Orzo Veggie Cheese Medley

Orzo Veggie Cheese Medley

I attended a birthday dinner that included both kids and adults. Many adults were counting calories, or on a healthy eating plan. I wasn’t sure what food dish to bring with such a mixed crowd. This orzo vegetable medley seemed to fit the bill. It is healthy and has enough cheese to make little peeps happy. One serving is a mere 159 calories. Add chopped chicken and you’re still under 200 calories.

I had no recipe to follow. It’s what I call a “seek and find” dish. Seek out ingredients you have on hand and find a way to use them. The dish received rave reviews from the party-goers. The apples give a hint of sweetness to the vegetable medley.

Vegetable Medley with Orzo, Cheese and Apple


  • 3/4 cup cooked orzo (it will make about 1 3/4 cups once cooked)
  • 1 can low fat cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk, or skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons diced onion
  • 1 1/2 medium size apples, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup snow peas, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise and chopped
  • 4 ounces reduced fat Velvetta cheese
  • 1/4 cup low fat cheddar cheese, shredded
    The apples add a hint of sweetness.

    How To

Spray a 9 x 11 inch baking dish with non-sticking cooking spray. Add  broccoli, pea pods, onion and zucchini to pan.

In a medium size sauce pan add soup, milk and water. Blend until smooth. Incorporate the cooked orzo and reduced-fat Velvetta cheese. Heat on stove top until cheese in melted. Remove from heat.

Pour the soup mixture over the vegetables. Using a spoon, gently coat all the veggies. Evenly distribute the apples on the top and finish off the dish by sprinkling the cheddar cheese over apples.

Baked in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Best served warm, but leftover portions can be reheated in microwave. Makes 10 side dish portions. In the neighborhood of 159 calories per serving. If you add canned chicken breast meat, you add 20 additional calories. A six-ounce boneless chicken breast (cooked and chopped) adds 25 calories to each serving.


Cream of mushroom soup can be substituted for cream of chicken.

For an “all-in-one” dinner, add pre-cooked chicken pieces to top of medley once removed from oven.




Pizza Squares

It was another “fly by the seat my pants” dinner night. The wine guy and I just returned from a trip to Vero Beach, Florida. We didn’t grocery shop before we left, so the pantry and fridge was looking pretty sparse.

I played I Spy as I searched out items to make dinner. Ah, ha… I spy a can of pizza dough, I spy that jar of artichoke tapenade I opened last week, I spy half a jar of marinara sauce… and so it went.

Cut pizza into 8 squares.The final ingredient list:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can of pizza dough
  • Cookie sheet (spray with non-stick cooking oil)
  • 4 tablespoons marinara sauce
  • 3 tablespoons artichoke tapenade
  • 1 cup grated low fat mozarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled low fat feta cheese
  • Small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 15-20 mild banana pepper rings
  • 3/4 cup chopped portabella mushrooms

How To

Unroll pizza dough and stretch to fit a cookie sheet. Spray the cookie sheet with non-stick spray before spreading the dough.  Apply one tablespoon of olive oil to the surface of dough. A flavored olive oil, like basil, gives added flavor.

Mix together the tapenade and marinara sauce. Evenly spread onto the pizza dough. Sprinkle on the chopped onions and mushrooms.

Apply remaining toppings in this order: feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, banana peppers. Bake in oven according to instructions given on the pizza dough wrapper. It is usually at 400 to 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Remove cooked pizza from oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting into 8 squares. Each square is in the neighborhood of 235 calories.

Artichoke Tapenade Pasta

As usual, I had a few food items that needed immediate attention. A partially cut tomato, fresh parsley, and an open jar of marinara sauce were shouting an SOS from the refrigerator. When I spotted a jar of Artichoke Tapenade in the pantry, I knew a pasta dish was on the dinner menu.

Tapenade is an olive oil based paste. There are many variations with chopped olives and garlic being a mainstay. However, the purchased tapenade I used for this dish contained artichokes instead of olives. Tapenade is considered a condiment and most often spread on toasted bread or sandwiches. Adding a few tablespoons to pasta sauce can really jumpstart the flavor.
Artichoke Tapenade

I elected to use spaghetti noodles, but any type of pasta can be used.


  • 1 Tablespoon marinara sauce
  • 3 cups cooked pasta
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Parmesan reggiano, grated
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons artichoke tapenade (I purchased a jar at Costco)
  • 1/2 cup fresh tomoatoes, diced
  • 1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Optional: a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like it spicy
Mix Artichoke Tapenade with Parsley and Olive Oil

Artichoke tapenade mixed with parsley and olive oil.

How To

Cook pasta as directed on package. Drain water and return pasta to the cooking pan.

Toss the remaining ingredients into the pasta and serve. This recipe makes three 1-cup servings. Each serving is in the neighborhood of 292 calories. You can shave off 45 calories by using whole wheat spaghetti, and it’s good for you! That puts a one cup serving at just 247 calories. Add a tossed salad or side of steamed broccoli and you’re still under 300 calories.

This dish is quick to prepare (I keep cooked pasta in my fridge so it’s ready in a pinch), filling and very flavorful. I skipped the side dishes and made garlic toast instead.