Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Where Have You Been All My Life?

So peeps. I’ve been the WORST blogger ever this month. This comes fresh on the heels of my April 6th Birthday Resolution to Blog at Least Three Times a Week.

Yes. I make birthday resolutions. Well, I call them goals. A glimpse into past goals that have been successfully attained include: Organize the handbag; Be nicer to Mom; Be nicer to Husband; Exercise more; Read more books; Stop worrying. Well, I guess I can call BS on the last one, but whatevs.

Anyway, April is not cracking up to be what it was supposed to be in terms of blogging. There are many reasons, but the one I can tell all y’all about right now is that the Jersey Girl has been way under the weather.

As in so sick, I actually took a sick day.

Yes, I canceled my kiddies’ piano lessons for the entire day last Sunday.

It killed me.

It wounded my soul. I worried about my students all day while sniffling and sneezing and gasping for air.

But, I was under strict orders from The Husband and The Mom and The Dad and The Sistas and The Inlaws and The Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents.

Really, the whole fam was involved.

I didn’t really know what to do with myself. So, I took to the couch with Suduko in hand and watched some trash TV: “Kimora” and “Jerseylicious.”

And, I slept for a bazillion hours or so.

So what ails me?

First off, I got a cold. No biggie, right?

Except well, this mother of a cold triggered massive asthma conditions that seriously kicked my bootie. And it came in the midst of spring allergy season, my most fav time of year. (Cough. Cough. Sarcasm.)

I’m still taking meds for this mess, and it’s been almost two weeks.

You sure do appreciate the ability to breathe when it becomes so difficult.

Anyway, hopefully the worst is over. And hopefully, I won’t have to spend so many hours in doctors’ offices this week, so more blogging for me and you.


And, I should point out that my health situation sort of put of a damper on the appetite. But when I was feeling hungry, I made this:

This dish is called Orzo with Sausage, Peppers and Tomatoes. It’s by my girl Giada and it’s from her cookbook “Giada’s Kitchen.” This was the first time I ever made it. Love. I had a boatload of sausage left over, because in my parts you really can’t buy less than a pound of sausage at one time. So, I cooked the extra links and The Husband had them for lunch one day.

Orzo with Sausage, Peppers and Tomatoes
From “Giada’s Kitchen”
By Giada De Laurentiis

Makes 4 to 6 servings

3 cups chicken broth
1 pound orzo pasta
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 links (7 ounces total) mild turkey sausage, casings removed
1 garlic clove, minced
2 jarred roasted red bell peppers, cut in ¼-inch strips
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, bring the chicken broth and 3 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender, but still firm to the bit, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turkey sausage and sauté until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the bell peppers, tomatoes and red pepper flakes (if using) to the pan and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving about ½ cup of the cooking liquid, and transfer it to a large serving bowl. Add the sausage mixture, 1 Tbsp. of the parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well to combine, adding the reserved cooking liquid if needed to loosen the pasta. Top with the Parmesan and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ain't it Sweet?

This is a fabu chocolate chip cake. It bakes in an 8-inch square pan, so it’s perfect to make for no reason at all other than you want a piece of cake with your cup of tea. And maybe you're trying to butter up your main squeeze, AKA The Husband.

The Husband loves Chocolate Chip Cake. His moms makes an awesome one, but it is double the size of this one. So, I tend to make the cake listed below more frequently. But, I always eat a piece of the MIL’s whenever she bakes it. It’s kind of a tradition with the in-laws. It appears frequently at holidays and birthdays and such.

The recipe I’m sharing with you comes from the magazine, “Every Day with Rachael Ray.” I am a former subscriber of the mag. It’s gotten a little hokey for me so I ixnayed the subscription. Or as my sister Monica says, "I get it every month and never make anything in it."

I’m still looking for an amazing cooking magazine. Ever since “Gourmet” kicked the bucket there has been a huge void in my magazine repertoire. If any of my fantabulous readers has a suggestion, please share in the comments. "La Cucina Italiana" is a top contender. And, I may bite the bullet and reup my subscription to "Cooking Light." I always liked that one.

