Sunday, June 17, 2018

Blondies

We domestic goddess types always need a crowd-pleasing dessert that is easy peasy up our sleeves. So, I bring to you: Chocolate Chunk Blondies.

Really, Ina Garten is bringing the recipe to you. My blog is just a portal for her genius.

This recipe calls for all the chocolate chip cookie basics. I used regular chips instead of chunks because that's all I had. And I omitted the nuts due to my food allergies.

The pros of this recipe are that it is amazing and super easy. And less cleanup and cooking time than baking straight-up regular chocolate chip cookies.

The con is that it requires an odd-shaped baking pan: 8 1/2 by 12 by 2. Since I am a hoarder of many cooking and baking useless and random items, I of course, had this size on hand. You may need to hit up Bed, Bath and freakin' Beyond (I will always think of it like this due to Mario Cantone and Sex and the City and one of his awesome phone calls on the streets of NYC to Charlotte - my fave, natch). But really, the Triple B's has all the fanciful and random kitchen thangs a gal could want. Plus you can peruse As Scene on TV items while you're there. Always a fascinating experience. I would just purchase the weird size pan rather than finagling with the measurements and times and whatnots. People say I am this amazing baker, but really, I just follow the instructions. That's it!

Here's the recipe. It is so fab. Oozing with chocolate and brown sugar. Soft, yet perfectly crusty. There is nothing else to say.


Chocolate Chunk Blondies

By Ina Garten
From "Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof"
Makes 12 large bars

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate chunks, such as Nestle's

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 1/2 by 12 by 2-inch baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well, scraping down the bowl after each addition. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chunks with a rubber spatula.


Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Don't overbake! The toothpick may have melted chocolate on it but it shouldn't have wet batter. Cool completely in the pan and cut into 12 bars.



Please note: The Jersey Girl omits the walnuts, and uses two cups of chocolate chips in place of chocolate chunks. I also cut them into smaller squares, usually yielding 20-24 bars.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Gnocchi in Pomodoro Sauce

So this is only the best dish ever: Gnocchi in Pomodoro Sauce. 

You can of course just use store bought gnocchi, but I'm including the recipe I use to make homemade gnocchi. It is the method by Giada DeLaurentiis.

It's not as hard as you think. For reals.

Interestingly, the potatoes are cooked in the microwave. I have tried baking and boiling in the past, and I strongly believe microwaving is the best route to texture perfection in the gnocchi. I use a potato masher to mash up the potatoes before mixing them with a wooden spoon into the egg, and then combining the sifted flour in with my hands. I use my hands so that I do not overmix the dough. That way, it is light and fluffy. As god intended gnocchi to be, of course!

Making gnocchi may seem intimidating, but I think it is a simple pasta to make and it is so much fun to do. It is a great pasta to make with little children as well.

The pomodoro sauce is fabulous. It is a recipe I found on Pinterest. I have made it many times. I love how the oil is infused with fresh herbs. Be sure to cook it in an oven proof dish as you can just pop it under the broiler as soon as you add the gnocchi, fresh mozzarella, parmigiana cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

My son loves this dish. He requests it again and again. Yay!




Gnocchi

From “Everyday Pasta”
By Giada De Laaurentiis
Makes about 54 gnocchi

2 baking potatoes, such as russet (about 12 ounces each)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup all-purpose flour

Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork. Microwave the potatoes on high until tender, about 12 minutes. (You can also bake the potatoes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes, or until tender. While the potatoes are still warm, cut them in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Discard the skin. Using a fork, mash the potato well. Stir in the egg, salt and pepper. Sift the flour over the potato mixture and stir just until blended.

Scoop out a large spoonful of gnocchi dough. Roll each scoop on the work surface into about a 1/2-inch-diameter rope.


Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces.


Roll each piece of dough over a wooden paddle with ridges or over the tines of a fork to form grooves in the dough.



Set the formed gnocchi on a baking sheet while you form the rest of the dough.


Working in batches, cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water until they have all risen to the surface, about 3 minutes. Scoop the gnocchi into a colander with a slotted spoon while you cook the second batch.

Add to your sauce.

