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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Earthy Frittata

This frittata combines earthy mushrooms, yellow squash, and oregano with sweet corn for a wonderful savory summer meal. The cheesy, crunchy topping will make you come back for seconds and thirds! 

Earthy Frittata | thepajamachef.com

I first fell in love with frittatas a few summers ago when we got a CSA through a vendor at our local farmer’s market. Man, I miss that farmer’s market so much. I just haven’t found one in Nashville that compares! :(But that’s alright, Nashville wins in plenty of other ways [read: BBQ. beautiful parks. our awesome church. our cats getting along. I could go on and on and on.]. Maybe someday I’ll find a farmer’s market I adore. But back to this frittata. It is gooooooood! And chock-ful of all your summer favorites, ready to eat hot or cold for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Earthy Frittata | thepajamachef.com

Though I still make this kale frittata more often than a certain husband of mine might like, I do try to branch out in my frittata-making. Aside from this pizza frittata, I think this one is the most different, simply  because of the crunchy topping. I usually finish off my frittatas with a sprinkling of cheese on top but now I know the secret for impressing Ben with a frittata: add cheese AND panko! Seriously! It sounds weird to add bread crumbs to an egg dish, but it works! It almost makes this healthy meal into a hearty comfort food casserole, and almost keeps him occupied enough not to notice the mushrooms [which aren't his favorite thing ever]. I used shiitake mushrooms because Ben likes those more than traditional white mushrooms, but either can work.

Earthy Frittata | thepajamachef.com

The best thing with frittatas is that they are totally customizable, so feel free to play around with the mix-ins. Use zucchini instead of squash, or tomatoes instead of corn. Use another herb or a different type of cheese. But don’t forget about the topping… it’s what really makes this frittata stand out! Enjoy!

two years ago: Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread
three years ago: Pillow Cookies
four years ago: Tomato Pie

Earthy Frittata

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes active + 30 minutes for squash to rest
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Ingredients:

  • 1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced [white mushrooms also would be fine]
  • kernels from one ear of corn
  • crushed red pepper
  • 8 eggs
  • 2-3 sprigs Greek oregano [or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano]
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Herb Panko breadcrumbs [or add a little Italian seasoning and a dash of Parmesan to regular toasted breadcrumbs or Panko]

Directions:

Place sliced yellow squash in a large colander in the sink. Sprinkle with salt and let rest for 30 minutes to draw out excess moisture. Roll in a clean kitchen towel and gently press squash to dry and draw out moisture.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a 10 inch oven proof skillet, melt butter over medium heat. When hot, add squash and mushrooms and cook 3-4 minutes until they begin to soften. Add corn and season with crushed red pepper and stir to combine. Cook another minute or so.

Whisk eggs, oregano, and water together, then pour into skillet, taking care to distribute vegetables evenly throughout egg mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes until eggs are starting to set.

Next, top frittata with cheese and breadcrumbs, then bake for 10-15 minutes or until eggs are fully set and cheese is melted. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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.

Best Ever Homemade Pizza

This homemade pizza dough bakes up golden brown, soft, and chewy, and is the perfect base for your favorite pizza toppings!

Best Ever Homemade Pizza | thepajamachef.com

I used to think homemade pizza was lame. When I made it, it just never seemed as good as delivery or pizza shop pizza. Even though I shared recipes for pizza here on my blog I kinda thought homemade pizza was a frugal substitute for the real deal. But then I had GOOD homemade pizza, made by several different friends, and realized I was just doing it wrong. C’est la vie, right?

Best Ever Homemade Pizza | thepajamachef.com

That’s what prompted me to do something about it and put “homemade pizza dough” on my 30 before 30 list. I was determined to find the BEST homemade pizza dough. I tried several recipes… and you guys… I think this it it! [And not because of those delicious brown cheese bubbles there. :)]

Best Ever Homemade Pizza | thepajamachef.com

This dough is chewy, flavorful, and the perfect palate for any pizza topping. I haven’t added any seasoning to the dough because I don’t think it needs it, but feel free to doctor it up if it’s your thing… especially if that helps your pizza toppings succeed. Prefer something traditional? Great. Perfect a taco pizza? Awesome. Anything goes–really! This is dough bakes into a beautiful golden brown crust reminiscent of Pizza Hut pan pizza–not too thick or too thin, just right.

