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Last week I was incredibly happy to find Grass-Fed beef short ribs at Whole Foods. I had been craving braised short ribs for quite some time, but was concerned about eating such a fatty cut of conventionally raised beef. Since toxins are stored in the fat of an animal (including humans!), I generally try to eat lean cuts of conventional meat if that’s what I’m forced to buy. Our side of beef is all but gone (we have about 10 pounds of random cuts left out of our 250 pounds from last November), so we have not been eating nearly as much beef as we were during the winter, and much of it has been conventionally raised since it can be quite difficult to find grass-fed beef for a reasonable price (I’m talking less than $10 per pound for most cuts).

At $6 per pound, the short ribs I found at Whole Foods were practically a steal, and there were 3 pounds sitting right there in the meat case! I snapped those suckers up immediately, and then searched the internet for a suitable recipe to try with my red marbled treasure. The problem I ran into was this: almost all of the recipes that sounded the best called for overnight marinating! I wanted short ribs THAT NIGHT, not later! I figured 3-4 hours would be plenty of time, but I couldn’t find a single recipe that didn’t call for the overnight marinating or all day cooking in the crock pot.

After some deliberation, I ended up choosing Tom Colicchio’s recipe over at Food & Wine, and promptly went to the store to buy a bottle of dry red wine. As you’ll see, it calls for an entire bottle. The alcohol cooks off, so I wasn’t worried about it in my pregnant state. I won’t rehash the recipe here, since it’s fairly involved and because I think it’s against internet etiquette (yes, there is such a thing!) to do so, but I will tell you these short ribs were AMAZING. They were exactly what I wanted: falling off the bone tender, with an incredibly flavorful sauce. I saved the sauce that we didn’t use on the ribs because it was so good I couldn’t bear to waste it! I did not use flanken style short ribs, instead I used the “square” looking ones cut with the grain rather than against it, but otherwise I actually followed the recipe very closely.

If you decide to make short ribs, do it on a day where you have plenty of time and won’t feel rushed. It’s a very slow cooking meal, but it fills the house with wonderful aromas, and fills your family’s bellies with hearty food made with love. If you give the recipe a try, let me know how it turns out!

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Although it’s not soup weather at all here, meaning we’ve had 90+ degree days with 80% humidity or more, I have been absolutely craving chicken soup. Crazy pregnancy hormones! Actually, I’ve been craving a lot of soups, including broccoli and cheese soup and New England clam chowder. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find a cream based soup at a restaurant that isn’t made with wheat as part of the base roux. So, sorry Panera, but I can’t buy your delicious smelling broccoli and cheese soup. Maybe I’ll try making that next, sans wheat (since it really is completely unneccessary).

But back to the chicken soup. Since eschewing all grains from my diet, I haven’t had chicken noodle soup in more than a year. And you know what? Leaving out the noodles leaves so much more room for chicken and vegetables! Those are the best parts! I stuck with a fairly simple soup this time, because I wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous, so feel free to add whatever other vegetables or spices you’d like. After you’ve roasted a chicken, save the carcass and any extra bits to start your broth. Put the carcass in a crock pot, fill it up with water, and set the crock pot on low for as long as possible, preferably 24 hours. Add a splash (tablespoon or less) of vinegar to help leach the calcium out of the bones and get it into your soup! You can also add large pieces of onion/carrot/celery and a bay leaf to the mixture if you’d like. Then, when the broth is ready the next day, get your soup on!

Ingredients:

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1 large bunch of celery, sliced into chunks roughly the same size as your carrots (include the leaves, they have a lot of flavor!)
6 cloves of garlic finely diced or pressed
4 cups of chopped chicken, preferably from the chicken you already roasted!
1 medium yellow onion, diced -or- 1/4 cup dried onion flakes (it’s what I had, and it worked just fine!)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Ground Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
4 quarts of Chicken Broth or more – depending on how you like your broth to soup chunks ratio (we like more stuff/less broth, but you might not agree)

1. In a large stock pot, heat the butter, then sautee the diced garlic and onion (if using fresh onion).
2. Once the onions are translucent and starting to brown (or once the garlic is toasted but not burned if you’re using dried onions), add the chopped carrot and celery. Sautee until they begin to soften.
3. Add your golden, beautiful smelling chicken broth, strained to remove the bones/vegetables. Salt the mixture a bit, and bring to a boil.
4. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to medium, add the rest of your spices, and cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the carrots and celery are as soft as you’d like them to be. They should be easily pierced with a fork, but not mushy like baby food.
5. Add the cooked chicken, and simmer for about 10 minutes more until it is heated through.

Again this is a very simple recipe, and could be expanded with whatever other vegetables you enjoy. I considered adding spinach, which is delicious in soups, and have enjoyed zucchini and yellow squash in chicken soup as well. Use your imagination! Remember, the longer your cook your broth, the more nutritious it becomes as the bones and cartilage and marrow break down from the chicken carcass, and the better it tastes. And if you’re not in the mood for soup just yet, I hope you keep this little gem in mind for the fall and winter!

