Blog

Recipes

Baby Back Ribs (in the oven!)

Happy 4th of July! 🇺🇸

Nothing quite says American BBQ than baby back ribs. Mine are fall-off-the-bone delicious and super easy to make in the oven. Start with a dry rub first for the most flavor, then finish them off with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Before, during and after! Approx 3-4 hour cook time plus 15 mins under the broiler.

You’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 3-4 pounds baby back pork ribs (2 to 3 slabs)
  • 2 cups your favorite BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray’s)

How to:

  • Preheat oven to 275° and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Mix up dry ingredients and rub each rib slab with mix. Wrap slabs in heavy-duty aluminum foil; place on sheet pan.
  • Bake 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove from oven, and unwrap ribs and discard foil and drippings. Place ribs directly on sheet pan and brush with barbecue sauce on top of each slab. Return to oven; bake at 275°F until ribs are tender and meat is pulling away from bones, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • After cooking, brush with barbecue sauce again and raise oven temperature to 450° F. Cook an additional 10-15 mins. Cut up ribs and serve!

General

My Year with Anosmia

an·os·mi·a / aˈnäzmēə, aˈnäsmēə / noun MEDICINE

  1. the loss of the sense of smell, either total or partial. It may be caused by head injury, infection, or blockage of the nose.

It took me a year to talk about this on here, but I figured it might shed some light as to why I haven’t completely dived in to sharing my fabulous recipes as I originally wanted to. While most of the world was smack in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, I decided to spice things up a bit.

On June 28, 2020, I had an accident. One that was incredibly preventable and in retrospect, one of those “what was I thinking” moments as an almost 48 year old person. I was outside with my teenager who had just gotten a new skateboard (yep, it’s exactly what you think happened). I was telling her stories of how in my younger days, I (kind of) skated and was able to do (easy) tricks, etc. I thought it would be a great idea to hop on and at least show her how to balance, and roll around – nothing fancy. Putting on a helmet didn’t even cross my mind since I was being “careful” and not doing anything fast/scary/risky. Or so I thought.

To make a really long and traumatic story short, I fell. And I fell hard. After a CT scan and x-ray at the emergency room, I was diagnosed with a bad concussion and a closed fracture of the occipital bone – which is that bone in the back of your head, just above your neck and apparently a hard one to actually break (so HUGE SHOUT OUT to that low bun I decided to wear in my hair that day that softened the blow and protected me). The headache was incredible. I was dizzy, nauseated, off-balance, all of the typical concussion “things” but I feel like I felt them times ten after having pretty easily recovered from a very mild concussion the year before (and a cooking related one! – a roasting pan fell from a shelf onto my head). Anyway, on the way home, we stopped to pick up McDonald’s since we had missed dinner earlier and despite everything that was going on – I was starving. I was handed a bag of fries and chicken nuggets and I noticed something weird right after my first bite. My Mickey D’s was super salty (way more than usual). I kept eating just to eat ‘something’ to mesh with all the Tylenol in my stomach, and chalked it up to the fact that I was crying heavily for the last few hours, and as a result, my nose was really congested (it was almost like when you’re sick, and things don’t taste right), so I let it go for the night.

The next couple of days went by and I was still loaded with congestion and bad headaches. My nose alternated between running and clogged. Having a sinus headache + a back of the head, head injury headache was definitely no fun. After a week of televists with my doctor and my complaining about the headaches and the lack of smell and taste (and a Covid infection ruled out), I was passed on to a great neurosurgeon who took one look at me through the screen and noticed that I had a black eye. I noticed it too, but assumed I had bumped it on the water bottle I was holding when I fell. Not the case. In a nutshell, here’s what happened:

When you hit the back of your head, the brain is forced back then bounces foward, basically smashing into the front of your face, and in my case, causing the black eye and the shearing of my olfactory nerves (those little things you need to smell). I was happy to finally hear that “this happens” and much more often with an injury like mine. The headaches would go away they said, but the Anosmia was another story. No time frame, no ‘cure’, no magic pill. Not what I wanted to hear.

So, what now?

