• deborahreinhardt

This easy recipe delivers a flavor-packed family dinner.


Those of us who are “a certain age” remember the fast food advertising catch phrase, “Where’s the beef?” Short answer: It’s in my slow-cooker, and it smells wonderful!


This recipe for beef short ribs employs a set-it-and-forget-it approach, giving you six to eight hours to go about your day, knowing in the end, you’re coming home to a delicious dinner.


Beef short ribs will be fork-tender when braised in the oven for a couple of hours or cooked low and slow in a slow cooker.

I don’t know what your weather in late February is like, but in Missouri, we just emerged from the deep freeze (like so much of the country) and did a week of 50- and 60-degree days. Today, it’s drizzling and cloudy. Somehow, hearty dishes like short ribs with vegetables fit the bill right now; it’s like when you don’t know what the next day will bring, comfort food dishes like this can anchor you.


For cooks who aren’t familiar with this cut of meat, beef short ribs come from the chuck of an animal located near the breastbone. The ribs are cut into two ways: English-style (familiar to most home cooks) and barbecue-style, which are thinner. You can also purchase boneless short ribs. Either cut has a good amount of fat marbling and deep beef flavor.


Because the rib muscles get a good workout from the animal, the best way to cook the English-cut short ribs are low and slow, either by braising in the oven or, as we do here, in a slow-cooker, to ensure a tender result. And holy cow (no pun intended), this method produces amazing gravy.


It’s usually recommended when purchasing short ribs to plan for one pound per person. If you’re doing boneless, you could probably cut it down to ½ to ¾ pound per serving, but I always cook to have leftovers to freeze for another week.


And the vegetables that cook along with the ribs really make this a one-pot meal. This recipe uses onions and carrots—as most do—but I’ve also peeled and chopped a rutabaga in the past to throw in with the beef and it’s wonderful.


Short ribs should be given at least 6-1/2 hours in a slow cooker, but can go up to 8 hours without a problem. It's a perfect dish to set in the morning so it's ready for dinner.

If you don’t have a slow-cooker, you can certainly braise the ribs in your oven. Set it at 325 degrees and get out your Dutch oven. Brown the beef, add the vegetables to start their cooking, add liquid and bring to a simmer, then cover and braise in the oven for about two hours or until the meat pulls away from the bone.


And if you use the bone-in ribs, don’t toss them. Freeze and use later to make beef stock. You’ll probably need to buy a few fresh soup bones to augment the flavor, but they can be used to make stock.


Quick food trivia: In 1971, Rival Manufacturing—a Kansas City, Missouri, company— bought the patent for the crock-pot from Irving Naxon (Nachumsohn) and successfully marketed this kitchen appliance to cooks who were looking for convenience. My mom had an avocado-green Rival crock-pot for many years.


Will this dish freeze well? Any leftovers you may have will absolutely freeze well. When you’re serving the short ribs and veggies, a classic side is creamy mashed potatoes, but polenta or wide egg noodles will work, too.


Are short ribs inexpensive to buy? Well, that depends. A quick online price search revealed this cut at Walmart to be $5.64 per pound, while a St. Louis supermarket chain came in at $7.39; I paid over $7 per pound when purchased from a local farm. The price per pound in my area is comparative to a chuck roast, but I think the ribs have more flavor.



Hearty Slow-Cooker Short Ribs

(Yield: 4–6 servings; about a 30-minute prep; cooks for 6½ hours.)

Ingredients:

3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, about 3-inch thickness

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 medium carrots cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup beef broth

2 fresh rosemary springs

1 bay leaf

2 large onions cut into 1/2-inch wedges

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 cups dry red wine

4 teaspoons cornstarch

Cold water

Salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

1. Sprinkle ribs with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. In batches (don’t crowd ribs), brown meat on all sides. Transfer to a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker.

2. Add carrots, broth, rosemary, and bay leaf to ribs.

3. In same skillet used to brown meat, add onions and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, Worcestershire, and brown sugar. Stir and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in wine.

4. Bring to a boil and cook about 8 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Add to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours or until meat is fork-tender.

5. Remove ribs and vegetables and keep warm.

6. To make gravy, transfer cooking juices to a small saucepan, skimming fat. Discard rosemary and bay leaf. Bring juices to a boil. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and cold water together into a slurry. Stir into saucepan and cook about 2 minutes until thickened.

7. Place meat and vegetables on a platter with gravy on the side.


Try this other slow-cooker recipe

Classic Bolognese

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  • deborahreinhardt

If you have an hour, you can make this easy dessert that everyone will love.



