Kimchi Fried Rice

Scarlet and I decided to play hooky today. The weather is dreary and rainy and my poor girl just didn’t seem like herself. When I asked her if she wanted to stay home with me today, she burst into tears and clung to me. I’ll take that as a yes.

So we’ve made bead necklaces and pumpkin muffins and now we’re watching a movie. I think I needed a down day as much as she did without even realizing it.

I wanted to share this quick recipe for fried rice with you in case you’re in the same camp as I am: you love BIG flavor and you aren’t afraid of a little heat. If that’s you, this lunch will guaranteed be one of your favorites.

Kimchi fried rice is perfect because it incorporates easy protein, some veggies, brown rice and in literally 10 minutes you can have a big old pan for lunch that will last for several days. If I can remember to, I make this on a Sunday or Monday and save leftovers in the fridge all the next couple days.

For me, I’m always looking for quick and easy ways to incorporate more vegetables into my daily life and kimchi is supposed to have all kinds of probiotic benefits. Pickled and spicy cabbage combined with a little bacon, fried egg, and hearty brown rice seriously hit all the right notes in a spicy, savory filling but not heavy meal.

If you happen to follow me on Instagram (thesaltandstone), I made a version of this dish several months ago. The recipe was from Small Victories, which if you haven’t noticed seems to be one of my favorite cookbooks lately. But this recipe is all my own, inspired by the original but doctored up just the way I like it. This is my favorite thing about cooking, there’s rarely any rules and you can add or tweak or change any way you like.

Kimchi Fried Rice

  • 8 ounces spicy kimchi
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 3 pieces center-cut bacon, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

In a large sauté pan, cook bacon over medium heat until browned on both sides. Chop up the kimchi into bite-sized pieces while the bacon cooks. Add the kimchi to the pan and stir in with the bacon. Add rice to the pan and mix everything together. Crack the eggs into the rice and stir until the egg is just cooked through. Stir in the soy sauce and mix one last time. Remove from heat, spoon into a bowl and enjoy. Store leftovers covered in the fridge for the rest of the week.

Slow Cooked Brisket Over Pappardelle

We spent an idyllic day on my husband’s family’s property over the weekend. It was surprisingly cold and foggy which only magnified the incredible colors of the changing trees. Everywhere you looked deep reds, orange and gold leaves mixed with the dark evergreen trees. Wild turkeys walked past us and the fire we kept going all morning kept us warm and cozy. The kids had a blast running around, putting sticks in the fire and helping Aaron. It’s literally my husband’s favorite place on earth so we all came home with our tanks filled, grateful for such a good weekend together.

When we got home Sunday night I was in the mood for a hearty and cozy meal. My freezer is looking pretty sad and depleted meat-wise as we are a few weeks away from getting our portion of the cow we buy each year. That said, there’s a few cuts that I often feel a little intimidated to use and therefore they sit and sit in the freezer waiting for me to finally do something with them.

I eyed the brisket with a little weariness thinking the only thing I could do is smoke it (which I didn’t have the time or energy to attempt). But I flipped through a couple cookbooks anyway and I found a recipe in Small Victories for brisket. I really had to improvise on the ingredients but I went for it anyway.


This happy accident of a recipe ended up being a home run. I cooked it in the oven for about 5 hours and let it sit in the juices for another couple hours while it cooled down. The sauce ended up being savory and slightly sweet (not bbq sauce…but kind of) and the meat was so tender it fell apart in big chunks in the pot. When we were ready for dinner, I quickly boiled pappardelle in salted water. When the noodles (and you could use any egg noodle or spaghetti squash, which we did when we ate leftovers) were ready, I tossed them in a little butter, fresh parsley and a handful of parmesan cheese. I topped the pasta with a few slices of brisket and we all dug in. Scarlet was the only one to reject dinner but she can’t be trusted these days. One day she eats like the world is ending and the next takes two bites of yogurt and calls it a day. This is definitely a dish I’ll make again and again.


Slow Cooked Brisket Over Pappardelle

  • 1 3-4 pound beef brisket
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 12 dried apricots
  • 6 dried figs
  • 2 cups organic chicken or beef stock
  • 1 15 ounce crushed tomatoes
  • kosher salt and black pepper

In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Liberally coat both sides of the brisket in salt and pepper (don’t be shy! use lots!). Sear each side of the brisket for 3-4 minutes until both sides of the meat have a golden brown color on it. Remove from the pot and set aside on a plate. Turn the heat to low and start cooking the onion. When the onion has softened, add garlic, spices and tomato paste. Cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, apricots and figs. Stir in the stock and add the brisket back to the pot. Cover the pot with the lid and cook at 325 degrees for about 4 hours. Check the meat halfway through, flipping the meat so the sauce covers the meat.

