side dish

Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing

Who says pasta salad has to be saved for the summer? This Greek orzo with creamy lemon dijon dressing might be your new favorite make-ahead lunch option.

Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing

I feel like the theme of my January cooking routine is “simplify”. After the start of the new year as social events started slowing down, I wanted to keep things as easy as possible, but still prioritize great-tasting meals (sans the restriction because “more, not less” amiright?).

I started the month by using recipes from Bon Appetit’s Feel Good Food Plan which I loved! It was a great way to kick off the year because it saved so much time and the meals were awesome. I highly recommend the warm chickpea bowls, by the way.

For the second half of the month I’ll be cooking from my January Meal Plan pinterest board. I’ve been using it as a hub for recipes that include lot’s of fish and seafood, whole grains, beans, fresh produce and herbs. Feel free to follow along with me and use the recipes for yourself too! Pinterest is a fantastic way to organize your recipes - both the favorites that you make and again along with new ones that are on your list.

This recipe checks all of the boxes and was originally created as a side dish because I had the ingredients on hand and needed something to pair with fish. The best part is, it can be made ahead of time (Sunday food prep!), doubles as a lunch entree, and is super flavorful from the addition of fresh lemon juice and salty feta cheese crumbles.

Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Let me also just say orzo is in the regular rotation in my house (and maybe it should be at yours too?). It’s a rice-shaped pasta that cooks in just seven minutes and can be doctored up with any vegetables you are currently loving. It has great chew, but doesn’t overwhelm the other ingredients, which can sometimes happen with larger pasta. I’m a big fan of the add-ins here and they really do shine.

Of course we have all of the best Mediterranean things: fresh grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta, dill, red onion and a simple dressing to pull it all together. The lemon dijon vinaigrette couldn’t be easier and has a great silkiness! Remember to keep tiny jars around for your homemade salad dressings! The one photographed here is an old anchovy jar and worked great for this.

The beans are totally optional but if you have them on hand, I say add them. You could easily substitute garbanzo beans or lentils too. The fiber will give this more staying power, plus I think we all need more beans in our life. #thingsdietitianssay

Make this Greek orzo on Sunday for an easy, fresh and interesting packed lunch option. Serve it over some spinach with your favorite seasonal fruit on the side for a flavorful and satisfying meal. Grab the full recipe below.

Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing

Greek Orzo Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: Serves 3-4 for lunch, 6 as a side dish | Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta

  • Juice from 1/2 lemon

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

  • salt and pepper, to taste

  • 1, 14.5 oz can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

  • 1/4 cup minced red onion

  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved

  • 1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles

  • 4-5 sprigs fresh dill, rough chopped

  • Fresh mint leaves, torn (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cook orzo per package directions, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing by adding the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, plus a pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper to a small jar. Screw on the lid tightly and shake until creamy. Set aside.

  3. Add all ingredients to a medium-size bowl and stir to evenly distribute the dressing. Garnish with extra herbs and lemon wedges.

Notes: store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.


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Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce with Pears

Instant Pot Cranberry Pear Sauce for Thanksgiving

I figured it was about time to drop a Thanksgiving recipe here and you know I’m not about to get all complicated on you now! So here we are, with a super simple cranberry sauce recipe that will leave your friends and family totally impressed with minimal effort on your part. This recipe also leans more heavily on the fruit component for sweetness and has less added sugar than a lot of the other versions you’ll find. Actually, it has about half the added sugar and I didn’t even miss it! Just tart enough, plus more texture from the addition of dried cherries.

Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce with Oranges and Pears

The Case for Going Homemade

So it seems like every year I cross paths with at least one person who didn’t know homemade cranberry sauce was a thing. The canned stuff is such a staple and let’s be honest, it is one less thing to worry about when you have a lot of other dishes that require attention: brining, chopping, oven coordination, all of the things. I get it!

But cranberry sauce is so dang simple to make and better yet, it’s one of the few items that can be prepped ahead of time (like days ahead of time) so I say go for it. With just six ingredients, you can make a colorful and nutrient-packed sauce that everyone will love. Plus, I would argue that this is the most versatile item to re-purpose in leftovers (more on that below).

If you have an instant pot you can set it and forget it. Literally just dump everything in, stir to combine, lock the lid in place and cook on high pressure for two minutes. If you don’t have an IP, you can certainly use the old tried-and-true saucepan method, it just requires a little bit more hands-on time. Use this recipe for an estimated cook time if you do it that way!

Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce with Oranges and Pears

One reason I cut back on the added sugar is because there’s extra fruit, juice, and citrus zest to make up for it - you don’t want it to be too tart after all! The end result is really bright and fresh tasting - a nice balance of orange, pear, cranberry and cherry.

Repurposing Cranberry Sauce

If you end up with leftovers, here are a few different ways to use up it without eating it on top of turkey for the next week:

  • Oatmeal or toast topping (pairs great with nut butter)

  • Smoothie add-in

  • Sandwich spread - I especially love the look of this turkey club!

  • Swirl it in plain yogurt or cottage cheese for extra flavor

  • Jazz up a grain bowl

  • Make an appetizer in a pinch: just open up a block of cream cheese, spread the sauce on top, serve with seedy crackers

  • Try it in a glaze on fish or chicken

Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce with Pears

Did I convince you to try giving this one a go?

