Rosemary Braised Short Ribs and Retirement

It seems like a very long time ago I mentioned that I’d be posting my version of braised short ribs based on a meal my daughter and I had in New York City.  I’ve been tweaking the recipe a few times to get it pretty close to that great meal but we’ve had a few things going on here that just keep getting in the way of actually writing a post.

You might recall that my husband retired.  If you ask him how retirement’s going, he’s likely to say “great, getting used to it, but it’s great”.  Out of his hearing though, my friends ask me “So, how is it having John home all the time now?”.  My response is usually something like… “Well we haven’t killed each other yet although he almost got smacked upside the head with the cast iron skillet when he thought it was a good idea to rearrange the kitchen”.  Don’t get me wrong – retirement’s great…I’ve loved every minute of MY retirement and after 36 years of marriage we still love each other and it’s nice to finally be able to just go and do whatever we want, when we want to do it.  But, it’s an adjustment and just like recipes, you need to tweak things a little until you get them just right.

It’s not that we don’t have plenty of room in the house.  We’ve got more than enough room for just two people but the problem seems to be that even with all that room, we both end up being in exactly the same place at the same time – namely in front of the ONE computer.  Which is why I’ve had a hard time getting a blog posted since I write in spurts.  I’ll do a paragraph, get up to maybe get a load of laundry going, grab a cup of coffee, and sit back down at the computer – except there’s now someone else’s butt in the chair.  I may have posted a while ago what I think of the new Windows (##@#!!!##).  One of the  ‘features’ is that if someone else logs on, you have to go back through your logon security screen to get to where you were.  You might not think it’s that big a deal but if you end up doing that every 20 minutes or so, it does get annoying.  That problem should be resolved soon since I just bought a new Mac laptop.  Just hang in there though while I go through my learning curve of switching from a desktop to a laptop and Windows to Apple (I’m signed up for one of their classes November 10th).

Another interesting thing with having a retired husband home is that he suddenly realizes all of the things that need to be fixed or updated around the house.  You know, the things I’ve been staring at and ‘mentioning’ for 10 years.  My thinking is, that it’s perfect to have someone to help me repaint all of the rooms in the house.  What’s not going so well is color selection. As a result, I think I have the little paint cards for every Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Glidden, and Valspar color ever created.  Every day I drive over to Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Ace Hardware to pick up some more color cards.  I think if I just tape all of the cards on the walls, I’ll have at least one room completely repainted.   Let’s just say that our tastes are so different that we’ll be lucky to get a color selected by next spring – but you can be sure that one of the guest bedrooms will NOT be electric mint green.

Since my husband has seen the error of his ways in rearranging the kitchen and he’s decided that I’ll still be head chef around here, this is my final version of the braised short rib recipe – although please feel free to play with the ingredients, especially the ketchup and mustard, depending on how sweet or tart you like things.

IMG_1573

Rosemary Braised Short Ribs

Prep Beef short ribs:
Sprinkle 4-6 beef short ribs with salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Slow cook seasoned ribs in a crock pot with about 1 cup of red wine  for an afternoon until meat falls off the bone and can be shredded with a fork.  Save liquid from pot for meat sauce.

For the meat sauce:

– Dice 1 medium onion and 3 large cloves of garlic.  Sauté onion in olive oil in large, heavy skillet until  translucent then add minced garlic.
– Stir in about 4 tablespoons of ketchup and 2 tablespoons of mustard of your choice.  I love using the using the Maille brand Old Style whole grain Dijon mustard.
– Skim off the fat from the liquid in the crock pot and add beef/wine liquid to skillet with shredded rib meat.  Stir it all together and let it simmer to the consistency of a pasta sauce.
– Serve on top of your favorite pasta with a nice topping of fresh grated parmesan cheese.

