Monthly Archives: September 2013

Barbequed Babyback Ribs


Thru March 20 129So now that I’ve publicly admitted it is fall, I felt compelled to revert to summer mode this past weekend. Who says barbequed ribs are only for summer, and who says a girl can’t grill up super tender and tasty ribs? I take issue with two suggested premises: 1.) certain foods can only be cooked/eaten at certain times of the year 2.) men are better on the barbeque. Ooh, the English teacher in me just realized that the second premise sounds like I am suggesting men should be thrown on the outdoor flames – well, that has, on occasion occurred to me. However, for the purposes of this post, I am suggesting that men are not necessarily more skilled at grilling food on the barbeque. (If anyone is sensing any resentments there, it simply isn’t true – LOL!) With regard to the first premise, as long as foods are not grown seasonally and are readily available year-round, I think they should be eaten year round. For those of you who have ever attended one of my Thanksgiving in July gatherings, you know what I’m talking about. So, now for the ribs. Over the past few years I was introduced to a new method for slow cooking ribs which includes starting them off in the oven and then transferring them to the grill. Michael Chiarello was the inspiration for this style. Let me tell you, the ribs come out moist and tender – practically falling off the bone. If you’re looking for a dryer, rip your front teeth out style of rib, this recipe is not for you. You can certainly use whatever barbeque sauce you like (I never discount the worthiness of bottled sauce – there’s a reason these people/companies are able to sell their product: it’s good), but I have included my recipe for a spicy/zesty sauce similar to an Open Pit style, and also this link to Michael Chiarello’s Espresso Barbeque sauce which is amazing and unlike any other barbeque sauce I’ve tasted. If you’re making your own sauce, I recommend making it a day in advance so that the flavors really develop, however, since the ribs take 3-4 hours, worst case scenario: start your barbeque sauce when you begin prepping/cooking the ribs. You can also use your favorite dry rub (there are many commercial brands available – or make your own), but if you do so, eliminate the salt and pepper – I do recommend keeping the garlic because it adds such good flavor as the ribs slow cook in the oven. I use a gas grill, because that’s what I have, but a charcoal grill would only intensify the flavors and add to the overall flavor. These ribs go great with blue cheese coleslaw, caprese pasta salad, garlic and bacon smashed potatoes, or grilled vegetables (to be posted in the future). I served them with grilled corn (it’s probably the last of the season, so I had to embrace it) and roasted golden beets (also to be posted in the future). This is a great meal for a crowd – particularly if you can find the ribs on sale. The measurements here are for two full racks of babyback ribs, but can easily be adjusted. (Serves 5-6).


  • 2 Full Racks/Slabs Babyback Pork Ribs
  • 6-10 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • Kosher or Good Quality Coarse Salt- can be a blend (I use a blend that my sister-in-law brought from France)
  • Seasoned/Mixed-up Pepper
  • Barbeque Sauce (see recipe below or link above)


Preheat oven to 325 Degrees. Cut ribs between every 3-4 bones. Place one layer of ribs in a roasting pan (I use a disposable foil pan) and rub with 1/2 the garlic and a generous amount of salt and pepper (or dry rub). Add a second layer of ribs and repeat rub process. through Sept 24 001Cover roasting pan with aluminium foil and seal as tightly as possible. Place in preheated oven and cook for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove from oven and rotate the layers so that the top layer becomes the bottom layer and vice versa. Repeat this process every 45 minutes. Thru March 20 101Overall cooking time for the ribs is about 3-4 hours – cook until they reach desired tenderness (I go for practically falling off the bone). After last rotating process, prepare a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill. Remove ribs from oven, coat with a generous amount of barbeque sauce (on both sides) and place on grill meat side up. through Sept 24 009Grill for about 10 minutes and baste ribs again with sauce. Flip ribs so the meat side is directly on the grill and grill until desired “crispy crust” is achieved. through Sept 24 012Serve immediately with additional sauce.

