Short Ribs in Red Wine Sauce

Short Ribs in Red Wine SauceOf Sauce and Sorrow
About a week or so ago I made my favorite pasta sauce. The weather has actually been cooler than normal thanks, sadly, to all of the smoke and ash in the air. The drop in temp put me in to full-on fall cooking mode. So, I got out my slow cooker and went to work.

I was excited to make this sauce because I don’t make it very often—and it is truly one of my most favorite dinners. The main component is short ribs, which I love but can’t eat all that often. (If I would like to live long and prosper.) That being said, the recipe makes a lot, even for my family of five. So, we eat the short ribs with the sauce for Sunday dinner. And, then I freeze the rest of the leftover sauce to be used, over rigatoni or whatever boxed pasta I have in the pantry, for a mid-week meal somewhere on down the road. It’s a win-win. Until it’s not…

I woke up that Sunday morning looking forward to a great meal that had my mouth watering all day long. My daughter made some beautiful fresh pappardelle pasta and left it out to dry while the short ribs bubbled away in the crock pot. When everything was done we feasted on a rich and meaty short rib pasta dinner that was everything I had anticipated and hoped for. After dinner, we did the dishes that could be done and left the others to be loaded in the dishwasher the next morning. Just like normal.

The next morning when my alarm went off, I had this sense that something wasn’t right. Like I had forgotten something, but I couldn’t figure it out. I went ahead with my morning routine getting ready to go to work and when I emerged from my bedroom into the kitchen I realized what the problem was. In the chaos of cleaning the kitchen, we had set the slow cooker off to the side so the sauce could cool before I put it in containers and threw it in the freezer. You know the phrase out of site out of mind? Turns out I left the sauce out uncovered overnight. I was distraught. My husband thought someone died—though he was equally despondent when he realized we were going to have to throw out all the leftovers.

Here’s the thing. I am fairly militant about food temps and storage. I tend to be overly conservative when it comes to potential for food poisoning. I err on the side of caution. Sometimes to a fault. Though I do invoke the 5 second rule on occasion, there was no way I was going to be okay with keeping a meat-based pasta sauce that had been left out uncovered for 12 hours. It killed me to toss it. I am still emotional about it…which probably says more about my mental health during these wacky times than anything else. I mean it is only pasta sauce. But it was a spot of happy excitement during a time where bad news seems to be the norm. And, then that got 2020-ed as well. Sigh.

Here is the recipe for the sauce. It is one that I have posted before because, as I said, it’s a favorite and I highly recommend you give it a try. Just don’t forget to put it away…

Short Ribs in Red Wine Sauce
Adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen
Makes 12 cups Read more…

Spicy Sweet Sheet Pan Chicken

Spicy Sweet Sheet Pan ChickenFall Into a New Year
I did not grow up in a Jewish household, but I have always been fascinated by the connection of food to the traditions and ceremonies of the Jewish faith. The fact that I am drawn to the same foods that are typically found in Jewish kitchens is why I found myself thumbing through recently posted Rosh Hashanah recipes looking for something new.

I consider Rosh Hashanah to be one of the first signs of Fall, at least here in California where we don’t get the temperature drop or the obvious changing of the leaves as in other places. The food for the Jewish New Year is filled with all things fall. Apples, pomegranates, and pumpkins abound for the Rosh Hashanah feast. The only problem, for me at least, is that the tie to traditional ingredients can make it difficult to find a dish that is new and interesting.

Serving a whole fish is as traditional as it gets and I found plenty of recipes for that. But, I also found myself most intrigued by the chicken recipes, probably because I don’t think of chicken as a celebratory ingredient. Chicken is a mid-week work horse for me not the centerpiece of a feast. The chicken I made over the weekend might change my mind even though it’s as easy to throw together as any Wednesday night dinner. Even better, it actually qualifies as a sheet pan recipe so clean up is a breeze.

The original recipe called for dates, but I swapped them out for prunes—mainly because I find dates to be too sweet—and I love any opportunity to throw prunes into a recipe. Feel free to try it either way. I served this with garlic mashed potatoes, but it would be equally tasty with some fluffy, fresh couscous.

