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My top secret recipe for crock pot BBQ ribs

My top secret recipe for crock pot BBQ ribs

I went shopping at the Iggle while hungry again. Which means I bought a slab of meat on impulse again. This time it was pork ribs, and I didn’t even realize until I got home that they were boneless ribs, which means that they don’t really seem like ribs but they are ribs. I’ve been all about comfort food lately (am I ever not about comfort food?) and crock pot BBQ ribs sounded awesome.

And it turns out, they were awesome.

Crock Pot BBQ ribs

Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but here is my TOP SECRET crock pot BBQ ribs recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Ribs
  • BBQ Sauce

Directions:

  1. Put ribs and BBQ Sauce in crock pot.
  2. Cook on low all day.

Fantastic.

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Beer me! Raising a glass with @PaBrewTours North Country Brewing @VoodooBrewery @PipersPub Rivertowne & @FullPintBrewing

I hardly consider myself a beer connoisseur, but I do enjoy a good brew from time to time. I wish I could be all hops crazy like the cool kids, but hops are too bitter for me. I lean towards wheat and fruity beers. And, again, to prove how uncool I am, I don’t like dark beers either. I probably sound picky, but I do like a wide enough range of beers that I can reliably find something pretty much anywhere I go that I really enjoy.

Due to some uninentional timing, I ended up having a lot of beers in the first two months of this year. Mr. Beez and I went on the Yinz Going Up North? Tour with PA Brew Tours in January, and then I again toured with PA Brew Tours on their East Pittsburgh Brew Tour N’At with my friends in the Allegheny County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.  I threw a visit to Pipers Pub in this post because we had good beer there too, so why not?

Item of Interest Number 1: The Yinz Going Up North? Tour

All of PA Brew Tours’ outings begin at a restaurant/six pack shop, so you can pick up provisions for the road. Yes, you can drink beer on the bus. It’s even encouraged. The tour involves visiting multiple breweries, with samples and behind the scenes tours at each, and a dynamic tour guide who leads trivia and generally coordinates fun.

I’ve been on brewery tours before that just involve a little sample at the end. This is not that kind of tour. PA Brew Tours is a day drinking party. Having alternate transportation home afterward is a wise idea. Maybe this is just because I’m old, but once we got back to the ‘burgh from our tour, I was exhausted. A post-beer-tour-bar-crawl was not going to happen. But on to the tour!

The tour kicked off at Carson Street Deli, which I only had some vague idea existed. I was really impressed by the nice selection of sandwiches and extremely impressive beer selection, both on tap and for mix-and-match six packs. They also deliver! Mr. Beez and I bought some brews and made a mental note to visit again later.

Beers at Carson St DeliOur first stop was at North Country Brewing in Slippery Rock. Mr. Beez and I have visited there before, and really like the place. During our first visit, we were camping near Moraine State Park. Our friendly server was chatting with us about our visit, and as we dined the weather got terrible. A TORNADO even touched down in the park as we ate. We finished our meal and were getting ready to pay, and the server told us to please stay as long as we could possibly want, because it just wasn’t safe to go back out right yet. It wasn’t a ply to get us to buy more beer, the North Country staff was genuinely concerned about our safety. It was so genuinely sweet. Also, the food was genuinely goo, and the beer was great.

North Country Brewing

North Country Brewing Taps

They put out sampler platters for the tour and we all had the opportunity to try whatever beers we wanted. All of the beers are brewed right there. The Firehouse Red was our favorite, and the beer is unbelievably cheap, like $3 a pint.

North Country is about an hour’s drive north of Pittsburgh. It’s a destination definitely worth the time in the car, maybe not all the time, but at least once or twice to check the place out.

North Country Brewing beers

Our next stop was Voodoo Brewery in Meadville, PA. I didn’t know much about this brewery before our visit there, but it is for sure a gem.

Voodoo Brewery

Voodoo’s selection is broad. Mr. Beez and I agreed that our favorite was the Gran Met. They offer it as a cocktail mixed with juice. I had it mixed with grapefruit juice, and it was fantastic. The Voodoo Love Child and White Magick also sound awesome, but we got distracted by how much we loved Gran Met and never made it around to trying them.

