I’ve always liked sweet potatoes but don’t eat them much. I don’t even remember the last time I ate them. Everything about this recipe called out to me – from the penne pasta to the sweet potatoes and parmesan cheese. The recipe gives you a choice of using arugula, spinach and other greens like kale, swiss chard or collard greens. I like and chose the spinach. Relatively simple to make, I prepared the meal without event (The name of the dish is Easy Penne Pasta and that ain’t no lie.). Not only did it taste really good, but my plate looked enticing. I love a colorful plate. The appetizing taste and bright colors enticed me to take a bite and then another and another… Mmm! I think the balsamic vinegar gave it that extra special taste.
Easy Penne Pasta with Balsamic Sweet Potatoes, Baby Arugula (or Spinach), and Parmesan
(Makes 4 generous servings; recipe created by Kalyn)
from Kalyn’s Kitchen
1 large orange-fleshed sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (often called yams in U.S. stores)
1 T + 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 oz. baby arugula or spinach (or can use other chopped greens, but they will need to be sauteed separately)
2 cups (dry) penne pasta (I used Dreamfields pasta)
1 T good-quality balsamic vinegar (or a little more)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste (for seasoning sweet potatoes)
2/3 cup coarsely-grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. While the water heats, peel sweet potatoes and cut them into 1 inch pieces. Heat olive oil in a large heavy frying pan (big enough to hold the finished pasta dish) and begin to saute the sweet potatoes over medium heat, stirring occasionally so they don’t burn on one side.
When water boils, add the pasta, stir, and let it come back to a boil; then lower the heat to a medium simmer and cook just until the pasta is barely al-dente. (That was 9 minutes for the Dreamfields pasta I used.)
(If you want to make this with kale, swiss chard, or collard greens, they need to be washed, chopped, and then sauteed in additional olive oil in a separate pan, about 10 minutes total cooking time. Then add them to the sweet potatoes when you add the cooked pasta.)
When sweet potatoes are soft and cooked through (about 8-10 minutes), turn heat to low and add the other 1 tsp. of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Saute over low heat, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes more or until the sweet potatoes are all glazed with the vinegar. Season sweet potatoes well with salt and fresh-ground black pepper.
Wash the arugula if needed and then place in the bottom of the colander where you’re going to drain the pasta. When pasta is done, scoop out 1/2 cup pasta cooking water; then pour the hot pasta over the arugula. Let it drain for a minute or so, then add the pasta and arugula to the pan with the sweet potatoes and stir to combine. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and stir gently again. Then add most of the Parmesan cheese and stir again. Serve hot, with the reserved Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over each serving at the table.
The other day, I pulled out the only food left in my fridge — some chicken cutlets. I had no idea what to do with it. So, I e-mailed a friend who likes to cook.
"Got any suggestions of what to do with chicken cutlets? Hmmm… I’m cooking for my mom and myself."
1) – Dice them into 1/2" cubes, add Olive oil, salt, oregano, "Italian seasoning" to taste. Chop onions, carrots (very thin), mushrooms, chunks of pineaple, fresh tomatoes, and stir fry over a hot fire. Serve over pasta for Italian Stir-Fry.
2 – leave them whole, put them in a 2" deep sauce pan or baking dish, cover with 1/2 bottle of ranch dressing, add 2 big handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese (not the powdered stuff, the fresh hard Parmesan. bake for an hour (give or take) then serve over pasta or with baked potatoes.
3) – Season and salt to taste, pan fry at a high heat, server over a fresh salad with the best thai peanut dressing you can find.
4) – Put cutlets on sheet of Saran wrap. Wrap and seal. Put all cutlets in a zip lock bag, pressing the air out. Seal back, stick in freezer, go out to dinner.
I laughed at suggestion #4 and emailed him back to let him know that I was going to try suggestion # 1. Except that I had to go grocery shopping for the rest of the ingredients — mushrooms, pineapples and carrots… etc… My fridge was empty.
He wrote back:
Italian stir fry is my "what’s left in the fridge?" recipe. Add anything you want. Be careful with the pineapple. It’s a strong flavor, so don’t use too much. Season to taste. This is improvisational cooking at its best.
Ready to start cooking, I went grocery shopping. Okay… Okay… I didn’t go shopping. Instead, I had the grocery store deliver my groceries. When I finished preparing the meal, I garnished it with cilantro, my favorite herb (parsley would have been nice, too.). And since I like a little bit of heat, I added some chili sauce. Loved it! Delicioso! I should do some more improv cooking, for sure.
Italian Stir Fry Improv
Chicken cutlets (diced into 1/2" cubes)
Carrots (sliced thinly)
Tomato (fresh, diced)
In pan, add olive oil, diced chicken cutlets. Add salt, oregano, Italian seasoning to taste. Add onions, carrots, mushrooms, chunks of pineapple, fresh tomatoes. Stir fry over a hot fire. Serve over pasta for Italian Stir-Fry.
Orzo! I love this rice-shaped pasta and jumped at the opportunity to make Orzo Paella when I saw the recipe on Haalo’s blog, Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once. Orzo Paella? Never heard of it before. Gotta try it, I thought to myself. Try it I did. And did I like it? Did everyone else at home like it? Yup. Like it we did.
