Lemon Tahini Caesar Salad

It’s official. I’m ready for spring. I’ve got patches of green grass in my yard and tulips sticking an inch or two out of the ground in my flower beds. There’s a seed catalog on the table next to my bed and I’ve started making notes on what I want to grow this year.

I’m thinking lots of tomatoes and basil, zucchini, bell peppers of every color, lots of herbs and my favorite: giant sunflowers, dozens of them if possible.

I think all this dreaming of spring got started when we ate dinner at my sister-in-law’s house over the weekend, she made the most quintessential spring meal. We had barbecued salmon and a shaved Brussel sprout salad with the biggest fruit salad I’ve ever seen. For dessert she made a lemon tart that just screamed summer days and warm evenings on the patio. We savored that lovely meal and talked about summer plans. We dreamed about hot summer days spent at the pool and fun hikes to take the kids on.

I know I’m jumping the gun a little, but a girl can dream…right? With all that talk of spring, I was in the mood for something light and refreshing. I am always looking for way to convince (trick?) my kids into eating more greens and this salad did just that.

Mixed greens and spinach are dotted with homemade sourdough croutons and a dash of grated parmesan cheese. The Caesar dressing is quick and easy to put together. It’s just tahini, which is a sesame seed paste, fresh lemon juice, a little Dijon mustard and a hint of garlic. The dressing is fresh, light and full of bright lemon flavor.

Lemon Tahini Caesar Salad with Sourdough Croutons


  • 2-3 cups cubed sourdough bread (cut 4-5 slices of bread into 1-inch cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher sea salt


  • 5 ounces mixed salad greens (spinach, kale, romaine…whatever you like)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Lemon Tahini Dressing

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Fresh ground black pepper

To make the croutons, preheat oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the cubed bread evenly in one layer on the tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and toss well to combine. Put the tray in the oven and toast the bread until golden brown on all sides, stirring the bread at least once so that the croutons cook evenly. This is a fast process, don’t walk away from your oven or the croutons will burn. About 2 minutes on each side.

For the dressing, mix the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, Dijon mustard and salt in a jar. Stir until well-combined. Slowly add the water until you get your desired texture. I like a thinner dressing so I add the full 2 tablespoons of water. Stir in black pepper to taste.

To assemble your salad, combine the salad green, parmesan cheese and croutons in a large bowl. Drizzle the salad with dressing. I used about half the dressing and saved the rest in the refrigerator for another day. Toss gently. Garnish with a lemon wedge (squeeze lemon juice over individual salads). Salad serves 4-5 side salads or two generous dinner salads. A piece of grilled chicken or salmon on top the salad would make a complete and delicious meal.

Spaghetti with Kale and Sausage


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.


Roast Chicken with Mustardy Vegetables

As much as I love to cook, life sometimes gets in the way, and making time to cook a meal falls down the priority list. Maybe you can relate. But regardless of how busy life feels sometimes, I still want to sit down at the end of the day with the people I love and share a meal. Some nights it looks like frozen ravioli or fish tacos made from frozen fish sticks. Actually, a lot of nights look like that.

This week’s recipe is along those same lines; simple ingredients with just a few minutes of prep work. The whole meal cooks on one sheet pan. A whole roast chicken cooked on a bed of sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, onions and cauliflower comes together for a flavorful dinner you will want to make again and again. A perfectly browned bird with crispy skin on a big pile of potatoes, onions and cauliflower hits the spot.

Don’t be intimidated by a whole chicken. (Really truly, if I can do it, ANYBODY can do it). Learning to make a whole roast chicken is one of those ‘teach a man to fish skills.’ It can seem difficult or too complicated but once you know how to do it, you’ll be so glad to have a recipe like this up your sleeve.

Look for a four to five-pound roaster. The skin should be firm and unbroken with a white or light-yellow color. For best results, I recommend cooking this recipe in the oven. The skin on the chicken turns a beautiful brown color and the vegetables get crispy and toasty. However, if you’re short on time and happen to have an InstaantPot (pressure cooker), you can follow this recipe but throw the ingredients into it and set the timer for about 40 minutes. You’ll have tender juicy chicken and vegetables, they just won’t be as pretty if they cooked in the oven.

