Monday, May 30, 2011

Baby Back Ribs...Worth The Effort

When I told Chow Fella that I was going to cook the ribs for his 50th birthday bash, he scoffed at me!  "You have to watch the temperature in the grill."  "The grill will get too hot too quickly."  "It will only take an hour to two hours to cook."  "Okay.", I said.  Arguing would do me no good.  Like most challenges in my life, I chose to demonstrate how I would cook wonderful ribs.  The pressure was on, because we were having company, but they were good friends and would be forgiving, if something went wrong.  But, hey, I'm Chow Bella.  What could go wrong?...Right?

My ribs started at 8:15 am.  Since I only have one closed cover grill, and I was cooking several slabs of baby back ribs, I decided to mix things up and try different cooking methods.  For the indoor ribs, I borrowed from the Neeley's and Alton Brown and used the oven, for the first part of cooking.

Every slab received a lovely rub from me (my own blend of seasonings) and rested in the frig over night.  At 8:30 am, my oven was ready, at a low and slow, 225 F.  I popped one slab of ribs into the oven and proceeded with my moppin' sauce and barbeque sauce.  I used to use Stub's Moppin' Sauce, but I've been unable to find it.  My mom always said, "Necessity is the Mother of invention."  So be it.  I tried to remember the taste and deconstructed the sauce.  The results?  Everyone said I should bottle it!  Since I'm still perfecting a few things, the recipe will follow in a subsequent blog.  Just know I kept it simple and used butter instead of fat back to saute the vegetables.

On to the barbeque sauce.  For this, I did a ...what do you call it???  Free Style.  Starting with about 2 cups of catchup, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of local orange blossom honey, water, a dash of Tabasco, 2 tablespoons of steak sauce & Worcestershire sauce, pepper, chili powder, onion powder, fresh ground dry ginger, dry mustard, and I think that's it.  The results? "BOTTLE THIS!"  Even the hard core Southern folks loved it, and the folks who were originally from Texas said the same thing.  I'm in the process of tweaking the recipe, but it will get bottle, along with my tomato sauce and moppin' sauce.  Who knew?!

Back to the ribs.  at 11:30 am, I pulled the ribs out of the oven and put them in the refrigerator.  At 1:30 pm, I placed an aluminum pan (about 2 inches deep) on top of the coals and place my foil pouch of wood chips on the fire (next to the pan).  When the grill hit a temperature of 225 F (use an oven thermometer...the thermometer on the grill will run hot), I place my two remaining, uncooked baby back ribs on the grill, poured myself a lemonade, watched over my babies and waited.

Three hours later, I took one of the racks of ribs and wrapped them in foil.  I made a little pouch and poured some of my homemade hard apple cider in the foil.  You don't need to use hard cider...any liquid will do (like water, apple juice etc).  I cooked both racks for another hour.  For the last half hour of cooking, I basted the ribs with my moppin sauce and served.  The refrigerated ribs (the ones from the oven) went on to the grill and they were also mopped and grilled for approximately 40 minutes (until they had nice grill marks on them and were heated all the way through).

The verdict?  Well, I only had left overs, because I did put a few ribs from each rack aside, so I could taste them.  My guests liked all of the ribs, the the ribs done in the foil, with the apple cider, were the winners.

It was fun using my science to recreate wonderful ribs, and I wish my mother in law had been here to enjoy them.  She would have said something like, "Oh, Sue...these are good!...but, are they healthy?" 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hot Day Cool Dishes

It's going up to 90 degrees today, in Wilmington, NC.  Our first hot day of the season and a great day to break out my salad and grilling recipes. 

The warm weather brings out the "fire" in me!  The fire on the barbeque, that is.  Cooking on fire is challenging, but it is well worth the effort.  The smell of the fire, the taste of the smokey goodness, as I bite into my food.  There's nothing like it.

You can cook a whole meal on an open flame, from appetizers through dessert.  I start with a chimney fire starter and natural hardwood briquettes.  No chemicals or lighter fluid will touch my food! Not only do I not want my food to taste like lighter fluid and chemicals, but I value my eyebrows!

Start by putting newspaper in the bottom of your charcoal chimney starter, add your natural charcoal, and then light your paper from the open holes in the bottom. Once the briquettes have turned to red hot coals, it's time to spread the little devils around the cooker.  I use a stone barbeque, but you can use any approved charcoal grill.  My grill is ready, and I place my grate over the coals.

Today, I'll be grilling an assortment of vegetables which I'll top with roasted yellow pepper dressing, barbeque baby back ribs, with my homemade mopping sauce, and for dessert?  Homemade grapefruit sorbet.  I know.  You were expecting grilled something or other, yes?  Well, my preference would be grilled peaches, with my homemade vanilla gelato or grilled pineapple with a dab of mango sorbet in the middle.  But, today, I feel like a fresh, cleansing grapefruit sorbet. 

Although this recipe calls for roasting the veggies, you can grill them just as easily.  There's no need to add any oil, but make sure you watch your vegetables and turn them so they don't burn. 
For my grilled vegetables with roasted pepper dressing, visit my website:  Chow!

Vegetable Napoleon

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fun with Brides in the Kitchen

This week I had the pleasure of hosting a bridal party.  It was a total blast, and I think I enjoyed myself more than the participants.

