Kimchi Fried Rice

Scarlet and I decided to play hooky today. The weather is dreary and rainy and my poor girl just didn’t seem like herself. When I asked her if she wanted to stay home with me today, she burst into tears and clung to me. I’ll take that as a yes.

So we’ve made bead necklaces and pumpkin muffins and now we’re watching a movie. I think I needed a down day as much as she did without even realizing it.

I wanted to share this quick recipe for fried rice with you in case you’re in the same camp as I am: you love BIG flavor and you aren’t afraid of a little heat. If that’s you, this lunch will guaranteed be one of your favorites.

Kimchi fried rice is perfect because it incorporates easy protein, some veggies, brown rice and in literally 10 minutes you can have a big old pan for lunch that will last for several days. If I can remember to, I make this on a Sunday or Monday and save leftovers in the fridge all the next couple days.

For me, I’m always looking for quick and easy ways to incorporate more vegetables into my daily life and kimchi is supposed to have all kinds of probiotic benefits. Pickled and spicy cabbage combined with a little bacon, fried egg, and hearty brown rice seriously hit all the right notes in a spicy, savory filling but not heavy meal.

If you happen to follow me on Instagram (thesaltandstone), I made a version of this dish several months ago. The recipe was from Small Victories, which if you haven’t noticed seems to be one of my favorite cookbooks lately. But this recipe is all my own, inspired by the original but doctored up just the way I like it. This is my favorite thing about cooking, there’s rarely any rules and you can add or tweak or change any way you like.

Kimchi Fried Rice

  • 8 ounces spicy kimchi
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 3 pieces center-cut bacon, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

In a large sauté pan, cook bacon over medium heat until browned on both sides. Chop up the kimchi into bite-sized pieces while the bacon cooks. Add the kimchi to the pan and stir in with the bacon. Add rice to the pan and mix everything together. Crack the eggs into the rice and stir until the egg is just cooked through. Stir in the soy sauce and mix one last time. Remove from heat, spoon into a bowl and enjoy. Store leftovers covered in the fridge for the rest of the week.

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.

Meal Planning and Steel Cut Oats

Today is a little departure from the usual. My column in the Yakima Herald today is about basic meal planning. Do you meal plan? My version is fairly informal but it’s a system that works pretty well for us. At the bottom of the post is a recipe for our favorite steel cut oats. I make a big batch on Sundays and keep it in the fridge all week for easy breakfasts. We’re almost to the weekend friends.


I have a friend who is an excellent meal planner. She sits down every week with her husband and they decide on dinners for the week. They make a grocery list of the items they need and one of them goes to the store. They assign dinners to each night based on their weekly schedule and then cook their meals according to the schedule. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But for so many of us, it’s not that simple at all.

For the left-brained creative-types and the flustered, busy, over-tired parents, for those that aren’t sure they even like to cook, and everyone in between, planning an entire week’s worth of meals is more than a little intimidating; it’s downright daunting. At least that’s how I feel most weeks.

But I also know that to make healthy fresh food for my family, I need a plan. Daily trips to the grocery store with three young kids is out of the question and I don’t want to rely too heavily on take-out and frozen pizzas.

What works for me is to spend a few hours on the weekend preparing foods I want my family to eat during the week. I’ve found that having produce readily available, washed, cut-up and in plain view ensures we all have an easier time reaching for a fruit or vegetable first.

Each week I hit my local fruit stand. Right now I’m buying bags of plums and nectarines, peaches, bell peppers, corn on the cob, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, melons, zucchini and green beans. This is where I start with planning meals for the week. After I’ve made my haul in the produce department, I head to the grocery store, list in hand with the remaining items I need.

On Sundays, when I typically have more time to putter in the kitchen, I do the bulk of my prep for the week. I wash and chop fruits and vegetables. I usually make some kind of salad for easy lunches and muffins or a quick bread for easy breakfast for my kids. Sometimes I make an egg dish and roast a pan of vegetables but mostly it depends on what looked good at the store and what I’m in the mood to cook.

Breakfasts and lunches get exponentially easier on busy weekday mornings. The kids choose between cereal and whatever I’ve prepped for the week and they help themselves. It’s the same for packing lunches; they choose from the fruits and vegetables I’ve already prepared, we throw a sandwich together and they fill their water bottles.

This week I made a loaf of pumpkin bread and a big pot of steel cut oats. I also made tuna salad and chicken salad and some whole-wheat couscous. I cut up cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, bell peppers and washed and trimmed grapes. When I open my fridge, these are the items I see first and what I build meals around all week.

Everyone in my family loves oatmeal, so I thought I would share my recipe for steel cut oats. Hearty and delicious, the only downside to steel-cut oats is the time it takes to make them. I get around this by making a big pot on the weekend and storing it in the fridge. On weekday mornings, we spoon portions into individual bowls and pop them in the microwave. We top ours with a spoonful of peanut butter and a handful of frozen blueberries but raisins and cinnamon or a fresh sliced peach and a drizzle of honey is lovely too.