 

 

Advertisements

Sausage & Cheese Calzones

I called the groomer Wednesday to make an appointment for Lola.  As the day wore on and I didn’t receive a callback, I thought to myself…”I wonder if I left that message with the groomer”.  The thing is, the message wasn’t like a business greeting – just “you have reached 508-xxx-xxxx” (beeeeep).  I thought that was a little strange, being a business and all but still, I left my name and number with the message to please call me back about ‘doing’ Lola, the Bernese Mountain Dog.  So, yesterday I called back and sure enough got a professional message “hello, you’ve reached FurrEssentials.  If we’re not answering, it’s because we’re with the dogs, please leave your name and number and we’ll get back to you”.

Oh boy…I’m sitting here wondering who has my name and number and is waiting for a crazy lady to show up on their doorstep with a Bernese Mountain dog.  In any case I guess they’re not interested since I haven’t heard back from them.  But I wonder, am I becoming that befuddled elderly lady who calls me at 7:30am asking for Helen?  And, every time that I tell her that she has the wrong number, she calls back and asked for Helen again.  Sometimes we go through that routine a few times with me asking her what Helen’s number is and explaining that she misdialed the area code until I guess she either gets through to Helen or forgets what it was she wanted to talk to Helen about in the first place.

I’m usually pretty good with the home phone and have gotten used to the violence of calling someone by  “punching” of numbers vs. the more genteel “dialing” although sometimes after punching in a bunch of numbers and sitting waiting for my call to go through I realize that I haven’t “hit” send.

How many of you remember rotary phones?  Now here’s where some of you will give your age away – how many of you remember party lines?  I think if I were to tell a young person that our first phone was a party line that they’d think my family was a fun but weird family.  It’s just recently that I’ve felt comfortable being able to have a long conversation with my daughter without having to worry about toll charges per minute or Mrs. Smith from next door click, clicking to let me know that she wanted to make a phone call herself.  And these long string of numbers to remember, except that you don’t have to remember them anymore because you can store them.  We did store them in the ‘olden days’ but it was in a little address/telephone book kept by the phone.  If you wanted to call someone in your town, you only needed to dial the last 4 digits; out of town you had to add the exchange.  So I guess it’s a good thing to be able to store phone numbers on your cell phone.  Except that you have to make sure that you’re communicating with the right person.

There are plenty of hilarious stories out there about auto correct which can be frustrating when you just have a simple question.  I was out shopping and saw the cutest baby socks.  I wanted to buy them for a couple about to have their first and texted my daughter asking her if it was a boy or girl…
Me:  “Nik, do you know what Matt & Colleen are having- boy or girl
Niki:  Boy
Me:  Ok, saw the cutest things & they’re Izods
Autocorrect:  Uzis
Me:  NO!  Izods
Autocorrect:  IPods
Me:  Damnit!  i-z-o-d-s!
Niki:  LOL.  it’s ok Mom I figured it out
Me:  Just didn’t want u to think I was buying weapons

And then there’s this problem with sending texts to the wrong people.  Usually I text my daughter and I guess I just assume that when I go into the list that hers will be the first one up or default.

Me to Niki:  What time are you coming by to pick up the air conditioner?
My friend Nancy:  ? Diane – thanks but I have central air

Me to Niki:  Are you at Wegman’s? If u r could you buy me those almond croissants? And what is the brand name of the mattress we bought you
Niki’s friend:   No response from her, but a text from her to my daughter:  why does your mom want to know if I’m at Wegmans & why is she asking about my mattress?  (This girl is such a sweetheart though that I’m sure if I really wanted those croissants that she’d go get some for me)

But my best was when my husband and I were out shopping and went separate ways in Macy’s…
Me:  Meet me in the sheets
My friend Richie:  ?Huh?

Now here’s a visual before I give you the recipe for these amazing calzones.  This is a normal brain:

This is my brain:

I need to explain all of that because if you read my last post, you may recall (I think I do) that I took a camera class.  In the class the instructor said to not delete photo’s individually from your camera – either delete all after downloading them from your computer or after downloading, reformatting  the memory stick.  If you delete individual photos, you end up with a badly fragmented memory stick. So thinking of all the practice photos in my class of fellow classmates, I reformatted my camera’s stick forgetting that I had a whole bunch of great shots of these calzones in various stages – beautifully colored mixture, dough rolled and lined up, heaped with filling, and even a shot of a freshly cut calzone which actually showed the steam drifting out.  They’re all gone and alas, but I had to show you something and all I can show you is this half calzone straight from the freezer and hard as a rock.  Trust me though, these calzones have a tasty meat mixture and ooze with melted cheese.

