Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Nostalgia Foods -- Crock Pot Ribs and Zesty Slaw

 You know how certain foods can call up a memory and transport you back to a certain time? Or a signature dish of a family member makes you miss them if they've since passed? There are so many foods that call up the memories with the first spoonful. Specifically, to a pretty house on a street called Day Avenue--close enough to school that I could ride my bike, and a pond where Dad and I fished and caught frogs--the home I lived in from the ages of 6 to 10.

I think about my childhood and I remember so many good dinners, even though my mom likes to say she never was the best cook. I grew up with a taste for everything, aside from raw onions and probably lima beans, there was really no food I wouldn't eat. Thinking back, a lot of what we ate was Campbell's Soup based casseroles, dinners from boxes and mixes, and some family-sized frozen meals (Banquet Chicken Parm will hold a place in my heart forever). I now realize how much time and effort goes into planning and executing meals, even just cooking for myself and my boyfriend, it makes sense that my two working parents sometimes needed a boost from a box.

The house on the top right

Not that we didn't ever have fresh meals, we did, and I remember that there was always a hefty portion of vegetables accompanying every dish, but when I think back to my favorite foods growing up I remember Dad's baked beans and baked potatoes with chili, Mom's taco dip and Pepperidge Farms casserole, or the Canned Soup Enchiladas and the Banquet Chicken Parm. These are the dishes that, when I'm feeling like remembering my childhood, I call up.

And these, my mom's Country Ribs, which I would beg for every summer. Paired with sweet native corn--Hatfield Corn, from my hometown, is better than any other corn in the world that I've had--the falling-off-the-bone ribs were a summer favorite that I looked forward to every year.

These ribs are special. Since teaching myself to cook (and becoming an un-vegetarian, again, for the second time), I've longed for these ribs. They probably were my second favorite dish, after the Chicken Parm, but in recent years the special BBQ sauce was nowhere to be found, and they just weren't the same without the sweet-tangy orange hued sauce. All I remembered about it was the blue cap. The name escaped me. My mom and stepdad assumed the brand had gone out of business. I was heartbroken.

One day, while trying to figure out what to have for dinner, I turned to my boyfriend and said "I wish they still had that BBQ sauce with the blue cap." To which he immediately responded, "Open Pit?" The name rung a hard, loud bell in my head. "My parents used to get that all the time, at Costco, I think?" The search was on.

Since we didn't have a Costco card, we searched our local grocery stores. I finally found the coveted blue cap BBQ sauce on the bottom shelf, all the way to the left, at my most-visited supermarket of all places. Though the bottle was no longer glass and the logo had changed, it was the one. Out of cursory sight, I'd missed it all these years. I grabbed 3 bottles. I braced myself for the price of the country style ribs, and wonder of wonders, they were on sale! It was kismet.

While you can grill these, I chose the crock pot route. And I didn't pair them with my favorite corn, but rather some spicy roasted cauliflower bites and a zesty slaw. Recipes for both are to follow.

Crock Pot Country Style Ribs

  • ~3 lbs country style ribs, sliced into individual ribs if bought in slab form
  • 2-3 bottles Open Pit BBQ sauce
  • Optional: onions

-Put ribs an onions into crock pot. Cover generously with BBQ sauce.

-Cook on Low for 6-8 hours, until meat is tender and easily falls off the bone. Discard BBQ sauce that is left in the crock pot (it will be runny, full of the pork fat, and unusable).

-Toss or simply top ribs with remaining BBQ sauce.

Roasted Cauliflower Florets

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (or one bag frozen, defrosted)
  • 1 tbs red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbs-1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbs Boyajian Wasabi oil
  • sprinkle of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.* Toss cauliflower with olive oil, cayenne, and salt and pepper.

-Lay cauliflower in single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast for 10 minutes, flipping halfway, until beginning to brown.

-Sprinkle with Wasabi oil, serve.
*Optional: for a softer inside, boil cauliflower for 5 minutes prior to dressing them to cook.

Zesty No-Mayo Coleslaw

  • 1 cup green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup broccoli slaw mix
  • 1-2 tbs dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs red wine vinegar (I used sherry vinegar)
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 3 tbs cup olive oil

-Toss cabbages and broccoli slaw until well mixed. Separately, whisk together wet ingredients. Slowly add wet to dry, stirring vigorously, until cabbage-slaw combo is well combined. If more dressing is needed, feel free to make a second batch of dressing, using only enough to coat the cabbage mixture.

-Let sit in fridge for an hour to let flavors mesh.


  1. Ahhhhh nostalgia :) I love this post, so fun walking down memory lane

  2. I'm dying over that Brownies sash :) Ribs are one of my favorite summer-time meals, too, and totally remind me of backyard bbqs with my parents and family friends. This post reminds me that I need a freaking crockpot already!

    1. Haha yep. I was a girl scout, made it to Junior Scouts before everyone in my troup lost interest. Get a crock pot, lady!

  3. I have such a softspot for ribs too! We had them every 4th of July growing up (with coleslaw and baked beans of course). Love the idea of doing them in the crockpot too!

  4. it's always so fun to remake childhood favorites. these ribs look great but i think i want the slaw like now!

  5. Those ribs look amazing! As does the cauliflower! I read the other day that cauliflower is the new kale...thought it was funny:) I can't wait to try your version!

  6. Does anything taste better than nostalgia? I'm so glad you found that blue cap bbq sauce!

  7. I love this post. The ribs, the slaw, and the nostalgia, all beautiful together!!

  8. Yay for finding the sauce! My Mom makes a similar version - lately she's been throwing rotel into the mix and a little bit of beef broth. The slow-cooker makes them so stinkin' tender.

  9. I love the way certain dishes remind us of either people or experiences in our lives. My mom always used to make me a simple Italian dish, pasta and peas, anytime I had a cold. It ain't BBQ ribs, but it was the ultimate comfort food to me :)

  10. Really enjoy this post and the pictures. The plate of food is so tempting. The slaw is perfect and light...will try it for sure.

  11. I love eating things that remind me of my childhood. This looks great! I actually would prefer ribs with cauliflower instead of corn so I would be all over this entire plate!

  12. This sounds do good. I've never had ribs made in a slow cooker before. My most nostalgic meal has to be Ramen noodles and ginger ale. It's kind of weird, but it reminds me so much of my nana.

    1. Aw, I have a Nana too :) But I think she usually made us spaghetti or meatloaf, hehe.

  13. That is such a cute picture! I can't say that I grew up eating ribs but I get the nostalgic taste on it.