Orzo Salad

How often do you make recipes from blogs? Although I read a lot of food blogs, I rarely follow recipes I’ve found on them. I read food blogs more to follow the people than the recipes. Every blogger has their own story to tell, and a style they use to tell it. My favourite blogs are the ones that engage me, the ones that give the impression I’m actually getting to know the author. Pretty pictures help too.

That’s not to say I only read blogs for the articles. The recipes inspire me. Sometimes I’ll see a blogger use an ingredient in a way I had never considered, which makes me think of other innovative things to try in the kitchen.

Other times I’m inspired by the simplicity of a recipe. This salad was inspired by a very simple pasta dish by Paula of bell’alimento. Her recipe got me thinking that pasta is the perfect showcase for some of my favourite summer ingredients.

This dish is comes together very quickly, but is still full of flavour, especially if you use fresh summer produce.

Orzo Salad

  • 1 cup orzo
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • chives, chopped
  1. In a large pot, cook the orzo according to the package instructions.
  2. While the orzo is cooking, in a large sautee pan heat the olive oil on medium. Add the minced garlic to the oil. Once you can smell the garlic, add the tomatoes, pepper and olives. Sautee for two to three minutes; the peppers should remain crisp.
  3. Strain the cooked pasta, pour into a serving bowl then add the tomato mixture. Toss with the lemon zest and chives.

Guest Post: Pasta and Vegetables Soup Recipe

The final guest post in the “Help Lynn Move” series is from Radhika of Just Home Made. Radhika’s blog is beautiful, with amazing photography and wonderful recipes. What I love about it is the uniquness of the recipes, like these Saffron and Cardamom flavored Sweet Semolina Balls . I was very excited to see what she would come up with for the guest post, and I was not disapointed. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did, and please take the time to check out her site!

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You know how casual random acts can lead to nice things? For instance, casual browsing onFoodgawker brought me to pause at  these Egyptian Date Crescents that I instantly fell in love with for, I hardly find eggless pastry based desserts that easily. This blog hopping then led to twitter connection.

In the words of Penny de Los Santos whose workshop I recently attended and have been catching myself quoting only her quotes ever since, “Facebook is for those you already know and twitter is for those who you want to know“. Well said.

What are tweets meant for? And that is how I got to know Lynn (@LynnLawandi on twitter) was looking out for someone to guest post while she is moving in and out of condos. Happy to help I was and so was Lynn and that is how this special post has come alive. Lynn has quite a few egg-less desserts like Good old-fashioned Apple Pie, Pear Caramel Ice cream, Plum TarteTatin to name a few.

Over the years, reasons might have changed, but Summer has remained very dear to me. During the pre-teen years, summer was all about a precious vacation with my parents, the only solid three-month long time I would get to spend with them during the entire year. Summers those days were carefree, irrespective of how scorching the sun decided to be. Strolling through mango and guava orchards occasionally helping myself to a few, in a small village in a remote corner of the Karnataka map then seemed like the best way to spend the afternoons. Those were the good old days.

Golden memories are seldom remade. But we sure can create new ones so they turn golden as the years roll. Amidst such teeny whims and fancies this year among all others, summer is special to me for reasons green. My interest in gardening peaked out of the blue off late and the balcony container garden that I expanded during early spring of this year has started showing prolific results. I’m excited more than I can word(ex)press about growing my own herbs – parsley flat and curled, chives, thyme or mint. A realization however late it might seem is yet so true – there’s no greater satisfaction than growing your own silly garden.

The best produce is one that we harvest from our own gardens tended with our very own hands. No supermarket produce stands tall in front of it.

So, now when I want some of the herbs that I normally don’t frequently use but still need occasionally, all I have to do is step out of the door wide open to the balcony and feel the joy abound.

Similar is the joy of cooking with farmer’s market fresh vegetables.

Given the fresh vegetables and herbs, I couldn’t miss thinking about making a hearty pasta and vegetable soup. Since the day I accidentally made this once, I must’ve made it umpteen times and yet never really came to think of sharing with you.

So, it felt like the right time to introduce this recipe to you through this guest post for Lynn.

Of the first few times I made this soup without any pasta, we were left wanting for something more to it. Adding pasta, especially a tricolored one makes the soup filling on one hand and complements the vibrant colors of the vegetables on the other. Conchas (pasta shells) are one of my favorites and the tiny floral variant is loved by my little one.

This soup is as simple as can be. Few simple ingredients and straightforward procedure. There’s not much required of you, all that needs to be done, the hot stove will do for you.

Just as it looks, the soup is light and healthy yet hearty brimming with the fresh flavor of vegetables, garlic and parsley.

Now tell me, what is your favorite soup?

Pasta and Vegetables Soup Recipe

Printable Recipe

Things you’ll need:

  • 1/2 -3/4 cup pasta of your choice (i used tricolor shells and flower shaped macaroni pasta)
  • 2 slender zucchini, sliced to 1/4″ rounds
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ rounds (I used rainbow variety)
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 2-3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried or few sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • sea salt
  • ground pepper
  • water

How it’s done:

Chop the carrots into oblong slices. If the celery stalk is broader towards the end, slit it by running your knife through the center and then chop.

