Monday, February 27, 2012

Braised Short Ribs

We recently spent the weekend in Ludlow, Vermont.  Normally, it would have been a peak weekend for the New England ski town.  It is the home of Okemo Mountain, a popular ski destination, but this year snow has been elusive.

Okemo Mountain, Vermont
Regardless of the fact that there is no snow in ski country, it is winter in New England and when visiting ski country we want our food to be hearty and comforting.  Braised short ribs fit that description. 

Braised Short Ribs

They may sound fancy schmancy, but in reality, short ribs are amazingly easy to make.  After a few preparatory steps, they are a "set in the oven and forget" kind of meal.  Short ribs are also terrific to make in advance because they taste delicious when reheated.  That makes beef short ribs an ideal dish to take with you for a weekend dinner in Vermont, or anywhere you want to take a special main dish.  It is also a perfect dish to make for a family dinner and you won't have to spend all of your time in the kitchen.

This recipe includes a technique I learned from Chef Anne Burrell's short ribs recipe.  She suggests making a paste of the vegetables used in the sauce.  Normally, I would have diced the vegetables and made a chunky sauce, but I thought I'd give the pureed vegetable approach a try.

The Vegetable Puree

The result is a lovely, yet robust sauce that pairs well with those mandatory mashed potatoes you'll be serving on the side.  You should note that this recipe includes a hefty portion of tomato paste, resulting in a rich tomato based to the sauce.  You can also make a yummy pot roast with this recipe by substituting a chuck roast for the short ribs.

Braised Short Ribs
Serves 4
Braised Short Ribs Ingredients
  • 8 beef short ribs, about 5-6 pounds
  • Kosher salt, to season the ribs
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for the pot
  • 1 large onion, cut into chunks
  • 2 stalks of celery, cut into chunks
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1-12 ounce can of tomato paste
  • 3 cups hearty red wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
Season the short ribs well with the kosher salt.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat.  Get the oil very hot and add the short ribs to the pan, browning each side of the ribs really well.  It is important not to crowd the ribs in order to get a nice sear.

Browned Short Ribs

Remove the ribs from the pan when browned.  Drain the fat from the pan.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place all of the vegetables in your food processor and puree until you have made a paste.  Add olive oil to the same pan in which you browned the ribs.  Add the vegetable paste.  Season with salt.  Cook the vegetables until they have browned and started to coat the bottom of the pan.

The Vegetables Brown and Stick to the Pan

Cook and scrape, being careful not to burn the vegetables.  Add the tomato paste to the pan.  Cook the tomato paste with the vegetables for about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, stirring to mix the vegetables and wine.  Cook to reduce the mixture by about half.

The Reduced Sauce will be Thick

Add the two cups of water, thyme, and bay leaves to the pan.  Stir to combine.  Add the ribs to the pan.

Cover tightly and cook for 3 hours in the preheated oven.  Check periodically and add additional water to the pan, if necessary.  You can remove the cover for the last 30 minutes to thicken the sauce.  Remove the ribs from the pan and skim any fat from the top of the sauce.  Serve over mashed potatoes with the braising liquid as a gravy.

 You can get the printable Braised Short Ribs recipe by clicking the link.


Friday, February 24, 2012

A Vermont Weekend

Snow on Okemo Mountain
Last weekend we visited Vermont.  It was Presidents' Day weekend, typically a peak weekend for visitors to Vermont's ski country, but this has not been a good year for snow in Vermont.

The only snow to speak of was the snow on the mountains.  Even though the ski slopes have been making snow, ensuring skiing and snowboarding activities continued, we chose to spend our time exploring the area.

Our home base was Ludlow, Vermont, home of Okemo Mountain Ski Resort.

Ludlow on a Map

To explore we headed North.  I wanted to make a stop at the King Arthur Flour facility in Norwich, Vermont.  King Arthur Flour is undergoing a major expansion to their facilities, so if you visit before summer 2012 you may find them in some disarray.

King Arthur Flour Store
The retail store has plenty of hard to find kitchen items and many unique baking ingredients recommended by the fine King Arthur bakers on their Baking Banter blog.