After being told there was nothing to do but wait, I was directed to an ENT for one final opinion. He literally saw me for 15 minutes and handed me a printed sheet about smell training with scented oils and instructions to do regular sinus rinses. I did both of those things diligently for the first three months with little progress. The most smell I got was being able to kind of ‘feel’ a cold sensation in my nose, (but not really smell) peppermint oil. I dove deep into the internet, reading article after article – even 16-page scientific documents – all while trying to just be patient. I read about other people’s experiences with anosmia recovery and it’s hit or miss. But those stories also sparked a whole new level of panic (thanks, internet) – I worried all the time about what I couldn’t smell… what if there was a fire? A gas leak? Did I put deodorant on? Is the raw chicken good? Does the trash need to go out? All of that. It’s unreal how something like scent is so taken for granted. Regardless, I was on a mission to heal myself and had to succumb to relying on the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms to do their jobs. My husband and daughter are now the sniffers for me when it comes to food, trash, etc…

My takeaway from all of the articles I read had me come up with this supplement “therapy” that I’ve been using for the last few months. Please don’t assume that my list is a cure and always ask your doctor before you start taking anything, but this regimen has been safe for me and the only thing that’s given me any improvement in a year:

– Regular multivitamin + extra vitamin C and D
– 600mg Alpha Lipoic Acid
– MegaRed Advanced 600mg Omega3 Algae Oil
-15-30mg Zinc Picolinate
– I drink a lot of turmeric and ginger tea (anti-inflammatory)
– And today, I’m adding CoQ10 because I started “researching” again, and read some good things about it

The current list of things I CAN smell is:

Oranges, cut grass, my shampoo, Ellia Blended Oils in “Let it Go” and “Fight It” (each definitely smells different), lemons, and most recently garlic and onion (but they kind of smell the same). I’m also getting some smells from things like the Febreeze in the work bathroom, but can’t pinpoint a scent – it just smells sweet. Another point too is that I have not smelled anything gross, so that’s been a huge plus, I guess? I am trying now to focus on smelling everything I can that’s a fresh, not a manufactured scent. So flowers, or any fruit or veggie I cut up, you can bet I’m sticking my nose in them.

What I really miss now are things I loved to smell, like clean laundry from the dryer, brownies baking in the oven, summer, Yankee Candles (!), or my Grandma’s house; and tasting real food. Everything I’ve eaten for the last year has gone from being all about flavor to all about texture. Crunchy, creamy, spicy, salty… I was never one for a lot of spice, but now I add red pepper flakes or Trader Joe’s Bagel Seasoning on just about everything because I can get that little bit of flavor through, which makes me feel like there’s still some hope. Burgers, which I used to love, just taste like metal to me right now. And the big question – CILANTRO – yep, it tastes like soap to me now (it didn’t before)!!

If you’re reading this, and you or someone you know is going through the same thing, just remember that you’re not alone. In my “research”, I found so many posts like this from real people and many have recovered, it just took a lot of time and patience. I’m still suffering with some mild, post-concussion headaches, but the loss of smell is truly one that’s debilitating. I’d also love to compare notes if you’ve gone through this and gotten your smell back – contact me and share your secrets! Meanwhile, I’ll keep cooking my best and sharing my tried-and-true recipes with you!

Art, General

Reintroducing… my Etsy Shop!

I’ve been a hobby artist all my life. I’ve always loved painting, drawing, and doodling. About 15 years ago, I loaded some work into my Etsy shop, and I’ve been selling my artwork on and off ever since.

In my shop, you’ll find original paintings, mostly watercolors, and mostly florals and plants (because I’m obsessed!). I hope you’ll take a look around and find something you like. I’m currently offering a discount code to anyone that purchases after seeing this – a little blog test of sorts 🙂 – so use code CROCKPOTS at checkout for free shipping on any order, USA addresses only. Expires 12/31/2021.

Original art is a really great way to decorate your space with something that no one else has! I never create or sell prints of my work, so you can rest assured that the art you receive is 100% unique and there will never be another exactly like it.

I also take on commission work (custom orders), so if you have an idea for something you’d like me to paint – message me here with your ideas and pricing. Take a peek at my latest work below, and visit my Etsy shop for the full assortment of available pieces!

Recipes

Oven Baked Baby Back Ribs

Great Baby Back Ribs don’t need to be a long, strenuous process! This easy recipe is pretty hands-off, and the end result is delicious! I picked up two packs of pre-cut pork ribs and had them on the table within an hour and a half!

