Kimchi Noodles

Until Robin started kindergarten last fall, I never really understood the allure of 30-minute meals. Before then we lived with my parents and I stayed home with my two pre-schoolers. By dinnertime, I was so excited to do something other than play Barbies or watch another round of Octonauts, I had 3 other adults (a dad and 2 grandparents) who were stoked to play with the kids, my dad loves cooking as much as I do so we worked together, and my mom always did the dishes. I never minded spending an hour cooking dinner with my dad with no impending clean up – and, as much as I love being a stay-at-home-mom, it was often the highlight of my day.

Of course, seasons change. We now live 28 whole minutes away from my parents, Robin’s in kindergarten all day, I’m only cooking for two adults, the kids have evening activities that make dinner complicated, and though I require everyone to do their part, I end up with the bulk of the dishes, too. While we were adjusting, we ended up picking up a lot of takeout, which was so great when we were 23, but at 33 your body just doesn’t handle Taco Bell like it used to. So here we are, renewed interest in 30-minute meals.

On Wednesday nights, Robin has a Daisy Troop meeting that lasts an hour 5 minutes from our house starting at 6. Eating at 5:30 is too early, and 7:30 is too late, but by the time I’ve dropped her off, chatted with the moms, and driven home, I’ve only got 40-minutes max to cook and eat before I have to leave to pick her up. My 6-year-old does not handle late pickups well.

Enter Kimchi Noodles – which can be cooked, start to finish, and eaten by me, a notoriously slow eater, in 40 minutes. If you love kimchi, noodles, and runny eggs, this meal is for you. As much as I like to brag about my kids loving a wide variety of foods, this dish is spicy and I won’t subject my kids to fermented vegetables yet, so they get macaroni and cheese at 5:30. Kimchi, gochujang, and udon noodles can be a bit hard to find, but they last forever, so stock up and you can bust this out when all you’ve got is eggs to work with.

Kimchi Noodles

9 oz. dry wide udon noodles (they come in a pack with 3 little portions – you only need one per person, so I either cook the 3rd for leftovers or save it for next time)

3 T butter

1 cup or so of kimchi (I use Mother-In-Law Kimchi – which is absolutely the best I’ve had and I use about half a jar) and some of the kimchi juice.

2-3 T gochujang paste, depending on how spicy you want to go.

1/2 cup of any kind of broth or water

eggs

optional: broccoli, green onions, and/or sesame seeds – but it’s fine without any of those.

  1. Start the water boiling for the noodles and cook according to package directions (usually about 4 minutes. In a large skillet or dutch oven, melt 2T of the butter over high heat and roughly chop the kimchi. When the butter starts to sizzle, add the kimchi and gochujang and stir everything together. If you’re using broccoli, add it here and cook with the kimchi mixture for about 5 minutes until nice and caramelized.
  2. Turn the heat down a little, add the broth and whatever leftover kimchi juice you have to the kimchi to deglaze the pan. Continue cooking until the noodles are done. Drain the noodles and add them to the kimchi mixture and stir and cook it all together while you do the eggs.
  3. In a small frying pan, melt a pat of butter over high heat, then crack in the egg and cook until the edges are set (around a minute). Flip the egg and count to 10, then serve over the noodles (my husband likes 2 eggs, I usually only like one).
  4. Garnish with some sliced green onions or sesame seeds if you’ve got them.

 

Hominy Casserole

The “freshman 15” is a pretty predictable college situation. The combination of 24-hour dining halls, lack of organized mealtimes and homecooked food, lack of structured sports practices, and, well, beer, can all be blamed. In my case, going from a home where my parents cooked delicious food to a dorm where the food was, in my opinion, subpar, and walking everywhere had a surprisingly opposite effect – I lost my freshman 15. In the dining hall, everything tasted about the same level of “blah” but nutrition information was displayed so I always just picked the healthiest option, drowned it in cholula or sriracha, and went from there.

Oddly, hominy was a staple of the Texas Tech dining hall in the early 2000s. I had never encountered hominy before college, so I lovingly referred to it as “mutant corn” – and I usually ate a scoop if it was an option (I actually wasn’t far off – hominy IS kind of a mutant corn). During that same time, I started dating my husband and his family also, shockingly, served mutant corn often. Their hominy was far superior to dorm hominy, so in the 13 years since eating it the first time, I’ve never found a need to cook it any other way.

