Wednesday, October 5, 2011

And Now I Need to Feed Yous Guys?!

A Rachael Ray pizza salad.

This is what it’s come to.

Yes, dear patient readers. The Jersey Girl has not blogged in well over a month, and all I have is this measly 10-minute I-just-worked-all-freaking-day/took-care-of-a-baby/washed- 10-loads-of-laundry/cleaned-the-house-and-I’m-totally-over-it recipe. By Rachael Ray.

It’s not my proudest moment.

But for reals, peeps. This pizza tastes AWESOME.

And it’s not take out. Plus, you can do it on zero sleep/patience/brain cells.

(Yes, there is a jarred pizza sauce involved, but get over it. And give me a bottle of wine, why don’t ya?)

So, hopefully all y’all have been doing fab.

We have been rocking out at Chez Jersey Girl.

Baby Evan is a super big biggie who is creepin’ and crawlin’ all over the joint.

He’s reaching many milestones: Waving to Daddy; saying hi to Daddy; whacking Daddy in the face; gazing at Daddy when asked, “Where’s Mommy?”

Guess it’s time to get all Bob Dole/Elmo on Evan and start talking about Mommy in the third person.

Anyhoo, to make this pizza I used a prebaked pizza shell, such as a Boboli, or as my Aunt Lorraine says, “Baba-lo,” because as proven on such astute television programs as, “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” we pretty much mispronounce everything in my parts.

The actual recipe calls for unbaked pizza dough. So, yes. As I hang my head lowly lowly lowly in shame - I am taking even MORE shortcuts than Rachael Ray.

I asure you, dear readers, that the Jersey Girl is still a Domestic Goddess of the highest order. It's just that time is not on my side.

Back to the cooking before I have to go fold laundry:

I always have the ingredients for a Pizza Salad on hand: container of designer lettuce, prosciutto, garlic, mozzarella, lemons, hot pepper flakes.

And I buy two pizza shells at once – because that’s how my rocking Italian market Bagliani’s packages them. So, I use one now and freeze one for later.

See. Even with Mommy Brain, I can still plan.

The recipe calls for 2 cloves of garlic, but I seriously quadruple the amount. Sometimes, I go crazy and chop up 10 cloves of garlic for it. (The Husband lurves his garlic.)
So please enjoy the recipe below.

And here’s a picture update on my lovely Evan, who is the cutest cutie pie to ever be in my world. I can't believe he's going to be turning the big ONE soon. Eek!







Pizza Salad
"From Cooking Around the Clock"
By Rachael Ray

All-purpose flour, for dusting
Store-bought pizza dough
1/2 cup pizza sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella or Italian-4 cheese blend
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 lb. prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced
3 cups arugula leaves
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sprinkle a little flour on a clean work surface. Roll or press out dough to form a 12-inch pie and place dough on a pizza pan or cookie sheet. Spread pizza sauce on dough and top with garlic and red pepper flakes. Top with cheese. Bake pizza until cheese is bubbly and crust is crip. About 12 minutes. Top the hot pizza with sliced prosciutto, working all the way to the crust's edge and covering the whole pie. Toss arugula with lemon juice and olive oil in a large bowl. Season arugula with salt and pepper. Pile arugula up on the cetner of the pizza. Cut into quarters and serve.

Yield: 2 servings.

Please note: The Jersey Girl bakes her pizza at 375 degrees for 12 minutes because she uses a prebaked pizza shell, such as Boboli.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Singing the Blues



One of the many male vs. female myths that has been debunked during my almost-eight-years of marriage is that the lady of the house isn’t the only one who gets a craving for certain food-type indulgences.

Take, The Husband. I suppose if we were cooking up his Last Meal on Earth, it would most certainly involve: Caesar salad (Boring, I know, but don’t give up on my hubs yet. It gets more interesting.); foie gras, escargot, scallions, shark, roasted pork, margarita pizza, key lime pie, crème brulee, pineapple, chocolate chip cookies, non pareils, a really top-notch bottle of wine and limoncello. He also grooves on blue cheese. Every summer he declares that he wants a big, bad blue cheese burger. So the summer of 2011, the Jersey Girl decided to make his dreams come true.

A blue cheese burger is quite simple to make. Yes, you so can get one at home rather than solely at a dark and smoky pub. Well, I guess they’re not really smoky anymore. The Husband wanted blue cheese stuffed in the middle of it all. So I did that, and then topped the burgers with some blue cheese sauciness. Because I’m from Jersey, and our motto here is, “More is More.”

I cooked the burgers on a grill pan due to the fact that our for-reals grill is swimming with the fishes.

If you do cook these on your outdoorsy grill, I would totally cut down the time to 6-7 minutes per side.

