I cannot take credit for these short ribs, though I did help. My husband made these and they were absolutely delicious. All they need is a little prep the night before. The slow cooker does the rest. When serving, make some rice on the side with a drizzle of soy sauce and steam some green vegetables, and you have a delicious dinner! The hubby is letting me post it to share with y'all. Give it a try! Beef short ribs are really affordable and hold up really well with this method of cooking.
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/8 cup oriental sesame oil
10 cloves garlic, minced
3 large green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. ginger, minced
5 lbs beef short ribs (Approx. 2"-3" cuts)
1 1/2 cups reserved crock pot cooking juice (fat removed, then strained)
1/4 cup ketchup
1/8 cup Hoisin sauce
1/8 cup brown sugar
Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl, whisk to blend. Add ribs to a gallon size Ziploc bag and pour marinade over beef ribs. Seal bag, removing almost all the air. Rotate bag to coat all the ribs and refrigerate overnight. It helps to rotate bag, flipping the marinade on the ribs during the evening before tucking yourself in for the night!
Next morning, pour the ribs and marinade in the crock pot. Set it to low and cook for 5-6 hours. Rotate ribs during cooking time if, if possible.
When time is up, pull ribs out of crock pot and place in a bowl. Tent it with foil to keep warm. Pour remaining juice from the crock pot into a skimmer (fat separator). From there, strain the juice through a sieve into another bowl. Be careful to not pour the fat on the top.
Measure the skimmed and strained juice until you have 1 1/2 cups. Put that in a saucepan. Add the ketchup, Hoisin Sauce and brown sugar. Whisk until dissolved over medium heat. Continue simmering until the liquid is reduced into a semi-thick sauce. Pour half over the ribs, waiting in the bowl. Drizzle more on each serving as you plate them. Have plenty of napkins (Mmmmm-mmmmm!)
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Some of you may be familiar with various martial arts. There are different types from different Asian countries. My daughter asked and asked to take some classes for years. We looked at a few schools in the area, but many were out of our budget range. Meanwhile, we continued to struggle with our daughter's lack of focus, self control, discipline, and overall greater awareness of her surroundings. We also found it hard to keep her active and fit in the winter months.
A few years ago, we finally came across a school that was very affordable and had no contract obligations. The school taught Aikido, a Japanese form of Martial Arts that involves defense only. It doesn't include hitting or kicking. Their only kids class had kids as old as 18 down to my 6 year old. The school was VERY strict and structured. And everything was VERY "quiet" (no grunts, sighs, whoops, chatter, just quiet deep breaths). Again, this was what I was looking for (right?) But even as we were signing up at the front desk, red alarms were going off in my head. My daughter (6 at the time) started getting ancy and talkative in her excitement, and the female sensei registering us kept glowering at her. My instincts were telling me that maybe this school was not patient or adept enough with very young children. But I thought, maybe this is what we needed for our daughter? In theory, this sounded all good, so we started going.
The female sensei who signed us up ended up being the kids class instructor. (Oh, Joy!). The school seemed more interested in the way the kids swept the mats, bowed and walked on and off the mats than really teaching. I know that strict ritual is a part of any Martial Art. However, I noticed my daughter was struggling with a lot of the moves, and the teachers were spending more time with the older kids that showed more promise than the younger, fiesty ones. Even after a month, my daughter was doing her rolls all wrong, hurting herself in the process. Then the kid's sensei became injured, and things went from bad to worse. They had a new sensei teach the kids class. This sensei was a bulky, 6'7" bald man with a fu man chu. This guy would scare you in the street if you met him. He had a booming voice and he had NO PATIENCE for small, young children. I let my daughter go to a couple more classes and became so uncomfortable watching that I decided to pull her out of the school while she still had a willingness and passion for Martial Arts... and before I let this school and new sensei sour her to quitting all together.