Zesty/Spicy Barbeque Sauce:

  • 3/4cup White Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Cider (apple) Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar (cherry if available)
  • 2 TBS. Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper (depending on desired heat)
  • 1/2-1 TBS. Hot Sauce (my favorites are Frank’s or Texas Pete’s)
  • 2 TBS. Dijon Mustard
  • 2 TBS. Honey
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Cup Molasses
  • 1.5 Cups Ketchup
  • 1 TBS. Garlic Powder
  • Salt and Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Cook over medium/high heat (whisking until all ingredients are incorporated) until sauce reaches a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer sauce for at least 2 hours. Adjust seasoning according to taste.




Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Ginger Cream Cheese Glaze

Pumpkin Spice MuffinAs much as I don’t want to admit it, it’s fall. Nothing celebrates fall quite like pumpkin. I love the traditional spices that accompany pumpkin, but my hands-down favorite is ginger. I also love cream cheese frosting, so I decided to top my pumpkin muffins with a bit of ginger cream cheese frosting. While muffins aren’t traditionally frosted, I was making these muffins for my students, and they would never complain about the addition of frosting. Certainly you can omit the frosting for a more traditional breakfast muffin, but I encourage you to at least make the muffins once with frosting. I used baking cups with my muffins, but it’s not necessary. Makes 10-12 muffins (photos show a triple batch).


  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar + 2 TBS. for topping
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1.5 tsp. Cinnamon + 1 tsp. for topping
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. Nutmeg + 1/4 tsp. for topping
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2  Can (16Oz.) Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/2 Cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1 Egg
  • 1.5 tsp. Vanilla
  • 4 TBS. Unsalted Butter – cut into small pieces
  • Crystallized Ginger – optional, for garnish


Preheat oven to 400 Degrees. Sift together all dry ingredients. Sift dry ingredientsAdd butter and mix in, until completely incorporated, using a pastry cutter or two forks. Work in butterIn a separate bowl, combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, egg, and vanilla – mix. combine pumpkin pureeAdd pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredient mixture and gently mix. Add wet mixtureGrease muffin tin or line with baking cups. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full.Fill muffin trays Combine 2 TBS. sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg and sprinkle over the top of muffin batter. Bake 20-25 minutes (test for doneness by inserting a toothpick). Allow to cool 10-15 minutes (cool enough to handle) and then remove muffins from tins. Allow muffins to cool completely before frosting. Frost and garnish with crystallized ginger.

Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 4 Oz. Cream Cheese – softened
  • 1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter – softened
  • About 1/2 Lb. Confectioners (Powdered) Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1 TBS. Ginger Syrup*

Using an electric hand mixer, combine cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add vanilla and ginger syrup and then add confectioners sugar until desired consistency is reached.

* Can substitute Ground Ginger to taste.

Finished muffin

Steak Salad

Sirloin Steak SaladThis is a classic kitchen sink recipe – it was a combination of ingredients I had available; the result was great. My daughter came home while I was eating my salad and I thought she was going to steal it right out from under me – instead she just said “I know you’re planning on making me one of those.” As always, I encourage you to modify based on the ingredients you have on hand, but remember to include a variety of flavor elements, including, if available, savory, sweet, salty, spicy. One unique ingredient that I used which may be hard to find is a rosemary pistachio cracker which I broke into small pieces and used almost like a crouton. I loved the crunch and the flavor it added – see what happens when you experiment with what you have in the cupboard? I’m including a picture of the crackers – they’re worth looking for – they are delicious smeared with goat cheese. For my local followers: they are available at Westborn Market.Pistachio rosemary crackers 002While the steak would appear to be the star of this salad, I would argue that it is the veggies that make the salad. The steak was a simple NY Strip seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked to medium rare on the grill. You can use a variety of cuts (or even substitute chicken or salmon), but make sure you use a tender but flavorful cut. As for the veggies and other toppings – I used yellow tomatoes from my garden (love the low acid and sweet flavor), English cucumbers, fresh radish slices, goat cheese, and mixed spring greens. I topped the salad with a homemade cherry balsamic vinaigrette, but use your favorite dressing. My daughter suggested using more cheese – I would agree. I think it would have been even better with blue cheese crumbles, but goat cheese is what I had. Again, I loved the addition of the rosemary pistachio crackers, but as an alternative, you could add nuts and croutons. As with most of my salad recipes, I haven’t included measurements – use whatever amounts suit you.


