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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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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Honey Lime Chipotle Pulled Pork

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I have recently discovered little cans of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in the Hispanic food section of my grocery store. They are my newest pantry staple. The adobo sauce adds a smoky spiciness to food that really makes the flavor pop.

Honey Lime Chipotle Pulled Pork

This pulled pork recipe features chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, complimented by honey and fresh squeezed lime juice. The pork is sweet, smoky, spicy, and tangy. The best part is that it’s cooked in the Crock Pot! I served this on toasted buns, but it would also be great in tacos or a burrito bowl.

Ingredients
1/2 cup juice from 3-4 limes
1/3 cup honey
1 7-ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (you won’t need the entire can)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 pound bone-in pork shoulder

Stir together the lime juice and honey in a small bowl. (Note: it may help to warm the honey a bit first.) Add 3 of the canned chipotle peppers (don’t worry about chopping them up) and 2 tablespoons of the adobo sauce from the can to the bowl. Refrigerate the remaining chipotle peppers and adobo sauce to use in another recipe (eggs, roasted sweet potatoes, chicken, etc). Add the balsamic vinegar, garlic, and salt to the bowl and stir to combine.

Pour about half of the sauce into the bottom of your Crock Pot. Place the pork shoulder in the Crock Pot and then pour the remaining sauce over the top of the pork.

Cook on high heat for about 4.5 hours (or low for 8-9 hours). Use a large spoon to skim any excess fat off the top of the sauce, and then shred the pork using two forks and mix well to incorporate into the sauce. Season with salt, if needed. Serve hot and enjoy!

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Spinach and Bacon Frittata

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Hello, my friends! I have some good news to share today: I’m starting a new job next week! I plan on continuing to post delicious recipes for you, but you may notice a trend towards more “make ahead” and easy to prepare meals.

This frittata recipe is a perfect recipe for a busy weeknight. It’s tasty, filling, and ready in a flash. I’ve never made a frittata before, but it’s kind of a cross between a crust-less quiche and an omelet, although the flavor is more omelet-y since it doesn’t have any cream.

I adapted this from an Alton Brown recipe (I just love him), which you can find here.

Ingredients
6-8 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped*
6 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon butter
2 cups of baby spinach, chopped

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, parmesan, and pepper.

Heat a 12-inch cast iron pan (or other oven-proof pan) over medium heat. Add the butter to the pan. When the butter melts, add the chopped bacon and spinach and sauté for about 2 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted.

Pour the eggs into the pan and quickly stir the eggs, bacon, and spinach together. Once combined, stop stirring, and let cook for about 4 or 5 minutes, or until the egg mixture begins to set around the edges.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler to a low setting and set the oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source.

Once the egg mixture begins to set around the edges, place the pan in the oven and broil for about 3 minutes, or until lightly browned and puffy.

Cut into wedges and serve hot with a big green salad.

*To reduce the time and mess involved in cooking bacon, place the bacon strips in a single layer on a cooling rack, and place the cooling rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.

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Burrito Bowl

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Happy Friday everyone! On Fridays I get a bit lazy and slack off on my domestic duties a bit. After a busy week, the last thing I feel like doing is preparing a big dinner. I usually have some extra homemade meals in the freezer, but I also like “re-purposing” leftovers into a delicious new meal like this one.

The beauty of a burrito bowl is that you don’t even need a recipe. My basic burrito bowls consists of leftover carnitas meat (if you haven’t tried my carnitas recipe, you are missing out!), rice, and beans. Then you can toss in whatever else sounds good. Chopped bell peppers, tomatoes, avocado, shredded lettuce, fire roasted chiles, sauteed onions – the possibilities are endless.

Ingredients
Leftover carnitas (or any leftover taco meat)
Leftover brown rice
1 can black beans, rinsed
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Sour cream
Salsa
Green onions, chopped

Heat the carnitas and the rice in the microwave until warm. (Tip: add about a teaspoon of water to the rice and cover, before reheating. This will prevent the rice from being too dry.)

To serve, place a generous scoop of carnitas, rice, and black beans into each serving bowl. Sprinkle with a bit of cilantro, and then add a spoonful of sour cream and salsa. Top it off with a few green onions. Mix it all together and enjoy your delicious no-cook dinner!

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Oven Roasted Carnitas

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I’ve always prepared carnitas in my Crockpot, but I found myself without a Crockpot the other day, so I decided to try cooking carnitas in the oven instead. Oh. My. Word. I’ve always thought my Crockpot carnitas were really good, but these oven roasted carnitas are amazing. The flavor is doubled, the meat is super moist and tender, and there are all of these little crispy bits that you just can’t get in the Crockpot.  

My husband loved this recipe and said I should only make carnitas this way from now on. The Crockpot carnitas are still great, especially for busy weeknights, but this is the recipe to use if you want really amazing carnitas. I always make a big roast, and then freeze the leftovers for another meal (carnitas tacos anyone?). Also, you will need a large ovenproof pot with a lid (I use an enameled cast-iron dutch oven) for this recipe.

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (4 pound) boneless pork shoulder roast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 limes, sliced into wedges
Tortillas

Mix together the salt, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, and cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Cut the pork roast into several large chunks and trim off any large areas of fat. Coat the pork with the spice mixture.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium heat. Add the meat in batches and brown well on all sides. Don’t add too many pieces of meat to the pot at once, or else they won’t brown well. Turn down the heat, if needed, to prevent the spices from burning.

