Roasted Tomato Pasta

I had a rare and blissful night last week where the only person who needed dinner at my house was me. My kids had bounced from one end-of-the-school-year party to another all afternoon and evening eating their weight in hot dogs and chips. They were so amped up on sugar and their new-found summer freedom they couldn’t be convinced to come in for a real meal. My husband was working late which gave me two options: make something special just for me or skip dinner altogether.

I finally corralled my kids inside, threw them into showers and settled them in front of a movie. I surveyed the kitchen for something to eat and was just about to pour myself a bowl of cereal when the pint of cherry tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter caught my eye.

Instantly I knew I wanted to roast the tomatoes in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If I had a loaf of sourdough bread, I probably would have just scooped the tomatoes onto toast and called it dinner. But I didn’t so I went to the next best thing, pasta.

Fifteen minutes later I had a pot of spaghetti noodles tossed with tangy and bright roasted tomatoes. A big pile of chopped basil from the pplant growing on my patio and swirl of goat cheese made for a decadent but light dinner. A little glass of red wine and eating my dinner in (relative) peace outside in the warm evening sunshine made my simple meal absolute perfection.

Roasted Tomato Pasta

  • 8 ounces spaghetti noodles
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 heaping tablespoons (or more) chopped fresh basil
  • 2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. While the oven preheats, start a pot of heavily salted water to boil over high heat. When the water boils, cook spaghetti to package instructions (about 8 minutes). Drain and set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the tomatoes evenly on the tray. Mince garlic and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Toss the tomatoes and garlic in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes begin to burst and are very fragrant.

In a pot, combine the cooked spaghetti and roasted tomatoes, scraping the pan to add the juices and garlic. Toss gently to combine. Mix in chopped basil and goat cheese. To serve, portion the pasta onto a plate. Garnish with any leftover basil and goat cheese as well as a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Puff Pastry with Havarti, Prosciutto and Asparagus

I am officially the mom of big kids. My youngest ‘graduated’ from preschool last week and will attend kindergarten with her brothers at their elementary school in the fall. To say she is excited and ready would be an understatement.

For seven straight years I’ve had at least one preschooler. Most of that time I was also holding a grumpy toddler or wrangling an infant car seat while also attempting to get my preschooler to school. I was the mom with the spilled coffee and spit up on her shirt, just trying to make it through the day hour by hour. Those were some wild years and at times I thought they would never end.

And now suddenly here we are. On to the next season of life. It seems like all those hard and beautiful days were over in the blink of an eye. The more seasoned moms in my life constantly remind me that time only speeds up. I believe them.

I am looking forward to summer break, to soaking up time with my three wild and crazy big kids. I won’t think too much about kindergarten but instead try and squeeze every drop of fun out of our days together. I’m sure as the dog-days of summer catch up to us, school and structure won’t seem like such a bad idea.

After preschool graduation we had a little celebration. I whipped up these special puff pastries stuffed with cheese and prosciutto and thin pieces of asparagus. The buttery and flaky pastry with a rich and savory filling was out-of-this-world delicious. Puff pastry can be found in the freezer section of your local grocery store, usually near the frozen desserts. Simply allow the pastry to thaw on the counter or in your refrigerator until the dough is very cold but not frozen anymore. We made a big bowl of fruit salad to go along with our pastries but this dish could easily be served for lunch or dinner alongside a simple green salad. Served warm or at room temperature, you can swap the filling for whatever kinds of meat or cheese you prefer. Brie, smoke gouda or sharp cheddar are lovely cheeses to try as well.

 

Puff Pastry with Havarti, Prosciutto and Asparagus

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, cut into 9 squares
  • 4-5 slices Havarti cheese
  • 1 package prosciutto
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unfold puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Lightly roll out the pastry so the dough is even and has no creases. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 9 squares.

Rinse asparagus and pat dry with a paper towel. Select the thinnest spears and cut them in half. Discard the bottom half the spears and set the tops aside.

To make the puff pastries, layer half a slice of cheese, one slice of prosciutto and two to three spears of asparagus diagonally on the puff pastry. Fold two corners over the filling. Place the pastry on the baking sheet and continue until all nine puff pastry squares have been filled.

