Shredded Beef Short Rib Tacos

Election Night 2016 falls on November 8. That means that evening’s Taco Tuesday offering needs to be able to compete with presidential politics. For my returns watch party, I’m going to serve these Shredded Beef Short Rib Tacos done in a slow cooker. I found a recipe on Rick Bayless’ website that I’m using as a jumping off point. After making changes to suit my tastes, I’m quite pleased with the results and I hope you will, too.


Shredded Beef Short Rib Tacos

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs beef short ribs (I prefer bone in)
1 large onion, cut lengthwise
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 28 ounce can whole, fire roasted tomatoes, drained
1 10 ounce can Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bottle beer, 12 ounces

If the insert of your slow cooker is stove-top safe use it. Otherwise, use a large skillet. Heat the oil in your choosen pan over medium high heat. While the oil heats, salt the beef short ribs. Brown the beef on all sides and then remove to a plate.

Reduce the heat and add the onion, stirring regularly. Cook them until soft and golden. This takes about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Transfer the garlic and onions to the slow cooker.

Sprinkle with salt. Lay the short ribs over the onions, bone side down. Quarter the tomatoes and distribute them and the can of Rotel over and around the beef. Drip the Worcestershire around the beef and then sprinkle the remaining spices around the meat. Pour the beer over everything.

Cover and turn on the slow cooker to high. The meat will be braised in 5-6 hours. Remove the meat from the cooker and the bones from the meat before shredding it coarsely. Strain out the onions and tomatoes and discard the bay leaves. Taste for seasoning. Mix the tomatoes and onions with the beef and serve with refried beans, guacamole and cheese on soft or hard corn tortillas.

Skillet Rosemary Olive Focaccia

I’m a sucker for good bread and focaccia is one of my favorites. I saw this recipe on Serious Eats and thought, no way! I’d rather knead my arms off (or make the KitchenAid do it) than have to wait until the next day for bread! My version works to make a beautiful and delicious loaf that when sliced in half makes awesome sandwiches.


Skillet Rosemary Olive Focaccia

3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 cups warm, not hot water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
about 10 pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
Coarse sea salt

Combine 3 1/4 cups flour, salt, rosemary leaves, yeast, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed until no dry flour remains. Increase speed and knead for 10 minutes, adding the other 1/4 cup of flour if the dough is sticking to the sides or bottom of the bowl.

Form the dough into a ball tucking the dough underneath itself, rotating it until it forms a tight ball. Place 1 tablespoon of oil in a large bowl and coat the bowl and dough before covering with a towel and setting into a warm place to rise, about 90 minutes.

Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into the bottom of a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with corn meal. Transfer dough to skillet and flatten it to cover the entire pan bottom. Cover and let rest for another hour.

Preheat oven to 500°F

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil across top of dough and then distribute the chopped olives. Using your fingertips, pock the top of the entire dough. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake until top and bottom golden brown and it is crisp when you lift it with a thin spatula, 16 to 20 minutes.

Transfer to a cutting board, allow to cool slightly. Slice and serve. Extra bread should be stored in a brown paper bag at room temperature.

Golden Rosemary Bread

I was looking through some old newspapers and I found this one for Rosemary Bread from Chef Paul Prudhomme. It gets its beatiful golden color from the turmeric. I altered it just a little, as I was out of savory and I have a big rosemary bush out front, so I used fresh herbs.


Golden/ Rosemary Bread

2 cups chicken stock
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
3-1/4 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flo
Olive oil spray
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Simmer the stock over medium heat until it is reduced to one cup. Let it cool to 110 degrees; then stir in the yeast and sugar.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl until they are frothy, and whisk in the salt.

Combine the stock mixture and the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer equipped with a dough hook. Stir briefly to combine; then add the rosemary and turmeric. With the mixer set on slow, gradually add 3-1/4 cups of the flour. Increase the speed to medium and process for 10 minutes. The dough should cling to the dough hook and be fairly elastic. If the dough is soft and sticky, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour.

Reduce the speed to medium slow and continue to process 5 more minutes, or until the dough is smooth, very elastic and clinging to the dough hook.

Flour your hands well, then gather the dough into a ball. Place the dough in a heavy mixing bowl (a thick porcelain bowl is best) that has been lightly greased with olive oil. Very lightly coat the dough with oil and place the dough in a warm, draft-free place. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let dough rise until doubled in volume, about one hour.

Spray a 5-by-8-inch bread pan lightly but evenly with vegetable oil spray. Form the dough into a loaf shape and place it in the prepared pan. Allow to rise for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake until the top is browned and the loaf sounds hollow when lightly struck, about 40 minutes. Remove from the pan and brush the top with the melted butter. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack before slicing.

