Sweet and Spicy Mixed Nuts

We gathered with a few friends over the weekend in what we decided was our first annual Ugly Christmas Sweater party. I proudly donned a fuzzy bright-red sweater with a picture of a cat in a Santa hat. The sweater said Meowy Christmas and my boys insisted on taking my picture holding our two cats.

The party wasn’t even really a party, just good friends getting together a little last minute, mostly impromptu. We all wore our ugly sweaters, laughing at what we came up with to wear, talking about upcoming holiday plans, who was staying in town, who was making a trek somewhere to visit family. We shared a meal and played a few games, laughing until tears streamed out of our eyes and our sides hurt. It was the simplest night but that holiday spirit, which can feel a little elusive sometimes in the rush and busyness of the season, was right there. It felt good to pause our busy lives for an evening and just be. We shared good food, we made a few memories, we connected with people we love and care about. Isn’t that what the holidays are supposed to be about?

I love making a few homemade treats to give as gifts during the holiday season. Even better if said treat can pull double duty as an appetizer or dessert for a holiday gathering. These sweet and spicy rosemary infused nuts check all the boxes. You can make a big batch and divide them into little jars for the perfect little gift for a hostess, teacher or the mailman. Or you can use that same big batch and fill bowls as an easy snack or appetizer for a football party or holiday gathering.

I stumbled across Ina Garten’s Chipotle and Rosemary Spiced Nuts a few years ago when looking for recipes for a party. I made a batch and watched as the bowl disappeared in a matter of minutes. I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years to make it more my own. To keep things simple and easy, I buy mixed nuts from Costco but you can go to your local grocery store and buy whichever nuts you like from the bulk bins. For this recipe I used cashews, pecans, almonds and pistachios.

Sweet and Spicy Mixed Nut

  • 6-7 cups mixed whole nuts (I recommend cashews, pecans, almonds, walnuts and shelled pistachios)
  • 1⁄3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cayenne powder
  • 4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or spray liberally with cooking spray. In a large bowl combine mixed nuts with the maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, cayenne powder and rosemary. Toss to coat the nuts evenly, then spread evenly on the sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Roast the nuts for 25 minutes, stirring twice with a large metal spatula, until the nuts are glazed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little more kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon). Mix well with the spatula, setting aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking as they cool. Store in an air-tight container for up to a week.

To give as a gift, fill small glass jars with nut mixture. Seal with a lid and tie a festive ribbon around the jar.

Whole Foods Knock-Off Quinoa Salad


Last week was a little carb-heavy wasn’t it? Sorry about that. How about a few vegetables before I inevitably veer back into the butter and sugar category?

This happy accident of a quinoa salad was the perfect antidote to all those carbs. I was having a friend and her daughter over for a playdate and as much as I enjoy my typical lunch of crusts off my daughter’s peanut butter sandwiches and leftover apple slices, I decided a playdate needed something a tiny bit nicer. On a side note I thought having one kid at home all year was going to be dreamy with romanticized notions of elaborate tea parties and nail painting and craft projects. In reality, my kid who has only ever known pack mentality, with two brothers so close in age, gives me the weary side eye because I just don’t play babies/animals/momanddad the right way and begs for shows ALL DAY LONG.

So back to this playdate and that salad. Ages ago I pinned a Whole Foods knock-off quinoa salad. I’ve never had the salad from Whole Foods because my small town doesn’t actually have a Whole Foods, but it was oddly reminiscent of a salad I remembered from childhood gatherings at my grandparent’s house and I had always meant to try it. So I did, except I had to swap a few things for what I had at home, and it ended up being delicious. I ate it the next day for lunch and the salad is one that gets even better after it hangs out in the fridge for a couple hours.

The little girls played for a couple hours and made quite the elaborate craft project out of brown paper lunch snacks and glue and the mamas got time to hang out and eat lunch in peace. A success all around.


Whole Foods Knock-Off Quinoa Salad with Mango and Edamame

  • 2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled (I used two packets of Seeds of Change brown rice and quinoa mix)
  • 1.5 cups mango, diced (I used frozen, let them thaw on the counter, then diced up)
  • 1.5 cups shelled raw edamame
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt

In a large bowl mix the quinoa, vegetables, fruit and garnishes together. In a small bowl, stir the lime juice, vinegar and salt together. Pour over the salad and mix well. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.