In a small bowl, whisk an egg with a splash of water until well combined. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the pastries with the egg wash. Sprinkle the pastries with salt and pepper and bake for 25 minutes.

When the pastries are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling and melted, they are finished baking. Allow them to cool on the sheet for a few minutes before serving.

Hummus with Jalapeño Pesto and Marinated Olive And Feta Salad

Almost like clockwork, every spring, I forget we ever had winter at all and decide with unrelenting enthusiasm that the only things I want to eat are fresh vegetables and berries, preferably grown in my own garden or picked up at the farmer’s market during one of our leisurely Sunday strolls. I look forward to the farmer’s market (and my favorite fruit stand) opening all year long. In the 13 years I’ve called Yakima home, it’s been a regular weekend tradition and somehow signifies to my brain ‘summer is just around the bend.’

This idea, of course, is ridiculously preposterous for multiple reasons, the main one being my garden is hit and miss on its very best year, not to mention not too much is harvest-worthy in May and June. But never mind that. My point is that my adoration for our wonderful agriculturally rich Valley goes into overdrive and only ramps up each month as the sun stays out a little longer, growing and ripening all my favorite things that grow in the dirt.

And while I wait for lovely produce to become readily available, I’ll make batch after batch of easy and delicious hummus. This hummus is smooth and hearty all on its own, perfect for dipping vegetables or pita. Typically made with garbanzo beans, hummus is a versatile Middle Eastern dip and a wonderful canvas to add additional flavors. The cilantro jalapeno pesto I’ve included here is bright and flavorful without being overly spicy. You can add as little or as much of the pesto to the hummus and save the rest for another time. Paired with the smokey, salty and rich olive and feta salad, these dishes can be served together as a hearty appetizer or separately.

One of my favorite ways to serve hummus is to spread it evenly in a shallow dish. I pile toppings high and make sure to have lots of bread for dipping. Last year I was on a cucumber and tomato salad kick but this year my go-to is this olive and feta salad.

Sometimes I’ll toss salad greens like peppery arugula and spinach with a little olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice. I garnish the entire dish with the salad greens and call it dinner. With a bottle of crisp buttery chardonnay and a loaf of crusty bread, this dinner is the perfect late spring, eat on the patio, watch the sun set behind Mt. Adams meal I can think of.

Hummus

• 2 (15-ounce) cans garbanzo beans

• ½ cup fresh lemon juice

• ½ cup tahini

• 1/3 cup olive oil

• 3 cloves garlic

• Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper

Drain the garbanzo beans, reserving half a cup of the liquid. In a food processor, combine the garbanzo beans, reserved liquid, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix for a minimum of 2-3 minutes. Add an extra splash of water or lemon juice if the hummus is too thick. When the mixture is very smooth, turn the food processor off and scoop hummus into a bowl. Taste and add an additional pinch of salt if needed.

Cilantro Jalapeno Pesto

• 1 bunch cilantro

• ½ bunch parsley

• 2 green onions, trimmed into 1-inch pieces

• 1 jalapeno chili, stem and seeds removed

• 1/3 cup olive oil

• 2 cloves garlic

• Juice of 1 lime

• Salt

Combine the cilantro, parsley, green onions, jalapeno, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to break the herbs and vegetables down. With the processor running, pour in the olive oil and lime juice. When the mixture is well-combined, using a rubber spatula, transfer to a small bowl. Taste and add additional salt if needed.

To serve the hummus and pesto, make an indentation in the center of the hummus. Spoon the pesto into the indentation and swirl gently. Serve with toasted baguette, pita bread or tortilla chips.

Marinated Olive and Feta Salad

• 1 tablespoon cumin seeds

• 2 teaspoons fennel seeds

• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

• 3 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 teaspoons lemon zest

• 1 ½ cups olive oil

• 2 cups mixed Greek olives (drained and pitted)

• 8 ounces feta cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes

• 1/3 cup minced parsley, basil and cilantro (you can use any fresh herbs you prefer)

Place the cumin seeds, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes in a small skillet. Heat gently over medium heat for a minute or two, stirring once until the seeds are fragrant and lightly toasted. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Add the garlic, lemon zest and olive oil. Stir to combine. Add the olives and feta to the bowl and gently stir. Add the fresh herbs and gently stir one more time. Cover with plastic wrap and store up to three days in the refrigerator.

