Whole Chicken on the Barbecue

One of my favorite things to do on a hot summer night is walk the perimeter of our property, along the orchard easement road next to the tall cool grass that grows along the fence. The faint smell of the fruit trees in the neighboring orchard floats by and usually our farm animals, suddenly interested to see if they are getting fed, amble towards me curious, following along on their side of the fence. When I walk past the corral and their feeding station, they lose interest, turning their attention back to the grass they were eating.

The wind rustles the Poplar trees and brings the shouts and laughter from my kids jumping on the trampoline. They are wild and loud and burning off what feels like a never-ending well of energy and endurance.

As I loop the pasture and head back towards the house, I turn west and look at Mt. Adams peeking out from behind the rolling desert hills. The sky tonight is streaked with pink and orange, lighting up the sky and casting its warm glow on everything I see.

I’ve called Yakima home for 13 years now. When I moved here in my early twenties, I had no idea this place would capture my attention the way it has. It is more than the town I live in or where my children were born or where we work. These desert hills, the pink sky, that glorious mountain has become the backdrop to my creative endeavors. This Valley inspires the flavors in my kitchen, the words that tumble out onto the screen, my steps planted firmly in the dirt.

This recipe for a whole roasted chicken, barbecued to a crispy golden brown, served hot off the grill, directly to hungry bellies waiting patiently at the patio table is my ode to summer nights. The recipe itself is simple, adapted from a wonderful cookbook called What’s Gaby Cooking. It’s the kind of easy summer dinner that you go to again and again. I recommend an ice cold hoppy Yakima Valley beer or a lovely glass of Yakima Valley rose (might I recommend Gilbert Cellars, it’s one of my favorites) to enjoy while you supervise the grill.

Here’s the only tip I have to offer for the actual barbecuing: low and slow is your friend. This recipe works particularly well if you have a charcoal barbecue or a Traegar grill. It’s certainly not impossible on a gas grill, but you’ll need to make sure the heat doesn’t go to high. You want to shoot for around 350 degrees.

A big salad with corn fresh off the cob, crunchy bell peppers and lots of fresh herbs to go with the chicken make for an excellent and easy dinner. A ripe cantaloupe and a pint of raspberries picked up at your local fruit stand finishes the meal.

For the BBQ Chicken

• 1 ½ tablespoons paprika

• 1 ½ tablespoons garlic powder

• 2 teaspoons kosher salt

• 1 teaspoon black pepper

• 2 whole chickens, giblets removed

• Cooking spray or vegetable oil for the grill

For the BBQ Chicken Baste

• 6 tablespoons butter, melted

• 1 teaspoon paprika

• 1 teaspoon garlic powder

• 1 teaspoon dried parsley

• Juice of 1 lemon

• ½ teaspoon kosher salt

• ½ teaspoon black pepper

In a small bowl, combine paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper and mix to combine. Put chickens on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use paper towels to pat the meat dry. Sprinkle the rub over the chickens, massaging the spices into the skin on both sides of the bird. Allow the birds to rest on the counter while the grill heats.

Preheat your grill to about 350 degrees or a medium-low heat. Lightly oil the grill rack. Place chickens directly on the grill over indirect heat, breast side up to start. Cover the grill and cook for 30 minutes. Flip the chicken over, and using a basting brush, liberally coat the chicken with butter mixture.

Cook for 15 more minutes with the grill covered. Flip the chicken again, baste again and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Continue to cook, flipping the birds and basting the meat with butter mixture every 15 minutes for a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes cooking time OR a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone, reads 165 degrees.

To serve, transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Carve the chicken and serve immediately. For an extra burst of flavor, serve with lemon wedges. Squeeze lemon juice over the chicken.

Strawberry Shortcake

When it comes to dessert I will always always choose something with berries or citrus. Apple pie? Berry Crumble? Lemon bars? Sorbet? Yes, please. I can guarantee, left to my own devices, dessert will always be of the fruit variety.

