Beef Short Ribs OR Why Don’t I Have a Proper Dutch Oven?

14 Oct

Yesterday I decided I needed to make short ribs.  This may have something to do with the fact that I had boneless beef short ribs at a work function on Thursday night and I just needed to get a better fix.

Off we went to the grocery and also to Home Goods, where I picked out an amazing cast iron Dutch oven by Staub and immediately put it back because a) I can’t lift it with my bum shoulder and b) my pocketbook couldn’t lift the $180 (discounted!) price tag.  But it was beautiful.  I’m still coveting it.

Back to the recipe, which I made in my completely crappy, far-too-thin aluminum Dutch oven.  Did I mention that I need a proper Dutch oven?  I suppose you could do this in a slow cooker, but I have to say that I think the oven is more effective for this sort of thing.


  • 12 beef short ribs
  • 1/4 cup flour, mixed with 1 T brown sugar, salt and pepper
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, core removed to be eaten while you cook, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 1# package of baby-cut carrots
  • 6 stems of celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs and 2 fresh thyme sprigs, tied with kitchen twine
  • 1 quart beef stock

Preheat oven to 300F.

Coat the short ribs with the flour and brown sugar mixture and brown in olive oil in the Dutch oven.  Reserve any remaining flour for later.  Remove from pan.

Add the vegetables and saute until softened.

Deglaze with entire bottle of red wine.

Add beef stock, tomato paste and herbs.

Cover and bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Place Dutch oven on stove top on medium heat.  Skim off fat.  Beat some of liquid into remaining flour and add slurry back to the pot.  Cook until slightly thickened.  Serve with some crusty bread, mashed potatoes or noodles of some sort and another bottle of wine.

Sigh deeply.

Natural Colors for Fun Foods!

14 Oct

I have an allergy to Red Dye #40, known as Allura Red AC in Europe.  As time goes by, I meet more and more people with the same allergy plus additional food dye allergies.  It’s in more things than you would think. (Seeing Red!)

One of the big culprits for food dyes is ‘fun foods’, by which I mean candies and baked goods.  I have found a good source for natural-based colors at India Tree.  I don’t have children, so can’t say if it’s a good idea to offer kids ‘fun colors’ at home that they cannot enjoy outside of the home.  I would be a little bit cautious with this approach as I think it could be difficult to explain to a young child why colored sprinkles are ok at home but not anywhere else.  I was recently able to connect two parents I know whose children have food coloring allergies so that they can compare notes more effectively.  As an adult, it’s a pretty easy thing for me to manage.

Of course, I use my red dye allergy to my advantage and typically just refuse any baked goods that are offered to me, including a pink (inside and out!) wedding cake I made for my nephew’s wedding last year.  I imagine my allergy excuse has saved me a number of calories over the years!

Mango and Tomato Salad

7 Oct

We’re in the last gasp of the good tomatoes, and the weather is getting colder, so this is a bit out of season, but worth a post anyway. Of course I got my wonderful produce from Daisy Mae’s Market in Cincinnati’s historic Findlay Market

2 tomatoes
1 mango
fresh basil, cut in very thin strips (chiffonade)
balsamic vinegar – quality counts!
cracked black pepper

Slice the tomatoes and the mango. Arrange in alternating pattern, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, top with basil and pepper.

NOTE: To slice the mango easily, remember that the pit is shaped similarly to the fruit. That is, a mango is a sort of egg-shape that is flattened on two sides, and the pit is also flat on two sides, following the contour of the fruit. Here’s a link to a good video on

Cookies Anytime!

6 Oct

Here is a little trick I love for fresh, homemade cookies whenever I want them.  Even better, for just 2 cookies at a time. Then you don’t have lots of cookies around, tempting you to eat more than you should.  Most cookie dough can be easily frozen in logs, sliced and baked from frozen. 

You need:  parchment paper, plastic wrap, tape and marker, PLUS cookie dough of your choice.