This hominy is the ultimate comfort casserole. It’s totally benign, it’s good leftover, and it’s so easy, I’m kind of embarrassed to put it in a blog, except that my only copy of the recipe exists in an email from my mother-in-law from 2005.

Hominy Casserole

2 cans hominy (white, yellow, or one of each)

3/4 cup sour cream

1 large or 2 small cans of diced green chiles

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°. Stir the drained hominy, sour cream, and green chiles together. Fold in half of the cheese.
  2. Pour the mixture into an 8×8 casserole dish, season with salt and pepper, and top with the remaining cheese.
  3. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

My mom has been making Linda McCartney’s Macaroni and Cheese for as long as I can remember. It’s a huge crowd pleaser – everyone loves it (kids and adults), it’s great as a side for BBQ, and it’s easy to make. When I lived with my mom, it was super easy to make this macaroni at any time because either the cookbook it resides in or my mom was present to remind me of measurements, times, etc. But alas, we moved, my mom kept Linda, and sometimes I want to make the macaroni myself.

One time I was making it and couldn’t get a hold of my mom, so I googled it (because these days most cookbook recipies have been reblogged). Fortunately, it had been blogged in unaltered form, but the blogger, whoever he or she was, said they tried but HATED the recipe. Which is absolutely ridiculous. Basically, I don’t want anyone who can’t appreciate the best ever recipe for baked macaroni and cheese getting hits on their blog, so I’m sharing it here.

Linda McCartney’s Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb. shell macaroni (she says 12oz, but I use the whole bag)

2 cups milk

1 egg

3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 Tbsp butter

S&P

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°. Boil the macaroni for half of the prescribed time (5-6 minutes). Meanwhile, whisk the egg into the milk and grate the cheese. Stir half of the cheese into the milk mixture.
  2. Drain the half-cooked pasta and pour into a 9×13 casserole dish. Stir the butter into the pasta to melt it. Pour the milk, egg, and cheese mixture over the pasta and stir everything together. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, season with salt and pepper, and bake for 30-40 minutes until the cheese is bubbly.

We had it with steaks last night, which was great because we could focus on steak cooking while the macaroni was baking and everything was done at the same time.

 

 

Hella “Good” Soup (chickpea, farro, spinach)

In the next few months, you might see the recipes at Butter Is My Jam take a slight turn. No worries, butter is, and always will be my true jam, but I started a fitness program with some friends (BodyBack – woo!) and the nutrition component is pretty major. I hate the term “diet” because it sounds like something temporary and dumb. The guidelines are pretty simple – eat more real food, eat less fake food, and don’t eat so much dang sugar. It hasn’t been too hard – I truly love vegetables and whole grains and the good stuff, my main issue is that I also really love hollandaise, pasta, and Reese’s peanut butter eggs. So basically, you might see a few less indulge-y desserts and a few more healthy, filling meals that your grandma would be proud of.

Speaking of that, my grandma is particularly fond of this soup – every time I make it she tells me how much she loves it and how good it must be for you. It’s probably not quite as healthy as her famous vegetable soup, but this one’s quick, easy, and really filling. This recipe usually serves about 5 adults, 2 kids, and leaves enough leftover for a lunch or two. It refrigerates well, but note that the longer it sits the more the vegetables and farro soak up the broth – you may end up with a really dense soup. It’s no big deal, add a little water or broth if you prefer things soupier. Also, if you’re dieting  making healthy lifestyle changes, it’s a filling, nutrient-dense, low-calorie meal.

Also, if you’ve never cooked with farro, you’re missing out! It boasts many of the same nurtitional stats as quinoa, but offers a great chewy, nutty texture. We love it! I use the Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro, but refer to your package details to see how long you need to simmer. I cook it directly in the soup, but if you’re worried you could always cook the farro according to package directions and add it already cooked. This soup is also vegan (dairy/meat free!).
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Chickpea, Farro, and Spinach Soup

1 swirl olive oil

1 medium onion

3-4 carrots

3-4 ribs of celery

3 garlic cloves

32+ oz vegetable broth

28 oz can diced tomatoes

15 oz can chickpeas

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 cup dried farro

2 cups fresh spinach (whatever you have, I’ve never actually measured, but like half a bag – 5-6 handfuls – follow your heart!)

