Every Journey Begins with One Step – Orzo with Everything

orzo finalA wise woman (Jen Hatmaker), recently wrote, “We don’t think our way into a new life; we live our way into a new kind of thinking.”  I read that today while getting a pedicure (yes, the planets all aligned, babies slept, toddlers napped, older children read, and the Hubs was working from home, so I grabbed my purse and made a dash for it, before anyone could “need” anything else).

Now the wise author’s reference  was to a story about our hearts and where we store our treasures.  Some of you may be familiar with that one – wink.  But I found myself thinking about how much that saying applies to what we eat.  What if we rephrased it this way – – – we don’t think our way into new eating habits; we eat our way into new thoughts about food.  Make sense?  It totally rings true to me.

If you had told me even 2 years ago that I would be eating flexitarian (mainly vegetarian with a little meat thrown in here and there, because who can live without bacon???), avoiding processed foods,making my own bread, and growing our own little backyard garden, I would have looked at you with that weird scrunched up mouth and one raised eyebrow look.  You know, the look accompanied by “Whaaaaaaaat?”  But we started, eating differently bit by bit.  First the no read meat.  Then the no chicken.  Then the slight avoidance of processed foods.  Then the major avoidance of processed foods, and so on.  And here we are.  I now steer the boat known as my kitchen in a totally different way because I have totally NEW THOUGHTS about food.

When I started this blog, one of the only things I knew I DIDN’T want to do was to be prescriptive.  Just because something works for me and my family doesn’t mean it’s something that will work for everyone else.  But I have had a lot of people ask me how they can transition to eating more real foods and eliminating the processed stuff.  So here’s the short list, folks.  Some simple steps  that I took and that might help you too.

1) Go through the effort of cleaning out what you already have in your kitchen.  Eliminate the processed stuff and give yourself a clean slate.  If you go through the time, effort, and expense of getting rid of the foods you don’t want to eat, it will be that much harder to justify buying more of it.

2) Get a clear idea of what it is you DO want to eat.  Real Food is food that is as close to its natural state as possible. It’s not produced in a factory or engineered in a lab.  The sad truth is that 70% of the “food” available for sale at your grocery store isn’t really food at all.  So in order to eat real food, you’re probably going to have to shop differently. Probably the best definition of real food that I have come across is right here.

3) Decide to shop differently.  First of all, if you are going to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, you will more than likely need to shop more frequently.  This way of shopping is pretty standard for most Europeans.  They have bi-weekly markets (like our farmers’ markets) in most towns and villages and so stock up on fresh produce twice a week.  Decide to do the same.  Choose two days (Wednesday and Saturday, for example) when you will shop for fresh produce.  Make a plan to have one fresh  fruit and one vegetable with every meal you consume.  That leads us nicely into suggestion #4.

4) Take a piece of paper and a pencil, yes, I said a piece of paper and a pencil, and make a 5 day meal plan.  No don’t faint.  Stick with me now.  It’s not as hard as it sounds.  For Monday through Friday, decide on a protein you will eat, a vegetable you will eat, and a fruit you will eat at each meal.  You can also throw in whole grains if you’re feeling ambitious.  Now take that paper and walk over to your refrigerator and stick it on the front.

5)  Try it.  If you purge (1), understand (2), plan (3), and shop (4), the only thing you have left to do is give it a try.  What do you have to lose?  I have found that this is totally an incremental transition.  It’s not like going cold turkey overnight. You will slip back into some old habits, but hopefully you will acquire more new ones.  Me, for example, I have made a lot of progress in the area of meals.  On-the-go snacks?  Not so much.  So while I aspire to become that mom who makes her own fruit leather, for now I still throw the occasional baggie of goldfish in my purse on my way out the door.  I’m a work in progress.

I bet that if you were to give these five steps a try for just one week, you could start the incremental process of eating differently.  If it’s something you think you may try, I would love to hear about your experience.  In the meantime, let’s talk salads . . . specifically a little orzo number that has been in my repertoire for years.

