Pork Ragu with Pasta and Arugula

The irony of posting this recipe and these words is I need this reminder the most these days. A new Yakima Magazine is out on newsstands around town. The issue is all about home and this is my ode to life at home and around the table.

One of my favorite quotes from my favorite cookbook Bread and Wine is: ‘life at the table is life at its best.’ When I think about my life, my friends and family, the community I’m part of; so much of it revolves around the table. It might be the kitchen table or an outdoor table on the back patio. It might be bar stools pulled up to the kitchen island and for many years it was a smattering of high chairs and booster seats, plastic dishware and what felt like an endless number of spills and cleanups. The table, the décor, the set-up and how clean the house is doesn’t matter a bit. It’s the sitting down together; the pause in busy and chaotic days, to recharge, connect, eat, and hopefully laugh a little.

I think it goes without saying I love to cook. I find immense pleasure in the rhythm of mixing and chopping. I love the creativity of it as well as the physicality of working with my hands. But when I get down to the heart of why I cook, it’s to bring people together. I love the sounds and smells, I love the chatter at the table and the inevitable silence when chewing starts. My tangible gift to the people at my table is the meal but my hope is that it feeds so much more than their bellies.

I’ve been gathering people to the table for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I insisted on baking cookies for friends. In college, I made pots of spaghetti for my roommates and made a Thanksgiving turkey for 20 friends in the very small cramped rental house I lived in. Any excuse to cook and eat with the people I love are my best moments, my favorite memories.

We can all relate to the busyness and chaos of daily life. Entertaining can feel stressful and overwhelming. Maybe cooking isn’t your thing. Maybe due to your family’s work and activity schedule, weeknight dinners seem impossible. And I’m here nodding in agreement to all of it. It is all those things.

But I think we should keep trying. And I think what helps is to have a few ‘go-to’ recipes in your back pocket. Pork Ragu is one of those timeless, eat any time of year, incredibly forgiving recipes you can go back to over and over again. I’ve adapted this recipe from a cookbook called Dinner: A Love Story and I don’t think there could be a more appropriate title or sentiment for what I’m trying to achieve. Pork is cooked in the oven (or crockpot) for hours in wine and herbs until it literally falls apart making a savory flavorful sauce. Ladled over pasta and topped with peppery arugula and a sprinkle of salty parmesan cheese, this dish is delicious enough for a fancy dinner party and easy enough to throw together on a Tuesday morning before work and eat quickly between soccer and piano practices.

 

Pork Ragu with Pasta and Arugula

  • 1 boneless pork shoulder OR pork butt (about 2 ½ to 3 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine, plus more as needed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce (this is completely optional, adds a smokiness to the dish)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 6 ounces arugula
  • Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Add oil and butter to a large oven-safe pot and heat over medium heat until the butter melts. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and liberally salt and pepper both sides. Add the roast to the pot, browning it on all sides, turning occasionally so the meat is seared evenly, 5-8 minutes.

Add the onion and garlic to the pot, stirring for a minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, hot sauce, thyme, oregano, fennel seeds and bay leaf and stir until the mixture begins to boil. Cover and put the pot in the oven. Every hour or so, remove the lid and turn the pork over in the liquids. No matter what size pork you use, make sure the liquid covers at least a third of the meat. Add more wine if needed.

The meat is done when it starts falling apart probably around 4 hours. If you pierce the meat with a fork and it starts to fall apart, remove the pot from the oven. Remove the pork to a cutting board and shred it with two forks. Stir the shredded meat back into the pot.

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta when the noodles are still a little bit firm. The sauce will finish softening the pasta without the noodles becoming overcooked and too soft.

To serve, ladle pasta onto a plate. Top with pork ragu sauce. Place a small handful of arugula on each plate and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. The arugula will slightly wilt from the heat of the sauce adds a wonderful fresh flavor to the dish. Serves 8.