Unfortunately, I stand alone in my preferences when it comes to my family. I live with four other people who will always always choose something decadently chocolate. Preferably with peanut butter, if possible.

As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, I thought it only fitting to offer a treat for all the mothers out there who regularly give up their preferred treats in the name of love. If you, like me, love all things fruit, then this dessert is for you. Lightly sweetened shortcakes with a hint of lemon are a cross between a biscuit and a sugar cookie. Light and fluffy with a crisp top, you could make these decadent shortcakes and call dessert finished. But topped with juicy berries and a dollop of whipped cream and the dessert goes from great to amazing.

When I was a kid, growing up in Spokane, we would regularly trek to Greenbluff, an agricultural community north of town full of u-pick farms and fruit stands to pick strawberries and raspberries. We ate strawberry shortcake for dinner during those glorious few early summer weeks when strawberries were in harvest and our kitchen counter overflowed with berries. My mom would mix up Bisquick biscuits and make homemade whipped cream and we would sit on our deck with big bowls in front of us. Maybe that’s why I love fruit desserts so much.

As an ode to all the mothers out there and because summer is just around the corner, stop in at the Farmer’s Market starting up this Sunday downtown and pick up a few pints of strawberries if you can find any. (It might be a little early). Make this strawberry shortcake for the mom in your life and if you can, serve it up in a big bowl and eat it outside, enjoying every moment of this glorious weather our Valley gets. Happy Mother’s Day!

Strawberry Shortcake

For the Shortcake:

• 3 cups all-purpose flour

• Zest of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)

• 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

• 1 ½ tablespoons baking powder

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

• ¾ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

• 1 ½ cups heavy cream

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the fruit:

• 1 pound strawberries and blueberries (or any combination of berries)

• 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Whipped Cream:

• 2 cups heavy cream

• ½ cup powdered sugar

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash and cut up the fruit. In a large bowl toss the fruit in the 2 tablespoons of sugar and set aside. To make the whipping cream, combine the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in a stand mixer and whip until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the shortcakes, combine the flour, sugar, lemon zest, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mix well. Add the butter to the bowl and using a pastry knife, two forks or clean hands, gently mix the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is pea-size chunks. You want to be able to see the butter still. Create a small well in the center of the bowl and pour in the heavy cream and vanilla. Gently stir to combine and form a dough. When the dough has just barely come together, turn it out onto a floured surface and shape into a square about ¾ inch thick. Cut into 9 generous squares.

Transfer the shortcakes to a lined baking sheet and chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. While the shortcakes chill, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the shortcakes until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.

To assemble, slice the shortcakes in half. Place the bottom of each shortcake on a plate. Top with a generous scoop of fruit and a dollop of whipped cream and put the top half the shortcake back on. Serve immediately.

Sesame Noodle Bowl

Well it’s been a hot minute hasn’t it?

Right on cue I hit that every three-month or so slump of losing my creativity. I couldn’t think of anything to cook. I had no words to write. Post-vacation blues probably had something to do with it. The never-ending cycle of dishes from feeding five people three times a day might have a little something to do with it too.

I did however get the Faux Martha’s new cookbook, The Minimalist Kitchen and What’s Gaby Cooking. I’ve thumbed through both cookbooks, marking recipes. I think they’re just the shot of new energy and inspiration I’m needing.

In the meantime there’s always this sesame noodle bowl. Which is SO easy and delicious and the perfect canvas for tons of veggies and any kind of protein you like. I cooked a whole chicken in my instant pot and shredded it for this recipe but seared salmon, flank steak or crispy tofu would all be delicious.

Will you judge me if I admit I’ve made this recipe three times now? I’ve used different noodles each time and added different combinations of toppings. I think it’s my new stand-by. I can’t get enough.

Sesame Noodle Bowl (recipe adapted from the cookbook Chloe Flavor)

  • 10 ounces noodles (you can use phad thai rice noodles, udon, soba or spaghetti)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha (use as little or as much as you like, this gives the sauce a kick)
  • 4-6 ounces cooked chicken, diced (about 2 medium chicken breasts)
  • Green onion, slivered
  • Chopped cilantro (optional)

Cook noodles to package instructions. When cooked, drain water and set aside. In a blender or food processor combine sesame oil, vinegar, peanut butter, brown sugar, garlic and sriracha. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.