CALZONES WITH CHEESE, SAUSAGE, AND BELL PEPPER

IMG_1476

For the dough:
1 1/2 Cups warm water
1 Package dry yeast
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 Teaspoon salt
4 Cups all purpose flour

– Sprinkle yeast over the warm water in a large bowl & let sit for a few minutes. Stir to blend.
– Add olive oil & salt
– Add flour in 1/2 cups, blending after each addition up about 3 1/2 cups. Knead on floured surface adding last 1/2 cup only until dough isn’t sticky
– Smack ball of dough into an oiled bowl, turn & smack it to the other side to coat. Let dough rise until about doubled in size.

For the Mixture:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Small red bell pepper
1 Large sweet onion
4 Large sausage with casing removed – sweet or spicy to your liking
12 Oz About 3 cups coarsely grated mozzarella cheese
12 Oz 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
4 Teaspoons oregano

– Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and bell pepper until softened, set aside
– Cook sausage meat, adding a little oil if necessary, breaking meat up with a fork until cooked
– Mix mozzarella & ricotta cheeses in bowl with oregano

Preheat oven to 400 °.  Punch down dough, cut into 8 equal portions for a generously sized calzone.  Roll each out into a circle and drop equal amounts of meat filling, then cheese mixture into the center of each.  Fold each in half and pinch the edges firmly.  Sprinkle corn meal on 2 cookie sheets and divide calzones onto.  Pierce the tops with either a fork or knife to let steam escape.

Position 1 oven rack on top level and 1 rack on bottom.  Place one cookie sheet on each level for 15 minutes.  Reverse cookie sheets and cookie for another 15 minutes. until golden brown.

Martini Stew, Bitter Cold, and the Throwaway Kitten

photo (14)

Do you see this sweet little critter?  On one of our most bitter cold (minus 15°F) nights, with over a foot of snow, my daughter pulled into her driveway and saw this little kitty run in front of her car and under her barbeque grill.  Really hoping that it was indeed a kitten that she’d seen, she stuck her hand under the grill and came out with the poor thing.  Once she got it inside, she cuddled right up, purring like crazy but full of bugs, debris, and smelling like a ripe garbage bag.

Knowing that she couldn’t keep her (landlord doesn’t allow pets), she still decided to clean her up and give her a little food.  Little did she realize that once the kitty was soaking wet, there was barely any kitten there just skin, bones & fur.

photo (52)
By the way, that’s food on the towel…trying to get some nourishment into her.  Based on the picture and what my daughter told me about how she was eating, my guess is that the kitten is only about 8-10 weeks old.  She had a hard time getting broth in her so my thinking is that she was separated from her mother before she was properly weaned.

After a little cleanup and tiny bits of food, she settled in for a purring sleep for the entire night.photo (51)
The next morning, Niki packed her up and brought her to work with the intention of bringing her to the MSPCA (Massachusetts Society for prevention of Cruelty to Animals) with a check for her care.  Of course, bringing her into the office was the best thing she could have done since she was adopted by lunchtime by a young lady who took her home and brought her to her vet.

photo (69)

Even Chloe isn’t too sure that work is fun

The vet was very surprised that Chloe (her new name) was alive and certainly never would have made it through that bitter cold night.  In addition to being severely malnourished, and infested with parasites, she’d been bitten on her hind leg.  They  immediately gave her IV fluids, put on her 2 antibiotics, and she was given initial shots – happily she’s doing well and has a loving home.

