Archive | January, 2012

Dinner Mashup

29 Jan

I likely have the sorriest shoe collection of any white, American, middle class girl in the state of Maryland. My Rocket Dogs are losing their rockets, my clogs are stained with salt residue from last winter, and my tennis shoes have ever-widening holes due to large first metatarsal bones. I attempted this week to elevate my shoe ranking, but was unsuccessful – I actually picked out a higher-end pair of shoes online, not a department store clearance or a “Hey look, they sell shoes at Marshalls!” pair, but they were not in stock at the store.

I’ve had other mediocre shopping results as well. They don’t sell malt powder at the local grocery store and the cashier seemed more interested in asking “Do you have any plans for the night?” (Is she really allowed to ask that question? I almost wanted to respond “Yes – grating all the dead skin off of my feet, flushing out ear wax, and other personal grooming ” just to freak her out) than the lack of malt powder!

It’s difficult to get exactly the items you want sometimes. And other times you just don’t feel like bothering. So this week I am posting a chicken and orzo dinner recipe that I invented using leftover food items I had on-hand. Think of it more as a “meat + pasta + cheese” dish which you can flex to cater to the current state of your pantry. I’ll also give you several substitute suggestions for various ingredients to get the creative juices flowing.



– 6 oz. (3/4 cup) orzo (Substitutions: rice, fettucine noodles, pasta shells…any starch that can absorb moisture well)

– 10 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (Substitutions: ground beef, ground sausage, kielbasa, turkey breast)

– Chicken Seasonings: minced garlic (~1 Tbs.), lemon juice (2-3 Tbs.), salt and pepper

– 2-3 cups frozen vegetables (Your pick – I used broccoli)

– 3 cups chicken broth (This is the anchor – don’t substitute!)

– 1/4 cup grated cheese (I used parmesan, but you can substitute mozzarella, swiss, and so on)


1. Bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add in orzo. Let cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. While the orzo is cooking, cut chicken into chunks. Spray a skillet with Pam. Add in lemon juice, garlic, and chicken. Sprinkle salt and pepper over chicken. Cook chicken over medium heat.

3. Return to the orzo. After the 10 minute have elapsed, the orzo should have absorbed some of the chicken broth. Add in the chicken. Stir occasionally. Boil 2 minutes more.

4. Add in frozen vegetable after the 2 minutes have elapsed. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, 5 minutes.

CALORIES (per serving): 300

Some more substitution ideas: If you don’t have frozen vegetables on-hand, use fresh ones. I experimented with adding in red onion – I had to chew a lot of minty gum because of that tweak! Fresh tomatoes or peppers would likely work better. My sister came up with a brilliant cheese substitution – string cheese! And you can alter the chicken seasoning as well – salt, pepper, and garlic are non-negotiable, but the lemon juice can be eliminated and any other seasonings you like subbed in.

Enjoy this mash up of a recipe. Please respond with any novel tweaks you made!!

Sating Leafy Longings

23 Jan

I have had a week of feeling uninspired and excited about little to nothing. When this occurs, I get terribly depressed and begin to question the value of everything – my life, humanity. In other words, I make an excellent depressed drama queen!

Fortunately, I have been reading the autobiography (Miles Gone By) of William F. Buckley Jr., one of the greatest American Conservative voices in the second half of the 20th century. He was a man of strong convictions and a lust for life. Something I read this past week helped to raise my spirits, which, if I may, I quote here:

“It is worth everything to preserve those oddments, to make them available to those who are graced with a thirst for them: that, or – nothing is worth anything at all. Henry Regnery was never confused on this point. As long as people are free to remember, there will be those who will give thanks to those who thought, as Henry has done, with loving care to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.”

Buckley was paying tribute to the memory of Henry Regnery, the man who published Buckley’s controversial first book God and Man at Yale. My interpretation of the ‘oddments’ being referred to is any knowledge or material item that reflects, simply put, freedom. This quote resonated with me (bone-deep!) because it made me realize I have no right to be depressed. What an amazing gift to be born an American, and  how beautifully does Buckley express his praise of our nation’s values.

