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.


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 .

Monday, October 9, 2017

Cajun Chicken Cutlets over Fusilli

This is by no means an original idea: Cajun Chicken Cutlets over Fusilli. Allegedly, Chili's serves something like this, according to the land of Pinterest. But I haven't been to a Chili's since 1999, so don't quote me. I'm sure it has a way catchier name on the Chili's menu.

This was really really good. Eveything works perfectly together. I love the final addition of fresh tomatoes and parsley right before serving. Keeps it light.

Be sure to get your hands on a fab cajun seasoning. Mine is from a wonderful market in my hood called Bagliani's. It is way better than the McCormick seasoning, I would say quite confidantly.

Believe it or not, The Husband cooked me something like this way way way back in the day when he was trying to woo me and I actually agreed to let him do anything in the kitchen.

Here is my way, which is the only way.

Kidding! (Not really).

Cajun chicken cutlets over fusilli
Makes 4-6 servings

2 lbs. thin chicken cutlets
4 Tbsp. cajun seasoning, divided
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp. butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2
Pasta water
1/2 lb. to 3/4 lb. fusilli pasta
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
Parmiggiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

In a rectangle glass dish, whisk together 3 Tbsp. cajun seasoning and 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Add chicken cutlets. Massage cajun oil all over chicken cutlets. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

In a grill pan over medium heat, cook chicken cutlets in batches, about 3 minutes each side. Set aside and keep covered.

In a large pot of salted water, cook fusilli pasta as instructed on the package.

As the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter. Add garlic and cajun seasoning. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add a couple of ladles of pasta water, 1/2 and /1/2, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle bubble. Once pasta is cooked, add it directly to the saucepan. Heat through for another minute.  Add more 1/2 and 1/2 or pasta water if you want it saucier. Turn off heat and toss with a handful of cheese.

To serve: Place a spoonful or two of pasta on a plate. Top with one or two pieces of chicken and then top with fresh tomatoes and parsley. Add more cheese if desired.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Late Night Pasta

During the school year, my din din often goes down around 10 p.m. with a glass of vino and some DVR'd trash TV.

Piano teachers get on the clock once the school dismissal bell rings out, so this leads to some interesting eating times.

Me - I like to fine dine when everybody packs up and leaves and my brain is clear of Mozart, scales and phrasing. The kid is in bed. Oh, and the school forms are signed. The school lunch is packed up. The laundry is started. The great room is tidied. The mail is sorted.

I mean really, does it ever end?

So yeah, then I eat dinner.

Here's a perfect recipe for such cirumstances:

Spaghettini with Prosciutto, Peas and Arugula.

It comes together in 20 minutes and is just right for good eats after a working momma finishes her day.

My recipe serves one, but you can easily double or quadruple it for the fam.

Spaghettini with Prosciutto, Peas and Arugula
Serves one

4 ounces spaghettini
Olive oil
1 fat scallion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1-2 thin slices of proscuitto, chopped
1/4 cup frozen peas
2 cups arugula
1/4 cup half and half
Pasta water
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmiggiano to taste, grated

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook your pasta as instructed on the package.

In a large saucepan, add olive oil. Heat over medium heat. Add scallions, garlic, red pepper flakes. After 3-4 minutes, add the prosciutto. Raise heat slightly. Saute for five more minutes. Season with pepper and a little bit of salt. (The prosciutto brings saltiness to the game.)

Add half and half and a ladle of pasta water. Add peas. Cook until peas are heated through and the sauce bubbles a bit.

Add pasta and arugula. Toss. Add another ladle of pasta water. You can add a splash of half and half, too, if you desire.

Turn off the heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil.

Top with parmiggiano.

Enjoy with your fave wine, a mindless show and solitude.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Italian Cooking for Stoonads: Aglio e Olio

Last time I made Aglio e Olio it was so outrageously delish I said to self: This should go on the blog.

Then my other self replied: Really, Susan. What jackass doesn't know how to make pasta with a bunch of oil and garlic?

My reply was something like: I never really made Aglio e Olio until adulthood. My moms never made this. Not until reading Lidia Bastianich cookbooks from cover to cover did I really understand what to do. Maybe the people will want this recipe.

Sure, I had seen this classic yet basic dish on menus at Italian restaurants forevs, but I never order pasta with garlic and oil when dining out because it defeats the purpose to me. (When I actually go to a lovely restaurant, I like to get all wild and crazy: Risotto, lamb, lobster. You feel me?)

This is as basic as it gets, I think. Of course, I could be wrong. There is something that happens at just the right moment to make a pasta dish magical. So maybe you do need some instruction on what to do.

In my opinion, the key to success with Aglio e Olio is to use a great olive oil (I love Cento); fresh fresh fresh flat leaf parsley - and a lot of it; and a good amount of the water in which your pasta cooked. And of course, high quality pasta is a must. I always use DeCecco or Barilla and sometimes fiddle around with the high falutin gourmet stuff. But really DeCecco and Barilla are my go-to brands. And cook the pasta to instruction. A timer is your friend, my friends.

Aglio e Olio Spaghettini
Serves 2

1/2 lb. spaghettini or thin spaghetti, preferably DeCecco
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling, preferably Cento
6-8 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Pasta water
To serve: Olive oil and grated parmigiano cheese

In a large pot of salted water, cook your spaghettini to the directions on the box to al dente.