Blue Cheese Stuffed and Topped Burgers
Makes four

1 pound ground sirloin
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ small onion, minced
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Blue cheese crumbles, about 1 Tbsp per burger
Olive oil

In a medium-large bowl, combine sirloin with garlic, onion, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper. Gently mix with your hands. Once combined, form four patties with the sirloin mixture. Set aside on a platter. Place about 1 Tbsp blue cheese crumbles in the center of each patty. Gently rework patty to cover the cheese.

When ready to cook, brush each side of each burger with a drizzle of olive oil.

Cook on a grill pan over medium-high heat for 7 to 8 minutes per side.

Serve on a roll with Blue Cheese Sauce (see below) and your favorite toppings such as lettuce, tomato and red onion.

Blue Cheese Sauce
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. fresh chives
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ cup blue cheese crumbles
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix with a hand-mixer until well combined.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Shark Attack

The Jersey Girl lurves learning a new thing or two, especially when it comes to cooking up something fab. The fishmonger at the Hammonton ShopRite had me at hello with some big slabs of shark recently. I thought for sure they would put a smile on The Husband’s gorgeous face.

(The Jersey Girl’s Husband has a thang for mako shark, which we get every summer down the shore.)

When it comes to seafood, I tend to keep it simple and the shark steaks were no exception. I seasoned them with a little salt and peppa, brushed with olive oil. Cooked up on my trusty grill pan, the steaks were then splashed with lemon juice and dotted with the sunshiny zest of lemon and the green leaves of fresh parsley.

Yay!

I served them with Couscous and Zucchini.

I apologize, dear trusty readers, for my prolonged absence from the world of blogging. I am on hiatus from teaching, and I thought for sure that my bloggery would be front and center of my summer break. But, the truth is my Baby Evan has been the focus of my adult ADD attention's along with trips to our beloved Stone Harbor. That’s where The Husband’s fam rolls, and well, Evan can’t get enough of the bay and the beach and our long walks and sunshiny days. And since my technological wares date back to 1982, a laptop and/or Smartphone are not in my mix of tricks. Yes, I’m old school that way. I actually speak to real people on a dusty old landline rather then texting them in broken English or IMing on Facebook. Gasp!

Anyhoo, as I’m sure any of you in the family way can attest: Hauling a baby anywhere requires mucho preparation. And then, returning home, requires time and focus to readjust to the normalcy of it all.

But, dear readers, The Jersey Girl and The Husband had a heart-to-heart this week, and we decided that in addition to hardwood floors, a mac daddy TV stand from Crate and Barrel, a back yard deck, a vacay to Aruba and a killer new black Kate Spade bag and animal print wallet (Oh wait, The Husband could probably live without the last item), that a laptop is strongly needed/coveted at Casa di Jersey Girl. That way, I can blog while nursing, feeding, diapering and running around after a baby.

In the meantime, please enjoy some pics of Baby Evan kickin’ it at Carmen’s in Sea Isle City, where his Daddy-O housed some mako shark recently.






And, I hope you get a chance to cook up some shark at home. It’s really very meaty. Really quite delish. And do not fear it!!

The couscous is a Pat and Gina Neely recipe. I love those two. The recipe is light and refreshing, perfect for a summer night. That recipe is listed below as well. You can also check it out  here.




Grilled Shark in Parsley Lemon Sauce

3-4 shark steaks, an inch thick
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 or 2 lemons
¼ flat-leaf parsley

Season shark steaks with salt and pepper. Brush with olive oil.

Preheat grill pan over medium heat. Grill steaks five minutes per side or until cooked through.

Remove to platter. Top with burst of lemon juice and sprinkle with the lemony goodness of zest and the chopped parsley.

Couscous and Zucchini
Pat and Gina Neely
10 ounces couscous
2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, diced
1 tablespoon green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons mint, sliced thin
Salt

Add couscous to boiling water, remove from heat and cover. Let stand 5 minutes.

In a large saute pan heat olive oil. Add red pepper flakes, garlic, zucchini, green onions, mint and salt. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Fluff couscous with fork and fold in vegetables.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hey Mom, What's for Dinner?

“You should write about your baby food.”

So says The Husband to a hazy-eyed wifey one night at din.

“For reals?” I mumble in reply, reaching for a glass, well probably a bottle, of wine.

“Yes,” says The Husband. “Your readers probably want to know about it.”

So, peeps. This is The Baby Food post.

Making baby food is really not very challenging and the final products do not look appealing, which is why the notion of writing about them totally failed to dawn on me.

My instructions are pretty much as follows: Cook the living daylights out of XY or Z, and puree the pants off of desired item in your food processor.

Done and done.