Seriously, who doesn't want a hunk of this banana chocolate chip monkey bread right now?

My daughter moved home in October; lately, many households across our country have welcomed their adult children back. As we continue to navigate our way through this pandemic, I’m grateful she can work from home; equally grateful I’ve retired from working full-time to pursue my interests and writing projects.


Recently, she came upstairs from her office. It was clear she wasn’t having a great afternoon. Smelling the aroma coming from my oven, she asked what was I making. Here was the rest of that conversation.


Me: “Banana and chocolate chip monkey bread.”

Daughter: “I love you.”


It’s true that the mere mention of some of our favorite foods almost instantly lifts our mood. During the early days of COVID stay-at-home orders, one of the most popular recipe searches was banana bread, according to Google. Now, there’s nothing wrong with banana bread—I just took a loaf out of the oven today, the coldest day so far this winter—but if Bananas Foster and banana bread had a baby, it would be this dessert.


Soft, sweet bananas are nestled in pillow-soft dough that’s bathed in butter and brown sugar. Add chocolate chips that melt into the pull-apart dough and you have one of the most addicting desserts you’ve enjoyed in a while. If you want to pull out all the stops, add a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream on the side. Jesus, take the wheel!


It’s easy to see why we go ape over monkey bread. One reason has to be how the bread is eaten: with our fingers. Set the plate down in the middle of the table, pour cold glasses of milk, and call the kids in from the backyard. How fun is that?


It’s also one of those foods that many people remember from childhood, although you may have known it under a different name: pull-apart bread, bubble bread, even Hungarian coffee cake, a moniker given by the folks at Betty Crocker in the 1940s. (However, we made Hungarian coffee cake and it looked nothing like monkey bread.) There is a Hungarian dish called aranygaluska or Golden Dumpling Cake that was brought to the U.S. in the late 19th century by Jewish immigrants. Maybe my material grandmother enjoyed Golden Dumpling Cake; I can only guess.


Another writer with a passion for historical recipes, Tori Avey, suggested the idea of small balls of yeast dough baked together in a pan dates to the 19th century, and while they were buttery, they were not sweet. Think Parker House Rolls, developed in the 1870s by the Boston hotel (now called Omni Parker House Hotel).


Although money bread—in its buttery and sweetened form—has been in American cookbooks since the 1950s, the recipe received renewed attention when then First Lady Nancy Reagan included her buttery recipe as part of a White House Christmas.


Naturally, there are recipes for monkey bread that calls for the home baker to make the yeast dough from scratch, and that’s perfectly acceptable. But I’m all about shortcuts when it doesn’t compromise the outcome of the recipe, and monkey bread using refrigerated biscuits is a perfect example. I'll wager that most home cooks will make monkey bread using refrigerated dough, and we have Lively B. Willoughby to thank for that shortcut.


Willoughby teamed with Lowell Armstrong, a chemist with the Ballard & Ballard Co. of Louisville, Kentucky, came up with the idea for a refrigerated, packaged dough. Willoughby developed the product that was marketed as Ye Old Kentuckie Buttermilk Biscuits.


After the original patent expired in 1948, any company could manufacture refrigerated biscuits. In 1951, Pillsbury bought Ballard & Ballard and expanded the refrigerated dough product line. You can get more of the story here.


TIPS FROM THE KITCHEN


Unlike banana bread—usually the last stop for a banana before the trash bin or blender—you’ll want the fruit to still have some bite to it for this recipe because it softens during baking. I recently used some older bananas in this recipe and it didn’t look as pretty or taste as “clean” as it could have.


You can bake this bread either in a bundt cake pan or an angel food pan (any fluted tube cake pan will work). Be sure to use the cooking spray so it turns out without sticking.


And to keep the cinnamon sugar mess to a minimum, I prefer using a plastic zip top bag to shake the cut up biscuits in the mixture. But you also can use a bowl to roll the dough in the sugar and cinnamon; just avoid a flat plate to make the kitchen clean up easier.


Should there be any leftovers of this dessert, store in an air-tight container in your refrigerator. It can always be lightly warmed in a microwave the next day.


Finally, I've also made this with a 1/3 cup of chopped walnuts, which added a nice texture. If you're not a fan, certainly fine to leave them out. The recipe below makes six servings, enough for a family to enjoy while watching their favorite television program.




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  • deborahreinhardt

Start the weekend off with a delicious twist to a family breakfast favorite.

