Savory Braised Short Ribs.

What’s not to love about short ribs? They’re pretty cheap, super meaty, and easy to cook because after a bit of prep, you can just walk away and forget about them. My kind of meal. These short ribs are fantastic and feature one of my all-time favorite flavors in the world ever in the history of the universe: Worcestershire sauce. I’ve loved it since I was little (though we did break up for a short time, when I discovered “anchovies” on the ingredients list. But I got over it and we’re back together). I love cumin and bay leaf with Worcestershire, so they got thrown into the mix, and thyme is always a good time/thyme., so he’s here, too. As far as side dishes go, I like to add petit pois at the end of the cooking process and make a sort of one-pot meal, but short ribs also go great with mashed potatoes, grits, or some delicious buttery rolls. Just go carnivore-nuts on their deep amber goodness.

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INGREDIENTS

5-6 short ribs (I actually prefer boneless short ribs, but my store was sold out, so I used bone-in. Boneless usually don’t need to cook quite as long, so keep that in mind if you go for boneless.)
butter
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 small onions (or 1 large onion), diced
1 1/3 cups carrots, sliced into segments
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ground cumin
pinch of red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 cups stock (beef stock would be best, but all I have is my homemade chicken stock, and it does the trick)
optional: 1 1/2 cups frozen peas (J‘adore les petits pois.)

Just the Recipe link: Savory Braised Short Ribs

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a Dutch oven or other large, stovetop- and oven-safe pot with a lid, heat butter and olive oil on medium high. Season each side of the short ribs with salt and pepper, and brown them in batches, careful not to crowd the pan. Don’t worry about cooking them through; we’re just trying to get some color on these babies. Once all the short ribs have had their time to brown, set them aside.

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Turn the heat down to medium and add more oil to the pan if necessary. Toss in the carrots, onions, and garlic. Cook until softened, and then stir in the cumin, red pepper flakes, thyme, and bay leaf.

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Cook until fragrant, and then pour in the Worcestershire sauce. Stir the veggies around as it steams, and then nestle the short ribs back into the pan. Pour in the stock and bring to a bubble. Taste for seasoning, and add salt as needed.

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Place the top on the pot and put the whole thing in the oven. Cook for 2 1/2 hours, checking occasionally to make sure you have enough liquid to keep things good and moist.

Once they’re falling-off-the-bone tender, the short ribs are done, so take the dish out of the oven and remove the bay leaf.  Use a large spoon to remove some of the fat from the top of the juices. Then, if you love peas as much as I do, stir them in now and then re-cover the pot, letting the heat cook them through.

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That’s it! Dig in and let the tender melty goodness fall right off the bone and into your heart/stomach. And watch out for little canine stomachs, who might want to steal a bite.

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Why I Feel Like an Empowered Shopper, and Spicy-Tangy-Sweet Pulled Pork.

Disclaimer: Buycott did not ask or pay me to write this post. These observations and opinions are all me!

None of us is a perfect consumer. Our buying decisions have ramifications far beyond the immediate, and even the most conscientious shopper can’t account for everything that goes into the products he buys. But since each dollar we spend sends a message about our standards and our principles, it’s incredibly important that we put our money where our mouth is when it comes to the things we buy. I’ve tried to do the research and make sure that I avoid companies that are most in conflict with my values and views (Chevron, Monsanto, Nestle, Tesco, to name a few), but with all the sub-brands and mergers and corporate crap that goes on, keeping tabs on these guys would be a full-time job.

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That’s why I want to share my experiences with the Buycott app—an app that gives me peace of mind by letting me make much more informed decisions when I’m standing at the grocery store shelf. Once you download Buycott, you browse through different “campaigns,” from support of LGBT rights to responsible disposal of waste to child labor to labeling genetically-modified foods. You choose any and all the campaigns that align with your consumer values, and Buycott saves them. Now the fun part: grab any product, pull up Buycott’s scanner, and scan the barcode. Buycott looks it up and tells you whether the company is in conflict with, neutral to, or in support of the campaigns you care about. Then you to decide whether it’s worth it to continue buying that product or not. It’s an easy way to make sure my money sends the right message, and it makes me feel empowered, like I have at least some idea where my dolla dolla bills are going.

On Friday, I made use of Buycott in a big way on a visit to a chain grocery store I had never been to before. As soon as I crossed the threshold, cart a-rollin’ in front of me, I pulled up the Buycott app on my phone and started scanning like a maniac. Normally I shop at Trader Joe’s, where I’ve never found a Buycott-conflict item for sale, so on this trip it was amazing to see just how many brands I would have put in my cart, if I hadn’t found out from Buycott that they went again my standards. For example, the huge Goya brand of Mexican foods, which normally I would be thrilled to put in my cart—according to Buycott, Goya dabbles in GMOs and Monsanto products! Heartbreaker. I will no longer be buying Goya because of this. And the store’s private brand, which I would have assumed the worst about—it turns out that they weren’t in conflict with any of my campaigns. They got to stay in the cart.

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While Buycott is not perfect, and definitely doesn’t take the whole consumer universe into account, it does make a difference to me. It’s an easy, time-saving tool with which to better wield the awesome power of my consumer dollar, and that’s why I love it. To any of my readers who feel the same way as I do about spending, I so recommend downloading it. I mean come on, it’s free.