Some things don’t need to be cooked. A banana can be smushed up with a fork. But it needs to be majorly over-ripe, like the banana that is headed to the trashcan or your banana bread. Mmmmmm. Banana bread.

You hear all different theories about when to feed the babies. My doc told me to get cracking at 4 months. But some books I have read say 6 months, and I’m sure if you hang with a gaggle of baby-obsessed mommas, you will get a variety of opinions that will probably make your head explode.

We started with the oatmeal and the rice cereal. Next came the carrots, bananas, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, peas, peaches, butternut squash and mangos. Prune juice was also involved because, well, the solid food kinda messes with the bambino’s system at first. Sorry for the TMI.

My doc told me to give each new food a day and then moveon.org to the next.

Now that Evan is nearing 7 months of age (yikes!), he’s been grooving to some yogurt and blueberries and some chicken concoctions. I’m hoping to try out zucchini this week. I just need to find a moment to cook it.

So, I’m not tsk tsking if you feed your baby food from a container. I totally rock out Gerber every now and again because of convenience. Let’s be real, I barely have time to cook a proper meal for Mommy and Daddy these days. The good news is that you can freeze a ton of bambino food. In fact, once the weather turned warm in my parts, one of Baby Evan’s outings was to the dollar store to get ice cube trays. We also visited the liquor store, but who are you to judge.

Basically, Evan loves to eat anything and everything. My 20-pound roly-poly baby doll is totally down with yum yum time. Yes, sometimes he straight-up gives me WTF face when I’m shoving smashed peas into his gourd. And I can’t blame him. If someone was force-feeding me mushed up peas and pureed sweet potatoes, I would tear a bitch down with my multi-colored Munchkin spoon and Playtex sippy cup. And, Elmo would totally have my back.

But, it’s times like these when I get all Jessica Seinfeld on Evan and camouflage the offensive greens into the happy sweetness of carrots, yams or squash. He also takes the peas mashed into some rice.

His faves are peachies better known as peaches and of course, apples. I make a boatload of apples each week. The gala variety is a win for my Baby Evan. He digs pears as well, but not, I repeat NOT the anjou variety. The anjous produced a grainy puree, and Baby Evan was thoroughly disgusted. So was the Jersey Girl for wasting her time. Plus, I made the babes gag and then felt immense amounts of guilt for causing this situation.

I thin out a lot of the veg and the meat items - yes I puree, chicken - with breast milk or formula. And, there truly is no rhyme or reason to the quantities that Baby Evan consumes. Some days he just wants it shoveled in, and some days he picks a little here and there. C'est la vie.

On a final note, I highly recommend this baby cookery book: "Top 100 Baby Purees" by Annabel Karmel.

Here’s a recipe I made for butternut squash from the book. There's two ways to do it. I did the baking way. Baby Evan loves the orange foods. One squash made a ton of servings, so I was able to freeze some in my ice cube trays. Here's how the squash was transformed from odd shaped veg to smushy baby food:



 I also did a batch of sweet potatoes since the oven was on and I am the queen of multi-tasking:



Butternut Squash
From "Top 100 Baby Purees" by Annabel Karmel
6 months. Makes 4 portions. Suitable for freezing

1 medium butternut squash (1 pound), cut in half and seeded
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter (optional)
2 Tbsp. orange juice (optional)

Brush each half with melted butter and spoon 1 Tbsp. orange juice in each cavity. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 1/2 hours or until tender, then blend to a puree.





Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Long and Short of It

“I can’t live like this anymore.”

I declared this to The Husband one night after FINALLY getting the Babes to sleep and sitting down for five minutes to down dinner in one gulp. It was 11 p.m. Dinner was a scrambled egg with toast. I think I was shaking from malnutrition, and I’m sure my head was pounding.

Next, I’m going to tell you I chased my late-night gourmet meal with a shot of tequila before sweeping glitter on my eyes and pulling up my go-go boots to hoof it up Forbes Avenue to the dive bar for a night out with my sorority sisters.

Oh, wait that happened in my mind. Well, really that happened probably on a weekly basis back in 1995.

Yes, I’m THAT old.

Of course, in 1995 I was not a baby momma or a wifey or a bizness owner.

I was just a clueless Carnegie Mellon University student trying to make the Dean’s List and find a good seat at a bar (preferably next to a boy who would buy the drinks.) Seriously. Those were my two biggest concerns.

And so this got me a thinking: My 1995 diet consisted of coffee and tea (this was the 90s afterall, when the whole coffeehouse thing was intriguing), ramen noodles (gag!), Kraft mac and cheese (super gag!), cereal, Pepperidge Farm milano cookies (these are still a part of my diet today in moments of desperation. Don’t judge), gummy bears, an apple or orange here or there, and Vladimir vodka mixed with raspberry Crystal Light and/or Snapple fruit juice. Honestly, I think I just threw up a little.