Come on, you know this looks good! Bacon and cheese hidden inside French toast—pass the syrup!

Eggy bread. German toast. Pain perdu. Poor knights. French toast. No matter what you call it, bread soaked in milk, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon is one of those dishes that transports me back to Saturday mornings during my childhood. I'll bet it does the same for you.


The much anticipated weekend was the time when adults could get extra chores done around the house, see friends or host house parties, and I could spend the day playing with my pals. Today, weekends still feel like mini vacations to me. I usually set aside time to treat myself, whether that’s with special food, a few moments of pampering, or a chance to see a friend (albeit now it’s a physically distanced visit).


When I was growing up, weekday breakfasts were not flashy in our household. Every day, Dad would have two pieces of toast, coffee, and a small glass of orange juice. I probably had cereal (hot or cold), maybe a scrambled egg with toast when there was a little more time.


Not much has changed for American families. It’s expected that breakfast cereal sales this year will top $21 million. There are many more products on today’s market that helps bring a hot breakfast to our table; I’m thinking of frozen waffles to heat up in the toaster or microwavable breakfast sandwiches. Still, when somebody takes the time to cook a hearty breakfast for you, that’s special, no matter what era you’re from.


This Stuffed French Toast recipe also reminds me of a place I visited in Kansas City, Missouri, about five years ago. I was researching my book about Missouri’s chocolate makers and a beautiful B&B, Southmoreland on the Plaza, offered me hospitality for one night. The owners and innkeepers at the time, Nancy Miller and Mark Reichle, were a lovely couple who left the corporate world in Ohio to purchase and operate this luxury B&B. Although both knew their way around the inn’s substantial kitchen, Mark was the chef.


So many guests over the years encouraged him to compile his recipes into a cookbook, which he eventually did. He was gracious to gift a book to me at the time of my visit, and I later sent a copy of Delectable Destinations to him. Whenever I cook from Mark’s book, I fondly remember my stay with him and Nancy, which included a totally decadent, full breakfast in their courtyard where I feasted on molasses-brined pork chops, among other dishes.


Sadly, the couple has since sold Southmoreland, but I will always remember how they catered to each guest, making everyone—myself included—feel cared for and important.


I’ve only made a small tweak to Mark’s Stuffed French Toast recipe, swapping turkey bacon for honey ham. I think the balance of sweet with savory—whether you use bacon or ham—is just right.


Of course, you could stuff the French toast with hazelnut spread or your favorite jam. Right now, I’m thinking I’ll change it up next time with a fig jam and brie or blue cheese. Play around with it and have fun. After all, it’s National Hot Breakfast Month.


Naturally, the best ingredients make a better dish. Sure you can use plain white bread, but it’s great with a sourdough or for a richer toast, try it with brioche.


And in case you’re wondering if the French invented French toast, the answer is no. The earliest recipe, in Latin, dates to about the 5th century Romans. The French makes use of stale bread in their pain perdu (lost bread). The German “poor knights” version of the dish dates to the 14th century. The term “French toast” first appeared in the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink in 1871.


Because we’re spending so much time indoors with immediate family members, take this opportunity to celebrate National Hot Breakfast Month; here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Make the Stuffed French Toast recipe. (duh)

  2. Have breakfast for dinner and watch a movie, like Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Here are a few other movie ideas.

  3. Purchase a few bags of breakfast cereals, including oatmeal, to donate to an area food pantry. This pandemic has created a lot of hungry families.

For more hot breakfast ideas this month, follow the kitchen on Facebook and Instagram @threewomeninthekitchen.com. You won't want to miss the Breakfast Bombs recipe; it's, well, the bomb!



Stuffed French Toast

This is a slightly modified recipe from the Southmoreland on the Plaza cookbook, Tried and True (2007/Morris Press Cookbooks). You could easily swap out the bacon for 6 slices of honey ham, which is what the original recipe included. The inn also usually dusted the dish with powdered sugar as a final garnish.


Ingredients:

4 eggs

2 cups half & half

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

12 slices bread

12 slices Swiss cheese

12 slices turkey bacon

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Maple syrup


Directions:

Beat eggs, half & half, vanilla, and cinnamon together. Set aside.

Build sandwiches by placing bacon between two slices of cheese. Arrange meat and cheese between the two slices of bread.

Dip sandwiches into the egg batter and cook on a buttered griddle or in a large skillet. Brown on both sides.

Cut each sandwich diagonally and arrange on a plate. Sprinkle almonds over each sandwich and drizzle with syrup.


YIELD: 4-6 servings





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