In a medium bowl combine noodles with cooked chicken. Pour the sauce over everything and gently mix until the sauce is well-incorporated. Garnish with slivered green onion and chopped cilantro.

This dish can be served warm or cold. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

*The top photo shows this recipe made with rice noodles and chicken. The bottom photo shows the same recipe with udon noodles, carrots, broccoli and snap peas.

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

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

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

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

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

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

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

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

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

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

(Makes about 3 dozen smallish cookies)

Enjoy!

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

Happy New Year friends. That’s how I think of you when I sit down to write in this little corner. I feel like I’m having a conversation with my friends, sharing a few thoughts, a little bit of my life and a recipe I think you might like.

I had a little existential crisis towards the end of the year. Ok, maybe that’s a tiny bit dramatic, but I received some tough feedback on a couple recipes I posted. They didn’t work well for a few people because the recipes were hard to understand.

All of a sudden I felt like I had nothing to offer, nothing to say, and the very real truth that I’m just* a home cook hit me hard. I have zero training. I am NOT an expert…actually I’m about as far away from ‘expert’ as possible. I’m just a mom who loves to putter in the kitchen.

I spent the last couple weeks thinking hard about why I keep coming back to this space. And I finally decided that regardless of outcome, whether people visit me here in this space or not, I’m going to keep at it. This blog holds me accountable to doing two things I love and need in my life: cooking and writing. I get to be creative, I get to try new things, I get to be a little bit brave. So I decided I’m going to keep at it and even more, those would be my new year resolutions this year.

As much as I’m not much of a resolution-type person, this new year somehow feels different. I’m eager for a fresh start. While last year was good (really good in fact), it was also an unbelievably hard year. And the sadness and challenges I was going through hung around me like a dark cloud for months. But finally, the past is fading and as this new year ushers in, I feel ready and excited. I want to keep cooking. Learning. Practicing being brave. All of it.

Alright, enough rambling. How about a recipe? These blueberry buttermilk muffins are super easy to throw together and taste heavenly. Although full disclosure: even though I’ve made this recipe dozens of times, yesterday I misread the instructions and only added one teaspoon of baking powder. The muffins were dense and didn’t have the lovely domed top I was going for. I realized my mistake and grudgingly started over again. I’m starting the year nice and humble, practicing laughing at myself, forcing myself to try again, even when I don’t want to.

Who knew a batch of muffins could bring on such deep thoughts? Sheesh. I’m chalking it up to the new year. I’m sure by next week I’ll be back to lamenting over the crazy shenanigans my kids are up to and how much I hate the gray cold winter weather.

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins (recipe adapted from A Homemade Kitchen)

  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (preferably NOT non-fat)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups frozen blueberries (raspberries, blackberries or cherries work great too)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with liners or spray liberally with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk eggs until well incorporated. Stir in sugar, melted butter, buttermilk, yogurt and vanilla. Mix well.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just barely combined. Stir in the frozen berries to the batter. Don’t be surprised if the berries turn the batter a little purple.

Use a large spoon or ice cream scoop to fill the muffin tins. Fill the tins right up to the top. You are going for a tall domed muffin. Sprinkle each muffin with raw sugar for a little crunch on the lid of the muffin. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack. Allow the muffins to finish cooling upside down.

 

Pumpkin Muffins

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It just wouldn’t be fall without a batch of pumpkin muffins. I went on not one but two pumpkin patch field trips last week, traversing the corn maze with a group of preschoolers, herding them through the pumpkin patch until they found just the right pumpkin. Two days later, my first grader got his turn and we had a blast riding the tractor, eating lunch with friends and of course, picking out the perfect pumpkin.