Make a batch of your favorite cookie dough.  Oatmeal, peanut butter, and chocolate chip cookies work really well.  Spread out a sheet of parchment paper about the size of a cookie sheet.  Spoon the dough onto one edge of the long side of the parchment paper in a rough log shape.  Roll from the dough to the other side of the paper, smoothing the log into a roll as you go.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Repeat until all dough is used.

Label it and freeze it.

When ready to use, slice the frozen dough into cookies and bake at the normal temperature.  Bake from frozen so the chemical leavening doesn’t have time to react at room temperature.  The cookies will take an extra few minutes to bake vs. usual.

So now you can prep ahead for the holidays, for your turn to be snack mom, for whenever. My nephews love to get their favorite cookie doughs, wrapped and prepped for the freezer. They can have some homemade cookies any time they want!

Planned Overs – Italian Roast Pork

3 Oct

Minimal Active Cooking / Long Waiting Period (2-4 hours)

Cooking Sequence:
15 min active
2-4 hours waiting
15 min active

Equipment Needed:
· Metal Dutch Oven with tight lid (preferably) OR: Metal pot to sauté, then transfer to a covered dish to complete cooking

4 to 5 lb boneless pork loin
Garlic, fresh
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil
1 bottle inexpensive, strong red wine
1 small can tomato paste
1 package sliced baby Portobello mushrooms (or buy them and slice them)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees if you have the luxury of cooking 3-4 hours. You can also choose to cook 2 hours at 350, but the result will be less tender.


Heat 1-2 T. olive oil in bottom of metal Dutch oven over medium heat.
Chop the rosemary and garlic together. Mix in salt and pepper. Rub all over the pork loin.
Brown the pork loin in the olive oil, on all sides, about 5-8 minutes per side. Transfer to Dutch oven if not using one for browning step.
Pour the wine over the top.
Cover and put in the preheated oven.

Before serving, remove from the oven, put the Dutch oven on the burner (or transfer meat and juice back to your stove-top pot).
Add tomato paste and mushrooms.
Simmer until thickened, stirring to dissolve tomato paste.


Polenta (grits) – c’mon, don’t be shy!
1 c. grits or polenta
2 T. butter
2 c. milk
1 c. low salt chicken broth

Heat liquids until simmering, turn to stove to low. Add grits. Cook until tender and juices absorbed, stirring occasionally.


Sautéed bitter greens (rapini, broccoli rabe…?)
1 bunch bitter greens
2 cloves garlic
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes


Okay, it’s good, just eat the leftovers
Make Frozen Overs by slicing pork, covering with sauce, then freezing

Salade Niçoise

16 Jun

This is Day 2 of Planned Overs for Grilled Tuna.  We took this delightful dish to a picnic concert at Cincinnati’s Riverbend featuring Natalie Merchant.  While everyone around us ate sad-looking sandwiches, we had this bountiful feast that spilled off our paper plates.

Start with:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Hard-boiled egg (and if you’re going to make hardboiled eggs anyway, make some extras and we’ll make a beautiful egg salad tomorrow)

From Day 1, we had:

  • Grilled tuna
  • Grill fries
  • Green beans, steamed and shocked

I like to top this with Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette, or of course, homemade vinaigrette would be wonderful.

Natalie Merchant was funny and delightful, even singing a cover version of “Hey Jude”.

Planned Overs – Grilled Tuna

16 Jun

I don’t indulge in grilled tuna very often.  For one thing, it’s expensive.  For another, it’s at the top of the food chain and I feel a bit guilty about it.  I do love it though, and so we do it from time to time.  In this case, I needed a great meal for a picnic the next night (see my post on Salade Niçoise).  Everything from this meal, except the olive tapenade, is going to be part of tomorrow’s big salad.  (And you COULD use the olive tapenade if you have any left over.)

This is an easy meal:

Grill Fries – this time I cooked them right on the grill.  Cook a few extra for the salad tomorrow.