The Birdseed Bars Wile E Coyote Should Have Made

afbd6edf6e0d3e95765c1e6a78d659dbWile E Coyote tried many times to catch the Road Runner by putting out piles of boobey-trapped birdseed. The Road Runner always ate and ran before Wille E Coyote’s evil plan could come to fruition.


What Mr. Coyote should have done is make these bird seed bars. Worth sticking around to finish, no matter the consequences!


Because I am taking these bars with me to the NO/AIDS Walk on Saturday, I pulled out half before adding only one cup of semisweet chocolate to the remaining. The bars are still delicious and will make much less mess on the hands!

Birdseed Bars

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup chia seeds
1 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, etc)
2 cups semi-sweet morsels
1 recipe honey carmel sauce (recipe below)

Toast oats on a large baking tray in a 350 degree F oven for five minutes. Add all the seeds to the tray and mix before baking 5 minutes more. Pour into a large mixing bowl with the dried fruit and set aside.

Honey Caramel Sauce

1 stick butter
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

Mix together butter, honey and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until it comes to a rolling boil. Stir 2 minutes more. Add in can of sweetened condensed milk and continue to stir until it is mixed well.

Add the honey caramel sauce to the seed mixture and stir well. Add in the semi-sweet morsels and then transfer mixture to parchment lined baking tray. Press flat, working fairly quickly as mixture hardens as it cools.

Place in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Remove from tray and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container.

Rosemary Smoked Boneless Pork Loin with Honey Glaze

I have a very large rosemary bush in front of my house that desperately needed pruning. I didn’t want to just throw away the branches, so I decided to use them to add flavor and smoke to a pork loin I’m grilling for Labor Day. I took a few of the newer growth branches and tied them together to make an herby basting brush for the glaze. The rest I spread over the cool side of the grill grates, so they would be under the meat for the final ten minutes or so of cooking.

I choose a boneless pork loin and cut my own pork chops, as I can make them thicker than the grocery usually sells them for a lot less cost. I served these chops with grilled sweet potato fries.

pork on grill

Rosemary Smoked Boneless Pork Loin with Honey Glaze

3 lb boneless pork loin roast
5 cups water, 1 cup ice
1/2 cup coarse salt
1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons rosemary leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Combine the brine ingredients in a saucepan over medium low heat with 2 cups of the water. Stir until the salt and honey dissolve. Remove from heat and stir in remaining water and ice. Allow to cool completely. Cut the loin into 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick chops (around six to eight). Cover the pork chops with the cooled brine and put in the refrigerator for one hour.

Combine the honey glaze ingredients in a small bowl and stir until well combined.

Prepare the grill for two zone cooking by putting the hot charcoal on one side of the grill. Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Let them sit on the counter while the coals get ready.

After sprinkling a little salt and pepper on the chops, place them on the hottest part of the grill, directly above the coals. Sear all the chops for about three to four minutes per side, rotating them about 90 degrees after 2 minutes if you want cross hatch grill marks. Once you turn the chops over to cook the other side, baste with honey glaze.

When both sides of the chops are seared, move them to the cooler (indirect heat) side of the grate on top of a layer of rosemary branches. Baste again with the glaze. Close the top and allow the fragrant smoke to flavor the chops. After five minutes, flip the chops and baste again. Grill for another 5 minutes. The chops are done when they reach an internal temperature of 140-145 degrees F.

Remove to a serving platter and brush a final time with the honey glaze. Allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Pollo al Limone My Way

I started this recipe test drive after reading a recipe for Rao’s famous Lemon Chicken and then studying the America’s Test Kitchen version. Those were both good but I’d rather do things my way. First of all, I made it pollo al limone e rosmarino (chicken with lemon and rosemary) because I can never have enough chicken or lemon or rosemary or lemon rosemary chicken. Frankly, I should just call this Chicken with Rosemary Lemon Gravy but I don’t know how to say that in Italian.

As restaurant broilers are quite a bit different from what I have at home, instead of trying to broil a whole chicken and risk overcooking the outside and undercooking the inside, I cut the chicken into six pieces (drumsticks, thighs, breasts) to begin. The rest of the chicken (back and wings), I put into the freezer for making stock.

Two cups of lemon juice and a cup of olive oil in the original sauce seemed excessive but the 1/4 cup juice and negligible oil of the Test Kitchen was too far in the other direction. I did like their idea of a pan sauce but I’m enough of a Southern girl that I prefer gravy when I can get it, so I made that instead. I also kept their idea of brining the chicken to keep it juicy but added a little more flavor to the brine to boost the flavor.