To serve the brisket, remove the meat from the pot and slice diagonally across the meat. In a separate pot, boil water. Stir in pappardelle and cook to the package instructions (the noodles cook fast, 5ish minutes). Turn off the heat, drain pasta and put back in the pot. Mix one tablespoon butter, two tablespoons fresh chopped parsley and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese into the pasta.

Spoon a few noodles onto each plate. Top with several slices of brisket and a drizzle of the sauce over everything. Enjoy!! If you’re feeling really energetic that day, roast some broccoli in the oven and serve it on the side.

 

Pasta with Bacon, Caramelized Onions and Spinach

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When it comes to writing, it’s always the first sentence that’s the hardest to spit out. I can stare at a blank screen for what feels like hours before those first few words finally crystalize.

It’s most definitely that way today.

I want to tell you about how beautiful the weather is lately and how fast the boy’s hair and limbs and feet seem to be growing.  Jackson got a retainer a few weeks ago and he has a darling little way of talking with the giant device on the roof of his mouth as well as a minor drooling problem, and it’s all so endearing I can’t stand it. He had to do a self-portrait art project at school and for the first time ever he included his freckles in his drawing and it makes me realize how quickly he’s growing these days, noticing so much more about the world and himself. I hope those freckles continue to be worthy of self-portraits.

And Luke. My darling, charming, tender Luke. First grade has been a little bumpy, not the easiest start to the school year. He’s had to grow up a little bit, face some mistakes and learn to work hard at things that don’t necessarily come easily. Those are some big challenges for a 7-year-old and he has risen to meet them head-on with determination. I couldn’t be prouder of him.

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Scarlet turned five at the end of September which doesn’t seem possible in one breath and yet impossible to think she was ever not here. She is so full of spunk and sass, pestering her brothers and announcing to the world her next big project and then like a light switch she is carrying her baby around, dressing up in princess dresses, begging me to read her book after book. She is a firecracker for sure.

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Life feels unreasonably busy this fall and we’re all feeling the effects of it a little bit. Crummy colds took us all out for a few weeks and sports schedules seem to rule our life. Work projects piled up out of nowhere and I don’t tell you all this as a complaint it’s just the way it is sometimes. I’m sure you’re feeling the exact same way.

Today’s recipe is quick, easy and the perfect comfort food on a cold fall night. Pasta with bacon, caramelized onions and a big handful of spinach is filling and flavorful without being heavy. A sprinkle of parmesan cheese and maybe a hunk of crusty bread and your dinner is complete.

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Pasta with Bacon, Caramelized Onions and Spinach

  • 1 box penne or rotini pasta
  • 2 large yellow onions, sliced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 4 pieces center-cut bacon, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large pot, boil pasta in heavily salted water until just cooked through. Drain and set aside but reserve a cup or so of the pasta water.

In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter over low heat. Spread onions evenly over the pan, stirring occasionally, cooking for about 30 minutes until deeply caramelized. When onions are finished cooking, scoop onto a plate and set aside. In the same pan, add last tablespoon of olive oil and turn heat to medium-low. Cook bacon until brown and crispy, add garlic to the pan and cook for two more minutes until the garlic is fragrant.  Add pasta, onions and spinach to the pan mixing well until the ingredients are well-combined. Splash a spoonful or two of pasta water into the pan if needed. Salt and pepper liberally and add a pinch of red pepper flakes (completely optional). Scoop into bowls and top with shredded parmesan cheese

Broccoli with Lemon, Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes


In keeping with this month’s theme of easy and quick dishes to feed your loved ones, I’ve got a side dish that start to finish can be on your table in 15 minutes. Broccoli florets are tossed in a little olive oil and sprinkled with minced garlic, lemon zest and a dash of red pepper flakes. Roasted in the oven for ten minutes, the broccoli comes out crispy but tender and so full of flavor. We’ve eaten this dish so many times in the last couple weeks when I just need dinner to be fast. Our days feel full and a little chaotic as we figure out new school routines and find our groove.

Ironically, I chose September, one of the busiest months of the year to start a new book about family life and the need to simplify. The book talks about creating margins for rest and playtime and the importance of reducing unnecessary stress and activities in family life. I’ve chuckled out loud a few times as I’ve snuck chapters in here and there between back-to-school open houses, orthodontist appointments, soccer practice and gymnastics. And that was just last Thursday.

In all seriousness, the book is called Simplicity Parenting, and it’s giving me good food for thought. I can’t eliminate our busyness, but I can look for small ways to connect as a family throughout the day. I am doubling down on my efforts to sit down to dinner as a family. Even when it’s just 10 minutes crammed between practices, homework battles and late work meetings, it’s still 10 minutes at the table together.

If you happened to catch my column last week, you read a little about how I prep meals for the week. I wash and cut up fruits and vegetables, storing them in plain sight in my refrigerator so that meals are easy to prepare and made from healthy ingredients. I roast a big pan of broccoli and we eat it for dinner and if there happens to be leftovers, I save them in the fridge to use in salads, stirred into scrambled eggs or my personal favorite; in a grilled cheese sandwich.


