Chunky Beef, Cabbage and Tomato Soup

Thanksgiving is coming and so are your house guests. What do you serve them the Thanksgiving Eve? Soup and bread. It’s the perfect dinner especially if it’s made ahead. I have made this soup many times. It’s great the day you make it, but it tastes better the next day. Can soup age like a fine wine? I think so! Make this Sunday and serve it Wednesday. All you have to do is reheat it. Perfect.

The original recipe gives you exact measurements for your vegetables. I never measure the Holy Trinity of cooking. Can you have too much onion? I think not. I dice up the carrots and celery, eyeballing it. The soup will taste great with too many carrots. Is that really a thing? I also prefer to use vegetable stock over beef stock. You could even use chicken stock. I like to slice the cabbage thinly, and then chop it into thirds. The slices are still large, but spoon ready. I also add a 1/2 cup of uncooked rice. Maybe  I add the rice because I spill everything on myself, or I just like a thick soup, I may need an adult bib. The recipe makes quite a bit of soup, so the rice per serving doesn’t add that many carbs. Ok? You can also eliminate the rice. Sigh. I don’t know you anymore. Also, I usually don’t like cooking with lean beef. It works perfectly in this recipe. If you don’t have lean beef, tilt the pan as the fattier beef cooks, scooping out the fat. Pour it off into a heat proof container. Why, yes, you can even use a coffee cup. Here’s another way to increase the healthiness, add leftover cooked veggies, or legumes. I just added some cooked lentils and cannellini beans that needed to be used up. Delicious. I find soup recipes are more guidelines than rules. Make it your own. I strongly suggest you chop up all your veggies before you start cooking. It makes cooking so much easier, if you are prepared. Let’s get cooking!

1 lb. 90% lean ground beef

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced carrot

28 ounces canned diced or crushed tomatoes

5 cups of chopped green cabbage (1 medium head)

4 cups beef stock

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup uncooked rice

The original recipe has directions for stove top and Insta Pot cooking. I use a big Dutch oven on my stove for my soups.

Heat your pan until water beads up, rolls and evaporates. Pour a tsp. of olive oil into hot pan. Add the ground beef and salt. Cook until the beef is browned, breaking the meat up into small pieces. Drain any fat.

Add the onion, celery, and carrots into the pot with the beef. Sauté the mixture until the vegetables soften. It should take about 5 minutes, give or take.

Add the canned tomatoes, cabbage, beef stock and bay leaves. Put the lid on and simmer for 20 minutes. As the cabbage cooks it will release some liquid. You can always add more broth or water if you want it thinner, but you can’t take away. At this point I add the uncooked rice, additional cooked items, and simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Stir occasionally checking on the liquid.

Voila! You have dinner. I like to buy frozen rolls to serve alongside this soup. In 10 minutes you have hot rolls waiting for good butter. Enjoy your dinner. Thanksgiving will come and go. Enjoy all of the moments!

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Flour’s Famous Banana Bread

 

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Let’s talk about banana bread. It has been years since I thought about banana bread. One day, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I don’t remember what sparked my interest in banana bread. I looked through old cookbooks, perused the web. My daughter suggested I try Chrissy Teigen’s banana bread. It was delicious. Baked in a bundt pan. Crispy top. Deliciously moist from the package of pudding. Wonderful. I will share that recipe another time.

I wanted something closer to traditional banana bread, but not heavy like a brick. Cue Joanne Chang. She’s brilliant. She’s successful. She makes banana bread!  Someday I will use that Flour gift card. I checked out her first cookbook from the library a gazillion times, without ever baking anything. I’m like that. More of a cookbook hoarder. This time was going to be different. I ordered it from a consortium library. Bought a bunch of bananas and waited for them to over ripen. I’m not a patient person.

The next step: actually read recipe. I looked over the ingredients. Simple, every day ingredients. Sour cream was a little different, but I know this helps with the crumb. Cinnamon? I’m in. Walnuts? Not so much. I don’t like nuts in baked goods. Walnuts taste bitter to me.  I’m all set with ingredients.

