Thursday, May 27, 2010

Good Morning, Sunshine

A plate of perfection awaits The Husband.

What’s better than waking up to a home-cooked breakfast?

I’m sure The Husband can tell you all about it.

Because that lucky son-of-a-gun awoke one fine morning to the scent of fluffy chocolate chip pancakes, sizzling and perfectly browned sausage, fresh sweet strawberries and a just-brewed pot of coffee, courtesy of his Cooking Sugar Momma known as me or Doll, as The Husband says.

His timing was so perfect, too. He literally appeared all scruffy and sleepy-eyed in our sun-filled kitchen as soon as yours truly flipped off the oven and poured him a cup of brew.

Timing is everything, right?

The Husband does get major points for helping a sista out with cleanup. (He pretty much did 90 percent of that, well maybe 75 percent.)

So my chocolate chip pancakes rock. They rock the Casbah, actually.

I basically take the pancake recipe of my favorite cooking goddess in the entire land known as Nigella Lawson, and throw in some mini chocolate chips for good and sweet measure. The pancake recipe appears in her book, “How to be a Domestic Goddess.” In a twist of fate perfect for the universe, this book was betrothed to me by my beloved Husband (then The Deliriously Head-Over-Heels-in-Love Boyfriend) on Valentine’s Day. It is my favorite cookbook of all time, and girlfriend has a bajillion cookbooks.

I suppose you could make pancakes in the old average Americana way – with a box of Bisquick or other said mix or you can drive your lazy bootie to IHOP or Denny’s. But, the homemade style. Yeah, it’s so worth your time.

So you need to measure a few things. Is that really so painful?

I will give you a heads up that I am providing you with the recipe verbatim from the cookbook. If you are not used to Nigella’s recipe writing style, this may throw you for a loop. And upon, re-reading it at the moment, I realize she doesn’t really explain everything specifically.

First of all, put all the dry ingredients in a bowl (I use the awesome mixing bowls from William-Sonoma that have a spout, so it’s easy to pour the batter onto the griddle). Whisk the dry ingredients together, then add the wet ingredients and beat together with a wooden spoon.

When you are ready to fry up the pancakes, melt a dollop of butter in your pan or griddle over medium-high heat. Once it’s melted and sizzling, pour your batter onto the griddle.

(After a minute, sprinkle the pancakes with chocolate chips. Once the batter bubbles a bit, you may flip your pancake over.)

And you of course may serve the pancakes with powdered sugar and/or maple syrup. Actually, that's a requirement.

American Breakfast Pancakes
From “How to be a Domestic Goddess”
By Nigella Lawson

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ cup milk
Butter for frying

The easiest way to make these is to put all the ingredients into a blender and blitz. But if you do mix up the batter by hand in a bowl, make a well in the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar, beat in the eggs, melted butter, and milk and transfer to a pitcher: it’s much easier to pour the batter into the pan than to spoon it. I like to leave the batter for 20 minutes before using it; and you may want to add more milk to the mixture if you’re frying in the blini pan, so that it runs right to the edges.

When you cook the pancakes, all you need to remember is that when the upper side of the pancake is blistering and bubbling it’s time to cook the second side, and this needs only about 1 minute if that.

I get 11 blini-pan-sized pancakes out of this, maybe 16 silver-dollar-sized ones on the griddle.

Please Note: The Jersey Girl adds mini chocolate chips after pouring the batter into pancakes on the griddle and before she flips them over to brown the other side. She also uses extra-large eggs.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

That's a Wrap

The food rules of pregnancy are made of evil.

You can’t eat this. You can only have two servings per week of that. This type of fish will kill you, luncheon meats can carry harmful bacteria unless microwaved until steaming and a cup of coffee is taboo.

Blah blah blah.

It’s enough to make a girl, who is totally jonesing for some major sushi, go crazy.

Basically, I like to eat what I want to eat when I want to eat it. Of course, my pregnancy situation is completely messing with my mind and cravings. (Please see previous post re: Fruit Loops and cheese steaks.)

And quitting coffee, actually, wasn’t too tough for me. (I thought I would go into Celebrity Rehab-type withdrawal, but I didn’t.) In fact, one night when I decided to live on the edge and have a half-cup of joe at a family gathering, the side effects of shaking, headache and heartburn made me vow to never drink coffee again so help my unborn child. At least while prego.

Anyhoo, one of the fishes that “they” (They being the evil experts who came up with all of these freakin’ rules and regulations) say that salmon is a wonder food for the pregnant gal.

Fortunately, I love me some salmon and since I can’t get my sushi fix, I have to settle for fish in the cooked form.

Here is a Giada recipe. It’s really fab, and I had a bunch of plum tomatoes lying about so I thought it would be a good use for them. You cook the salmon in foil packets. This process makes cleanup a snap. Yay!