We are in the idyllic couple of weeks when everywhere you look is quintessential fall. The Poplar trees I look at out the windows of my house are brilliantly yellow and I find myself stopping to marvel at their beauty several times a day. The apple and pear orchards bordering my house boast deep red and golden orange leaves, waving in the wind, almost as if they’re showing off. The backdrop of blue sky and green grass with the desert hills beyond is breathtaking and a scene I don’t want to take for granted.

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And when fall is this beautiful, it seems not only right but downright necessary to make something pumpkin. I’m the first to roll my eyes at all the pumpkin spice hype. I get it, the saying ‘too much of a good thing,’ is very real. But these pumpkin muffins will bring you right back around again — light and chewy with a crunchy cinnamon-sugar crust along the top — you’ll make batch after batch of these all fall long.

Sometimes I throw a handful of chocolate chips into the batter for my kids and the other week, I skipped the cinnamon and sugar on top and instead sprinkled granola on the muffins. They were delicious! Whatever you decide to do, you can’t go wrong. And if you’re local and can carve out a little time this weekend, go for a walk on the Cowiche trails or along the Greenway and enjoy the beauty of the Valley before it’s blanketed in snow.

Pumpkin Muffins (recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar (if you don’t have any, just use regular granulated sugar)

 

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put liners in 12 standard-sized muffin cups.

Stir or whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spice in medium bowl.

In a larger bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and 1 cup sugar. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined. Divide batter among muffin cups (each about 3/4 full). If you want to add chocolate chips, stir in one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter before spooning into muffin cups.

Stir together tablespoon of raw sugar and teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle over each muffin.

Bake until puffed and golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

Pretty Great Pumpkin Bread

I want to call this the best-ever pumpkin bread or maybe easy and perfect pumpkin bread but the reality is there are approximately 27,432 recipes for pumpkin bread out there and I would wager a bet that 90 percent of the recipes you stumble onto are pretty great.

So here’s another pretty great recipe to add to your list when you’re in the mood for something pumpkin and feeling all those fall vibes.

Me? I’m not feeling fall-ish yet, but I’m going for it anyway. I live in a town absolutely enveloped in smoke from wild fires surrounding us on all sides. It’s been hot (brutally hot actually) and the smoke is thick and choking. It makes your throat sore and your eyes burn and sometimes you see ash falling from the sky. The kids can’t go outside for recess and outdoor practices and games have been cancelled going on two weeks.

It doesn’t particularly feel like fall where I live but doesn’t feel like summer either…or any season really. Obviously all of this pales in comparison to very real tragedies and natural disasters happening all over the country/world in the last little bit. I was texting with my mother-in-law today and as she was telling me about a school shooting that happened today in the town I grew up in, we both agreed we feel helpless and defeated by so much hurt all around us. It’s a heavy, worrying, hard hard time for so many.

And pumpkin bread won’t change any of that terrible hurt but it might put a smile on your kid’s faces when they come home from a hard day at school. Or you could double this recipe and drop a loaf off for a friend as a surprise. And you could absolutely slice it thick and slather it in butter and enjoy it slowly with a cup of coffee and maybe those five minutes will recharge you in some small way.


This is one of those easy one-bowl recipes that are great for little people to jump in and ‘help’ with. The other great thing is that the recipe calls for one whole can of pumpkin, which is perfect since I hate wasting the last bit of pumpkin out of the can but I also never have any ideas how to use it up except to make more treats. One can. One loaf. Done.


Pretty Great Pumpkin Bread (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 heaping teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix
  • Two pinches of ground cloves
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a LARGE loaf pan, grease with butter and flour or a piece of parchment paper. 

In the bowl of a large mixing bowl beat pumpkin, coconut oil, eggs, vanilla and sugar until well-combined with no lumps. Using a wooden spoon or spatula stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all spices. When batter is just combined, scoop into loaf pan. 

In a small bowl combine one tablespoon raw sugar (regular white sugar is fine too) with one teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top of the bread. Bake for approximately one hour or until a toothpick  poked in the center of the bread comes out clean.