I started to read the directions. What could make this bread different from the others?The ingredients were very similar. Not far into the recipe, the secret was revealed. It’s the process. You beat the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes. FIVE! The mixture is light and fluffy and has great volume. Genius. You fold in the dry ingredients. Brilliant. It’s so simple, but successful in producing a light, moist, delicious loaf of bread.  Let’s get baking!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

3 very ripe bananas mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped (optional)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Butter a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan. I like to cut a strip of parchment paper, so it releases easily and in one piece. Turn over the pan, and cut the parchment to fit the bottom, before you grease the pan. Duh. Let the parchment over hang a little. If you have metal clips, you can clip them to the parchment and the pan, to avoid the parchment from turning into the baking bread. Or not. I’m not patient. The parchment paper helps me lift it out of the pan in one piece after cooling for about 30 minutes.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. You can tap it through a mesh strainer instead.  I’ve made it without sifting and it was still scrumptious. Don’t fret.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed for about 5 minutes. If you use a hand mixer, beat it a little longer. I like the stand mixer, since I’m alway multitasking. The mixture should be light and fluffy.

On low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. Another process that makes a difference. Don’t dump in the oil. It should take about one minute to pour the oil into the batter. Using this process, it incorporates into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air you just beat into the batter. Add the bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Continue to mix on low speed just until it’s combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture just until combined. You don’t want any streaks of flour in the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 1 – 1 1/4 hours. You want the loaf to be golden brown on top. If the center springs back, it’s done. I sometimes use a toothpick. Old school, riiiiightttt? This bread fills up the pan, because of all the air in the batter. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. The pop it out of the pan to cool completely on the rack. The bread in the above picture could have used a couple of more minutes. It was still yummy and cooked through. It’s almost gone.

The banana bread can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature. I prefer my quick breads to chill in the fridge. I think it enhances the flavor. It can be frozen for up to 2 weeks. Now that’s funny. No baked goods last two weeks in this house. Unless I hide them in the vegetable drawer.

Enjoy!

Note: If you have over ripe bananas, but don’t have time to make banana bread, freeze the bananas. I mush them in a zip lock plastic bag and label it. One banana, two banana, three banana, four…….When you have time to bake, the bananas just need to be defrosted. Perfect.

 

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Panera Copycat)

It’s well documented that I love soup. It’s always soup season in my house. When I saw this posted by Heather Webber I hit “print” immediately. Let’s not pretend this soup is healthy. I compensate by adding more carrots and chicken. That’s all I got. I suggest you make it one day and serve it the next. This soup tastes good the day you make it, but it is soooooo much better the second. It becomes thick, yet smooth. It’s great for lunches, too. Transports well. It won’t slosh all over the place. Thin soups are difficult to eat without spilling. I need an adult bib. Or a Tide stain stick remover.

The original recipe calls for coconut oil. I prefer a good olive oil. It also lists a red onion as an ingredient. I never remember to buy one. A regular old yellow onion works great. I always add more onion to soups than called for.  I love to sauté onions. My theory is the more, the merrier. For this recipe I dice up my carrots on the small side. I like them to fit right into spoon. I use large chunks of chicken. It just seems right to have the chicken hanging off the spoon. I rarely have enough leftover chicken for this soup and resort to buying a roaster chicken. Anything to speed up the cooking process, right? Do yourself a favor and buy a cooked roaster chicken. They make great sandwiches for lunch, or in addition to the soup.

Let’s make soup. You will love this some dark, snowy night when you don’t feel like cooking. Warm soup, warm heart…..or something like that. For the vegetable counters out there, serve with a salad. Alright?

1 tsp. olive oil

1 large yellow onion

1 cup diced (small) carrots

1 tsp. dried marjoram

2 tablespoon flour

1 package Near East Long Grain & Wild Rice with Flavor Packet

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

3 cups water

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 milk

1 generous cup of cooked and shredded chicken

salt to taste

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Ad the onions and carrots and cook until softened. There should be a candle with this scent. Eau de l’oignon. Oui?

Add dried marjoram, flour, and seasoning packet from the rice. Stir to combine. The flour will help thicken the soup. At this point you will ask yourself, “I’m going to eat this?” Not just yet.

Add rice, chicken broth, and water. Bring to a boil. Cover, and lower to a simmer. Let this potion cook for 15 minutes.

