Island Cooking: Easy stick-to-your-ribs meals

If anyone out there can tell me how a teenager’s brain works, I would really like to know. So far, it totally eludes me. Even though I was one, I still can’t figure it out.

The other night I came home and it was one of those really freezing cold days that we had – just another thing to irritate me lately. I have to admit it was pretty cold but I still refuse to turn up the heat just yet. So I walked in the house and as I rounded the corner into the living room I was met with two pairs of eyes staring at me and shivering on the couch and of course those shivering lips just have to open and speak, or should I say, shriek, “Why is it so cold outside and why is it so freezing in this house?”

I thought I would state the obvious after a quick look around the room. Let’s see: the windows were open, both kids were wearing shorts and t-shirts, ice cream bowls were on the table in front of them and the back door was wide open so the wind was blowing in from the open dog door from the outside.

Exasperated I told them that under no circumstances were they to turn on the heat yet because it was going to be a long winter and they could wear sweats or pants and a sweatshirt and would be nice and warm – and how about some hot chocolate instead of the ice cream?

Apparently though when I open my mouth their teenage brains see my lips moving but hear something completely different like, “I don’t care that you’re cold but next time it’s cold please crank the heat up as high as you would like.” Which is what at least one of them heard because when I came home the next day for lunch and opened the door it was like I was walking into a sauna – a heat wave hit me. And to make matters worse – and me more upset – no one was even home to be enjoying their day in the Barbados at my house and, yes, the windows were open too.

So once again I had to tell them not to turn up the heat so high. But this time I actually came up with a strategy to tell them in a way that they would listen and understand. I decided to text message one of them what I expected and agreed with the new rules, and I Facebooked the other and explained the situation and apparently he seems to understand. I may have actually found a way to communicate with teenagers, but I still like the old fashion way – at mealtimes.

This week I have a couple of recipes that are really good for chilly nights, and teenagers actually like them too if you don’t talk too much and just place the food in front of them.

But to brace yourself, make yourself a nice relaxing hot toddy first.

Hot Apple Toddy

2 oz. whisky


Hot apple cider

Lemon wedge for garnish (optional)

Cinnamon stick for garnish (optional)

Coat the bottom of a glass with honey then add whisky and hot apple cider. Stir well. Garnish if you like, and enjoy.

Easy Braised Short Ribs

1 28-oz. can tomato sauce

3 Tbsp. lemon juice

4 tsp. Worcestshire sauce

2 Tbsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 bay leaves

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 tsp. salt

1 medium onion, sliced

3 pounds short ribs

In a large pan over medium high heat, stir in tomato sauce, lemon juice and Worcestshire sauce. Add parsley, thyme, bay leaves, brown sugar, salt and red pepper flakers and mix well. Add your onions and short ribs, mix all together and let mixture come to a boil.

Cover and reduce heat to medium low, and simmer stirring occasionally. Simmer for about 2 1/2 hours, skimming any fat that floats to the top. When meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, it is ready.

Short Ribs Pasta Sauce

4 to 6 meaty short ribs

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

2 carrots, diced

2 celery ribs, diced

6 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped

1 cup dry red wine

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 325. In a heavy oven-safe pan, starting on stovetop, heat olive oil and brown ribs well on all sides. Remove the ribs and drain off all but a couple of teaspoons of fat.

Add onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms and garlic and cook until onion becomes translucent.

Add the wine and cook over high heat until it is reduced by more than half.

Add Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes and tomatoes. Mix well and add the ribs back to the pan

Cover and cook in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. Remove the ribs from the pan and cut off all the meat and chop it up and add it back to the sauce.

Cook a pasta of your choice and serve rib sauce with some Parmesan cheese and enjoy.

Send me your favorite recipes to [email protected]

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Holly Simason

Columnist at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander cooking columnist Holly Simason is co-author of the mystery series “Death of a Kitchen Diva." Simason has collaborated with her screenwriter brother Rick Copp for the Bar Harbor-based series. The books are written under the pen name Lee Hollis.