Ingredients and How-To:

  • Baby Back Ribs, separated (I used about 3lbs total)
  • Your favorite dry rub. I made mine with eyeballed amounts of paprika, cumin, brown sugar and garlic powder. You can also just salt and pepper them!
  • Your favorite BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • Preheat oven to 375°F
  • Line a sheet pan with foil, leaving enough extra overlapping so you can bring it up to fold over your ribs, like a pocket.
  • Toss ribs with dry rub and lay on lined sheet pan.
  • Bring up foil and fold over to seal. Bake at 375°F for one hour.
  • Open up foil and brush ribs with BBQ sauce. Put back in oven uncovered for 30-45 mins and serve.
Recipes

Copycat KFC Famous Bowl!

So easy, no real recipe needed! But I will tell you how this super easy dinner came together for us:

Imagine this: it’s Monday at 4pm. Leaving work. No one has any ideas for dinner. I didn’t go grocery shopping over the weekend because #MothersDay and I was on strike! 🙂 So I stop off at the store and wander the aisles for inspiration. I spy Perdue’s Popcorn Chicken in the freezer section, so I grab a bag thinking that it would be something easy to keep in the freezer for a fill-in meal. I also grab frozen corn, a household staple. Then, as I’m walking down the pasta/instant potatoes aisle, it hits me! Let’s try and make those yummy KFC bowls at home! Seemed easy enough – AND IT WAS!

Crockpots and Coffee Cups’ Copycat KFC Famous Bowl!

The longest part of the process to make this great bowl was waiting for the chicken to cook! Other than that, about 10 mins before the chicken was done, I made the potatoes and corn, and heated up the gravy. I’m not going to pretend for one second that this is in any way “healthy”, but this carb-loaded comfort food dinner hits the spot when you need it. Check out my ingredients list and how-to below, and let me know what you think of this quick and yummy dinner!

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • One package Perdue Frozen Popcorn Chicken (26oz)
  • Two packages Idahoan Instant Mashed Potatoes (just add water! These are always $1 each at my Shop-Rite store!)
  • One package frozen white/yellow corn (I purchased the steamer bag for less dishes!)
  • One small jar Heinz (or any other brand) prepared Chicken Gravy
  • Approx 1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese

How to (it’s all in the assembly!):

  1. Prepare chicken according to package directions.
  2. When chicken has about 10 minutes left, prepare corn and boil water for instant potatoes. Follow package directions.
  3. Heat gravy.
  4. Grab a bowl and layer up! I started with a layer of potatoes, then shredded cheese, then corn, then chicken and topped with a drizzle of gravy, but the beauty of this is that you can layer it any way you like!

Some tips:

Change this up! Maybe instead of gravy, you can drizzle with BBQ sauce or Ranch dressing? Add sliced green onions, bacon and sour cream for more of a “loaded potato bow”! The options are really endless and there’s no wrong way to do it. Enjoy!

Recipes

Birria Tacos: an experience.

My daughter’s always finding some amazing-looking recipes on Tik Tok. The Birria Taco sensation was no exception. She showed me countless versions of the same dish, but we loved the tutorial by @collegegirleats – it looked easy enough to follow, so we decided to try it. Let me just say, the end result, while not ridiculously spectacular, not ‘omg we need to make these again’, was in fact okay. The flavor was absolutely there, just the time it took to make these and get them served was A LOT, and it got discouraging when our tortillas were falling apart until we swapped pans and all went right with the world again.

Was it worth the effort? Yeah, it was fun to make these with my daughter, it was fun to say we did it, but again… not something I think we’ll go back to any time soon, but the plus is that we had a lot of shredded meat and sauce left over, so it’s now in the freezer for next time and we’ve saved ourselves 3 hours! The assembly at the end was the most time consuming, but regardless, here’s how we did it, and I’d love to hear your experiences with these viral tacos!

