Crispy Dijon Brussel Sprouts

For all the thinking and planning I’ve been doing the last couple weeks regarding a Thanksgiving menu, the holiday sure snuck up on me. I can’t believe it’s next week! I have a few more recipes to share this month, so check back to see what else I have planned.

If you happened to catch the new Yakima Magazine, which came out last week, I shared two recipes for pie that are literally fail-proof. No fussy crust and ingredient lists a mile long. Pick up a copy when you’re out an about this week (or just scroll down from this post) and bookmark those recipes if you’re looking for something new and different for dessert this year. Bonus, there’s a great local gift guide and so much more included in the magazine.

But let’s get down to business, this week it’s all about Brussel sprouts. I love Brussel sprouts. I make them all the time at home but often struggle to cook them perfectly. They are easy to overcook and the resulting mushy sprout is disappointing while an undercooked tough bitter sprout is even worse.

I watched a tutorial online about how to sear Brussel sprouts starting with a cold pan. You cook the sprouts in a generous amount of olive oil with the lid on. The vegetables sear and steam at the same time, giving the vegetable a deeply brown and crispy outside while softening and cooking the sprout all the way through. In literally five minutes, your pan of Brussel sprouts is finished cooking. I don’t think I’ll ever cook them any other way going forward.

This also means while your turkey is resting and your oven is warming up the rest of your Thanksgiving dishes, you can throw this Brussel sprout dish together quickly and easily. Adding a bright, tasty vegetable is a nice balance to all the rich decadent must-have dishes already at the table. Even better, this easy recipe can be made year-around and pulls double duty as a quick weeknight dish as well.

Crispy Dijon Brussel Sprouts   (recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

• 1-2 pounds small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

• 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

• 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

• 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

• ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

• kosher salt

Look for Brussels sprouts similar in size, with small, tight heads, as they’re likely to be sweeter and more tender than larger sprouts. For a large batch, you may have to do two batches, simply follow the instructions, transfer sprouts to a plate and start the process over.

Arrange Brussels sprouts in single layer, cut sides down, in a large nonstick skillet. Drizzle oil evenly over sprouts. Cover skillet, place over medium-high heat, and cook until sprouts are bright green and cut sides have started to brown, about 4 minutes.

Uncover and continue to cook until cut sides of sprouts are deeply and evenly browned and paring knife slides in with little to no resistance, 2 to 3 minutes longer, adjusting heat and moving sprouts as necessary to prevent them from overbrowning. While sprouts cook, combine mustard, sugar, vinegar, cayenne, and ¼ teaspoon salt in small bowl.

Off heat, transfer sprouts to shallow serving dish. Coat them with mustard sauce and sprinkle with coarse salt. Serve immedietly.

Maple and Harissa Roasted Carrots

I spent a couple hours sitting on I-90 just east of North Bend over the weekend while the wet blanket of surprise snow was cleared from Snoqualmie Pass along with a few overly confident drivers who ended up spun out in a ditch.

It seemed somehow appropriate, if not a bit ironic, to watch the snow fall on the same day we set our clocks back for Daylight Savings. The silver lining to all that waiting was guilt-free time scrolling the internet for fun and interesting Thanksgiving recipes. I’ve got a few tried and true recipes for the turkey and mashed potatoes but I love to add a new dish to the table each year.

Last year I made garlicky brussel sprouts with lemon-scented bread crumbs. Another year it was a kale salad with slices of grapefruit, spicy fennel and pomegranate seeds.

With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, I’ve been bookmarking recipes and jotting down little notes when inspiration hits. I am hosting a group of about 25 this year, a mix of children and adults and I want the menu to meet everyone’s needs. Of course, our guests will bring things from appetizers to pies and side dishes. But I’m always looking for a couple of things that are new and interesting to add to the mix of favorites and must-haves.

Maple roasted carrots with harissa is just the bright unexpected dish I was looking for. Full of flavor with sweet and spicy notes, this recipe is easily adaptable to individual tastes and preferences.

