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.

Slow Cooked Brisket Over Pappardelle

We spent an idyllic day on my husband’s family’s property over the weekend. It was surprisingly cold and foggy which only magnified the incredible colors of the changing trees. Everywhere you looked deep reds, orange and gold leaves mixed with the dark evergreen trees. Wild turkeys walked past us and the fire we kept going all morning kept us warm and cozy. The kids had a blast running around, putting sticks in the fire and helping Aaron. It’s literally my husband’s favorite place on earth so we all came home with our tanks filled, grateful for such a good weekend together.

When we got home Sunday night I was in the mood for a hearty and cozy meal. My freezer is looking pretty sad and depleted meat-wise as we are a few weeks away from getting our portion of the cow we buy each year. That said, there’s a few cuts that I often feel a little intimidated to use and therefore they sit and sit in the freezer waiting for me to finally do something with them.

I eyed the brisket with a little weariness thinking the only thing I could do is smoke it (which I didn’t have the time or energy to attempt). But I flipped through a couple cookbooks anyway and I found a recipe in Small Victories for brisket. I really had to improvise on the ingredients but I went for it anyway.


This happy accident of a recipe ended up being a home run. I cooked it in the oven for about 5 hours and let it sit in the juices for another couple hours while it cooled down. The sauce ended up being savory and slightly sweet (not bbq sauce…but kind of) and the meat was so tender it fell apart in big chunks in the pot. When we were ready for dinner, I quickly boiled pappardelle in salted water. When the noodles (and you could use any egg noodle or spaghetti squash, which we did when we ate leftovers) were ready, I tossed them in a little butter, fresh parsley and a handful of parmesan cheese. I topped the pasta with a few slices of brisket and we all dug in. Scarlet was the only one to reject dinner but she can’t be trusted these days. One day she eats like the world is ending and the next takes two bites of yogurt and calls it a day. This is definitely a dish I’ll make again and again.


Slow Cooked Brisket Over Pappardelle

  • 1 3-4 pound beef brisket
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 12 dried apricots
  • 6 dried figs
  • 2 cups organic chicken or beef stock
  • 1 15 ounce crushed tomatoes
  • kosher salt and black pepper

In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Liberally coat both sides of the brisket in salt and pepper (don’t be shy! use lots!). Sear each side of the brisket for 3-4 minutes until both sides of the meat have a golden brown color on it. Remove from the pot and set aside on a plate. Turn the heat to low and start cooking the onion. When the onion has softened, add garlic, spices and tomato paste. Cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, apricots and figs. Stir in the stock and add the brisket back to the pot. Cover the pot with the lid and cook at 325 degrees for about 4 hours. Check the meat halfway through, flipping the meat so the sauce covers the meat.

To serve the brisket, remove the meat from the pot and slice diagonally across the meat. In a separate pot, boil water. Stir in pappardelle and cook to the package instructions (the noodles cook fast, 5ish minutes). Turn off the heat, drain pasta and put back in the pot. Mix one tablespoon butter, two tablespoons fresh chopped parsley and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese into the pasta.

Spoon a few noodles onto each plate. Top with several slices of brisket and a drizzle of the sauce over everything. Enjoy!! If you’re feeling really energetic that day, roast some broccoli in the oven and serve it on the side.

 

Pasta with Bacon, Caramelized Onions and Spinach

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When it comes to writing, it’s always the first sentence that’s the hardest to spit out. I can stare at a blank screen for what feels like hours before those first few words finally crystalize.

It’s most definitely that way today.

I want to tell you about how beautiful the weather is lately and how fast the boy’s hair and limbs and feet seem to be growing.  Jackson got a retainer a few weeks ago and he has a darling little way of talking with the giant device on the roof of his mouth as well as a minor drooling problem, and it’s all so endearing I can’t stand it. He had to do a self-portrait art project at school and for the first time ever he included his freckles in his drawing and it makes me realize how quickly he’s growing these days, noticing so much more about the world and himself. I hope those freckles continue to be worthy of self-portraits.

And Luke. My darling, charming, tender Luke. First grade has been a little bumpy, not the easiest start to the school year. He’s had to grow up a little bit, face some mistakes and learn to work hard at things that don’t necessarily come easily. Those are some big challenges for a 7-year-old and he has risen to meet them head-on with determination. I couldn’t be prouder of him.