Steamed green beans – cook twice what you need and shock half of them in cold water as soon as they are done.  They’ll go on tomorrow’s salad

Tuna steaks – Again, prepare enough for tonight and tomorrow, cook the one for tomorrow a bit more so that it doesn’t have any ‘raw’ parts, but retains a bit of pink.  Marinate it in some Brianna’s Champagne and Caper Dressing or the homemade vinaigrette of your choice.  Grill and top with:

Rough-Chop Tapenade

  • 1/2 c. mixed pitted olives, finely chopped (use good olives from the olive bar or from jars – not a combination of Spanish olives and regular “black” canned olives)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 T. chopped parsley

Chop the ingredients and mix it up.

Ok – that’s it – dinner for tonight AND you’re almost done with dinner for tomorrow.  We’re going to have a great picnic while we enjoy a concert.

Quickies – Spinach, Red Onion, and Chickpeas

12 Jun

In early April, we met up with a good friend in Columbus, Ohio and had a fantastic meal at Barcelona.  One of the highlights of the tapas tasting menu was a spinach, chickpea and red onion dish.  When I saw a recipe for Syrian Spinach and Lentils on quête saveur, I knew I was close, although the restaurant had clearly used fresh spinach.

I go on the record again as saying that you don’t change a recipe the first time you try it (and if you do, you do not have the right to complain) — but I did make small adjustments.  I didn’t have any lentils and I was in a hurry to try to recreate the chickpea experience at Barcelona.  Also, to get closer to the Barcelona taste, I increased the cumin by 50% to 1 1/2 teaspoons.  I also confess that I added a pat of butter to the oil, again, because there was a certain richness to the flavor we experienced at the restaurant, but this wasn’t strictly necessary and I’ve left the butter out of the final ingredients list.


  • 1 16 oz frozen leaf spinach
  • 1 medium-size red onion, peeled
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil (or optional combination butter and oil)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

I used red onion, instead of white or yellow.

Instead of adding the lentils near the start of the recipe, I sauteed the onion and garlic with the cumin and then added the spinach.

Once I had that going well, I added the chickpeas.


It wasn’t the same as the restaurant, of course, but as my husband likes to say, “It were good.”

Seeing Red! (FD&C Red Dye #40 / Allura Red AC)

12 Jun

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I started to get hives.  All over my legs and arms.  Many, many times.  My mother finally became convinced that this allergic reaction was due to artificial fruit flavorings.  For me that meant, no strawberry milk, no Juicy Fruit gum, no fruit-flavored candies.  This went on for some time and then, I guess, I outgrew it.  In my teens, I ate raspberry Tootsie Pops and Twizzlers without incident.

About ten years ago, I got the flu and I took some cherry-flavored cough syrup.  Shortly after dosing myself, I began to get hives.  I called the manufacturer, demanding to get the list of ingredients.  They would not give me the full list of ingredients, but they took down my name, contact information and symptoms.  Someone from the FDA called me back and said it sounded like a Red Dye #40 allergy and that it was pretty common.  I wasn’t a believer.  I thought it was the fruit flavor that caused the problem.

A few months later, I was working late and getting hungry.  A colleague offered me a yogurt-covered granola bar.  Within minutes of eating it, I had hives behind my ears and down my neck.  Security was called in and there was an energetic discussion around me as others tried to decide if I needed an ambulance.  I read the label.  Red Dye #40. 

Since then, I have had several bad hive reactions.  It is usually worse if my immune system is already depressed because of a cold or the flu.  One episode lasted three weeks and I finally had to be on steroids to get rid of the hives.  Thankfully, nothing worse has happened, but I’ve become hyper-vigilant about Red Dye #40 in my food.  It’s in everything.  I have since learned that many children have adverse behavioral reactions to Red Dye #40.   In Europe, Red Dye #40 goes by the name Allura Red AC.

Red Dye #40 is an azo dye, so called because of the double nitrogen bond in the middle of the molecule.  Azo dyes are made from petrochemicals.  Yummy!  So let’s just think about that for a moment!  There are other azo dyes as well, notably two yellows (FD&C Yellow #5 and FD&C Yellow #6) that are approved for use in the USA.  I have not noticed that I am allergic to these yellow dyes, but I do avoid them, albeit with less dedication.