And what did I have to show for myself at the end of this shopping trip? A kick-ass pulled pork, made entirely from ingredients that got the Buycott thumbs-up. I almost called it “Austin Powers Pulled Pork,” because, yeah baby.

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INGREDIENTS

1 large onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
3-4 lb pork shoulder (also called pork butt)
salt
1 tsp peppercorns (or 3/4 tsp pepper)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (or scant 1/2 tsp ground mustard powder)
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced (throw in a few more if you like it extra spicy)
1 tbsp adobo sauce (the sauce from the canned chipotle chiles)
2 bottles root beer (about 24 oz – I used Berghoff Root Beer, because I’m a good Midwestern girl)
1 cup water (optional – use if you want more juices leftover after it’s cooked)

Just the Recipe link: Spicy-Tangy-Sweet Pulled Pork

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Lay the onion wedges in the bottom of a Dutch oven or other large pot with a lid. Season the pork with salt.

If you’re using whole peppercorns and mustard seeds, grind them up using a mortar and pestle until they’re broken up, but not pulverized.

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Sprinkle your pepper and ground mustard over the pork, and place the pork in the pot, on top of the onions.

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Next, add the chipotle chile and adobo sauce to the pot, and pour in the root beer. Optional: add the water. Do this if you want more sauce at the end – I made mine without the water, and it had just enough sauce for the pork to soak it all up. If you like it a little saucier, add the water.

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Cover the pot and put it in the oven for at least 3 hours (I cooked mine for just over 4 hours). Flip the pork over once during cooking.

You know you’re there when you can easily shred the pork using two forks. At this point, remove the pork from the pot and shred it completely. Discard the bone.

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There should be just enough sauce left in the pot to coat the pork, so add the shredded meat back to the sauce and stir. That’s all!

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Obviously this makes a great pulled pork sandwich, but I served mine with these refried beans and this red cabbage slaw.

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Pork perfection, ready for its close-up.

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Eggs in Purgatory Soup.

This is one of those magical dinners that happen sometimes. You aren’t sure what to make, so you just start cooking, and about halfway through the meal prep, it comes to you. The night I made this, I had set out to make a vegetable-packed egg drop soup. But when I saw that the fresh veg we had at hand weren’t particularly thrilling, I raided the pantry. There, I found some inspiring cans of things, tomatoes among them, and altered our course to tomato soup, a la this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. But lo, as I was opening the can of tomatoes, I had a culinary-spiritual-visitation from Nigella Lawson, who in her intervening wisdom reminded me of her eggs in purgatory recipe that I’ve been wanting to try. And so, long story long, this spiced Eggs in Purgatory Soup was born, and it was a delicious surprise. I had two big helpings and as I write this, I am stuffed. No regrets. Make this soon, folks.

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INGREDIENTS

olive oil
butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1 can (28 oz) canned tomato (crushed, diced, whatever – if you use whole, give them a chop first)
14 oz water
3 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
4 eggs
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Just the Recipe link: Eggs in Purgatory Soup

DIRECTIONS

In a soup pot (or if you have them, individual skillets), heat olive oil and butter over medium and add onion with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and just starting to brown.

Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder, and red pepper flake. Stir in and cook a minute or two, until fragrant.

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Pour in the entire can of tomatoes and juice. Then fill the can up halfway with water and swirl to make sure you get all the juices out of the can, and pour in. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for 15 minutes.

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When the tomatoes have simmered, stir in the Greek yogurt and turn the heat down nearly as low as it can go – you want to see just the tiniest bubbles floating to the surface.

Gently crack in the eggs, nestling them into the soup so that no eggs are touching. Don’t stir or agitate the soup as the eggs poach for a few minutes, until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny.

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Use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs to their bowls, and ladle the soup over the eggs.

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Sprinkle with Parmesan and, if you have it, fresh parsley (I was out, boo). Enjoy!

And here is my second bowl. I’m a big fan of the Parmesan.

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Spinach and Green Garlic Soup.

Green garlic is everywhere right now. It’s just young garlic, with a softer, edible skin and a milder flavor. It’s delicious in scrambled eggs, soups, and sauces (especially pesto). Since I haven’t been feeling well lately, from a combination of allergies and a sore throat from screaming my head off when the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings in a Game 7 of the NHL playoffs, I figured a nice spring soup might perk me up a bit. It’s also a great way to get a good healthy helping of spinach! Adapted from Orangette, this light and easy green garlic and spinach soup is a breeze to make and delicious to boot. Dig in.

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INGREDIENTS

butter and olive oil
3 stalks green garlic, sliced (use the white and the light green parts)
pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup chicken stock
2 1/2 cups water
5 oz baby spinach
a spoonful of Greek yogurt
pepper

Just the Recipe link: Spinach and Green Garlic Soup

DIRECTIONS

In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat a bit of butter and olive oil over medium low. The butter is for flavor, and the olive oil will keep the butter from burning. Once it’s hot, add the green garlic, salt, and cayenne.

