Country Style Spare Ribs with Apples, Cabbage, and Fennel

porkby Karen Frazier

Things are about to take a turn here at Recipes for My Kids. As you may have already noted, I often include gluten-free and dairy-free recipes because I have celiac disease and a casein allergy. While the kids were still at home, I went ahead and prepared their favorites that contained dairy and gluten anyway. The result was that I cross-contaminated myself frequently, and often wound up feeling very ill.

Now Tanner is off to college, and Kevin is only here one or two weekends per month. When Tanner left about a month ago for college, I realized it was the perfect time to turn my kitchen into a gluten-free, dairy-free mecca. I meticulously cleaned the entire kitchen, removing all traces of gluten or dairy that had accumulated in drawers and cupboards over the years. I purchased new gluten-free cookware and utensils. I designated a small counter and a single cupboard the spot for preparation of gluten-containing foods like sandwiches or toasts, and implemented very specific cleaning protocols so if someone made a gluten-containing food, it didn’t cross over into my pristine area. Even the freezer has a designated gluten area (the bottom shelf), and the kids have a refrigerator up in their room if they want to store some gluten-containing food when they are home.

As a result, I started feeling better than I had in years. With even the tiniest traces of gluten and dairy cross-contamination removed from my home, the years of symptoms I’d experienced such as exhaustion and digestive discomfort went away. Clearly I was on the right track.

With dairy and gluten grains off the table, my ultimate plan was to move in the direction of an ancestral style diet that didn’t contain any grains, processed foods, industrial seed oils, chemicals, processed sugar, or processed salt. My plan was to move into a more ancestral way of eating gradually. Then, about a week after Tanner left for school, Jim had a heart attack. I decided at that moment it was time to truly revamp his diet and mine in order to protect his heart health in the future.

Today, just four weeks later, my kitchen is a very different place. I cook every meal from scratch – all aspects of it – and I make it without grains, processed foods, or industrial seed oils. Jim has already lost 15 pounds in about two weeks, and his health is the best I have seen it in quite some time. We’re lucky because his heart attack was very mild. It served as a wake-up call to both of us.

Because I’m cooking so much, I’ve come up with a few strategies to give myself a break so I’m not in the kitchen constantly. For example, I typically make enough in each meal so that we get two dinners out of it, as well as something for the freezer. That way, on nights I don’t feel like cooking, I’ve got food in the freezer that can easily be thawed and reheated.

I’m also using my slow cooker. A lot. When it’s not in use cooking meals, I’ve got it simmering with a bone broth or stock to use in recipes. To make the stocks, I use bones and trimmings from meat, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and herbs. I simmer it for 12 to 24 hours depending on the type of bones and freeze it so I have it on hand whenever I want to make a quick soup.

So – this is a very long way of saying this. You’ll notice things changing here on the blog. All recipes from this point forward (unless I’m getting in the way back machine and pulling out a favorite recipe from the past) are both gluten-free and dairy-free. More likely than not, they’ll also be grain-free and contain lots of healthy plant foods and pastured ingredients. Some may call it paleo. Some may call it primal. But I just call it delicious. So here’s the first paleo recipe. Enjoy!

Country Style Spare Ribs with Apples, Cabbage, and Fennel

  • 2 sweet tart organic apples (such as honey crisp), peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 organic fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • Dash cayenne
  • 2 pounds pastured country style pork spare ribs
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 small green organic cabbage, cut into small pieces
  1. In a large slow cooker, combine the apples, fennel, onion, garlic, apple cider vinegar, chicken stock, cinnamon, thyme, and cayenne. Stir to combine.
  2. Season the pork with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Add to the slow cooker and stir to combine with the vegetables and apples.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 8 to ten hours, or on high for five hours.
  4. An hour before serving, stir in the cabbage. Cover and continue to cook on low for an additional hour.

Crockpot BBQ Beans

beansI’m not going to lie. There are days when cooking is not an option. While I’ve managed to find ways to spend less than an hour in the kitchen cooking most meals, some days that is not even in the cards. I had a meal planned for today – a pork roast beautifully brined, artfully flavored with a sweet/spicy rub, and cooked low and slow in the oven until it was fork tender before I brushed it with a sweet maple glaze.

The best laid plans, however. We were invited to a barbecue tonight, and Jim has to work. Whenever there’s a barbecue, my friends ask me to bring one thing: my beans. I have to admit, they are pretty darn good and never quite the same way twice because I pretty much dump a bunch of stuff together, stick it in the crockpot, and let it cook all day.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Since I had the roast that needed to be cooked today, I stuck it in one of my crockpots with some barbecue sauce. It is currently becoming pulled pork for Jim’s next few work meals. I like to make my own BBQ sauce. Though I can’t tell you proportions (I dump), when I make BBQ sauce it may contain some (or all) of the following: Muir Glen organic tomato sauce, tomato paste, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, whiskey, chili powder, cayenne, minced garlic, minced onion, vinegar, minced shallot, salt, fresh cracked black pepper, pepper flakes, molasses, brown sugar. Typically, I start with tomato sauce and paste, liquid smoke, garlic, onion, paprika, vinegar, chili powder, whiskey, and molasses or brown sugar in a pot on the stove. Then I start tasting and adding stuff, and I let it simmer and thicken. Usually it comes out pretty well.

Beans for the Barbecue

My beans that are so popular at barbecues don’t actually have a recipe. I learned basic concepts from Etta Kirk, a family friend, and then I started to adapt them. My process is typically pretty similar each time, though proportions vary widely and sometimes I get creative and toss in something extra like a little whiskey or liquid smoke.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 large cans of your favorite commercial baked beans. I like Bush’s country-style.
  • 1 can of kidney beans, drained
  • 1 lb. of ground beef, browned
  • 4-5 slices of bacon, browned and crumbled
  • One sweet onion
  • One each red and green peppers
  • 2-3 jalapeno peppers, seeded
  • Several cloves of garlic
  • Barbecue sauce (see above) (around 1/2 cup)
  • Dijon or sweet hot mustard (usually a couple tablespoons)
  • Brown sugar or molasses (about 1/4 cup)

Method

  1. In a large crockpot, mix baked beans, kidney beans, ground beef, bacon, barbecue sauce, mustard, and brown sugar or molasses.
  2. Roughly chop vegetables and place them in the bowl of a food processor with garlic. Pulse the processor for several one second pulses until vegetables are finely minced. Add them to the beans and stir well.
  3. Cook in the crockpot on high for four hours or low for eight hours.
  4. The best part about this is you can create it to your taste. Make your own BBQ sauce, or choose your favorite commercially prepared offering. Processing the vegetables and garlic to a nearly pureed state makes them spread their flavor through the beans, giving it a hit of nice heat. You can also put the beans in a foil baking dish, cover them with foil, and cook them on the barbecue for several hours as you cook low and slow meats such as ribs.