If you are contributing something to your Thanksgiving meal but feel overwhelmed with taking on one of the major items, I think this would be an excellent choice. I have a good feeling that once your guests try it, they’ll never go for the canned stuff again! Just be sure to circle back around and let me know how it goes.


Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce with Pears

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 2 cups (16 servings) | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes | Total time: 25 minutes
Nutrition info: 52 cals | 0 g fat | 13 g carbohydrate | 0 g protein (per 2 Tbsp serving)

ingredients

  • 12 oz fresh cranberries

  • 1 orange, zest and juice only

  • 1 pear, cored and chopped

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup 100% orange juice

  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries

instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to instant pot, stir well to combine and lock the lid in place.

  2. Cook on high pressure for 2 minutes.

  3. After 5 minutes, release the steam valve manually.

  4. Once able to safely open the lid, stir well and transfer sauce to a storage container or mason jar to cool. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it sits. Refrigerate and use within 5 days.


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Perfect Roasted Vegetables + 5 Ways to Use Them

roasted vegetables on serving platter

Can we stop and admire the beauty that is roasted vegetables for a minute?

I think it’s pretty obvious by now that roasting is the no-fail way to prepare just about any vegetable on the planet. This used to be a secret, but I feel like roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes are now (dare I say) mainstream.

This roasted blend has become such a staple in my house over the years that I allllllmost forget that there’s actually a technique involved. And in addition to just sharing the recipe, the really cool thing about these is they they can be repurposed in many different ways to keep things interesting without a whole lot of added effort. It’s basically one of those “cook once, eat three times” situations.

But first, let’s talk about how to make the perfect roasted vegetables.

ingredients for perfect roasted vegetables

Here are the vegetables that I chose for this batch, although keep in mind that this is totally customizable. I try to make sure I have a variety of color avoid anything super delicate like zucchini or summer squash (which could just sort of melt away in the heat).

If you plan on adding all of these to one sheet pan, it’s important to keep cook times in mind. Chop the hardiest vegetables in smaller pieces, and the quicker-cooking ones in slightly larger pieces. Something to note with Brussels sprouts - some will be bigger than others. I halved them if they were on the smaller side and quartered them if they were on the larger side.

chopped brussels sprouts
chopped parsnips
chopped sweet potatoes
button mushrooms without stems
chopped red bell peppers

You have many options with the onions (slice into rings, chop into large chunks) but if you want to try to replicate the shape below, halve it down the middle of the root end, then slice each half into 3-4 wedges leaving the root intact. I like doing it this way because it looks pretty and doesn’t tend to separate like it will if you chop it smaller.

chopped vegetables lined up
sheet pan of roasted vegetables

A few more tips for the perfect roast:

  • If you only have smaller sheet pans, you’ll want to divide this mixture into two batches to prevent overcrowding and steaming of the vegetables. Decrease the amount of vegetables you use if you only have time for one batch.

  • Avoid messing with your vegetables too much while they are in the oven. If you want that nice browned edge, they need to hangout in one spot for awhile. Stir just once about two-thirds of the way through your cook time.

  • Use a high-heat, neutral cooking oil like grapeseed.

perfect roasted vegetables

Of course the classic way to use roasted vegetables is in the form of a side dish and since this blend has both the starchy and non-starchy covered, all you really need is a protein and dinner is served. I also love that so much of the time involved is hands-off, so you can move on to something else while you wait for them to cook.

There are also several ways to repurpose these so you aren’t eating the same dinner multiple nights in a row. Here are a few of my go-to options:

  1. Chop up the vegetables into small pieces and use them in a quiche (yum)

  2. Layer them on a bed of arugula, add your favorite cheese, beans and mustardy dressing for a really delicious salad (love that this one has cauliflower)

  3. Use them on flatbread or pizza; finish with basil and a drizzle of balsamic glaze

  4. Toss the vegetables with orzo, olives and goat cheese for a tasty pasta side dish

  5. Top them with a runny egg, diced avocado and hot sauce for a weekend brunch (or week night “breakfast for dinner”)

No matter how you serve these, I know you’ll make them again and again. Experiment with different combinations and spices to keep things interesting!


Perfect Roasted Vegetables

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 6-8 servings | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes | Total time: 45 minutes

ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped

  • 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped

  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

  • 1 red onion, cut into six wedges

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, hard ends chopped off, then halved (quarter the larger ones)

  • 1 pint of mushrooms (white button), cleaned and stems removed

  • 2-3 Tbsp grapeseed oil*

  • 2 tsp garlic powder

  • Salt and pepper to taste

instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  2. Line a large sheet pan with foil and spray with cooking spray, then add the vegetables to the pan (working in batches if necessary to keep one layer and prevent overcrowding).

  3. Drizzle the vegetables with oil and toss to coat. Season with garlic powder, then salt and pepper to taste (along with any other seasonings you prefer).

  4. Roast for 20 minutes uninterrupted, then remove pan from the oven and stir the vegetables around. Return to the oven for 10 more minutes until you see browned and crispy edges.

*notes:

If you don’t have grapeseed oil, canola or vegetable oil will work too.


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