Birria Tacos
Serves at least 6
Cook Time: 3 hours


Meat:
• 2lb Chuck Roast

Peppers, Veggies and Spice:
The dried peppers were tough to find, not one at my regular grocery store, but we ended up at a really awesome bodega in my area that had all of them!
• 3 dried Guajillo Peppers
• 2 dried Ancho Chile Peppers
• A scoop (or two, depending on your spice tolerance) of canned Chipotle Peppers
• One whole onion, peeled
• 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
• 6 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
• 5 bay leaves
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1tsp ground cumin

To Serve:
• Corn tortillas
• Shredded cheese (we used cheddar jack)
• Avocado slices – we didn’t do this, but wished we did!
• Sour cream

The Process:
1. Sear your meat on both sides in a large pot (I used a deep Dutch oven).
2. Add about 6-8 cups of water, enough to cover the meat by at least an inch.
3. Add to pot: all of your peppers, veggies and spices listed above.
4. Cover and simmer for one hour.
5. While the meat is simmering, boil one whole large tomato.
5. Once an hour passes, open the lid and remove the bay leaves. Then, pull out all of your peppers, veggies and spices from and put in a blender with the boiled tomato (with a little of the liquid if needed to blend).
6. While blending, remove meat and shred with forks.
7. Add blended veggies back to the pot, and add shredded beef. Simmer on low about 2 hours more.
8. Once done, remove the meat to a bowl and shred, it should just fall apart. Add shredded meat back to the pot and stir to coat.
9. In a frypan, heat up a little vegetable oil. Dip tortillas into sauce and place into fry pan. Add shredded meat to one side and top with cheese. Fold over, and brown lightly on both sides. Repeat for as many tacos as you like! See my photo set below for the full process!

TIP: We did switch to a non-stick fry pan about half way through and that helped a TON with sticking.


Recipes

Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés (by Ghirardelli)

This recipe is SO EASY and SO GOOD, I just had to share it! I made these Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés for my family on Valentine’s Day, and everyone could not stop raving about them. Sure, they take a little extra love than stirring up a cake or brownie mix, but they are 10000% worth the effort, I promise. I followed Ghirardelli’s recipe exactly, and my batter filled four brand-spanking-new 8oz ramekins, that I actually went out and bought specifically for the occasion. I’m sure you can make this in a larger quiche dish, but you’d really have to watch your timing. My vote is for individual-serving ramekins all the way.

IMG_7282
Look at the rise on these souffles!!

IMG_7283

oven

Recipe, from Ghirardelli.com
Makes Four 8oz Ramekins

• 10oz Ghirardelli 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate Premium Baking Chips
• 6 TBS Unsalted Butter, plus more for coating dishes
• 6 TBS Granulated Sugar, plus more for coating dishes
• 6 Eggs, separated, at room temperature
• 1/2 tsp Cream of tartar
• 1/8 tsp salt
• 1/4 tsp Vanilla extract
• 1 TSB Orange liquor, optional
• Powdered sugar, optional

How To:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position. Preheat oven to 400°F. 
  2. Generously coat eight 1- cup ramekins with butter, then coat bottom and sides of dishes with granulated sugar, tapping out the excess.
  3. In a medium microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate and butter, heating in 30 second increments and stirring in between until completely melted. Whisk in egg yolks, salt, vanilla extract, and orange liquor if using, until combined.
  4. In an electric mixer, beat egg whites with cream of tarter on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer still running, add sugar one tablespoon at a time, beat until egg whites hold stiff peaks and appear glossy.
  5. Whisk a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixer to lighten batter. Fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions. Divide batter amongst ramekins, filling each almost to the rim. Using a wet paper towel, wipe excess batter from rim.
  6. Bake until soufflés are puffed and center moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 11-13 minutes. Dust top with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
  7. To make chocolate soufflés ahead of time, freeze filled ramekins until you are ready to bake. Preheat oven to 400F and bake soufflés for 17-18 minutes.



Recipes

Beef Stew…pie?

I’ll admit it, I’m a superfan of Emmymade on Facebook. If you’re not familiar, click through and check out her page. She makes really fun food videos, and covers everything from recipes that went viral on TikTok and copycat versions of famous foods, but my favorites are those where she takes military-issued food rations and makes something insanely good out of them, like this one:

Video credit: Emmymade // At around 13:17, something caught my eye – she puts beef stew in a pie (puff pastry)!


My husband and I were watching this video the other night, and when she got to the part with the beef stew (13:17) the two of us looked at each other as if the light bulbs above our heads lit up at exactly the same time!

