Food Friday: ‘Tis the Season!

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These are busy days in the world famous Spy Test Kitchen. We have been super busy baking and stirring and slow-cooking. If you had stopped by on Tuesday you would have been impressed by our relentless good cheer, and our frenetic demeanor. ’Tis the season to be very busy and multitask!

Our first task was preparing some slow-cooker beef short ribs that Mr. Friday was going to prepare over the weekend. His best laid plans went awry, and the dinner fell to me. The first thing I had to do was excavate for the slow-cooker, which I eventually found on the floor of the pantry, behind the dog food storage container, next to the stash of Diet Dr. Pepper.

Here is Mr. Friday’s recipe for Slow-Cooker Beef Short Ribs:

Ingredients:
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 pounds boneless beef short ribs (Mr. Friday bought bone-in, sigh)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup beef broth
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons catsup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder

Directions:
Put flour, salt and pepper in a bag. Add the ribs and shake to coat.
Brown the ribs in butter in a large frying pan.
Put the ribs in the slow cooker.
Add onions and garlic to the frying pan, stirring until fragrant and translucent. Then add the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a boil. Pour the liquid over the ribs. Cover and cook for 9 hours.

I got a little nervous about leaving the meat for 9 hours, so after 7 hours, at 4:00, in the middle of cookie frenzy, I turned the slow cooker off for a couple of hours. When Mr. Friday strolled in at 6:30 he was greeted by a large quantity of steaming, fragrant ribs. My work was done.

Our little family is a bit scattered this Christmas. So I am facing unexpected control issues, and have felt the need to send nostalgic boxes of home-baked cookies to folks. I have mentioned that we moved this year – what I haven’t confessed is that we still have boxes of books in a storage unit. And in one of those Citizen Kane boxes is my batter-splattered, grease-flecked, rolled-in-flour copy of The Joy of Cooking, stuffed with a handful of index cards scrawled with ancestral recipes. To my great relief, I did unearth a little Christmas cookie recipe book I put together for a Christmas gift many years ago. In it was the family recipe for gingersnaps. This was my grandmother’s recipe:

Grandmama’s Gingersnaps
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
Sift together the dry ingredients above. This is crucial – follow the steps here.
Add the dry ingredients to:
3/4 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses

Mix thoroughly. Roll mixture into small balls and then roll the balls in a bowl of granulated sugar.
Flatten the balls onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets with a small glass.
Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on racks, although they are quite delicious with a nice cold glass of milk.

These immediately transported me to Connecticut in the 1960s.

And then there was the Chex Mix, which should make the Tall One and the Pouting Princess think of the Florida kitchen in the 1990s and the aughts. We never really followed the recipe on the package, except as a guideline for the amount of butter and the oven temperature. We tended to toss in a lot of different ingredients over the years, doubling the amount of pretzels, and sometimes using Slap Yo’ Mama instead of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt. We like goldfish, and honey nut Cheerios, and adding M&Ms after the mixture has cooled. You can have fun with it, too.

The Original Chex ™ Party Mix

3 cups each Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Wheat Chex
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size chip, broken into 1-inch pieces (I doubt that this is a historically accurate recipe – for surely there were no bagel chips when I was little)
6 tablespoons butter or margarine (oh, puhlease, margarine?)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt (here is my plug for Lawry’s Seasoning Salt)
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

(Don’t even think about using the microwave.)

Pre-heat oven to 250° F. Put cereal and seasoning mixture into ungreased roasting pan and bake for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes.

(What we do, and I type with years of experience, is first melt the butter in the turkey roasting pan [so it gets used more than twice a year], and then add the Worcestershire sauce, the Lawry’s seasoning salt, and the onion and the garlic powders. Then we stir in the cereals, goldfish, pretzels, nuts, Cheerios, bacon bits, taco seasoning, marshmallows, Cheese-its, dried fruit, coconut, chocolate chips, cinnamon, sprinkles, wasabi peas, chow mein noodles, Cocoa Puffs, Cheetos, pecans, popcorn, animal crackers. You name it. (Obviously, things that melt get added last.)

Tuesday was a busy day. And today I am baking more cookies to get the boxes off the kitchen table and down to the post office. ’Tis the season indeed.

“In my South, the most treasured things passed down from generation to generation are the family recipes.”
― Robert St. John

About Jean Sanders

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