Mmmm Ribs!

August 30, 2013

There’s something about all the summer holidays that makes me want to grill, mix up some potato salad and buy local sweet corn from the farm up the street. And of course it’s around the same time that the grocery stores put racks of baby back ribs on sale! With Labor day coming up, I picked up a rack to enjoy on the “unofficial last day of summer.”

Honestly, I was legitimately scared to cook ribs at home for a long time. It seemed like too much work, and I was nervous about over cooking them to the point where they would end up being dry. I was flipping channels a few years ago and Bobby Flay was on the Food Network (a frequently watched channel at our house in case you hadn’t figured that out yet)  talking about cooking ribs on the grill. Now I get that he is skilled at grilling everything under the sun, but he made it sound easy enough that I had to give it a try! The first time around was a success, so I invited some people over for a second try. There are a few people (Jason included) that get excited when they hear I’m cooking ribs!

I modified Bobby’s rib rub recipe (I’m a little bit of a wimp when it comes to hot spices), prepped the ribs and after about 2 hours on the grill, dinner was served! Here’s the step by step:

1. Mix the dry rib rub together in a separate bowl
1 T cumin
1 T paprika
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T chili powder
1 T brown sugar
1 T sea salt
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t black pepper

Mixing together the spices

Mixing together the spices

Don’t put the brown sugar away yet! You’ll need about an additional 1/4- 1/2 c when it comes time to season the ribs

2. Prep the ribs
After I take them out of the package I lay them on a cutting board covered in paper towels and pat them dry. There is a membrane on the back of the ribs that needs to come off. I’ve heard if you leave it on, the ribs come out tougher and prevent the rub from really getting into all of the meat. To do this, you can take a finger or a butter knife, and slide it under the membrane/over a bone. Lift the membrane until it starts to tear (it’s a pretty audible noise.) Use a paper towel, grab the membrane and slowly pull across the rack of ribs until it comes off. You might be able to get it all in one piece, or it might take a few tries, but just be patient with it, you’ll eventually be able to remove it all.

Starting to remove the membrane

Starting to remove the membrane

3.  Season the ribs
The dry rub will cover about 2 1/2 to 3 lbs of ribs. I start with the back (bony side), pour about half of the rub across the rack, then rub and pat it in until it covers the back and sides of the ribs. Flip it over, and repeat on the front (meaty side). To help balance the heat and keep the ribs moist, I pour anywhere from an additional 1/4 to 1/2 c of brown sugar onto the front of the ribs and pat this in so it covers the ribs evenly. You don’t have to do this if you’re trying to watch your calories or sugar though (1/2 c of packed brown sugar is about 415 calories!)

Rubbing the spices into the ribs

Rubbing the spices into the ribs


Adding the brown sugar to the top of the spices

Adding the brown sugar to the top of the spices

4. Wrap the ribs in tin foil and let them sit
This helps the seasoning really get into the meat. I leave mine in the fridge for at least 2 hours. When it’s almost time to start cooking them, I let them rest on the counter for about 30 minutes to an hour so they come up to room temperature.

5. Pre-heat the grill

I always cook the ribs at 250°F over indirect heat. (I accidentally cooked them over direct heat once, they were fine, just not as tender as I like)  We have a gas grill so it makes keeping an eye on the temperature very easy!

6. Cooking time!
I’ve learned that it usually does not take as much time to cook the ribs as the package recommends. The USDA recommends that you cook pork to an internal temp of 160°F, so I absolutely make sure I get the meat up to temperature! But on average, my 2 1/2lb rack of ribs takes about 2 hours to cook.

Every 30 minutes I flip the ribs over to the other side for even cooking. When I get to the 1:50 minute mark, I go check the temp of the ribs and if we’re close to 160°F, I’ll baste the top of the ribs with bar-b-que sauce and let it cook for the last 10 minutes, or until it’s up to temperature.

7. Let the ribs rest
After they are done, I have to exercise a lot of patience to cover the ribs in tin foil and let them rest for about 15 minutes. In reality, it helps us set the table and make sure everything else is done.

8. Cut the ribs along the bone and enjoy!

Cutting the ribs

Finished Ribs all ready to eat

Finished Ribs all ready to eat

It does take about 5 hours total with prep time, but since a lot of the time is spent with the ribs resting, the entire process is really pretty easy! So what’s your favorite food to cook on the grill?

