Greek Orzo Pasta Salad

So, I used to post once a month on a blog called Today’s Housewife. In fall 2012, the group decided together to stop posting due the busyness of life and families and such. Though sad, I enjoyed being part of the group. As of early January, the blog was officially taken down. But I don’t want to lose my recipes, so periodically I will be reposting them on here. Enjoy!

~

from April 14, 2011… this salad is delicious and I need to make it again!

Greek Orzo Pasta Salad | thepajamachef.com

My husband and I each take our lunches with us almost everyday, him to work and me to grad school. Not only is it less expensive to pack lunches, but it’s a lot healthier (and tastier) than eating out as long as you pack the right things. I discovered early on in our marriage that the best way to ensure that we each had delicious, filling lunches that would rival anything at a restaurant was to spend some time in advance doing some lunch preparation. So I started spending an hour or so every Sunday after church prepping our lunchtime vegetables and making a grab-and-go main course option. Then, every week night while we’re cooking dinner or cleaning up, we assemble our lunches for the next day. Having components in the fridge ready to go makes it a snap!

Pasta salads are one of my top choices for packed lunches as they are good served hot or cold, are customizable, and can be quite filling depending on the ingredients. I love that I can make a big batch to eat from throughout the week. This Greek-inspired dish was born out of the need to finish some random ingredients taking up space in my fridge such as a jar of sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives that I used in a recent dinner, Pantry Pasta for Two. Each bite is a little different, and the sweet tang of lemon and tomatoes coupled with the bite of olives and the rich flavor of feta cheese is incredible. You’ll have to try it to believe it, but one bite and you’ll be hooked. It’s like a trip to the Greek Isles without every leaving your lunchbox! Not that I’ve ever been… (hint, hint husband!) I’m not sure this is a super kid-friendly dish depending on picky eaters’ palates, but I think it’d be great for girls’ lunches or family gatherings. Enjoy!
three years ago: The Best Panini Ever
four years ago: Maple Pecan Pear Scones

Greek Orzo Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 30 minutes
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adapted from Allrecipes.com
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup orzo pasta, uncooked (or any small pasta)
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (I used the oil that my tomatoes were packed in for extra flava!)
  • zest of 1 large lemon (maybe a couple tablespoons?)
  • juice of 1 large lemon (perhaps 1/4-1/3 cup?)
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup spinach leaves, torn and packed
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pasta water, reserved
Directions:
Prepare orzo according to package directions. Before draining, be sure to reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. If you’re like me and don’t have a fine strainer, place a (unused) coffee filter inside your regular strainer. Then drain your pasta carefully so as not to tear the coffee filter and spoon the pasta into a medium bowl. Immediately stir in sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, olives, lemon zest, spinach, and parsley. Mix gently to combine, then add lemon juice. Add feta cheese after a minute or so to let the pasta cool off (unless you don’t mind melted feta cheese). If needed, incorporate a little pasta water to make sure everything is fully coated, especially if you’ll be storing the salad for more than a day, as the sauce tends to be absorbed by the noodles over time. I used about 2-3 teaspoons of water. Season with black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
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Baked Cauli-Tots [Two Ways]

These cauli-tots are cheesy and crunchy, the perfect appetizer or side dish! Make them with cauliflower and add in some yellow squash or zucchini if desired! 

Baked Cauli-Tots [Two Ways] | thepajamachef.com

Before last month, I don’t think I have ever purchased a head of cauliflower in my life. I eat it, sure. It was a constant staple in the holiday vegetable tray throughout my childhood. If it’s on a salad bar, I’ll have some. If it’s in the mixed veggies of the day at a restaurant, same deal. But I don’t really buy it. Oh wait! I have purchased cauliflower once, to make fakeout alfredo sauce. Ben wasn’t fooled–this recipe is much better. But anyways, you get the gist. Cauliflower and I aren’t BFFs, not really. More like acquaintances of convenience or chance. Until NOW [mwahahaha, sorry Benjamin].

Baked Cauli-Tots [Two Ways] | thepajamachef.com

I’m not sure what convinced me to buy cauliflower this time, except that it was on sale. After much deliberation about what to make, I was in the kitchen whipping up these cute little tots. They are cheesy with the perfect crunchy shell. Since my initial foray into caul-tot making, I’ve messed around with the recipe a bit, adding some fresh herbs and even subbing out some of the cauliflower for yellow squash or zucchini. These little tots are addictive and are a great way to sneak in some extra veggies to a meal!

