{Recipe} Perfect Baby Back Ribs- an art or a science?

There’s nothing worse than a chewy, tough rib! I have had my share of terrible ribs, at home and at restaurants. BUT, when I finally get a finger-licking, out-of-this-world rib, I instantly forget all those bad experience and only hear angels singing from above. It’s a crap-shoot when it comes to ribs. I made it my personal mission to perfect The Rib.

Ribs are prepared in a variety of ways…. smoked or grilled or baked or boiled, dry rub or wet rub, sweet or spicy.  It makes me wonder… is it an art or a science? Should I go with pork or beef? What destroys a rib? I’ve been playing around with ribs for years, and I’ve definitely had some hits and misses. I fondly remember when Nick and his roomie Terry first cooked for me a delectable batch of finger-licking ribs. They had an amazing amount of flavor that was intensified due to slow cooking on a charcoal grill. Apparently, Nick doesn’t remember this 16 years later, but I do. Maybe Terry remembers, too? Those ribs have never been recreated, but I still smile when I think about those good ol’ college cooking days.

After a a few dozen practice rounds, I think I have finally perfected my favorite way to prepare ribs. I only use baby back ribs, as I find that St. Louis style ribs are too meaty and chewy for my taste. Nothing wrong with them- hey, I use to live in St. Louis! I just haven’t found a good way to make them tender or enjoyable at home. I just have better results with baby back. I also allow for some resting time during the process… it’s part of the “art.”

Continue reading

Advertisements

{Trip Report} LAVA LAVA LAVA

NOTE: This trip report details the Big Island portion of our 2 week Hawaiian adventure. To read about Maui, click HERE.

Day Eight:  Even though we had to say goodbye to Maui, a new adventure awaited us on the Big Island. We flew via Hawaiian Airlines (booked for $100 per person via Orbitz.com), and we found the quick flight pleasant and refreshing (mist shoots out from overhead- a welcome after sitting in the hot airport). The plane flew over Maui, so I ‘sorta’ got to see the road to Hana. The staggering terrain looked lush, unpopulated, and very, very green. I determined in that moment to come back and see more of that beautiful island.

We soon lost sight of Maui, flying over the azure waters before making our descent to Kona. The ride was so brief; maybe 20 minutes total flight time- barely enough time for the attendants to pass out juice cups.

IMG_8771

Outdoor baggage claim

We landed on time and pulled right up to the outdoor airport. Literally! We hopped off the plane, walked through a flimsy fence to a covered waiting area. The airport was basically a cluster of pavilions! Xander kept saying “This isn’t an airport.” Our suitcases arrived promptly, and we picked up our Malibu rental from National soon thereafter. The agency had many more fees than Hotwire estimated- $75 more! I wasn’t happy about that.

My first reaction when I saw the Big Island from above was to say “wow!” Its has a unique, unusual, surreal landscape. Rugged black lava rock is everywhere. There’s so much of it that it’s shocking,  and … well, pretty cool.

I spy lava!

I spy lava… AND a peace sign.

Continue reading

{Trip Report} The FL Keys for Winter Break

Those who live in colder regions of the USA typically get a wonderful week off in February called ‘Winter Break.’ Throngs of people take advantage of the time off from school to get an actual break from the brutal winter weather. Most of us are plain SICK of snow and freezing temperatures by February. Last year I regretted not booking a warm weather vacation, but I did check for last minute deals: there were none left. Flights were booked solid with the exception of a few $1,000 seats left. Um, no thank you! I vowed not to make that mistake again. I budgeted our family of 3 approximately $2,500 (see expense report at the bottom) and began to research possible destinations that would fit my small (teacher) budget. In the end, the Florida Keys won.

sign

Saturday: We are loyal Southwest Airline customers, especially after they integrated the A/B/C lineup concept; we despised the first-come, first-serve lineup gig they had years and years ago. Eight or so years ago we got rid of all our credit cards and signed up for the Visa Southwest Reward card. We get points for all our purchases, and we find that it helps fund our vacations. For instance, last year we cashed in our points and scored six free round trip flights to places like Florida and Puerto Rico. We currently have three free flights waiting to be used for our next trip. Since Southwest bought Airtrain, more and more international flights are coming available; soon we’ll be able to use our points easily to book flights on Southwest.com to Aruba, Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Dominican Republic. In a nutshell, we love Southwest, and we used points to help ease the cost of flying down to Florida during a prime time.

Our nonstop flight out of Buffalo was set to depart mid afternoon.  We were a little anxious about our flight being cancelled or delayed due to a storm that had wreaked havoc in many nearby cities. Just the day before we had received an additional 9″ of snow.

At 7:30 in the morning, Southwest text me to say that our 3:30 pm flight was already delayed. That didn’t sound promising! We hit the road just before noon and made it to Buffalo with plenty of time to spare. We were ushered to the prescreen TSA line where we didn’t have to remove our shoes or sweatshirts. They did test Nick’s hands, though. They also pulled his carry on because he had a big, big box cutter in it. Awesome.

Continue reading

{Trip Report} NYC Holiday Style

I’m sooo behind on my trip reports! Since December I’ve been to NYC, FL, and Lake Placid; plus, I have another trip in a week. I must get cracking! Okay, so here we go….. All last year I thought about going to NYC for a weekend. Originally, I hoped to go in June. But, plans fell through. As the year grew older, I realized that a holiday trip would be ideal. Christmas decorations make the city such a magical place, so in December I made the trek with some beautiful friends of mine. 