One of the things I liked about this recipe was that it’s quick and easy to make. The ingredients are very simple. I didn’t have to go to Timbuktu in search of anything special or exotic. I had almost all the ingredients right there in my kitchen. The only ingredient I didn’t have was the chorizo. I could only get it in a store a couple of blocks away. But I was feeling too lazy to walk down there. So I called another store closer to me (about a block away) and had them deliver Italian sausage since they didn’t carry chorizos.
Haalo suggests topping the orzo paella with shards of manchego or grated Mizithra/Myzithra. I didn’t have that either, so good ole Parmesan cheese substituted. I’ve never tasted Manchego or Mizithra cheese. I’ll have to go buy some one of these days because I’ll definitely make Orzo Paella again. Thanks, Haalo!
Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once
2 red onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 red capsicum (bell pepper), sliced thickly
4 skinless chicken thighs, sliced thickly
1 chorizo, diced
chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
Heat a little oil and butter in a large pan and saute the chicken in batches until browned. Set to one side and in the same pan, saute the onions and garlic until softened.
Add the diced chorizo and cook until golden. Add the sliced capsicum and continue to saute for 5 minutes before adding the tomatoes, peas and chicken. Stir through and add enough water or stock to just cover the mixture. Simmer until reduced.
The orzo will only take about 5 minutes to cook so make sure that this chicken mixture is cooked and seasoned to your liking.
Over a very low flame, stir in the orzo and top with enough water to just cover the mixture. Place a lid on the pot and let it cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes.
After this, stir the mixture and taste — check that the orzo is cooked through and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve at once. Top with shards of manchego or grated Mizithra/Myzithra.
Oh! The past couple of days have been extremely cold. This past Saturday was the coldest day so far. Freezing.
I wanted something hot. Something to warm me up. Then I remember a simple soup recipe from Haalo (Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once). I’d saved it a long time ago. It was time to pull it out. I liked that the recipe was simple. I like simple recipes. I like no fuss recipes. This was my kind of recipe.
It called for fresh peas. I bought frozen peas, which worked fine. The recipe also called for capsicum. Capsicum? What was that? I had no idea. After looking it up, I found that that it’s a common name in Australia and Britain for pepper. In North America and Canada, it is commonly known as Bell Pepper ( In other countries it’s also known as Cayene Pepper, African Chillies, Tabsco Peppers, Pimiento and more.). Ahhh! Now I understood. One Red Bell Pepper coming up. I love to learn something new from my fellow bloggers.
I prepared my soup. It tasted delicious! I offered some to my mom. At first she was hesitant and then she said, "yes."
She finished one bowl and then asked, "Is there any more soup?"
LOL! Yup! My soup tasted Mmm, Mmm good. We were both warmed up by this simple, delicious Vegatable Soup with Orzo.
Even one of my dogs got in on the action when I left a few drops in the bowl. I turned around for just a second and she reached up on her hind legs and pulled the bowl down to the ground from the table. She quickly cleaned it out with her long tongue. Yup! I’ll say that even the dog enjoyed the soup, too.
Thanks Haalo for this recipe!
Little bit of soup left in the bowl, before the dog got to it. *sigh*
Vegetable Soup with Orzo
Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once
1 large red onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 small red capsicum, finely diced
1 large stalk of celery, finely diced
1 zucchini, finely diced
1 large tomato, diced finely
salt and freshly ground white pepper
handful of orzo, per person
I’ve made a very simple vegetable soup and the ingredients should only be used as a guide – feel free to substitute whatever you have on hand.
Place a little olive oil and butter into a saucepan over a medium heat – when butter has melted add the onion, carrot, celery and red capsicum and cook slowly until the vegetables start to soften (you may need to turn the heat down to ensure they don’t colour).
Now add the zucchini and cook until it has started to soften and then tip in the tomato. Wait until the tomato starts to break down before adding the orzo followed by enough boiling water (or stock if so desired) to cover the vegetables by about 2cm/1inch.
Turn the heat up to maintain a boiling temperature and cook for about 5 minutes. Remember to keep stirring so the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add the fresh peas and then taste and season with salt and freshly ground white pepper.
Turn off the heat and cover and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes – during this time the pasta will finish cooking by absorbing the cooking stock but won’t become mushy.
Before serving add a little more stock if it looks a little dry and bring it back to temperature.
I like all types of salads and eat them all year round. However, it seems to me that summer is the official season when everyone makes salads. This orzo based salad is perfect with which to start out the summer. Orzo pasta reminds me of rich (which I love).
Like all my favorite recipes, it’s easy to put together. The garbanzo beans, tomatoes, red onion, basil, leaves, mint leaves, and red wine vinaigrette are perfect together. Love it!
I’d like to contribute this to the Presto Pasta Nights event hosted by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. If you have a pasta recipe to share and are interested in participating, check out the guidelines here. Ruth posts a line up of the recipe contributions every Friday on her blog. Go for it!
Giada De Laurentiis
4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups red and yellow teardrop tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
About 3/4 cup Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toss the orzo with the beans, tomatoes, onion, basil, mint, and enough vinaigrette to coat. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.
Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.
Yield: 1 3/4 cups