Add all of the browned meat back to the pot, cover tightly with a lid and place the pot in the oven. Bake until the meat is tender enough to be shredded easily with a fork, about 2 ½ to 3 hours. This is what it will look like when it’s done. 

Remove the pot from the oven and use a large spoon to skim off the fat from the pan juices. Use two forks to shred the meat and combine with the pan juices.

Serve with lime wedges and tortillas, and prepare for carnita nirvana!

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Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya

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Jambalaya! It’s a fun word to say, don’t you think? Say it with me! JAM-BA-LAYA!

Jambalaya is basically a thick rice stew filled with sausage, shrimp, beans, veggies, and lots of flavor. My recipe is on the mild side, so my kids will eat it, but you can make yours spicier by increasing the cayenne pepper and adding some of your favorite hot sauce.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup diced carrots
1 teaspoon paprika
Dash cayenne pepper
1 can red kidney beans, drained, but not rinsed
1 can diced Italian tomatoes, with juice
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups cooked brown rice

Add oil to your largest, heavy skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, onion, bell pepper, celery, and carrots to the skillet. Using a spatula, break the sausage up into bite-sized pieces. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the sausage is browned and the veggies begin to soften. Reduce the heat, if needed to prevent burning.

Add the paprika and cayenne pepper to the skillet and cook for about 1 minute.

Add the beans, tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper to the skillet. Stir to combine, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes.

Stir in the shrimp and rice, then replace the lid and let cook for about 5 minutes, or until the shrimp is thoroughly cooked. Serve hot and enjoy!

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Greek Pasta Salad with Sausage

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I guess I could call this a Mediterranean Pasta Salad since it has Greek and Italian ingredients, but the name isn’t as important as the taste (which is great, by the way!). Tender pasta mingles with olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, chickpeas, and Italian sausage for a main dish salad full of flavor and interesting textures. Be sure to make the pasta salad (not the sausage) in advance, so the flavors have time to develop. 

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 pound corkscrew pasta, cooked and cooled
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can black olives, roughly chopped
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 package Italian sausage

Wisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, oregano, sugar, and ground pepper in a large bowl. Add the cooked pasta, garbanzo beans, olives, feta, red onion, and tomatoes, and stir gently to combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Add the Italian sausage to a large, cold skillet and add 1/2 cup of water. Cover and place over medium-low heat. Simmer until the water evaporates, and then remove the lid. Brown the sausage, turning frequently, until the sausage is cooked through.

Let the sausage cool slightly, and then cut into slices. To serve, fill bowls with the cold pasta salad, and place sausage slices over the top.

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Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage with a Ricotta Surprise

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I haven’t always been a fan of Rachel Ray’s recipes, but she got this one right! The flavorful sausage and broccoli are wonderful with the pasta, but it’s the lemony-peppery ricotta that makes it amazing. I really was surprised at how good this was!

You can find the original recipe in Rachel’s Express Lane Meals cookbook (another 30-minute meal cookbook – although I rarely seem to be able to complete her recipes in 30 minutes). This recipe is well worth the time, even if it takes more than 30 minutes to prepare, and I’ll be making it again soon!

Ingredients
Salt
1 pound penne pasta
1 cup ricotta cheese
Juice and zest from one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 large head broccoli
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (approximately)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)

Bring water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, add a bit of salt and the pasta. Cook according to the package directions, until al dente (just underdone). Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, before draining the pasta.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, lemon zest, salt to taste, and a generous amount of fresh black pepper. Let the ricotta mixture stand on the counter and come up to room temperature.

Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces with a spatula. Cook the meat until brown, about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

While the sausage is browning, chop the broccoli into small pieces (discard the tough stems).

Once the sausage is brown, remove it to a paper-towel-lined plate. Return the skillet to the heat and add the broccoli and onion. Spread the veggies out in an even layer, season with some salt and pepper, and let the broccoli brown a bit before stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the sausage back to the skillet along with the chicken broth. Add the 1/2 cup of cooking water from the pasta and bring it up to a simmer. Cook until the broccoli is tender and the liquids have reduced slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cooked, well-drained pasta. Toss to combine and simmer about 1 minute to allow the pasta to soak in the flavors. Turn off the heat, add the parmesan cheese, and toss to combine.

To serve, place a large dollop of the ricotta mixture into a bowl and bury it with the hot pasta mixture. Before eating, mix it around with a fork to distribute the ricotta and sprinkle with extra parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

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Ham and Lentil Soup

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This hearty and flavorful soup is a wonderful way to use the leftovers from your holiday ham. The lentils are a nice deviation from the typical ham and bean soup, and add a wonderful texture. Even the picky eaters in my family (a.k.a. my children) devoured this soup.

Ingredients
1 cup dried lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (is it just me, or does dried thyme taste like dirt?)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, finely chopped
2 cups chopped, cooked ham

Rinse the lentils under cold water, drain, and set aside.

Add the olive oil to a large pot over medium-high heat. When the olive oil is fragrant, add the celery, carrots, and onions and sauté until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the minced garlic, lentils, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, thyme, basil, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper, water, ketchup, and spinach and stir well to combine. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring a few times prevent the lentils from sticking.

If desired, puree the soup slightly with a stick blender (or in a regular blender) to thicken the soup. Stir in the chopped ham, cover and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.

Serve hot and enjoy!

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