*To make this dish in a crockpot, sear the pork in a pan on the stove over medium heat. Once the meat is seared, add all ingredients and the pork to the crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours. Shred the meat and return to the crockpot. Turn the heat off. 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.

Orange Cardamom Bundt Cake

I’ve got the perfect cake to make for Easter brunch. This cake is full of bright orange flavor and a hint of almond. It’s sweet without being overly sweet and the dollop of whipped cream and handful of tart berries on top are not only a pretty garnish but delicious with the orange and almond flavors of the cake.

Cardamom, often used in Indian cooking, is available at your local grocery store and gives a wonderful subtle warm spicy flavor to the cake. Cardamom has a bit of a citrus flavor too, and is often paired with orange and apple flavors.

As for our family, I’ll be wrestling my children into clothes with collars and buttons and hopefully some cute little sandals all the while throwing down coats and fleeces into the car for the inevitable Pacific Northwest weather you can almost always count on this early in spring. We will go to church and have an Easter egg hunt. My kids will eat way too much candy and shed their ‘fancy’ clothes and eventually we’ll sit down together for a late brunch.

I like to balance whatever sweet dish I make with something savory. I’m thinking a frittata because it’s ridiculously easy and quick to throw together. Sauté chopped asparagus, a shallot and spinach in olive oil over medium heat for a couple minutes. Turn the heat to low and pour 12 whisked eggs into the pan. Salt and pepper liberally and allow the eggs to set. Put the whole pan in the oven under broil for a couple minutes until the dish is cooked through and golden brown on top. Sprinkle with whatever cheese you like (maybe Beechers?) and brunch is ready.

You can also search the breakfast tab for a bunch of different egg dishes.

Whatever you’re up to this weekend, I hope it includes a dose of sunshine, some fresh air and good food. Spring is finally here and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.

Orange Cardamom Bundt Cake

• 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

• 2 teaspoons baking soda

• ½ teaspoon baking powder

• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1 tablespoon cardamom

• ½ teaspoon kosher salt

• 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

• 2 cups sugar

• 4 large eggs, at room temperature

• 1 teaspoon almond extract

• 1 cup sour cream

• Zest of 2 medium oranges (about 2 tablespoons)

• Powdered sugar

• Whipped cream*

• Raspberries, blackberries and strawberries for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan or two loaf pans and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Add the almond extract, sour cream and orange zest and mix for one more minute until well-combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, mixing until just combined, scraping down the sides to make sure everything is incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes. Turn the cake onto a platter and dust with powdered sugar.

To serve, slice pieces and top with a dollop of whipped cream and berries.

*To make homemade whipped cream, pour one-pint heavy whipping cream into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Turn the mixer to medium and mix until soft peaks form. Store extras in the refrigerator for up to three days.

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.

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!

Lemon Tahini Caesar Salad

It’s official. I’m ready for spring. I’ve got patches of green grass in my yard and tulips sticking an inch or two out of the ground in my flower beds. There’s a seed catalog on the table next to my bed and I’ve started making notes on what I want to grow this year.

I’m thinking lots of tomatoes and basil, zucchini, bell peppers of every color, lots of herbs and my favorite: giant sunflowers, dozens of them if possible.

I think all this dreaming of spring got started when we ate dinner at my sister-in-law’s house over the weekend, she made the most quintessential spring meal. We had barbecued salmon and a shaved Brussel sprout salad with the biggest fruit salad I’ve ever seen. For dessert she made a lemon tart that just screamed summer days and warm evenings on the patio. We savored that lovely meal and talked about summer plans. We dreamed about hot summer days spent at the pool and fun hikes to take the kids on.

I know I’m jumping the gun a little, but a girl can dream…right? With all that talk of spring, I was in the mood for something light and refreshing. I am always looking for way to convince (trick?) my kids into eating more greens and this salad did just that.