So, we took a break, let the recession pass and did a lot more research. We finally found a great school for my "little ninja". They divide the classes by appropriate ages. Teens are in teens. Mid-grades are together, and the little ones are totally separate. This school is a blend of Karate, Taekwando, Aikido and some others art forms. So there is a lot more sparring, punching, kicking and footwork than just defense and rolling. The school is strict, but it is done with a warmness and genuine care for the kids. And the class is LOUD! They yell a KI-YAY with every move, forcing them to breath and gain confidence. The children also bring home a job sheet they hand in every month, and this forces them to bring the culture the school teaches into their daily lives. In fact, they cannot get a belt promotion without these job sheets. My attempts at having my daughter help with chores around the house has failed until this job sheet. She finds it so important to move to the next belt that she makes sure she is getting check marks on that job sheet. Some kids value money, so allowances work. Some need other rewards. Some just inherently like to help. But if you have struggled, like me, to get your kid to see the big picture, I urge you to research Martial Arts as a way to help your child do just that.
I have really seen a change in my daughter. Because they teach the children how to welcome each new student and make them comfortable, I now see my daughter go up to kids she doesn't know and introduce herself properly. She has become a great host when there are kids at our home. She makes others feel welcome and is willing to share her things more readily. She helps around the house. Her grades have gone up and stayed up. She has much more respect towards adults. She is getting more fit and strong, and has greater self control over her body. It really is worth the money we are spending.
So when you look at a Martial Arts school, I would make sure it is a good fit for you and your family. Here are some questions I wish I asked myself earlier:
- Is the school within budget? Do they have value added services to warrant the price they are asking (our school allows the whole family to use the workout area any time we want, so it replaces a gym membership).
- Are they asking for a contract? Are you comfortable with that? Do they allow a no obligation trial to see if you and your child like it?
- Do the teachers seem firm yet patient with the children?
- Do they divide up the kids and skill levels appropriately Or are all kids and skills lumped together? If so, do you like that or not? Are all kids getting the attention they need?
-Knowing your child's personality and physical nature, is the Martial Art they are learning a right fit for them? For instance, my daughter is big and strong for her age with a lot of energy. Aikido had a lot of throwing and rolling on the ground which was very hard for her size and weight. But with her strength and balance, kicking and jabbing in Karate is right up her alley. Assess your kid's talents and together, pick the right one for him.
- Do the classes fit in your schedule? Are they flexible with make-ups?
- Will the school let you watch a class? How do the children behave with each other? Are the teachers watching so the children don't hurt themselves? How do the teachers discipline, and are you comfortable with it?
- Is the school culturally about "quiet" and self control with your voice, or is it loud- allowing kids to express themselves during their moves? Make sure your kid will be OK with either one you choose for them.
- Does the belt promotion system seem fair and attainable? Every school does it differently.
If you take your time and find the right school and style, you will see a wealth of benefits for your child, I promise you! I know we have!
Readers, I introduce you to a fabulous, young, urban domestic diva I know and work with named Jourdan Huys. I keep telling her to start her own food blog. Maybe I will wear her down eventually! This week, she brought in these amazing little cookies that were fabulous for breakfast (or any time, really). For being healthy, they were chewy, tender and yummy. I urged her to share the recipe with us. She has graciously obliged. She used a New York Times recipe as a base and added her own diva flair. I think when I make them I will try them with whole wheat flour. If you do the same, remember you may need to "up" your wet ingredients a little bit and maybe even your leavening agent (s) a touch. Otherwise it is typically an even substitution. Someone once told me sifting whole wheat flour a couple of times helps with density as well. I may try that and comment this weekend! So stay tuned. A healthy cookie! Who doesn't like that in the early New Year!? Thank you Jourdan!
Jourdan's "Brainy, Grainy, Yummy" Cookies
Nonstick cooking oil spray
1/3 cup canola oil
1 very ripe medium banana
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, or as needed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal or rolled oats
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup chocolate chunk bits or chips (vegan, if desired)
Preheat oven to 350˚. Lightly spray two baking sheets with oil. In a mixing bowl, mash banana well. Add oil, sugar and vanilla, and mix with a strong fork. Add flour, flax, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, and mix until just moistened.
Add oatmeal, coconut and chocolate chips. Using your hands or a sturdy spoon or fork, mix well, making sure oats are well moistened. (If dough is very slippery, add one or two extra tablespoons flour.) Do not overwork.
