Butternut Squash Parmesan Orzo

Butternut Squash Parmesan Orzo via Semi-Vegetarian.com

As I’ve mentioned in this space before, sometimes I get a little “enthusiastic” in the produce section. In the fall this usually translates to miscellaneous squashes making their way to my countertop. I had a butternut squash on hand and wanted to mix things up from my go-to preparations (soup or roasted), and boy oh boy, did this turn out to be a winner. Creamy, cheesy, carb-y deliciousness! 

My whole family loved this dish. Sort of a grown-up mac and cheese of sorts, you could say. We ate it as an entree, but it would make a great side dish, too (especially for entertaining!). If you wanted to make a smaller batch or make it more vegetable heavy, I recommend only cooking half the package of orzo (cook about one cup instead of two) and keeping the amounts of vegetables and sauce the same.

I made this recipe a few weeks ago, and typing up this post makes me wish we were having it tonight! If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to add “butternut squash” to my shopping list… enjoy!

Butternut Squash Parmesan Orzo
Serves 8
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 16 oz package orzo
  2. 2 cups cubed butternut squash (1/4" cubes)
  3. 1 small onion, diced
  4. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  5. 1 tablespoon butter
  6. 1 tablespoon flour
  7. 2 cups milk
  8. 2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese (the kind in a tub, not the powdery kind in a shaker)
  9. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  10. 1 cup packed spinach, chopped very small
Instructions
  1. Cook orzo according to package directions and reserve about two cups of cooking water
  2. While the orzo is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat
  3. Add the onions to the hot oil and cook until they begin to become translucent
  4. Add the butternut squash and cook about six more minutes, stirring occasionally
  5. Move the vegetables to the edge of the pan, creating space in the center
  6. Add the butter to the center and once it's mostly melted, add the flour and cook for a minute or two
  7. Pour in the milk while whisking to dissolve the flour and butter mixture
  8. Add the parmesan cheese and black pepper and whisk again until melted
  9. Stir the entire vegetable and sauce mixture together, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan
  10. Add the cooked orzo to the pan and stir very well
  11. If the mixture seems "tight", add the starchy cooking water from the orzo a half cup at a time until it's the desired consistency.
Semi-Vegetarian http://www.semi-vegetarian.com/
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Veggie and Chicken Nuggets

Chicken & Veggie Nuggets via Semi-Vegetarian.com

Store-bought frozen chicken nuggets are super convenient for busy families, but (as we all know) they aren’t the healthiest choice. This recipe for homemade chicken nuggets has quite a few things going for it:

  • Added vegetables to bump up the nutritional profile
  • Freeze really well (and can be baked straight from the freezer!)
  • Makes a large batch, so it’s easy to keep some on hand
  • You can make patties instead of (or in addition to) nuggets for the adults or teenagers in your family

I made a batch of these for Max’s third birthday and they were gobbled up! 

If you want to speed up prep time, I highly recommend shredding the vegetables in your food processor. Also, be sure to really squeeze the vegetables dry! This is key to preventing the nuggets from falling apart. I like to put the shredded vegetables in an old, non-terry cloth towel, gather up the sides, and twist and squeeze the ball of veggies over the sink. 

If you don’t have a food processor to grind the chicken and shredded vegetables, you could try buying ground chicken and chopping the shredded vegetables finely with a knife. I’ve never made them with this method, so no guarantees. 🙂

I tested a few different breading mixtures (Panko, regular breadcrumbs, and cornmeal) and discovered that Panko is the best way to go. It gives the nugget a bit of crunch!

Chicken & Veggie Nuggets via Semi-Vegetarian.com

Nutrition facts for one serving (1 patty or 4 nuggets). Recipe serves 12.

Chicken_and_Veggie_Nuggets_Nutrition

Chicken and Veggie Nuggets
Serves 12
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  2. 1 small zucchini
  3. 1 small yellow squash
  4. 2 small carrots
  5. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  6. 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  7. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  8. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  9. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the breading
  1. 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  2. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  3. 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Shred the vegetables and squeeze out as much water as possible
  3. Cut the chicken breast in to chunks and pulse in the food processor until ground (5 - 10 seconds)
  4. Add the vegetables and pulse until combined (work in batches, if needed)
  5. Transfer the chicken and vegetable mixture to a bowl, add the seasonings, and mix well
  6. Combine the breading ingredients in a small bowl
  7. For nuggets: Using a cookie scoop, scoop about two teaspoons of the mixture, press in to a patty shape, and coat in breadcrumb mixture
  8. For patties: Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture, press in to a patty, and coat in the breadcrumb mixture
  9. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  10. Bake nuggets 8 - 10 minutes.
  11. Bake patties 10 - 12 minutes.
To freeze
  1. Form nuggets, roll in breadcrumbs, and place on a plate or baking sheet in a single layer. Freeze several hours or overnight. Once frozen, nuggets can be transferred to a resealable container.
  2. To cook from frozen, preheat oven to 350 degrees, place frozen nuggets on a baking sheet, bake 13-16 minutes.
Semi-Vegetarian http://www.semi-vegetarian.com/
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