Earthy wild rice and fluffy orzo, sweet roasted squash and peppery arugula, briny olives and nutty tahini… the flavors here come together in just the right way. This dish is plant based, filling, and vegetarian. And the dressing! This dressing has been drizzled over practically everything lately. And I mean everything. I’ve put it on salads, roasted veggies, chicken, pasta, tacos, you name it – it’s been on it.
I chose to add a handful of arugula and some olives, but feel free to experiment here with toppings! Feta, cilantro, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, baby kale leaves, pomegranate seeds, sliced blood oranges or roasted corn would all be delicious options. Experiment with what’s in your fridge, and you just may find your own favorite version!
ORZO AND WILD RICE WITH ACORN SQUASH AND ARUGULA
(You can cut the amounts listed in half if you don’t have multiple mouths to feed, although I like to make a big batch as the leftovers make for a no-fuss dinner or even lunch the next day. It tastes equally good cold!)
- 2 1/2 cups uncooked wild rice
- 2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
- 2 acorn squash, seeded and cut into 8 slices
- 2 shallots, sliced
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- Flakey sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Chopped olives, to garnish if desired
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cook the wild rice and orzo according to the package instructions, strain, and set aside.
Place the squash and shallots on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat with the oil, then place in the oven. Roast for about 40 minutes or until the squash is cooked through and slightly browned.
Toss the wild rice and orzo together, adding olive oil if sticking together. Spoon the wild rice and orzo onto the plates, top with a few pieces of roasted squash and shallots, add a handful of arugula, a few chopped olives if you like, and drizzle with a little olive oil and tahini dressing (below).
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Whisk the tahini, orange juice, red wine vinegar, and honey together until completely combined (depending on the sweetness of your orange juice, you may want to omit the honey or adjust the amount, so taste before adding the honey and add a bit at a time to adjust the sweetness to your liking). Whisk in the olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.
These chocolates, I tell ya! They are so decadent and rich but also free of any added sugar as they’re sweetened with medjool dates! That means a healthy dessert which equals guilt-free indulging and a satisfied sweet tooth with no sugar crash. I may or may not have snuck one for breakfast the other day… so no judgement here if you find them beckoning you at 9am. Or noon. Or anytime. Because, health.
Every time I make these, they vanish within days, so feel free to make an extra batch as they’ll keep well in the freezer. This recipe uses a combination of almond and peanut butter, but if you only have almond butter or only peanut butter on hand (or even sunbutter if you’re nut-free) no need to run to the store! These are great made completely with just one kind of nut butter, so feel free to experiment with whatever is in your cupboard!
You can also experiment with different toppings like shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, pistachios, walnuts, or dried fruit. Enjoy!
PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATES WITH ALMOND DATE CARAMEL
Makes 22 chocolates
For the almond date caramel filling:
- 25 medjool dates, pitted
- 3 tablespoons salted almond butter (if unsalted, add a pinch or two of salt)
- 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the chocolates:
- 10 oz dark chocolate (72% cacao or greater)
- Peanut butter
- Whole almonds, three for every chocolate
- Flaky sea salt
To make the almond date caramel filling:
Place the pitted medjool dates, almond butter, coconut oil, and vanilla in a food processor or blender and pulse a few times or until combined and the dates are fully blended. Divide and roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter (I ended up with 22 total). Set aside.
To assemble the chocolates:
Melt the chocolate by simmering a pot of water under a glass bowl or in the microwave, stirring and heating until fully melted.
On a parchment lined baking sheet, dollop a spoonful of melted chocolate until there are as many dollops as there are pieces of almond date caramel (I did 22). Place the rolled pieces of caramel onto each dollop, top each with about 1/2 teaspoon amounts of peanut butter (or more if you love peanut butter!), then cover with a spoonful or two of melted chocolate until the filling and peanut butter is fully covered. Press three whole almonds onto the top of each chocolate, and sprinkle with a bit of flaky sea salt.
Place the baking sheet with the chocolates in the freezer for about 15 minutes or so to firm up the chocolate, and they’re ready to go! They keep best in the fridge or freezer as they tend to get a little ‘melty’ if left at room temp. I personally like to keep them in the freezer as this makes for sort of a chocolate-ice cream-bar texture, leaving them at room temp for a couple minutes to soften just slightly.
It’s quite safe to say that what was once a dreaded, overwhelming task turned into a total love affair and beloved creative outlet. Cooking has become something in my life that not only results in bodily nourishment but also makes for a creative venture of technique and texture and taste. However, this enjoyment has not always been the case and so if you feel like you destroy all that you attempt to turn into palatable food, there is hope indeed! In my cooking journey, cookbooks have guided me with their helpful instruction and delicious inspiration. Whether you’re quite experienced or you consider yourself a novice in the kitchen, I think that helping yourself to a new cookbook is always a good investment (and usually results in something tasty)!
I’ve tumbled down the rabbit hole that is Amazon’s cookbook section many a time. With so many options and gorgeous covers and interesting approaches out there, inspiration abounds! With every book I’ve added to my collection, my culinary horizons have broadened and my cooking has been so greatly encouraged by recipes printed on paper now stained with sauce and buttered fingerprints.
Here’s a short list of five cookbooks I absolutely adore. I really hope it aids you in some way in your cooking journey or simply sparks an interest in dabbling in culinary creativity. This is a list of my current personal favorites, not necessarily honed in on a specific category or culinary topic, but I desperately love them and you can’t help but share what you love if you really love it! Of course, this list is most definitely incomplete as there are so many “greats” in culinary literature, so I encourage you to continue to explore!
- The America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook – I call this the Cooking Bible. If you are diving into cooking for the first time or want to master technique, this one’s for you. Actually, I’ll be frank: this one’s for everyone! With detailed pictures outlining every step, descriptions of different cookware and their appropriate functions, and the best way to cook anything you could think of, this is a great basic fit for every kitchen.
- Julia Turshen’s Small Victories – Julia’s cookbook is sort of like that comfortable pair of jeans you’ve had for forever that makes you look and feel good. Her recipes are amazing and approachable and like those jeans, make you feel like a million bucks while not being at all fussy. I would actually say that her approach to food is the exact opposite of fussy, and that’s the kind of cookbook you’ll be reaching for when the kids are hungry or the in laws are in town!
- Mimi Thorrisson’s A Kitchen in France – By mere chance, I somehow stumbled upon Mimi’s blog, Manger, and was immediately drawn in by her warm narrative and dreamy photographs. Mimi lives in the French countryside with her husband, six children and ten dogs and somehow also writes cookbooks and blogs and hosts workshops and looks fabulously elegant while doing it all! Us mere mortals have much to learn from her stunning culinary talents, covetable lifestyle, timeless style, and knack for making even the most ordinary of things beautiful.
- Athena Calderone’s Cook Beautiful – Oh, Athena. Everything you touch turns to gold. If you haven’t heard of EyeSwoon, her creative baby and source of all things swoon-worthy in life, you simply must visit her site. After just one peek at her endeavors you may start to drool (I most certainly did)! Her cookbook is no different. Every page is gorgeous, organized by seasons and featuring entertaining tips as well as food styling advice. The recipes really are just as scrumptious as they look!
- Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain – This was the very first cookbook I ever purchased! I briefly met Danielle through acquaintances years ago before she had published her first cookbook (she is now working on her fourth!) and when I heard that she had published I knew I needed to try out her recipes! Danielle is an inspiration as she healed her autoimmune disease through a paleo diet and so her recipes are perfect for those with dietary restrictions, those who eat paleo, or those simply wanting some healthier options! Her recipes are both healthy and truly delicious.
Happy cookbook reading!