Thanksgiving Recap


I don’t know about you but it’s full on Christmas explosion at my house. We’ve got the tree and poinsettias and an advent calendar and I’m fairly certain every hard surface in my entire home is covered in a fine dusting of glitter (seriously where does it even come from??).

And it’s awesome and I am ready to jump right in but before this space jumps head-first into Christmas cookies and homemade marshmallows, I want to pause for one second and link a few recipes from our Thanksgiving meal.

It was such a surprisingly delicious, fairly easy meal that I want to remember the meal and also have a place to go back to find these recipes again. And because the Christmas season is full of family get-togethers, parties and another giant meal; if you need a little inspiration, here are a few dishes I highly recommend and can say without a doubt I’ll make again and again.


For the turkey use this dry brine. I’ve used this recipe for a couple years now and it makes such a huge difference in juiciness and flavor.

I made this cranberry sauce. Easy, very quick and flavorful.

These Brussel sprouts were amazing and Scarlet had two helpings. I also loved the article the recipe was included in. It breaks down the whole Thanksgiving meal, and puts everything in order of when to prep, cook, heat each item so everything is ready at the same time.

I decided we needed a salad to go with dinner. My brothers and husband rolled their eyes at me when they saw me pull the bag of kale from the refrigerator but it ended up being just the right amount of brightness and acidity to complement the meal (and they ate it!), not to mention we needed at least one dish that wasn’t made from a pound of butter.

My sister-in-law, who is an amazing baker, whipped these rolls together the morning of. They were light and fluffy and delicious. We all fought over the leftovers the next day because they made the perfect bread for turkey sandwiches.

And for dessert we had pumpkin pie with a gingerbread crust and an apple gallette made with THIS pie dough. We drizzled Copper Pot Caramel sauce on the gallette and topped everything with homemade sweetened whipped cream that I added a touch of nutmeg to. I can’t recommend these two desserts enough.

We had the non-negotiables too. Stuffing (or is it dressing?), which I posted the recipe one post back, mashed potatoes, which is a secret family recipe and something called creamed onions, which I assure you is so outrageously delicious and not at all disgusting like the name might suggest.

So that was our meal. This was our first Thanksgiving in our new house and I loved every minute of puttering and cooking in my kitchen. The uncles played endless games of football in the front yard with my boys, we went for a gorgeous hike, played a few games, watched a lot of football and just relaxed. The only thing I would have changed was a bigger turkey so we could have enjoyed a few more turkey sandwiches. Next year!


Sausage and Apple Herbed Stuffing


Still planning your Thanksgiving dinner menu? I’ve got what you need. This stuffing checks all the boxes: familiar, a tiny bit surprising, savory with just a hint of sweetness.

I think people fall into two camps when it comes to stuffing: you’re either a purist, or an adventurer. The purist wants a vehicle for turkey gravy and mashed potatoes. No fussy stuff, just the basics because it’s not the stuffing’s show. The adventurer is all about the change up. One year it might be fennel and sausage; the next it’s cranberry and toasted pecans. You might even find an oyster or two in there.

I would say I’m firmly in the adventurer’s camp. I am married to a purist. I love the tradition behind the dishes we make and serve during the holidays, and I love the nostalgia and history of the chopping, stirring and baking when so much love gets served up and passed around the table. But — there’s always a but — I love to try new things … to see if a dish we all enjoy can turn into something we absolutely love.

Two years ago I was charged with making the Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing for my husband’s extended family; I decided to experiment with a dressing recipe that would complement the rest of the dinner and yet wouldn’t take over the other flavors.

After a couple years of tweaking, I think it’s just about right. The stuffing is moist but not soggy, full of flavor with savory notes from the sausage and a hint of sweet from the cranberries. I like to cook my stuffing inside the bird for extra flavor and moisture, but you certainly don’t have to. If you bake it on its own, I would recommend adding extra chicken stock to keep the stuffing from drying out.