S&P

  1. Dice the onion, peel and chop the carrots, chop the celery, and peel and mince the garlic cloves. In a large pot (I use a dutch oven) heat a swirl of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, stirring to soften all of the vegetables.  Once soft, add the garlic and cook for a minute or so.
  2. Add the tomatoes with their juices, drain and add the chickpeas and pour in 32 oz of vegetable broth. Stir everything together and season with the basil, oregano, and a little salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, add the farro and cook until they’re edible, but not quite done (usually about 10 minutes for me). At this point if things are looking a bit hearty, feel free to add a few cups of water or broth to loosen things up. Turn the stove down and add the spinach a little bit at a time, making sure to stir in each handful so it doesn’t make a big clumpy mess.
  4. Let the whole thing simmer for about 10 more minutes, taste and add seasoning as needed, and serve.

 

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie Cake

Baking cookies with kids is one of those things that sounds so wonderful when you’re pregnant. You picture yourself with your angel children carefully measuring and pouring ingredients in your well-stocked, immaculate kitchen all while wearing matching aprons with just a little dab of flour on your rosy cheeks. It’s a perfect Martha Stewart moment. You’ll do it every week!  It will be magical! Memories will be made!
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Then you actually have the baby and see how absolutely ridiculous this idea is because you don’t have time to even take a shower by yourself, much less go to the store, get ingredients, bake cookies, and clean up. I’ve always loved baking, but I’m definitely a control freak in the kitchen and just couldn’t see how to involve my kids without making it a miserable experience for all of us. I like baking – it brings me pleasure and relaxes me, so adding my kids to the mix seemed a little ridiculous so I avoided it for a long time.

But baking with your kids really can be awesome if you do it right. First, if you can manage to do it with one kid instead of 2 or 3, it’s much better. Second, I suggest starting when your kitchen is already a mess – because it will definitely be one by the time you’re finished. Finally, young kids don’t have much of an attention span. Make something fast and easy, or only involve them in a small part (trust me on this – if you’re going to make, cut out, bake, frost, and decorate 100 Christmas cookies, spread it out over a few days and only make 20). This skillet cookie cake is one that RG and I make together a lot. It’s one bowl, there’s plenty of fun measuring and pouring to do, you probably have all of the ingredients on hand, it’s forgiving, and it takes about 20 total minutes. No scooping our individual cookies, waiting for anything to rise, frosting – nothing. You mix, pour, and bake. It’s also absolutely heavenly.
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Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie Cake

2 sticks of butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup regular white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons instant espresso or coffee powder

2 cups flour

2 cups chocolate chips (I use 1 cup of bittersweet and 1 cup of semisweet, both ghirardelli)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl or bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs one at a time, mixing and scraping the bowl between additions. Mix in the baking soda, espresso powder, and salt until everything is combined and smooth.  Add the flour  one cup at a time, making sure the first is fully incorporated before adding the second. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  2. Grease an 8″ cast iron skillet (I just spray a little vegetable oil on mine) and pour the batter/dough in, using a spatula to smooth out the top. Bake for 35+ minutes, until the middle is set and a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cookie cake cool for 20 minutes, but then serve warm out of the skillet, preferably with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

Broccoli, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato pasta

Some nights I like to try new, exotic, fancy dinners with a million ingredients. Recipes that require me to watch a YouTube video or two, mess up every dish in the kitchen, and listen to pronunciations to make myself sound legitimate. I love to cook and I thrive on new challenges and techniques.

That said, sometimes at 6:30 it is just not possible.

Sometimes at 6:30 I’ve been up for too many hours with hyper, obnoxious children and am only running on leftover coffee fumes. Sometimes I come in from yard work or playing with kids in the yard and barely have time to wash my hands before jumping into cooking because all of my grannies come over for dinner on Tuesday. Sometimes I’ve been breaking up sibling fights and getting whacked with cars and have dried cheerios stuck to my pants and just need to make something so easy that I can do it AND send kids to the naughty chair at the same time. Sometimes the kitchen is already a disaster and I have a sink full of dirt, a dishwasher full of dirty dishes, and a barbie convention taking place on the counter. Tonight ALL of those things happened, and I made this pasta.

