Quick and easy weekday meal

For a deliciously simple supper, serve baked chicken with orzo, sauteed broccoli, and a tortellini pasta salad.

This summertime, Italian-inspired menu is light and simple to prepare. Using dried herbs and frozen broccoli will save time in the kitchen, and slow cooking the chicken in broth will be a breeze. You will need two pots of water; one for boiling the tortellini and a second pot for the orzo. Orzo is a small-cut pasta and is about the same size as a grain of rice. Orzo is a versatile pasta often used in soup, salads, and other cheesy side dishes, or it can be used instead of rice in risotto. Be sure to make the pasta salad first thing in the morning and put it in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The crockpot does the majority of the work. The final step will be to prepare the orzo and broccoli right before sitting down to dinner. A beautiful and flavorful dinner!

Italian Herbed Chicken with Orzo

• 6-7 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

• 2 tsp. good quality Italian seasoning (I love to use Trader Joe’s Soffritto Seasoning Blend)

• 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

• 1 small onion, chopped

• 2 tsp. garlic, minced

• 4 TBSP. butter, cut into small pieces

• Salt and pepper to taste

• ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

• Orzo, prepared according to package directions

Season the chicken with the salt and pepper and place in a lightly greased slow cooker. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the top of the chicken. Add the chicken broth, chopped onion, and garlic; place the butter over the top of the chicken. Cook on low for 6 hours or until done. Use a fork to shred the chicken. (You can add more Italian seasoning and salt and pepper if necessary.) Sprinkle the cheese over the top and allow to melt. Prepare 1 ½ cups of orzo pasta according to package directions. Serve the chicken over the cooked orzo pasta. *For added flavor, stir 1 cup thawed frozen peas into the al dente cooked orzo and season with onion powder, garlic powder, seasoned salt, and Parmesan cheese to taste. Continue to simmer until cheese is melted.

Easy Caprese Tortellini Salad

• 12 oz. bag cheese tortellini

• 1 cup sun dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), chopped

• 1 ½ cups baby spinach, chopped

• 1 ¼ cups shredded mozzarella cheese

• ¼ cup olive oil

• 2 TBSP. balsamic vinegar

• ½ tsp. minced garlic

• ½ tsp. Italian seasoning

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 1/8 tsp. black pepper

• 2 tsp. dried basil leaves

Prepare tortellini according to package directions and rinse under cold water; drain and place in a bowl. Stir in the chopped dried tomatoes and chopped spinach. Stir together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and all of the spices in a small bowl. Pour over the pasta and vegetables. Toss together; sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top. Refrigerate until ready to serve. You can drizzle more balsamic vinegar over the top before serving, and garnish with fresh basil. Options: Add Kalamata olives or freshly toasted croutons to your individual plate.

Italian-Style Broccoli

• 12 oz. bag broccoli florets

• 1 TBSP. olive oil

• 1 tsp. Italian seasoning

• Sea salt to taste

• 1/8 tsp. (or more) crushed red pepper flakes

• Optional: 1 TBSP. grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare broccoli in the microwave for half of the cooking time listed on the package (about 3-4 minutes). In a skillet, heat the olive oil; add the broccoli and sprinkle with the Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste; sauté on medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle with the grated cheese. Turn off the heat and place a lid over the top until ready to serve.

Sherri’s Cheesy Garlic Bread

• 1 large French loaf or baguette, thinly sliced

• 1 stick salted butter, softened

• 2-3 garlic cloves, minced

• 1-2 TBSP. fresh parsley

• 1 TBSP. chives

• ½ cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

In a small bowl, stir together the butter, garlic, parsley, and chives. Place bread slices on a large parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the bread slices. Sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over the bread slices. Broil for 3 minutes or until golden brown and toasted.

— Amy Fischer lives in Fort Payne, Alabama, and is a Southern food enthusiast who loves to spend time in the kitchen creating tasty recipes. You can contact her at facebook.com/MySouthernTable.

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