Pork Ragu with Pasta and Arugula

The irony of posting this recipe and these words is I need this reminder the most these days. A new Yakima Magazine is out on newsstands around town. The issue is all about home and this is my ode to life at home and around the table.

One of my favorite quotes from my favorite cookbook Bread and Wine is: ‘life at the table is life at its best.’ When I think about my life, my friends and family, the community I’m part of; so much of it revolves around the table. It might be the kitchen table or an outdoor table on the back patio. It might be bar stools pulled up to the kitchen island and for many years it was a smattering of high chairs and booster seats, plastic dishware and what felt like an endless number of spills and cleanups. The table, the décor, the set-up and how clean the house is doesn’t matter a bit. It’s the sitting down together; the pause in busy and chaotic days, to recharge, connect, eat, and hopefully laugh a little.

I think it goes without saying I love to cook. I find immense pleasure in the rhythm of mixing and chopping. I love the creativity of it as well as the physicality of working with my hands. But when I get down to the heart of why I cook, it’s to bring people together. I love the sounds and smells, I love the chatter at the table and the inevitable silence when chewing starts. My tangible gift to the people at my table is the meal but my hope is that it feeds so much more than their bellies.

I’ve been gathering people to the table for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I insisted on baking cookies for friends. In college, I made pots of spaghetti for my roommates and made a Thanksgiving turkey for 20 friends in the very small cramped rental house I lived in. Any excuse to cook and eat with the people I love are my best moments, my favorite memories.

We can all relate to the busyness and chaos of daily life. Entertaining can feel stressful and overwhelming. Maybe cooking isn’t your thing. Maybe due to your family’s work and activity schedule, weeknight dinners seem impossible. And I’m here nodding in agreement to all of it. It is all those things.

But I think we should keep trying. And I think what helps is to have a few ‘go-to’ recipes in your back pocket. Pork Ragu is one of those timeless, eat any time of year, incredibly forgiving recipes you can go back to over and over again. I’ve adapted this recipe from a cookbook called Dinner: A Love Story and I don’t think there could be a more appropriate title or sentiment for what I’m trying to achieve. Pork is cooked in the oven (or crockpot) for hours in wine and herbs until it literally falls apart making a savory flavorful sauce. Ladled over pasta and topped with peppery arugula and a sprinkle of salty parmesan cheese, this dish is delicious enough for a fancy dinner party and easy enough to throw together on a Tuesday morning before work and eat quickly between soccer and piano practices.

 

Pork Ragu with Pasta and Arugula

  • 1 boneless pork shoulder OR pork butt (about 2 ½ to 3 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine, plus more as needed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce (this is completely optional, adds a smokiness to the dish)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 6 ounces arugula
  • Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Add oil and butter to a large oven-safe pot and heat over medium heat until the butter melts. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and liberally salt and pepper both sides. Add the roast to the pot, browning it on all sides, turning occasionally so the meat is seared evenly, 5-8 minutes.

Add the onion and garlic to the pot, stirring for a minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, hot sauce, thyme, oregano, fennel seeds and bay leaf and stir until the mixture begins to boil. Cover and put the pot in the oven. Every hour or so, remove the lid and turn the pork over in the liquids. No matter what size pork you use, make sure the liquid covers at least a third of the meat. Add more wine if needed.

The meat is done when it starts falling apart probably around 4 hours. If you pierce the meat with a fork and it starts to fall apart, remove the pot from the oven. Remove the pork to a cutting board and shred it with two forks. Stir the shredded meat back into the pot.

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta when the noodles are still a little bit firm. The sauce will finish softening the pasta without the noodles becoming overcooked and too soft.

To serve, ladle pasta onto a plate. Top with pork ragu sauce. Place a small handful of arugula on each plate and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. The arugula will slightly wilt from the heat of the sauce adds a wonderful fresh flavor to the dish. Serves 8.

*To make this dish in a crockpot, sear the pork in a pan on the stove over medium heat. Once the meat is seared, add all ingredients and the pork to the crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours. Shred the meat and return to the crockpot. Turn the heat off. Serve immediately.