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Cook gently, careful to avoid burning or browning, until the garlic is soft and smells sweet, and has lost its raw smell. Add the chicken stock and turn up the heat. Bring to a boil, and then turn down to simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the spinach and turn off the heat. Stir it in and let stand just 5 min, so it cooks but keeps its bright green color.

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Now puree the soup in batches, until it’s smooth. Add it back to the pot to reheat. I wanted to reduce my soup and get it to a little bit thicker consistency, so I simmered it a few minutes more.

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Once it’s where you want it, turn off the heat and stir in a scoop of greek yogurt. Serve immediately, with lots of pepper on top. Delish!

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Cabernet Beef Stew.

Because life is a cabernet.

Chicago has had a very chilly start to May, especially over the past few days, and this weekend I found myself with a crazy craving for beef stew. On Saturday, I built our beautiful new kitchen island, so I decided that Sunday would be the day I put it to good use and make a glorious pot of stew. Having just drooled over a DVR-ed episode of Barefoot Contessa where Ina Garten makes a food-porn-o-rific batch of Parker’s Beef Stew, I used her recipe as inspiration for this one. And of course, I added paprika to my recipe, because I can never make a beef stew without paying at least a little homage to goulash (the absolute king of stews, in my humble opinion). I give you, cabernet beef stew.

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INGREDIENTS

1 – 1/2 lbs stew beef, cubed (I like mine cut into small, bite-sized pieces)
1/2 cup potato starch flour (all-purpose flour is fine here, too, but you’ll need a bit more of it)
salt and pepper
olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, washed and sliced
1 small sweet potato, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bottle of cabernet sauvignon*
2 cups stock (I used homemade chicken stock)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 canned whole tomatoes, chopped, plus a tbsp or two of canning liquid
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (or about 1 tsp dried rosemary)
1 tsp paprika
1 cup frozen peas
marjoram, for garnish
*Note: the flavor of the cabernet sauvignon is quite strong here. If that doesn’t sound good to you, I recommend cutting back to about a quarter bottle of wine.

Just the Recipe link: Cabernet Beef Stew

DIRECTIONS

In a mixing bowl, stir together potato starch flour, salt, and pepper. Drop a few pieces of meat in at a time and toss to coat. Shake off the excess and set aside, until all the meat is coated in flour.

Heat a Dutch oven or other large pot over medium high heat and add olive oil. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides. Remove the browned meat from the pan and set aside.

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Preheat oven to 300 F.

Add carrot, celery, sweet potato, and onion to the Dutch oven, along with bay leaves. Cook about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Add garlic and cook two more minutes. Remove vegetables from the pan and set aside.

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Pour red wine into the pan, along with the rosemary and paprika, and stir to deglaze, making sure to loosen all the brown bits from the bottom.

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Add stock, Worcestershire sauce, and tomatoes. Then add the meat back to the pot, followed by the vegetables.

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Give it a stir, cover the pot, and bring to a low boil. Then place it in the oven and cook for 2-3 hours, until the meat is fall-apart tender or until you can’t wait any longer. I ended up turning the heat down to 275 F about 20 minutes in, to keep the stew at a low bubble instead of a more active simmer.

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Once the stew is done cooking, remove from the oven. Turn off the oven at this point – we’re done cooking.

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Stir in frozen peas and re-cover the pot. They’ll defrost and cook in the heat of the stew.

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Serve with warm, crusty bread, and if you like, sprinkle a bit of marjoram on top.

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Loaded Chili.

Garnishes. Goodies. Fixins’. At least half the reason I love chili is the toppings you get to put on it. Oh, my, the toppings. This recipe is about making an amazing chili that will eventually become an Ode to Toppings, and I want you to use them all: avocado, cheese, cilantro, tomato—whatever your heart desires. And you know what? You are a great cook and a wonderful person, and you deserve a beautiful meal. So thank yourself for making this by plating it up like a work of art and garnishing the heck out of it. Heidi at 101 Cookbooks is the master at this. Here are some of her most gorgeously garnished soups: Split Pea, Broccoli Cheddar, Yellow Split Pea, and Posole in broth. Let life imitate art and load up this chili!

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INGREDIENTS

for the chili:
olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb ground meat (I used pork)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups stock (I used beef stock)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 16oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 16 oz can corn, drained and rinsed

all the fixins’:
avocado, sliced
fresh cilantro, chopped
cheese, shredded
fresh tomato, chopped
onion or green onion, thinly sliced or minced
squeeze of lime

Just the Recipe link: Loaded Chili

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in a pan and add onion and red pepper. Cook about 8 minutes, until softened.

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Add the garlic and the cayenne pepper, oregano, coriander, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook 1-2 minutes, until fragrant and yummy-smelling.

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Add the ground pork and use your spoon to break it up. Cook until browned, stirring occasionally.

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Once the meat is browned, pour in the canned tomatoes and the stock. Toss in a bay leaf for good measure. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes.

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After 45 minutes have gone by, add the cilantro, corn, and beans, and simmer for another 15 minutes.

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Taste for seasoning and your chili is good to go! Now dress it up. And make it look beautiful, for heaven’s sake! You’re worth it.

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