King Arthur Products for Sale

I snagged some cinnamon chips and cinnamon Flav-R bites that I have been wanting to try for months and months.  They are destined for some scones in the very near future.  You won't go hungry while you are there.  There is a cafe in one section of the store so while there you can relax with a coffee and a cookie from their bakery.

Is there a teenager in your family?  Down the street a few miles, in the town of Hanover, New Hampshire, you'll find the campus of Dartmouth, one of the eight Ivy League colleges.  College towns are always fun for a visit.

Cupcake Snow Sculpture at Dartmouth

On the way to Norwich, you'll want to admire the scenery.  Take time to stop and admire the Quechee Gorge, a 165 foot deep, one-mile long gorge.

Quechee Gorge

If the weather allows, make sure you leave time to walk the trail along the gorge.  It was too icy for us on this trip, but we want to go back during warmer weather. This section of Vermont is also home to some talented artisans.  Those of you who admire fine glassware will want to stop in to visit the Simon Pearce store in Quechee.

Simon Pearce in Quechee, Vermont
The handcrafted glassware and home accents you'll find here are a feast for the eyes but be warned. The prices reflect the quality and craftsmanship.  Even the seconds will put a huge dent in your wallet.

Simon Pearce Glassware

There is a lovely restaurant on the premises that overlooks the adjacent river and falls.  You may recall that Vermont was hit hard by tropical storm Irene last year.  The flooding from the storm was devastating to Vermont.  While there has been much progress in restoring the roadways throughout Vermont, you will be able to see signs of the damage wherever you look.  The picture below shows the banks of the river littered with debris from the flood outside the Simon Pearce store.

Vermont's Flood Debris
Another, not to be missed, stop is the Shackleton Thomas gallery at The Mill in Bridgewater, Vermont.

The Shackleton Thomas Gallery
Here you'll be able to watch the woodworking and pottery craftspeople at work creating fine, handmade furniture, pottery, and home accessories.

The Shackleton Thomas Woodshop
It was here that I fell in love with Miranda Thomas' pottery, particularly the black carved designs.  I want some of the mugs.  I dream about them.

Miranda Thomas' Black Carved Pottery
These mugs are on my wish list...


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Savory Swiss Chard

Do you find yourself in a vegetable rut?  This time of year I find myself stuck eating the same vegetables over and over again...carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts.  This may be a great time to pick up a bunch or two of fresh greens and change up your vegetable sides a bit.  Spinach is my usual leafy green vegetable of choice, so on my most recent trip to the grocery store I decided to shake things up with some Swiss Chard.

Colorful Swiss Chard

Prepare your Swiss chard by rinsing the leaves well and cutting about an inch from the stems.  Discard this portion of the stems.  The rest of the stems are tasty.  Cut the stems from the leaves and chop into 1 inch pieces.   Cut the leaves into 1/2 inch widths.  It's as simple as that.

Savory Swiss Chard Ingredients
Savory Swiss Chard

  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard
  • 1 tablespoon garlic flavored extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 slices of bacon, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion sliced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

Heat the tablespoon of garlic flavored olive oil in a 12 inch frying pan over medium heat.  Add the red pepper flakes and bacon.  Cook the bacon until crispy.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Add the red onion and stem pieces from the Swiss chard.  Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.

Saute the Stems and Onions
Add the Swiss chard leaves and the chicken stock.  Stir to distribute the ingredients.  Cover the pan and cook for 5-10 minutes, until the Swiss chard is wilted and tender.

Adding the Swiss Chard to the Pan

 Remove the cover.  Stir and add the cooked bacon.  Grate a little bit of nutmeg into the pan, toss and serve.

Savory Swiss Chard Topped with Bacon

This same recipe works well with other greens with the cooking time adjusted based on the tenderness of the greens.  Get the printable Savory Swiss Chard recipe by clicking the link.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spinach and Kale Soup with Spinach Gremolata

Spinach and Kale Soup with Spinach Gremolata
I don't like to throw food out.  It just seems wasteful.  So, when I looked in my refrigerator last weekend and saw some kale and spinach that were very close to kitchen scrap status I decided I needed to make a soup.  Have I told you I love soup?    Having more greens on hand than I knew what to do with,  I remembered a recipe for a Three-Greens Soup with Spinach Gremolata I had seen recently.  That recipe was the inspiration for the soup I am sharing with you today.