Fortunately, the Jersey Girl’s Daddy-o hooked me up with a credit card and upon dropping me off in good old Pittsburgh said, “You can put any charges on here that have to do with food. Make sure you eat.”

In fact, spending time with fam and friends to eat is one of my most favorite things to do. But the reality is, my life’s schedule or, lack thereof, makes the possibility of sharing a meal with others a rarity. Just like during my college days. Truth be told, this is how it’s always gone down during my adulthood because I’ve always worked jobs that have insane hours.

But, I was thrilled when one day during February or March I had the time and focus to make Short Ribs in Barolo for The Husband. The recipe comes from Mario Batali, and it is made of awesome meaty awesomeness. I served the short ribs with some rigatoni, which held up nicely to the big sauciness of it all.

Hopefully, you can whip some up before it gets too summery out. Short ribs seem like a cool night treat to me. The recipe calls for boneless short ribs, but mine were not boneless. They become so tender, the meat just falls right off. I also did not re-season with salt and pepper. But, I tend to cook with a lot less salt than called for in recipes. Also, be careful when searing the short ribs. The hot pan causes oil to spatter.

I used my Mean Marinara Sauce instead of Mario's tomato sauce. For my recipe, please click here.

Oh, and have no worries: Baby Evan these days is MUCH easier to put to bed. So, hopefully my cookery will get back on the exciting track soon! I don’t know if the same can be said of my social life.



Short Ribs in Barolo
Makes 4 servings
From “Molto Italiano”
By Mario Batali

6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs. boneless beef short ribs, cut into 3-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large Spanish onions, cut into ½-inch dice
1 medium carrot, sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds
2 ribs celery, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
4 ounces pancetta, cut into ¼-inch dice
2 cups Barolo or other hearty red wine
2 cups tomato sauce

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until smoking. Season the meat liberally with salt and pepper. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot, brown the meat all over, turning frequently, until dark, golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter and set aside

Pour the excess oil out of the pot. Add the onions, carrot, celery and pancetta and cook until the vegetables are light brown and starting to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and tomato sauce and bring to a boil.

Add the meat and bring back to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until the meat is very tender, 1 ½ to 2 hours. Transfer the meat to a festive platter.

Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and reduce to 2 ½ cups. Season with salt and pepper, pour over the meat and serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nice and Easy

There really is no denying it: The Jersey Girl is the worst blogger eva.


I have no excuse, well, I guess I do have some excuses but as I tell my piano students: We can come up with a million different reasons to NOT do something, when really we only need ONE SUPER AWESOME REASON to DO something. And, my bottom line is that I LOVE beyond a reasonable doubt to cook and to write so I need to get it together and do this blog thang more regularly. For reals.

So, here is a turkey meatloaf. The funny thing is I made this back in February. Eek. Procrastinating is SO not my bag, baby. And, yet, here we are in April and I am finally sharing with you the recipe. The second funny thing is that I’ve actually made two turkey meatloaves in the past few months, but the other one doesn’t look as pretty, even though it tasted equally as delish.

This particular recipe comes from Giada. I don’t know. Ever since bearing my child, I’ve been cooking a lot of Giada recipes. I think the reason is because they are quite easy. I’m totally not knocking her, because easy is what I’m all about at the moment. The meatloaf includes sundried tomatoes and feta cheese and it’s way yummy.

I normally tell all y’all what else I served with the recipe at hand, but I made this so long ago that I actually forget.

God, I get an F-minus today. I probably made mashed potatoes, but I also have a recollection of cous cous being involved so I may be off on the potato thing. And there of course was a veg, because no matter what time of day something green or yellow or red or orange is always on my plate.

Anyhoo, this is majorly yum yum. And in our house yum yum is good. Just, ask Baby Evan, who today is 5 months old and has been loving his yum yum carrots, squash, pears and peaches. Yay!

I cut way down on the salt. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 tsp. which is way high in my humble opinion. I used 1/2. tsp.




Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sundried Tomatoes
By Giada De Laurentiis
From "Giada at Home"

Vegetable cooking spray

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped garlic and herb-marinated sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.


Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, if using, eggs, olive oil, feta, salt, and pepper. Add the turkey and gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat.

Carefully pack the meat mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and slice. Put on a serving platter and serve.

Please note: The recipe link to the Food Network Web site calls for 2 Tbsp. whole milk instead of 1/4 cup olive oil. The Jersey Girl used extra large eggs. She also used 1/2 tsp. of salt instead of 1 1/2 tsp. of salt.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Losing my Marbles

Really the title of this piece has nothing to do with anything including the recipe at hand, except for the fact that the word “marble” is a part of it.