I pour the milk and cream into a glass Pyrex measuring cup and microwave it to take off the chill. The original recipe calls to heat in a pan. I’d rather just place that measuring cup in the dishwasher than wash a pan. Just me? I’ve even done it without warming the dairy liquids. No one died.

Stir in the shredded chicken. Cook about 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Stir occasionally. Simmer on a low heat. You want to avoid this bubbling over onto your stove. Advice from my “friend”.

Season with salt and pepper. I think the seasoning packet has enough salt in it eventhough it makes a lot of soup! I like to  have a hunk of french bread or baguette to dip in my soup. Sit back and enjoy. Make a cup of tea and grab a book, Your night is winding down!

Enjoy!

If you’re interested in finding a new author, please check out Heather’s books

 

 

I say potato, you say potahto. It’s a mashed up world….

If you stop, you can almost feel the shift in the wind. We are heading into “Hearty Meal Season”. Today’s handy dandy tip is for mashed potatoes. You don’t have to tell others that you love them. Keep pretending no carbs enter your mouth. It will be our secret. In New England, it’s gets gosh darn cold. You need something to stick to your bones, so you don’t blow away with a strong Northeast wind. Let’s make some mashed potatoes. Apply directly to hips.

2 ½ pounds of Idaho potatoes (fine, 5 pounds)

butter (the real stuff, puh-leez)

salt

pepper

Making mashed potatoes is very personal: cream cheese vs. butter, lumpy vs. smooth, roasted garlic mashed vs. plain……There are so many options. This is a basic recipe. Unless you are feeding a small army, about 2 or so pounds are plenty. If not, too bad.

Peel your ‘taters. I like to use an Oxo potato peeler for my gnarly hands. Use whatever works for you. I peel towards me. So wrong, but so right. After you peel your ‘taters, rinse them in cold water. I cut mine into small, uniform pieces. You want them to cook evenly. When you cut them smaller, they cook faster. This may or may not be true, but I NEED to believe it.

Place cut potatoes in a large covered pan. Fill the pan with water so it covers the potatoes, and then some.  Sprinkle on some magic salt. About ½ tsp. will do. Bring the covered potatoes to a low boil and cook for 20 minutes. You want to cook them to at least “fork tender”. That means a knife or fork can break up a piece, with no effort.  I like to over cook them a little. They are easier to mash! You don’t want to under cook them.  Inedible.

Drain potatoes, reserving about ½ cup of potato water. Use something heat resistant. Boiling water can make things explode. So my friend told me. This water goes back into your potatoes. Always add warm into warm. You can use a colander to drain, but why dirty something else? I just use the lid. A little tilt over the sink and there you go. Now for the step that separates one from an amateur potato cooker person.  Put the covered pan back on the stove. Make sure the burner is off. Let it set for a minute. Check to make sure any residual water is gone. Your potatoes should look dry. Add a couple of table spoons of butter, and a ½ tsp. of salt.  Put cover back on pan and let it sit, still off heat, for a minute. The butter needs to melt. Use a potato masher or a hand mixer. If you’re using a hand mixer, be careful to not over mix. The gluten goes crazy and makes the potatoes heavy. Pour a little of the hot potato water at a time, back into the potatoes. Mash, mash, mash. Add more water, a little at a time, if you want. It’s personal, right? Mash until you get the consistency you want. Salt and pepper to taste. More yummy butter if you want…..

Add a steak to the side, with some green beans, ya got dinnah! Someday I may share my gravy recipe!

 

 

Chicken and Zucchini Noodle Caprese

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This dish is made with sautéed bite-sized chicken thighs and grape tomatoes cooked with spiralized zucchini, fresh mozzarella and basil. Do I have your attention yet? It’s obviously low-carb as well. This comes together in a little over 30 minutes and is delicious.

You are familiar with most of the ingredients, right? The spiralized zucchini is somewhat new, at least to me. Why, yes, you can buy a machine to spiral cut the zucchini. But honestly, do you need something else to fit into the back of a cabinet? I’m looking at you breadmaker and panini grill. Most grocery stores have many diferent spiralized veggies. They cost way too much, but they are convenient and fun! I especially love the riced veggies, like sweet potatoes. But that’s a conversation for another day. Those bad boys play in the freezer until you need them. The spiralized veggies have a much shorter shelf life so buy them when you will be using them.

Let’s make dinner!

