Buffalo Chicken Orzo

When I worked in Zelie, there was a restaurant where we occasionally went that had a really wonderful buffalo chicken pasta.  I have tried to re-create it a few times, and this was by far my best attempt.  I know, I know... it's another buffalo chicken recipe.  But it's so yummy, and it's fun to experiment.  I'm working on a buffalo chicken grilled cheese experiment too - stay tuned!

Buffalo Chicken Orzo

8 oz whole wheat orzo
1 1/2 cup shredded chicken
3/4 cup reduced fat shredded Mexican blend cheese
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
1/8 cup Frank's Red Hot sauce
splash of milk

Cook orzo fully, almost to the point of overcooking.  This pasta tends to absorb a lot of liquid, and you don't want to end up with a dry end result!  While the pasta is cooking, combine the chicken and hot sauce, let it sit to meld the flavors until the pasta is done.  When the pasta is finished cooking, combine all ingredients and serve!  Makes 4 servings, but if you like it a lot or if you're feeding teenage boys, it might only be 2 servings. ;)


My Benedictine Fix

All right, be honest - who reading this knows what Benedictine spread is without cheating and doing a search?  I'm betting most of my friends do not, but those of you who do will be thinking of a creamy cucumber spread that is one of my favorite foods from my native Kentucky.  It's typically used as a dip or sandwich spread but it's good on oh-so-many things.

Anyway, in my quest to lose those last few lbs, the original Benedictine recipe is just not something I can budget for in my daily calorie intake.  So, this was my plan to satisfy my craving without breaking the calorie bank.  I'm thrilled to announce that it worked!

Oh... and one of these days you should really try the original recipe... it's pretty darn good.  If anyone wants it, leave me a comment and I'll see if my lovely Aunt Carrie is willing to let me publish hers.


Benedictine Sandwich

2 slices of your favorite bread (I use Nickles 35 Calorie Light Wheat)
2 T. whipped cream cheese (whipped is key!)
4 slices of fresh cucumber
pinch of salt
pinch of onion powder

If you like, start by toasting the bread.  Spread one slice of bread with cream cheese and arrange cucumber slices on top.  If you're particular about your sandwich style like me, you'll probably cut the slices in half and arrange them to fit without hanging over the edge... Anyway! Sprinkle the cucumber slices with salt and onion powder to taste.  (Good southern girls know that tomatoes, cucumbers and slices of watermelon are always better with a pinch of salt!)  Top it off with the other slice of bread and enjoy!

It's that simple - use it for your on the go lunch or even for your kids' school lunches.


Zucchini Fritters

I had some lovely zucchini from the farmer's market this week, and although I love to just eat it raw with hummus or ranch dip, I figured it would be fun to try something new!

Zucchini Fritters

2 cups shredded/grated zucchini (1 large or 2 small zucchinis)
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (you can use regular whole wheat too)
1 egg
1/2 onion, grated or finely chopped
1/4 cup light sour cream
splash of milk
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425.  Grate your zucchini and onion, or do what I did and run it through the food processor with the shredder blade (super fast!).  Put the onion and zucchini in a paper towel or kitchen towel and squeeze out the excess moisture.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together.  You may need more or less milk depending on the day, so start with a little and add gradually to get a loose dough consistency.  Place on greased cookie sheet by the tablespoon (I used a cookie scoop).  I'd recommend using parchment paper underneath to keep them from sticking but you don't have to.  Flatten the cakes out on the sheet so that they are discs instead of rounded.  Bake for 15 minutes, then flip them and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  Serve warm, with marinara, garlic mayo, ranch or another favorite dipping sauce!


Nutty Yogurt Topping

This particular recipe actually started as a vegan dessert crust, but when I tasted it I realized how many uses it could have if I tweaked it a bit!

Use it as a topping for yogurt, fruit, ice cream or even as the "crumble" on top of a pie or cobbler!  It packs a good amount of protein and it's very simple to make.  I'll be honest - more than once I've just eaten it with a spoon!  Hope you give it a try!