Heat olive oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot enough or begins to shimmer, add minced garlic and sauté for a bit, followed by dried parsley if using, chopped onion and celery and sauté until onion and celery appear translucent. Add the remaining chopped vegetables, salt and ground pepper and give it a good stir. Add enough and more water to cover vegetables well and bring to a boil.

Now add the pasta and simmer covered for 10-12 mins until vegetables and pasta are cooked al-denté. Adjust the seasoning for taste and garnish with chopped fresh parsley, if using.

Serve hot with whole wheat crackers or toast on the side.

Note: The tiny floral pasta is usually available in the international foods section of any grocery store

Stove Top Mac & Cheese

Have you ever heard those stories about people who win the lottery multiple times, yet still end up broke? Those stories fascinate me. I like to think if I ever won big I would use the money wisely, but it’s entirely possible I’d spend it all on shoes. At work we play the lottery whenever the jackpot is big. Even though we all know we’re probably just throwing away our money, no one in the department wants to risk being the only one who has to show up at work on Monday morning.

That’s not to say I’ve never won anything. Last Friday I found a penny, picked it up, then won a free coffee from Tim Horton’s Roll up the Rim. Free coffee makes me ridiculously happy. And in December I entered the Holiday Recipe Exchange from Good Life Eats and My Baking Addiction with my Maple Butterscotch Pudding. Thanks to your kind votes I won a gift package from Kerrygold. The package had TONS of cheese and a selection of butter. Looking at all the cheese I received I knew I had to make something with it. The first thing that came to mind was Macaroni and Cheese.

I’m not going to say this is the best recipe ever, because I’m sure there are many of you out there who make a mean mac and cheese, but it was definitely the best I’ve ever made. I used Kerrygolds Garlic and Herb Butter to make the roux, and their Red Leicester cheese in the sauce. It’s a mild, cheddar like cheese with a nice tang to it. The sauce was pure cheesy goodness. I can’t wait for my next Kerrygold experiment!

Stove Top Mac & Cheese

  • 1 pound macaroni
  • 2 tbsp Garlic and Herb Butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk (warm)
  • 7 oz Red Leicester Cheese (or sharp cheddar)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook the macaroni as per package instructions until al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In a large sauce pan on medium high heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir until it starts to bubble slightly. Add the warm milk. Lower the heat to medium and stir constantly until the sauce begins to thicken (about 5 minutes).
  3. Once thickened, add the cheese and stir until completely melted. Taste the sauce, add salt and pepper if necessary.
  4. Drain the pasta and toss into the sauce.
  5. Serve immediately.


Vegetarian Lasagna

Food photography is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to learn. I try to take nice pictures; sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. One of the things you realize almost immediately when writing a food blog is that pictures can make or break your blog. People want to see big gorgeous pictures of scrumptious looking food. I’ve read a lot about lighting and composition over the last year, and I’ve tried to implement some of the things I’ve learned. I think what it comes down to in the end is talent and practice.

Every time I’ve seen a picture of lasagna in a magazine it’s had perfectly even layers, with the ruffled noodles poking out just so. My lasagna didn’t look like that. I’m pretty sure I cut off the ruffles while slicing the pieces, and my sauce and cheese layers kind of melded together. It tasted incredible, but it was incredibly difficult to photograph. My experience made me wonder if all the lasagna I’ve seen in magazines was ever actually baked.

I still have a lot to learn when it comes to food photography and styling, but when it comes to taste I think I know what I’m doing. This was the first time I tried making a vegetarian lasagna. I wanted it to be pretty packed with vegetables to make up for the absence of meat. The sauce has zucchini and mushrooms, and the cheese lmixture has spinach. I was a little nervous about leaving out the meat, but the four kinds of cheese and tons of veggies were very satisfying. I couldn’t even tell that I had used low fat cheese.

Vegetarian Lasagna

  • 9 Whole Wheat Lasagna Sheets
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 cup low-fat ricotta
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 packaged frozen spinach, thawed and liquid squeezed out
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup shredded gouda
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  1. Follow package instructions for noodles.
  2. In a large pan over medium high heat, heat the oil then sautee the onions for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, cook until fragrant.
  3. Stir in the zucchini and mushrooms, cook until the zucchini starts to brown. Pour in the red wine. Scrape up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan, then add the tomatoes. Season with salt pepper and spices. Let simmer 20-30 minutes.
  4. While the sauce is simmering, put together the cheese layer. In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, yogurt and egg together. Stir in half the mozzarella and gouda, as well as the spinach.
  5. Once the sauce has cooked assemble the lasagna. Pour a bit of the sauce in the bottom of a large glass baking dish. Top with three sheets of lasagna. Pour half of the ricotta mixture over the lasagna sheets, top with a third of the remaining sauce. Place three more of the lasagna sheets, topped with the remaining ricotta mixture and another third of the sauce. Place the final lasagna sheets, topped with the remaining sauce, then cover with the remaining mozzarella, gouda and parmesan.
  6. Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more until the cheese is golden.
  7. Let set for 10 minutes before serving.