One of my favorite fall dishes

I guess it’s not so much a fall dish, considering it relies on some great summer veg, but I like to make it in fall when it’s just starting to get cold out. I don’t really have a name for the dish either. When I want to make it, or others ask me to make it, it’s just “the orzo dish.” Anyways, I thought I’d share it with you guys. It’s full of veg and the chicken and orzo can easily be substituted for your own dietary needs or preferences. Also, I’m cooking for 4-5 people when I make this, so it’s a lot, but even if it’s just for 1 or 2, it’s great as leftovers.

veggie medley

Ingredients (for the veggie portion):

  • 1-2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed of woody ends and cut into thirds lengthwise
  • 1 medium onion, quartered and sliced in 1/4-1/2 inch wide slices
  • 1-2 red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • pat butter and 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt, pepper, granulated garlic, oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, and savory (enough of the herbs for the veg to be obviously flecked with seasoning)

I start out by sauteing the onion and pepper together in the butter and olive oil until they are slightly softened. I then add all of the other veg, with seasoning, and continue cooking until they are tender but not mushy.

While I cook the veg, in another pan I boil a box of orzo pasta. When it’s al dente, I drain it and cook it for another few minutes in about 3/4 cups of chicken stock or broth, until it is mostly absorbed.

In addition to the veg and orzo, I like to add chicken. I cut up enough skinless, boneless chicken thighs for each person to have two thighs worth of meat. I cut the thighs into meatball size chunks and cook in the same seasoning, plus poultry seasoning, until cooked through.

When all of the components are finished, I combine all three in one pan and stir. It’s a big pot. If you can, let the mix simmer for a couple of minutes to meld the flavors.

What I love most about this is its one-pot feel. While it certainly isn’t cooked that way, it’s a complete meal in one dish, which is always appealing to me. It’s also fairly easy to cook. Most of the work is prepping the veg and that doesn’t take too long or much effort.

Happy cooking!


I’ve been a very busy bee lately

When I get bored, I do random things to fill the time. I’ve been very bored lately waiting to hear back about jobs and waiting for the Oregon weather to get with the program already, so I decided to try my own tactics to nudge Mother Nature in the right direction. First, I redecorated my house with my Fall foliage like I do every year at about this time. No luck. Next I tried lighting my fall scented candles. Nada. I thought I’d up the ante, so I looked up “Fall recipes” online. I didn’t make any serious moves, thinking I could just scare MN into action with the threat of baked butternut squash and maple glazed ham. But no, MN does not take kindly to threats. She decided to turn UP the heat. Well, the saying goes that if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. I do not heed platitudes well. Instead, I got IN the kitchen and it has been a friggin’ throw down with MN ever since.

pasta dinner

I started slow. Oven roasted some zucchini from my garden (still a summer veg). Made some pasta sauce from scratch (not counting the canned tomatoes–who has time to tiny dice 4 or 5 tomatoes when someone else is willing to for a cheaper price?). Both of those could be any time of the year dishes. But I also boiled some carrots. First hint of Fallishness food.

I’m going to take an aside here and say that if you have never had boiled carrots, you should. I usually put a bag of baby carrots in a sauce pan, cover them with water, and put them on the burner to boil/simmer until fork tender. Something sciencey happens to them in that water (I’m guessing something along the lines of cooking converting proteins to sugars, but then I’m not a scientist so that could be complete BS) that makes them awesome. They’re a little sweeter for their sweating, and I love them. The carrots are also my favorite part of chicken noodle soup, which is another dish I love to make in fall when there’s frost and the (gigantic) dwarf dogwoods in the yard start shedding their leaves. Admittedly, I’ve had a love affair with the orange veg for many, many moons. When I was a kid, my mom even joked that I would turn orange from eating so many carrots, not unlike Arnold in that one episode of Magic School Bus. (Yes, I went and looked up that kid’s name. Season 4, episode 6.) But back to my battle with MN!

In response to my modest turn towards Fallish foods, the next day was a solid three degrees warmer. Alright MN, you think you’re squeezing me? Let me show you what I’ve got. What I had up my sleeve was an epic grocery store trip with mom. By the time we had left the produce section, our cart was already about half full. I’m not kidding. That night, I tried to let MN stew on what was about to be unleashed upon her, and dad cooked dinner. He lulled her into a false sense of security by barbecuing steaks. We’ve always been a good team in the kitchen.

finished peppers

My next assault came in the form of stuffed peppers and broccoli. Now, I know what you’re saying, how are stuffed peppers a Fall food? Well, I had found the recipe in my “Fall recipes” search: Stuffed Jack-O-Lantern Bell Peppers. Bwahaha! Take that MN! Though I didn’t actually cut the faces into the pumpkins bell peppers (because I do not possess the patience or paring knife skill), I still chalk it up as a point in my corner. Also that night, I spontaneously decided to make banana bread.

banana bread

I don’t know if it was because I was on a high after dealing such a kick to MN and pumped for my next move, or if I was just tired of seeing this one sad banana in the bowl next to all the other bright yellow ones, but it happened. And it was delicious. After letting it cool (for all of 5 minutes out of the pan), I sliced right into the center and took a steaming piece. Banana bread and I go together like Forrest and Jenny.

The next morning, MN showed up, acting all tough despite the loaf shaped bruise on her jaw, and turned up the temp a measly two degrees. Pathetic. I, on the other hand, was raring and ready to go. At 5 o’clock I turned my oven on to 325 degrees and slid a beautiful ham in. I also had Brussels sprouts sitting on the counter and Pillsbury rolls in the fridge, ready to tag in. As the ham baked, I cleaned the sprouts and chopped the shallot that I cook them with.

Another aside, this time about Brussels sprouts. I don’t know how many times people have told me that they think they are gross, or smelly, or utterly unappetizing (because who keeps track of things like that?). Well, you know what? You haven’t had my Brussels sprouts. I have actually converted a few people with them (and soon the world!…I watched a lot of Pinky and the Brain when I was a kid). If you’re interested in my recipe, leave a comment and I’ll share. They are amazing.

Let me say, as much as I love these sprouts, they are a pain to clean and get ready. For that reason, I don’t do them that often. But this battle royale required nothing but my best. So I trudged on and they came out beautifully. The rolls were no big deal. They did their thing. The pièce de résistance was this:

apple pie

I baked an apple pie. From scratch! Yes, okay, the dough was store-bought. But I peeled and sliced all of the apples, and worked out my own seasoning mixture (which I’ll have to tweak for the next time I make one). With the ham, the Brussels sprouts, and this beautiful pie, I was pretty sure I had MN on the ropes. And I knew just how to finish her, Mortal Kombat style.

roasted chicken

I roasted a chicken last night. Along with it, I sautéed yellow squash, green beans, and asparagus pieces, and roasted some herbed potatoes. I’m not one to gloat, but it was definitely a TKO. Today’s weather? Overcast and six degrees cooler than it has been.

Update: It is raining. Muahahaha!