Voodoo Beer List

Voodoo Brewing Samples

Most breweries on PA Brew Tours’ itineraries offer food, and in particular spent grain pizza (gotta do something with all that grain!) We had a pizza and salad, and they were just great. The salad was so fresh, and the pizza was rustic and tasty.

Voodoo Brewing FoodWe (obviously) toured the brewery. The coolest thing about Voodoo is that these folks are true believers in their craft. They have a philosophy that the beer needs love and encouragement to properly develop, so they play music for their beer 24 hours a day!

Voodoo Brewing TourTheir menu also includes something a little different– beer milkshakes. I tried the pistachio beer milkshake. It tasted exactly how it sounds…which basically means that no thank you, I won’t order that again, but it was a good learning experience.

Voodoo Brewing Beer Milkshake

Item of Interest No. 2: Piper’s Pub

The Beez family has gotten into the habit of going out to dinner every Friday night, mostly because by the time it’s Friday, I don’t have the energy to think about dinner, much less cook it. One of our absolute favorites is Piper’s Pub. Why? Check out those pics. Love it.  My brew picks for the night: An Arsenal Cider House Fighting Elleck and a Full Pint White Lightning.

Onion Soup and Arsenal Cider at Piper's Pub

Burger and a Full Pint White Lighening at Piper's Pub

Item of Interest No. 3: East Pittsburgh Breweries

This tour kicked off at D’s Dogs and Six Packs, which is great. If you haven’t been there yet– GO THERE. Our first stop on the tour was Rivertowne Brewing. I had been to their restaurant over by the stadiums, but actually did not realize that they are a real brewery. Rivertowne is actually a large brewery, and they are unique beause they have a canning line.

Rivertowne Pour House TapRivertowne has a pineapple beer that is just great.

The Rivertowne Brewing Tanks

We were only at Rivertowne for a short bit, and then we move on to Full Pint. I didn’t realize it when I first got there, but I can now confidently say that Full Pint’s White Lightning is my favorite local beer of the moment.

The Full Pint Tap

Beers

For whatever ridiculous reason, I did not manage to take a snap of my food there. We ordered a spent grain mashed potato pizza that was fantastic, and I also got a growler to take home. It was only $5 for the growler bottle and $10 to fill it, which was a deal I could NOT pass up.

I like beer, but I would never otherwise go out of my way to seek out local breweries to visit. PA Brew Tours fills that gap and makes it incredibly easy for the casual beer fan to check out our local beer hotspots. As I sat here writing this post, Mr. Beez kept looking over my shoulder, remarking “I want to do another beer tour!”

So that is the recap of my beer exploits in Western PA, and I can now cross this item off my 32 before 32 list!

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32 before 32– Simple slow-cooking: Split Pea & Ham and Vegetarian Lentil Soup

With spring refusing to show up, my crock pot endeavors have continued to be all soup, all the time. I’ve been keeping up with my recipe-a-week goal, but since the last two weeks have been pretty hectic, I’ve gone back to some super-simple recipes.

I love split pea soup, and have always made it as a vegetarian soup. I wanted to try it out this time with some ham for extra flavor. I probably should have just used smoked hamhocks, but I went all out and got a big old smoked ham shank.
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This soup turned out so incredibly good. I generally followed the recipe on the split pea bag, and threw the ham shank in there. After the slow cooking, the meat fell off the bone. There were big chunks of salty ham throughout the soup, and the soup had a rich, salty flavor. Mr. Beez is not into split pea, but the ham appealed to him, and he specially requested I try my hand at making a ham and bean soup. That sounds good to me!

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This week I also went for a basic lentil soup. I included celery and carrots just because I happened to have them, but I almost always put kale in lentil soup.

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I had some crusty bread that ended up stale, so I tried my hand at homemade croutons. I had fresh parsley but not dried, so I figured I’d just throw fresh parsley in there. Next time, I wouldn’t bother with fresh parsley. Dried parsley would actually stick to the croutons, but the fresh parsley barely did. I drizzled the bread chunks with garlic powder and olive oil, baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, and they came out quite nicely.