  • Spring Salad Mix (or your favorite greens)
  • Radishes – thinly slices
  • Fresh Tomatoes (yellow, or your favorite variety)
  • English Cucumber – sliced
  • Goat Cheese
  • Rosemary Pistachio Crackers – crumbled
  • NY Strip Steak – grilled to desired temperature (shown medium rare)- trimmed and thinly sliced

Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  •  1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Cherry Balsamic Vinegar
  • 5 TBS. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 heaping tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a jar or container with a lid. Shake well until all ingredients are well combined.

Chili Mac

Chili Mac 2

Chili Mac

My mother used to make this quite a bit, and we all loved it. She called it “goop” because she said it wasn’t technically ghoulash. I call it chili mac, but it’s not technically chili because it doesn’t have all of the chili spices (or beans). As you can imagine, my kids also love it. It’s super easy to make, and, if you’re like me, you probably have many of the ingredients on hand with the exception, maybe, of the ground beef (which I usually have frozen). You could easily spice this up by adding more chili powder and/or red pepper flakes (I add a little of both, but my kids don’t like it spicy). You can also top it with cheese and finish it off in the oven so that the cheese makes a nice warm blanket for the chili mac. This is a great weeknight dinner, and it’s almost better as leftovers.


  • 1.5 Lbs. Ground Beef (80/20 or 85/15)
  • 3 Sweet Peppers (Green, Red, Yellow or Orange- chopped
  • 1 Large Sweet Onion- chopped
  • 3 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1-2 TBS.Olive Oil
  • 2  28 Oz. Can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 16 Oz. Can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 Lb. Macaroni (or other small shaped pasta)
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 TBS. Dried Italian Herbs
  • 1 TBS. Sugar
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Shredded Cheese (Mexican Blend or your favorite) – Optional



Cook pasta to al dente (or even a little less). Drain pasta and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside. Cook ground beef in a skillet or large saute pan over medium heat. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot or large, deep saute pan; add garlic and saute until just fragrant. Add onion and peppers and saute until all are softened. Saute onion and peppers until tenderUsing a slotted spoon (to drain off some of the excess fat and liquid) transfer cooked ground beef to pot with cooked peppers, onions, and garlic. Add canned tomatoes, paste, and sauce as well as Italian herbs, sugar, and season generously with salt and pepper. Simmer over medium heat for 20-30 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Remove bay leaf, and add macaroni to pot. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Garnish with shredded cheese if desired.Chili Mac

Very Berry Scones

Very Berry Scone cropped

Very Berry Drop Scones

In embracing scones this past year, I’ve experimented quite a bit. Summertime in Michigan means lots of berries at the farmer’s market. My kids love my blueberry scones, so I decided to step up the amount and variety of berries. I used blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. You could use any combination of berries, but, in my humble opinion, the more the better. Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures of this batch of scones as I made and delivered them to my daughter’s lacrosse game. In an effort to not crush all of the berries, I made “drop style” scones. Typically I would form the dough into a disc and cut the scones into triangles, but with these scones I just scooped out batter and dropped it on the baking sheet. As you can see from the photos, the scones are very rustic looking, but they’re bursting with berries…yum! You can adjust the sugar a bit if you like sweeter scones, but I prefer a scone that is not overly sweetened- it allows the featured ingredient (berries in this case) to really come through.


  • 2 Cups Fresh Berries (Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries)
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 4TBS. Sugar (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter – cut into chunks
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Cup Heavy Cream


Preheat oven to 425 Degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Use a fork to mix in the cream, adding a bit at a time until it reaching a biscuit dough consistency. Gently fold in the berries, mixing in to incorporate, but not over-mixing (the berries will break apart too much). Use a large spoon and drop scones onto a parchment paper lined (or greased) baking sheet. Sprinkle scones with additional sugar. Bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on size of scones). iPhone photos 105

Rigatoni with Roasted Chicken, Pancetta, Tomatoes and Arugula

Rigatoni with roasted chicken, pancetta, tomatoes and arugual

Rigatoni with Roasted Chicken, Pancetta, Tomatoes and Arugula

This is one of those pasta dishes, like most I create, that was a result of what I had on hand. I was testing out the rotisserie feature on the grill and I roasted a chicken. It was a small bird (from of the local farmers at the market), so I wasn’t sure there was enough to serve 5 of us, but I knew it would be enough if combined with pasta. The rotisserie chickens that are available in almost all grocery stores these days are great – and, obviously, super easy. I had some pancetta in the fridge, but bacon would be a perfectly fine substitute, or you could skip it all together and substitute olive oil. I love the peppery flavor arugula adds, but you could also use a bitter type green like kale, collard or turnip greens. As always, use your favorite shape of pasta or whatever you have available.


