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Baby Back Ribs

My sweetie, Andrew, misses his Mama’s cooking. He regularly gets all glassy eyed, recounting some dish or dessert that his mom used to make. I feed him well but, frankly, I don’t blame the man. His mom, Nancy, is an experienced and gifted southern chef. She was raised in Alabama, and has lived in North Carolina for all her adult life, all the while soaking up the secrets of southern cuisine. Just to give you an example of the utter deliciousness that comes out of this lady’s kitchen: last time I was over at their house for dinner, Nancy made roast pork loin, turnip greens, mashed potatoes, black eyed peas, and cornbread all cooked to perfection. Just thinking about that dinner gets me droolin’.

One of the recurring fond remembrances Andrew has for his mom’s cooking is her baby back ribs. So, while we were home for the holidays, I asked her if I could get that recipe and try to make it myself. She was happy to oblige and she pulled out a well-worn recipe card that had faded to the point of illegibility. As I squinted and strained to read it, she easily recited it to me from across the room while I copied it down.

Let me tell you, this is a recipe you should commit to memory. Andrew and I made these ribs for ourselves and a few friends a while back and they were AAAA-MAZING. To say they were finger-licking good is an understatement. They’re more like scarf-um-down, lick your fingers AND the plate, then drink the sauce when the meat is gone-GOOD. The best part? You’re not even ashamed. The shameful thing would be letting one bit of these ribs go to waste.

So basically… you should give these a try. Plus, they’re easy to make. It’s only a three step process; boil the meat, simmer the sauce, then bake them together. Who knows, maybe this will be the recipe that makes your family and friends get all dreamy for your cooking.

Nancy’s Baby Back Ribs:

Ingredients:

Makes 6-8 Servings

  • 4 pounds baby back ribs (2 racks)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 5 1/2 ounces tomato paste

Directions:

1. Cut the ribs into serving sizes, 2-3 bones. Place the ribs into a large pot and submerge in water. Cover with a lid.

2. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, cook for 30 minutes, then drain.boil the ribs

3. While the ribs are boiling, measure the rest of the ingredients into a sauce pan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until the onion is soft.

simmer sauce

4. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Transfer the ribs to a baking dish, and pour over the sauce. Cover with a lid or tin foil.

5. Bake for one hour.

bake

Growing up, I ate a lot of banana bread. My mom always kept bananas in the house for us to bring to lunch or have for breakfast.  But the thing is, we hardly ever actually ate them. So come the weekend, we’d have banana bread! I suspect the real reason my mom bought bananas was to make bread with them, and if one of us kids happened to eat one along the way, then great.

Now that I’m all grown up and buying my own food, I do the exact same thing.  I’ve just gotten used to always having bananas on the counter, because I really don’t like them. I try to eat them all, but inevitably one or two get over ripe.  So I throw them in a ziplock bag and freeze them until I have enough for a big batch of banana bread.

Banana bread is an awesomely straightforward breakfast to make on the weekend. When you’re all groggy in the morning you don’t want to make something finicky and complicated. For this recipe you simply mix wet ingredients, mix the dry ingredients, mix them together, then you throw it in the oven and go back to bed for an hour. Easy peasy.

This recipe is an adaption of a more traditional banana nut bread recipe. I use 2:1 ratio of flour to cornmeal and include dried fruit along with walnuts. The addition of the cornmeal and dried fruits makes this bread more substantial and a little less cake-like. I tend to like hardier breakfast over pastries and this is reflected in this version of banana bread.

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients:
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Wet Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut (optional)

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Mix in the optional nuts and dried fruit at this point.
  4.  Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.

marinara ingrdients

After looking back over my last several posts, I realized that you all probably think I never eat anything simple and healthy. I’ve mostly been writing about deep-fried, buttery, oh-so-delicious-but-oh-so-bad-for-you sweets, pies, and salty treats. Sure, some vegetables will show up once and awhile but they’re usually covered in cheese. It’s not that I never cook anything healthy, it’s just that it’s a lot more fun to make and write about indulgent dishes. Today, I’m going to switch it up a little and let vegetables take the lead.

I save most of my extravagant cooking adventures for the weekend. During the workweek I don’t get home until 6:30 or 7, so I usually make something quick and easy. Homemade marinara sauce is simple to make and takes only ten minutes to cook. If you want to be ambitious you could also make handmade pasta but I usually just boil whatever dried pasta I have around. The fresh sauce is thick, flavorful, and really satisfying. It really doesn’t compare to the thin, runny sauce from a jar. 

Homemade Marinara Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 medium tomatoes diced, or about 2 cups
  • 1/2 small onion diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic diced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  1. Heat the oil over medium in a large sauce pan and cook the onions until fragrant.
  2. Add the tomatoes, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir and crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the Italian seasoning and garlic, return the cover and cook for 3-4 more minutes.
  5. Stir in the salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Easy, right? This whole process can be done while you’re boiling the pasta. You really couldn’t ask for a quicker meal. I’ll usually saute zucchini for a side dish and maybe pan sear some chicken if I want some protein. All and all, it’s quick and healthy. Happy cooking!

pasta with sauce

A friend of mine recently turned me on to Kombucha, and man do I love it. Kombucha is a tangy, refreshing, and fizzy drink that is professed to be good for your health. There’s a myriad of claims about the drink: it’s supposed to be good for digestion, detoxify your body, and raise your energy levels. I’m not here to attest to any of those claims, but I do think it is an amazing beverage.

Kombucha BrewKombucha is fermented sweet tea that is cultured with a solid mat of yeast and bacteria known as a scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) or sometimes refereed to as the kombucha “mother.”  The Kombucha “mother” is a wonderfully icky thing that looks a lot like a jellyfish. The bacteria and yeast feed on the sugar and produce acid, so the final product is not sweet but tart.

There are several commercial brands of Kombucha on the market, but they’re pricey, usually $3.50-$5. After doing some reading on the subject, I decided to brew my own. Home-brewing Kombucha isn’t a complicated process. Once you acquire a scoby, all you need is sweet tea and some glassware. In my first batch, the Kombucha paid for itself. ($16 dollars of equipment for 7 bottles!)

Finding a scoby is a little tricky, I searched a few weeks before I found someone on craigslist to give me one (I traded a scoby for a painting.) You can order them online but I preferred to find one locally. Every time you brew a batch of Kombucha the “mother” culture forms a “daughter.” So after you finally hunt down a “mother” and begin brewing, you’ll end-up with more cultures than you can give away. The cultures propagate so quickly a friend of mine joked that he suspected Kombucha is actually an alien conspiracy to take over the world. (You really have to see these things, the scoby does look like a weird science experiement. My boyfriend doesn’t like to stand too close to the jar that’s brewing in our kitchen.)

If I haven’t scared you off,  here’s what you need to brew your own kombucha:

  1. Scoby or “mother”
  2. One gallon glass jar (Never use metal!)
  3. One gallon of good water
  4. Six tea bags: black, green, or white. (Don’t use the flavored stuff.)
  5. One cup sugar
  6. Cloth to cover the jar
  7. Bottles for the brewed Kombucha.

Here’s how ya’ do it: Make sure everything you use to brew and bottle is clean, clean clean!

How to do it

There are a vast number of tutorials and how-tos on the web, if you’re ready to brew. The Happy Herbalist has detailed the ins-and-outs of brewing. If you’re in the Bay Area, I’d be happy to share one my scobys with you! Just shoot me an email.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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