Roast Chicken with Mustardy Vegetables

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 large russet potatoes, diced into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, diced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 heaping tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 whole chicken (4-5 pounds)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a rack in the center position.

Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a large bowl. Set the lemon aside. Add the mustard, the leaves off 2 rosemary sprigs, olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Whisk with a fork and then stir in chopped onion, potatoes and cauliflower. Set aside.

Unwrap chicken and make sure you pull the giblets out from inside the chicken cavity. Use a sharp knife to trim any excess fat around the cavity and pat dry with paper towels. Liberally salt and pepper the chicken both inside and out. Stuff the cavity with the squeezed lemon halves, a rosemary sprig, garlic cloves and bay leaf.

On a sheet pan, spread the vegetables evenly on the tray. Position the chicken in the middle of the tray, breast side up with the vegetables nestled all around the chicken. If you have kitchen twine, tie the legs together but if you don’t have any, skip this step. Melt butter in a small dish in the microwave for 20 or 30 seconds. Carefully pour the butter over the chicken, making sure the entire bird is well-coated.

Roast the chicken and vegetables until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 145 degrees and the juices run clear when you pierce the thickest part of the thigh, about 1 ½ hours.

Remove the tray from the oven and allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into pieces and serving with the vegetables.

Crispy Ravioli with Peas and Bacon

As my preschooler was commandeering my phone during a well-child visit to our pediatrician last week, we came across a long-forgotten photo, a screen shot of a tortellini dish I had found on Instagram. She of course, scrolled right past in favor of looking at pictures of our animals, but just like that, I had inspiration on what to make for dinner later that night.

A little bit of searching and I quickly found the source of the dish, a great website called smittenkitchen.com.  A quick scan of the recipe revealed two things: this was a seriously adaptable recipe I could swap in and out ingredients based on what I had and what my family likes and it uses a technique to cook the pasta I had never tried before. By sautéing the frozen pasta in a little olive oil before steaming, the raviolis quickly crisp on the outside, keeping their texture and preventing the pasta from overcooking and becoming mushy. A little bit of water in the pan and a few minutes with the lid covering the pan, and the already crisp raviolis finish cooking quickly.

A splash of heavy cream and the brightness of lemon juice round out this easy dish. A sprinkle of fresh basil makes you think of spring and from the moment you tear open the package of frozen ravioli until you’re sitting down to eat is literally ten minutes.

This dish was a huge hit with my family and I loved that I could make a great dinner in just a few minutes. I threw a small green salad on the table for my husband and I and the kids ate apple slices (just keeping it real). But the point is, we sat at the table together, eating a meal we all liked, that didn’t take long to prepare, if that’s not a win in the dinner category then I don’t know what is.

The original recipe called for tortellini and prosciutto (which would be delicious) but I didn’t have either. You can always use cream fraiche or half and half in place of heavy cream and dried basil in place of fresh. Don’t skip the lemon though, that’s what brings the whole dish together. As always, use this recipe as a guide to adapt to your specific tastes. Enjoy!

Crispy Ravioli with Peas and Bacon

• 1 (16-20 ounce) package of frozen cheese ravioli (or tortellini)

• 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

• ½ cup water

• ½ cup peas

• 4 pieces center-cut bacon, diced

• ¼ cup heavy cream

• Juice of half a lemon

• 2 tablespoons basil leaves, thinly sliced

• 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

• Kosher salt and black pepper

In a large skilled pan (with a lid) heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook diced bacon for 3-5 minutes until the meat is cooked through. Remove bacon from pan and set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel.

Add the other tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and cook the frozen ravioli in a single layer until brown on one side. Flip them over and continue cooking until both sides are brown, stirring occasionally to keep the raviolis from sticking to the pan. Sprinkle in the frozen peas and ½ cup water. Put the lid on and let them cook for about five minutes. Remove the lid and give everything a stir.

