Stupid-Easy Barbecue Ribs…Because Sometimes It Really Doesn’t Have to Be That Hard

30 Mar

I love barbecue ribs, but as with most barbecue (not to be confused with grilling), it seems like a long, drawn-out, finicky process. After all, they have competition shows about such matters in which contestants treat barbecue like a series of impossible secret equations that we philistines can never comprehend. I have spent endless hours trying to perfect ribs, even going so far as to drag out the seasoning-marinating-smoking-finishing hoopla for days. And you know what I got for all of that work? My husband shrugged his shoulders and said, “Meh…”

After a little more trial and error, I finally figured out that good, tender, everyday ribs really aren’t that difficult after all. You just have to back away from the culture of barbecue snobbery and quit overthinking it. With only a few minutes of effort, I figured out a stupid-easy way to cook a rack of ribs that my husband loved, and earned me a happy Sunday afternoon. Here’s how I did it:

Bayou-Mama’s Stupid-Easy Baby Back Ribs

  • 1 rack (or more if you want) baby back ribs
  • Several teaspoons of your favorite BBQ rub (can be homemade or store-bought. I just grabbed some from the store…it was Sunday, people)
  • Your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 1 bottle of beer (I snagged a bottle of Shiner Bock from my husband)
  • Tools: a roasting pan with a rack, and heavy duty foil. You can add a brush if you really want to feel like the Julia Child of Barbecue.

Wow, that’s a whole bunch of stuff, isn’t it? How will we manage?

First, I seasoned both sides of the ribs liberally with the BBQ rub. You can let this sit overnight in the fridge of you have the time, but it’s not necessary. Next, I sprayed the bottom of a roasting pan with non-stick spray (for easier clean up) and placed a baking rack in the pan. This kept the ribs elevated so they would have heat circulating all around them. It also prevented them from basically boiling in their own liquid.

Next, I poured the beer in the bottom of the pan and covered the whole she-bang tightly with foil. I placed the pan in a pre-heated 275 degree oven and let it bake for about 2 to 2/2 hours. When I took it out of the oven, it looked like this:

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Don’t worry, it gets better, I promise. I then liberally brushed the ribs with BBQ sauce, recovered them with foil, and baked them for about 45 minutes to an hour:

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So, I had perfectly cooked, tender ribs but I wanted to firm up that sauce for a more caramelized finish. I placed the ribs uncovered under the broiler for 5 to 10 minutes, watching carefully to prevent those annoying unattended broiler mishaps:

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The result was fall-off-the-bone perfection that was far superior than any of my previous attempts at the perfect rib rain dance. The only catch is that it truly takes several hours in the oven, but you just can’t get around that. I said it was stupid-easy, not magic.

Now, if my husband could only streamline his lasagna (but that would probably involve handcuffing our toddler):

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Wait…What?

10 Mar

IMG_4343After finishing up a very un-fun work assignment today, I suddenly realized that it is already March…as in, like, third month of the year.  How in the heck did that happen? It seems like just yesterday I was cooking New Year’s lunch, and now I am staring at my husband’s tomato seedlings that have overtaken my kitchen table. Spring is just around the corner, (and spring cleaning is desperately needed in this house), but as much as the past two months seem a blur, we really did have some good times:

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We took a weekend road trip back to our college town…

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IMG_4250We celebrated Mardi Gras…

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We cooked a lot of great food…

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And ate a lot of good food…

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We had a rare Louisiana snow week…

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And I knitted a pair of socks for my husband. I’m also about 2/3 done with a sweater, but that’s a post for another day. The Heathens have also had enough school activities to keep all of us on our toes, so I guess it’s no wonder why I’m left wondering how the hell it’s March already.

So, spring cleaning? Maybe tomorrow.

Holiday Hangover

29 Dec

After weeks of shopping, knitting, sewing, cooking, entertaining, cleaning, our first Christmas in the new house was a success. Here are some of the highlights:

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As I have been known to do, I picked out a Christmas tree with zero foresight or appreciation for spatial reasoning. That’s my 10 year old for scale. And that’s the tree that ate my entire dining room. It only took two vehicles and four neighbors to get said tree into my house and upright.

hat

I made a bunch of gifts, including the above hat that I finished on Christmas night. Note to self–start knitted gifts before November to avoid frantic knitting on Christmas night.