I wanted The Husband to shoot some photos of me making the foil packets, but he claimed that all of you would understand based solely on the instructions. I believe his exact words were, “Your readers aren’t idiots; they know how to wrap something in foil.”

And, since we’re being honest here, I must admit, my eye is on the prize come November: Obviously, the bambino; followed by a sushi dinner fit for a queen; a bottle or two of red wine; and a pot of coffee. If that’s wrong; I don’t want to be right.

Salmon Baked in Foil
From "Everyday Italian"
By Giada De Laurentiis
4 (5 ounces each) salmon fillets

2 teaspoons olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tomatoes, chopped, or 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, drained
2 chopped shallots
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Sprinkle salmon with 2 teaspoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir the tomatoes, shallots, 2 tablespoons of oil, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Place a salmon fillet, oiled side down, atop a sheet of foil. Wrap the ends of the foil to form a spiral shape. Spoon the tomato mixture over the salmon.

Fold the sides of the foil over the fish and tomato mixture, covering completely; seal the packets closed. Place the foil packet on a heavy large baking sheet. Repeat until all of the salmon have been individually wrapped in foil and placed on the baking sheet. Bake until the salmon is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Using a large metal spatula, transfer the foil packets to plates and serve.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Somethin' Saucy

I had an open jar of roasted red peppers hanging around the refrigerator, so the time had come to do something about it.

Fortunately, a little research and rescue on the Food Network Web site brought me the most fabulous recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Sauce ever.

I sauted some regular old chicken breasts and topped them with the sauce.

You can use this sauce on grilled meats as well. It would also taste fab on a little pasta.

The recipe instructs you to make the sauce in your blender, but I used my Cuisinart food processor, because my blender has issues. Basically, it smells like it’s burning each time I use it.


Guess, it’s time for that puppy to go. It had a seven-year run. It was a bridal shower gift. I think I need to upgrade to a much more fabulous non-burning model. I have my eye on this one:

Love it in cinnamon. I decided that all my appliances, gadgets and gizmos from this day forward will not be white.

You can make the sauce ahead and just reheat it when it’s dinner time. So it's good for all you time-strapped peeps.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
By Robin Miller

1 cup roasted red peppers (from water-packed jar)

1 cup reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a blender, combine the red peppers, broth, vinegar, and oil and process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, partially cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Let come to room temperature and store in a plastic container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer up to 3 months.

Monday, May 10, 2010

There's a Baby in my Belly


The Jersey Girl is gonna be a Jersey Momma.

Holy bleepity bleepity bleep bleep bleep. Bleep.

Still freaking out and in shock and tearing up when writing/saying/telling these words:

I’m prego.

I’ve been DYING to tell all y’all. But, me and The Husband thought it best to wait ‘til we knew for sure that the bambino was all Kool and the Gang.

Of course, our fam and closest friends have known for a while. My sisters knew five seconds in. But, I’m really thrilled to tell my millions of devoted readers, since my pregnant situation has totally impacted my blogging, or I should say: lack of blogging.

And I do not like keeping secrets from my Internet peeps, all 25 of you. Ha.

It’s been a bit trippy since we found out. I’ve been spending most of my time reading about babies and pregnancy and all that while freaking out that I’m actually prego. I mean let’s be real, I deal with plenty of childrens day-to-day, but they come to me at age 5 and older. And my nieces and nephews, well there are a dozen of them, but when they get all stinky and snotty and whiny, I just hand them off to their respective Mom.

The good news is, my sister Monica and my Dad claim that I have uber patience and that’s a good trait for a Momma.

Yay, me.

Me and The Husband are still in La La Land regarding the bambino. It’s quite shocking, actually.

Because, no joke dear readers. It’s taken forever times forever plus forever. I was pretty much accepting the fact that aunt and piano teacher and godmother and perhaps mother of awesome adopted child were in my cards and that was that.

But I’m wrong. Woo-hoo!

Of course, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream, lilacs and roses.

Oh, no, no, no.

You all know about my asthma situation from a few weeks ago, and it’s still going on strong with the awesome pollen levels that are kicking my soon-to-be exceptionally wide bootie. And being in the first-trimester stage kind of thwarted my treatment options. Which, is probably why I was sick for forever and a day.

Then, of course there’s been the nausea. Oh, the nausea. Nausea is what tipped me off. I was minding my own bizness, getting my Jillian Michaels exercise on, when intense nausea made me bust out an EPT on a whim. It was negative. Of course, of course. Do you know how many negative pregnancy tests this gal has taken? About a million.

But two days later, I was still nauseous and still waiting on the monthly gift that ladies have the joy of getting and thought, “Hmmmmmm. What’s going on here?”

And voila, positive pregnancy test.

The Husband is just crazy ecstatic. And he’s so doting. OMG.

So, being prego is completely impacting my eating habits. First off, I’m always hungry. I mean ALWAYS HUNGRY. It’s crazy. I’m so used to going like hours upon hours without eating. So, this is a total change for moi.