I’m glad that Niki has good eyes and a kind heart and can’t speak highly enough about the MSPCA.  They do fantastic work getting animals into good homes but also helping people who can’t afford to keep a pet due to financial problems get connected with organizations that will assist them.  What I can’t understand though is how anyone, even someone who doesn’t like cats, could do this to such a sweet little creature.  If you can’t take care of a pet or don’t want the one you have, at least take 20 minutes to bring the animal to a place like the MSPCA so that they have a chance.  This is just my own imaginative story for Chloe, but my guess would be, based on her age and the time of year, that someone thought she would make a great Christmas gift.  Only problem is, sometimes with the best intentions, springing an animal as a gift on someone does not always work out the way you intend it to and that the receiver just threw the kitten out thinking “cats can take care of themselves”.  Except kittens…and especially not in a busy city in the dead of winter.

I’m thrilled that this story has a happy ending and it’s time to move on to complaining about our New England weather.  The past couple of days have been a veritable heat wave (just above freezing)  but prior to that we set records for bitter cold and biting winds.  Days like that deserve a nice hearty stew – and why not a martini?  This is a recipe that’s been sitting in one of my cookbooks for decades until I happened upon it.  It doesn’t have to be frostbite weather to enjoy, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have some on hand just in case.

MARTINI STEW

IMG_1195

2 lbs. Beef – I used a nice thick New York Sirloin and cubed it
1 Small Onion, diced
1 Cup Carrots, diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
Sprinkling Italian seasoning
1/2 Cup Ground peeled tomatoes or ketchup (I think my husband prefers ketchup)
1 Cup White Vermouth
1/2 Cup Gin
1/4 Cup Beef broth

– Layer cubes of beef in a casserole dish then top with prepped onions, garlic, carrots.
– Sprinkle Italian seasoning on top
– Pour ground peeled tomatoes or ketchup on top
– Pour, vermouth, gin, and beef broth on top of tomatoes

Cover and bake in oven at 325° for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. This could also be cooked in the crock pot and served over noodles.  Excess gin and vermouth should not be thrown away.

IMG_1201

Easy Barbecue/Crock Pot Ribs & Tough Sales Calls

When I looked out the sidelights to see who was rapping on my door Saturday, I saw a young lady with long curly red hair wearing a white lab coat.  Huh…haven’t been feeling well but would my doctor have sent someone to make a house call?  Maybe the pharmacy was delivering or possibly it was someone from the Macy’s makeup counter.  Unlikely as that would be, I still made the mistake of opening the door – just about 6″ but that was enough.

I had a hard time hearing what the lady in the lab coat was saying since Lola was beside me adding to the conversation and I only caught part of it but when she handed me a scented candle I handed it back and said “no thanks”.  Oh, but wait, the candle was for me and it was free and I found it back in my hands as Curlylocks explained that she was handing them out so people would remember her because people just throw away business cards or flyers.  Then she mentioned that “they” were across the street cleaning my neighbor’s rugs and Judy had suggested that I might be interested in having a rug cleaned for free.  Okay, normally that door would have been shut by now but since my neighbor is selling her house I assumed this was a cleaning service she’d hired and I figured I should at least be polite (then call Judy later).  She got another polite “no thank you” to the rug cleaning and I tried closing the door again but Curlylocks was into super sales mode at this point asking questions that you’re not supposed to be able to say yes or no to…

“Well what kind of floors do you have?”  I’m not interested, thank you.
“It doesn’t have to be a floor, we’ll clean a mattress.”  No THANK YOU.
“You must have hardwood floors – you’d be surprised how much dirt is on them.”  NO (let’s just skip the thank you’s) NOT INTERESTED AT ALL.
“Oh, that’s a really big dog I’ll bet he makes a total mess of your floors.”  Ok, now you’re trash talking my dog…get outta here!  And just as I had the door about 1″ from closing…neeah!  this hand reached in with the fingers waggling and grasping and I heard her yell “I want my candle back!  You didn’t buy anything!”

Hey, what happened to free?  Silly me I didn’t slam her fingers but opened the door enough to pass the candle back which allowed her a few more tries to get in my house.  At that point I gave her 4 minutes to get to her car before I let ‘that big dog’ out.  She moved pretty fast I must say, but she was young.