Sausage & Apple Herbed Stuffing
• 1 lb. mild Italian sausage
• 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
• 1 large Walla Walla sweet onion, diced
(about 2 ½ cups)
• 4 stalks celery, diced (about 2 cups)
• 1 large apple, diced (about 2 cups)
• 10-12 cups cubed stale French bread
(I buy the bags of pre-made croutons
from the bakery section)
• ¾ teaspoon thyme
• ½ teaspoon rosemary
• 1/3 cup flat leaf parsley
• 2 ½ – 3 cups chicken stock (less if bak-
ing inside the turkey, more if baking
in its own pan)
• 4 tablespoons butter, melted
• 3 eggs, whisked
• 2 cups dried cranberries or Craisins
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9×13 baking dish and set aside. Over medium-low heat, brown the Italian sausage, making sure to use a spatula to break up the meat into very small crumbles. Rub the fennel seeds between your hands before sprinkling over the sausage to release the aroma. Cook the sausage until brown and barely cooked through. Remove from heat and drain on a plate covered in a paper towel.
Using the same pan, sauté the apple, onion and celery in the leftover sausage drippings on medium heat. Add the rosemary and thyme and cook until onions are soft and beginning to change color.
In a large bowl, mix the bread cubes, sausage and vegetable mixture together. Melt butter and set aside to cool slightly. In a different bowl, combine chicken stock, melted butter and eggs. Pour over bread mixture. Salt and pepper the dressing and stir in cranberries and parsley. When the stuffing is well combined, pour into buttered baking dish and bake for 45 minutes uncovered. When the stuffing is golden brown and firm to the touch, it’s done.

*Originally printed in The Yakima Magazine, 2015

Pumpkin Chipotle Soup


We built a house last year (as you well know). It was all the things people tell you it will be; fun, creative, exciting, challenging, grey-hair inducing and an absolute dream come true. We always wanted to live in the country and in addition to the chaos our three kids create running around we’ve added dogs, chickens and even a couple sheep to our ‘farm.’ It is lovely, loud and so fun.

As we planned for our house, the kitchen table took center stage. I wanted a BIG table that would fit the five of us from day to day, as well as any number of family or friends who would find themselves at our home. I wanted that table to be the heartbeat of our home and at the center of all our activity.

My husband Aaron, always up for a do-it-yourself project, set about building our dream table. He used reclaimed barn wood and a friend welded a metal base. Over 9 feet long with two matching benches, the table easily sits 12 but we’ve crowded almost 20 around it a time or two. Aaron spent countless hours working on that table, standing in the cold garage most nights; sanding, staining and lacquering the table. Halfway through the table project he had an accident with another do-it-yourself project for our house and sustained a serious injury on his left hand. To watch him finish the table, one-handed, still makes me smile every time we sit down to eat.

During this busy holiday season, I love to take any opportunity I can to gather my people around the table. Whether it’s a quick weeknight dinner between basketball practices or a big dinner party with friends the goal is the same: serve up something warm and comforting.

This pumpkin soup is a favorite and one I’ve made time and time again. I lightened it up a little from the original recipe as I’ve tweaked and made it my own. I hope you’ll do the same in your own kitchen. The soup is the perfect combination of sweet and savory, creamy with a touch of heat, hearty but light. A loaf of warm bread and a glass of wine are all you need to complete the meal.

Chipotle Pumpkin Soup with Chicken and Barley

*recipe adapted from the blog, Life in Grace

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, washed and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, washed and diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 14oz. can pure pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed (I use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chipotle pepper in adobo, seeds removed and diced finely (very spicy, if you don’t like heat in your food, start with ½ teaspoon).
  • 1 cup barley
  • 2 boxes organic low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¾ cup to 1 cup low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt

In a large pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion, carrots and celery and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions are translucent and the carrots and celery begin to soften. Stir in garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Salt and pepper the vegetables mixture. Add the chicken stock, pumpkin puree, chicken and chipotle pepper. Lower the heat to medium-low and stir in the barley, honey and spices (salt and pepper the soup again) and cook for 30 minutes or until the barley is plump and tender. Turn the heat off and allow the soup to cool. When soup has cooled slightly, stir in sour cream. (This is important, if you stir in the sour cream before the soup has cooled down, it will curdle. The soup will taste fine but it won’t look nearly as appetizing.)

To serve, warm the soup back up on the stove. Ladle into bowls and serve with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

*Originally printed in the Yakima Magazine. More Kitchen Captivated recipes here.

Easy Pizza Dough

IMG_6733.JPGThe first recipe I ever shared in Kitchen Captivated, over two years ago, was a recipe for homemade pizza. The recipe I used for years was adapted from a Cuisinart bread machine cookbook and it’s still a great recipe. But I wanted something a little easier, for sure a recipe I didn’t need a bread machine for and if I was being really fussy about the whole thing, something just a little tastier.

