Simple Fruit Salad

We have a box of (mostly) local, seasonal produce delivered every two weeks and it’s always a little but like a treasure hunt to open it up and see what delicious and unusual goodies are in store for us to enjoy. This week, we got both a small cantaloupe and some fresh mint. I was so excited! One of my favorite things to do with mint is mix it into a fruit salad. It adds just a touch of freshness and the bright green is really pretty. I added a little crumbled feta to the cubed cantaloupe and chopped mint to make this delicious little salad to enjoy with our black bean burgers. Light, simple, and yummy.

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Roasted Balsamic Chicken & Greek Orzo

Sunday Supper! A tangy spin on a traditional roasted chicken accompanied by a simple and delicious orzo pasta salad.

I have come to absolutely LOVE roasting chickens in the crockpot. It is SO easy and the chicken pretty much can’t get too dry because the moisture is all locked in with the crockpot lid (you can over-cook it to the point that all the meat falls off the bone, but it’s still totally edible!). Roll a few balls of foil in the bottom of the pot, placed a rinsed and seasoned chicken on top (I used basil, thyme and oregano for this one) and “set it and forget it”! I drizzled some balsamic over the top to flavor the chicken, and while the orzo was cooking, made a simple balsamic reduction glaze (about 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar and 2 tbl of honey, simmered for around 30 minutes, until it began to thicken) to pour over the cooked chicken.

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The orzo is basic, too. Orzo is a really fun pasta to cook with, though it does require some attention, as you have to stir is constantly while it cooks. The effort is worth it, though, as the pasta almost takes on a creamy quality, and you can throw in all kinds of yumminess to add variety to your meal. For this Greek-inspired salad, I threw half a dice red onion, 2 minced cloves of garlic and a few lugs of olive oil into a large saucepan and cooked until the onion was soft and fragrant. Then, I added the orzo, and stirred it around to cost the pasta in oil. This is where things get a little bit demanding: to continue to cook the orzo, add chicken stock or water a half a cup or so at a time, stirring and allowing the orzo to cook and absorb the liquid. Once the liquid is absorbed, add more liquid, and repeat the process until the orzo is cooked through (this takes as long as 30 minutes depending on how much orzo you are cooking, and up to about 5 cups of liquid). When the orzo is nearly done you can begin to play with the flavors, adding wine, cream, Parmesan, or other seasonings. I kept things simple tonight, and added some salt, pepper, and roughly chopped mushrooms. Once the pasta finished, I let it cool a bit before adding some more olive oil, chopped tomatoes, basil, Kalamata olives, marinated artichoke hearts and feta cheese. Tossed it all together and served at room temperature with my chicken.

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Happy Spring!

Though Chicago had snow on its streets this morning, the first day of spring shaped up to be a pleasant one and inspired a Spring Veggie Pizza for dinner.

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You’ll need a pizza crust, sauce, mozzarella cheese and an assortment of veggies for this pie. I used asparagus, mushrooms, red onion and black olives. I choose to used a premade pizza crust and sauce, but you can certainly make your own!

Build your pie with sauce, then cheese followed by veggies. It can help to layer cheese with the veggies to help them stick together when you bake your pizza.

Bake as needed by your crust at 450 degrees (15 minutes or more). Allow to sit for 5 before you slice and enjoy!

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Cooking with baby

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We start ’em early in my clan! Though she is only 10 weeks, I look to involve my little one is any aspect of the kitchen that I can-even if all that means is taking it all in while momma cooks up a simple Alfredo. Though I admit it isn’t easy, I refuse to let taking care of baby affect eating well. And eating fresh, homecooked meals is better for everyone! Love my little girl!

Operation Baby Belly Be Gone!

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It’s 3 o’clock and the chocolate chip cookies are my counter are practically begging me to eat them. I wasn’t prepared for how hungry I would feel ALL THE TIME as a result of breastfeeding. With babe-in-arms, I’m challenged to grab a healthy snack when potato chips and cookies are available. However, I am six weeks postpartum and have decided it’s time to get serious about losing the leftover baby belly. Step one: green smoothies.

I’ve attempted to jump on the green smoothie bandwagon before, unsuccessfully. But, thanks to mintarrow.com’s Green Smoothie Milkshake Fake, I’m hoping to become a convert. I made a few modifications to her recipe (below), and hope to work up to a real, grown-up type green smoothie someday…someday. 🙂 And thankfully, it’s pretty easy to throw it all in the blender, even one handed.

GREEN SMOOTHIE MILKSHAKE FAKE by mintarrow.com

1 cup almond milk
2/3 cup fage greek yogurt (didn’t have this, so I skipped it)
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter (I used about 1/4 cup)
2-3 heaping handfuls spinach (Baby steps. I used one, tiny handful)
1/2 frozen ripe banana (I used a whole one)
**I also added about 1/4 cup of raw oats

Nostalgia

Made homemade chicken stock in the crockpot over the weekend, which resulted in making the easiest and tastiest vegetable white bean soup. Tastes and smells just like my Grandad’s soup he made for me when I was little. 🙂

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Falling into Autumn

There are so many things in life I love, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve grown to love fall more and more. I love fall weather, with its crisp, sunshiny days. I love fall leaves and the colors they make on the trees. I love fall days with trips to apple orchards and pumpkin patches. And most of all, I love fall foods. Fall means soups, and squash, and snuggling in with a cup of spiced cider before bedtime-what’s not to love?

We have tried to make the most of our fall, even though it took awhile to show up in Chicago. Here area few pictures from an adventure to County Line Orchard in Hobart, Indiana.

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Making the most of fall means new fall recipes, too! Our produce box has been full of hearty fall deliciousness, including all kinds of squash varieties, one of which was a lovely little spaghetti squash. Believe it or not, I’d actually never made a spaghetti squash before, but some time on Pinterest looking over a few recipes, and I was prepared to make something yummy. The creation below was warm, filling, and delicious – everything fall is all about.

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    Baked Spaghetti Squash “Mac” and Cheese

1 small-medium sized spaghetti squash, cut in half and “gutted”
3-4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
2 cups milk or cream (I combined 1 cup half and half with 1 cup of almond milk)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon garlic salt
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cover each squash half in aluminum foil. Place squash skin-side down in a baking dish with a small amount of water in the bottom (1/4-1/2 inch, covering dish). Bake until squash is cooked through, 45 minutes to one hour.

While the squash is baking, combine milk and flour in a small sauce pan. Whisk thoroughly. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently; add garlic salt, basil, and pepper while stirring. One mixture has boiled, allow to boil while stirring for one minute, then reduce heat. Simmer while stirring in 2 1/2 to 3 cups of cheese, depending on how rich you want your cheese sauce to be. Add cheese a handful at a time, stirring to melt after each handful is added.

Take the squash out of the oven and remove the foil. Allow to cool just enough to handle, and using a fork, remove the “noodles” from the sides of the squash. Then, add enough of the cheese sauce to each half to cover the “noodles” entirely. Top with extra Parmesan and bread crumbs, then bake another 20 minutes or so. If the topping doesn’t get brown and bubbly, turn up under the broiler for a few minutes before serving. Let it cool and set for a few minutes before enjoying!

(Just a note- the cheese mixture becomes very thick, but baking in the squash is does water down and thin out a bit, so don’t be afraid to load it up!)