Using clean, wet hands, re-wetting as needed, roll dough into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball, about 1 1/3 inches in diameter. Flatten slightly and place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 2 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
Nuts are a big deal at our house. I was raised with serving nuts and fruit for even our every day meals growing up in and Italian family. If the men at the table had extra wine left in their glasses, it was customary to serve nuts and fruit to accompany the last gulps of wine. As adults at our home now, we love wine as well! And sometimes spiced nuts are a great snack to put out with appetizers and wine as you get the main meal on the table. Nuts are packed with protein, so they make a healthier snack than a bag of chips late at night, and will fill you quicker so you eat less. Spiced nuts are also great to make ahead before a dinner party. They keep for a week, and you can put them out in a lovely bowl next to some wine charms and look like you just whipped these delights just an hours ago all by yourself! THAT'S the "UDD" way, people! Now, go be charming!
Snacking Sweet and Spicy Almonds and Pecans
1 large egg white
2 cups skinless whole almonds, unsalted
2 cups whole pecans, unsalted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash or two of Tabasco
1 tsp. kosher salt
Preheat oven to 250˚. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites with 1 tablespoon of water until foamy and fluffy. Add the sugar, salt and spices and whisk some more until the sugar is well dissolved. Add the nuts and mix until the nuts are well coated. Cover a flat baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the nuts onto the surface. Using the back of the spoon, push the nuts around so that they lay flat for even baking. Bake until the nuts are dried out and sticky, about 40 minutes to 50 minutes. Take them out and mix the nuts around with a spatula, and lower the oven down to 200˚. Return the nuts to the oven and bake until crisp and lightly browned. This may take a bit long depending on your oven. It could take another 30 to even 50 minutes. It depends on how dark you want your nuts. I also sometimes move them from the middle rack to the top to get the nice golden color I like. Also, adjust your salt at this phase. While the nuts still have a little wetness, take one out, cool and eat. Sprinkle a little more salt on the nuts for your taste buds and mix around the nuts again. When done, take them out and stir loosely with a spatula as they cool. Store in an airtight container for week.
It's no secret that reading to and with your child reaps many benefits. I am an avid reader, and wanted my daughter to realize the magic of books. We read books to her from the first day home from the hospital and every day since. It took her until 2nd grade to discover the joy of independent reading, we just had to find the books that she liked versus what I would pick for her. This was an interesting switch for me, because up until that point, I was reading to her or we were taking turns alternating pages as she increased her reading skills. Once she began independently reading, it freed me up but I was also one step removed from what she was reading, and what was interesting her. If she had story questions or struggled over pronunciation over a word, I did not know unless she spoke up. She wanted to read on her own, and this is an important step in the development of your child.
But I discovered something very magical over this Christmas break. It has made such an impact in my relationship with my daughter I had to share it. My daughter recently discovered the BONE graphic novels. I had no idea what they were about. They looked interesting, reminiscent of the Gaiman Sandman series from the late 80's, but geared to a younger crowd. My daughter was plowing through these books, and she kept telling me that she thought I would like them. I told her that I liked grown up books. She kept urging me to at least read BONE book 1. She said it would be great because we could talk about them. I thought this was very wise for my 8 year old, so I told her when I was done with the book I was reading, she could lend me her BONE book 1 and I would give it a try. I had to ask myself, why did I find it strange to read grade school books, anyway? Heck, I read Harry Potter?
So while she read her BONE books, I snuggled up with her at bedtime and read my BONE book she lent me. Next thing I knew, every night of break, we were turning off the TV early and going upstairs to read. During this time, she would ask me if I had gotten to certain parts? What I thought about this character? or read me funny excerpt from her book. She would talk about aspects of the stories at dinner, and because now I knew the stories, we could talk and connect over them. It has been like our very own Mommy/Daughter book club! She even told me tonight that she now looks forward to bedtime because of our shared reading time and discussion, that bedtime is a lot more fun. I am enjoying the richer connection I am having with my daughter.