Homemade croutonsI’ve made lentil soup a million times before, and it usually turns out amazing. Unfortunately this time, I didn’t have a heavy enough hand with the seasoning. I only put one veggie bouillon cube in there and did not include tomatoes. The soup is pretty good, but doesn’t have the usual awesome flavor. It turned out OK but not great. I may strain some of the liquid, blend it with more spices and make a vegetarian pate with it.

Vegetarian Lentil Soup

I’ve got this week’s crock pot meal cooking right now, Rabbit Stew. I’ve never made rabbit before, but the butcher at Marty’s Market assured me that this recipe’s a good one. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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V-Day Miscellany

Happy Valentine’s day! Or as I like to think of it: Happy Chocolate-Has-No-WW-Points day! In the Beez family, we are celebrating the holiday with take-out from Szmidt’s, because nothing says LOVE like lovingly made sandwiches and pierogies. For serious, I am looking forward to dinner tonight big time.

Last week I failed to make a crock pot meal, so I did two this week. The first was Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore from Skinnytaste. I dumped a bunch of dried red pepper flakes in there, which made the dish even more appealing to Mr. Beez. It was too spicy for me, but I evened that out with a hearty dollop of sour cream. On the whole this recipe rated “Good,” meaning I’ll keep it handy as something to make now and then and mix up the variety, but it hasn’t been one of our absolute favorites.

Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

The second crock pot meal was Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup from Baked by Rachel. This recipe was supremely easy, and Mr. Beez declared it to be “amazing.” I don’t think he’s ever called anything I’ve made “amazing” before. Not even our kid. He was all sheepish about wanting to eat all the soup, and I was like “listen, it takes like 2 minutes to throw together, and I have all the ingredients to make another pot. Chow down.” Needless to say, this recipe is going to stay in heavy rotation, especially with all these polar vortices we keep having.

Slow Cooker Fully Loaded Potato Soup

Am I the only one who thinks today for whatever reason is a perfect day for ROD STEWART ALL DAY LONG?

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32 Before 32: The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett

I only got into audiobooks recently. My habit was to listen to the news in the car, but over time, the news just wore on me. I grew tired of listening to everyone killing and hating and complaining. I was perusing the books at the Dahntahn Carnegie Library, when it struck me: Forget the news! I’ll just listen to stories!

Dahntahn’s selection isn’t the greatest for books on CD.  I could usually find something that interested me, but not a whole lot. Then I checked out the collection at Main, and I was in loooove. It took a great deal of restraint, but I managed to only carry home 3 books my first visit.

While I was there, I spotted it: The thirty two disc unabridged audiobook of The Pillars of the Earth. I didn’t know much about the book other than I heard it was “good.” And being that it was SO ridiculously long, I felt like listening to the whole thing would be something of an accomplishment, something perfect for my 32 before 32 list.

Pillars of the Earth

I started listening to it right after the new year, and I finished it just tonight. There were a few times I had to turn it off while Baby Beez was in the car, because battle scenes and love scenes aren’t appropriate for young ears (see, I can responsibly parent sometimes!) Sometimes when I’ve got a lot of discs to go through in a book, I get bored and impatient. With Pillars, however, I wasn’t impatient for a second. I was immediately drawn in, and remained entranced for all FORTY ONE hours of the story.

The mini-synopsis: This is a story of a determined monk, and his life’s work of building a cathedral.

But the story isn’t just about the monk and the cathedral. The myriad characters from all walks of life are complex, endearing or horrible, or sometimes both. Their lives intersect in unexpected and complex ways. The story is remarkably layered, but still relatable on an emotional level.

There were two things that I loved best about this book: (1) It left me morally satisfied. The good people get their rewards, the bad people meet horrible ends, and (2) Follett has a talented way of describing the extremely subtle political interactions, both within the clergy, and between the clergy and nobility, in a fashion that is easily understandable to the reader, but simultaneously not insultingly dumbed-down or boringly dry.

I’m not a patient reader. I like things that go fast, and I like the satisfaction of quickly checking books off my list. The enormity of Pillars did not deter me, because it kept me unerringly engaged. It is not often I say this, but I was a little sad when I came to the end, because I enjoyed the story so much.