The Jersey Girl notes: I often use 3-4 potatoes, as I can not find potatoes that are 12 ounces each. I mash the potatoes with a potato masher. You want a smooth consistency. I mix the egg with a wooden spoon. I mix the flour with  my hands. When making the gnocchi with the pomodoro sauce listed below, I gently scoop the cooked gnocchi out of the boiling water with a wide slotted spoon directly into the warm pomodoro sauce. I also cooked the gnocchi in three batches, not two. 



  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoons
  • 4 stems fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 4 stems fresh oregano
  • 2 stems fresh rosemary
  • 2 stems fresh basil, plus 2 more stems for garnish
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
  • 1 16-ounce package potato gnocchi
  • 8 ounces cherry size mozzarella balls, cut in half


  1. Add ¼ cup olive oil to a 10-inch high sided sauté pan or a saucepan over medium heat. Add the parsley, oregano, rosemary and 2 stems of basil and cook for about 5 minutes or until the herbs become crisp.
  2. Remove the herbs and discard then add the onion and garlic to the oil, lowering the heat if needed so the onions cook gently and don't brown. Cook until the onions are transparent, about 5-7 minutes, then crush the tomatoes with your hand and add to the pan with juice. Season with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the sauce reduces and thicken, stirring occasionally.

  3. Stir in the heavy cream (if using) and remove from the heat.
  1. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to a boil and add the gnocchi. Season generously with kosher salt and cook until the gnocchi float to the top of the boiling water. Drain and then place the gnocchi into the cooked sauce. Top with the halved mozzarella balls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese then drizzle the tops of the gnocchi with the remaining olive oil. Broil for 5-8 minutes or until the cheese melts and the tops become crispy. Garnish with additional basil leaves and serve immediately.
  2. The Jersey Girl notes: I did not use fresh oregano and I did not use cream. It is fab without, in my opinion!
  3. And here is my cutie pie Evan helping me cook and digging into the delciousness on two separate occasions:



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Lentil Soup with Baby Spinach and Lemon Juice




I'm heading on vacay soon, so healthy eating is in order. Lentil Soup with Baby Spinach and Lemon Juice is just what the nutritionist ordered.

This turned out really fab. Very light and delicious. The burst of lemon juice at the end is very refreshing.

My grandmother's lentil soup was always very heavy. Made with ham bones, it really made you feel weighted down - despite its deliciousness. My vegetarian lentil soup is a total 180 from my grandmother's tradition, but I do think she would love this, too. Especially when getting ready to hit up Florida on vacay! Spa food right at home.

Lentil Soup with Baby Spinach and Lemon Juice
Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 dried bay leaves
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 5 ounce package baby spinach
2 cups lentils, rinsed
6-8 cups vegetable broth
2-4 cups of water
Juice of 1 lemon

In a large soup pan over medium heat, add celery, carrots, onion and bay leaf. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and Italian seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for another 3-4 minutes.

Add tomatoes and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Cook for 20 minutes.

Check for seasoning. Add lentils. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add water if needed while the lentils cook, one cup at a time. (The lentils absorb a lot of liquid.

Once the lentils are tender. Stir in baby spinach. Let spinach wilt. Turn off heat. Add lemon juice.



Serve with grated parmigiano and a drizzle of olive oil.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Stuffed Peppers with Orzo, Baby Spinach and Chickpeas

This is a perfect dinner for a Meatless Main Night: Stuffed Peppers with Orzo, Baby Spinach and Chickpeas.




Full of flavor, this dish leaves you satisfied without busting a gut. Praise the Lord.

Check it out:

Stuffed Peppers with Orzo, Baby Spinach and Chickpeas
Makes 6 servings

6 bell peppers, any color, tops sliced off and seeded
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup orzo
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 cups baby spinach, chopped
2 Tbsp. basil, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
2 cups marinara sauce, warmed
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small pot of boiling salted water, cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Add spinach. Cook for a minute or two, until wilted. Remove from heat Add chickpeas, basil and orzo. Toss. Add remaining Tbsp olive oil and cheeses. Stir together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff each pepper and stand in a roasting pan large enough to fit all of them. (I used a 12-inch-by-9-inch pan.)



Top each pepper with 1/3 cup marinara sauce.