But here is a gem from the Rachael Ray magazine. You can check it out on the Rachael Ray Mag Web site, too:
Janet’s Chocolate Chip Cake
May 2007
“Every Day with Rachael Ray” magazine

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (about 6 ounces)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and remaining 1 cup sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in the sour cream and vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture, in 2 parts, until just combined. Pour half the batter into the cake pan and sprinkle with half the cinnamon-sugar and half the chocolate chips. Spoon the remaining batter as evenly as possible over the filling, spreading gently. Sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar and chocolate chips.

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mac and Cheese with Ease

What’s up with my rhymes?

I make Mac and Cheese in a million, bazillion different ways. But this version is really easy. You don’t need to bake it. You just broil it, and broiling, my friends, just takes a few minutes. So, if you want your Mac and Cheese and you want it NOW, this is a good route to go.

You gots to use some really good cheese for this to be awesome. I rocked out with aged Wisconsin cheddar. Other than that, the ingredients are pretty basic – milk, butter, flour, elbows. A pinch of nutmeg. Donzo.

Easy Mac and Cheese
Makes 4 to 6 servings

8 ounces elbow macaroni
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. flour
¾ cup whole milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, chopped or shredded
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
Salt and black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook elbow macaroni according to package instructions. Drain.

Butter a 7 by 11 casserole dish.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. When butter melts, whisk flour into mixture until smooth. Slowly pour milk into pan. Stir until milk bubbles and thickens a bit. Stir cheese into milk mixture until well combined. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Pour drained elbows into cheese mixture. Stir to combine.

Pour pasta mixture into casserole dish.

Preheat broiler to high. Broil for about 2 or 3 minutes so that top browns.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

French Fare in Fifteen Flat

Actually, this dish probably takes less than that.

I’m talking Scallops Provencal. My recipe is courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten and her rockin’ cookbook, “Barefoot in Paris.”

It’s a simple dish, and the scallops are totally the star or the show. I serve it with basmati rice and a salad of sorts.

When The Husband and I went to Paris almost a year ago (ahhh, nostalgia), I had an amazing scallop dish at Chez Andre. That dish had tomatoes going on in it. The Barefoot’s just has lemon, wine, shallots, garlic and parsley. It is so super yummy.

And I know for many peeps, preparing seafood seems daunting, but this couldn’t be easier. If your scallops have a beard going on – a small tough muscle that peels right off – be sure to remove it when cleaning them.

Scallops Provencal
By Ina Garten
“Barefoot in Paris”
Serves 3

1 pound fresh bay or sea scallops
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
½ cup chopped shallots (2 large),
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, cut in half

If you’re using bay scallops, keep them whole. If you’re using sea scallops, cut each one in half horizontally. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss with flour, and shake off the excess.

In a very large sauté pan, heat 2 Tbsp. of the butter over high heat until sizzling and add the scallops in one layer. Lower the heat to medium and allow the scallops to brown lightly on one side without moving them, then turn and brown lightly on the other side. This should take 3 to 4 minutes, total. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan with the scallops, then add the shallots, garlic and parsley and sauté for 2 more minutes, tossing the seasonings with the scallops. Add the wine, cook for 1 minute and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Keep it Classy

Some things forever stand the test of time:

Chanel No. 5.

Beethoven’s “Pathetique Sonata.”

Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

“The Godfather.”

Anything by Hemingway or Fitzgerald.

A really good Gucci bag.

They were great when they were brought to us, no matter how many years ago. And, they most likely will still be amazing 100 years from today.

Classic, if you will.

Food can be classic, too.

Take Spinach Salad.

There’s not a ton of deets on how the Spinach Salad came to be, but according to some research by food nerd extraordinaire Alton Brown, Spinach Salad originated in Pennsylvania Dutch territory back in the 19th century. When German settlers found their way to the Keystone State, they brought with them a salad made of dandelion greens, bacon drippings and eggs. Since dandelion is kind of the Rodney Dangerfield of salad greens, spinach was soon the greenery of choice. (Although, I might add that dandelion is enjoyed in my parts of Jersey, and also in Pa. There are even dandelion festivals and schtuff in nearby Vineland.)

Anyway, you may ask, well what about the shrooms that are pretty much standard in spinach salad?

Have you been to the Dutch Country? It’s totally the land of shrooms. Pennsylvania grows a ton of mushrooms, so or course, they threw in a few for the mac daddy Spinach Salad of today.

When my Mom would rock out a Spinach Salad, I remember thinking, “Aw, hell yeah.”

