Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Organized For A Cause, And As Always, Cooking.

My calendar is color-coded.  Snarky Son’s activities in green.  Darling Daughter’s in purple.  Mine in blue.  OK.  That’s not all.  Birthdays are pink.  Family stuff, orange.  And school stuff?  Blue (the school color).

C’mon.  How does this not make sense?

My spices are alphabetized. Don't judge me.  I bet lots of people do it.  They’re just afraid to come out of the spice cabinet and own up.   Pity, that.  United, we could convert cooks countrywide, allowing everyone that supreme satisfaction of locating your Turkish bay leaves and Greek oregano in 8 seconds.  Flat.

With my passion for order, you can imagine what “allowance day” is like Chez Wiles.  Suffice to say, SS and DD have always divvied up their monthly payola so that some goes toward short-term spending, some for long-term savings and some for charity.

SS and DD have wildly different spending and saving habits.  SS is a get-rid-of-it-before-it-sears-my-flesh spender -- he's a reliable stimulator of the U.S. economy.  DD is a rainy-day-but-that’s-not-rain-that’s-just-drizzle saver -- stashing cash in drawers, purses, wallets and jewelry boxes, anticipating the inevitable monsoon.  (Even then, though, I’m not sure how much of the loot would be unleashed.)

None of this is to say, however, that every single shopping excursion with the kids doesn’t involve the following dialogue:  Kid, “Will you buy this for me?”  Me, “Nope.  You have your own money.”  Kid, astonished, “What?”  Me, “If you want that psychedelic-peace-symbol-t-shirt/Superman-candle/pocket-Buddha so much, buy it yourself.”  Kid, “Are you serious?  I'm not buying that!”

Last week, though, with only the barest understanding of the dire post-earthquake situation in Haiti, the kids didn’t hesitate before digging into their charity stash.  DD, ever the planner, contributed a double-digit percentage of her coffers, but held the remainder in reserve.  Should another crisis arrive, she'll be prepared to help there, too.  I love that kid.

SS, on the other hand, opened his charity jar and said, “Take it.  All of it.”  After I added my contribution to the pile, we logged onto the Red Cross website, satisfied we’d made a good decision and relieved to feel as if we were doing something – anything – to help.

Two days later, though, SS’s favorite band, Blink-182 announced its own fundraising effort, selling Haiti T-shirts, with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross.

Naturally, SS asked if I’d buy one.  Naturally, I reminded him he has his own money.  He then quickly asked if he could resort to his “charity” cash.  And just as quickly, he remembered those coffers had been drained.

“I guess, then, that I’ll just buy it myself,” he said.  “It’s another way to help, right?”

I love that kid.

I also love the short ribs that we had this weekend.  Super tender.  Super flavorful.  And at $4.99 a pound (even at the fancy butcher), super affordable.

And in case you don’t print out the recipe, but want it later, it’s also super easy to find.  You know me.  It’s already categorized and filed.  You'll find it under “Main Dish Recipes” to the right!

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Whole Grain Mustard
Serves six -- or four with yummy leftovers
5 lbs. beef short ribs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 rib celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 cups dry red wine (I used an affordable Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 can beef broth
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
very generous grinding of pepper

In a large, heavy duty lidded pan (a Dutch oven or roaster is ideal), heat oil over medium high heat until hot and rippling.  Working in batches, brown ribs on all sides.  (This can take a while.  Be patient, and get a nice deep brown.)  Remove ribs from pan, and stir in onions.  Saute until translucent, then add carrot, celery and garlic.  Saute until lightly browned.  Stir in wine, beef broth, mustard, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Return short ribs to pan, put in oven (lidded) to bake at 300.  Check occasionally (if only to briefly lift the lid and let the aroma fill your kitchen).  After three hours, check with a fork.  Beef should be very tender and nearly falling off the bone.  If not, return to the oven for another 30 minutes or so.  When ribs are done, remove from oven and allow to rest 15 minutes (or up to 45 minutes) before serving over hot cooked egg noodles.
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