Nutty Yogurt Topping

1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup pecans
12 dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Blend ingredients in food processor to desired consistency.  I personally like to blend it pretty well, until it's close to flax seed or quinoa grain size.  The great part is, you can do it however you like!

* I have also added 1/2 teaspoon almond extract for variety, both in addition to or instead of the vanilla.  One of these days I'm going to try it with orange extract... maybe even tonight... mmmmm.


Creamy Bacon Pasta Bake

Here's another recipe born of my couponing hobby - almost all the ingredients in this recipe came to me as a result of my savings addiction.  I hope those of you who are here locally have been taking advantage of some of these sales!

Creamy Bacon Pasta Bake

12 oz. bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 12-oz. box rotini pasta
1 pkg Philadelphia Cooking Creme, Savory Garlic flavor
1 pkg. Knorr Recipe Classics, French Onion
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup finely shredded mozzarella
2-3 T. bread crumbs
small pinch cayenne

(I cooked the bacon the night before making this - I prefer to make it in the oven because I can get it cooked evenly and with the least amount of grease.  Bake at 325 in the oven on a broiler rack to let the grease drain off.)

Once your bacon is cooked by whatever method you prefer, cook your pasta according to package directions.  While the pasta cooks, stir together cooking creme, milk, recipe mix, cayenne and bacon.  Drain pasta and add back into pasta pot, then add the peas to start the defrosting.  Add the sauce next.  Pour into a 2-qt. casserole dish and top with cheese and bread crumbs.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Enjoy!


Quinoa with Pine Nuts and Raisins

I wanted to try a more basic recipe with quinoa, since I've been told I need to get more protein in my diet.  I've tried this really great recipe for quinoa 'mac' 'n cheese, but I wanted to experiment a little bit.  For those who have never tried quinoa, it's a seed that can be used much like rice.  It cooks in liquid the way rice does and although more round and nutty, it can be used in similar applications.  This was a pretty simple recipe, I hope you all give it a try!

Quinoa with Pine Nuts and Raisins

1 cup dry quinoa
1 3/4 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth
1/2 large white onion, chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts

Toast quinoa over medium heat in saucepan for 3 minutes.  Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer, covered, 12-15 minutes or until tender and liquid is absorbed (this will work very much the way rice does).  Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes, covered.  While quinoa is cooking, toast pine nuts over medium heat in skillet for a few minutes - watch these carefully!  They burn easily!  Pour into a bowl and set aside.  In same skillet, add olive oil and onions.  Cook onions for 5 minutes, then add garlic and finish cooking until onions are translucent.  Once quinoa is finished cooking, add onions, pine nuts and raisins and stir to combine.  Fluff with fork and serve immediately.

Hope you enjoy this rice alternative!


Creamy Beef Bake

I don't think this needs much of an introduction - it's a simple, yummy recipe with things most of us have around our pantry and fridge.

1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 tsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
8 oz egg noodles (I like No-Yolks)
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
3/4 cup sour cream (I used light)
2 cups cheddar cheese

In skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat until warmed through.  Add onions and cook until translucent.  Start a pot of water to boil for the pasta.  Once the onions are soft and translucent, pour them into a heat-safe bowl and set aside.  Brown meat in the skillet the onions were cooking in, and drain when cooked.  While browning the meat, cook the pasta to al dente in the boiling water.  To the beef, add tomato sauce, garlic and worchestershire sauce and stir until mixed and sauce is warm.  To the onions, add cottage cheese and sour cream.  Gently stir noodles into onion mixture.

Time to build a casserole!  In a 2 1/2-qt. casserole dish, layer half of the noodle mixture.  Top with half the meat mixture, and then half of the cheese.  Repeat layers in that order.  Bake at 350 until warm and the cheese is hot and bubbly.  Also, you could make it ahead of time, and instead of baking it - put it in the fridge and bake it off the next day when you're ready to eat it.