Harissa is a deeply red slightly smoky chile pepper paste originating from Africa. You can buy it at specialty food stores, Trader Joes (if you make it to Seattle or Spokane), or of course, order it from Amazon. Harissa is quite spicy but you can control the spiciness of the dish depending on how much you add. I only used 1 teaspoon which gave the carrots a little bit of spicy heat without being overpowering. You could certainly add more or less depending on your tastes or skip it all together.

The dish comes together in just a few minutes. Garlic and cumin seeds add smoky rich flavor while the brightness of the lemon and sweetness of maple syrup balance the spiciness of harissa.

Maple and Harissa Roasted Carrots (adapted from Bon Apetit)

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons harissa paste
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 pounds rainbow carrots, scrubbed, tops trimmed and outer layer peeled
  • 1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley and chives, finely diced (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, maple syrup, garlic, cumin seeds, harissa and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss the carrots and slices of lemon with maple syrup mixture spreading evenly on the baking sheet.

Roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the carrots are tender and the lemon caramelized. Stir carrots at least once halfway through to ensure they cook evenly. Remove carrots from oven and allow to cool briefly on pan, about 2-3 minutes. Put carrots (and lemon slices) in serving dish and sprinkle with fresh herbs. If you don’t have fresh parsley and chives, use a ½ teaspoon of dried parsley or skip it all together. Serve immediately. Also, if you can’t find rainbow carrots, just use orange ones. If your carrots are large, consider cutting them lengthwise in half so they cook quickly and evenly.

 

Bourbon Maple Pork Chops with Apples

I don’t mean to brag but this is the first time in nine-ish years Daylight Savings time hasn’t royally screwed my family’s sleep schedule over for days (weeks?) at a time. My sister-in-law mentioned she was getting up at 4:30am with her 1-year-old and a wave of deja vu flooded my system as I immediately felt like I needed a giant cup of coffee and maybe a nap as she was talking.

But then the realization hit that my kids were sleeping like normal human beings. Granted a couple of them have a cold right now so that might have something to do with it, but I’m not asking questions. I’m just over here in my warm cozy bed, feeling slightly smug and supremely grateful to not be awake with toddlers/babies at 4:30am anymore.

Jackson literally crouched on the floor next to my bed this morning and yelled ‘Boo’ to wake me up. Thankfully his father was right behind him with a cup of coffee to hand me as I sat straight up out of a dead sleep. That coffee probably saved his life in the moment but I’ve been chuckling about it all morning. Big kids are so funny and weird and wonderful.

Enough about sleep, let’s talk about pork chops shall we? My only experience with pork chops were the chewy and tough ones my mother made as a kid, cooked in cream of mushroom soup. Chops can be hard, especially boneless ones because they cook quickly and don’t have a ton of fat to help with moisture.

Because we buy a whole pig each year and have it butchered locally, I have cuts of meat that I wouldn’t necessarily buy at the grocery store. It’s a good exercise though and while I’ve clearly had many failures, when I have a win, I feel like I need to share it because maybe you need a new recipe too.

My pork chops were quite thick, so I cut them in half length-wise so they were about an inch thick. I made a marinade of bourbon (you could also use a light beer or chicken stock if you don’t want to cook with alcohol) soy sauce, ginger,maple syrup and Worcestershire sauce. The marinade made the chops super flavorful and tender and the apples and onions sautéed in all that pork goodness gave the dish a subtle sweet and rich finish without being heavy. I roasted some sweet potatoes and cauliflower and called it dinner. Aaron LOVED this dinner, the kids gave mixed reviews but that probably had more to do with the cauliflower than the meat.

Bourbon Maple Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

  • 4-6 boneless pork chops trimmed to 1-inch thickness
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger (about a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium or 1 large Fuji apple, thinly sliced

In a bowl, whisk together the bourbon (or beer or chicken stock), olive oil, maple syrup, ginger, soy and Worcestershire sauce. Salt and pepper pork chops, then submerge them in marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter for up two hours or in the refrigerator for 4 to 8 hours.