The water should have completely cooked off and the raviolis will be plump and tender. Remove the pan from heat and stir the bacon in with the pasta. Pour the heavy cream and juice of half a lemon over the pasta, gently stirring until well-coated. Garnish with basil, parmesan cheese and a heavy sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Hearty and Healthy Grain Bowls

I have a love-hate relationship with January. You know this. It’s always a little sad to take down the holiday decorations and embrace what feels like a bare and empty house. The inevitable January foggy inversion moves through the Valley enveloping us in a thick blanket of gray slop.

But there is a flip side and it’s a lovely one: a brand-new year. Twelve months full of possibility ahead. A new planner (oh yes, I still use a paper planner…as well as my phone…but I just can’t give up the paper calendar), and an opportunity to tweak and adjust my life. I don’t know why I need January to come around to reevaluate, but there’s just something about the new year that energizes and invigorates me.

And I’m sure you know where this is going: with a new year comes a renewed commitment to healthy, local, real food whenever possible. Lunch tends to be my trickiest meal because as a work-from-home/stay-at-home mom, it’s all too easy to eat the crusts off my preschooler’s peanut butter sandwiches and snack the afternoon away. By the time I get to late afternoon, I’m tired, cranky and trying to decide whether I want a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

Enter the grain bowl. It’s the perfect nutrient dense meal and easy to swap ingredients in and out to use what you have. Even better, you can make most of the elements ahead of time and store them in your refrigerator for easy and quick lunches (or dinners) all week. I’ve got two versions for you, using many of the same ingredients, but as you’ll see, a few minor changes and you have a completely new meal.

The formula is pretty basic: grains, greens, vegetables and a protein. I made an easy dressing in my blender full of bright and tasty herbs and a squeeze of lemon. Then I dug through my refrigerator and started pulling out vegetables and ‘toppings’ that looked yummy. I don’t have specific quantities for this recipe, but I’ll share my methods for preparing the bowls.

Grain Bowl with a Herb and Lemon Dressing (makes 2 large or 4 small servings)

• 3 cups brown rice, cooked

• 4 cups kale, washed and shredded

• 1 large sweet potato, cut into 1-inch cubes

• ½ head cauliflower, cut into florets

• 1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets

• 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

• 2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese

• 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

• Juice of ½ lemon (or lime)

• Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Start by cooking your brown rice. My recommendation is always to swap water for vegetable or chicken stock for more flavor, but there’s no wrong way to do it. Chop up the sweet potato, cauliflower and broccoli and spread the vegetables evenly on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with two tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, turning the vegetables at least once so they cook evenly.

Pull the vegetables from the oven when the broccoli and cauliflower are brown and crispy on the edges and the sweet potatoes are soft. In a medium bowl, toss the shredded kale with one tablespoon olive oil and the juice of half a lemon (or lime). To build your grain bowl, spoon rice into a bowl, layer with kale, roasted vegetables and top with the herb and lemon dressing (see recipe below). Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and goat cheese and a liberal shake of kosher salt and black pepper. Feel free to add or swap in chopped nuts, dried cranberries or a different kind of cheese to your bowl. Whatever sounds good and you have on hand is sure to be tasty!

Grain Bowl with Spicy Chicken, Black Beans and Herb Lemon Dressing

• 3 cups brown rice, cooked

• 4 cups kale, washed and shredded

• 2 chicken breasts

• 1 cup salsa

• 1 14 ounce can organic black beans, drained and rinsed

• 4 cups kale, washed and shredded

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• Juice of half a lemon (or lime)

• 2 radishes, thinly sliced

• 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

• Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Cook your rice (or microwave a bag of frozen rice) and set aside once it’s cooked. In a crockpot or instant pot cook chicken in salsa. You could also buy a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, shred it and toss it in salsa.