Roasted Broccoli with Lemon, Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes

• 1 large head of broccoli, broken into florets

• 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

• Zest of 1 lemon

• ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• ½ teaspoon Kosher salt

• ¼ teaspoon black pepper

This dish is one of those that can be adjusted easily to your specific tastes. If you like a strong lemon flavor, add more zest. If you don’t like any heat at all, skip the red pepper flakes altogether (although I don’t recommend it, the little bit of heat from the red pepper goes so well with the lemon and garlic).

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash broccoli and break into florets. The larger the pieces, the longer they will take to cook, so cut them into small pieces for quick turnaround.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. In a bowl, drizzle oil over the broccoli and using a wooden spoon mix lemon zest, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper with the broccoli until they are well-coated. Spread the broccoli evenly on the baking sheet and cook in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the broccoli is bright green and crispy brown on the edges. Stir once halfway through cooking to make sure the vegetable cooks evenly.

To make a delicious grilled cheese sandwich with leftovers, take two slices of sourdough bread and layer grated fontina cheese with the leftover broccoli. Top with the other slice of bread. Butter the outside of both pieces of bread and cook in a large sauté pan over medium heat until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly on the inside.

Meal Planning and Steel Cut Oats

Today is a little departure from the usual. My column in the Yakima Herald today is about basic meal planning. Do you meal plan? My version is fairly informal but it’s a system that works pretty well for us. At the bottom of the post is a recipe for our favorite steel cut oats. I make a big batch on Sundays and keep it in the fridge all week for easy breakfasts. We’re almost to the weekend friends.


I have a friend who is an excellent meal planner. She sits down every week with her husband and they decide on dinners for the week. They make a grocery list of the items they need and one of them goes to the store. They assign dinners to each night based on their weekly schedule and then cook their meals according to the schedule. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But for so many of us, it’s not that simple at all.

For the left-brained creative-types and the flustered, busy, over-tired parents, for those that aren’t sure they even like to cook, and everyone in between, planning an entire week’s worth of meals is more than a little intimidating; it’s downright daunting. At least that’s how I feel most weeks.

But I also know that to make healthy fresh food for my family, I need a plan. Daily trips to the grocery store with three young kids is out of the question and I don’t want to rely too heavily on take-out and frozen pizzas.

What works for me is to spend a few hours on the weekend preparing foods I want my family to eat during the week. I’ve found that having produce readily available, washed, cut-up and in plain view ensures we all have an easier time reaching for a fruit or vegetable first.

Each week I hit my local fruit stand. Right now I’m buying bags of plums and nectarines, peaches, bell peppers, corn on the cob, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, melons, zucchini and green beans. This is where I start with planning meals for the week. After I’ve made my haul in the produce department, I head to the grocery store, list in hand with the remaining items I need.

On Sundays, when I typically have more time to putter in the kitchen, I do the bulk of my prep for the week. I wash and chop fruits and vegetables. I usually make some kind of salad for easy lunches and muffins or a quick bread for easy breakfast for my kids. Sometimes I make an egg dish and roast a pan of vegetables but mostly it depends on what looked good at the store and what I’m in the mood to cook.

Breakfasts and lunches get exponentially easier on busy weekday mornings. The kids choose between cereal and whatever I’ve prepped for the week and they help themselves. It’s the same for packing lunches; they choose from the fruits and vegetables I’ve already prepared, we throw a sandwich together and they fill their water bottles.

This week I made a loaf of pumpkin bread and a big pot of steel cut oats. I also made tuna salad and chicken salad and some whole-wheat couscous. I cut up cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, bell peppers and washed and trimmed grapes. When I open my fridge, these are the items I see first and what I build meals around all week.

Everyone in my family loves oatmeal, so I thought I would share my recipe for steel cut oats. Hearty and delicious, the only downside to steel-cut oats is the time it takes to make them. I get around this by making a big pot on the weekend and storing it in the fridge. On weekday mornings, we spoon portions into individual bowls and pop them in the microwave. We top ours with a spoonful of peanut butter and a handful of frozen blueberries but raisins and cinnamon or a fresh sliced peach and a drizzle of honey is lovely too.


Creamy Steel-Cut Oats with Chia Seeds

  • 2 cups steel-cut oats
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds

In a pot combine water, milk, salt and oats. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the liquid begins to boil, turn the heat to low. Cook oats at a simmer for 20 to 30 minutes stirring frequently. When oats are finished cooking, gently stir in maple syrup, cinnamon and chia seeds. Spoon oats into individual bowls and top with favorite toppings. Save remaining oats in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

 

Pretty Great Pumpkin Bread

I want to call this the best-ever pumpkin bread or maybe easy and perfect pumpkin bread but the reality is there are approximately 27,432 recipes for pumpkin bread out there and I would wager a bet that 90 percent of the recipes you stumble onto are pretty great.

