Chicken & Carrot Orzo

chicken carrot orzo soup
A simple spin-off of the classic chicken noodle soup recipe, this dish is cooked with less broth producing a thick stew.  Orzo pasta is used in place of the traditional egg noodles.  

Chicken & Carrot Orzo

2 T. salted butter
2 medium Carrots, peeled & roughly chopped 
1 small Yellow Onion, peeled & roughly chopped 
1 tsp dried French Thyme, crushed 
1/4 tsp dried Rosemary, crushed
5-7 C. Low Sodium Chicken Broth (Imagine Organic brand)
(2) 12 oz cans of cooked Chicken Breast, drained & broken-up
4 oz Orzo pasta, uncooked 
1-2 tsp Sea Salt, to taste
  • Melt butter in large sauce pot over medium heat.  Add carrots & onion & saute for ~5-7 minutes or ’til carrots are just softened. 
  • Add drained chicken, thyme, rosemary, 5-C broth and 1/2 tsp sea salt to carrot mixture. Turn up the heat to med-high, bring to a hard boil.  
  • Once boiling, add Orzo & cook ~15 minutes or ’til pasta is tender (sample at the 10 min mark).  *Note: Since less broth is used, the stew requires more stirring to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Some of the broth will be absorbed into the Orzo during & after the boiling step, so add more broth as needed to reach desired consistency.
  • Season stew with more sea salt, as needed, adding 1/4-tsp at a time.  
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Winter Squash Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

I call this my diva salad, because I feel like a movie star with my own personal chef when I eat it. Eric got the idea when we had something similar at Xochi in Houston. It’s a fairly simple salad to make but it does not taste simple in your mouth. When my sister Kathleen tried it for the first time her direct quote was “it’s an explosion of flavors in my mouth!” In order to keep this post PG-rated, I will decline to comment on that statement and leave your imagination to fill in the blanks. Needless to say, it is one scrumptious salad!
If you are lucky enough to find Delicata squash, be sure not to peel as the skin is very thin & edible. A great sub here is ripened Butternut Squash but it is prepared differently as noted below.

Salad Topping:

  • 4 oz Pepitas
  • 1/4-tsp EVOO
  • 3-T. Black Currants or Raisins
1) Preheat oven to 350-F.
2) Place pepitas on a small foil-lined pan and mix with a ~1/4 tsp EVOO and 1/4-tsp sea salt; more oil may be added but keep in mind seeds will release oil when roasted.
3) Bake for 5 min, mix around; return to oven and bake for another 5-min. Remove from oven & set aside. Keep oven on and heat to 425 F for either squash recipe.

Delicata Squash

  • 2 lb Delicata Squash (scrubbed)
  • 1 T. EVOO
1) Cut squash on bias, scoop out seeds and slice into 3/4″ thick portions. Mix with olive oil & a few pinches of sea salt. Arrange in single layer on two large foil-lined sheets.
2) Bake for 10-min, flip a few over; return to oven and bake for another 10-15 min or ’til fork tender. Remove from oven and immediately place on a platter; allow to cool 5 min.

Alternative – Butternut Squash:

  • 1 large squash, peeled, seeded, & chopped into 3/4-1″ cubes
  • 1-tsp EVOO
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4-tsp sea salt
1) Mix olive oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, & sea salt in large bowl; add in squash cubes, covering well. Arrange in single layer on foil-lined sheet. *Be sure cubes don’t touch or they will become mushy.
2) Bake for ~20-minutes or until cubes are just fork tender (not too soft). Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving atop salad.

Vinaigrette:

  • 1 T. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 2-T. EVOO
1) Mix all in a small bowl or dressing jar; set aside.
To serve salad, gently massage baby spinach & micro greens (or French greens blend) with a little EVOO. Top with squash slices (or cubed squash), currants (or raisins) and pepitas. Drizzle with vinaigrette.
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Why Books Might Be Bad For Me

This post is either going to land me on the hate list of all of my peers, or it will totally resonate with them. Either way, I must unburden my feelings. I have kept my silence far too long.
WHAT IF BOOKS ARE BAD FOR US?
There. I said it. Now let me explain myself…
I have loved reading since the moment I realized those symbols on the page actually meant something. Actually, no — my love of reading probably began while I was still in my mother’s womb, hearing her read to me. Growing up, the most effective behavior modification used by my mother was to take my books away (taking the Barbie dolls away was a close second). In high school, I would fake sick just so I could stay home to finish a book. Because let’s be honest, I wasn’t going to learn anything that day if all my thoughts were absorbed by whether or not Darcy and Elizabeth would get together!
Any of this sounding familiar?
So why on earth would this “I can’t survive without books” librarian pose such a question? Let me compare it to my second weakness — FOOD.
We all know what we eat can affect our health. There’s much debate about the details, but we DO know that it’s important to eat a variety of foods and it’s important to choose foods with nutritional value. Filling our bodies with only junk isn’t a good thing. We also know over-eating is a bad thing. This is where my book correlation comes in…
I AM ADDICTED TO BOOKS! AND NOT JUST ANY BOOKS — JUNK BOOKS!
I LOVE reading romance novels. Stories of debonair dukes, plundering pirates, sexy shapeshifters, femme fatales…I can’t get enough! I can easily read a book per day and realize I didn’t eat anything or even acknowledge my husband’s presence. I’ll admit to even being guilty of ignoring phone calls from my mother when caught in the thrall of a good book.
I know. I am SO going to Hell. I need an intervention.
Luckily, I have a very supportive family who understand that sometimes I just need to escape into the world of books. As long as I remember to come up for air often enough & keep the household intact, then we’re ok. I’m also lucky to have people in my life who challenge my mind, which prompts me to read things that stimulate my brain & broaden my perspective. When I find myself in a conversation & I can’t think of anything interesting to say, that’s usually my cue that literary stagnation has begun to set in. That’s when I look up “Best Nonfiction Books of the Year” or “What Would Bill Gates Read” & download the audiobook or podcast.
So I guess my answer is: Yes, books CAN be bad. But they can also be good. It’s all about balance.
  • Balance in WHAT we read: titles that make us THINK, that TEACH us something new, that give us a different PERSPECTIVE
  • Balance in the TIME we spend reading vs living: I’d rather EXPERIENCE life rather than read about it
  • Balance in our EXPECTATIONS: acknowledge that what we love in fiction isn’t always what we want in reality (a pirate would make a terrible husband, after all).
Reading is one of those joys that we never out live. Books can provide excitement, comfort, empathy, enlightenment, escape — whatever we may need. While I may have a few setbacks every now & then, I believe I’ve found that balance & I hope you do to.
What’s that, babe? You need me to do laundry because you’re out of clean underwear? Hold on, just a few more chapters…
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