Here are some fun places where you can find FD&C Red Dye #40 / Allura Red AC:

  • Fruit-flavored candies and gum
  • Fruit-flavored drinks
  • Cough syrup and cough drops
  • Campari, which switched from carmine to Red Dye #40 a few years ago
  • Creme de Violette
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Grenadine
  • Box cake mix, including some yellow cake mixes and muffin mixes
  • Chips/crisps with flavored coatings, such as Dorito’s or cheese-flavored chips
  • Pill coatings, including Tylenol (the name is stamped on the caplet in red dye, but generic acetaminophen or paracetamol is usually okay), red caplets, pink-coated pills.  I buy dye-free ibuprofen and question my pharmacist relentlessly about anything she gives me.
  • M&Ms
  • Peppermints, including candy canes
  • ‘Strawberry’ or ‘raspberry’ sauce

A few other tips:

  • If someone serves you something you can’t eat, don’t trust them to start over.  I’ve had a waiter serve me a drink with a cherry in it and, upon being reminded that I ordered it without a cherry because I am allergic to the cherry, they simply removed the cherry from the glass.
  • Don’t trust the hospital dietary staff.  The allergy was on my chart, but they sent me red gelatin anyway.  A nurse tried to give me a reddish pill without checking the coating ingredients first.  I have to tell my medical professionals and then I have to be vigilant on top of that.  I am not shy about asking my doctor to have her nurse double-check the formulary when she writes me a prescription.
  • At the dentist:  the topical fruit-flavored anesthetic the dentist used had Red Dye #40 in it.  Why?  Who even sees that?  Also, my dentist had to order special non-colored polishing grit for me.  Double-check any toothpastes and mouthwashes, even flavored dental floss.
  • Don’t eat products from commercial bakeries without checking the packaging and ask your friends who bake at home what mix they used.  My own mother served me blueberry pie from the grocer’s freezer.  I had it in my mouth and was starting to chew when I realized what I had done.  My poor mom felt terrible!  The point is that you have to take responsibility for yourself.  If you don’t like asking about it, just don’t eat it.  It’s easier.  Just say, “No, thank you.”

As time goes by, I meet more and more people with Red Dye #40 allergies, so I know I’m not alone.

Have you found Red Dye #40 or Allura Red AC anywhere you weren’t expecting it?  Please let me know!

Frozen Overs – Moussaka

11 Jun

I know that Moussaka is supposed to be made with lamb and with Myzithra cheese, but I don’t cook with lamb much and I always have Parmesan cheese on hand, which works well enough as a substitute.  This recipe has way too many ingredients.  If I figure out how to fix that I’ll let you know.


  • 4 pounds eggplant, cut into one inch cubes
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 450F.  Spray two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray.  Toss eggplant with oil and salt.  Distribute evenly over baking sheets and roast about 40 minutes until browned and cooked.  Set aside.

Meat Sauce:

  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. sugar

Cook beef in a large pot over medium-high heat, stirring frequently and breaking up, until it is cooked through.  Drain well, reserving 2T of drippings.

Put drippings in the pan, add onion and cook until softened.  Add garlic and cinnamon and cook another minute or so.  Add remaining ingredients, bring to simmer and cook over low heat until filling has thickened and is no longer very wet, about 25 minutes.  Add additional salt and pepper, to taste.


  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • pinch nutmeg

Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.  Add milk gradually.  Cook over low heat, simmering slightly, until sauce thickens and floury taste has disappeared.  Remove from heat, whisk in cheese and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper as needed.


I use 8×8 Glad OvenWare pans for this dish.  As you will see from the picture, I usually triple this recipe for freezer storage.  Place eggplant in the bottom of 2 pans, spread meat sauce over top and top with cream sauce.  Cover each with plastic wrap and put the lid on the top.  Freeze.

To serve, defrost overnight in refrigerator or in the microwave on 50% power for 15 minutes.  Heat in oven at 350F on a cookie sheet (if using OvenWare pans) for about 20-25 minutes until top is slightly browned and bubbly.

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