In a large sauté pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium-low heat. Cook pork chops for about 3 minutes on each side so they have crisp edges and are golden brown on each side. (Don’t worry about them being cooked through yet). Remove the chops from the pan and set aside. Pour the remaining marinade into a small pot and simmer on low until it reduces by a third.

In the same pan, sauté onions and apples over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes until the onions are translucent and the apples begin to soften. Put the chops back in the pan with the apples and onions and drizzle the pan with a couple tablespoons of the reduced marinade. Turn the heat to low and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until the chops are cooked through. To serve, place a pork chop on a dinner plate and spoon apples and onions over it. Drizzle with the pan sauce and serve immediately.

 

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

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We found a tiny little six-week-old kitten in the orchard adjacent to our house a couple weeks ago. My 7-year-old son happened to spot him and with the help of my husband, they gently coaxed the kitty down from the apple tree it was hiding in. Soaking wet (from the rain) and terrified, the kitten was lost, alone and hungry. They brought it up to the house and with very sad and pathetic eyes, oh so nicely, asked if we could keep the kitten. Who am I to say no to a tiny kitten?

We took the cat to the vet and found out it’s a male, very healthy with only a minor case of fleas. A round of flea treatment for all our pets and a bill of clean health, we headed home to negotiate a name and redistribution of household responsibilities. I might have said yes to the kitten, but I had promises from all three of my children they would help care of him. The jury is still out on their overall helpfulness but they certainly adore this new addition.


Rex, the kitten, now runs the house. My daughter carries him around like a baby and occasionally wraps him in a blanket and takes him for a ride in her doll stroller. My boys play endlessly with the kitten, chasing him around the house, digging him out from under beds and behind the couch. Obviously, we’re all a little smitten by this little ball of fluff. He was a sweet surprise on a rainy cold Saturday and it’s one I won’t soon forget.

I want to offer some good old-fashioned comfort food this week. October was a month of soups (and a batch of pumpkin muffins because I couldn’t resist) to get in the mindset of fall and winter, but November is all about the cozy, warm meals perfect for this time of year.

Roasted butternut squash makes a silky rich sauce without being heavy. The salty bacon and roasted cauliflower add texture and flavor to the dish. I recommend buying the pre-cut butternut squash to save yourself a few minutes of work. I know you can find it at Safeway and Costco, but I’m sure other grocery stores carry it too. Fontina cheese is very mild which is why I chose it for this recipe but a smoked gouda or sharp cheddar would be delicious as well. I have a decadent ‘all-cheese’ mac and cheese recipe on the blog if butternut squash isn’t your thing. It has bacon and smoke gouda, parmesan and the creamiest most delicious sauce you’re ever tasted. Recipe is HERE if you want to take a look.IMG_9771

Roasted Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 ounces pre-cut, cubed and peeled butternut squash (about 2-2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 box pasta, penne, shells or cavatelli all work well
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 3 pieces center cut bacon, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a baking sheet spread the cauliflower and butternut squash evenly on the pan. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, use a spatula halfway through to flip the vegetables so they cook evenly. The vegetables should be golden brown and cooked through.

In a saute pan, cook the onion and bay leaf in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil for 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic to the onion and continue to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until the garlic is fragrant and the onions are soft and translucent.

In a food processor or blender, pulse the butternut squash, half of the roasted cauliflower (set aside the other half for later), the onion and garlic until smooth. Make sure to remove the bay leaf from the onions! Slowly add the chicken stock (you could also use vegetable stock, water or milk) until the sauce is smooth and silky. Add nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper to the sauce.

In a large pot, boil the pasta in heavily salted water. Drain the noodles when they are not quite finished cooking, you want them to still have a bite. Put the noodles back in the large pot and pour the sauce over the noodles. Stir in the roasted cauliflower and mix the shredded cheese into the pasta.

Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray. Spoon the pasta into the baking pan and spread the diced bacon evenly over the dish. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the bacon is cooked through and the edges are bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle the dish with dried parsley and serve immediately.

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.