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scarf

The final tally of homemade gifts: 2 hats, 2 scarves, 3 pairs of mittens, 6 dishcloths, 3 t-shirt quilts, and 6 bottles of vanilla extract. Not too shabby.

Then, we have just a small fraction of why you will find me living in the gym for the next year:

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Yeah…my jeans may just suffocate me due to Christmas week feasting. If the tenderloin, shrimp, and bourbon meatballs weren’t enough, we also had a giant turducken, about 100 turducken paninis, cookies, cakes, sangria, margaritas and more. In spite of all the busy chaos, we still had fun:

bella IMG_3941 IMG_3935 cycle car bear

Now, I need to sleep for a week, diet for 100 years, and dig my laundry room out from under the pile that has swallowed it.

Battling the Post-Christmas Crash—Or What Happens When a Manic Woman With OCD is Suddenly Project-Less

22 Dec

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For the past several weeks, I’ve either been knitting, sewing, or shopping like a maniac. I frantically finished teacher gifts, only to cast on for the final hat I’ve yet to complete. While we are scaling Christmas down this year (in theory anyway), I still found myself more stressed and pressed for time than I had expected. With only two days left, I’ll be cooking, cleaning, and knitting on than infernal hat with the delusional hope that I can finish it all in time.

In the craziness that pervades the Christmas bonanza, I also start thinking ahead to after Christmas. We all have plenty of Christmas traditions, but inevitably still experience that post-holiday crash. The kids are bummed that it’s over, and my project-oriented, OCD subconscious feels cast adrift with no direction or purpose. To remedy this ennui, and help alleviate the kid’s stir-crazy antics, we try to incorporate a few post-Christmas traditions so that they still have something to look forward to once their gift-a-plooza ends. Here are just a few of the small things we do:

  • New Year’s Eve fireworks—This is Louisiana, after all, and it’s our God-given right to blow crap up in the name of celebration. For $20 bucks, we can get the kids enough firepower to annoy our neighbors and keep them occupied for hours.
  • New Year’s Day Meal—This last-gasp feast includes all of those foods that superstition tells us will bring good luck and fortune in the new year. Diets are for January 2nd.
  • The Feast of the Epiphany King Cake—As the official start of the Mardi Gras season,  Epiphany is a great excuse for the first King Cake of the year. If I have time, I make it, but if not, every store around here will have one.
  • New puzzle—Now that our dining room is empty of Christmas decorations, and we don’t anticipate formal entertaining for a while to come, we get a new puzzle to work on throughout the month.
  • Selfish knitting/crafting—Now that I’ve spent months on gifts for others, I’ll cast on for that sweater I’ve been eye-balling in a Harry Potter knitting magazine. I’m a nerd like that.

So, while the next two days will probably still be full of frantic holiday prep, taking time to plan for some type of small, post-Christmas something may help ease the sting that comes from knowing that we all have to get back to the real world next week.

For now, I’m going to make a cocktail. After all, that real world ain’t coming until next week, and I think that I deserve it for the kids’ bathroom I’m about to clean.

At Least I Finished Something

10 Nov

I finished these waffle-pattern mittens yesterday. Sounds boring, right? Considering that G-Man is sick, Bear has a concussion from a scooter accident, and Bean resembles a tornado, I’d say that’s a miracle. Now, if only reclaiming my house from this mess were so easy…

The Disappearing Thanksgiving—Teaching My Kids Why Retailers and The Media Have Calendar Confusion

6 Nov

We all knew it was going to happen. The day after Halloween kicked off the retail Christmas campaigns, and from the local stores to every other television commercial, we are bombarded with holiday marketing. In fact, if you need any fall-themed décor for your Thanksgiving (still weeks away, mind you), then you’re sh*t out of luck. Those shelves have been cleared to make room for Christmas, Christmas, and more Christmas.

Apparently, unless you sell food, Thanksgiving has become the invisible, neglected, middle child of the holiday season. It’s one step away from being locked in the basement.

Don’t get me wrong–I love the holidays, and I plan ahead and craft year-round to make them affordable. I’m not opposed to anyone who wants to get the jump on their plans by shopping early, and I’m adept at tuning it out and minding my own business. However, when the retail machine threatens the core of Thanksgiving, maybe we’ve gone too far.