Important Healthy Facts:
Time: 3 hour prep time, 2 hour cook time
Yields: 3-4 servings (4-5 ribs per/person)
Calories: appx. 232 (this is just for the meat and does not include the brown sugar or bar-b-que sauce if you used any)

This past May, Laura and I set a challenge for ourselves, one 5k a month for 12 months to help keep us in “running shape.” This weekend was run #4, the Milk Run. The Milk Run is a 5k that is put on at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds during the Fair. We had the privilege of joining 18 other people as part of Team Dairy, a group of runners who work to promote dairy to help fuel active lifestyles. They hooked us up with team shirts and the entry into the race! It was going to be an extremely hot and humid day, so Laura and I tried to hydrate as much as we could in preparation for the race. It didn’t really help that we were at a wedding reception until late the night before the run.

We got to the fairgrounds around 6:45am after only a few hours of sleep, and it was already 84 degrees and super humid. Luckily there was a pretty steady breeze that helped a little bit. At 7am we met our team for a couple of team pictures and to get ready for the race to start.


At 7:45, standing amid a large group of excited and anxious runners, we heard the gun sound and we were off.

Now, my pace is about a minute per mile slower than Laura’s, but we decided to stay together for this run and actually forgo the norm of wearing our headphones. Plus, since Laura is in full on training mode for her half marathon in October, she wanted to take it easy. However, while running the race, I apparently started to get a little overzealous, sped up and tried to go for a Personal Record(PR). Sorry honey!

Here is what the course looked like:
2013-08-26 20_35_42-www.mnstatefair.org_pdf_13_MilkRunMap.pdf

The tough part about this course was that the first 2 miles or so was predominantly uphill. However, that means the last mile was almost all downhill and you could coast to the finish line. Some very nice homeowners had also aimed their sprinklers over the road to help keep all of us runners cool. As we neared the finish line, Laura challenged me to sprint it out to the end. I was doing fine until then, but I’m still glad I did it. All in all, it was a really fun run that we would enjoy doing again. The atmosphere was very relaxed, care-free, and fun! Funny thing is, we also both won door prizes which we totally didn’t expect!


After the run, we hopped into the fair for a few hours to eat the calories we just worked off. It wasn’t long before the massive crowds and the temps chased us back home to rest. Here are a few of the foods we tried:

If you’re interested in more information about the Milk Run, please click here.

Vacation Memory Box

August 22, 2013

I love to travel. I think my parents gave me the “travel bug” when they started driving my younger sister and I to our grandparent’s house every summer. Eventually our trips turned into road trips to different places in the US, then flying to Mexico or the Caribbean. I’ve even been able to join my parents on a few trips to Europe! So far my favorite city is London and after being in Italy, I eventually want to buy an apartment in Riomaggiore. I’ve also learned to appreciate just walking around cities looking at the architecture and visiting little shops.

After the trip to London I decided I was going to try my hand at scrap-booking. I was so excited to put it all together with pictures, notes and stickers! I was pretty impressed at my first attempt, so I said would make a scrapbook of every trip over seas. Well, let’s just say I’m still working on my scrapbook from Zurich… and we went in December 2011. I didn’t realize how much time and work it took to put together a scrapbook!

Earlier this year I got invited to join Jason’s family on their trip to Aruba (no complaints here!) Since I love to take pictures, I of course took over 200 of our week-long trip. I wanted to find a way to display some of the pics but knowing I was still working on a scrapbook from 2011, I did not want to embark on starting another one!  I had seen some cute ideas on Pinterest, where you basically create a shadow box with mementos from the trip, and cut out letters to spell the name of your destination using photos that you took. This sounded much easier to put together and easier to display! (My London scrapbook is sitting in a cabinet, I honestly can’t remember the last time I pulled it out.)

A quick trip to Target to print the pictures I wanted, and Michael’s for the supplies, I was ready and armed with an x-acto knife (I think that scared Jason a little, I can be a little klutzy.) Editor(Jason)’s note: A lot klutzy… 

Supply List
Shadow box
Scrapbook paper to use as a mat
Alphabet Stencil
X-acto knife
Cute vacation stickers
Mementos we saved from the trip (boarding pass stubs, postcards, brochures)
Double sided photo tape
Super Glue
Glue Stick

