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.

Spring Salad Flatbread

As the weather begins to shift, my taste buds seem to be doing the same. I don’t want the soups and roasts that sustained us through the winter. I’m ready for fresh, light and bright flavor.

A friend of mine visited a few weeks ago and as our kids ran through the house laughing and playing, we decided we should probably feed them (and ourselves) at some point. I started rummaging through my fridge looking for things the kids would want to eat. I pulled some naan bread from the freezer and we made the kids easy cheese pizzas. Naan bread, if you aren’t familiar, is a Middle Eastern flatbread similar to a pita bread. It is soft and chewy and makes an excellent pizza crust stand-in. You can certainly make it at home but you can also buy it at your local grocery store in the bakery section. I typically keep a package in my freezer for quick meals when we need them.

We eat a lot of pizza at my house. It seems to be our go-to meal. I’m sure it has something to do with having three young kids in the house but I also like experimenting with flavors and ingredients. I’ve been dreaming about an wood fire pizza oven. We’re planning on updating our patio space a little but my husband wants a Traeger. Which, in all fairness, I could probably make some mean pizza on that too. We’ll see. It’s fun to dream about summer nights spent outside. Pizza oven or not.

I decided to take a stab at an artichoke and lemon flatbread recipe I had bookmarked as a light dinner for my friend and I. We devoured our dinner, loving the bright lemon finish with the tangy artichokes and creamy mozzarella. I set out to tweak the recipe until I got it ‘just right.’

As much as I love to make my own pizza crust when I have the time, for this recipe, the naan bread works beautifully. Artichokes marinated in olive oil (store bought in a jar), goat cheese, mozzarella and a heavy sprinkle of lemon zest create the foundation for the flatbread. When it comes out of the oven bubbly and cheesy, you pile an arugula salad tossed in lemon juice and lots of black pepper high on the pizza. The combination of the lemony greens with the artichokes and tangy goat cheese is essentially spring in a bite. Even better, if you have the ingredients on hand, this quick meal comes together in 15-20 minutes including prep and cooking.

Spring Salad Flatbread

  • 1 Naan flatbread
  • 4-6 artichoke pieces, slightly drained, rough chopped
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lemon (you will need the juice and zest)
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the naan bread on a baking sheet or metal pizza pan. Spread the artichokes evenly across the flatbread. Sprinkle the cheeses, basil and red pepper flakes evenly over the flatbread. Zest half the lemon and sprinkle lemon zest on flatbread. Set lemon aside. Cook the flatbread for 10-12 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheeses are bubbly and melted. While the flatbread cooks, make the arugula salad. In a small bowl toss two cups of greens with lemon juice (squeeze the lemon over the greens) and a generous sprinkle of coarse salt and pepper.

When the flatbread comes out of the oven, pile as much (or little) of the salad onto the warm pizza. Slice and enjoy.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.