There's something special about getting married, and I wanted the day to be extra special for the bride, her family and the out of town guests.

We started with a toast of mimosas, and then the ladies rolled up their sleeves and started cooking!

I started them off with authentic French baguettes.  Of course, to do this properly, you need 24 hours, so I had made several batches ahead of time, in various stages.  The best part was when the ladies were "thrashing" and kneading the dough.  The mother of the bride got right in there and really threw that dough around.  Her two daughters looked at her in amazement, as Mom claims she doesn't cook.

Next up was Poulet Fricasse, and we rounded out the meal with a Roasted Vegetable Napoleon, with Goat Cheese.  The idea/concept came from my childhood friend, Matthew Perone, who own The Gourmet Cafe, in Parsippany, NJ.  Thank you, Matthew! 

The finale was crepes ala Chow Bella.  I set up a few omelet pans, showed the ladies how to mix the batter and create the crepes, and then let them loose!  They created over a dozen different crepes from simple orange zest and cream to chocolate hazelnut spread with coconut and bananas. 

As they left, the mom thanked me and gave me a big hug.  Once again, I heard the words, "this is your passion."  And, so it goes. 

Congratulations to Lesley!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Back To Work

I forget who said, "It's only work, if you don't like what you're doing."  So, I guess I'm not "back to work." 

Chow Fella and I took a much needed break and went to Great Exuma for Bob's 50th birthday celebration.  We had a wonderful time, but it's great to be back.

If you read my Mid-May Newsletter, you'll see that my most recent parties have been fun and full of surprises.  This week, I'm working on a few more surprises, and I'd like to write about them, but the people we're trying to surprise might be reading my blog.

A few exciting things have come my way, and one of them is writing for a new magazine, Fit In New Jersey.  I'll be writing a monthly article and providing recipes, too. 

Another exciting opportunity, for Chow Bella Cooks, is a request to bottle and sell my tomato sauce.  The sauce is called, Chow Bella Cooks, Tuscan Rose.  It's simple and delicious to make, but I'm happy to sell it.  My goal is to give some of the proceeds to the Domestic Violence Shelter, here in Wilmington.  Stay tuned for details.

As Dorothy said, "There's no place like home."  Amen, brother!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Another Inspirational Drop Weight In Eight Class

This week I had the privilege to work with two more Drop Weight In Eight groups.  Each class brings new energy, new ideas and keeps me on my toes.  Although I cook all types of food, I get a sense of satisfaction out of creating dishes that not only are good for you, but they taste great, too! 

Not everything I make is "oh, so delicious," to everyone.  I don't mind if someone calls my baby ugly or that it may need a face lift.  Everyone has different tastes.  I even respect when someone tells me they don't like a particular food or they can't eat something.  I would never say, "Oh, you should try mine!"  If they want to try it, they will.  I don't take offense.  This week, I had a few people who didn't eat some things, but they did try the foods I made anyway. I was flattered, and I felt good about broadening their horizons, in the food world.  However, the biggest compliment I've received, thus far, was "This doesn't taste like the tastes better!"  Until recently, I didn't think I could get a bigger compliment. 

I always thought my tomato sauce was "the best!"  Of course, I'm bias.  Consistently, it comes out great!  I don't have to fool with it.  It's simple, versatile and delcious.  Best of all, it's good for you, too! 

Recently, I've been asked to bottle and sell my sauce, and I can't think of a better compliment.  I know it won't be all things to all people, but that's what the world is all about...diversity.  There's plenty of room for one more yummy and healthy tomato sauce on the market.  Move over, Neumann's!  My goal is to be able to give back, and even if it is only a fraction of Neumann's did, I will be a very happy Chow Bella.

PS - check out my new recipes tab on the blog.  You can also find recipes on my website at


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cooking Healthy Southern Style

"You're in the South now, Honey."  These are the words said to me by 87 year old Mildred when I first came to Wilmington.  She was a student at the Wrightsville Beach Recreation Center where I taught senior aerobics.   Although she was 87, she could run circles around some of the youngsters.

It was my first day teaching aerobics at the rec center, and boy, was I nervous.  At the end of class, everyone, except Ms. Nancy, told me how much they enjoyed the class.  I told them all how happy I was and how friendly they all were.  That's when Mildred threw her arms around me, and in her very proper, lady like, Southern drawl said, those six words I'll never forget.

Many things told me I was in the South.  The cooking was one of the most obvious.  Everything seem to be fried, buttered, battered and sweet.  Sadly, my body is not built to metabolize such rich food, albeit tasty.

Recently, I was contacted by a local farmer, Mary, who is working on a possible TV show.  The agent wants to feature a local African American farmer and focus on healthy recipes from ground to table.  The only problem is that Mary hasn't really cooked very healthy over the years, and I have been asked to be her cooking coach.  We meet once a week, and I come up with healthy twists on Southern favorites. 

Tonight I posted a few pictures of the recipes I've developed for Mary, over the past few weeks. My com padre, Carolyn Berke, owner of Niles Pie Company and baker extraordinaire, asked me to post the Country Fried Steak recipe.  Although it's going to be part of my cookbook, I can't resist a request.  Like I say, "Share the love."  ....of cooking. :-)     Niles Pie Company

Not Your Mamma's Country Fried Steak!