  • 2 Cups Roasted Chicken – chopped or shredded into good sized strips
  • 8-10 Slices Pancetta (about 1.5 oz.) – chopped
  • 3-4 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
  • 1 Cup White Wine*
  • 1 Cup Chicken Stock/Broth
  • 2.5 Oz. Arugula (about 2 cups loosely packed)
  • 1 Cup Grape or Cherry Tomatoes – cut in 1/2
  • 1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Lb. Rigatoni (or favorite pasta)

* Use 2 Cups chicken stock/broth if you don’t want to use wine.


Roasted Chicken


Cook pasta according to directions, until al dente. Drain pasta and run under cold water until completely cooled (to stop the cooking process) and set aside. Add pancetta (or bacon) to a large saute pan and cook over medium heat until crispy.Brown pancetta Add garlic to pan and saute until fragrant and softened. Add wine and chicken stock and cook until reduced by about 50%. Add chicken and tomatoes and saute for about 2 minutes until tomatoes are softened but not falling apart. Chicken and tomatoesAdd arugula and saute for an additional minute until wilted. Add arugulaReady to add pastaAdd pasta and parmesan cheese and toss until well combined. Add cheeseServe immediately – garnish with additional parmesan cheese.

Lemon Lavender Cupcakes

LemonLavender Cupcakes Plated

Lemon Lavender Cupcakes

I recently made these for Auntie Sarah’s birthday. It has been tradition (for over 20 years) that I make a lemon cake for her birthday. However, since I’ve been on a cupcake kick lately, and have already blogged my Lemon Cake, I decided to make these cupcakes. The cupcakes are all the same, I just used two different types of frosting. The lemon buttercream frosting was amazing – VERY lemony, but that’s what Sarah loves (you can easily adjust the amount of lemon flavor in the frosting). The lavender cream cheese frosting was equally good – it’s certainly a more mellow flavor, but I loved the combination of the lavender with the cream cheese. (Makes 12 cupcakes)


  • 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter – softened
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1.5 Cups Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2cup Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Honey (can substitue Lavender syrup)
  • 1 TBS. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 TBS. Lemon Zest

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Line a muffin tin with baking cups.

Cream together butter and sugar (use an electric mixer on medium high speed). Add eggs one at a time and continue to mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine four, baking powder and salt -whisk until combined. In another bowl, combine milk, honey, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest.

Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until combined, add the milk mixture, and then remaining flour mix – mix until combined, but do not overmix.

Fill baking cups about 2/3 full. cupcakes in tinsBake for 18-20 minutes  (check for doneness by inserting a toothpick- if it comes out clean, they are done). Remove cupcakes from baking tin and set on wire rack to cool. Do not frost cupcakes until completely cooled.

For the Lemon Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1 Cup Unsalted Butter – softened
  • 3 3/4 Cups Confectioners Sugar
  • 1 Lemon – Juice and Zest
  • 1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8tsp. Salt
  • Yellow Food Coloring (optional)

Using an electric mixer beat butter, sugar and salt until well combined. Add lemon juice, zest, and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add a drop or two of yellow food coloring,if desired, and mix until desired color is achieved. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and garnish each with a small lemon slice or lemon zest.

For the Lavender Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 Package (8 Oz.) of Cream Cheese – softened
  • 1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter – softened
  • 1/3 Cup Lavender Syrup (can substitute honey)
  • Approx. 3/4 Cup Confectioners Sugar
  • Red and Blue Food Coloring (optional)
  • Fresh or Dried Lavender Flowers (for garnish)

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter and lavender syrup until fluffy (a couple of minutes). Gradually add confectioners sugar until desired consistency is reached. Add a drop or two each of red and blue food coloring if desired – mix until desired color is achieved. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and garnish with lavender flowers.
Lavender frosted close-up

LemonLavender Cupcakes Plated