Pour the chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Cover roasting pan with lid, or aluminum if you do not have a lid.

Roast for 45 minutes.

Serve with extra sauce and cheese, if desired.





Saturday, December 30, 2017

Spinach and Tomato Three Cheese Calzones

I've been sick since Christmas and have had zero appetite, but I've been itching to get going in the kitchen on SOMETHING! So, I gave these cute Spinach and Tomato Three Cheese Calzones a go.



I think they are much lighter than those found at your average Jersey pizza shop. You can of course serve them with some marinara on the side, but I ate mine sans sauce. The fresh vegetables really shine through, and I think an egg in the cheese mixture helps them not feel so heavy.

Enjoy!

Spinach and Tomato Three Cheese Calzones

Makes 4 servings

For the cheese layer:
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the vegetable layer:
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
2 Tbsp. scallions, finely chopped
3/4 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 Tbsp. basil, finely chopped
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
Black pepper to taste

1 16 ounce ball of pizza dough

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, to prepare the baking sheet

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to brush the calzones

Flour as needed to roll out dough

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly oil your baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil and a paper towel. Set aside.

On a floured surface, divide pizza dough into four equal balls. Roll out each ball into a circle or a square.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl gently combine the egg, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Next, in a second bowl combine grape tomatoes, scallions, baby spinach, basil, 1 tsp. olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Evenly divide the cheese mixture among the rolled out dough pieces, covering half of the dough and leaving a 1/4-inch border around the filling.

Evenly divide the vegetable layer on top of the cheese layer, again leaving a border of dough.

Gently fold over the remaining half of the dough to cover the toppings. Fold the edge to seal in the filling, pinching with your fingers.

Place calzones on baking sheet. Brush the calzones with the remaining 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, dividing evenly.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

With the Quickness

My Grilled Italian Sausage with Cannellini and Baby Kale comes together in thirty minutes and is totally amazing. I cooked it late night solo while my husband is away. I get all up in the kitchen to clear my mind, but this is a total practical dish. It makes a great weeknight din.

Enjoy!


Grilled Italian Sausage with Cannellini and Baby Kale

Makes 4 servings
1 pound hot sausage, cut into our equal links
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 5-ounce package baby kale
1 15-19 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a grill pan over medium-high heat, brown sausage on all sides.

At the same time, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic. Saute for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and cannellini. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add white wine and water. Add basil. Bring to a simmer.

Once the sausage is browned nicely, add it to the sauce pan. Cover and allow sauce and sausage to simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Right before serving, toss in kale. Wilt for 2-3 minutes.


Serve topped with parmigiano cheese and crusty bread drizzled with olive oil.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Not So Boring Chicken Soup

I'm so so so glad I made this soup yesterday. My little man has been up all night sick to his stomach, so I'm hoping when the dust settles he will enjoy the comforts of my Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo and Spinach.





This comes together in no time at all. Roast the chicken while you prep the veggies and start the pot. Toss in fresh baby spinach, basil and lemon juice at the end of the cooking time.  The herbs and lemon juice make the broth very layered in flavor.


Here ya go:



Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo and Spinach
Makes 6-8 servings

2 chicken breasts with skin and on the bone
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive olive oil, divided
1-2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
3/4 cup uncooked orzo
3 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
4 cups baby spinach
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

To serve: Top with your favorite cheese. Shredded mozzarella or grated parmigiano taste fantastico!



Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. olive oil divided evenly over each chicken breast and brush to cover each completely. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove skin. Dice chicken into bite-size pieces when cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, in a large soup pot over medium heat, add remaining Tbsp. of olive oil. Add carrot, celery, onion and bay leaf. Cook until vegetables become tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Add broth and water. Bring to a boil. Simmer partially covered for 20 minutes.

Add orzo. Cook until tender 10-12 minutes. Check to make sure your orzo and veggies are cooked with a quick taste!

Stir in chicken and the juice and oil from your roasting pan. Heat for another minute or two.

Stir in baby spinach, basil and lemon juice. Stir and turn off heat. Once the spinach wilts and the pot cools down, enjoy! Like Lidia Bastianich, I am a firm believer in letting your soup rest before jumping in.

Tastes great topped with shredded mozzarella or grated parmigiano .