Naturally a thank you call to Judy was in order.  No sooner did I say “Judy… about your cleaning service you sent over here…”

“WHAT?!??  Wait a minute, that was Kirby vacuum sales and I specifically warned them to not bother the other neighbors because no one would let them in and the only reason why I did was because I’m showing the house tomorrow.  I told them – no way was I buying anything but if they wanted to clean a rug here, go for it BUT don’t expect me to buy anything”.

Now if you’re thinking that letting the Kirby salesperson in your house is worth getting a rug cleaned, let me tell you what happens if you do (as Judy found out).  Curlylocks is just the fast talker who gets the cleaning person in the door.  She then sends in the poor overworked, underpaid & very young sucker who comes in to do the cleaning.  And  this girl is quite the tornado.

1930 - woman with vacuum in

Once the rug was cleaned, Judy tried to get rid of the white tornado but she explained that she’s required to clean until she’s got about 100 discs from all different areas – sofa, chairs, mattress, walls, ceilings…she somehow even managed to produce a dirty filter by vacuuming a sealed hardwood floor claiming that all the dirt was coming from these invisible cracks between the boards.  As she flies from area to area, she leaves the dirty discs as proof that she cleaned and to make you feel guilty about living in such squalor  because you don’t own a Kirby vacuum cleaner.  At one point she had a bunch of discs lined up on Judy’s sofa and told her to sit down (uh…where?) but then said “now do you want to sit on that?!?”  Finally, when you try to boot her out of your house she gets all upset because she has to call her boss to come ‘inspect’ her work.  So you  feel bad for this little speed demon who busted her butt, for nothing and let her call “the boss” although Judy kept warning the cleaner that she was really pressed for time and this had to get wrapped up…but surprisingly the call to “the boss” resulted in Mr. Slick at the door in 28 seconds (obviously sitting in his car around the corner waiting to make that final irresistible sales pitch).

Judy’s very direct “this girl worked her butt off but I’m not buying anything” was met with shame – “do you see the dirt that your vacuum’s not picking up?” to “well you’re selling this house but what about your new house, don’t you want a good vacuum for your new house?”.   If you feel all that is worth having a rug cleaned for free and giving up a fine Saturday afternoon, then go for it but be ready for some tough sales moves AND when you finally close the door behind them, you get to clean up all those filter discs that they conveniently left all around your house where they cleaned.  And, as you pick those filters up, the dust and dirt falls on your rug, sofa, mattress…you know, just as a reminder of what a loser you are for not owning a $1,200 Kirby vacuum.

Look, I don’t mind someone trying to make a living BUT I do not like any salespeople knocking on my door AND if the product is that great, why do you need deceptive (lies) tactics to get into someone’s house?

Obviously if you don’t own a Kirby vacuum cleaner that can suck the paint off your walls and the varnish off your floors, you’re going to want to get busy really double scrubbing your house and you’re not going to have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen.  This recipe was recommended by Niki (who I’m sure was busy scrubbing her apartment) and is so easy to make that your house should be spotless before you sit down to eat.  On Niki’s recommendation I tried the Sweet Baby Ray’s Sauce which was really good but if you’re partial to a different brand or your own sauce, be sure to use whatever you like.

bbq ribs 003

Easy Crock Pot Ribs
(for about 3-5 lbs. baby back ribs)

2    TBL     Paprika
3    TBL     Brown sugar
1/4  Tsp     Cayenne pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2-1 Bottle of Sweet Baby Rays Barbecue Sauce

– Mix the dry ingredients and rub into both sides of the ribs.

bbq ribs 001

Place ribs into crock pot then pour enough Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce to cover the ribs.  Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hrs.  You can speed things up a little by cooking on high for a while (umm, do not put your crock pot in the oven though-just a little tip for someone who might have done that).  When the ribs are tender & meat is ready to fall off the bone, remove from crock pot, skim any fat from the sauce & cook the sauce in a small pan on the stove at medium until it’s reduced.  You can broil the ribs to crisp them up or put them on the grill then pour the sauce when ready to serve.