And well, perhaps I do feel a bit crazy these days. Or at least that’s the overall aura of my world come Wednesday.

Yes, by the week’s Hump Day I do long for a respite. You see, dear patient readers, the Jersey Girl loves beyond a doubt being a baby momma and a wifey and a piano teacher and a home owner, but sometimes the hecticness of it all makes me feel a bit insane.

Always the multitasker, I seriously never have a spare moment nowadays what with teaching and mothering and wifing it up. And cleaning. Damn, that cleaning.

A personal assistant would be a plus. I mean, those Real Housewife broads have a staff, and do they really do anything besides lunch and shop?

Ahhhh. Lunching and shopping…. A girl can dream.

Listen, I have time to watch mindless entertainment because I’m a breastfeeding momma, and well, that’s pretty much eating up 90 percent of my day. Literally. Not to say I don’t enjoy getting snuggly with Baby Evan. I mean it rocks my world. He’s getting so big and gorgeous right before my very eyes.

When I’m not nursing or playing with the babe or teaching music or scrubbing a floor or folding laundry of some sort or hanging with The Husband in a sleep-deprived haze, I have been getting my cooking on.

In fact, these here Marble Squares were baked up for The Husband’s journalisto bff, Joel. Our boy recently got a new gig at one of my former stomping grounds, The Press of Atlantic City. And in celebration of breaking free from his old job shackles, I made him some Marble Square goodness because at some point during our years of knowing each other Joel declared to The Husband that Marble Squares were the greatest foodstuffs he has ever had ever.

I guess Joel doesn’t get out much.

Kidding.

Actually, Joel is a frequent reader of my pathetic excuse of a blog. He especially enjoys my jibs and jabs at that love of my life, The Husband. But today, Joel gets to be the subject of my witty observations.

Joel is a lova of texting The Husband, sending him messages at all hours of the day, particularly during the height of the Phillies’ season during any and every Phillies game. No matter the hour. Such as din din time, which is why The Jersey Girl has implemented a No Texting While Eating Rule in our house. Because having a conversation with The Husband sans beeping and pressing phone buttons is important to moi. And I kind of dig it when he’s looking into my eyes rather than down at a shiny black piece of gadgetry every 30 seconds.

You know I love you, Joel. Hope the new gig is going swell. And here’s the recipe for Marble Squares - which are a cakelike brownie topped with swirly cream cheese and chocolate chips (yum yum) - in case you ever get bit by the baking bug and want to make them yourself. If not, you know where I live.

Most children will agree with our pal Joel - Marble Squares rock. If you don’t dig these, something is wrong with you. Seriously.



Marbles Squares
From the “Great American Favorite Brand Name Cookbook” - 1993 edition

½ cup margarine
¾ cup water
1 and ½ 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs beaten
½ cup sour cream

Topping:
1 8-ounce pack cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 6-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine margarine, water and chocolate in saucepan. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in combined flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add eggs and sour cream. Mix well.

Pour into a greased and floured 15 by 10 by 1 jelly roll pan

To make topping, combine cream cheese and sugar, mixing until well blended. Blend in egg. Spoon over chocolate batter. Cut through batter with knife several times for marble effect. Sprinkle with chocolate pieces. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Makes 2 dozen.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Baby Spinach Salad with Thyme Dressing


I totally should be taking a nap right now.


But peeps, I so miss my blog. So, I’m skipping on nanni time – that’s our lingo for some shuteye in casa di Jersey Girl.

This past month has been a bit cray cray. In addition to planning Baby Evan’s Baptismal Throwdown, we also had our first foray into dealing with a sick bambino. Fortunately, Evan came down with your everyday common cold, but being the OCD kinda gal that I am, I perhaps wigged out at first. Then, The Husband got the cold. Then, the Jersey Girl got the cold. Awesome.

Truth be told, our Baby Evan is an angel. His normal personality is that of Mr. Smiles or Mr. Cuddles or Mr. Giggilies (That’s a guy who laughs a lot). Sometimes Mr. Crankypants comes to town, but I think our baby is absolutely perfecto. Not that I’m biased or anything.

Evan understands that din din time is one of Mommy’s most fave moments of the day. He often is Kool and the Gang when I’m getting my cook on. I just need to work into my schedule some time to actually write about my recipes so that I can share them all with you.

Here is one of my fabu spinach salads. This can be made in five minutes flat. And if you don’t eat veggies, I just don’t know what to say. I don’t understand peeps who refuse to eat entire food groups. So those who are vegetarians baffle me. And those who hate the wonders of earth and vine equally baffle me. Likewise, life is too short to NEVER eat dessert. And seafood is pretty freakin awesome. So, yeah. Hope you get to give my baby spinach salad a whirl.

