Start summer with some Rockin’ Rubbed Bourbon Ribs


Slow cooked and ready for the grill

The Foodie:

Talk to any grill master and they’ll tell you the only way to make ribs is low and slow. I’m no grill master and do not have the patience to go slow at anything. The following recipe is slow by my standards (about four hours start to finish) but much faster than many recipes I have seen.

Start with the rub. You can easily buy dry rubs at any grocery or specialty store and in a pinch, why not? They are great. I love to mix the dry ingredients and test different flavors. I change what I do all the time so experiment and enjoy the variety. It’s not a bad idea to write out what you do. If you love it you will remember how to do it again. If not, know not to make the mistake again.

Here is the rub I made for Memorial Day. Feel free to use it all summer long:

• 1 ½ tsp course salt and sugar
• 1 tsp onion powder
• Garlic powder
• Paprika
• ½ tsp celery salt
• Nutmeg (fresh grated is wonderful)
• Ground mustard
• Lots of fresh ground black pepper

Mix in a bowl with your fingers

• Two racks of Baby Back ribs (or any type of rib you prefer)
• Bourbon, orange juice, rub (above)
• Preheat oven to 225 degrees

Place ribs on a clean board. Pat ribs dry with paper towels. Wash your hands constantly (always be aware of cross-contamination). Put ¼ of the rub on the bottom and rub in well. Flip the ribs and put remaining rub on both racks, being sure to rub the sides and tips of the rack.

In a roaster or deep pan, pour about a ½ cup of Bourbon (don’t measure, just a few glugs on the bottom of the pan). Place ribs on Bourbon; pour another ½ cup of Bourbon and about 1 cup orange juice onto the racks. Put lid on roaster or cover well with foil. Slow roast 3 hours.

Light grill (I’m a charcoal girl but you decide).

Meanwhile, make the sauce:

• Place 1 cup of the drippings from the pan (strained to remove bones and large bits) in a medium sauce pan.
• Add 1 8 oz. bottle hoisin sauce (find it in the Asian section)
• ½ cup brown sugar and ½ cup apricot preserves.

Bring to a boil and reduce for 10 minutes. Remove from heat to thicken for a few minutes. Brush sauce on ribs and grill on both sides until sauce is caramelized and ribs are crisp (no more than 10 minutes).

Serve ribs with additional sauce in small bowls. Pass out wet paper towels, and enjoy!

And thanks to all our veterans and prayers to all who died to make us and keep us free.


The Foodie: Watching mom bake pies stirred original interest in cooking

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Little did I know when I e-mailed Tim Schmitt some ideas I had for his concept web-news site that he would invite me to be a food and wine columnist. After only a few pieces he now calls me “The Foodie.” It’s a self-proclaimed title I use because of my ongoing interest of all things culinary.

My food memories cannot be separated from any other childhood memories because food has been central to it all. As far back as I can remember I used to sit at the kitchen table on any given Saturday afternoon (after the hankies were ironed and baseboards dusted – my weekly chores) and watch my mother bake pies. Fruit in season, fruit from cans, puddings and custard … the filling did not matter as much as the crust.

She had the “touch” … that special skill which knew just the right measurements, just the way to cut the fat into the flour and just the right amount of ice water to lightly toss until the mess became a soft ball nearly ready for the wooden pin (an old smooth commercial pin with the tiny handles removed – she said she “felt” the dough better when she held the pin, not the handles).

Mom does not make many pies these days … says she lost the touch. Still, her crust is better than any bakery and any red box.

I grew up eating cornflake chicken and beef stroganoff. She made us tuna noodle casserole (casseroles were big in the ‘60’s and ’70’s) and chicken cutlets. Homemade spaghetti sauce (seriously, it’s macaroni, not pasta in our house) along with perfect meatballs and braciole made with beef pounded thin filled with a stuffing which included hard boiled eggs. Food was always homemade. We used to beg to have TV dinners and we only got them when they had plans on a Saturday night.

As an adult, I learned to cook mostly by trial and error. We have eaten most of my mistakes but there are also times when the need to order a pizza became apparent. I have a friend who shares my passion for food and when Denise invites me for any meal I know I am in for a treat. We used to plan dinner parties by reviewing 15 cookbooks and 25 cooking magazines. We would test recipes so we would know the actual time of preparation (if you are inexperienced add 50 percent to the time stated).

I started writing a holiday journal about 10 years ago. In it, I write out the menu for the meal, who attended and the outcome. I also try to jot a few memories of my year down and enjoy reading the entries each year.

Food Network has expanded my skill and interest. Since I started watching cooking shows I have a much better attitude about the outcomes in my kitchen. What’s the worst thing that could happen? We order out … no worries.

I would really like to learn about you. Why do you cook? Do you enjoy it or do you fear it? Is there a food memory you have that you would like some help with? Maybe I could help find that recipe or try to recreate it.

Do you have food memories from growing up you would like to share? What are you doing to pass that along to your family?

What can we learn together to help you enjoy playing with your food?

Have a yummy week!

Youngstown’s new market a perfect fit


A large group gathers for the ribbon cutting of the new Melloni’s Market Place in Youngstown on Saturday (Photo courtesy Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce)

When Diane Melloni couldn’t get her husband Lou to find out more information about the sale of Market Place in Youngstown, she decided to take drastic measures.

She went to the local bank where the owner’s wife worked and appealed to her.

That is what they needed to strike the deal that will lead to Melloni’s Market Place grand opening this weekend.