Nemo-the gift that keeps on giving & Award Thank Yous

I could really appreciate John’s post (from the Bartolini kitchens) about grilling swordfish knee deep in snow.  As a life long New Englander, a little snow doesn’t stop me my husband from grilling when I’ve got a craving for a juicy barbecued steak.  You all heard about Nemo, “the big one” that hit us a month ago but you probably didn’t hear about the 6″ that dropped a week later.  You most likely weren’t paying attention either when our forecasters went nuts screaming about a huge storm last week.  It was supposed to start Wednesday night and continue on all day Thursday. Sigh…I changed an appointment from Thursday to Friday assuming everything would be cleared by then.  I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or mad when I woke up to a pathetic snow flurry that just spit all day leaving not much of anything.  Assuming we’d dodged our final winter bullet, I wanted to cry when I got up to this on FRIDAY morning:

endfeb snow 016

Yes, that would be another foot plus of snow.  It looks pretty (for a couple of hours) until you get that barbecued steak craving that I was talking about.  At which point you let the dog make a path to the grill, and like John, put a hat on yourself (and your dog if you’re getting a little cabin fever)….

lola in bruins hat 002

And grill up a steak, then smother it in mushrooms sauteed in butter (I know it’s hard to see but there is a steak under there):

cinnamon rolls 014

Not a great picture and certainly not “the money shot” that Trixfred30 over at Happiness Stan is always looking for, buy hey it was a cold dash from the grill to the house and you can’t let a good steak get cold.

Putting aside the winter blues , two wonderful blogging friends have nominated “The Table” for more awards and I want to thank them for lifting my spirits.  I hope that you all to stop by their blogs to appreciate real talent.

For a truly enjoyable and inspirational food journey, swing by to say hi to Mandy at The Complete Cookbook – she not only has many interesting food ideas and beautiful photography but very handy conversion information that I use when I try recipes from other countries.  Of course I still adore Mandy even though it’s summer in South Africa…I’m not resenting that at all…really.  Mandy, thank you for the lovely Reader Appreciation Award, I’ll take roses any day! 

Reader appreciatio award

A big thank you to While He Was Out for nominating me for the Liebster Award.
liebster_blog_620x380

Just take a look at this link for No Bake Mulberry Cheesecake for inspiration.  I feel sorry for her co-workers who missed their birthday celebration.

I truly thank the above people for thinking enough of my blog to express their appreciation and thank all readers for stopping by to read and hopefully chat.  I feel that I have friends all over the world and, since I just found out what a bucket list is, would add a visit to all of you to my list.  Until then, this is my appreciation and award list to those fellow bloggers who brighten my day and always inspire me with new ideas. I know that some of you don’t participate in awards, but I would still like to thank you all and steer others to your blogs so that they may enjoy them as much as I do.  May I recommend the following blogs:

Bam’s Kitchen is now at a new address…nah, she’s still personally in Hong Kong but take a look at her beautiful new site.  As a matter of fact I’m going to give her South African Bobotie a try in a few minutes.
* World traveler and avid cook, Susan at Our Kitchen Inventions is enjoying her Atlanta spring while I’m still shoveling but she does meet some interesting characters in her travels.  This guy might lose his chestnuts but he’s definitely not stressed when he goes home.
* If you have a sweet tooth as I do, take a look at the creations on Butter, Sugar, Flowers – I only wish that I had the talent to make something look this beautiful…Buttermilk Rosewater Cupcakes. No matter what your personal preferences, you’ll always get some alternative suggestions for her ideas.
* I always enjoy stopping by Danny’s at 1227 Foster but take a look at his Creamy Prosciutto Pasta.  I’ll say it one more time – check out all of his Mac & Cheese variations – the man is a genius.
Russian Mom Cooks…While Chasing Kids is a fantastic place to stop for very unique, Russian inspired cooking ideas.  I’m not sure how Anastasia does this while chasing kids, but somehow she manages to keep it all together.
* If you love a great laugh, well researched food info as well as some excellent down home cooking, be sure to tell Adam at The Unorthodox Epicure that I said hello.  I can’t guarantee what he might be writing about on any given day – you might hear about his former Cruella DeVille boss, food labels, or shoppers in pajamas – but you’ll always get a solid meal idea.