Super simple, I started by cooking up about a cup and a half of orzo (rice shaped pasta).  After I had drained it, I added to it some sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

orzo sdt

I let that sit until it was completely cooled.  Then I added in one head of chopped radicchio and a big bunch of basil.

orzo radicchio

In a dry skillet, I toasted some pine nuts.

orzo pine nuts

I tossed the pine nuts, along with some freshly grated parmesan and minced garlic into the orzo.

orzo parm

I gave that all a good stir and called it a wrap – not that kind of wrap, silly!  I like to let this one sit in the fridge for a few hours before serving because I just find that it allows the flavors to blend better.

orzo final

Here’s the complete recipe for Orzo with Everything.

Oh, and if you decide to try a baby step toward eating real food, good luck to you.  I would love to hear about your journey.

School’s Out for Summer – Orzo with Grilled Shrimp, Summer Veggies & Pesto Vinaigrette

I think I’m starting to decompress.  I think I’m starting to decompress.  If I repeat that another dozen times, maybe I’ll start to believe it.  About 4 million things have fallen off of my schedule in the last few weeks – with the biggest one being school.  Yes, I homeschool my children and yes, it’s insane.  But the implications of that on the cooking front is that I’m always trying to wedge dinner preparations into everything else I’ve got going on during the day.  Keeping all of the plates spinning is my boiled down job description.  And no, I won’t bore you with the names of each and every plate.  Just trust me when I say, “There are  A LOT of them!”

But with school finished for the year, I can take a more leisurely approach to things in my kitchen.  I love that.  I know for some people cooking is such a hassle, but for me it really is therapeutic.  I’ll take zesting a good lemon over journaling my innermost feelings any day.  Body combat workout to release my aggressions?  I’d rather beat egg whites into stiff peaks.  If I have the time, I like to linger over the steps of putting a meal together and not rush through things.  That’s exactly what I did in assembling this summer salad.

I started by making a nice pot of orzo, draining, rinsing, tossing with a little olive oil and setting it aside.  I truly think orzo is one of my favorite pastas.  There’s something about the size and the texture that just works for me.

shrimp orzo1

Then I chopped up some red bell pepper and summer squash.


I whisked together a little olive oil and red wine vinegar and brushed the veggies with the mixture.


Finally, I grilled the veggies until they were just browned and then set aside.  Yes, this was the inaugural busting out of the grill for the summer.


While the veggies were grilling, I had the peeled and deveined shrimp sitting in a little marinade of prepared pesto, lime juice, olive oil, and red wine vinegar.  As soon as the veggies came off the grill, on went the shrimp.  I grilled them for about 3 minutes per side and then pulled them off.  Actually, Medium Little One handled the grilling for me and did quite a fine job at it.


I chopped up some grape tomatoes and fresh basil (we are OVERRUN with basil, so if you find all recipes for the next 3 months oozing with basil, it’s not my fault it’s the garden’s), and then cubed some fresh mozzarella.  I tossed this all together with the orzo, the grilled veggies and the grilled shrimp and then poured my remaining pesto vinaigrette over.


I served it with some sweet potato fries and we were good to go.


So welcome summer!  I am so glad you are here.  No I won’t be grading anymore Singapore Math, nor will I be measuring soil compaction with knitting needles for Science Fair projects.  I will not be be nagging to complete your DOL, nor will I explain rotational symmetry for the 98th time.  I don’t care if you don’t know whether the pronoun is a subject pronoun or an object pronoun, and if you can’t remember to find a common denominator before comparing fractions, then that’s just your own problem for the next three months.  I’ll be lingering over summer recipes in my kitchen and sipping white wine while doing it.

For the complete Orzo with Grilled Shrimp Summer Veggies & Pesto Vinaigrette Recipe, click here.

Want to explore some more fun Orzo Recipes?

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