So, no, I did not make freedom fries this week! I was, however, able to use the Buckley-induced burst of energy to cook quite prolifically this weekend. I am featuring in this post a Southwestern-styled salad, my own recipe:


INGREDIENTS (Makes 1 Serving – should you still have leafy longings, scale-up is easy!):

– 2 cups iceberg lettuce, chopped

– 1/2 grape tomato, diced

– 1/4 red onion, diced

– 1 Tbs. fresh or frozen corn, thawed

– 1 Tbs. pepper jack cheese, grated

– 2 oz. (1/4 cup) boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into thin strips

– chicken seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic salt, red pepper flakes, cumin


1. Toss all ingredients together except for the chicken.

2. Season the chicken: Heat skillet. Place chicken in skillet and coat with Pam. Salt and pepper chicken. Season with garlic salt, red pepper flakes, and cumin to taste. If you have to have a measurement, I recommend a tsp. of each spice. Heat until chicken is cooked through.

3. Place grilled and seasoned chicken over bed of lettuce. Fork in!

CALORIES (per serving): 190

Dressing Options I recommend:

-Ken’s Light Honey Dijon Dressing (2 Tbs. = 70 cal)

– Ken’s Light Balsamic Vinaigrette (2 Tbs. = 60 cal)

Perhaps you like a different type of cheese, or have better dressing options. So, tweak away…and read a Buckley essay or watch a clip from his show Firing Line while crunching away!

Fajitas, Chicas (y Chicos…)

17 Jan

After an otherwise lovely weekend spent with my cousin, visiting from Pittsburgh, I had a series of encounters today that left me frustrated with and perplexed by society. First, I was asked to contribute a dollar to a young and perfectly healthy man’s meal at McDonalds and tracked to the parking lot when I refused to do so. Next, an older man standing in the middle of the street hit my car (and others!) while stopped at a red light to grab our attention and demand money. Finally, while waiting in Union Station, DC, for my cousin’s bus to arrive, I noticed an elderly lady struggling to pull along her suitcase. I asked her if she needed any help, thinking she would direct me to the suitcase’s intended destination. Her response: “Could I please buy her two cinnamon rolls from Au Bon Pain to compliment her large coffee already in hand?” Which leads me to MY response, to all three of these people: Are you asking, or demanding? And if it’s the latter, do those who do your bidding still get to label it as an act of charity?

As much as I’d like to pose this question, my current mode of coping is cooking. Besides, the Taliban are picking off boys on the street and tricking them into performing suicide bombings in Afghanistan, so our society could certainly be in a worse state!

I’ve taste-tested a simple, healthy recipe for fajitas. It can be found at: The tweaks I made are as follows: Instead of using steak, I used boneless, skinless chicken breast. The lime juice can be substituted with lemon juice, depending on what you have in the fridge. I used frozen red and green peppers in place of the onion and fresh peppers – a time and money saver! As toppings, I only used salsa and pepper jack cheese and the fajitas were delicious. With 1 Tbs. pepper jack cheese, and 2 Tbs. salsa, each fajita comes out to be a mere 220 calories!

This recipe took about 45 minutes from start to finish. It makes a great take-to-work lunch as well: I wrap a tortilla in aluminum foil, put the fajita mixture, salsa, and cheese in containers, and re-live the plating experience! They even taste good cold.

Some more tweaks floating around in my head:

– If you get sick of fajita leftovers, why not try fajita pizza? Use the tortilla as the crust, sprinkle some tomato sauce on, then top with the fajita mixture and a little extra cheese…yes?

– If short on time, buy oven roasted chicken breast and spray with Pam to allow for adhesion of the seasonings (chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper).

While I can’t resist beggar scare tactics, as this would only place me as a bully to society’s victims, I can make a mean fajita. If you had a frustrating day, I highly recommend de-stressing with this quick and easy recipe. And if you have any adaptations of your own that simplify it further, tweak away!

Soup Scoop

7 Jan

I am not a soup lover, so for my first entry to be soup-centered is not indicative of the content of future posts. My main issue with soup is an excess of broth. I want to eat my lunch, not drink it. This ‘tweak,’ a fairly easy one, is an attempt to both bulk up the food content of box soup and bolster your Vitamin A intake!

Like I said, it’s really simple. I’m almost ashamed to take any credit for it. But here goes:



– 2 Raw Carrots

– 2 Celery Stalks


1. Peel and slice carrots. Slice celery.

2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, as indicated on soup box cooking directions, but add in raw vegetables so as to cook them.

3. Add in one pouch of soup mix and follow soup box cooking directions from here on out.

CALORIES (per serving): 160

The carrots infuse a nice flavor into the soup. It’s also a scrumptious way to eat a few veggies that otherwise grow in your mouth when consumed raw. The only drawback, especially for those of us who, like me, experience unquenchable thirst just before bed and fear it may be due to hypernatremia: the soup is high in sodium. So, to keep the tweaking going, if anyone has a suggestion for how to combat this problem, comment!