Baby Spinach Salad with Thyme Dressing
4 ounces baby spinach
½ small red onion, sliced real thin
1 red pepper, chopped

Combine spinach, onion and red pepper in a salad bowl.

For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together. Pour over salad.

Donzo.

Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Product Review: Cuisinart Party Pop Popcorn Maker



What it does: Makes super awesome fluffy fantastic popcorn, please see below:


A bowl of delishness. I add a bit of melted butter and a sprinkle of salt, natch.


OK, I admit it: I used a high-falutin' popcorn kernel. But The Husband deserves only the best.


Watching the kernels spin round and round provides minutes of entertainment.


Baby Evan has nothing to do with popcorn, but he is super cute, so
I thought I would share his loveliness with all y'all.

Why I love it: The popcorn produced is divine. I mean, you could go with a bag of microwaved mediocrity, but why would you when perfection can be made from this amazing piece of equipment? It is so worth the splurge if popcorn is your snacky poof of choice. Plus the popcorn maker is red, and red is my fave.

The backstory: This was a Christmas gift for The Husband, who is a huge fan of popcorn. The Jersey Girl could take or leave popcorn prior to eating popcorn made in this gadget. The popcorn coming out of this machine has cracklike qualities. Seriously.

I bought the popcorn maker while on maternity leave in an effort to get some Christmas shopping checked off my checklist before popping out a baby. Chances are the order was made during a 3 a.m. spell of insomnia/obsessing about pending baby (please see above.) After the bambino came out and I had a moment to reflect on my pregnant decision-making re: holiday shopping, I declared in a hormone/pain-killer induced haze, “Did I seriously buy a popcorn maker for The Husband? He’s going to think this is the lamest gift eva eva.” But in addition to the beer-of-the-month club subscription and authentic photo of Roy Halladay throwing a no-hitter during the Playoffs (The Husband was at the game), the Husband was all smiles about his ho ho gifts in 2010. Yay, me.

The bottom line: The Cuisinart Party Pop Popcorn Maker produces super yum yum popcorn that beats the pants off of faux microwave popcorn. Plus, it makes your house smell awesome. Plus, you can watch the kernels go pop, pop, pop, so you can amuse your 5-year-old, or 35-year-old. Gah. I’m going to be 35 in a few months. Yikes.

Anywho, The Jersey Girl household lurves our snazzy popcorn maker. Here are the deets and a link to its awesomeness.

Cuisinart Party Pop Popcorn Maker
Cost: $59.95
Where to buy it: Sur la Table
Comes with: a serving bowl, measuring cup and nifty recipe book.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Burning Down the House


The fact that The Husband and I were able to sit down and actually eat this dish is made of a miracle.

That’s because the Jersey Girl decided to cook rice without the water. Or, the rice. It’s safe to say that heating up an empty pot could in fact trigger smoke. Then a fire. For all you cooking newbies, may I advise you to NOT DO THIS.

The funny thing is as the smoke detector was blaring its piercing annoying sound (just after we got Baby Evan to doze off for a bit. Irony, yes.), the Jersey Girl stood before the offending empty burning saucepan saying aloud to The Husband, “I wonder why the alarm is going off?!?!”

Because you’re an idiot, Captain Obvious.

You know, I could see how a person who uses the kitchen as a shoe closet, or orders takeout seven days a week or is mentally unstable could make this party foul. But, peeps, as I tell Baby Evan every day – the kitchen is my office.

Fortunately, the evening had a they-all-lived-happily-ever-after ending. And, Team Jersey Girl was able to enjoy din din with a glass of wine and without the house going down in flames. Yay!

The reason for my absentminded/idiotness was that I was preparing this meal the day before going back to work after a two-month maternity leave. And well, I was wiggin’ on the inside. And the outside. I don’t know why. I blame hormones. Because it’s not like I have a job that invokes dread, hardship or horror on my part. Actually, all I feel is love for my occupation of piano teacher. Sure, I hear a lot of wrong notes, but my work is all about music and inspiration and passion. How can you loathe those things?

I suppose my fear of the First Day of Work was brought on by the realization that my days and nights would no longer be spent solely staring at my little boy and watching trash TV. But a little less Camille Grammer and Snookie is really a good thing. And I definitely was worrying if the Jersey Girl could truly do it all – take care of a baby, teach piano, clean the house, cook, blog, organize, eat, breathe, sleep, shower.

The first week was a success, and a bit of a whirlwind. It also has prompted a newfound appreciation for mommas who are single or have a real job or have a commute that is more than five steps down a hallway or don’t live near grandmas and aunts who want to spend every waking moment with a newborn bambino.