Are you wiondering what gremolata is?  Gremolata is a condiment typically made of chopped parsley, lemon zest, and garlic.  For this recipe, the parsley is replaced with chopped spinach.  You'll definitely want to make the gremolata.  This flavorful concotion adds a special little punch to the soup's flavor.   You won't want to leave it out.

Lemon is essential, as well.  Both the zest and juice of the lemon are in the gremolata and the juice is added to the soup.  A fine gauge grater, or microplane, is a simple kitchen tool you'll want to use to make this soup.  It is the only tool that makes it possible to quickly grate the zest of a lemon.  Oh, while you are grating the lemon zest be sure to breathe in deeply.  The scent of the lemon will brighten your day. 
My Zesting Tool

This grater also makes it possible to finely grate a clove of garlic for the gremolata in about three seconds.  If you don't have a grater please add it to your list of kitchen things to buy.  You can pick one of these handy dandy graters up online or at any kitchen store. 

Some things to keep in mind as you make this soup:
  • The chicken broth you use will impact the amount of salt and pepper you will need to use.  Use the amounts listed in the recipe as a guide.  If your chicken broth includes salt as an ingredient you may need to use less salt than is in the recipe. 
  • You can use whatever kind of potato you have on hand.  I used russet potatoes, but Yukon Gold or red potatoes would work as well.
  • You could use other greens to make this soup.   Collard greens, Swiss chard, or escarole could be substituted.
  • If you keep bacon frozen in your freezer in packages of three or four strips, you'll easily be able to chop bacon for added flavor to soups.
Freezing Bacon Makes for Easy Chopping

  • Toast the pine niuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat until lightly browned.  As soon as you smell a nutty aroma you'll want to remove the pan from the heat.
Toasted Pine Nuts
 If you are ready, lest's make some soup...

Spinach and Kale Soup with Spinach Gremolata
Serves 6-8
The Soup Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 4 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 cups no-salt chicken broth (I used homemeade)
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
  • 7 large kale leaves, center ribs removed and chopped ( about 5 ounces)
  • 5 ounces of baby spinach, one cup reserved for gremolata
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can cannelini beans, optional

The Gremolata Ingredients
For the Gremolata
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the chopped bacon and cook until the fat is rendered.  Add the chopped onion, garlic and mushrooms.  Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook until the onions are tender and transluscent, about 5 minutes.

Cook the Bacon, Onion, Garlic and Mushrooms Together

Add the chicken broth, potatoes, kale and 2 cups of water to the pot.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer.  Cook for 5 minutes.  

Add the Kale and Simmer

Add the spinach and lemon juice.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. I added another 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook for 5-10 minutes more.  Serve hot, topped with the gremolata and toasted pine nuts.

To make the gremolata: mix 1 cup of the chopped spinach with the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Toss to combine and set aside.

Spinach and Kale Soup with Spinach Gremolata

Get the printable Spinach and Kale Soup with Spinach Gremolata recipe by clicking the link.

Here are some other soup recipes you may like:
Italian Wedding Soup
Chicken Tortilla Soup


Friday, February 10, 2012

The Basics of Pinterest

Have you heard about Pinterest?   The Pinterest site explains that Pinterest "lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes". I think of Pinterest as my personal magazine. It gives me a space to create storyboards reflecting my personal interests, favorite things, places of interest and things I want to remember. If you connect with me on Pinterest you'll be able to see my boards. As I write this I have twenty two boards in various stages of development.

At first I wasn't sure I would like Pinterest.  I didn't really get the point. Then I figured out one good way to use Pinterest would be as a substitute for bookmarking Internet pages in my browser.  I have many, many pages bookmarked that I want to remember or refer back to.  Instead of bookmarking a page, with Pinterest you "Pin It" using the Pin It button.  Pinning pages allows me to organize like pages into themes and have a visual reference when I am looking for something.  This seems to work really well for me.

