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

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.

Grilled Corn and Jalapeño Salad


To try and beat the smoke and heat we’ve all been enduring the last couple weeks, I’ve been loading up my kids and heading out on adventures in Chinook and White Pass. As someone who has always loved the outdoors, these last few weeks of exploring and playing with my kids has been the highlight of our summer.

I stopped in at the Naches Ranger Station on Highway 12 last week and found the staff helpful and enthusiastic. I haven’t hiked much with young kids and had no idea the access and availability to hiking and walking trails all around our region. The station has a plethora of maps, guide books, activities for kids and lots of other resources.

Our first hike was up to Boulder Cave in Chinook Pass. An easy hike for all ages, my kids had so much fun exploring the cave and nearby waterfall. A friend recommended we hike down the river where we could find a small natural waterslide. We spent hours sliding down the rock slide and splashing through the river. We ate lunch on a big rock while our shoes dried in the sun and finally drove home hours later, tired and happy from such a fun day together.

It was the simplest day but one I think we will remember for years. The adage of less is more proves true over and over again in life and certainly in cooking, especially when the ingredients are local and in peak season. My local fruit stand has corn on the cob, four for a dollar, and my family can’t get enough of the crunchy sweet vegetable.

We grill it on the barbecue and slather it in butter, or use it to make a variety of salads. A family favorite is corn, red bell pepper, fresh basil and a simple vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar and a dash of sugar and olive oil. To me nothing says summer like fresh corn.

My absolute favorite flavor profile is sweet and savory together (I will always always say yes to fruit on pizza) so when I started thinking about a corn salad recipe I knew it needed to have a little heat to compliment the sweetness of the corn. After perusing lots of corn salad recipes and thinking about some incredible street corn I had last summer, this salad is what I came up with. Crunchy sweet corn gets a little heat from jalapeno but stays cool with avocados and a creamy lime dressing. Serve alongside whatever you’re grilling and everyone will be thrilled.


Grilled Corn and Jalapeno Salad

• 6 ears of corn, grilled

• 1 jalapeno, finely diced

• 2 medium avocados, diced

• 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

• 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese (cojita or feta work great too)

• ½ cup plain greek yogurt

• The juice of 2 limes

• ½ teaspoon cumin

• ¼ teaspoon chili powder

• Dash of cayenne

• Dash of smoked paprika

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

• ½ teaspoon black pepper

Start by peeling the husk off the corn. Over medium heat, grill the corn on each side for about 2 minutes until the corn turns deep yellow and grill marks begin to appear. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. When the corn is cool enough to handle, use a knife to shave the kernals off the cob into a large bowl. Gently stir in jalapeno, goat cheese, avacados and cilantro.

In a small bowl mix together lime juice, yogurt, chili powder and cumin. Pour over the corn mixture and stir until well-combined. Salt and pepper the salad, tasting to make sure the proportions are right. Add more salt or an extra spoonful of yogurt if needed. Lightly sprinkle cayenne and smoked paprika over the salad before serving.

Peanut Butter Granola

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For some reason I was in a funk last week. I’m not quite sure why but if I had to take a guess it probably had something to do with 100 plus degree temps, tired, bored, antsy kids and thick smoke from forest fires to the north of us descending on the Valley leaving us in a foggy soupy mess. Or maybe I was just grumpy. Who knows.

And just when I thought I might legitimately pull my hair out, a friend invited the kids and I to head up into the mountains for a hike along the Tieton River. We even got a patch of blue sky for a bit and the kids splashed and played in the river for hours. We explored a cave and a waterfall and even found a little natural water slide. It was good to get out of our usual routine and just play and have fun together. You would think after eight years of parenting I would recognize that when we get out of sync as a family, nine times out of ten, we just need to get out of the house and go for an adventure. A little change to the routine makes EVERYONE happier.

I went into the weekend feeling settled and eager for more adventures before the summer is over. Way too soon we are going to be back into our busy routines and I don’t want to miss this last month with the kids home.