OK. Maybe I didn’t think those exact words at age 7 or 8, but I was pretty much very happy.

Spinach Salad is total yum yum.

It works as a main course salad, in my opinion.

And, I have a feeling it will never go out of style.

Classic Spinach Salad
(Makes four servings)

1 10-ounch bag of spinach, washed and dried
4-5 strips of good bacon, chopped
½ red onion, chopped
¼ cup white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. sugar
8 white mushrooms, sliced
4 hard boiled eggs, sliced

In a large pan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crispy. About 5 to 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon remove bacon pieces to a paper-towel lined plate.

You should have about 3 Tbsp. bacon drippings in your pan. Return pan to medium heat. Add onion. Saute for about 4 minutes. Add vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and stir. Sugar should dissolve. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, place spinach and mushrooms. Pour warm dressing over spinach mixture. Toss.

Distribute among plates. Top with bacon and hard-boiled egg.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hey Paisano

Bust out the red-and-white checkered table cloth, because you’re getting a recipe for Chicken Parm, kiddies.

Yes, this is unquestionably kitschy kitschy ya ya Italian-American food.

But, sometimes all a girl wants is some chicken slathered in bread crumbs, mozzarella and marinara with a side of spaghettini, thank you very much.

If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Anyhoo, you may be under the assumption that you can only get chicken parm at some old-timey Italiano restaurant where Sinatra or Dean Martin is on in the background and the wine is a nameless house red. Or, perhaps you order it at those awful Italian-wannabe chains that shall remain nameless to uphold the sanctity of my blog. But you are way, off dear readers.

So, let me steer you in the right direction:

You can make the Chicken Parm at home in your little old kitchen. Yay!

And you’ll love every minute of it. Plus, it’s not deep fried. And you can use fresh mozzarella and make your own marinara. Cause that’s the way, un huh un huh, I like it.

And yes, you can still play Sinatra and Dean Martin on your Ipod or your stereo. I loves me some Sinatra and Dean Martin.

Chicken Parmesan
(Makes 6 servings)

6 chicken cutlets, thin-cut
1 cup, or a little more of Cento Italian-style breadcrumbs
2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Mean Marinara (See recipe here), or your fav marinara, warmed
1 cup to 1 ½ cups mozzarella, grated

Season both sides of chicken cutlets with salt and pepper.

Place breadcrumbs in a wide dish.

Place eggs in a wide bowl. Beat them lightly with a fork or whisk.

To prepare cutlets, dip 1 cutlet in egg mixture. Transfer to breadcrumbs and dredge until both sides are lightly coated. Set aside. Repeat with five remaining cutlets.

In a large pan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Once heated, place 2 cutlets in the pan. Cook for about five minutes on each side. Repeat 2 more times with the remaining olive oil and 4 remaining cutlets.

Remove cooked chicken from pan, and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

Coat the bottom of a large baking pan with warm marinara.

Place chicken side-by-side in the pan. Top with a spoonful or two of marinara. Top with grated mozzarella.

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 20 minutes, or until mozzarella is bubbly and lightly browned.

Serve with your favorite pasta and the remaining marinara as well as your favorite salad. And garlic bread, wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Are You There God? It’s Me, Susan.

I must have pissed off some peeps in charge up in the heavens.

Because when the kitchen sink backs up two hours before 20 hungry family members are booked to appear at your casa for Easter brunch, you’re kind of screwed.

And that, dear readers, is totally what happened to the Jersey Girl yesterday.

OMG. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome times.

(I seriously hope you are detecting my sarcasm.)

And it wasn’t just the simple sink backup that some good old Liquid Plumber or Draino can put a fix on.

No sir.

This was major.

Or mega.

Or really bad, actually.

Yes, a plumber needed to be called despite the valiant efforts of The Husband, Dad, Uncle Frank and the Father-in-Law. This A-Team could not get it done. But, they do get props for major effort.

So it’s Monday past 2 p.m., and I’m still waiting for the Professional Mr. Fix It to get his bootie here. He may not get here until tomorrow morning.

Have I mentioned how I’m so great at waiting?

No, that’s a bold-face lie.

And there’s still a pile of dishes that need to be washed. And a dishwasher packed to the gills that can not be turned on.

This situation is making me stabby. But, I’m taking cleansing breaths and wondering what I am to learn from this test of my willpower.