DAY 1: With Dunkin Donuts coffees and a full tank of diesel, Keri (my next door neighbor) and I set off for NYC in the morning in my trusty Jetta. The drive through NY, PA, and NJ was mostly boring, though we did cut through some mountains near the end of the four hour trek. We opted to stop once for some lunch and a bathroom break. I had no desire to drive into Manhattan or compete with the aggressive taxi drivers, so I valet parked at Seacacus Junction at exit 15x off the NJ highway. As we unloaded our bags, the valet raised an eyebrow, and questioned us: “and HOW long are you staying?!” Okay, so we may have packed a ton of shoes and wine, but this was a much needed girls trip! We definitely regretted our packing choices as we lugged those heavy bags around the train station, then on the NJ train to Penhttps://leighuf.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1044&action=edit&message=10n Station, and THEN to the Metro, and THEN on the E train, and FINALLY the three blocks to our hotel. Both Keri and I had sore muscles the rest of the trip, but we had plenty of wine. And shoes.

Packing Must Haves

Continue reading

Old San Juan through my lens

Old San Juan in Puerto Rico, or Viejo San Juan,  is characterized by its 16th and 17th century stone buildings and azure cobblestone streets;  its history is rich, as Ponce de Leon founded it and Christopher Columbus named it. In short, it is a mecca for history or architecture buffs.

I spent time in Old San Juan yesterday and the previous weekend walking the narrow streets, peering into courtyards and shop windows, marveling at the kaleidoscope of colors, and tasting local food and infamous cocktails from a handful of small cafes and restaurants. The Caribbean sun was fierce, the sky violently blue, and the humidity surged.  Gazing at the colorful kites on the emerald lawns of  the sea-front El Morro offered a diversion from the heat. I definitely needed more time in OSJ.

Here is what Old San Juan looked like through my lens.

{Trip Report} Long weekend in Vermont

{Trip Report} Long weekend in Vermont

We have officially been married 10 years. I give mad props to Nick for dealing with me. For our anniversary, we will be celebrating for a couple weeks. Why not, right?! The perfect gift for me will always be… a … Continue reading

The first ever Baldwinsville, NY farmer’s market

Today marked the first ever Baldwinsville, NY farmer’s market. It will be held every Wednesday from 3-6:30 p.m. in the Village Square– aka the middle of the village between the Diner and Sammy’s. It will run from June 5 through Oct. 23. It will feature locally grown foods from nearby farms such as Abbott’s and Reeve’s, food vendors, and handmade products.

Xander and I rolled up around 4 p.m. and found a parking spot in the packed lot by the Baldwinsville Diner. The increased traffic was noticeable. Approximately 20 tents were set up in the square and live music was playing. The market had a nice showing and many people were milling around. This first market, though, was mostly handmade goods and food vendors. You could buy soap, soy candles, earrings (including Bud Light bottle cap earrings) or garden decorations; in addition, you could buy flowers (like snapdragons or marigolds) or vegetables/herbs to plant. We saw a cheese tent and a visiting winery. The only produce available was strawberries. I bought the last box from Reeve’s for $5. Xander opted for a small cup of cherry Italian ice for $2.50. We sat at a picnic table so he could eat it. Overall, it was an enjoyable way to spend 30 minutes and support local businesses.

Image

Hopefully with time, it will grow to include more produce and vendors… and they will get some trashcans.

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GreaterBaldwinsvilleCommunityFarmersMarket

Spring Awakening…. two years later!

It feels like forever since I posted a blog entry. Oh wait. It HAS been forever.  Like two years! My bad… We’ve been busy, I swear. Okay, I’ll admit it’s pretty lame that I’m a writing teacher, yet I never write. So, here I go!

Hmm. What to write about………

Still thinking.

Oh, I’ve got an idea! I’ll talk about my garden.

One of last year’s sunflowers.

Last year I had Nick construct two above-ground gardens in our back yard: one made with organic materials and the other made with regular materials. I also used some small planters, and one bricked garden to grow our loot. We successfully grew bell peppers, jalapenos, spicy peppers, blueberries, Italian parsley, carrots, broccoli, basil, mint, lavender, chives, oregano, and  sunflowers. Cucumbers and squash were also planted, but they failed miserably. The broccoli also gave me problems: it attracted a variety of pests and did not like the hot, sunny days we experienced. I was most successful with the herbs and the peppers. In fact, I had more bell peppers (green and red) and spicy peppers than I knew what to do with!

Fast-forward to spring 2013.A couple weeks ago on a sunny, yet brisk Saturday afternoon, we weeded and tended to the gardens. Then, later in the week, Xander and I picked up some seeds and new soil, and we got to work planting. For our spring loot, we planted:

  • Alaska Peas seeds
  • Bloomsdale Spinach seeds
  • Matador Spinach seeds
  • Heirloom Danvers 126 Carrots seeds
  • Cauliflower plants from Lowes

We’ve seen some sunny, warm days since we planted these in our organic box, but we’ve also seen some very cold days. Today I took a look at the progress of our plants and seeds. The spinach and peas have sprung, our cauliflower isn’t dead, and our carrots are still hiding (as expected). Last year the carrots took many weeks before making an appearance. I also noted that the mint has sprung…. ALL OVER! It’s like a weed! It’s growing in new places, even. My chives have also come back and are standing tall. We are still undecided what else to grow. Xander wants to grow pumpkins. I want to grow peppers. Nick doesn’t care. So, we shall see.

bright green chives

Profusely growing mint. Mojitos anyone???

Cauliflower still surviving

I spy a baby bean plant!

Spinach? Or weed?