…but luckily I’ve got a plan for next week!   I’ve had so little motivation to cook and plan for the last month, that I worried I’d lost my touch…but show me some red meat and the meal ideas start flowing like gangbusters!  I’ve been craving steak for about three weeks straight now, and was happy to have it twice while on vacation, but my steak craving has since expanding to anything and everything involving red meat.  Especially ribs.  More specifically, slow braised beef short ribs, in all their fatty delicious glory.  So, without further ado, here is the list of all my current pregnancy craving meals for the week:

1. Braised Beef Short Ribs with salad
2. Taco Salad (taco meat over greens with tomato/onion/bell pepper/avocado/sour cream) – Taco meat will also be used in omlettes
3. Wings (Adam’s non-beef request…I guess they’ll suffice as a meal)
4. Thai Grilled Beef Salad – Thin sliced rib eye steaks over seasoned cabbage salad (asian coleslaw-esque) with thai spices…if this one turns out well I’ll share it!
5. Roast Beef Wraps with Rosemary Mayonaise – Thin sliced roast beef wrapped in romaine leaves with rosemary mayonaise and red onion
6. Roasted Chicken (more specifically a large Capon – neutered rooster) with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli – Our first dinner with our friends coming in from Minneapolis next Saturday
7. Grilled Steak and Shrimp Kebabs with Assorted Grilled Vegetables – The second dinner with friends the following day

It’s quite the adventurous meal plan, and is quite possibly too much food for one week…I have a feeling I’ll be making 50-60% of these meals this week and the remainder the following week. It just feels nice to be inspired again!

As you may have noticed, I haven’t had many new recipes to post in the last few weeks. It’s hard to think of and try new meals, when so many of my regular favorites now turn my stomach.  That’s right, I’m pregnant!

Adam and I were lucky to be able to tell our families in person while we were in Arizona on vacation last week. The weather in north-eastern Arizona was mild, breezy, and beautifully sunny. The scenery wasn’t bad either!

The carnitas dinner on Wednesday night was a hit, though I did start to feel nauseated from the smell of pork while cooking the second batch. The ice cream, on the other hand, was amazing and did not make me nauseated at all! I highly recommend Rick Bayless’ recipe for Cinnamon Vanilla Custard Ice Cream, which I made with heavy cream instead of milk for a thick texture.

I am beginning to feel more normal appetite-wise, and will do my very best to keep experimenting in the kitchen as I continue along with my pregnancy. This is undoubtably the most important time for me to be eating well, after all! Here’s to the start of a whole new adventure on the micro-farm!

Next week Adam and I are very lucky to have an entire week off from work to visit Northern Arizona with his family.  It will be a balmy 80 degrees every day, and dry!  None of this humidity that everyone is so used to in Ohio.

There will be 15 people staying in a giant cabin in the woods, and I will have the pleasure of making dinner one of the nights that we are there.  After much deliberation and searching through cook books, I finally decided to make Pork Carnitas from Rick Bayless’ book, Authentic Mexican.  What’s better than juicy pork ribs crisped in their own rendered lard?  Oh yes, slathering them in guacamole.  And that’s why I chose carnitas!

I am no whiz at frying.  I’ve known that for a long time.  In fact, I cook bacon in the oven to avoid the spatter from frying it on the stove.  I hate getting surprised by a rogue oil droplet flying out of the pan, and I haven’t fried things often enough to have the timing down.  So, I figured that a practice run of the main course was in order.

I started with just over 3 pounds of delicious, fatty Country Style Pork Ribs.  Don’t trim off any fat, because it has to render into the cooking water.  Once the water boils off, the fat is left to fry the outside of the ribs.  Genius!  So, start with the ribs in a large stock pot (my Le Crueset worked wonderfully here, thanks to the porcelain coating), large enough to keep the ribs in one layer on the bottom.  Cover with water until it is 1/2″ above the ribs, then add 1 teaspoon of salt to the water.  Boil the ribs at a simmer (not a rolling boil) partially covered for about 40 minutes, or until “just tender” as Rick says.  When the ribs are tender, turn the boil all the way up to evaporate the water as quickly as possible.  This part still took a good 20 minutes I think.  Once the water has boiled off you will just have the ribs left in a surprising amount of rendered lard.  Turn the heat down to about medium, and watch the ribs carefully/turn them often until the outsides are just crisp, which took about 20-30 minutes for the biggest pieces.  Don’t let them get too dark, because you’ll end up with dry/stringy ribs!  Thankfully that only happened with a couple of small pieces, and I learned my lesson.

Aren’t they golden and delicious looking?  Any decent carnita should be served with a side of delicious guacamole, and according to Rick, can be eaten just as crispy ribs with guac, or cut up into bite sized pieces and served in corn tortillas with guac.  Adam and I ate them as is, and were impressed with the results of my first attempt!  At least now I know they won’t be an utter disaster for the family!  Since that is only the main course, I will also be serving guacamole and salsa with tortilla chips (not for me) and sliced veggies (definitely for me) for dipping, homemade coleslaw (the dressing is surprisingly easy), and Custard Ice Cream with Cinnamon and Vanilla (also a la Rick Bayless)!  The dessert uses a full 20 egg yolks, meaning it should taste like frozen creme brulee (a.k.a. heaven).

Here’s hoping that no one has suddenly turned vegetarian on me!  They probably wouldn’t be happy eating just guacamole for dinner…though I wouldn’t mind!