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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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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Crispy Baked Chicken Strips

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I’m not much for kid food, but I love a good chicken strip (or chicken tender, chicken finger, etc). Something about the tender chicken surrounded by crunchy breading make them irresistible to me – and my kids.

This is my new favorite chicken strip recipe! Panko bread crumbs make them extra crispy, and they are baked, not fried, so they are healthy too – bonus! 

I served these with super-delish sweet potato fries and some dipping sauce.

Next time I make these, I’m going to double the recipe and freeze the extra chicken strips (after they’re cooked). You can reheat them in the toaster-oven (or regular oven) to maintain their crispiness. Try the chicken strips sliced over a green salad or pasta, or maybe a chicken parmesan sandwich (hmm, I’m going to work on that recipe).

Ingredients
1 cup flour
Salt
Pepper
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with olive oil or cooking spray.

Add the flour to a shallow dish, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Add the eggs to a second shallow dish, and beat lightly with a fork. Set aside.

Add the panko bread crumbs, Italian bread crumbs, and parmesan cheese to a third shallow dish, and stir to combine. Set aside.

Cut the chicken breasts into strips, about 1 ½ inches wide, and 5 inches long. Season with salt and pepper.

Now, create your assembly line. Start with the chicken, then the flour, egg, bread crumbs, and lastly the prepared baking sheet.

Next you’ll bread the chicken, using the “wet-hand/dry-hand” technique (this will keep your hands goop-free and make the coating process faster). Drop a chicken strip into the flour with your left hand (wet-hand), and then use your right hand (dry-hand) to coat the chicken with flour. Shake off the excess flour and then drop the chicken into the eggs (don’t touch the eggs with your right hand). Use your left hand (wet) to coat the chicken with egg, and then drop the chicken into the bread crumbs. Use your right hand (dry) to coat the chicken with bread crumbs, and then place the chicken onto the baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining chicken strips.

Make sure that the chicken isn’t crowded on the baking sheet; otherwise the chicken won’t get crispy. You may need to use more than one baking sheet, and cook one baking sheet at a time.

Bake the chicken for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is cooked through and the breading is golden brown.

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Parmesan Basil Orzo with Shrimp

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This looks like something you would eat at a fancy restaurant, but it is simple to make and it tastes amazing. The mild orzo, flavored with parmesan and fresh basil, is a wonderful a compliment to the marinated shrimp which is bursting with flavor.

Ingredients
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more, if you like it spicy)
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1-2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
2 cups chicken broth (maybe a bit more)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, parsley, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, garlic, ketchup, oregano, salt and black pepper. Add the shrimp and stir until they are well coated. Refrigerate for about 1 hour (I’ve heard that too much lemon juice can give shrimp a weird texture, so don’t let them sit in the marinade for too long).

About 25 minutes before you cook the shrimp, melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, stir in the orzo and sauté until golden brown, stirring frequently.

Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the orzo is tender. Watch the skillet carefully, and add additional chicken broth if needed.

Mix in the parmesan cheese, basil, spinach, salt, and pepper. Stir until the spinach is wilted.

Heat another large skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the shrimp to the skillet, along with about 1/2 cup of the marinade. Cook the shrimp, stirring frequently until pink and cooked through.

To serve, place a large spoonful of the orzo onto a plate, top with several shrimp, and drizzle some of the sauce from the skillet over the top.

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Alfredo-Pesto Linguine with Chicken

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In the mood for really amazing pasta? This recipe is restaurant quality, without the restaurant price. The combination of parmesan, cream, and pesto make a heavenly sauce that is to die for (not literally, I hope, but those of you with high cholesterol should probably skip this one . . . did I mention the sauce has butter too?). You can lower the fat a bit by substituting half-n-half for the heavy cream, but the sauce won’t be as thick.

This is an excellent dish to make for a special occasion, or if you want to impress your dinner guests. The recipe below will make about 4 servings.

Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt
Black pepper
1/2 pound linguine pasta
1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
2 tablespoons prepared pesto

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile, melt the butter in your largest skillet, over medium heat. Stir in the cream and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the skillet from the heat and gradually stir in the parmesan cheese. After the cheese is added, put the skillet back on the heat and reduce the heat to low or medium-low (don’t let the sauce boil). Stir in the pesto and cook the sauce, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes, or until thickened.

Add the linguine and cooked chicken to the sauce and toss gently to coat. Serve with fresh parmesan cheese and a big green salad. Enjoy!

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