Anyhoo, my last day as a Stay-At-Home Baby Momma went out with a bang and a yum yum dish by Giada called Chicken Scallopine with Saffron Cream Sauce. Saffron is known as the spice that costs the most dollas dollas in the whole entire land. So, I could understand if you don’t want to make this. But, all the other ingredients are el cheapo, so I encourage you, dear readers, to go for the splurge. I bought my saffron at Sur la Table.

The dish is very subtle and smooth. I think it would be nice to serve to picky eater people because the flavor is not overpowering at all.

I served the chicken with some basmati rice (previously mentioned) and a fabu salad.

Done and done.

Chicken Scallopine with Saffron Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound chicken cutlets (scallopine)
2 shallots, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Season the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until golden and cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to serving plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Turn the heat to medium, add the shallot and the garlic and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine is almost evaporated.

Add the chicken broth and saffron threads, bring to a simmer and reduce for 10 minutes. Add the cream, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and simmer for 1 minute to blend the flavors. Pour the sauce over the chicken.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash and Parsnips

I usually rock out butternut squash more frequently, but the whole popping-out-a-baby situation has hindered my butternut squash cooking frequency this fall/winter. I guess you could say butternut squash is one of those high-maintenance types of veg with its seeding and skin-peeling requirements.

Nonetheless, I came up with this dish in time for New Year’s Day. I threw in some parsnips for good measure in an effort to shake things up. Whoa. Getting wild and crazy there, Susan.

Parsnips resemble carrots but in a lighter hue. They’re very neutral looking, actually. You peel them just like carrots, too.

The ingredient that makes these veggies stand out is the fresh sage. You don’t need a ton of sage. In fact, I snipped in just five leaves upon taking my baking sheet out of the oven. Add the sage while the squash and parsnips are still hot because the heat mellows out the sage flavor, which can be strong.





Roasted Butternut Squash and Parsnips
Makes 4-6 servings

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into ¾-inch dice
3-4 parsnips, chopped
4-5 fresh sage leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

On a large baking sheet, toss squash and parsnips with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread vegetables out on baking sheet in one layer. Roast in hot oven for 20 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven. Toss vegetables. Return baking sheet to oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Remove baking sheet from oven. Snip sage leaves on top of vegetables with kitchen shears. Toss and place in serving dish.

This dish may be made ahead and reheated before serving.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Here's to You, Mammom

This New Year’s Day was a bit different in the Jersey Girl household. For one thing, we had our Baby Evan – a holiday first. And, The Husband and I found ourselves both off from work. It truly was a day to celebrate!

For our many years together, usually one or both of us were hard/hungover at work on Jan. 1. That’s because we are news peoples (The Husband still is; I am fortunately retired.)

Back in the day, when we both toiled all in the name of news at a daily (a newspaper that comes out each and every morn), we usually got stuck working all but two holidays. And, or course, we always vied for Christmas off. Working Christmas is made of evil. Hell, working any holiday is made of evil. Holidays are meant to be with family, not in a newsroom with no windows. And being the lovas of the Shore that we are, we usually tried for Fourth of July.

Since retiring from the world of news, I always have New Year’s Day off, but The Husband usually had to go into the office. So, my New Year’s time was spent de-Christmasfying the homefront and recovering from the previous night’s festivities.

But, this year some clear-headed cookery ensued. And The Husband made a special request: “Do you think you can make spaetzle like my grandmother?”

Sure thing, Dear Husband.

I had previously read the recipe in my tattered Betty Crocker cookbook. (I read cookbooks like novels, you see.)

And the recipe was easy enough.

The catch was I wasn’t quite sure if they would turn out like Mammom’s. That’s The Husband’s grandmother. During her day, she would make spaetzle – a German dumpling of sorts – each and every New Year’s to accompany a pork roast.

The Husband had shared his stories of making the dish as Mammom’s trusty assistant, dropping the batter into boiling hot water while breaking it into strands with a fork.

The tragedy is that The Husband does not have a recipe written down. Like most grandmothers, Mammom cooked from her head and heart rather than paper.

I had the opportunity to enjoy Mammom’s spaetzle many years ago when The Husband and I were dating. But that was only once or twice. Mammom was starting to take it easy when I met her. The reality was dementia was beginning to wreak its ugly havoc on Mammom’s beautiful soul. So, I guess you can say, I never really got to know the Real Mammom. But, I love learning about her from the stories I hear from The Husband and his Mom, Nancy.

Mammom was the sweetest lady you ever met. And, she did anything and everything for her family. These traits were passed on to her daughter, Nancy, who is my rockin’ mother-in-law.

In 2010, Mammom passed away. So, it was only fitting to kick off 2011 in her honor. As my mother-in-law always says, “Mammom is looking down on us and smiling. And she is Baby Evan’s guardian angel.”