Baked Cauli-Tots [Two Ways] | thepajamachef.com

I can’t wait to experiment with more flavor combos with these tots… different cheeses, different herbs, different spices… I can’t wait! #sendhelptoBen Apparently, they freeze well too, but my batches haven’t lasted long enough to try that! My leftovers made an excellent lunch. Hope you enjoy!

one year ago: Quinoa Black Bean Burritos with Southwest Sauce
two years ago: Summery Squash and Chicken Lasagna
three years ago: Kale Frittata for Two
four years ago: Jambalaya 

Baked Cauli-Tots Two Ways

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Time: 30 minutes
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adapted from Cupcakes and Kale Chips

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups packed shredded cauliflower, water squeezed out with a kitchen towel [I use the shredding blade on my food processor. You can use the stems as well as florets.] – this is about half a head of cauliflower
    • If desired, you can make these squash-cauli tots by REDUCING the shredded cauliflower to 2 1/2 cups and ADDING 1 small shredded yellow squash or zucchini, water squeezed out with a kitchen towel [approximately 1 1/4 cups squash]
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
    • If squash or zucchini is added, increase the cornmeal to 1/3 cup
  • generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, optional [I used Thai basil and oregano]
  • dipping sauce, as desired – this homemade Chick-Fil-A sauce is great!

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray two mini muffin pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together cauliflower, squash [if using], cheese, egg, cornmeal, pepper, mustard, and herbs [if using]. Spoon into prepared muffin tins, pressing mixture down firmly.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp along the edges and golden brown on top.

Serve with dipping sauces as desired. We like honey mustard or bbq sauce best.

Linked up with Weekend Potluck.

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame

Spicy peanut sauce, noodles, kale, and edamame meet in an addictive, easy pseudo-takeout meal that can be enjoyed hot or cold–what’s not to love?!

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame | thepajamachef.com

This spring/summer Ben and I have been eating sesame or peanut noodles all. the. time. [Side note: is there an actual difference between them? I'm sure there is. The librarian part of me is itching to google this up and see what I find out, but I'll restrain myself.] They have replaced our easy mac & cheese from a box dinners. I have a hard time telling you what recipe I’ve used because a) I have many pinned on Pinterest and b) don’t really measure ingredients for sauces like this because I’ve never taken the time to take a few pictures to share the recipe here! But this time I did. Measure and photograph. :) And this time I didn’t use any recipe except what sounded/looked/tasted good to me. It’s a good thing I did, because my noodles were utterly amazing.

Inspired by the lovely Amy of fearless homemaker and HER spicy peanut & sesame noodles, I added mix-ins to my noodles for the first time ever. What a good choice! Adding some kale and edamame made the textures of everything just pop and look pretty. Dontcha just love all that green?! :)

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame | thepajamachef.com

Ben walked in the door just as I was mixing everything together and was like, “what in the world is that fabulous smell?! You must be the best wife ever for cooking such an incredible dinner.” Okay, maybe his words didn’t come out exactly like that, but the sentiment was there. I know it. But seriously–these noodles DO smell fabulous. The sauce is the perfect balance of spicy, sweet, and fresh flavors. I used ground ginger in the sauce but if I had had fresh ginger… oh man. Use that if you can.

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame | thepajamachef.com

Though I served these noodles as a vegetarian main course, this is a great base recipe to add some meat. I think grilled chicken or thinly sliced steak would be great. Or even shrimp or tofu. This could even be a side dish if you like. We loved every last one of these yummy noodles, and like all good Asian-ish recipes…you can enjoy them hot or cold. They’re great both ways. In the recipe below I included notes about how to prepare them to be more picnic friendly, but no matter how you make them, I’m sure you’ll love ‘em! Enjoy!

one year ago: Ginger Banana Waffles
two years ago: Minty Asian Slaw
three years ago: Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 20min
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Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame | thepajamachef.com

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces thin spaghetti noodles [any sort of thin noodle would work--Asian of any type, linguini, etc.]
  • 3 cups kale, tightly packed & thinly sliced
  • 1 cup Thai basil, loosely packed & chopped
  • 1 cup edamame, shelled & room temperature
  • green onions, sliced, for garnish

for sauce

  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • juice of half a lime [roughly 2 tablespoons]
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger [use 1 inch grated fresh ginger if you have it]
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ~1/2 cup pasta water, to thin sauce

Directions:

Prepare noodles according to package directions. Be sure to reserve about half a cup of pasta’s cooking water to thin the sauce.

While noodles are cooking, whisk together all ingredients for sauce except for the pasta water.

