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!!

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