With the smoke still settled heavily over our town, we spent a lot of time inside this weekend which left me time to putter and play in the kitchen. I’ve been testing out my new instant pot which I was initially a little skeptical of but I think I’m turning into a believer. I made Nom Nom Paleo’s Kalua Pork yesterday and that alone made the purchase worth it. I’ve also made a couple of roast chickens and some bone broth. This week I’m going to make some grains and beans. I’ll keep you posted with how it all goes.

Once I got on a roll in the kitchen, I was kind of a mad woman. I started going through my pantry and decided that I had too many half open bags of coconut, almonds, oats and raisins. I used to make granola all the time and thought the kids would like it on their yogurt. I started whipping up a batch and at the last second decided to stir a little peanut butter into the mixture. The result was a nutty, sweet (but not too sweet) granola with a hint of peanut butter taste. I made the kids parfaits with vanilla yogurt, granola and fresh blueberries and they gobbled them right up.

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Peanut Butter Granola

  • 5 cups rolled oats (NOT instant)
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a large bowl mix oat, coconut, almonds, cinnamon and salt together. In a small sauce pan, melt butter, coconut oil, peanut butter and brown sugar together until melted and mixed well. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour wet mixture over oat mixture and stir well until well combined. Spread evenly on baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring at least once halfway through so the granola gets golden brown on all sides. When the oats are toasty brown and fragrant, remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.

To make a yogurt parfait, layer yogurt and granola in a cup and top with blueberries or favorite fruit. Peaches and raspberries are a personal favorite!

Grandma’s Potato Salad

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My grandma was famous for her potato salad. It’s a simple recipe, but something about the way she made it was special. She had a giant vintage white bowl dedicated specifically for this salad and anytime my dad would walk through the back door of her house and see it sitting out on the counter, he would cheer in delight. If he happened to walk through the back door and it wasn’t on the counter, he would rummage through the refrigerator checking for it. If potato salad wasn’t on the menu that night, well I think you can imagine the (good-natured) teasing and pouting that my grandma had to deal with from her grown son and whoever else happened to be invited to dinner.

My grandma made potato salad for family and friends well into her eighties, always a double or triple batch served from her special bowl. My parents have the big white bowl at their house now and my mom makes the recipe a few times each summer. In the last couple years, I’ve tried my hand at making the salad.

This recipe is completely from memory and taste; as so many of the most special recipes usually are. I don’t think my grandma ever wrote her recipes down. She was an intuitive home cook, with zero training but an arsenal of recipes her family and friends loved and requested time and time again.

My dad always has a few pointers based on what he remembers and whenever I make the salad for him, I try and do it exactly the way my grandma made it. But when I make a batch to take to a barbecue or just for my little family, I tweak it slightly by adding more fresh herbs to make it my own. The only real secret to this very simple recipe is patience and high-quality ingredients. Let your potatoes and hard-boiled eggs cool completely. Don’t rush this step or the texture won’t be the same. Also, use the best quality mayonnaise you can.

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Grandma’s Potato Salad

  • 3 pounds baby red and yellow potatoes, washed and quartered
  • 5 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons, finely chopped dill
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

In a large pot, boil washed and cut potatoes for about 10 to 15 minutes until they are fork tender but still firm. Drain completely and set aside to cool. Hard-boil eggs. I put room temperature eggs into a pot of cold water and cover with a lid. Using my gas stove, I turn the heat to high and boil the eggs for exactly 11 minutes (set a timer). When the timer goes off, remove from heat and drain the water from the eggs. Set the hard-boiled eggs aside to cool. When the potatoes and eggs have cooled completely, you are ready to assemble your salad.

Start by chopping the celery, herbs and eggs. My grandma always diced the eggs and celery in smaller pieces than the potatoes. In a large bowl, mix together potatoes, eggs, celery, green onions and herbs setting aside a teaspoon of chopped dill. Using a spatula, gently mix the mayonnaise with the vegetables. Salt and pepper liberally and taste to make sure the ratios are how you like it. Add a little more mayonnaise or salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with the last teaspoon of dill. Cover and refrigerate if you aren’t going to serve immediately.