Anyone? Bueller?

On a brighter note, my Easter party rocked. Everybody had a grand time. Fun was had by all. And, nobody knew of my inner angst over my water situation.

Of course, my always-looking-on-the-bright-side family noted this could have been worse: The toilets could have been out of commission.

And really, that’s a total buzz kill.

Anyways, as part of the Easter tradition, the Jersey Girl rocked out my world-famous Ricotta Cookies.

Aren't they pretty? My niece Mia will only eat the pink ones, even though I tried explaining that they all taste the same. I suppose 2-year-olds don't quite get that.

 I am called upon to make these, oh say, a bazillion times a year. These make an appearance at most holidays and religious events.

The recipe is from my Mom’s way vintage Woman’s Civic Club of Hammonton Cookbook.

They’re kind of high-maintenance as far as cookies are concerned because you have to frost them and sprinkle them with pretty sugars. It’s good to have a partner in crime to assist you. Back in the day, Monica would help a sista out with this task.

So have at it.

P.S. – this recipe makes about 70 or so cookies. So, make them for a BIG crowd.

Ricotta Cookies
Rose Marie Ebert
From the “Woman’s Civic Club of Hammonton Cookbook”

½ lb. butter
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1 ¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
3 to 4 Tbsp. milk

Cream butter, add sugar and eggs one at a time and beat well. Add cheese and vanilla. Beat one minute. Sift dry ingredients and add to mixture. Drop one teaspoon batter onto cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

Combine confectioner’s sugar and milk and dip cookies, let drip into bowl. Place on waxed paper to cool. If decoration is desired, after dipping cookies into icing, dip into colored sugar jimmies.

Please Note: The Jersey Girl uses Imperial brand margarine instead of butter and extra large eggs. Make sure your butter/margarine, eggs and ricotta are room temperature. In addition, The Jersey Girl uses a spoon to spread the icing on the cookies, rather than dipping them.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Come on Get Happy

Have you guys been watching “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution?”


That show is made of awesome.

It airs on Friday nights on ABC. But the network is also running full episodes on its Web site.

The premise of the show is that British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver swoops into like the fattest, most obese town ever and tries to help the people come on get healthy. French fries count as a veg in the schools, and pizza is served for breakfast with a side of processed-crap cereal with strawberry-flavored milk.

Um. OK.

And, we wonder why we’re a country of fat asses.

Three epis have aired so far, and based on what we’ve seen, Jamie isn’t exactly being welcomed with open arms.

But, I love him.

I wish he did this show in H’town. He could hang out at my house and we could cook crazy things together and speak British. Woo-hoo!

Seriously, my fav part of the show is when Jamie goes around town dropping his Brit speak to the West Virginians: “Give it a go, love.” “Right. This is ghastly.” “Bollocks.”

I hope he doesn’t think that all us dumb Americans are so closed minded, and I do hope his efforts help some people. But, my cynical self isn’t so sure his experiment will work.

The show is also giving me horrid flashbacks to school lunch. Eek!! But, at least they let us use a fork and knife in Hammonton. Apparently, the elementary school students on this program can not be expected to use eating utensils.

OK. Terrific.

Anyway, I hope my fabtastic readers will check out the program.

And, I’m giving you today a total healthnut salad featuring edamame, or young soybeans.

My Moms tried to pronounce the word, “edamame” upon me serving her my salad.

It was an epic fail.

But, my open-minded good-taste mother loved the concoction. She ate a whole boatload of it.

Score for Susan.

I used a bag of frozen soybeans that my ShopRite happened to carry. Soybeans may be tough for you to find. I’m pretty confident you can swap them out for your fav legume.

If you aren’t familiar with soybeans, they kinda look like lima beans and Japanese restaurants often serve them as a starter.

When purchasing them, the package may read “soybeans” or “edamame.”

The salad is very light and refreshing. It would totally rock at a BBQ or with grilled fish. Somethin’ like that.

Suzie’s Edamame Salad
(Makes 6 to 8 servings)

1 bag frozen edamame, shelled (10-ounces)
1 red pepper, chopped
5 scallions, chopped
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Juice from 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook edamame in a boiling pot of water, according to package directions. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water.

Combine edamame, red pepper, scallions and parsley in a large bowl.

In another bowl, combine all other ingredients. Whisk together. Toss with vegetables. Serve