Pinterest has the added feature of allowing you to follow others and lets others follow you.  Like Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest encourages you to create a community.  When you pin something to one of your boards, that pin becomes visible to others who are following you.  That makes Pinterest a great way to share your favorite content with others.  When I log in to Pinterest I can see the recent pins from the other pinners that I follow.  Below is a portion of a recent login page on Pinterest.

By hovering over any pin on the page I have three action options:  Repin, Like, or Comment.  You'll see how these options appear by looking at the top of the picture below.  These options give me a quick way to repin the pin to one of my boards, add the pin to my "Likes" or add a comment to the pin.

By clicking on the picture I am taken to the pinner's board and a larger view of the pin.  I can go to the original post from there by clicking the link in the upper right corner of the pin.  Below you can see Lisa's original pin of the melting snowman cookie and on the left there is a picture of her GRANDkid cuisine board.

From here I can go to the original cookie post at Crazy Domestic by clicking the link where it says "From".  I can also decided to repin it to one of my boards, like it or comment on the pin from here.  If I want to check out the other pins in Lisa's GRANDkids cuisine board I can do so by clicking on any of the pictures at the left of the page.

Doesn't this sound like fun?  I warn you, it can become addictive.  I find visiting Pinterest is a lot like flipping through the pages of a magazine, never really knowing what you might find of interest.  Do you want to give Pinterest a try?  Pinterest is a site you can join only by invitation.  If you would like me to send you an invitation to join the Pinterest community just send me a request by email at

Once you join Pinterest you'll want to download the Pinterest bookmarklet to make your pinning easy.  It adds the Pin It option to your browser's toolbar like this:

Sometimes you'll find the Pin It button on a site.  Here at Just One Donna I have added it just below the title of the blog post.  Having the Pin It bookmarklet on your toolbar makes it easy to pin from pages that don't have the button.
There you have it.  These are the basics to get you started on Pinterest.  If you have other questions once you have joined Pinterest be sure to check out the Pinterest Help page.  I hope to see you on Pinterest soon.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup
If you are a fan of mushrooms you are most likely a fan of mushroom soup as well.  No, not the kind of mushroom soup that comes in a can, but the kind you make lovingly yourself.  It's a special treat.

Do you think it is hard to make cream of mushroom soup?  Not at all.  It's actually a pretty quick soup to whip together and takes just a few simple ingredients.

The star of the soup, of course, is the mushrooms.  I used a mixture of white button mushrooms and baby bellas, the small version of portabellas.  You can use whatever you have on hand or even use a fancy wild mushroom mix.  Whatever you choose, it is going to be good.  Trust me.

Gather together your cast of characters.  You'll want to be sure you have a little sherry on hand.  No, you can not use cooking sherry.  I'm sorry if I'm sounding a little bossy here, but this, my friends is the secret love ingredient.  Sure, you can leave it out, but it just won't be as good as it could have been. 

Are you ready to make some soup?  Let's do this, shall we?

Cream of Mushroom Soup
Cream of Mushroom Soup Ingredients
  • 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms, about 5 cups
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • a good pinch of dried thyme, about 1/8 teaspoon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 tablespoon sherry
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, optional

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter with the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, mushrooms, salt, pepper and thyme.  Cook until the mushrooms have browned slightly and the onions are soft and tender, about five minutes.

Cooked Mushroom and Onion Mixture

Add the chicken broth to the mushroom mixture.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Simmer for five minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat to cool.

Mushroom Mixture and Broth

Once the mushroom mixture has cooled a bit, remove about a half cup of the mushrooms and onions to set aside.  How much you set aside really depends on how chunky you want your soup to be. Pour the rest of the mushroom mixture into a blender and puree.  Set aside.  In a saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and then add the flour, stirring to blend well.  Cook the flour mixture a minute or two and then add the half and half, stirring to combine well.  Add the mushroom puree and the reserved chunky, chopped mushrooms and onions. 

Heat the Cream and Mushrooms Together

Heat until hot and thickened.  Remove from the heat and add the sherry and nutmeg.  Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper as needed.  Serve.

Ready to Eat!

It's yummy, right?  Oh, so good.  You can get the printable cream of mushroom soup recipe by clicking the link.  Go ahead and make some today.  You'll be glad you did.



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