16 ounce package of spiral cut zucchini

1/2-1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast or thighs, cut in 1/2 inch cubes

kosher salt

pepper

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

olive oil

3 garlic cloves chopped

1 onion, cut in thin slices

3/4 lb grape tomatoes, cut in half

pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1 package of spiralized zucchini

2 oz. fresh mini mozzarella balls, cut in half

You can play around with the portion of ingredients. If you don’t like garlic, you can omit it. Same goes for the mozzarella. I strongly suggest you use all the ingredients. If you don’t have crushed red pepper flakes, don’t sweat it. I like a little more chicken. I don’t like to use part of a package and put the rest in the freezer. It will never be used. It just gets pushed to the back until a power outage and then it gets tossed.

Before you start heating pans and getting out serving dishes, cut up the chicken. It takes longer than you think. Put it in a bowl and set it aside. Same for your onions and garlic. You can wait on the mozzarella if you don’t want to dirty another bowl. That is added at the very end.

Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp salt, pepper and oregano. I confess to using Lawry’s seasoned salt more often than regular salt and pepper.

The recipe calls for a non-stick pan. I don’t like them. I have a couple of heavy bottomed pans that I prefer. Any pan can be used, just watch the heat. Heat the pan before you add the oil. Toss a sprinkle or two of water in the hot pan. If the water rolls, and evaporates, it’s ready for the oil. I don’t measure my olive oil but you need enough to lightly coat the pan. Let the olive oil heat up before you add the chicken. It takes a couple of seconds. Add the chicken and cook. Let it sit for a couple of minutes to brown. If you keep stirring, the chicken won’t have the wonderful brown color. Just watch to make sure it doesn’t burn. You can lower or raise the heat as needed. You can cook in batches if you are using more chicken. I often double the recipe for my family. Stir it to cook on all sides. When it’s no longer pink inside, put cooked chicken in a clean bowl.

I love cooked onions. The original recipe called for only garlic. I think the onion adds another dimension. Add more oil to your pan and add the onions. I cut my peeled onion in half from root to top, and then cut thin slices If the bottom of the pan has browned from the chicken, just cook the onions on a lower heat, adding a little more olive oil. This brown will add to “sauce” the liquid from the zucchini and tomatoes. When the onions are soft, add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. You want them to release some liquid so the garlic doesn’t burn. If there isn’t much liquid being released you can add the zucchini right away. If you think you need more oil, add a little. Add the package of zucchini and raise the heat. Break the zucchini up with a spoon or fork. Stir it occasionally so it all cooks evenly. The zucchini does cook down. This should take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Add the crushed pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the zucchini is cooked, add the chicken back in to the skillet and finish cooking. Add the basil. Let those flavors meld together. Add the mozzarella when you’re ready to serve. To add some carbs just call the spiral cut zucchini, zucchini noodles. You’re welcome.

Enjoy!

Here is the original recipe.

Laugh with me along the mental and physical journey, of the joys of joint surgery.

 

Congratulations! You’ve been hurting long enough. Admitting you have a problem and moving forward to a fix is scary. We’ve all brushed off pain, now and again. When physical pain consumes you, it’s time. No one can tell you when it’s time. You just know. Pain is fatiguing. Pain is psychological. Pain can take over your life.

Before acceptance, you try to disguise your pain, your need for joint replacement, from others. I could make a career of hiding pain. “Accepting the Oscar…..”. At some point, there is no hiding. Strangers start to even notice. You’re not as clever as you think. I’ve become attuned to observing peoples’ replacement needs. It’s like “Name that Tune” for me. In one step, I can tell what joint strangers need to have replaced. Knee. Knee. Hip. Then I guess their careers. It’s good to keep busy.

You’ve chatted up your friends for doctor recommendations. You’ve paid attention to all the commercials and ads. You weigh your options. After an acceptable period of mourning your defeat, you make an appointment. All is good. You’re fine now. Calm again…. until the day of the appointment.

The doctor’s appointment went as well as it could. The doctor secretly wonders what took you so long. The staff gives you the happy nods when you schedule your surgery, as they hand you paperwork.  Now to share the news with others.

You check your work and social calendars. You mentally change the date around holidays, birthday, work projects. But, you decide, the date actually works! Your family is nervous happy. Your friends and neighbors offer their thoughts, prayers, and help. You feel the need to justify the surgery with every sharing. “It’s genetics.” “It’s from an old sports injury.” “It’s not my fault!”