Mixed greens and spinach are dotted with homemade sourdough croutons and a dash of grated parmesan cheese. The Caesar dressing is quick and easy to put together. It’s just tahini, which is a sesame seed paste, fresh lemon juice, a little Dijon mustard and a hint of garlic. The dressing is fresh, light and full of bright lemon flavor.

Lemon Tahini Caesar Salad with Sourdough Croutons

Croutons

  • 2-3 cups cubed sourdough bread (cut 4-5 slices of bread into 1-inch cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher sea salt

Salad

  • 5 ounces mixed salad greens (spinach, kale, romaine…whatever you like)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Lemon Tahini Dressing

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Fresh ground black pepper

To make the croutons, preheat oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the cubed bread evenly in one layer on the tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and toss well to combine. Put the tray in the oven and toast the bread until golden brown on all sides, stirring the bread at least once so that the croutons cook evenly. This is a fast process, don’t walk away from your oven or the croutons will burn. About 2 minutes on each side.

For the dressing, mix the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, Dijon mustard and salt in a jar. Stir until well-combined. Slowly add the water until you get your desired texture. I like a thinner dressing so I add the full 2 tablespoons of water. Stir in black pepper to taste.

To assemble your salad, combine the salad green, parmesan cheese and croutons in a large bowl. Drizzle the salad with dressing. I used about half the dressing and saved the rest in the refrigerator for another day. Toss gently. Garnish with a lemon wedge (squeeze lemon juice over individual salads). Salad serves 4-5 side salads or two generous dinner salads. A piece of grilled chicken or salmon on top the salad would make a complete and delicious meal.

Friday Favorites

This is kind of a random departure for me, but I thought I would share a few things I’ve been loving and/or using lately. I love these kinds of posts and I feel like my favorite skin care products, clothes and recipes I’ve stumbled across in the last couple years have been from posts like these.

It’s been one of ‘those’ weeks. We had such a fun and busy four day weekend with lots of skiing, a little basketball and even a date night thrown in. But man, once vacation mode ended, it’s been…rough.

Tuesday felt like the Monday that would. not. end. Luke got sick at school and poor kid just feels like garbage. I went on a spring cleaning/house purge which felt really good but now my mudroom is unusable with all the stuff I collected and the thought of getting it loaded up and delivered to Good Will feels like an almost impossible task. On a side note; we’ve barely lived in our house two years, how do I have this much stuff to get rid of? Our very sweet, very OLD dog is declining so quickly these days. The news makes me cry. Oh, and I forgot to set the timer on dinner last night, got distracted (taking care of a sick kid), and somehow managed to undercook AND burn the chicken I was making. How that is even possible is beyond me.

Anyway, I’m glad it’s Friday. You too?

  1. I have notoriously difficult skin; dry, sensitive, acne-prone. It’s kind of the worst. But I took the plunge and started using BeautyCounter products last fall. I have loved everything I’ve tried so far. And this night cream is seriously the best.
  2. I just finished Lilac Girls and Exit West. Very different books, but both immersive and so so good. Jen Hatmaker’s Of Mess and Moxie ended up feeling like I was talking with a friend. By far my favorite book of hers.
  3. I’ve been using FitnessBlender for almost two years now and can’t say enough good things. If you need a home workout, even to just supplement on the weekends or what you do at a gym, this is seriously the best. I’ve bought a few of their series and I have a bunch of workouts saved to my favorites. There’s no pressure to buy anything, you don’t need certain weights or discs or workout shakes or whatever crazy gimmick people so often want to see you. It’s just good, thoughtful, FREE workouts.
  4. Still obsessed with sourdough. I spend way too much time geeking out over the health of my starter and trying to finesse the perfect loaf. If you follow me on Instagram, I often talk about it in my stories. I figure that’s the least annoying place to share all my bread geekiness. And speaking of geekiness. I made sourdough banana dark chocolate muffins this morning. So yummy.
  5. This was really funny. This is too. On a serious note, we’ve had the Olympics on every night at our house and its been so fun to watch with the kids.

Happy Weekend friends. We made it (almost.)