This week’s post features the Rhodes family from St. Augustine, FL. Tanya and her husband Jake both work full time at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and have two small boys. Even though they often have long days (did I mention that Tanya is also in grad school?!), they still manage to get home-cooked meals on the table most nights of the week. One of Tanya’s favorite secret weapons is her slow cooker, which she uses year round—dinner cooks while they’re at work, without heating up their Florida kitchen. Brilliant! Her pulled pork is so simple, but soooooo flavorful. It can be eaten on its own over rice, in tacos or tostados, or as killer barbeque pulled pork sandwiches. You’ve got to try these! Top the sandwiches with a quick homemade slaw, throw some corn on the side, and you’re on your way to summertime nirvana.
From Scratch Fast Families: The Holmbos
I’m so excited to introduce you to Laura Lee Holmbo, a single working mother of four kids who somehow still manages gets a from-scratch dinner on the table most nights of the week. You’re going to LOVE her super simple but pitch perfect fish tacos! They’re ideal this time of year, when the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven. Laura serves the tacos with a fabulous crunchy slaw and creamy avocado slices. This meal is an awesome way to get your kiddos to eat their fish and vegetables—my five-year-old devoured everything, which (trust me) says a lot!
Ok, I’m going to jump right into this post by claiming that this is the ultimate summertime sandwich. Yes, I know that burgers are quintessential, and a tomato and basil sandwich is pretty paramount, but to truly manifest crashing waves, sandy toes and sunburned cheeks, this crispy fish sandwich is where it’s at. Piled with pan-fried filets of flounder (or lemon sole), as well as juicy tomato slices, slivers of avocado, lettuce and a generous smear of herbed mayonnaise, it has the power to transport you to a sunny beach, even if you’re as landlocked as Nebraska.
From Scratch Fast Families: The Glasscoes
I’m so THRILLED (!) to be introducing a new series called From Scratch Fast Families, where every couple of weeks I’ll be featuring a family that’s dedicated to making from-scratch meals, even in the face of hectic schedules. Putting fresh, wholesome food on the table is one of the best things we can do for the health of our bodies and of our families, but, as we all know, it ain’t always easy. I’ve found that I’m constantly picking my friends’ brains for weeknight meal ideas. How do they manage the (often dizzying) dinnertime tango? What are their routines, strategies and struggles? My hope is that by sharing other family’s schedules, tips and challenges, as well as one or two of their favorite weekday recipes, we can get inspired, grow our recipe repertoires, and/or at least feel as though we’re not alone in what can often feel like a struggle to feed our families well. It’s a way to learn from (and laugh with!) others, without judgment. I hope you’ll enjoy!
I’m delighted to introduce the first family—the Glasscoes. Jessica and her husband Dustin live in Charlotte, VT with their two daughters (they also happen to be some of my dearest friends). They have very full lives, but they’re committed to cooking fresh food for their family. Thank you Jess and Dustin for helping me to kick this off!
Every week I make a big batch of quinoa, which I use for various meals throughout the week. I heat it up for breakfast (as a porridge with nut milk, coconut oil or ghee, maple syrup or stevia, toasted nuts and fruit) and it’s great to have on hand for quick lunches. I add it to salads to give bulk, use it as a bed for quickly sautéed fish, meat or vegetables, and sauté it into a “fried rice” concoction with whatever scraps are chilling in the crisper. While I’ve always been in the quinoa camp (it’s full of fun, happy people singing camp songs… j/k), James has recently become enamored. On the weekends he started usurping my lunches, sneaking bites when I wasn’t looking and commenting on how good they were, until I finally gave in and started making him lunch as well (pretty smart tactic on his part, eh?). No two quinoa bowls are alike, but they often involve sautéed or roasted vegetables, a quick dressing or sauce and a fried egg on top. This version was an instant hit last week for dinner.