You go to the pre-surgery education class. Yes. You must be educated. Here’s the one thing you should walk away with. Do not watch the YouTube video of your surgery. You’ll never sleep again. You’ll have trouble sleeping anyways, you don’t need more. You listen. You peruse the paperwork. Pay heed to the need to poop. Miralax is magic. You doubt some of the suggested items. Trust me. You will need some of these things, like the flower needs the rain. (Name that tune!) Antibacterial wash? Clean sheets? Loose clothing?  Grabbing tools? Their experience predates your needs. You are advised to make sure your loved one has the passwords to your accounts. Bills should be paid to date. More worry lines form in your forehead.

You go the pre-surgery medical appointment. You meet a team of people that will ask questions (over and over), perform some tests, and ask you questions, again. This is tiresome. They are at the gathering-information-stage. You are at the sick-of-this-shit stage. Can I hear an “Amen?” The world starts a countdown to your surgery.

It’s a week before the BIG DAY. Everyone treats it like a vacation. You convince yourself you need this time off from work.  You plan on catching up on so much. Movies. Books. Magazines. It won’t happen. You’ve been instructed what you can and cannot do, take, drink, or eat before the surgery. “How will I make it?” you think.

You arrive at the hospital, early in the morning as directed. You’re nervous, excited and just plain damn tired. You are in the pre-surgery room getting prepped. The hospital gown is handed to you. You succumb to this last step. Shits real now.  It’s too late to turn back now!

Your surgery was a success! Then why do you feel so crappy? Anesthesia my dear! You groggily await your family. They are nervous but rejoice at the sight of you lying in wait. The visit is quick. They will meet up with you in your room in an hour, or so. Suddenly, they are unabashedly hungry. They hurriedly leave, relieved you’re alive.

Your room! You are so happy to be here, for now. It will soon feel like a prison for the endlessly seeming stay of 3 days. You are not prepared for the parade of medical staff checking your vital signs, asking if you have any questions. “Can I go home now?” is not what they mean. You laugh when told that physical therapy will be up soon to get you moving. They mean it. Really. You scoff at the PT when you are told, before you are released, you must be able to go up and down stairs. Unimaginable that this swollen, stapled mess will ever move again. Beg the nurses for Miralax. You are bound to be constipated. (See what I did there?) They aren’t kidding in the commercial, it’s the science of going!

Have your visitors bring you coffee and palatable foods.  Coffee never tastes good in plastic mugs. You will not be served haute cuisine. Bless the hospital food workers. They try. There’s nothing better than a smuggled salami sandwich. HGTV will become your best friend and your worst enemy. Even at your weakest, you will have the strength to mock the “open-concept-couple”. Or those aghast, their children should have to share a bathroom. Oh, yeah. Bring it on. You will find yourself shouting at them. And then the nurses come in, to join your comical rants.

You accomplish small miracles each hour of your captivity, sitting on the edge of the hospital bed. Washing your face has never felt so good. You can only dream of a hot shower and clean hair. Reality hits you. TED stockings are a four-week sentence, unless you want a blood clot! Pro-tip: save the plastic bag they’re in. You can slip it over your toes, to make pulling up the socks a little easier. It won’t be easy, just easier. Oh, you will hate them.

You made it up and down the stairs. The physical therapist is releasing you. You are going home! You, and your amazing swelled legs, are squeezed into a car. Hospital slippers adorn your puffy feet. It’s still glorious to be getting out of the hospital and into fresh air!

As you pull up to your home, your first of many fearful thoughts flash in your mind. “How am I going to get in?” Stairs. Lot of stairs. You can do this! “Up with the good, down with the bad” you chant. Now, it’s time to show what you’re made of. Your ride pulls the crutches from the trunk. You sit, plotting. The door opens. Fresh air fills your lungs. You look at your legs and wonder how are you going to move them towards the house. You do it! You’re in! Find a comfortable chair. Look around. All the wonderful squeaks, creaks and groans serenade you. The coffee tastes better. Food is glorious. You crawl carefully onto your bed. Peace. Followed by boredom.

