Monday, May 24, 2010

Ribs To Die For!

BBQ ribs, corn bread and baked beans

I like to ask people this question, "If you were on death row waiting to be hanged what would be your last meal?" Ok so maybe the question is a little dramatic and I could just ask, "What is your most favorite meal?", but you have to admit that my death row question really makes a person think about their absolute, most favorite meal!

I would kill for really good BBQ ribs! Which I guess creates a paradox because I would be sent to death row where I would have BBQ ribs as my last meal! I just love the succulent, juicy, fall off the bone, sweet and spicy taste of really good BBQ ribs. Here's a recipe that I like to make especially in the summer. It is rubbed with a spice rub which has cocoa powder as an unusual ingredient, baked in the oven and then finished with BBQ sauce. People I have made this for have said it's good, and maybe even worth killing for!

BBQ Ribs

2 racks of St Louis style or baby back ribs. Trim excess fat, and remove the skin membrane on the inner side of the ribs so that the spice rub will penetrate.

Spice Rub for 2 racks of ribs:

3 tbsp ground fennel
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp celery seed
1 tbsp chili powder
½ tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp salt
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 cup BBQ sauce

  • Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil, and place a wire rack on top of each. Mix all ingredients together except the Dijon mustard. Spread the Dijon mustard on both sides of the ribs. Sprinkle spice mixture evenly over both sides of each rack of ribs. Press the spice mixture into the ribs to coat completely. Set aside in fridge for at least 2 hours for the flavors to penetrate.
  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Cook ribs on racks on sheets for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 275°F for another 2 – 2½ hours (until meat pulls away easily from the bones).
  • Remove from oven and using a basting/pastry brush, smother the ribs with ½ the BBQ sauce. Return to oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove, brush with the remaining BBQ sauce and let it stand 10 minutes for juices to redistribute before serving.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Little Miss M's Kitchen

The finished kitchen
My drawing of the kitchen

I hate my kitchen counters. The kitchen cabinets are a little worn but they are made of solid oak and can be refinished. The kitchen counters on the other hand are ugly tiles with dirty looking dark grout. They can be seen in some of the photos of the food especially when I have hungry people waiting for their dinner and I have less than 10 seconds to take a photo of a dish!

So when Little Miss M started showing interest in play cooking or "masak-masak” in the Malay language which translated literally is "cook-cook", I jumped at the chance to design and build "my" dream kitchen! I started by deciding where it would go and then designing the size and features of the kitchen. We got some ideas from blogs and most of them utilized tables and knick knacks from Ikea. Building this kitchen got us quite creative and we had a lot of fun going to the home improvement store thinking about what we could use to build our own faucet with sink, microwave and fridge from things there. 

Because we used wood and paint that we already had, we only spent about $20 on plastic baskets from the Dollar store, the hinges, magnetic door latch that we used for the microwave and fridge and PVC piping for the faucet. The sink is a cooking pot that my friend Ivan had given to me (the flat handleless lid is used as a play pizza pan!)

We thought we could knock out the kitchen in a weekend or two but because of bad weather, in the end it took us about five weekends! Would we do it again? Hmmm, it was a lot of work and we could have bought a nice play kitchen for only about $150, but seeing our work and the fun that Little Miss M gets when she plays with it is priceless. Now if only I could convince Keith that our kitchen will be easier to renovate….

Monday, May 3, 2010

Not My Mother's Meatloaf

Ok maybe the title is a little deceptive because my mother never actually made meatloaf, but if she did chances are she would have made it the traditional way which is to cook it in a loaf/bread pan. When I first started making meatloaf that was how I cooked it too, but was quite unhappy with the results. The meatloaf tended to steam in it's juices and at times it would just fall apart when I tried to unmold it from the loaf pan. I got the idea to shape the meatloaf and cook it on a parchment paper covered baking sheet while watching "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" on The Food Network - I believe Bobby Flay lost that one to his opponents.

The other difference in my recipe is that I use a combination of equal parts ground beef and ground pork because I think this gives a much lighter meatloaf. Keith said it tasted really good like this than when made with just ground beef. It reminded him of meatballs or fresh-made sausage. I think using beef with any other meat such as ground chicken or turkey would also work just as well.

Meatloaf is a classic comfort food which can be delicious and satisfying when made well and this recipe is sure to produce a well flavored, juicy meatloaf that holds up well and will become a family favorite just as it has become ours.

Serves 4

¾ pounds ground beef
¾ pounds ground pork
½ large onion, finely chopped or grated
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 carrot, finely chopped
½ cup sweet corn
1 egg
1½ cups fresh bread crumbs
½ tbsp parsley flakes
½ tbsp Italian seasoning
½ tbsp crushed bay leaves
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp pepper
¼ cup Parmesan, grated (optional)

1 cup ketchup
1½ tbsp beef/chicken bouillon powder
2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp dry mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Preheat oven to 375°F
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil, sauté onions, garlic, carrots and sweet corn about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • In a small bowl, combine ketchup, bouillon powder, Balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, dry mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Reserve 3 tbsp for top of meatloaf.
  • In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, bread crumbs, sautéed vegetables, seasonings, egg, remaining sauce mixture, and optionally, Parmesan cheese.
  • Mold the meat into a loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pour remaining sauce over meat loaf to coat. Bake for 1¼ hour or until internal temperature is 165°F.
  • Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.