Coffee-Braised Short Rib Pasta

A hearty plate of Coffee-Braised Short Rib Pasta

Comfort Me With Coffee
Even though it is still rather warm out, you can tell that the seasons are changing. It’s cooler at night and darker when I wake up in the morning. These changes have me craving sweaters, slow-cooked dinners, and rich and meaty pastas.

Over the weekend, we found ourselves in Berkeley for the Old Time Music Festival (my daughter was in the fiddle competition) which, happily, was right next door to the farmer’s market. During a break, we scouted the market to find some snacks and something to drink. As we were walking past a pasta vendor my daughter mentioned that it had been a while since we made fresh pasta and offered to make some for dinner that night. Since I am no fool, I said yes.

My tomato plant is currently going crazy so we ended up making a creamy fresh tomato and basil sauce for her beautiful pasta, but it got me thinking about this recipe for Short Ribs in Red Wine Sauce which I absolutely love. It can be eaten with polenta or mashed potatoes, but I prefer to serve it over some fresh buttered pappardelle.

This, in turn, got me thinking about short ribs in general which are a favorite of mine and a must order for me anytime we go out to dinner. You just can’t go wrong with slow-cooked beef.

In an effort to branch out and try something new, here is a promising recipe for Coffee-Braised Short Rib Pasta. It’s similar to my favorite one but I love tasting what the coffee does to the flavor.

Coffee-Braised Short Rib Pasta
Adapted from Feast Magazine
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Brie Toasts with Bacon Plum Jam

Photo of Brie Toasts with Bacon Plum Jam on a white platter

The Evolution of the Crawdad Lunch
In our family, we have a phenomenon known as the Crawdad Lunch. Crawdad Lunch does not, in fact, include any crawfish. Crawdad Lunch was born on the shores of Lake Tahoe when my nephews and my kids refused to come back to the beach to eat a sandwich because they couldn’t tear themselves away from fishing for crawdads off the pier.

An authentic Crawdad Lunch consists of salami, crackers (usually Ritz or Wheat Thins), and some sort of sliced cheese. On a good day, some fruit would have also been consumed. But, you know how that goes.

The Crawdad Lunch has evolved over the years. But, each and every kid still eats it to this day—parents too. The Ritz crackers will make the occasional appearance. But, lately, all the components have become more sophisticated. Though let’s be real, a lot of what goes into making the perfect crawdad lunch depends on what you have on hand.

Salami is still a staple. But, prosciutto, Coppa, or even a lovely little country pate will work. The sliced cheese has graduated from your basic Colby Jack to some tangy Irish Dubliner, a nutty Toma, or a creamy Brie. Bonus points if you get the snack-sized Brie. Fresh mozzarella is also a great choice. Fruit or veggies are no longer optional. I like the crunch of grapes or apples, but cold cucumber slices or carrots can bring the same satisfaction.

Lately, I have been adding some spreads to my crawdad lunch. Sometimes a little fig jam and other times a little pepper relish, or, my favorite, some pimiento cheese. Essentially, Crawdad Lunch is your own personal charcuterie board. And, I love me a good charcuterie board. Crawdad Lunch is just how I justify not sharing….

This recipe for Brie Toasts with Bacon Plum Jam is easily adapted for a Crawdad Lunch. You can slice some brie and put it on a slice of toasted baguette or a cracker. Or, for the truly unapologetic cheese lover, just dollop a little bit of the jam on the brie bites and shove it all in your mouth…heaven!

Brie Toasts with Bacon Plum Jam Recipe
Adapted from Taste of Home
Yields about 30 toasts Read more…

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

Photo of Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies with a cup of tea

What’s The Tea?
I lived in the Pacific Northwest during the early 90s when the Starbucks mania was just getting rolling. And, I embraced it with abandon. To say I like my coffee would be an understatement. It is a daily routine that I find non-negotiable to start my day on a good note. The days when it doesn’t happen are rough…for everyone. My favorite part of camping, when we go camping, is the ritual of making campsite coffee. And, frankly, coffee never tastes as good as it does at the campsite.

However, if my back was to the wall and I had to make a life-or-death choice between coffee or tea, I would pick tea. Every time.

I love my coffee, yes. But I can’t drink a lot of it. I have one coffee a day. Two at the max. Why? Because the way I take my coffee is not conducive to good health. I like my coffee with quite a bit of cream. 2% doesn’t cut it. And while I like my coffee sweet, I do not like it super sweet. And, I do like it with a bit of vanilla flavor. In other words, my coffee is high-maintenance.

My tea is a different story…

I will drink my coffee in the morning. And, for the rest of the day, If I am not drinking water, I am drinking tea. I like it hot. I like it iced. I like it black, and I like it green. I like it freshly steeped or right out of the bottle.

What don’t I like? Sugar. I do not like sweet tea which is fortunate because it makes it easy to grab a mug of hot water, toss in my favorite bag of tea, and get on with my afternoon. Full disclosure, most of the time I am drinking a decaf version of tea or something herbal. Given the amount of tea I drink, if I always drank high-octane tea, I would be a jittery maniac.

Earl Grey is my tea of choice either way. I blame my grandmother. She always had a cup of Earl Grey with a slice of lemon at night. No sugar. I guess that is where I got hooked. Although, I do leave out the lemon. I’d rather have a cookie or two than the lemon. But, that’s just me. But, if you can combine all three into a convenient package like these, so much the better!

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies Recipe
Adapted from Sugar and Soul
Yields 36 cookies

Crisp and buttery, these Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies have just five ingredients plus an easy lemon glaze. They are great for parties, tea time, and they make a delicious snack. And, The longer these cookies sit, the more intense the flavor will become. Read more…

Mocha Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Photo of Mocha Chocolate Chunk Cookies

C Is For Cookie
Recently, I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about cookies. It’s not that I have a raging craving, though I am always up for a tasty cookie. The reason is that I am finding it harder to find a really great cookie that I don’t make myself. I’m talking about cookies you can bring as a hostess gift or that work well on a pretty plate for an easy dessert for a dinner party. For years, Taste of Denmark (a.k.a Neldam’s), had some of the best tea cookies around. But alas, they are gone.

Here at the store, we used to carry multiple vendors’ cookie tubs and we still have a couple, but the others have disappeared. Not sure if they were just victims of the pandemic or simply went out of business. (For example, Gianna’s. It happens…)

Many large chain grocery stores are packaging their on-site bakery cookies in convenient economy sizes which can be great for those times you need to bring a treat for a crowd. Do they blow me away flavor-wise? Not really. Although, with apologies to my beloved Oreos and Walker’s shortbread, they are a step up from the everyday boxed cookies on the shelf.

Nowadays you are no longer limited to the grocery aisles to cure your cookie craving. If you have been anywhere near a suburban strip mall recently you will no doubt have seen or at least heard about a certain cookie chain that has taken the country by storm. I have tried their cookies a few times. And, for me, the cookies are too sweet and underbaked. I know that I am very much in the minority with that opinion.

So, for the next few weeks, I’m going to be presenting cookie recipes for everyday eating. These are cookies that, while tasty enough to be considered for the Christmas cookie box, are really for your lunchbox or that three o’clock afternoon snack.

First up, these beauties, Mocha Chocolate Chunk Cookies. I have a hard time refusing anything that has the flavor of coffee in it. Add chocolate to the mix and you have my full attention. These cookies are gooey from the oven but cool to something that is a bit chewier—like a brownie. One of these cookies with a latte in the afternoon can change your whole outlook on life!

Mocha Chocolate Chunk Cookies Recipe
Yields 18 large cookies
Adapted from Cookies: The New Classics by Jesse Szewczyk Read more…