Creamy Steel-Cut Oats with Chia Seeds

  • 2 cups steel-cut oats
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds

In a pot combine water, milk, salt and oats. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the liquid begins to boil, turn the heat to low. Cook oats at a simmer for 20 to 30 minutes stirring frequently. When oats are finished cooking, gently stir in maple syrup, cinnamon and chia seeds. Spoon oats into individual bowls and top with favorite toppings. Save remaining oats in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

 

Five Minute Peanut Sauce

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In the rush to get out the door to the back-to-school barbecue, Jack and Scarlet were putting their shoes on in the mud room. From around the corner I hear Jack tell his sister, ‘Oh you look really beautiful, do you need help with your shoes? Do you want fancy ones?’

I peeked around the corner to see she had changed into an all white hand-me-down dress from an older friend of ours. It’s lacy and the bottom is tulle and was probably a flower-girl dress at some point. She had accessorized with multiple bracelets and barrettes in her hair and had her bright pink purse ready to go. Jack was holding up sparkly silver jelly shoes (2 sizes too small) for her approval.

And I froze for a second relishing the moment of sibling kindness and affection. Oh man, momming is so rough sometimes right? Not a day goes by when I don’t wonder when the real mom is finally going to show up. You know, the one that actually knows what she’s doing.

I’ve been thinking about that little interaction all week, feeling like maybe I’m messing up just about everything but somehow in the midst of it all, the kids are doing ok. There’s no better feeling I think.

And speaking of messing things up, I am zero for three on dinners last week. I couldn’t get a win to save my life. I made a rolled pork loin that was to ‘herby’ and a chicken and rice dish that was completely rejected by all three kids (who hates chicken and rice? my kids apparently) and roasted veggies with chicken sausages that resulted in one kid gagging at the dinner table and the other two giving up their desserts in order to not have to eat one more bite of the offending dinner.

But this quick and easy peanut sauce was my one win of the week and I’m holding onto it like I am Jack and Scarlet’s sweet little moment in the mudroom. I found the recipe in the Dinner, A Love Story cookbook. I tweaked it a bit and my changes are included in the recipe below. I sautéed kale, Brussel sprouts and a few random veggies in a little sesame oil and then tossed them with zucchini noodles and covered the whole thing in the peanut sauce. For the kids I simply made a few spaghetti noodles and snuck a few zucchini noodles in with them before mixing the sauce over the noodles. They ate this with a side of cucumbers and EVERYONE was happy. Mom win. I’ll take what I can get.

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Five Minute Peanut Sauce

  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh peeled ginger (really important)
  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (we like a little heat, but scale back to taste)
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Pulse garlic and ginger in the bowl of a food processor until finely chopped. Add peanut butter, water, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and process until smooth. Taste to make sure the flavor is just right.

Mix with cooked and cooled noodles or rice. Use as a dip for grilled chicken and vegetables. Keep in the fridge to throw together an easy meal.

Peanut Butter Granola

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For some reason I was in a funk last week. I’m not quite sure why but if I had to take a guess it probably had something to do with 100 plus degree temps, tired, bored, antsy kids and thick smoke from forest fires to the north of us descending on the Valley leaving us in a foggy soupy mess. Or maybe I was just grumpy. Who knows.

And just when I thought I might legitimately pull my hair out, a friend invited the kids and I to head up into the mountains for a hike along the Tieton River. We even got a patch of blue sky for a bit and the kids splashed and played in the river for hours. We explored a cave and a waterfall and even found a little natural water slide. It was good to get out of our usual routine and just play and have fun together. You would think after eight years of parenting I would recognize that when we get out of sync as a family, nine times out of ten, we just need to get out of the house and go for an adventure. A little change to the routine makes EVERYONE happier.

I went into the weekend feeling settled and eager for more adventures before the summer is over. Way too soon we are going to be back into our busy routines and I don’t want to miss this last month with the kids home.

With the smoke still settled heavily over our town, we spent a lot of time inside this weekend which left me time to putter and play in the kitchen. I’ve been testing out my new instant pot which I was initially a little skeptical of but I think I’m turning into a believer. I made Nom Nom Paleo’s Kalua Pork yesterday and that alone made the purchase worth it. I’ve also made a couple of roast chickens and some bone broth. This week I’m going to make some grains and beans. I’ll keep you posted with how it all goes.

Once I got on a roll in the kitchen, I was kind of a mad woman. I started going through my pantry and decided that I had too many half open bags of coconut, almonds, oats and raisins. I used to make granola all the time and thought the kids would like it on their yogurt. I started whipping up a batch and at the last second decided to stir a little peanut butter into the mixture. The result was a nutty, sweet (but not too sweet) granola with a hint of peanut butter taste. I made the kids parfaits with vanilla yogurt, granola and fresh blueberries and they gobbled them right up.

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Peanut Butter Granola

  • 5 cups rolled oats (NOT instant)
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a large bowl mix oat, coconut, almonds, cinnamon and salt together. In a small sauce pan, melt butter, coconut oil, peanut butter and brown sugar together until melted and mixed well. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour wet mixture over oat mixture and stir well until well combined. Spread evenly on baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring at least once halfway through so the granola gets golden brown on all sides. When the oats are toasty brown and fragrant, remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.

