Orzo Pasta Salad | Side Dish

Orzo Pasta Salad
Adapted from Giadia de Laurentis

4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups red and yellow teardrop tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
1 zucchini, cubed
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
About 3/4 cup Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour the broth into a heavy large saucepan. Cover the pan and bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in the orzo. Cover partially and cook until the orzo is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Drain the orzo through a strainer. Transfer the orzo to a large wide bowl and toss until the orzo cools slightly. Set aside to cool completely.

Toss the orzo with the beans, tomatoes, basil, mint, and enough vinaigrette to coat. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.

Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Yield: 1 3/4 cups

Pumpkin Gnocchi

I never thought I could love gnocchi more than I already did.  Then Forrest made me Pumpkin Gnocchi and I was in love.  Then I made Pumpkin Gnocchi and saw how much easier it is than potato gnocchi and I was in love.

Pumpkin Gnocchi
Adapted from The Foodess


  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cup flour (approximately), plus more for hands and work surface
  • 3 tbsp butter


Set a large pot of water to boil. In a medium sized bowl, combine pumpkin, egg, salt and nutmeg. Add the flour in several additions, stirring to combine. Continue adding flour until the dough is firm enough to handle, but still somewhat sticky.  I find it easier to gently knead the flour in by hand.

With floured hands, pinch off about a quarter of the dough. Roll between palms and on floured work surface to make a 1-inch thick rope. Cut rope rope into 1-inch pieces. Repeat with remaining dough.  Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes to help it hold together when boiling.

Drop gnocchi into boiling water and cook until they rise to the surface, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan. Cook, stirring frequently, until butter browns and emits small puffs of smoke.

Drain gnocchi on paper towels, then add to brown butter and stir to coat.

Serve with sauce of choice or on it’s own topped with salt and parmesan cheese.

Roasted Beets

In the past year, beets have become a staple in our diet and in our garden.  When we want a pretty simple dinner, we pick some beets, roast them, slice them, and serve them with a salad.

Simple Roast Beets
1/4 cup orange juice
Fresh herbs:  bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, oregano; minced
Olive Oil
4 beets
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper

Coat beets with olive oil.  Place in baking dish.  Add orange juice and fresh herbs.  Roast at 425 for 45 minutes or until tender.  Using a paper towel, peel skin away from beets.  Chop into desired shape and cool.

Caprese Salad

There’s something about the combination of fresh picked tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.  Add some salt, pepper, olive oil, and perhaps a drizzle of balsamic and you have heaven on a plate.  It’s a main dish, side dish, appetizer, maybe even a dessert for some.  Anyway you serve it, Caprese is easy, beautiful, and delicious.

Caprese Salad

Fresh, ripe tomatoes (local or homegrown are best)
Fresh basil leaves
Fresh mozzarella
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Freshly Ground Pepper


Judging by size & desired presentation, slice or chop the tomatoes.  Use either mozzarella balls, slices, or cubes.  Chop basil leaves if desired.

Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, basil in a serving dish.  Drizzle evoo and balsamic evenly over dish.  Top with salt & freshly ground pepper.

Do your best not to lick the bowl.  Oh, go ahead, why the heck not?!

Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes

For years I thought sweet potatoes were giant tubers topped with ice cream scooper sized mounds of butter and cinnamon sugar. Then I discovered the simplicity of Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes. Whether cut into fries, chips, chunks, or wedges; served crispy or soft; these are a delicious, naturally sweet side dish.  I once served these to a friend who exclaimed after clearing his plate “I don’t even like sweet potatoes!”

Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes


-2 large sweet potatoes
– 2 TBSP olive oil
– freshly ground pepper
– sea salt to taste


1. Preheat oven to 450°F. For crispier potatoes, preheat the oven & baking sheet to 500°F.

2. Peel the sweet potatoes, removing any tough spots. Cut into desired shape, trying to keep the size uniform throughout.

3. In a large bowl, combine potatoes & oil, tossing to coat. Use your hands to ensure all pieces are thoroughly coated.

4. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet. If you are making chips or fries, use a wire cooking rack, coated with additional oil, to allow heat to penetrate both sides of the potatoes. Top with freshly ground pepper & salt.

5. Bake for 20 minutes & check to see how done the are. Continue baking until desired crispness. I like mine a little soft, hubby likes his crispy, so I usually cut two different sized potatoes.

Baking time depends largely on the size & shape of your cut potatoes. Use this recipe as a guide and adapt to your personal preferences. Additionally, potatoes are excellent coated with spices like chipotle, smoked paprika, pumpkin pie spice, Old Bay, etc.

Lemony Carrot “Farrotto” (a.k.a. Risotto)

I stumbled across this recipe in the March issues of Fitness Magazine.  I decided it sounded like one of those recipes that you order at a modern restaurant, but fail to successfully execute at home.  Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.  Before adding the lemon, the risotto was earthy and complex, but after the lemon, it was bright, balanced and flavorful.  This is definitely a keeper recipe!
Lemony Carrot Risotto Adapted from Fitness Magazine


  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth (vegetable can easily be substituted)
  • 1/2 pound carrots, shredded
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/2 cup red wine (I used red because it’s all I had, but white would work, too)
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving
  1. Heat broth in small saucepan over low heat, reserving 1/2 cup.
  2. Puree 3/4 of the carrots with remaining 1/2 cup broth in a food processor.
  3. Melt butter in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat until foaming.  Add cumin, remaining 1/4 of the carrots, salt and pepper, and cook a minute or two.  Add farro and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to crackle, about two minutes.  Add wine and cook about a minute.
  4. Stir in carrot puree and bring to a simmer.  Add broth in batches, about 1/2 cup at a time, and simmer, stirring constantly until broth is absorbed.  Repeat until farro has stopped absorbing broth and is tender, the whole process should take about 25 minutes. 
  5. Stir in olive oil, lemon juice, add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover, remove from heat, and let rest for about 5 minutes.  Grate parmesan and zest lemon over each serving.

Pressure Cooker Risotto

I’ve been holding on to this recipe for years and thought it was finally time to put it to use.  I should’ve known better than to “cheat” at risotto.  I thought it was good, but gummy.  Forrest thought it was pretty terrible.  This will not be a repeat.

Pressure Cooker Risotto

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. fresh ground nutmeg (optional)


  1. Melt 1 Tbsp. of the butter in the pressure cooker and heat, uncovered, over medium-high heat.  Stir in the rice to coat the grains with the butter, and cook about 1 minute longer.  Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is mostly absorbed by the rice.  Add 4 cups of the broth.
  2. Cover the pressure cooker, set the pressure to high, and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat and release pressure quickly.  Remove the lid.
  3. Add the remaining 1/2 cup broth, 1 Tbsp. butter, and the cheese and stir well to combine with the rice. Season with the salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.