About three years ago I received a text from a friend of a friend asking if I’d be interested in helping her butcher a lamb. I hardly knew Kelley at that time, but I think my text back read something like; “Hell yea!” Aside from some minor butchering in cooking school, my experience was limited to deboning pork shoulders or legs of lamb, and I was interesting in learning more. Plus, anybody who was willing to tackle a whole animal was definitely worth meeting. I wanted to hang out with this chick.
We’ve gone straight from winter to summer, with temperatures climbing high into the eighties last week. Hey, I’m not complaining, although I’m not quite ready to don shorts and skirts in public (lest my legs get mistaken for lightsabers). Our grill is now back in action, after a scrub-down by James—apparently it made quite a cozy mouse den this winter (eek! I have an inexplicable fear of mice). In any case, it’s been hot out, and we’ve finally been able to break in our back deck dining set, which is where we eat dinner practically every evening in the warm months. One of our favorite springtime meals is Chicken Paillard with Fingerling Potato & Dandelion Greens Salad. Chicken breasts get pounded thin and are then quickly sautéed and piled high with a vibrant spring salad. Since the kitchen has been so hot (particularly since I refuse to switch out my jeans for more practical wear), I decided to take the meal outdoors. Instead of searing the chicken breasts on the stove, I tossed them on the grill. I also changed up the salad to include thinly shaved fennel, baby arugula, golden raisins, black olives, toasted almonds and feta cheese. The sweetness of the raisins and the crunch of the almonds, paired with the saltiness of the black olives and freshness of the fennel, make a perfect counterpoint to the smoky grilled chicken. It’s springtime (which feels like summertime) perfection.
“Rice pasta” is what we call risotto in our house. To our five-year-old, anything that involves pasta is instantly eatable, whereas rice is debatable (if I were to tell her we were having creamy rice for dinner I’d get a scowl, whereas when I tell her we’re having cheesy rice pasta, I get a smile or at least neutral silence, which is almost as good). And hey, isn’t risotto—even though it’s essentially rice porridge—always listed with the pastas on Italian menus anyway? Regardless of my need to justify this white lie, risotto does feel a bit like pasta, with its creamy, often cheesy texture and flavor. The creaminess comes from the starch in Arborio (or Carnaroli) rice, which is released through constant stirring. Ah, there’s the rub. While risotto isn’t hard to make, it typically requires being stationed at the stovetop for about thirty minutes, slowly adding broth to the rice while stirring. While this is fine and dandy, when you have a baby attached to your hip, the rest of dinner to prep, and lunches to make for the next day, being stuck at the stovetop isn’t a luxury to be had. Well, we’re in luck, my friends. Introducing no-stir risotto.
At the risk of sounding like a teenager breaking up with her boyfriend, I’m so over the hardy greens that I’ve been seeing all winter (sorry kale and Brussels sprouts, you’re awfully nice, but we need a break). It’s time for brighter, lighter flavors. Since I have several more weeks to wait for the first bunch of asparagus and bag of arugula to arrive at our farmer’s market (damn fellows always play hard-to-get), I must turn to my freezer. Helllllooo sweet peas. You’re so cute, and you’re always there for me when I need to punch up a soup, add color to pasta, or get my five year old to eat something green. Peas are the only frozen vegetable I buy, and I consider them a pantry staple.
Yes, you can make a roast chicken on a weeknight. In under an hour. Introducing the spatchcocked chicken (terrible name, incredibly delicious results). A spatchcocked chicken is simply a chicken that’s had its backbone cut out. This is really easy to do yourself—you can see step-by-step how to do it here (from my Chicken Under a Rock post a couple of years ago—similar results, but the chicken is cooked on the grill). Or, you can expedite things and ask your butcher to cut the backbone out for you. The flattened chicken gets seasoned any which way you want, then browned on the stovetop and finished in the oven. The increased surface area means more crispy skin, and a much faster cooking time—we’re talking 5 minutes on the stove and 20-30 minutes in the oven. The result, my friends, is the chicken of your dreams—juicy, tender and beautifully browned.