To make a yogurt parfait, layer yogurt and granola in a cup and top with blueberries or favorite fruit. Peaches and raspberries are a personal favorite!

Hummus Salad

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We are in the dog days of summer at my house. Is that still a term? It’s very hot outside and as much as I’m a sun-loving summer girl through and through, the warm wind that picks up in the evenings has never been more appreciated.

My children run wild through the house; building forts, making ‘experiments,’ eating endless snacks and alternating between begging me to take them swimming and crashing on the couch in pure exhaustion.  They smell like chlorine and their cheeks and shoulders are always a touch pink. My lawn is a little brown from the high temperatures regardless of how often the sprinklers run and popsicles are not just a special after-dinner treat but an appropriate breakfast, lunch or dinner.

With young kids in the house, we alternate between trying to take advantage of every glorious spare moment of summer and giving each other the side eye as we stare down the barrel of another free day together. I grudgingly flipped through the paper calendar hanging on the wall a few days ago, and couldn’t believe summer break is halfway over already. I’ve got more adventures planned for those crazy kids of mine, and if you’re like me, and the heat and busyness of summer is getting to you a little bit, then this is the dish for you.

I don’t know how this idea never occurred to me before but considering we eat an excessive amount of hummus at my house, this was a quick, fresh dish that doubles as an appetizer or an easy dinner when it’s just too hot to even think about turning on the oven. Homemade hummus is easy to make and even easier to tweak to fit your personal preferences. Use this recipe as a guide. The same goes for the salad toppings. I’ve made this dish a couple times now and every time I use slightly different ingredients for the salad. Last week I added Kalamata olives and crumbled feta. As always, you could buy store-bought hummus and layer the salad on top of that for a quick crowd-pleasing dish.

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Hummus Salad

For the Hummus:

  • 1 can (14 oz.) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½-1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup water, or more if needed

Using a food processor, blend all the ingredients EXCEPT the water until smooth. Add in the water and continue blending until the hummus reaches a nice smooth consistency, adding additional water if necessary. Allow food processor to blend ingredients for a full 2 minutes so that the hummus is very smooth and creamy.

For the Salad:

  • 1 medium English cucumber, chopped into ½ pieces
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons basil, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chives, finely diced
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

In a medium bowl combine cucumber, tomatoes, roasted peppers and shallot. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Gently mix in fresh herbs. Taste and add more salt or herbs if needed.

On a plate, spread hummus evenly. Layer salad over hummus. Serve with naan bread, baguette or chips and crackers. Salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to a day but is best served immediately.

Grandma’s Potato Salad

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My grandma was famous for her potato salad. It’s a simple recipe, but something about the way she made it was special. She had a giant vintage white bowl dedicated specifically for this salad and anytime my dad would walk through the back door of her house and see it sitting out on the counter, he would cheer in delight. If he happened to walk through the back door and it wasn’t on the counter, he would rummage through the refrigerator checking for it. If potato salad wasn’t on the menu that night, well I think you can imagine the (good-natured) teasing and pouting that my grandma had to deal with from her grown son and whoever else happened to be invited to dinner.

My grandma made potato salad for family and friends well into her eighties, always a double or triple batch served from her special bowl. My parents have the big white bowl at their house now and my mom makes the recipe a few times each summer. In the last couple years, I’ve tried my hand at making the salad.

This recipe is completely from memory and taste; as so many of the most special recipes usually are. I don’t think my grandma ever wrote her recipes down. She was an intuitive home cook, with zero training but an arsenal of recipes her family and friends loved and requested time and time again.

My dad always has a few pointers based on what he remembers and whenever I make the salad for him, I try and do it exactly the way my grandma made it. But when I make a batch to take to a barbecue or just for my little family, I tweak it slightly by adding more fresh herbs to make it my own. The only real secret to this very simple recipe is patience and high-quality ingredients. Let your potatoes and hard-boiled eggs cool completely. Don’t rush this step or the texture won’t be the same. Also, use the best quality mayonnaise you can.

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Grandma’s Potato Salad

  • 3 pounds baby red and yellow potatoes, washed and quartered
  • 5 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons, finely chopped dill
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

In a large pot, boil washed and cut potatoes for about 10 to 15 minutes until they are fork tender but still firm. Drain completely and set aside to cool. Hard-boil eggs. I put room temperature eggs into a pot of cold water and cover with a lid. Using my gas stove, I turn the heat to high and boil the eggs for exactly 11 minutes (set a timer). When the timer goes off, remove from heat and drain the water from the eggs. Set the hard-boiled eggs aside to cool. When the potatoes and eggs have cooled completely, you are ready to assemble your salad.

Start by chopping the celery, herbs and eggs. My grandma always diced the eggs and celery in smaller pieces than the potatoes. In a large bowl, mix together potatoes, eggs, celery, green onions and herbs setting aside a teaspoon of chopped dill. Using a spatula, gently mix the mayonnaise with the vegetables. Salt and pepper liberally and taste to make sure the ratios are how you like it. Add a little more mayonnaise or salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with the last teaspoon of dill. Cover and refrigerate if you aren’t going to serve immediately.