The Heathens seem to really have taken notice this year. G-Man is baffled as to why we are seeing so many Christmas commercials already, and both boys have heard all about how some stores will be open Thanksgiving Day from the morning news. I’ve tried to explain to them how retail works and why retailers undergo an obsessive media drive to get us to spend, spend, spend, but the boys continue to see it as nonsensical moves by confused companies who cannot read a calendar. I think they are onto something. Even as kids, they see something wrong with this picture.

Shopping on Thanksgiving? Thanks, but no thanks big box stores.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that you will never, ever, find me out of my house on Black Friday. Nothing destroys the whole “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men” vibe faster than watching normally sane people fight like Roman gladiators to be first through the doors of a store, or to snag those “limited number” deals. Retailers spend a lot of money to create that sense of desperate mania in us, and we are supposed to feel like we are missing out on something important if we don’t hurry up and participate. If that’s your thing, more power to you.

However, Thanksgiving is an important holiday. Wherever you fall on the American history opinion spectrum, I think we can all agree that a day of fellowship and gratitude is a good thing, and those two traits are often scarce in our hectic lives. Instead, many will be forced to work, and will have little to no opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. Meanwhile, these mega-companies will continue to encourage us to abandon our tables, families, and traditions, so we can show up to their doors and spend, spend, spend some more. That’s just really kind of sad when you think about it. What is even sadder is that retailers have it within their power to avoid this. PICK A DIFFERENT DAY! They made Black Friday a thing. Then they made Cyber Monday a thing. Why not make “Second Saturday in December” a thing?!? Why does it HAVE to be Thanksgiving? I bet their CEO’s aren’t working that day…grumble, grumble.

So, that’s my soapbox for today. While I can’t stop the beast that is retail marketing, I can show the kids that we aren’t playing into it. The Thanksgiving decorations are up, and we’ll keep this month focused on learning, serving others when we can, and preparing for a holiday that is truly about togetherness. If you’ve got any better ideas, I’m all ears, but let’s save Thanksgiving from that basement, shall we?

Halloween Dinner Ideas for Normal People…With Children…Because Pinterest Has No Place in That Interminable Wait For Dark

30 Oct

Halloween is tomorrow, and if you are a big, fat procrastinator like me, you may still have time to figure out your pre-Trick-or-Treat dinner. In the hectic after-school wait until dark, I usually strive for a very easy meal that doesn’t make me feel like too much of a slacker-mom. I don’t care what those supermoms on Pinterest say…I certainly do not have time to craft a cute, themed, labor-intensive dinner that I know in reality, my kids won’t remotely care about. They are simply watching the clock until they can be unleashed on our poor neighborhood like candy-starved fiends. During this hyperactive waiting period, my kids are already pinging off the walls from excitement, so making them sit down to a big dinner would be an epic fail. Here’s some of my favorite ideas for Halloween dinners that your brood may actually eat:

Caramel Apple Bacon Panini’s

I know these sound bizarre, but they are awesome! To help balance the flavors, I added a little bit of the rendered bacon fat to the butter that I spread on the outside of the sandwich, just prior to grilling. If you just HAVE to cut them out into shapes, more power to ya sister. I skip that step.

Pioneer Woman’s Tomato Soup

This is, hands down, my favorite tomato soup recipe. I serve it with bacon grilled cheese sandwiches. In fact, this is what I’m making tonight for our pumpkin carving session. Don’t skimp on the basil.

My Chicken Tortellini Soup

You can have this one ready in 20 minutes flat, and that’s if you are a slow poke.

Smokey Mac and Cheese

This one requires a little more effort, but you can make it ahead of time and then just toss the casserole in the oven when you are ready. Carbs and protein…what more could they want?

So, these are a few ideas in case you are getting down to the wire. I understand last minute Halloween stress, because I actually had to go to three stores today to find pumpkins. Apparently in retail land, Halloween ended a week ago, Thanksgiving has been booted off the table, and Christmas is next week….sigh.

As for me, I have to confess that, this year, I got lucky. No last minute dinner scramble! Our new neighborhood rocks, and we’re are having a cul-de-sac block party. All I have do to is bring an appetizer, and other neighbors are grilling for all the families around us. I’ll whip up some Bourbon Meatballs, grab a folding chair, and let the Heathens run wild. And monitor my husband and his dry ice, special effects antics…but that’s a story for another day.

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