Spicy Sweet Sheet Pan Chicken
Adapted from NY Times Cooking
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Chicken Thigh Pasta

Chicken Thigh Pasta Distracted Living
I’m looking forward to Thursday night. I am looking forward to Thursday night because I need a distraction from our current daily experience and it has offered up the perfect opportunity. Thursday night at 5:20 PM the NFL returns.

I am usually not one of those people who waits with bated breath for the NFL season to start every year—though I do enjoy watching the games. This year, for so many reasons, I really am looking forward to a few hours of not worrying about fires, viruses, or politics. I anticipate being more concerned about first downs and yards per carry. And, of course, I am looking forward to football food.

Now, since the game takes place in Texas and involves teams both from Texas and Kansas City you would think that BBQ would be on the menu. You would be wrong. I am steering clear of all things involving smoke and fire. So, because this first game is happening mid-week, I am not going to do the usual football spread and will go in a totally different direction.

I am going to go with a family comfort food favorite, Chicken Thigh Pasta, which I am shocked I haven’t written about before. This is my go-to recipe when I don’t know what the heck I wanna make for dinner. I could do it in my sleep at this point—and everyone in the family devours it. Also, I almost always have the ingredients on hand because, for me, they are pantry staples. The bonus is that it isn’t too bad for you health-wise. It’s easy, and tasty, and perfect for a no-hassle football meal.

Thursday night will be a short return to normal, whatever that means at this point. But, it won’t be “normal” for everyone. For those of you packing up your homes and preparing to evacuate, stay safe and know that you are in our thoughts. For our firefighters on the front lines, there aren’t enough words to express our gratitude for your herculean efforts. For the rest of us Californians as well as our friends to the north in Oregon and Washington, we can and will get through this.

Chicken Thigh Pasta
Adapted from Ree Drummond and the Food Network
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…

No-Knead Rustic Bread

No-Knead Rustic BreadStill We Rise
I struggled with bread making for years. It was only in the last few that I figured it all out. Since then I have mastered a couple of recipes, Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread and Hearty White Sandwich Bread. And, have experimented with others with a decent amount of success. Lately, since I seem to have a little more time on the weekends, I have branched out to make some of the harder stuff. And, by harder I mean those beautiful crusty loaves that you would normally purchase from people who know what they are doing.

The most difficult thing about baking bread right now is finding the flour and even the yeast. I was fortunate to be able to order a 10# bag from the King Arthur website but I had to keep checking to see if they had stock before I got lucky. I will say that we have been able to get some flour in here at the store, though it’s been spotty. (But, it’s getting a little better.) Yeast is a different issue. The good news is thousands of years of bread making on this planet have taught us that you don’t need foil packets of yeast to make bread. It’s in the wild, man…

There have been a number of recipes popping up that require using “wild yeast” which for all intents and purposes means making a “starter”. The most obvious example is a sourdough starter. I have mostly tried to avoid making sourdough during my bread making journey because of the requirement of using a starter. Starters can be labor-intensive. They require daily feeding to keep them active. It can take over your life and become a real chore if you have an active calendar. As my calendar has become less active in recent weeks, I was working up the courage to start the process but I was saved by a friend of mine who not only dropped of a tasty loaf of her rosemary sourdough but some of her starter as well. This is a common practice amongst sourdough bakers. You gotta do something with the “discard” so why not dispense it to your friends? You can only make sourdough waffles so many times…

Because I am unable to share my starter with all of you I am sharing a few recipes for your viewing pleasure. The first is a fairly basic recipe for a rustic sourdough. Please note it does use packaged yeast as well as starter. And here are instructions for how to get your started going. If you are unable to get yeast, I encourage you to do a little research about natural yeast. (The King Arthur Learn section of their website is great.) Yeast from dried fruit is a very old but effective method of baking bread and might be a good option. ( It’s also a great science lesson for your kids.)

The recipe below is a fantastic peasant bread for those who want crusty loaf but aren’t big into sourdough. I made this one last weekend and it was so tasty. Also, remember that these recipes and ideas require time. Good news is, right now, we have that time…

No-Knead Rustic Bread
Adapted from the Food Network
Yields 8 servings Read more…