As soon as you add the pasta to the water, add 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. Immediately add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook slowly over medium heat. Do not burn the garlic!!

Once the garlic and pepper are fragrant, add two ladles of boiling pasta water to the saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer.

Using a pasta ladle, transfer cooked pasta directly to the simmering garlic sauce in the pan. Toss gently so that the pasta is coated in the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another minute or two. Add another ladle or two of pasta water. You do not want dry pasta! Drizzle with more olive oil and top with parsley. Toss. Turn off heat. Serve with parmigiano cheese.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Popcorn Chicken is the Best

So this tidbit slightly horrifies me: Popcorn chicken was invented by KFC.

And my son lives for Popcorn Chicken.

Deep breaths, Susan.

Nothing against KFC, just the thing is The Jersey Girl does not do fast food. Oh yes, I ate my fair share b-b-b-back in the day. But I gave that shiz up for Lent in 1997 and haven't gone a day with it ever since. A great decision, I must say.

So my 6-year-old first got his hands on some popcorn chicken at school. Which is comical. Fast food. School lunch. Same thing? Argh. I hope not. My ignorance is bliss.

But he talked on and on (he tends to do that) about this mysterious Popcorn Chicken. Mommy, have you had Popcorn Chicken? Popcorn Chicken is the best. It looks like popcorn. It tastes like popcorn. Mommy, is popcorn actually in Popcorn Chicken? Mommy, we MUST make Popcorn Chicken.

So Pinterest to the rescue. Yeah, I am one of THOSE moms. I pin a good game, but do I really follow through on my 8,000-plus pinning acqusitions? Probably not.

The Baked Popcorn Chicken recipe from Tastes Better from Scratch is the bee's knees, for sure. Three out of three kiddos approved. And this is a great recipe to get your kids in the kitchen "helping" out. Banging the bejesus out of cornflakes is super fun. See below:

I served the popcorn chicken with ranch, spicy mustard and of course, ketchup for the kiddos. BBQ and buffalo sauce are also great dips. And I'm not gonna lie: The grownups got their popcorn chicken on, too. Enjoy!

Baked Popcorn Chicken
By Lauren Allen
Taste Better from Scratch


2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces (about 2-3 large breasts
2 large eggs
¼ cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 1/2  cups corn flakes cereal lightly crushed
½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon paprika


Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place chicken pieces in a bowl or ziplock bag and add flour, stirring or shaking to coat completely. Set aside.

Add eggs and milk to a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside. In another shallow bowl combine crushed cornflakes, salt and pepper, garlic powder and paprika.

Dip each piece of flour-coated chicken into the egg mixture, followed by the cornflakes, gently pressing the cornflake mixture into the chicken. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Flip chicken and return to oven for an additional 7-8 minutes or until cooked through. 

Serve warm with BBQ sauce, ranch, or your favorite dipping sauce.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Jersey Fresh Turkey Chili

I thought up this recipe recently while jazzercising in my basement. Yes, I am an exercise hound. I get my fitness on solo each day with trainer guru type video vixens demonstrating routines all fab and done up with their motivational speak while my pathetic asthmatic lungs gasp for air and I  sweat profusely in my-oh-so-uncoordinated manner rocking designer Old Navy leisure wear. It ain't pretty, but it gets the job done. And I love it. Exercise is such a high.

I will admit, while visions of Jersey Fresh Turkey Chili danced in my head I found myself a few steps behind the Comcast OnDemand - or is it Xfinity OnDemand - workout gal. If she were instructing me in real life, I probably would have gotten a lecture or two. Or maybe she would make me drop on the spot and do twenty pushups - which  I would kill. Totally.

But whatevs, this chili rocks! And the fitness peeps would probably dig it because it is totally healthy and it does not make you feel like a disgusting fat slob after eating it. Yay. It doesn't have that whole heavy factor that so many chilis have.

Yes. You may notice I top it with sour cream and cheese. That's how chili is SUPPOSED to be enjoyed according to legend. Or according to me, the creator of this awesomeness. Honestly, the four toppings: chopped Jersey tomatoes and scallions, shredded cheddar jack cheese and a dollop of sour cream are like a quartet of perfection. Don't mess with it! Trust me.

Jersey Fresh Turkey Chili

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, minced
1.3 lbs. ground turkey
2 tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. chili powder, divided
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
2 small or 1 large poblano pepper, chopped
2 corn ears, cooked, with kernels stripped from the cob
1 15.5 oz. can black beans, rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

To serve:
Fresh tomato, chopped
Scallions, finely chopped
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar jack cheese

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno. Saute for 4-5 minutes until glistening.

Add ground turkey. Brown the meat, stirring occasionally. Season with cumin, 1 Tbsp. chili powder and salt and pepper to taste.

Add bell and poblano peppers. Cook for about five minutes so that peppers soften.

Add corn, beans, broth, remaining Tbsp. of chili powder and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer partially covered for 30-35 minutes. The corn kernels will separate as the chili simmers.

Stir in cilantro. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve in bowls, topping each serving with fresh tomato, scallions, sour cream and cheese.