Best Ever Homemade Pizza | thepajamachef.com

Though this recipe is yeast based, it’s really easy. Seriously–it’s hard to mess up since it just has one rise. The dough is so soft and smooth after it rises that you can easily press or roll  it into the pizza pan. Some doughs are sticky–this isn’t one of them! Definitely try it and see what you think. I’m going to use it for calzones next! YUM!

Best Ever Homemade Pizza4

P.S. I did some work on my blog this week–what do you think? Let me know if anything looks funky and I’ll check it out. Thanks!

one year ago: Mango Quick Cake Squares
two years ago: Cookie Dough Dip
three years ago: Rhubarb Muffins

Best Ever Homemade Pizza

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1hr 30mins
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from Creative Savings
Ingredients:

for pizza dough

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 package [2 1/4 teaspoons] active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

for rest of pizza

  • cornmeal for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce – I like this recipe from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures and usually add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • toppings as desired – pepperoni, diced peppers, sliced mushrooms, spinach, chopped tomatoes, etc.

Directions:

In a large bowl [I usually use my stand mixer but you don't have to], whisk together warm water and yeast to dissolve. I heat the water about 15-20 seconds in the microwave so it feels like bathwater–too hot will kill the yeast. Then add warm milk, olive oil, salt, and sugar. Whisk or blend on low to combine. Add in 2 cups flour and stir or blend to incorporate. Gradually add in another cup to 1 1/4 cups of flour in 1/4 cup increments to form a soft dough.

Knead [either in mixer or on a clean, flour-dusted surface] for 6-8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Grease a large bowl and place pizza dough in it, turning once to coat. Cover with a towel and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Partway through the dough rising process, preheat oven to 400 degrees so it’s nice and hot when it’s time to bake.

When dough is ready, punch down and press or roll onto a pizza pan that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Top with sauce, cheese, and desired toppings. Bake for 18-20 minutes, broiling the last minute or so to brown the cheese. Let cool for 5-8 minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

We even made a his and hers version of this pizza this weekend… SO GOOD! Make it now! Please. :)

Lightened Up Cheesy Sausage Grits Breakfast Casserole

Since moving South, Ben and I have been exposed to many new things. From language [y'all] to restaurants [meat and threes] to just a slower pace [though Nashville isn't quite as sloooow as other places in the South], life here is different. We love it here, but have become pretty proud of our Northern roots. Case in point: my birthday is coming up next month and I am begging Ben to get me a super sweet Indiana-shaped pendant necklace from an etsy shop. Gotta support Indiana from afar!! Though there are some areas/stereotypes of Southern culture that we don’t embrace, there is one MAJOR one that we do: the food! And what is more Southern than grits?

Lightened Up Sausage Cheese Grits Breakfast Casserole | thepajamachef.com

I actually [willingly] ate grits before moving to Nashville, but they are all over the place here, but these… oh my… THESE are the best I’ve ever had! It’s probably because they were made in the South. :) I don’t think it was the cheese that helped, do you?

Lightened Up Cheesy Sausage Grits Breakfast Casserole | thepajamachef.com

This breakfast casserole is a fun alternative to the traditional potato-based breakfast casserole. The leftovers fed us breakfast [and lunch and dinner] for days, which is absolutely wonderful for busy weekday mornings. Though it seems pretty funny to call this recipe “lightened up” because it’s so indulgent, it is light compared to many recipes.

Lightened Up Cheesy Sausage Grits Breakfast Casserole | thepajamachef.com

Serve this casserole with fruit, potatoes, toast, or any other traditional breakfast sides and I can guarantee you this meal will be absolutely devoured, day after day! It is so good. Enjoy!

one year ago: Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd Filling and Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
two years ago: Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken
three years ago: Sweet and Spicy Peanut Soup

Lightened Up Cheesy Sausage Grits Breakfast Casserole [adapted from South Your Mouth]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups quick-cooking grits
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage [regular or turkey]
  • 6 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 5 egg whites, beaten
  • 3 eggs, beaten

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring water and chicken broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in grits and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Brown sausage in a large skillet, breaking apart with a wooden spoon to crumble. Drain well and set aside.

Add cheese, milk, butter, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne to the grits. Stir until the cheese melts, then stir in sausage and eggs/egg whites.

Pour mixture into a 9×13 baking dish. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. A knife inserted in the center should come out clean. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Time: 90 minutes [20 minutes active].

Yield: 16 servings.

Notes: 6 whole eggs can be used instead of the 5 egg whites/3 egg combo that I chose. To make ahead, prepare casserole as directed then cover and refrigerate overnight. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking as directed above.

Linked up with: Tuesday Talent Show.