Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tri-Colore Orzo - Giada De Laurentiis

I really, really like Giada. I mean, who doesn’t like Giada? I know my husband and all the male friends we have like Giada. Why, some of them even actually know that she’s a chef.

I have yet to make a Giada recipe that I don’t like. So when I saw this one, I just knew I had another home run on my hands. And in addition to that, it uses a cheese I have been wanting to try; ricotta salata. So I got all of the ingredients and was good to go.

First you cook the orzo. After draining it, the olive oil is mixed in well. Spread it out on a cookie sheet. When it is cooled, put it in a bowl and add salt and pepper.

Add dried cherries.

Add ricotta salata.

Add arugula and basil.

Next is fresh squeezed lemon juice. (no seeds, please)

Mmmm ... toasted pine nuts.

Then mix it all up and serve.

Here is what I learned:

First I learned that I don't care much for ricotta salata. It is pretty bland and a bit chalky. It has the same texture as feta, with a milder taste. But I'm not a huge fan of feta either. So no big surprise there.

Second, the lemon juice wasn't enough of a dressing.

Third, the cherries and arugula were perfect together. The sweetness of the cherries tasted great against the spiciness of the arugula. And the basil was a burst of flavor!

Fourth, it needed more pine nuts. But doesn't every dish need more pine nuts?

The final verdict was that my expectations were way too high. The dish definitely did not live up to them. However, the next night I reworked the leftovers. I picked out all of the ricotta salata and cubed up provolone and added that to the orzo. I thought the creamy mildness of the provolone suited the dish better. I added more chopped basil; not a whole lot, just a few more leaves. Next I threw in additional toasted pine nuts and cherries. I mixed it all together and it was looking good. I tasted it and it still needed something.

I went refrigerator shopping and was waiting for inspiration to hit. And it did! I had a bit of balsamic vinaigrette that Bob had made for a salad earlier in the week. That my friends is exactly what that orzo needed! I shook it up and drizzled it over the orzo, mixed it up real good, tasted it, and sat down because my knees were weak. Now we're talkin'!

I'm giving you the recipe as Giada wrote it. You can try it without changing a thing. Please let me say that these are just my opinions (and Bob's). Many of you might love feta and also might find you really like the ricotta salata.

The thing about this recipe is that I think you can be really flexible with it and have some fun. Next time I make it I might change up some of the ingredients and maybe use a flavored vinegar. Another option might be to use a different combination of dried fruits and greens. Try other cheeses. I think I'd stick with the orzo as the base, though. That seemed totally right.

Make it and let me know what you think! Won't be the first time I've been wrong. But whatever you do, do not tell Bob I just said that!

Tri-Colore Orzo
Giada De Laurentiis-

Prep Time: 15 min
Inactive Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

• 1 pound orzo pasta
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
• 2 cups fresh arugula (about 3 ounces)
• 3/4 cup crumbled ricotta salata cheese (or feta cheese)
• 1/2 cup dried cherries
• 12 fresh basil leaves, torn
• 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and put the pasta on a large cookie sheet. Drizzle the pasta with 3 tablespoons olive oil, toss, spread out, and set aside to cool.
Once the orzo is cool, transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently to combine. Serve.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gahanna Community Wellness Festival

Today Bob and I participated in a 'Community Wellness Festival' at Schoedinger in Gahanna. A “wellness” festival at a funeral home, you say? Why yes. I believe it was a gesture of reaching out to the community and offering an afternoon of family fun along with some good information about services offered in the Gahanna area.

We met a lot of really cool people. It was a great opportunity for us to talk with others who care about our town and want to touch others’ lives. And of course, we brought food with us to share! Always, there is food!

Elizabeth Gerhard (our friend and Schoedinger manager) kicked off the event with a welcome to all,

and the “Legal Limit Quartet” gave a lovely rendition of the National Anthem while the flag was raised.

There were presentations that were interesting and quite informative. Dr. Marc Hollander spoke about how dental care affects just about every part of us. Cathy Philips, the director of the Ohio Herb Education Center spoke about healing herbs and tea “thyme” (Dianne Williams baked some absolutely delicious banana nut muffins to go with the tea!), and Michael Schoedinger talked about “green burials”.

Beecher Chiropractic & Wellness Center was there and were had info and testing on laser allergy treatments. They offer some really interesting services and are definitely worth taking a look at if you’re not familiar with them!

We met folks from Celebrate Recovery, which is a “Christ-Centered Recovery Program” for “healing life’s hurts habits and hang-ups”. Meetings are Thursdays at 7pm at Shepherd Church of the Nazarene.

Smoothie King was there with some yummy samples and information on all the products they have. YMCA had representatives at the event and Bernie Decicco (YMCA) was making healthy snow cones with fruit juices. I had a mango concoction and Bob had one made with grape juice. Just delicious! Schoedinger provided grilled hot dogs that were done just the way I like them! They were served on whole grain buns which bumped up the “healthy” factor. Who knew they made whole grain hot dog buns?

And then there was Dishing-it-Up! Columbus. You might have heard of them? Oh yeah, we were totally into it! Keeping with the healthy (okay, not totally if you think about all the butter I used) and herbal theme (Gahanna = herbs), I made several different kinds of herb butter. Bob and I had a set up that really was quite lovely. Bob brought pots of flowers and our own potted herbs to decorate. We had vases of cut herbs including basil, rosemary, Italian parsley and chives.

