Crowd-pleaser salad travels well

linda june mugIt seems I always need a quick-and-easy dish to take to potlucks, picnics, reunions and on short road or kayak trips. A food that doesn’t need constant refrigeration. Something the majority of people will eat. And a dish you can take in a reusable container that you can leave with the host.

For the past several years it’s been a pasta salad recipe that the old guy found in one of his cooking magazines. It’s done well by us, but I was tired of it and looking for something a little different.

So, we’re coming back from the casino one afternoon and I knew I needed a dish for an upcoming potluck I would be attending. I remembered that I had three boxes of orzo in the pantry because I never cook it. It’s not one of favorite pasta styles and I don’t like it in soups. It comes with the three pack that we buy so it just seems to accumulate in the pantry.

I got out the phone and started surfing while he was driving. I keyed in orzo recipe and tons came up. I scrolled through till I found this one from The Pioneer Woman. It was easy, plus I had most ingredients at home.

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Let me tell you, everyone loved this salad including me and the old guy! There were very little leftovers and I found that to actually be disappointing. Everyone continues to ask for the recipe when I take it somewhere and we haven’t tired of it yet – I’ve made it at least four times in the past two months! Give it a try, and let me know what you think. It’s a crowd pleaser!

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Mediterranean Orzo Salad (from The Pioneer Woman)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 whole lemon, juiced (it’s so much better with fresh rather than jar)
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces orzo (I used the entire box), cooked, drained and cooled
1 cup red grape or cherry tomatoes (I used the mixed heirloom organic package)
1 cup yellow grape or cherry tomatoes (see above, they added lots of color)
1 cup Kalamata olives, halved
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup chickpeas, drained
1/2 whole red onion, diced
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley ( I used cilantro to add a kick)

Preparation: in a jar or bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper until totally combined (I used my stick blender, did a nice job).

Place the orzo and all the other ingredients in a large mixing bowl and pour the dressing over the top. Stir to continue, taste and adjust seasonings, and refrigerate at least an hour before serving. Top with more feta and parsley.

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This is a great side dish or main dish salad. Make it a meal and serve with grilled chicken, fish or burgers.

Stamping a milk resist …

I rushed home from work for dinner tonight and had to make it out again in time for our Cracker Jack Stampers meeting tonight. It’s Rachel’s day off so she cooked. As most of you know, we love to experiment with new recipes in our house and Rachel tried one tonight from Rachael Ray. It was really good! A lot of prep but once we all helped with the prep the cooking time was pretty quick, which was good because I did demo tonight at club and had to get there early to get set up.

I was showing the group the milk resist stamping technique from Lisa Bebi I’ve been playing with recently. It’s a technique I tagged years ago in an old Somerset Studio magazine with every intention of trying it when I had time. Well, fast forward several years later and I’m thumbing through the old magazines for inspiration and I find the article again. I thought it would be perfect for the Cracker Jack Stampers because we like to learn techniques we haven’t tried.

I packed up my sweetened condensed milk, skim milk, stamps, tags, inks and water bottles and headed out. The demo was a success. Everyone was really pleased with the outcome and I’m sure most of the gang will be trying this one at home.

If you’d like to give it a try here’s the basics: mix sweetened condensed milk with skim milk (50/50) in a flat bottom container. Dip your stamp and stamp onto a tag or heavy-weight paper. Heat set (it smells so good!); this is your resist. Add several ink colors – I like using a wrinkle-free distress technique with Ranger’s Distress Inks. Gently wipe inks from resist stamped area. It leaves a very soft look and makes a wonderful background for tags or card matting.

You can find Rachel’s Hungarian Portabella Paprikash recipe under Healthy Eating here on foodnetwork.com. But trust me – prep time takes more than 20 minutes.

Enjoy the meal and the stamping!

Enjoying the comforts of Fall …

I’ve been busy prepping kits for a session with the Brush Benders early next week and working on Christmas projects for upcoming classes but this beautiful weather just beckons me outdoors!

Not only have I sat outdoors watching the birds play in the pond – they’re very active in the stream this time of year for some reason – but also convinced Dennis to take another walk at Kensington. What a lovely afternoon we had on the trails. Seen two deer and lots of chipmunks. Being active just makes me feel better – and the fresh air doesn’t hurt either!

This cooler weather also makes me want to cook! I checked the freezer and found two chicken breasts so took one out to make chicken noodle soup and some blueberry muffins. While the veggies were sauteing I suddenly got the urge for chicken and biscuits instead. Easy change, just needed to run to the store to buy cream. Dinner was good so I’ve included the recipe for you – bon appetite!

Now, back to my artsy mess – Focus, stay focused! Watch my blog calendar for class additions, updates and locations.

Chicken & Biscuits for two

Saute in olive oil: chopped onions, carrots, celery and garlic (I like big chunks – about 1 cup of the first three ingredients)
Add cooked chicken cubes (I boil my chicken breast or thighs till done and screen the stock for the sauce)
Add seasoning to taste (I use tarragon, poultry seasoning, pepper, a little salt and parsley)
Scoop all the cooked ingredients to one side and add about 1/2 cup flour to make a roux; if not enough oil I add about 1/2 stick or more of unsalted butter and cook the roux till golden brown.
Add screened chicken stock (about 4-6 cups) make up difference with water if needed
Bring to a boil and sauce will thicken. I add about a half cup or so of cream after the sauce has thickened (it usually gets really thick and the cream brings it to gravy consistency) along with a cup or so of frozen petite peas.

Biscuits (my favorites are from the old Better Homes & Garden Cookbook I got at our wedding 42 years ago!)

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
2/3 to 3/4 cup milk
Mix dry ingredients into a bowl. Cut in the shortening till like coarse crumbs. Make a well; add milk all at once. Stir quickly with fork just till dough follows fork around bowl. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead gently 10-12 strokes. Roll or pat dough to 1/2 inch thick, dip cutter in flour, cut dough and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Serve biscuits open-face and spoon chicken mixture over top. Serve remaining biscuits with butter and honey.