And, I’ve been wanting food that I never want: Cheese steaks. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love a good cheese steak now and again, but I had two in a like a two-week time span. Good thing I live in South Jersey.

Also on the top of my food list are Fruit Loops (it’s like I’m 8 years old, people) and bagels with cream cheese. Fun fact: This was totally my diet in college, mixed with cheap vodka and Crystal Light.

I also eat strawberries, oranges and cinnamon toast like nobody’s business.

My other cravings include Indian food, which I so love and Mexican food, which I also completely and totally love. Fortunately, we live near two rockin’ restaurants that serve up these good ethnic eats. Coriander, located on Route 561 in Voorhees, has mac daddy Indian food. Love the lamb saagwala. And, Los Amigos on Route 73 in Berlin has fab Mexican food. The night we went there were three other obviously prego ladies in the house. I took that as a sign.

But, one night, I decided to do Mexican myself, and The Husband documented the results. So, I thought I’d share. I feel healthier when I cook the food I eat. My big sis Michele told me cooking would skeeve the bejesus out of me during the first trimester, but honestly, it hasn’t. I was just always tired and icky feeling and cranky pants, and hungry. Oy.

Word on the street is that you feel super awesome in the second trimester, which I’m officially entering, so hopefully I will be cooking and blogging more!

Chicken Soft Tacos
Makes 4 super big soft tacos

1 lb. ground chicken or pork
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
½ onion, chopped
½ large red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
Hot sauce, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken. Brown for about five to six minutes. Season with cumin, chili powder and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Push chicken to one side of the pan, leaving an empty space, add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Saute for a few minutes, then toss with the chicken. Cook for about two to three more minutes. Adjust seasonings.

Serve with warm corn tortillas, shredded lettuce, grated cheese and salsa. Guacamole would rock, too, but the Jersey Girl has a mad allergy to avocado.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Simple and Sage

In my cast of characters known as, “This Week’s Fresh Herbs,” basil, flat-leaf parsley and cilantro are clearly the stars of the show with rosemary and thyme in a supporting role.

I always have some herbage going on in my veg bin. Especially the flat-leaf parsley. That guy can freshen up anything.

But recently, I went with an unknown in my world - sage. The green, soft leaves of the sage seemed bright and enticing so I decided to give them a whirl. I came up with an easy dish called Veal Cutlets in Sage Sauce. It took no more than 15 minutes to prepare. And, it was really delish. A member of the mint family, sage is quite aromatic. The veal had a lot of flavor, and the herb was not overpowering at all.

To accompany the veal, I made a Lidia Bastianich rice dish called, Rice with Fresh Sage.

It was simple to make and does not require the constant stirring that is involved with a traditional risotto. You just pop a lid on and call it a day.

Veal Cutlets in Sage Sauce
Makes 4 servings

1 lb. veal cutlets, thin sliced
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
12 sage leaves
¾ cup dry white wine

Place flour in a large dish.

Season veal cutlets with salt and pepper on both sides. Dredge the veal in the flour.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown veal cutlets on both sides. About 3 minutes per side. You may need to cook the veal in two batches if it doesn’t all fit in the pan. Remove veal from pan and place in a dish. Cover with aluminum to keep warm.

Return skillet to burner. Lower heat to medium. Add butter. Add sage leaves. Cook for about two minutes, until fragrant. Add white wine. Bring to a simmer and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged wooden spoon. Simmer for about 4 minutes so that sauce reduces a bit.

Return veal to pan with sauce to heat through.

Serve immediately.

Rice with Fresh Sage
From “Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy”
By Lidia Bastianich

Serves 6 or more as a first course or side dish

4 Tbsp. butter
12 large fresh sage leaves
5 cups hot water or light stock, plus more if needed
2 ½ tsp. kosher salt
2 cups Italian short-grain rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

For finishing:
2 Tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
½ cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing

Recommended equipment: A heavy saucepan, such as enameled cast iron, 10 inches wide, 3-to-4 quart capacity, with a cover

Melt 4 Tbsp. butter in the saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is foaming, scatter the sage leaves in the pan and heat for a minute or so, just until they are sizzling. Pour in 5 cups of hot water or stock, and stir in the salt. Raise the heat, and bring the liquid to a boil, then stir in the rice and bring back to a boil.

Cover the pan, and lower the heat so the water is bubbling gently. Cook for 13 to 14 minutes, then check the rice and adjust the consistency if needed. At this point, too, stir in the scallions, to cook for the last minute or two, until the rice is creamy and al dente.

When the rice is fully cooked, turn off the heat, drop in the butter pieces, and stir vigorously until thoroughly amalgamated. Stir in the ½ cup grated cheese, spoon the rice into warm pasta bowls, and serve immediately, passing additional grated cheese at the table.

Please note: The Jersey Girl used fresh chives instead of scallions because she forgot to buy scallions at the market. She should have made a list.