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

My kids (and their sweet grandma) made that plate you can see in the background for me for Christmas. It’s actually more of a platter and I’ve taken to leaving it out on my counter. I stack cookies on it, or let a loaf of bread, fresh from the oven, cool on it. I love seeing their handprints and they love seeing the gift they made proudly displayed on the kitchen island.

Speaking of the kids, they’ve been doing hot laps on their scooters around and around our patio, zigzagging the furniture, making jumps off the step. This morning Luke got a bunch of cardboard out of the recycling bin and started building some sort of contraption for more scooter tricks. Last night it was literally pitch black and pouring rain and they were still out there, shrieking and laughing, racing around and around. They bang on the slider door begging me to watch. I stop whatever I’m doing to laugh and cheer on their tricks and stunts.

I meant to get this cookie recipe posted a full week ago, but you know how life gets in the way sometimes. In all honesty, I’ve opened this page a handful of times, stumped by the empty screen. I swing wildly between wanting to document more day to day life (a little mommy blogging like the good ol’ days) and then immediately feeling vulnerable about it. The online world feels so tricky to navigate these days.

I have friends who regularly take breaks from social media, it just seems to hit a nerve where all the pretty (posed, planned and curated) pictures make them feel bad about their less than but (completely normal happy) perfect life. I have other friends who completely own and acknowledge their reliance on it. I feel like I’m somewhere in the world. It’s definitely an absent minded habit. I struggle with falling down the rabbit hole of scrolling. But I also find a ton of inspiration and connection on social media. I peek into friends and families lives that I otherwise wouldn’t have the pleasure of keeping up with. Not to mention that this little corner of the internet provides a needed creative outlet that no matter how many times I think I’m going to quit it, I just can’t seem to.

Anyway, lets talk cookies. I don’t really eat dairy anymore. It’s been almost a year. I occasionally eat it when I can’t get around it or something is just too yummy and amazing to pass up. I pay for it with terrible stomach aches but every once in a while its worth it. It was easier than I thought it would be to give up, but man, I miss a good cookies sometimes. A real cookie. I’m not going to lie to you, these are not the same as a real, fresh-from-the-oven, chocolate chip cookie. But they are really really good. And they hit the spot when it comes to a craving for a sweet treat. Even better, I don’t feel that bad eating them and letting my kids snack on them.

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk (from the can)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a large sauce pan mix together the coconut oil, sugar, coconut milk and cocoa powder over low heat until no lumps remain and the sugar is dissolved. Allow to come to a boil and stir constantly for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter and rolled oats. Stir in vanilla.

Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Using a spoon, drop the dough by the tablespoonful onto wax paper. Let cool until completely set. Store covered in the refrigerator.

(Makes about 3 dozen smallish cookies)

Enjoy!

Spaghetti with Kale and Sausage

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Evenings at our house can feel chaotic and a little zooey. From the moment backpacks hit the floor after school until lights finally go out several hours later, we are running at top speed. We’ve got homework and spelling, ballet, basketball, 4H and in just a few weeks soccer and baseball will get thrown into the mix. Not to mention the occasional late meetings, work trips, school functions and whatever else seems to fill our calendars these days.

We live on a small ranch with cows and chickens, dogs and a couple cats. Jackson and Luke are in charge of feeding all our animals. They start with the cows, breaking open the bales of hay and filling their feeding trough. They hoof it up from the bottom of our pasture to check on the chicken’s food and water and then hit the garage where our dogs and cats eat. They are mostly good sports about it, often spending a few minutes with each set of animals, chatting or petting them, throwing a ball or carrying a kitten around for a bit. (Full disclosure: they do NOT have awesome attitudes every day. Just keeping it real. HA!)

After one too many weeks of rushed dinners, plunked down on the table with a loud thud and the barked command of ‘eat, you only have a few minutes before we need to leave,’ I decided no more. There had to be a better way. I don’t have a magic solution but watching my boys do their chores and finding enjoyment out of it really inspired me. Weeknight dinners are going to be quick and squashed in between homework and activities, that won’t change, but they can absolutely be more pleasant.