I served the chicken with my version of Smashed Potatoes (I just used rosemary salt on Yukon golds).

rosemary lemon chicken

Chicken with Rosemary Lemon Gravy

4 lb whole chicken cut into 6 to eight pieces, keeping on the skin and bones
1/4 cup salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup loosely packed rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
Zest and juice of 2 lemons (1/3 cup juice and 1 tablespoon zest)
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, chopped

Brine the chicken by placing the pieces in a large zip close bag. Mix the salt, lemon zest and rosemary leaves with 1 quart of water and stir until salt is dissolved. Pour over chicken and seal well. Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and as many as three.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Remove chicken from brine, picking off any rosemary leaves and pat dry. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet until smoking hot. Place chicken in the pan, skin side down. Cook until browned about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove breasts from skillet and turn over the rest of the chicken and cook the second side for 5 minutes more. Remove chicken from pan.

Pour out the fat from the pan. Toss in the butter and melt. Add in the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and sauté for a minute more. Sprinkle on the flour and cook until the roux becomes the color of peanut butter, 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and the lemon juice. Continue to stir until the sauce is smooth and it comes to a simmer.

Pour in any juices from the chicken and then add the chicken back to the pan, skin side up. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. While the chicken cooks, stir together the lemon zest and rosemary leaves.

Remove the pan from the oven and turn on the broiler to high. Place the chicken on a baking sheet (I used the one I finished the potatoes on) and broil for 5 to 10 minutes, until the skin is crisp and dark brown but not burned and the breasts register 160 degrees F and thighs and drumsticks register 175 degrees F. You might need to rotate the pan during the broil.

While the chicken is broiling, sprinkle half of the rosemary lemon zest into the sauce and stir to combine.

Remove the chicken from the broiler and rest for 5 minutes before plating. Ladle gravy over each piece of chicken and sprinkle remaining rosemary lemon zest over the top of each plate and serve.

Shish Kebob with Risotto

One of my favorite, quick dinners is grilled shish kebobs. Meat plus bell peppers, onions and mushrooms is a great combination and it only takes about 10 minutes cooking time. I also make the dinner easy on myself by using a Good Seasonings Italian Dressing packet for my marinade.

This is one of the few dishes that I grill over direct heat and also one where I not only don’t pull the meat out ahead of time to come to room temperature, I also freeze the metal skewers in advance. All goes to help the meat stay medium rare and not get tough as shoe leather.

While I used venison in my kebobs tonight, you can use 1 1/2 to 2 lbs of your favorite meat cut into chunks (or even drop the meat out altogether, as the marinaded and grilled veggies and mushrooms are super tasty).

I serve the kebobs with rice. This time I prepared a risotto with sherry and chicken stock and some of the extra mushrooms, sliced thin.

venison kabobs

Venison Shish Kebob

1 1/2 – 2 lbs meat, cubed into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 bell pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 onion, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 1/2 lbs small mushrooms
2 packets of Good Seasonings Italian Dressing

Make dressing according to the package directions. Pour 1 portion over the meat, bell pepper and onions and seal into a zip close plastic bag. Pour the next portion over the mushrooms and seal them in another bag. Marinate for at least three hours, turning occasionally.

Place metal skewers in the freezer.

When ready, prepare grill for direct cooking, with a cooler area along one side to move the kebabs to when there are flareups.

Skewer the meat and veggies, alternating meat and onion and pepper. Be sure to leave some room between the items so that all sides can get heat. I usually put all the mushrooms on their own skewers. Grill for about 2-4 minutes per side (four sides means about 10 minutes total cook time for medium rare). Do not cover the grill and do not step away – move skewers to the cooler area if there are flareups but this is a quick cook so stay vigilant.

Let the kebobs rest for about five minutes before removing from the skewers. Serve with rice.

Mushroom Risotto

1 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped finely
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine or sherry
4 -5 cups chicken stock (heated)
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

In a large pot heat oil and add mushrooms. Cook through, until almost all the liquid has been cooked away. Remove from pot and set aside.

Using the same pot, add butter and sauté onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in minced garlic for just a couple minutes more. Add the rice and toast it about two to 5 minutes.

Add the wine or sherry and stir frequently until all the liquid has been absorbed into the rice.

Add 1/2 cup of the heated chicken stock and stir frequently until absorbed. Cook at a slow simmer, continuing to add chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time and allowing the rice to absorb it before adding the next 1/2 cup. You may need only 4 cups of stock but I tend to keep extra on hand in case the risotto needs it.

Taste the rice – after about 25-30 minutes it should be soft and tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Just before the last batch of stock has been absorbed into the rice, add the mushrooms back into the pot. Stir well. Add the parmesan cheese and stir until creamy.

Serve immediately as risotto tends to get gummy the longer it sits.

For those of you who don’t want to spend so much time stirring, Martha Stewart invented an oven-baked method. You can adapt any Risotto recipe to this method.