Sunday, February 9, 2014

Does Every Day Have To Be An Adventure: Mid-Winter BBQ: Sweet-Sour Balsamic Glazed Ribs

     Life is an adventure but do you need one every single day?  Maybe not, but given that we are in Europe for a limited amount of time, in the back of my head, I keep thinking that if not every day then every weekend needs to consist of an adventure...or it is all a waste.  Crazy, I know but it has led not only to incredible weekend experiences but equally stressful failures.
     However, two years into this "adventure", I have begun to learn that sometimes doing nothing is a good thing.   In fact, I think that we are beginning to perfect that mantra.  As Dear Daughter gets older and the stresses of school and swimming increase, it seems perfectly reasonable to have a "nothing" day every once in a while.  In fact, I think we have to demand it.  
     Swimming is coming to an end. Next week, we travel to The Netherlands for the European Forces Swim League Championships where Dear Daughter has earned spots to compete in five events.  This is a very big deal given that last year, we did not go.  The amount of progress that she has made in the last year has been nothing short of phenomenal.  So, while her parents hoped for a side trip to the only Trappist brewery in The Netherlands on Sunday afternoon, we were thrilled (and a bit disappointed) to learn that she had been seated for a fifth event for Sunday afternoon.  I guess, La Trappe will have to occur on another adventure.
     However, that means that having a nothing day over the past two weekends was warranted.  Evening practices continued; homework is mounting; the Olympics are now why not devote a day or two to staying home and doing almost absolutely nothing.  I think that sometimes, we Americans feel that every waking moment of our day has to be consumed by some sort of activity.  I hope that I have learned something by living here in savor life a bit more.
     We did nothing yesterday and it felt GREAT!   We watched the Olympics; I planned future adventures, Dear Daughter made Duck-Tape change purses and Dear Husband...well, he was a bit more productive.  Laundry is completed along with the making of his delicious hummus.  I guess he has not yet embraced the "do nothing, stay in your PJs Saturday".
     I do now have some great trips planned in my head and we need it.  I feel we travelled a bit more when we lived in Germany.  Now in Belgium, we have built more of a community life - dedicating a lot of time to swimming and it has definitely paid off in terms of DD's swimming progress.  Crazy, but I think that we have enjoyed it as well.
      For an adventure, we ventured a whopping five miles to the brewery of St. Feuillen.  Everyone knows that Belgium is known for its beer and the five pounds I have gained since moving here in August is proof that they make really incredible beer.  St. Feuillen is our local beer and it is wonderful.  Around here, many breweries make a Christmas beer and this one was one of the best that we sampled (and we sampled as many as we could find...of course).
     One day a week, the brewery offers a tour of the premises without reservation.  We were surprised that almost 20 people had shown up for the 90 minute tour.  Only one other individual was English speaking but the tour guide made a point of providing us an English translation along the way.  Granted, it was much shorter than the French version and I tried really hard to pick up on the French story, but in the end, I was thankful for her efforts.  The brewery has been in the family for 140 years and the current owner (who came around and shook our hands) is also the mayor of the village.  The process had not changed much in 140 years...still mixing all that stuff in one vat...until this past summer, when they built a new facility that can triple their capacity.  However, the entire process is still located on one city block and it is remarkable to see.  At the end of the visit, we were invited into the tasting room, where we were "encouraged" to sample two of the breweries beers.  In fact, St. Feuillen not only makes beer for Belgium, but they also make specific beers just for export to other countries, including the U.S.  So, we enjoyed sampling the beers specifically made for The Netherlands and the U.S. and then had a bit of our favorite, the Grand Cru.  Not a bad adventure...
Until 6 months ago, every beer started in this vat!

How lucky are we...our neighborhood beer...

My recipe today comes from The NY Times...and while it is a bit crazy to think of ribs in the Winter...and ribs made in the oven...this is a fantastic recipe and goes well with a good Belgian beer.  Who cares if it is February.

Here's to nothing Saturdays!!!

Sweet-Sour Balsamic-Glazed Ribs
Adapted from The New York Times

Sweet-sour Balsamic Glazed Ribs

2 spare rib racks
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, halved and cut in half

For the sauce:
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup ketchup
6 ounces beer
1/4 cup honey
3 Tbsp grainy mustard
1 Tbsp molasses
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
2.  Spread out a sheet of aluminum foil on a work surface.  Place one rack on top and rub with oil.  Season with salt.  Place the garlic under the ribs and rap tightly in foil.  Repeat with second rack and place both packets on a large roasting pan.
3.  Roast for 30 minutes then reduce to 250 degrees and roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until tender.
4.  To make the sauce, place balsamic vinegar in a nonreactive saucepan and reduce by one third.  Add remaining ingredients and watch to make sure that it doesn't boil over.  Reduce heat and simmer until thick, about 30 minutes.  Add water if it gets to thick or adjust seasoning by adding more vinegar, salt or sugar as needed.
5.  Remove ribs from oven and open the foil carefully.  Slather the rib with the sauce and broil in the oven for 2-4 minutes or continue baking for 8-12 minutes.  Serve remaining sauce on the side.

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