So here’s another pretty great recipe to add to your list when you’re in the mood for something pumpkin and feeling all those fall vibes.

Me? I’m not feeling fall-ish yet, but I’m going for it anyway. I live in a town absolutely enveloped in smoke from wild fires surrounding us on all sides. It’s been hot (brutally hot actually) and the smoke is thick and choking. It makes your throat sore and your eyes burn and sometimes you see ash falling from the sky. The kids can’t go outside for recess and outdoor practices and games have been cancelled going on two weeks.

It doesn’t particularly feel like fall where I live but doesn’t feel like summer either…or any season really. Obviously all of this pales in comparison to very real tragedies and natural disasters happening all over the country/world in the last little bit. I was texting with my mother-in-law today and as she was telling me about a school shooting that happened today in the town I grew up in, we both agreed we feel helpless and defeated by so much hurt all around us. It’s a heavy, worrying, hard hard time for so many.

And pumpkin bread won’t change any of that terrible hurt but it might put a smile on your kid’s faces when they come home from a hard day at school. Or you could double this recipe and drop a loaf off for a friend as a surprise. And you could absolutely slice it thick and slather it in butter and enjoy it slowly with a cup of coffee and maybe those five minutes will recharge you in some small way.


This is one of those easy one-bowl recipes that are great for little people to jump in and ‘help’ with. The other great thing is that the recipe calls for one whole can of pumpkin, which is perfect since I hate wasting the last bit of pumpkin out of the can but I also never have any ideas how to use it up except to make more treats. One can. One loaf. Done.


Pretty Great Pumpkin Bread (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 heaping teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix
  • Two pinches of ground cloves
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a LARGE loaf pan, grease with butter and flour or a piece of parchment paper. 

In the bowl of a large mixing bowl beat pumpkin, coconut oil, eggs, vanilla and sugar until well-combined with no lumps. Using a wooden spoon or spatula stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all spices. When batter is just combined, scoop into loaf pan. 

In a small bowl combine one tablespoon raw sugar (regular white sugar is fine too) with one teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top of the bread. Bake for approximately one hour or until a toothpick  poked in the center of the bread comes out clean.

Five Minute Peanut Sauce

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In the rush to get out the door to the back-to-school barbecue, Jack and Scarlet were putting their shoes on in the mud room. From around the corner I hear Jack tell his sister, ‘Oh you look really beautiful, do you need help with your shoes? Do you want fancy ones?’

I peeked around the corner to see she had changed into an all white hand-me-down dress from an older friend of ours. It’s lacy and the bottom is tulle and was probably a flower-girl dress at some point. She had accessorized with multiple bracelets and barrettes in her hair and had her bright pink purse ready to go. Jack was holding up sparkly silver jelly shoes (2 sizes too small) for her approval.

And I froze for a second relishing the moment of sibling kindness and affection. Oh man, momming is so rough sometimes right? Not a day goes by when I don’t wonder when the real mom is finally going to show up. You know, the one that actually knows what she’s doing.

I’ve been thinking about that little interaction all week, feeling like maybe I’m messing up just about everything but somehow in the midst of it all, the kids are doing ok. There’s no better feeling I think.

And speaking of messing things up, I am zero for three on dinners last week. I couldn’t get a win to save my life. I made a rolled pork loin that was to ‘herby’ and a chicken and rice dish that was completely rejected by all three kids (who hates chicken and rice? my kids apparently) and roasted veggies with chicken sausages that resulted in one kid gagging at the dinner table and the other two giving up their desserts in order to not have to eat one more bite of the offending dinner.

But this quick and easy peanut sauce was my one win of the week and I’m holding onto it like I am Jack and Scarlet’s sweet little moment in the mudroom. I found the recipe in the Dinner, A Love Story cookbook. I tweaked it a bit and my changes are included in the recipe below. I sautéed kale, Brussel sprouts and a few random veggies in a little sesame oil and then tossed them with zucchini noodles and covered the whole thing in the peanut sauce. For the kids I simply made a few spaghetti noodles and snuck a few zucchini noodles in with them before mixing the sauce over the noodles. They ate this with a side of cucumbers and EVERYONE was happy. Mom win. I’ll take what I can get.

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Five Minute Peanut Sauce

  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh peeled ginger (really important)
  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (we like a little heat, but scale back to taste)
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Pulse garlic and ginger in the bowl of a food processor until finely chopped. Add peanut butter, water, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and process until smooth. Taste to make sure the flavor is just right.

Mix with cooked and cooled noodles or rice. Use as a dip for grilled chicken and vegetables. Keep in the fridge to throw together an easy meal.