One small change I’ve made is I try and make dinner earlier in the day. I use my Instant Pot or crock pot whenever possible and I make big batches of recipes like this one. I can quickly warm the dish up right there in the pot, maybe squeeze a little extra lemon juice over the pasta and dinner is ready when we are.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Sausage and Kale

  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 pound pork sweet Italian sausage (you could sub turkey sausage)
  • 1 bunch kale, washed and cut into pieces (about 5-6 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

Set a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Salt liberally. When the water is at a rolling boil, add your noodles and cook to package instructions (usually about 8 minutes). When the pasta is finished cooking, drain noodles and set aside.

In a large sauté pan, cook the sausage in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Break the sausage into small pieces, stirring until the meat is cooked through. When the meat is finished, line a dinner plate with paper towels and drain the sausage on the plate. Set aside.

Using the same pan, cook the garlic for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add the kale to the pan and stir constantly. You may need to add a small splash of water to the pan (about 2-3 tablespoons) to help the kale start to wilt. You want the kale to be bright green and soft but not mushy. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

When the kale is finished cooking, turn off the heat. Combine the spaghetti noodles, sausage and garlic kale mixture. Zest the lemon and add it to the dish. Then cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the pasta. Stir well to incorporate the lemon flavor. Mix in the parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper again if necessary.

Hearty Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

I originally thought I would share a treat in honor of Valentine’s Day, but I figure between the candy bowl at work, the treats kids brought home from parties at school and the well-meaning boxes of chocolates that loved ones gifted us, we’re all a little sugared out.

And as much as it hasn’t really felt much like winter the last couple of weeks, it IS still winter. We came home from a gorgeous blue-bird (although a little icy) day on White Pass over the weekend with cold toes, soaking wet ski gear and absolutely ravenous appetites.

We needed one of those winter-staple meals to warm up, comfort our tired bones and take the edge off our hunger-fueled grumpiness. What hit the spot was a big pot of chili with all the fixings. And this chili evolves a little every time I make it.

That’s the beauty of chili — it’s incredibly forgiving. You can change it, swap in and out ingredients, and it remains delicious.

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. It’s mostly cans of beans and tomatoes, some spices you likely have in your cupboard (and if you don’t have one or two, no problem), and a little chopping. It all goes in the pot to simmer for an hour or so, making your house smell amazing.

The result is a big pot of hearty soup that feeds a crowd. It’s slightly smoky from the cumin seeds and full of big, savory flavors. The green chilis and cayenne add a hint of heat to the soup without it being too spicy.

We load our bowls up and go crazy with the toppings. I usually chop cilantro, slice some avocado and put out a bowl of tortilla chips and shredded cheese. I always top mine with a few pickled jalapeños, but I never shy away from a little heat.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red OR orange bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet potato, cubed into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 4.5-ounce can green chilis
  • 2 14-ounce can organic black beans
  • 2 14-ounce cans fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 cups jarred salsa
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 pound grass-fed ground beef (cooked shredded roast beef or cubed stew meat work well, too)
  • 1 32-ounce box chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Start by browning your hamburger in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan.

Break the meat up with a wooden spoon, stirring occasionally until it’s cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes. If you prefer ground turkey, or happen to have some leftover roast beef from earlier in the week, use that instead.

You can always skip the meat completely and make this a vegetarian chili.

When the meat is finished cooking, drain on a paper towel-lined dinner plate and set to the side.

In a large pot, cook the onion, bell pepper and sweet potato in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Salt and pepper the vegetables liberally. Add the green chilis, black beans, tomatoes, salsa, brown rice and chicken stock to the pot. Stir to combine. Carefully add the meat to the pot and stir in all seasonings.

Turn the heat to low and cover with a lid. Allow to cook at a slow boil for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the rice is fully cooked and the sweet potatoes break apart easily, the chili is ready.

Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to break the larger pieces of sweet potato apart as well as shred the meat. If the soup starts to get too thick, add more chicken stock (or water) a cup at a time until you get to your desired consistency.

Taste the soup and make sure it tastes right for you. Salt and pepper again if needed. Before serving, remove bay leaf.

Ladle chili into bowls. Top with chopped cilantro, avocado, corn chips and a big dollop of sour cream.

Enjoy!