A produce basket almost overflowed with fresh vegetables that Bob used to make the most wonderful bruschetta. No kidding; the stuff was incredible. It was full of fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, chives, Italian parsley, shredded cheeses, and then dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. This morning before we left, the two of us had made three loaves of crostini; toasted bread that was rubbed with a garlic clove as soon as it came out of the oven.

When he worked his magic with the tomatoes and garlic, etc and topped a crostini with a heaping spoonful of the gorgeous mixture, I fell in love with him all over again. Oh be still my beating heart. *sigh* One bite of this and your taste buds began to sing. Really! It was that good. I think it was the balsamic vinegar that just put it over the top. I can see a lot of this bruschetta in our future. A lot!

This painted man sure liked Bob's bruschetta!!!

I started out with a pretty standard herb butter that contained basil and chives. We had some cracker sticks for sampling the butter. To get an even better taste of herbs' abilities to communicate with other fresh ingredients, I made simple cucumber sandwiches. Now I ask you, how long has it been since you’ve had a cucumber sandwich? They were pretty darn good. But what was really fun was when I started experimenting!

I had a slab of butter that I mixed with some basil. It cried out for something more! I just happened to have a container of sundried tomatoes with me. I picked out some nice juicy ones and pressed them between layers of paper towels to remove as much of the oil as I could. We had chosen to use Plugra (European style butter with 82% butterfat, compared with 80% butterfat in American butters), so I figured we really didn’t need the extra oil from the tomatoes. I finely diced the tomatoes and added a couple of cloves of garlic for good measure, because you can never have too much garlic. A pinch of salt and I called it good. I folded, I mixed and I stirred. Then the moment of truth … can I just say that this stuff rocked? Oh my. I have a new love in my life. And my waist and thighs ain’t gonna be happy about it! A cucumber sandwich with this butter climbed to a new level. (As far as cucumber sandwiches go, okay?) My mind was reeling. What if …? Oh dear. What if I were to make a bacon sandwich with this? Oh the possibilities!!! I couldn’t take it. I had to sit down.

So there you have it. We sliced, we diced, we chopped and we slathered. We fed the masses! Well, I might be going just a bit overboard.

We sure did have fun, though!


Yikes! I cannot believe I forgot to put the recipe for the bruschetta on here! Please forgive me! If you don't now, you will after you make this recipe!

Bob's Bruschetta
adapted from recipe from "Culinary Herb Guide"
Serves 4 (supposedly ... ha!)


2 medium to large tomatoes, diced
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
8 slices Italian bread, cut on the bias about 1" thick
4 Tablespoons grated Italian cheese blend (we used Sargento's)


Whisk together vinegar, salt, pepper, and oil.

Combine tomatoes, chopped garlic, basil, and chives. Add to vinegar mixture. Let sit at room temperature.

Toast the bread. This can be done either in the toaster (if it's got really wide slots) or under the broiler (if using this method watch closely so it does not burn.)

When the bread is toasted rub each piece, on one side, with the whole garlic pieces.

Mix grated cheese into the tomato mixture. Top each piece of bread with bruschetta mixture.

Serve immediately.

Accept praise and accolades from family and friends! Take appropriate bows.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hot Summer, Cool Salads

When it is so stinkin' hot out that you can't even think, who wants to cook dinner? Before we left for vacation that's the way it was. I was shopping and packing and so not wanting to add cooking to that list. But you sure can't go out or order dinner in every night, so I needed to come up with cool alternatives.

One night we had salads. And I'm not just talking your run of the mill mixed lettuce and dressing. No, we were still hungry enough. So I made BIG salads.

Bob loves tuna salad. Me, not so much. So I whipped up a chunky, creamy tuna salad and plated it with mixed greens and radishes, carrots, cucumbers and cheese cubes. He loved it!

For my salad I went Cobb. And since I love iceburg (I know, I know) I loaded that on my plate and topped it with ham and chicken, cheddar and mozzarella, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, onions and sliced hard boiled egg.

They totally and completely hit the spot! YUM!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pecan Praline Mix

Having just come back from vacation , I'm here to tell you it sure is difficult to get back into the swing of things. Especially when you've driven 1400 miles with two children ages 7 and 4! Okay, so they were in the other car. It was still stressful listening to their parents!!! And I won't even get started on the car breaking down when we were all loaded to take off at 8am on a Saturday when we were all cranky because our vacation was ending and we were leaving the ocean behind!

But there are some things I rely on when I'm taking a driving vacation. And the answer to your question of "What things, Jean?" would be snacks. Yes, snacks. And I'm going to share one of my most favorite of them with you. Why? 'Cause I'm just that kind of girl. Always giving and sharing ... hush all of you! This truly is one of the best ever!

Pecan Praline Mix

Mix in 13 x 9 pan. Set aside.
16 oz box Quaker Oat Squares (regular or cinnamon)
2 cups pecans (sometimes I mix in almonds and cashews)

Mix in 8 cup microwave safe bowl:
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup butter or margarine
Microwave on high for 1 ½ minutes; stir.
Microwave an additional ½ to 1 ½ minutes until boiling.

1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp soda
Mix well (will foam) and immediately pour over mixture in pan.
Bake 1 hour at 250˚, stirring every 20 minutes.
Spread on baking sheet to cool. Break into pieces.

*Note: This is extremely addicting!