When the chicken is finished cooking, use two forks to shred the meat. Stir the black beans into the shredded chicken. In a medium bowl toss kale with tablespoon of oil and lemon juice. To build your bowl, start with the cooked rice. Add the chicken and black bean mixture and shredded kale. Garnish with sliced radish and cherry tomatoes. Top the bowl with a drizzle of herb lemon dressing (about two tablespoons, but use as much or as little as you like).

Herb and Lemon Dressing

• 1 bunch cilantro, stems cut off

• 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems cut off

• 1 clove garlic

• 1 cup olive oil

• Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 limes)

• 1 teaspoon sugar

• 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

• Salt and pepper

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend for 1 minute. Add a splash of water or olive oil if dressing is too thick. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Spicy Tomato and Cashew Whole Wheat Pasta

We took the plunge this year and bought season passes to White Pass Ski Area. Growing up in Spokane, Washington, many of my childhood memories surround being tossed into our lumbering old suburban for early morning treks to Schweitzer Mountain or Lookout Pass, both a solid two plus hour drive from where I grew up.

With White Pass just an hour away, I remind my children every time they complain in the car just how good they have it. And other than some minor car-whining, we are having a blast. All three kids love to ski and it is probably one of the highlights of my parenting journey so far to spend the day skiing as a family. Our five-year-old is probably the most enthusiastic and it has been such a joy to watch her take off.

And the best thing about coming home after a long day of skiing? An easy, fast and super-hearty meal everyone will gobble right up. Just like everyone else in January, I’m working hard to make good healthy meal choices for myself and my family this year. I’m looking for ways to add more vegetables to my children’s plates and reminding myself to reach for fresh, whole foods whenever possible.

This big pot of whole wheat pasta smothered in a creamy spicy tomato sauce checks all the boxes. The creaminess comes from blending cashews into the sauce. You don’t taste the nuts, but the resulting sauce is velvety smooth and deliciously decadent. Roasted cauliflower mixes in with the pasta and is almost undetectable by picky children while they unknowingly get a good dose of vitamin c and k. Whole wheat pasta is full of fiber and a better choice than regular pasta, but a gluten free or lentil pasta would work just fine in the recipe too. Most importantly, this recipe is super flexible and easy to adapt to your specific tastes. If you don’t like spice, skip the red pepper flakes. Want a completely vegetarian dish? Skip the bacon. Have a few other vegetables you need to clean out of the crisper? Roast them with the cauliflower.

Spicy Tomato Cashew Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

• 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

• 3 cloves garlic, finely diced

• 3 pieces center-cut bacon, diced

• 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

• 1 25-ounce jar marinara sauce (look for one with low sugar)

• 1 cup roasted cashews

• ½ cup water

• 1 head cauliflower, chopped into small florets

• 1 box whole wheat pasta

• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

• 1 teaspoon dried basil

• Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Start by setting a big pot of heavily salted water to boil. When the water boils, cook the pasta to package instructions (usually about 8 minutes). When the pasta is finished cooking, drain the noodles and set aside.

In a blender, combine the cashews, water and jar of tomato sauce. Blend until completely smooth. Depending on the strength of your blender, this may take a couple minutes. Just keep going until the sauce is nice and smooth.

Layer the cauliflower evenly on a sheet pan. Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil, making sure the vegetables are evenly coated and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables in a 425-degree oven for about 20 minutes until the cauliflower is golden brown. Don’t forget to turn the vegetables at least once halfway through the cooking time, so they brown evenly on all sides.

In a sauté pan, cook the onion, garlic and bacon in the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes or until the bacon is cooked through and the onion is translucent. Salt and pepper the mixture. Turn the heat to low and stir in the tomato cashew sauce. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and dried basil.

Combine the pasta, roasted cauliflower and sauce in a big bowl (or the pot you cooked the pasta in). Mix well, taste and add salt and pepper or more red pepper flakes if needed. Serve immediately. Leftovers will store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

*A sprinkle of crumbled goat cheese or parmesan cheese over the pasta is a lovely addition if you happen to have some.