I took a pizza making class in Seattle this summer and got some great ideas, but the recipe for crust they shared in the class required a 12 hour rise time and sometimes I just can’t get my act together that far in advance.

Fridays have loosely become our pizza night. And honestly, I would say a solid 50 percent of the time, we order take out, but the nights we make it at home, this recipe has become the new fan favorite. First and foremost, it’s quick and easy. The dough cooks beautifully, crunchy on the outside but chewy on the inside. It makes a big batch too, which is important for my big eaters. We can make two 14 inch pizzas which is just the right amount with a slice or two for lunch the next day. I adapted the recipe slightly and noted it in instructions.


Mark Bittman’s Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • *1 tablespoon honey
  • *1 cup tap water

Using an electric mixer with a dough attachment or a food processor, place the flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and honey into the bowl. Turn the mixer or food processor on and mix a few times. Slowly add the water to the flour mixture until dough forms. If the mixture is very wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough is stretchy and moist but not gloppy or overly sticky. If the mixture is too dry and very stiff, add a tablespoon of water a time until the mixture is just right.

Using well-floured hands, mold the dough into a round ball and place in a clean dry bowl. Cover with a dish towel and walk away. Let the dough rise for at least 90 minutes or until it’s more than doubled in size.

When you are ready to make pizza, divide the dough in half and using well-floured hands and cutting board, work the dough a few times until it’s in a nice ball. Let rest on the board under a towel for an additional 15 minutes. (use this time to shred cheese, pre-heat the oven, dice veggies, ect.) Preheat the oven to 450 degree.

Roll the dough out using a rolling pin. Lift the crust onto a pizza pan sprayed with cooking spray. Top with desired toppings and bake for 12-15 minutes.


Quick marinara sauce:

  • 1 32-ounce can highest-quality crushed tomatoes
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced or pressed through a garlic press
  • liberal salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil

You can make this sauce one of two ways, mix it all together in a bowl and sauce your pizza. No heating or cooking. This makes a very bright tomato sauce. If you want something a little richer and more mellow, heat in a sauté pan and cook over medium low heat until it reduces by about a third. Freeze extras for the next time.

An Ode to the Farmers Market


This morning I noticed just a whisper of fall in the air. The breeze coming through the open window was crisp and cool and felt so good as I sipped my coffee. And as much as I can appreciate the weather cooling down just a little bit, I’m not ready for summer to slip away.

My weekly trips to the farm stand down the road from my house make me wish for summer forever. The baskets are overflowing with peaches and pears, early apples, fat ripe tomatoes, sweet corn, green beans and potatoes. The options of what to do with all that goodness are practically endless but I find myself making a few things over and over again. (surprise surprise)

I’ve fallen off the salad bandwagon this summer. I think I needed a break from spinach and kale and lettuce. But all the goodies the farm stand offers brings back the love and thankfully only one of these recipes has lettuce. Whether you need a quick weeknight side dish or a potluck crowd pleaser, these easy salads come together quickly and taste like every good thing summer has to offer.

Fresh Corn Salad

  • 6 ears of corn, corn cut from the cob
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • ½ walla walla onion, diced
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Shuck the corn and using a sharp knife, cut the corn from the cob. No need to cook the corn, if you buy it at the farm stand it’s so fresh and sweet, it doesn’t need to be cooked. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients, stirring well. Leave on the counter or cover and put in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to intensify. This salad tastes best when made a few hours ahead of time. Cherry tomatoes are an easy swap for the red pepper and a sprinkle of feta is also delicious with this salad.

Watermelon Feta Salad

  • 3 cups seedless watermelon, diced into bite size pieces
  • 8 cups spring greens or arugula
  • ½ cup crumbled feta (goat cheese is a great substitute)
  • ¼ red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint
  • Juice and zest of two limes
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl layer the watermelon, feta and red onion over the greens. In a separate bowl combine the lime juice, zest, vinegar and olive oil. Dress the salad, sprinkle with fresh mint and salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Quick Cucumber Salad

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper

In a bowl toss the cucumbers, bell pepper and red onion together. Pour the vinegar over the vegetables, sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add the toasted sesame oil and gently mix the vegetables with a spoon. The oil has a very strong flavor and can quickly overpower the dish. Consider adding the oil a teaspoon at a time (three teaspoons for every tablespoon) to get the flavor just right for your taste buds.