Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. The fiery glory of the leaves during my college years in Maine. The alpenglow on the mountainsides near my home in the Rockies. Pumpkin patches and fresh apple cider straight from the press. Thanksgiving, the most important holiday tradition in my family, and all of the annual rituals of the harvest.
And, of course the abundance of end-of-summer vegetables in the markets. Zucchinis and other summer squashes, carrots, potatoes... they all come into their own in the early fall.
Celebrate the season with hearty, nutritious meals brimming with veggies. Try this infused one-pot meal that includes summer squash, bell peppers and tomatoes in a savory Italian recipe. It's a quick and easy way to throw a weeknight meal together that even works if you use frozen boneless chicken pieces instead of fresh, as long as the pieces aren't frozen together.
Feel free to substitute different vegetables into the mix; just try to exchange a green veggie for another green veggie, a yellow for a yellow, etc. to ensure a variety of nutrients in your meal.
1/2 med. onion, sliced thinly and separated
1 28-oz. can tomatoes, chop, strain, and save juice
1 tsp. each dried basil, oregano, and marjoram
2 cups orzo *
4 pieces chicken, bone-in or boneless, fresh or frozen
salt and pepper, to taste
6-10 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
1 sm. yellow squash, diagonal slices
1 sm. zucchini, sliced into medallions
1 sm. green pepper, julienne cut
1 sm. red pepper, julienne cut
2 Tbsp. Drained capers, optional
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray the inside of a 3 1/2 or 4-quart cast iron Dutch oven and lid with olive oil.
Place onions in a layer inside the base of the pot. Drain tomatoes and reserve liquid. In a large measuring cup or a medium bowl, mix tomato juice with herbs and water as needed to make 2 cups of liquid. Set 1/2 cup of herbed liquid aside. Sprinkle the orzo into the pot among the onion slices. Add the herbed liquid evenly across the base.
Place chicken atop orzo. Lightly salt and pepper. Sprinkle with garlic. Place chopped and drained tomatoes over chicken. Pile in all other veggies in layers, beginning with squash. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour saved herbed liquid over all.
Cover and bake for 53 minutes, or until 3 minutes after the aroma wafts from the oven. Be sure that the chicken is completely cooked before eating any ingredients from the pot.
*Orzo is rice-shaped pasta. Butterfly or bowtie pasta also work well in this meal.
By Elizabeth Yarnell CNC
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