Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chicken Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese

Last week I had time to do some spring cleaning, which involved cleaning out the pantry and refrigerator. I was actually pretty proud that I didn’t have to throw much out! I guess we have been doing a good job of eating the food that we buy and reducing food waste this year! Some pantry items even got placed on the “use for a dinner creation” list.

Enter: Orzo. I don’t use orzo often, but it seems to pop up around this time of year in cold salads and I thought it would be perfect for a simple dinner meal. We also needed to grill up some chicken to have on hand this week for Bryan’s lunch sandwiches, and I thought that grilled chicken would be a nice addition to an orzo salad.

After a quick search, I found this grilled chicken orzo salad recipe that was perfect. The orzo serves as the base of this salad, and the added chicken gives protein staying power. Veggies like diced onions, tomatoes, and red bell pepper add flavors and nutrients to the profile of this salad. Arugula also adds a nutty and peppery punch. The light vinaigrette in combination with the herbs gives it a ton of flavor while also remaining light. Topped with small pieces of goat cheese, this salad is perfection. It is great for a light summer dinner and will make enough for you to have leftovers for lunch the next day!

Chicken Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese

Adapted from Cooking Light

Yield: 4 servings


1 ¼ cups uncooked orzo (rice shaped pasta)

3 cups chopped grilled chicken breast

1 ½ cups trimmed arugula

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

½ cup chopped red bell pepper

¼ cup diced red onion

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

1 tsp chopped fresh oregano

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

1 ½ oz crumbled goat cheese


1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well.

2. Combine pasta, chicken, and the next 6 ingredients (through oregano) in a large bowl; toss well.

3. Combine vinegar, oil, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Stir well with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Special K Bars

I grew up calling these wonderful little babies Special K Bars, but apparently they have a pseudonym and also go by Scotcheroos. Whatever you call them, these bars are delightful because they contain the perfect combination of peanut butter and chocolate. The butterscotch added to the chocolate topping adds a little more sweetness that makes me smile.

I love to make these bars because they remind me of my childhood. My mom used to make them frequently for me for various reasons. Not only to enjoy at home, but I'd also bring them to share at soccer games, give them to my orchestra teachers after a concert, or bring to a party or potluck. This week, I made them as a big thank you.

You see, my mom was a gardener. Big time. As an only child, one of my many jobs was to water all the gardens in the yard during the summer when I was young and on summer break. We had a three-tier vegetable garden (it sloped down a hill), and numerous flower gardens strategically placed around our spacious yard, as well as countless pots filled with beautiful flowers. Watering everything took hours!

My mom passed away when I was a young teenager, so I didn't have the opportunity to learn many things from her. As I grow up and do things on my own, especially things I learn to do for the first time, sometimes I don't know how or where to start. I had planned on starting a flower garden next to our patio this Spring, and my wonderful husband dug up the section of grass/weeds last weekend for me. Since I hadn't learned my mom's gardening skills, I had to do a lot of internet research and preparations to figure out how to start a flower garden from scratch.

I researched what flowers grow well in this area of Ohio and in direct sunlight, where our garden would be located. Feeling excited to try this on my own, I went to the nearby garden center ready to purchase flowers. An incredibly nice lady helped me design and pick options for my first flower garden. She was so excited at the prospect of helping me start my new flower garden, but when I told her my budget was "the least amount possible" she changed her tone. She altered her design, and offered for me to come to her house later that afternoon and she would dig up a peony for me, because they are too expensive at the garden center, but she thought I really should have one. Then, she instructed me to return to the garden center the next day to find options that would match it from the new shipment they were getting in later that afternoon. I told her that she was too kind and that wasn't necessary, but she insisted. She gave me some tips on how to get my plot ready for planting the flowers too.

I bought the materials I needed to prepare the plot for the garden and when I arrived at home I got it ready for planting. Later that afternoon, I drove to her house (only 4 blocks from ours!) and she was ready for me. She dug up the peony (my favorite!!), as well as a lily, lambs ear, and dianthus for me! She gave me so much that I didn't even need to go back to the garden center the next day, and I had plenty to plant in our garden. She wanted to charge me $5, and I gave her $10 which was all the cash I had on me at the time, but I would have planned on given her more if I knew she was going to give me so many flowers! She kindly replied, "One day, you'll pass on the favor." And I will, that's for sure! Thank you Lisa for being so incredibly kind and helpful!

I am dropping off the bars at her house this afternoon! Pictures of the patio garden will pop later, when it stops raining.

Special K Bars
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Yield: 1 13x9 pan
Prep time: 15 minutes

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups Special K cereal
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

1. Grease a 13x9 inch pan, and set aside.
2. Place sugar and corn syrup into a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat.
3. Stir in peanut butter until melted and combined.
4. Place cereal into a large bowl, and pour the peanut butter mixture on top. Stir until well coated.
5. Press the mixture into the prepared pan.
6. Melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips together over a double boiler (or alternatively, in the microwave at 50% power in 30-second intervals). Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Let sit until firm (or refrigerate for a faster setting time).


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Cleveland Orchestra at Spice Kitchen and Bar and The Happy Dog

Bryan and I have lived in Cleveland for a year now! It is hard to believe how time flies! When considering where to rank Bryan's residency options, Cleveland was high on the list for many reasons. One major perk (that wasn't a deciding factor) was that Cleveland has one of the top orchestras in the country, if not the world. Since Bryan and I are both cellists and studied classical music in college, we knew that we would enjoy living in a city that values the arts and Cleveland has exceeded our expectations!

In the year that we have lived here, we have enjoyed watching the Cleveland Orchestra play many concerts at Blossom, their summer/outdoor locations and at Severance Hall, their indoor location. In order to reach out to new audiences, members of the orchestra are playing in small ensembles at local restaurants, and last week we had the opportunity to attend a couple of these events!

We started the evening out at Spice Kitchen and Bar (where we had dinner the previous weekend with our amazing friends, Rob and Sarah, who came to visit us!). The restaurant was packed with reservations and standing room only, and we had planned on getting a cocktail and watching from the bar. A bass quartet serenaded everyone and it was a great prelude to the evening!

Next, we walked across the street to The Happy Dog. This casual restaurant serves hot dogs with a multitude of topping choices that each person selects individually.

I had been wanting come here and try their famous hot dogs for a while, so I was excited to have the chance to see members of the orchestra play here as well! This restaurant was already getting pretty crowded when we arrived, but we ended up sharing a table with some nice ladies who had two spare spots. We had a pretty good view of the stage and enjoyed hearing the incredible musicians play quartets that we hadn't heard before. It was such a fun evening!

The BBC just released a story on the Cleveland Orchestra reaching out to new audiences, which you can watch here, and Bryan and I have a short appearance! It's too bad I was looking to the side. I really was intrigued by the musicians the entire time!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Hiatus is Over!

That's right! I'm back!

The semester is over, and I am so happy! It was very busy and intense, but I'm happy to report that it went well. Dimitri is ready for me to come out and play!

Now I have some catching up to do on the blog! Stay tuned for new recipes and possibly some throwback posts.