I had a plan already to make my regular beef stew, so I thought, hey, let’s mix it up a bit and try putting it inside puff pastry! SPOILER ALERT: IT WORKED AND IT WAS REALLLLLY GOOD!

You can use any beef stew you like (including canned, if you’re in a pinch), but if you need a great, simple beef stew recipe, try mine. The steps are below, in photos:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. I used Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry sheets (one box includes two sheets). Defrost as package instructs, and place one sheet on a sheet pan lined with foil and lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Spoon your cooked stew over the sheet, leaving room at the edges for sealing.
Beat up 2 egg yolks and brush around the edges of the base layer. Drape second sheet of puff pastry dough over the top of the stew and press the edges to seal. Brush the top of the pastry with the egg and cut a small hole in the center to release steam. I sprinkled mine with a little bit of dried thyme, but it’s not necessary.
Bake for about 20-25 mins or until crust is puffed and golden brown.
Cut up and serve! I had extra stew, so I served it separately in a bowl and froze leftovers.
Crispy, flaky and buttery outside, savory and warm inside. A winner dinner – except for my daughter, who hates all things beef stew and protested this meal by having a TV dinner that’s off in the distance!


Takeaways:
1. Next time, I think I’d try to make individual pies, which would give a crispy crust on all four sides (because, who doesn’t love puff pastry?!)
2. You could make your stew ahead of time and keep in the fridge. It can be added to the pastry cold, since the cooking in the oven will warm it right up.
3. I’d chop my veggies and beef smaller, for more uniform bites in the filling.

Give this a try and let me know what you think in the comments!

Recipes

Homemade Taco Crunch Wraps – Success! (but not before a fail!)

We’ve fallen into a rut of ‘typically expected’ weekly meals – pasta one day, burgers the next, chicken on another day, even a little breakfast for dinner now and then, but tacos – those are always on a Tuesday. This week, I decided to switch that up a bit and try to make one of my favorite things from Moe’s Southwest Grill – they call it a Stack!

They describe a Stack as “Our Take on a Southwest Wrap: soft on the outside, crunchy on the inside, it’s like a quesadilla and a hard taco had a baby”. Image credit, Moe’s Southwest Grill

The way I see it, a Stack, or Crunch Wrap as Taco Bell calls theirs, is basically a hard shell taco that’s split, filled, and wrapped in a giant tortilla. In any case, the crunch on the inside and the warm wrapper on the outside makes for a great, filling meal that’s fun to just pick up and eat. What’s also nice is that you can fill it with anything you like – in this week’s version, I made mine with ground turkey meat instead of beef, and added a standard taco seasoning, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa and guacamole. I also added a little shredded lettuce, but found that it got too warm and soggy in the grilling process so ended up picking it out as I ate. I think it would be great to experiment with fillings (as you could with any regular taco or burrito situation) – maybe use shredded up rotisserie chicken for a quick version, or ground beef or shredded pork… even just a plain cheese and vegetable one for the non-meat eaters out there. The possibilities are really endless!

My instructions below are simply for the assembly – be creative!

What you need:
– Protein like chicken, ground turkey, ground beef cooked in your favorite taco seasoning
– Shredded cheese
– Toppings like: sour cream, guacamole, salsa, black beans, refried beans, jalapenos, etc.
– Large flour tortillas (like burrito size wrappers)
– Tostadas, I found mine in the Taco section of the supermarket
– Griddle or large fry pan

How To:
1. See the above photo set of the process, but it goes like this…
2. Have all of your filling ingredients ready to go.
3. Don’t make the mistake I made! ++FAIL ALERT CENTER PHOTO++ I thought by assembling on the hot griddle, the wraps would get softer and easier to handle – NOPE! The wraps got crispy very fast and were impossible to fold over since they shrunk a bit as they got hotter, leaving the tostada exposed. Do all of your assembly on a plate, then move to the griddle for the final crisping.
4. Heat up your griddle or pan.
4. Layer in this order: tortilla, tostada in the middle, cheese, meat (or extra cheese), toppings, cheese again, then a final tostada on top.
5. Fold the tortilla up and around the middle until you get it as tightly closed as possible and grill folded side down to seal it all in. Flip when lightly browned and enjoy!

The end result is a warm, slightly chewy/crispy outside and a nice crunch inside – full of your favorite filling. Let me know in the comments what combos you come up with!