Also, it has 5 ingredients and they’re mostly in the title, so you can remember them even when a 4-year-old uses your grocery list to spit something gross into and you’re racing through the store with a screaming toddler who stuck his complimentary magic pop (sucker) in his hair and thus can’t lick it and you have to pee so bad because you quit drinking diet coke and replaced it with iced tea, which causes you to always need to pee.

So basically this dinner is cheap, easy, fast, requires only a few dishes and ingredients, and has vegetables in it so you can just serve it without any pesky sides or anything. It’s also vegetarian and grandma/kid friendly.

Broccoli, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato pasta

Serves about 6

6ish cups of fresh broccoli (about 3 heads)

3-4 large cloves of garlic

1 lb dried orecchiette pasta (you could easily use bowties, too)

8 oz jarred sun-dried tomatoes (TJs makes an 8.5oz jar, I just use that)

6 oz goat cheese

Salt, pepper, olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°, and bring a large, salted pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  2. Chop the broccoli into bite-sized florets and peel the garlic cloves. Toss the broccoli and whole garlic cloves with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, arrange onto a baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes.
  3. Cook the orecchiette according to package directions (10 minutes or so). When you drain the pasta, reserve about a cup of the pasta water. Chop up the sun-dried tomatoes if they are whole, if they come julienned just grab a glass of wine and pretend to be busy.
  4. When the broccoli and garlic are done, roughly chop the roasted garlic. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and pour in about a tablespoon of the sun-dried tomato oil. Cook the garlic in the oil for 30 seconds or so, then stir in the broccoli and the sun-dried tomatoes cooking it all together for about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir the cooked pasta and the broccoli mixture together in a large bowl. Crumble the goat cheese on top and stir to melt the cheese in. If the mixture is too dry, add in some of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up (I typically add in 1/4 to 1/2 a cup). Season with S&P to taste.

Muffaletta Pasta Salad

After we got married, my husband and I lived in Galveston, TX for a few years. It was a bizarre time for us – we had neither one ever lived far from our families, we were just getting used to being married, we were totally poor, I was a rookie teacher, my husband was in medical school, and we lived in this strange, small beach community that seemed to be set back in time approximately 30 years.  Though some of our Island experiences were less than ideal (excessive commutes across the ocean, hurricanes), we have always looked back on our Galveston days with complete fondness.

One of the major perks we experienced was living within walking distance of tons of small businesses and restaurants. Being that we were local, we were able to make friends with lots of the local business owners in our community. One of our favorite neighbors was Maceo. Maceo Spice was about two blocks from our building in the Strand. He makes his own spice blends, which are fantastic, he taught us about fancy olive oils, and mostly he made the best muffaletta’s I’ve ever had. We picked up muffalettas at least once a week for the entirety of our time on the Island. This pasta salad totally reminds me of Maceo and the weird years we spent in Galveston.  If you’re ever in the area, it’s definitely worth a stop.

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Muffaletta Pasta Salad

1lb. pasta shells

1/2 of a red onion

1 clove garlic

1 can black olives

1 cup green olives

4 stalks celery

2 cooked chicken breasts (I just use whatever I have leftover)

6oz. mozzarella cheese

1/4 to 1/2lb. dry salami – if you’re getting it from the deli counter ask them to slice it as thick as possible.

1T dried oregano

Parmesan cheese for topping

Dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil (Maceo would suggest Paseano unfiltered)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp sriracha

1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Boil the pasta according to package directions.  When cooked al dente, drain and rinse the pasta with cold water.

2. Meanwhile, finely chop the olives, onion, garlic, and celery.  Cut the cheese and meats into small cubes.  Toss all of the chopped ingredients in a large bowl with the cooked and cooled pasta.

3. Mix the dressing ingredients together in a jar or blender until combined.  Pour over the salad and toss. Serve chilled with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Imagine you’re at the beach.

Serves approximately 6.  Adapted from Joy the Baker.