“Boredom?” As the anesthetics wear off, you’ll be restless and have trouble sleeping.  You  are tired of just sitting. You want to feel better, be better. Hunger will elude you. You’re uncomfortable. Recording your meds is tedious. Your staples are sore. TED stockings should be used as an instrument of torture. No one told you there was a mental/emotional side to healing, along with the physical. Put plans in place to keep your mind busy. First your mind, then your body. Your recovery should not be a marathon of HGTV. Give yourself a week and then get mentally active. This comes before physical activity. Listen to music. Sing along. Those lyrics will come back to you.  Enjoy the beauty of online shopping. Hello Amazon! Converse with your family. Write letters to your friends. Don’t bore them with details. Talk about what you can do together in a few weeks. Listen to books on CD or online. Take an online class. This is the perfect time to learn something new. Craft away. Finish a project you started. Write down all the promises to yourself, to use this experience as a second chance. You want to live life to its fullest. You cannot measure improvements by days with joint replacement surgery. You measure by weeks. Every week you will make successive progress. You’re going to be fine in a few weeks. You’ll get over your fear of falling. Wait. What? The world will become one of steps and opportunities to fall. It won’t last once you regain your confidence and feel in control again.Who knew?

If you have any concerns, always rely on your resources. Your visiting nurse, physical therapist and your surgeon. You have a team to support you, to answer your questions. Please ask them! Surgery is serious! Remember to do your physical therapy. It’s very important to do the exercises. Surgery replaces the joint, but now you have to work everything else. The ability to bend and straighten have never been so important.

You’ve got the grit to get through this. Use your tenacity to make the changes that need to be made. Just keep moving forward with your goals, small or large. You’re going to be great! This isn’t a defeat, it’s a new opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because I said orzo……

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Mediterranean Orzo Salad

It’s cookout time, which means the endless search for sides has begun. I love my mayo, but sometimes you want something different. I searched the internet for an orzo salad similar to one at a local grocery store. I don’t go there often since they moved things around, including staff. It’s not like home any more. My photo is a little fuzzy because I was dizzy at the thought of sampling….a little more. For any orzo salad, it’s about colors and flavors. The dressing for this recipe makes it special. With the saltiness of the feta and the Kalamata olives, you need some balance, some sweetness. The lemon juice and honey are the perfect harmony of sweet and salty. I used it on a regular green salad the next day. It’s different. It’s fresh tasting. It’s new and improved……it’s got lemon!!! (old marketing major joke…..add lemon for more shelf space).

Enough yapping, let’s make some orzo salad!

12 ounces orzo pasta, cooked, drained and cooled

1 cup red grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup yellow grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup Kalamata olives, halved

1 7-ounce package Feta cheese, crumbled

1 cup chopped green onions

1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/2 whole red onion, diced-or as much or as little as  you want!

3 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

1 cucumber peeled and diced

Dressing/vinaigrette

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. honey

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Let me just warn you. A whole box of orzo, is A LOT OF ORZO. You may want to reduce it to half of a box, for your first go around. It’s more than plenty, as a side, for 4 or 5 people. You may have noticed there is a lot of mincing and chopping. Get some cereal bowls for the veggies, and get busy. Turn on some tunes to make it less tedious. It’s worth the work. You will admire all the bright colors that will become a delicious salad. If you don’t like some of the ingredients, exclude them, change them, do what you’d like. It’s your salad. Pro tip for the cucumber. After you peel it, slice the cuke lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scrape out the seeds, and toss them. Then you chop the cucumber. This prevents your salad from getting watery. Place the orzo and other ingredients in a big bowl. Give them a stir.                                                                                                                                         Whatever you do, do not omit the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, and honey in a small bowl. Whisk the olive oil in gradually. You can also put it in a glass canning jar and shake…or stir. Season with salt and pepper. Honestly, the only thing I measured was the red wine vinegar. I guesstimated the lemon juice and honey. Get a spoon and taste. Isn’t it great? Lemon and honey! This can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill if making ahead. Drizzle the dressing over the exquisitely minced veggies and feta. Feta is bettah! (I’ve been waiting for 500 or so words to say that!) Mix it together. Stand back and admire your work. If you are reducing the salad by half, reduce the dressing too. If you have any left over, try it on a regular green salad, to fancy it up.

Enjoy!