I started by gluing the scrapbook paper to the back of the cardboard “mat” that came with the shadow box to help give it a little more strength. Jason and I went through some of the photos we printed and picked out different ones we thought would look good as letters. We ended up picking all scenery shots, something about having a part of a person in a letter just didn’t seem right to me. From there it was all trial and error. I just held up the stencil to different parts of the picture to see what I thought looked good. Then I flipped the picture over, turned the stencil backwards, and traced the stencil to the back of the photo. Somehow my mind knew to trace the letters backwards, which I was very grateful for! Knowing how spacey I can be, I’m surprised that I didn’t do this step wrong! The X-acto knife was perfect for cutting out the letters too. I went slowly so I had straight lines, and this way I didn’t slip and cut myself. (I’m happy to report, no injuries occurred in the making of this shadow box!)
Photo Aug 20, 8 38 29 PM

The next step was the layout. After I placed the letters, I arranged some other photos, stickers and coins we had saved, and just kept moving stuff around until I liked how it looked.  I probably annoyed Jason with the number of times I asked him to come look at the layout, but he did say he does stuff like this for a living so I wanted an “expert opinion.” The letters got glued down using the glue stick (it was too hard to try and get the photo tape on every part of the letter so I gave up), the other photos got placed using the photo tape, and I had to bust out the heavy duty super glue to glue the coins down.
The Final Layout

It took about an hour to do all of that actually, I was pretty happy with how quickly it went! The most time consuming part was tracing and cutting out the letters. I left it out overnight to dry and let the super glue set. I had to put it in the frame the next morning, I was too curious to see how it turned out that I didn’t want to wait until after work. I’m really happy with how it turned out! All the stickers represent some part of our trip, and the coins were fun shapes with cool printing so we had to include them.
Finished Product!

Now I just have to get Jason to hang it up! I still haven’t done anything with all my mementos from my Barcelona trip last November…I think I’ll be making another one of these soon! I’d love to fill the wall on the way upstairs with a bunch of these from all the trips we’ll go on, this way we can remember all the fun times we had whenever we walk by!

If there is anything you need to know about me, it’s that I love pasta and chocolate (not necessarily together though.) I could probably eat pasta 7 days a week. I’m part Italian and I’ve been lucky enough to have my mom and uncles teach me what they know about Italian cooking and wine making. But, I’m always on the lookout for a good pasta recipe to try. My college roomies and I used to watch Giada on the Food Network after class and talk about how one day we would try out her recipes, especially the one for prosciutto wrapped asparagus (hmm, I still need to try that.) I love her pesto recipe and always make a ton of it during the summer when we’re growing basil in the garden.

So, when I found a Giada recipe for a penne with spinach sauce that looked easy and was healthy I had to give it a try. All I needed was whole wheat pasta, spinach, and a few types of cheese. Jason was excited as soon as I said “cheese.”

1 box whole wheat or multi grain penne
3 garlic cloves
2 ounces goat cheese (I accidentally bought garlic and herb goat cheese)
1 ounce reduced fat cream cheese
6 ounces spinach leaves
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Simple ingredient list!

Simple ingredient list!


1. Start boiling a large pot of water. I usually add a pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil to the water.  Add the penne and cook until it is al dente, stirring occasionally.

2. Mince the garlic in a food processor. I adore my food processor, it makes it so much easier to make sauces and pesto! Add the goat cheese, cream cheese, and half of the spinach leaves. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Set the cheese and spinach mixture aside.

Finished spinach cheese sauce

Finished spinach cheese sauce

3. Put the rest of the spinach leaves in a large bowl.

4. Save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water before you drain the pasta (this will help distribute the cheese mixture over the pasta.) Put the pasta over the spinach leaves in the bowl.  Scrape the cheese and spinach mixture over the pasta mixture and toss until the pasta is coated. Add the reserved pasta water while you’re tossing the pasta, just enough to moisten the pasta. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top and serve!

Final pasta dish

Final pasta dish

The entire recipe did not take long at all, about 20 minutes total! Perfect to throw together after a long day at work. It looked pretty when it was all done, and tasted delicious too! The sauce was creamy, the goat and cream cheese together was yummy. I’m not a huge fan of strong cheeses (I can tolerate blue cheese, but in small doses.) You couldn’t tell that you were eating a whole wheat pasta either, it did not taste dry at all!

Jason and I always vote on new recipes, either keep it or pitch it. We are definitely keeping this one…but we’d change a few things. I thought it was a little strong on the garlic…probably because I used all 3 garlic cloves AND the garlic and herb goat cheese. (Sorry hon!) Jason thought the sauce could have been creamer, so we decided to double the amount of cream cheese and/or use more pasta water next time. I only ended up using about 2 tablespoons of the pasta water so next time I’ll be sure and use more.

If you give this a try, let us know what you think!

Important Healthy Facts:
Yields- 6 servings
Appx Calories per serving- 326