I think that as children become more independent, particularly even in their teen years, it is harder and harder to find ways to connect with them. Sharing books with them might be a way to answer questions about maybe difficult topics or scenarios, and stay abreast on what they are being exposed to and what interests them. My sister 'n law recently began reading the Twilight books because her 12 year old was reading them. They were able to discuss questions about sexuality and relationships in the safety of the book's plot line and characters. Because my sister n' law made an effort to take on something that her daughter was interested in and get into it as well gave her daughter a feeling of acceptance, love and comfort...all important things for a tween girl.
I always expected to someday share book recos with my daughter, I just never dreamed it would happen in 3rd grade. But I opened my mind up to it, and I am delightfully surprised at the results. I can only hope that our Mommy/Daughter book club will continue for a long time to come...but she's gonna have to have an open mind to historical fiction....eventually!
This recipe I whipped up to use up some ripening bananas on the counter. My daughter and I dislike bananas, so I put as much chocolate and pecan nuts as I can to make it a tasty treat for non-banana lovers. We'll see if my daughter will try it! I used a mocha powder I bought from Starbucks for the cocoa. If you can't find it, just use a high end cocoa mix that has a little vanilla and a mix of chocolates in it. That should do the trick. Ghirardelli has a nice sweet ground cocoa that can work just as well.
3 oz. softened butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup low fat milk
2 very ripe bananas, mashed up
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup Starbucks Mocha Powder
1/2 Tbsp baking powder plus 1 tsp.
1/2 Tsp. salt
1 Tsp. vanilla
3/4 well chopped pecans
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate mini chips
Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray 2 8.5 inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing very well after each. Add the milk and the bananas and mix. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, whisk the flour with the mocha/cocoa mix, baking powder and salt. Add to the wet ingredients on low and mix until well combined. Careful not to over mix. With a spatula, add the mini chocolate chips and the chopped pecans.
Divide evenly between baking pans. Bake on the center rack for about 35-45 minutes. Watch for the color to be golden and a toothpick at the center that comes out clean. Let cool in pans for ten minutes, then turn the loaves out onto cooling racks to finish cooling. Cover with plastic wrap to store.
In all the crazy holiday overeating in the past few weeks, a welcome break for dinner is a lighter yet still filling dinner soup. This soup is in part inspired by the traditional "pasta piselli", an Italian peasant pasta dish I grew up on. I found it in one of my many one dish supper cookbooks, but adapted it for our palates. It is pretty easy, and you can use really any pasta noodle you want, but the square, flat noodle look is different, and it is a great way to empty your pantry of waning lasagna noodles. Also, if you can't find pancetta, use rindless, smoked bacon or salt pork.
Pasta Piselli Soup
3 oz. sliced pancetta, roughly chopped
3 oz. sliced prosciutto, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 lb. frozen peas
1 1/2 tsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
5 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup water
11 oz. whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked partway and slightly cooled
1 Tsp. fresh ground pepper
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
In a large stockpot, heat the butter and oil until melted and hot. Add the onions and celery until very soft and translucent. Add the meats and cook for 5 minutes, or until the fat is almost all rendered. Add the frozen peas. With your spoon, use the melting ice to scrape up whatever brown bits were at the bottom of the pan. Cover for 3-5 minutes, and continue using the spoon to break up the peas as the defrost and sizzle in the heat. Once all incorporated and any ice is gone, simmer for 2 more minutes. Then add tomato paste and combine well. Add all the liquid while continuing to scrape up the bits on the bottom. Add all the seasoning and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut your par-cooked lasagna sheet in 2 inch squares. To make this go quicker, I accordion fold the sheet, even layering 2-3 at a time if possible. With sharp kitchen scissors I slice the folds on top and bottom. Then I slice across the length of the batch into squares, letting them fall in a separate bowl.
When the peas are tender and the time is up, add the pasta squares and let the pasta finish cooking in the soup for the remainder 3-4 minutes. adjust seasoning. Depending on the salt content of your meats, you may or may not need salt. If you find things to be a little salty at this point, add a cup of water to the soup to lighten things up a little. You may find is you did not use low-sodium broth, you may need to take this step in the end. When pasta is tender and the soup's seasoning has been adjusted, serve in bowls with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.