Pasta, Recipes, Sides

SRC: Dijon Balsamic Orzo Salad

This orzo pasta salad is filled with all of my favorite flavors… dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Simple and sophisticated, this dish can fill all your summer party needs!

Dijon Balsamic Orzo Salad | thepajamachef.com | #summer #tomatoes #salad #secretrecipeclub #healthy

Ben and I moved to a new house this spring. Though we’re still in Nashville, we are on the other side of town, and as such, have had to get used to new everything. New grocery stores, new commutes, new running paths(!!!), new neighbors… and a new farmer’s market. Our local market is only a couple years old, and as such, is still pretty small. BUT size does not equal quality. Quality > quantity, ya know? Last weekend at the market, I couldn’t resist ALL the lovely tomatoes that have started to pop up. They’re juicy and sweet and oh-s0-pretty. And what better dish to celebrate summer tomatoes than a pasta salad?

Dijon Balsamic Orzo Salad | thepajamachef.com | #summer #tomatoes #salad #secretrecipeclub #healthy

This orzo and tomato pasta salad comes together, as its name implies, with a fantastic dijon-balsamic dressing. It’s funny, I found this recipe on Heather’s blog, Join Us, Pull Up a Chair. She’s my Secret Recipe Club assignment for the month of July… and her family didn’t care for the salad very much due to the tanginess of the dressing. But I made it anyway. HA! I read the recipe before the blog post so that explains it. And the dressing was tangy, for sure. I adjusted the proportions a little but the balsamic and dijon flavors are pretty prominent and strong. If the dressing is too tangy for your taste, add more extra virgin olive oil, or add some honey. Ben and I thought it was perfect, a great pairing with the sweet tomatoes and fresh basil. MMM!

Dijon Balsamic Orzo Salad | thepajamachef.com | #summer #tomatoes #salad #secretrecipeclub #healthy

One of the reasons I love participating in the SRC is getting to check out the blogs of other foodies. There’s always SO many good recipes to choose from. Heather started her blog several years ago as way to organize all her recipes because they were taking over her office. I can relate to that! Some of the other recipes I found on her blog that I can’t wait to try include snickerdoodle biscotti, Kung Pao chickpeas, cranberry hootiecreeks [what an awesome name for a cookie!], and cranberry vanilla shortbread cookies. If any of those recipes sound up your alley, be sure to check out Heather’s blog! I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do. And don’t forget to make this dijon balsamic orzo salad, stat! Enjoy!

one year ago: Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame
two years ago: Ginger Banana Waffles
three years ago: Minty Asian Slaw
four years ago: Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Dijon Balsamic Orzo Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
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slightly adapted from Join Us, Pull Up a Chair

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces orzo pasta [another small shape would work too]
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 – 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced [if you really like garlic… if not, use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder]
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade

Directions:

Cook orzo according to package directions. While orzo is cooking, toss tomatoes and chickpeas together in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, oregano, and garlic. When pasta is cooked, drain and then place in bowl with the tomatoes. Stir together, then pour dressing and toss to coat. Season with pepper to taste, then stir in basil or use as a garnish.

If the dressing is too tangy for your taste, add more extra virgin olive oil, or add some honey.

Salad tastes great warm, at room temperature, or cold. Also, it doubles easily! Add other veggies or some cheese if desired.

Click below for more recipes from this month’s edition of the Secret Recipe Club!

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Main Dishes, Recipes, Salads, Sauces

Greek Dressing

Who says simple is boring? This quick and easy greek dressing takes just a few minutes and a few ingredients but is so good that you’ll never want to buy bottled dressing again!

Greek Dressing | thepajamachef.com #simple #healthy #salad

 

Greek salad has been my LIFE recently. I’ve eaten a huge bowl for lunch everyday the past couple weeks, and think that’s going to happen again soon. [But I need more tomatoes!] My philosophy is… a big salad for lunch means dinner can be whatever I want. Even mac & cheese from Panera. That stuff is so good and I’d never ordered it myself until last Wednesday, much to Ben’s relief [on Panera dates before I’d always steal like half his bowl]. Because salad for lunch = indulgence for dinner. Or something like that. Right?!?

Greek Dressing | thepajamachef.com #simple #healthy #salad

Anyways, salad. And this dressing. I just can’t get enough! It’s creamy and tangy and so so fresh. I know my Greek salad isn’t exactly authentic and this dressing isn’t either, but it’s close enough. It’s full of flavor–all garlicky and lemony and herby! Just perfect. Some salad dressings are a little too oily without enough vinegar and acid to balance things out, but this half and half combo is just how I like it. I adapted a grandma recipe [not my grandma, but Laurie’s] so that’s why it must be so good! 🙂

Greek Dressing | thepajamachef.com #simple #healthy #salad

I use this dressing to top off a simple Greek salad of romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, red onion, and feta. Heavy on the chickpeas and feta for me, please! If you like, you can add olives or chicken or whatever else sounds good. Apparantly the dressing is also a killer chicken marinade. Filing that bit ‘o info away for next time! BTW this dressing keeps for about a week in the fridge, so feel free to make a double batch. You’ll need it!

three years ago: Cinnamon Bacon Carbonara
four years ago: Lime Yogurt Cake with Raspberry Sauce

Greek Dressing

  • Servings: 8 ounces
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adapted from Simply Scratch
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup oregano, loosely packed [or 1 teaspoon dried oregano]
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
  • to serve with a simple salad: torn romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, red onion, feta

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. I love my immersion blender for this! Taste and season with additional salt or pepper if necessary.

You can also finely chop the oregano and mince the garlic and shake all ingredients together.

Store in a jar, refrigerated, for up to a week.

Linked up with Weekend Potluck.

Appetizers, Recipes, Sides, Vegetables

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
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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.

Main Dishes, Recipes, Sauces

Enchilada Sauce

My absolute favorite type of food is Mexican. From quesadillas to tacos to burritos to chips & salsa, I love it all. While I almost always in the mood for a dinner out at a local Mexican restaurant, lately, for health and financial reasons I have been recreating restaurant meals at home. This enchilada sauce is phenomenal. It is also very versatile. I’ve made full recipes and halved it, made it with homemade tomato sauce, plain ole tomatoes, and store-bought tomato sauce, and adjusted the spiciness–and even used fresh oregano instead of dried. Feel free to play around and find the balance that works for you! It’s yummy! 🙂

Easy Homemade Enchilada Sauce | thepajamachef.com

Enchilada Sauce

  • Servings: about 2 1/2 cups
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Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces tomato sauce
  • 4 ounces chopped green chilies
  • 1/4-1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder [I’ve been using this Mexican-style chili powder, and using less because it’s spicier.]
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, or about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:

Using a food processor, puree all ingredients until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste. Pour in a medium saucepan and heat uncovered until warm. Simmer until ready to use.

To make enchiladas I fill tortillas with cooked and seasoned meat [pork, chicken, ground beef], 1/8-1/4 cup enchilada sauce, a sprinkling of cheddar cheese or cream cheese, as well as beans, rice, salsa, spinach/lettuce, etc. Roll tortillas and place in a greased shallow baking dish. Cover with additional sauce and/or cheese if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until golden and crispy.

Easy Homemade Enchilada Sauce | thepajamachef.com
Dinner is served!

Easy as that… dinner is ready! 🙂