side dish

Recipe of the week: cheesy orzo with pancetta and peas

I don't know where he got his inspiration, but hubby had a stroke of genius last week when he suggested a yummy updated to one of our usual side dishes - cheesy orzo.  I present to you cheesy orzo with pancetta and peas (and yes, it could use a catchier title, but oh man, it's tasty!). The dish is quick and easy and only needs orzo, cream, cheddar, pancetta, and peas (chicken stock is optional).  I don't use measurements for these kinds of dishes, so it's a taste-and-adjust-as-you-go kind of meal.

Start by cooking however much orzo you want - this can be done in just plain water, or half water/half chicken stock.

While the orzo is humming along, you will want to cook your diced (not finely diced, but not too big either - I know, not scientific, but just roll with it) pancetta (thick cut bacon would probably also work, though I haven't tried that yet).  Cook the pancetta a little longer than you would usually cook bacon - the crunchy pieces will be a nice texture addition to the dish (be careful, though - I set off our smoke detectors this first time I made this).  You will also want to grate your cheddar cheese and cook your peas (canned peas can also be used, but I tend to prefer the consistency of frozen peas).

Once the orzo is cooked (slightly al dente, but very close to fully cooked), drain it, return it to the pot, and add some heavy cream.  Then start adding the cheddar, stirring it in as you add it.  Once you are happy with the cheesiness of the orzo, just add the cooked peas and pancetta.

This is a super simple side dish that is a wonderful addition to baked chicken, meatloaf, or fish, and can be adapted in so many ways to fit your preferences. Let me know what you think, if you give it a try!  I'd love to hear what some others choose to add to the base of cheese & orzo.

Recipe of the Week - Baked Parmesan Zucchini Chips

This recipe is simple and delicious and one of those 'tweakable' wonders that make you feel like a super chef instead of a tired mama... who most likely has some kind of food item or spit up in her hair. Plus, if you have a picky eater who has developed a fear of all things GREEN, getting a taste of these bad boys just might help give them the boost they need to be lean mean green eating machines! I give you the tasty and crispy, Parmesan Zucchini Chips.

To be honest with you I don't remember where the original recipe came from, but I DO remember tweaking a few things here and there so I snagged a basic one off of Food Network as a base to run off of. Instead of blabbing on and on about each step... which wouldn't take that long considering it's an incredibly easy recipe... I figured it would be more entertaining and MOUTH WATERING if I walked you step by step with photos of how it went down in my kitchen.

Step 1, of course, is to preheat your oven. Crank it up to 450 degrees if you please, and continue on to step 2: gathering your ingredients. (see Food Network link for measurements - but DON'T FORGET this is almost fail-safe when it comes to tweaking things to make it your own so have fun!)

parmesan zucchini chip ingredients

MY ingredients included: parmesan cheese Italian breadcrumbs salt pepper garlic powder paprika 1 egg yolk water zucchini

Slice the zucchini into 1/4" thick rounds. The thinner the slice the crispier the chip. I've never been a very meticulous slicer so you should know that even the thicker pieces turned out great, with a soft center and yummy crunchy crust!

zucchini slices


In a small bowl, combine egg yolk and water as a pre-seasoning bath for your zucc. In a separate bowl, combine your spices, breadcrumbs, and cheese.

parmesan mixture

Dip each slice of zucchini into the egg wash and then coat with cheese mixture on both sides. Lay slices on a foiled and greased baking sheet, making sure they are laying flat.

Parmesan Zucchini Chips

As a side note, I ended up sprinkling and pressing some of the larger pieces of Parmesan onto the tops of the zucchini for added flavor and because cheese is kind of the best thing in the world. TOTALLY up to you.

Next BAKE the chips for 25-30 minutes, turning 1/2 way through with a spatula to make sure the bottom sides gets nice and crispy.

Parmesan Zucchini Chips

FINALLY you can enjoy the crispy, cheesy, deliciousness of these bite-sized veggie chips. WOW your kids with your amazing cooking skills and watch their adorable little faces as they realize they actually LIKE this mysterious green food. Then, pat yourself on the back and add this recipe to your stack of go-to options for any night of the week!

What did I tell you, simple and delicious! I won't ramble on any longer, but instead let you get right into the recipe! So, in the words of Julia Child... Bon Appetit!

Recipe of the Week - Sweet Potato Casserole

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is the Sweet Potato Casserole. Those of you who attended the Café a few weeks ago know why. It’s sweet yet salty, creamy yet crunchy. I eat the leftovers for breakfast, lunch and dinner all weekend long if I’m lucky enough to have any leftovers. This year I’ll probably get smart and do what I did for the Café – double the recipe and prepare my own little bowl just in case! Sweet Potato Casserole Sweet Potato Casserole 3 cups sweet potato, drained ½ cup sugar ½ tsp salt 2 eggs 1 stick of butter ½ cup milk 1 tsp vanilla ¼ tsp cinnamon

Topping ½ cup sugar 1/3 cup flour 1 stick butter Optional – pecans and/or walnuts

Mix all together. Put in casserole dish. Cover with topping. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes uncovered.

**The most important thing to remember about this recipe is that you can (and should) cut the butter and sugar in half and you will not taste a difference.  I’ve also used raw sugar instead of cane and I always use whole wheat (white) flour. Enjoy!

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