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Scarlet turned five at the end of September which doesn’t seem possible in one breath and yet impossible to think she was ever not here. She is so full of spunk and sass, pestering her brothers and announcing to the world her next big project and then like a light switch she is carrying her baby around, dressing up in princess dresses, begging me to read her book after book. She is a firecracker for sure.

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Life feels unreasonably busy this fall and we’re all feeling the effects of it a little bit. Crummy colds took us all out for a few weeks and sports schedules seem to rule our life. Work projects piled up out of nowhere and I don’t tell you all this as a complaint it’s just the way it is sometimes. I’m sure you’re feeling the exact same way.

Today’s recipe is quick, easy and the perfect comfort food on a cold fall night. Pasta with bacon, caramelized onions and a big handful of spinach is filling and flavorful without being heavy. A sprinkle of parmesan cheese and maybe a hunk of crusty bread and your dinner is complete.

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Pasta with Bacon, Caramelized Onions and Spinach

  • 1 box penne or rotini pasta
  • 2 large yellow onions, sliced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 4 pieces center-cut bacon, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large pot, boil pasta in heavily salted water until just cooked through. Drain and set aside but reserve a cup or so of the pasta water.

In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter over low heat. Spread onions evenly over the pan, stirring occasionally, cooking for about 30 minutes until deeply caramelized. When onions are finished cooking, scoop onto a plate and set aside. In the same pan, add last tablespoon of olive oil and turn heat to medium-low. Cook bacon until brown and crispy, add garlic to the pan and cook for two more minutes until the garlic is fragrant.  Add pasta, onions and spinach to the pan mixing well until the ingredients are well-combined. Splash a spoonful or two of pasta water into the pan if needed. Salt and pepper liberally and add a pinch of red pepper flakes (completely optional). Scoop into bowls and top with shredded parmesan cheese

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.

 

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.

Summer Couscous Salad

Here is this week’s post for the Yakima Herald. I had the pleasure of hearing a presentation on the proposed downtown plaza this week in addition to attending several wonderful events in the heart of the city over the last couple weeks. As easy as it is to criticize the places we live (Yakima or anywhere really), I’m challenging myself to look at where I live with a new lens, looking for the good and positive, because it doesn’t take much to start seeing it everywhere I go.

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My husband and I happened to be downtown on Thursday evening to meet friends for dinner. We were on our way to Crafted, a new restaurant, which just opened on First Street in the old Barrel House. As we drove down Yakima Avenue I was blown away to see how many people were out and about that night. Families were walking into and away from the Downtown Summer Nights concert series on North Front Street, restaurants were spilling over with people sitting on patios enjoying the beautiful weather and we even had to circle once in the parking lot before finding a place to park.

I’ve never been so happy to have to look for a place to park. It was good to see downtown bustling with people. It felt downright urban in the loveliest small-town way, of course, but a breath of fresh air nonetheless. With several restaurants newly opened with rumors of more on the way along with activities like the free weekly concert series, live music at various wineries and coffee shops downtown and the Farmer’s Market on Sundays, the place to be is downtown Yakima.

This summer couscous salad is a little like downtown Yakima. Surprisingly lovely, fresh and fun but easy to pass over unless you give it a try. Whole wheat couscous is cooked in chicken broth and fresh ginger, cinnamon and turmeric and then mixed with vegetables, dates, raisins, chickpeas and heaps of fresh parsley. Fresh lemon juice at the end adds a lovely little zing to every bite. This is the perfect dish to make on Sunday after a trip to the Farmer’s Market and keep in the refrigerator all week for easy lunches. Add some grilled chicken to make this salad a complete meal.

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Summer Couscous Salad

  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cups whole wheat couscous
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 14oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • The juice of 2 lemons
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pot stir together the chicken stock, 1 tablespoon olive oil, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat off, mix in the couscous, stir well. Cover with lid and set aside for 15 minutes. When the couscous is fully cooked, stir in raisins and dates. In a large bowl combine zucchini, carrots, onion, red pepper, chickpeas and almonds. Fluff the couscous with a fork and mix it into the vegetables. Whisk together the remaining olive oil and lemon juice and pour over the salad. Garnish with fresh parsley, salt and pepper. Taste to see if the salad needs more seasonings and add whatever you like to get the flavor you’re looking for. Serve at room temperature or cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.