cold water to remove the bitter coating. Add the quinoa to a large saucepan or deep skillet (make sure it has a lid). Add 3 cups of water to the quinoa and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. I usually stir it once or twice while it’s cooking and check the water level. Burnt quinoa doesn’t taste good (don’t ask me how I know).

Once the quinoa is cooked, let cool for 30 minutes, then transfer to a mixing bowl and place it in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight.

To prepare the salad, remove the quinoa from the fridge (the quinoa should be cold), and add the tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and green onions. Gently stir to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup, fresh basil, and salt and pepper. Pour into the bowl with the quinoa and gently stir until thoroughly coated with the dressing. Have a taste and add additional salt and pepper, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

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You know what I love? Cookies. You know what I love even more? Delicious cookies that are healthy too, like these yummy banana chocolate chip cookies. They only have 6 ingredients: bananas, oats, peanut butter, chocolate chips, vanilla, and salt. Yep, that’s right – no flour, butter, or sugar. I suppose one could argue that chocolate chips aren’t really healthy, but we don’t know any of those people, right?

Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are super easy to make too; just throw all of the ingredients into one bowl, mix it up, and bake for 15 minutes. If you’re wondering, yes, they do taste like bananas. I’m not a huge fan of bananas myself, but I really like these cookies. They remind me of chocolate chip banana bread. My oldest daughter doesn’t like bananas very much either, but even she devoured these cookies (I may have neglected to tell her that bananas were one of the main ingredients).

The sugar in the bananas make the cookies plenty sweet, so no need to worry about that. In fact, I would recommend that you use semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips in this recipe; the bitterness will complement the sweet cookies nicely. As you can see from my photo, I didn’t skimp on the chocolate chips. You can probably reduce the chocolate chips to 1/2 cup, if you want a less chocolately cookie.

I used ripe, but not overripe bananas (yellow, not brown). For those with peanut allergies, you can either omit the peanut butter, or substitute a different nut/seed butter. If you do omit the peanut butter, increase the amount of salt a bit.

Ingredients
2 bananas, mashed
1 cup uncooked oats
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat, or parchment paper.

Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl, and stir well to combine. If you used large bananas, you may need to add a bit more oats. The mixture should be sticky and wet, but not runny.

Plop rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet. (Note: I experimented with flattening a few of my “plops” before baking, but the taste and texture was the same.) Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cookies are light golden brown on the bottom. Let cool a few minutes and enjoy!

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