Diane was comfortably retired, showing dogs with her friend when the opportunity arose. While Lou may complain about wanting to slow down, he has always dreamed of owning a grocery store. And, make no mistake; this is a grocery store, not a convenience store. Folks can do their regular shopping here. Melloni’s products will be competitively priced, like the large footprint chains, not like the higher “convenience” store models.

You can hear the excitement in Diane’s voice when she describes their plans. In addition to fresh meat (a Melloni specialty known in Lewiston for many years), produce and dairy, she will have a café in front where she will be serving Italian cookies and freshly filled cannoli. National brands will be available, along with the ShurFine store brand. Lou insists ShurFine gets a bad rap. He says it’s a great, high quality store brand with pricing which complements the store’s other products.

Buying the store has had many surprises. They were surprised by the condition of the property, causing a great deal of sweat equity and money to clean it up and make it their own. They were surprised by the amount of paperwork it takes to take out a small loan. Diane says this is the worst part of the renovation.

The greatest surprise, however, has been that of the community. When Lou first thought about buying the store he thought it would be a gold mine. Now, Lou says that whenever he is out and about town, having coffee or grabbing a bite to eat, people stop him and thank him for buying the store and bringing back an opportunity to shop in town. He has seen their sincerity and has been overwhelmed by the welcome.

What started out as a great business opportunity has turned into a wish for the community. Lou and Diane want the people of Youngstown to know they have their grocery store back. As a nearly 30-year resident of this wonderful town below the falls, I’m here to say it is way better than I ever remember. Mission accomplished.

Lessons from Motherhood

The softer you speak, the louder the lesson. Nothing gets attention more quickly than a <seemingly> calm parent.

There is always room in the house for “homemade” anything. I still have a pin shaped like a heart and covered with red granulated sugar that I am going to wear to Mother’s Day Mass given to me when my son was in early elementary school.

It’s easier to bust them for things you did when you were a kid. Growing up I shared a room with my sister. We kept the light on in our closet overnight as an unofficial night light. Because we frequently moved the furniture, I always tried to get the one nearest the closet because I would open the door a little more to get enough light to read. I would be so tired the next day that my mother would think I was sick. Years later I remember accusing Anthony of reading after bedtime. Imagine, chiding your child because they were up late reading. Not every moment is a mother-of-the-year moment.

PlayDoh colors can mix and the end of the world does not come. I think about how many minutes of my life were spent trying to pick-up the wonderful molding toy and it makes me crazy just thinking about it.

All we have is time. And, all we don’t have is time. While I regret only having little Tommy for nearly four years I have never regretted the time we simply just spent together. Fast forward to Anthony and I made life and career choices I am proud of and still reap the benefit of.

The best way to land your helicopter is to never let it take off. Maybe it’s because I watch parents every day at work but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t that parent we all talk about. I am happy we taught our son how to manage money as a young teen, helping him get a checking account when he was 14. I only went toe to toe with one teacher, backing up the rest even when I was less than certain I agreed with their lesson. Watching him navigate his life, making decisions and doing it on his own is way more fun than flying a helicopter.

Even in death, all things are not lost. Over twenty years ago, after Tommy died I planted daffodil bulbs behind our property in a wooded area. I could see them every year and as they multiplied I was reminded of new life. Last year, without notice, the village clear cut forty feet of brush and trees to help with a drainage problem and I was never able to dig up those bulbs for planting in another area. I cried like a baby. I wept because it brought the loss back to the tip of my eyes and the front of my consciousness. About ten days ago, around the remaining brush, this is what I saw:

 one daffodil survived reminding me to hang in there. All is not lost.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers in my life.

Life is good!


Twitter: MidMajorMom

Twitter: JudeCaserta

Ready for the Derby? Try this menu!


The Foodie:

Here’s an idea for a Derby Day celebration which is quick and easy — invite a few friends over for this celebration then make reservations at one of the many BelowTheFalls restaurants for a “post” race supper.

For this quick Kentucky Derby celebration I suggest the traditional drink, one quick appetizer and a sweet snack.

Menu: Simple Syrup Mint Juleps, Ham & Cheese Biscuits and Spicy Pecans

I like this Mint Julep recipe best because it uses Simple Syrup. If you make the Simple Syrup in advance you only need to muddle the mint and mix with bourbon and crushed ice before the race. Boil one cup water with one half cup granulated sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cool and refrigerate. Use this syrup cold.

Simple Syrup Mint Juleps: Serves 4 (traditional Low Ball glasses are nice but the drink is fun in Martini glasses, too)

20 Mint Sprigs (leaves) – I buy two packages in the herb section of the supermarket (Save 4 pretty leaves for garnish)

In a medium pitcher, muddle (break up with muddler or with a wooden spoon) mint leaves and ¼ cup simple syrup until they are broken and you can smell the mint. Add 10 ounces (1 ¼ cups) of Kentucky bourbon and gently stir. Fill four glasses with crushed or small cubed ice and divide the mixture evenly. Garnish with mint leaves.

Ham & Cheese Biscuits: Prepare a tube of refrigerator biscuits according to package directions and sprinkle about a tablespoon of shredded white cheddar on each biscuit the last five minutes. Cool slightly, split and fill each with slices of thinly shaven country ham from the deli. Place on colorful platter.

Spicy Pecans: In dry skillet, put one bag (12 ounces) pecan halves on medium heat tossing often until toasted. Note: Nuts go from toasted to ruined very quickly so do not walk away. Remove from heat and stir in ½ cup spicy pepper jelly. Spread on parchment paper to cool and serve in a pretty glass bowl.

Don’t forget your hat!

Have a yummy week!