When pasta is ready, drain, and return to pot [or a large bowl]. Add kale, basil, and edamame and toss. Thin dressing with 3 tablespoons of pasta water, whisk, and the pour over noodles and vegetables. Toss well to coat. If necessary, add additional pasta water to thin sauce further, up to a full half cup.

Serve noodles with green onions for garnish.

Note:

Can be enjoyed warm or cold, but the dressing does really absorb into the noodles after refrigeration [which doesn't bother me but does affect presentation] so if you’re making these noodles for an event and want to serve them cold, be sure to rinse well after draining to get rid of starch, toss with a bit of sesame oil, and then refrigerate separately from the sauce and veggies. Toss together before serving. I haven’t tried this technique with this recipe, but I have done similar things for other dishes so I assume it’d work well! Using rice noodles [that you don't boil to cook, thus, they stay cold] might be a good option too.

 

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

This is not your classic macaroni salad… and in my opinion, that’s okay. It’s even BETTER! This macaroni salad is sweet and creamy and has a nice, satisfying crunch to it. There’s fruit and vegetables and all sorts of yummy things! I know that sounds odd, but don’t turn away!

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad | thepajamachef.com

I’ve never made a “real” macaroni salad before because I don’t really like pickles or relish and it seems like every macaroni salad calls for that. I’m not going to buy a jar for just one recipe [but spices on the other hand...]! So when I saw this recipe, I was sold. I don’t really know what made the original recipe “Hawaiian” because to me, you need pineapple to make a recipe Hawaiian. [BTW I know that is SO NOT TRUE but that's where my mind goes!] So I added some. Duh.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad | thepajamachef.com

And I also added some mint for good measure. This addicting salad was just calling for some. Seriously. This is a great dish to make for summer picnics and BBQs, or just an ordinary dinner at home. Ben doesn’t even like mayo-based salads but he willingly ate [and enjoyed] several bowls of this. How’s that for rave reviews? Enjoy!

one year ago: Thai Tofu Ramen
two years ago: Strawberry Coconut Baked Oatmeal
three years ago: Margarita Cupcakes

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 3hr 20mins
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adapted from A Cozy Kitchen
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad | thepajamachef.com
Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup carrots, finely diced
  • 2/3 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 8 ounces crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook and drain macaroni to al dente according to package directions.

Stir together hot macaroni, mayo, carrots, celery, and vinegar. Combine sugar, pepper, and onion powder, add to macaroni, and stir well. Fold in pineapple and mint, then season with pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours to set, overnight if possible. Add a little more mayo before serving if desired. Enjoy!

Author: Sarah K. @ thepajamachef.com

Linked up with Weekend Potluck.

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is one of those things I didn’t know I liked, but once I found out I did, I wanted to make it all the time. This cold Lebanese salad is so fresh and flavorful. It goes with almost anything! I had eaten tabbouleh at the occasional restaurant over the years, but just kinda ate it because it was there. It wasn’t until I went to a Mediterranean theme dinner and decided to try my hand at making a batch that I really fell in love with it.

Tabbouleh | thepajamachef.com

There are a zillion recipes for tabbouleh, though most are pretty much the same: bulghur wheat, parsley, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, etc. I had Marisa‘s recipe pinned and decided to try it out because it was actually her grandma’s recipe, and we all know that grandma recipes are the best! Marisa’s grandma puts an extra spin on it by adding a little allspice at the end. This makes it extra special, in my opinion.

Tabbouleh | thepajamachef.com

I’ve made this salad for several groups now and have actually had some comments on how much better this version is from others. Chance? Or Marisa’s grandma’s special touch? I’ll never know! :) This recipe makes a large bowl–plenty of servings for a party, a week’s worth of lunches, or whatever you fancy! I’m sure the recipe could be halved too if you need less. Oh, and be sure to try scooping some up with pita bread… heavenly!

Tabbouleh | thepajamachef.com

one year ago: Italian Chicken & Veggie Couscous Bowls
two years ago: Banana Crumb Muffins
three years ago: Creamy Taco Mac

Tabbouleh [from Hummus and Jalapenos]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups bulghur wheat [there are different sizes--I used medium]
  • 2 bunches parsley
  • 3-4 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 bunch green onions, diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper, and allspice to taste

Directions:

Rinse bulghur in cold water 3-4 times, then pour boiling water over top. Let rest in large bowl for at least a half hour, then drain with a fine mesh strainer and set aside in a bowl.

Remove stems from parsley and place in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.

Place parsley, tomatoes, green onions, cucumber, lemon juice, and olive oil in bowl with wheat. Season with salt, pepper, and allspice. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Time: 60 minutes.
Yield: 16 servings.