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I’m always looking for variety when it comes to side dishes and I really try to keep it as healthy as I can.  I’m not one that often makes instant side dishes.  You know the ones I’m talking about – those pre-packaged mixes of dried up pasta and powdered seasonings.  You add some milk and butter and voila – side dish.  Ewww.  OK – so I’m a bit of a food snob.  Go ahead and say it.  It’s ok.  Yes, I make practically everything from scratch.  It’s okay if you don’t.  Cooking is a preference.  Some people love it – some people don’t.  It’s all good!

I had changed over what we keep in the pantry to all whole wheat and whole grains to keep things healthy.  Our pasta is whole wheat; our rice is brown rice; etc.  Most of the side dishes I was making were potatoes or brown rice.  As much as Rob loves potatoes, it’s not always healthy since he has diabetes and he gets bored quickly with brown rice.  So, what to make?

I wanted to try a pasta side dish that wasn’t too heavy or seemed like a pasta dish/entree rather than a side dish.  I had some whole wheat orzo pasta and decided to make it in a risotto style and see what happened!  Instead of just boiling the pasta in some salted water, I cooked it with some chicken stock and some white wine.  Some frequent stirring and let the pasta soak all of the liquid up.  The end result is absolutely delicious!  A vegetarian?  No problem, just use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.  This has become a favorite in our home and among family and guests!

I hope you’ll give it a try and enjoy it as well!

Orzo with Vegetables (Risotto Style)

1 onion, finely diced
1 tsp. garlic, finely chopped
1-2 cups sliced mushrooms (I just use one large pkg. of fresh sliced mushrooms)
1 cup dried orzo pasta (I use whole wheat to keep it healthy)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 – 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you prefer)
1 pkg. frozen peas and carrots
To season:  Salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder
Olive oil as needed

1)  In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil and saute’ onion and garlic for about 3-4 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook about 3-5 minutes.
2)  Add the dried orzo.  (Yup you read that right – just throw it in there!)  Stirring frequently for about 1-2 minutes, cook the orzo in the onions and garlic mixture.  Be careful not to let the pasta burn!
3)  Add the white wine and 1 cup of the chicken stock.  Stirring frequently, allow the liquid to be absorbed into the pasta.  If all of the liquid has absorbed and the pasta is not cooked through, add the remaining stock and more if needed.
4)  Add the peas and carrots.  Continue cooking the pasta and vegetables until cooked through and most (if not all) of the liquid has been absorbed.
5)  Season with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Be careful not to use too much salt as the chicken stock is salty already.