I was a bit nervy making the spaetzle, wondering if I was going to need to bust into a bag of potatoes to get some mash on as backup. But The Husband’s family proclaimed the spaetzle were on the money.

“They’re just like Mammom’s,” my mother-in-law declared.

“Outstanding,” said my father-in-law, when I asked if they tasted right. He explained that the purpose of spaetzle is to soak up the flavor of the gravy.

I’m providing for all y’all the recipe from “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook.” But the colander method described in the book did not work for the Jersey Girl. Methinks the holes in my colander are too small, because the batter wanted no parts of fitting through the holes. I simply took a teaspoon and a fork and dripped and drabbed the batter into a pot of boiling water. That’s how Mammom did it, according to The Husband. But, it sounds like her batter was thinner than this batter. Nonetheless, the fork method worked for me.

I then fished the dumplings out of the bowling water with my trusty spider ladle:





The final product: Roast pork served with Spaetzle and Roasted Butternut Squash and Parsnips.
(I will share the squash recipe later this week. Possibly today, if my bambino takes a nap.)

If you have spaetzle tips, please share in the comments!
Spaetzle
From “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook”
6 servings

2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup milk or water
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1 Tbsp. butter or stick margarine

Mix eggs, milk, flour, salt and pepper (Batter will be thick.)

Fill 4-quart Dutch oven half full with water; heat to boiling.

Press a few tablespoons of the batter at a time through colander (preferably one with large holes) into boiling water. Stir once or twice to prevent sticking.

Cook about 5 minutes or until spaetzle rise to surface and are tender; drain. Toss with butter.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Go On with Your Bad French Self


Confession: I made these dishes B.E. (Before Evan).

These days, everything I’ve been cooking up is tres simple. Or, I’ve already blogged about it. For instance, right now as we speak, there is a pot of Chicken and Dumplings brewing. But, I wrote about that already.

The thing that’s challenging my cookery is neither time nor screaming child. (Evan quite digs it in the kitchen, thank you very much.)

Rather, it’s my inability to get my bootie to the grocery store. I’ve been quite reluctant to take a person who is weeks old and about in the freezing cold. So, I revolve my grocery shopping excursions around those who can stay with the bambino. This wouldn’t be so tough if I had a husband who works a normal 9-5 job. But I don’t. I have a husband chained to a desk in a newsroom 24 hours a day.

So, my grocery trips require more strategery and planning than ever before. But, I promise I will have new and exciting recipes in 2011. For reals.

Today, we’re taking a look at my French Onion Soup and the Barefoot Contessa’s Goat Cheese Tart from her “Barefoot in Paris” cookbook.



First off, I loves me some French food. Truth be told, I love all different cuisines. I have to be super careful with the Asian sector of the world due to my whole food allergy thing, but I love trying out dishes from all over the place.

It’s not like either of these dishes are super fancy or unique. They’re quite standard French fare. Classic, if you will.

Sure, cutting a bazillion onions is a pain in the arse, but the effort is so worth it.

Regarding the tart: If you fear making pastry dough, please try to get over it. The more you do it, the better you become. (That’s the piano teacher in me lecturing you.)

I do recommend keeping the butter as cold as you possibly can for the tart, and be sure to fill up the tart with beans or pie weights all the way up to the top of the dish to prevent the crust from shrinking.

When rolling out dough, make sure your surface and rolling pin are well-floured. Also, turn your dough after six to eight rolls to prevent sticking and tearing.

For the Goat Cheese Tart recipe, click here. I will also list it below.

In addition, I’m sharing with you my recipe for French Onion Soup. This is the perfect time of year to rock out this soup, since the weather is all chilly willy, at least that’s how it is my neck of the woods.

Be sure your Gruyere is very cold. That makes shredding it way easier. And my tip for preventing teary eyes while cutting up a bazillion onions is to run the kitchen faucet and slice up those bad boys really really fast. Scientific, I know.

Make sure you have soup bowls that are a.o.k. for popping in the oven. If you need to purchase some, I recommend these from Sur la Table, where a major sale is under way right now.

I served these dishes with a salad.



Goat Cheese Tart
From “Barefoot in Paris”
By Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board

Kosher salt
13 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
3/4 cup chopped shallots (3 to 4 shallots)
10 1/2 ounces garlic-and-herb soft goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet}
1 cup heavy cream
3 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


For the crust, put the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Cut 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) of the butter into large dice, add to the bowl, and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, add the ice water all at once and process until the dough becomes crumbly. Don't overprocess. Dump the dough out on a floured board, gather it loosely into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough on a well-floured board and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable sides, rolling the pin over the top to cut off the excess dough. Butter 1 side of a square of aluminum foil and fit it, butter side down, into the tart pan. Fill the foil with rice or beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and foil from the tart shell, prick the bottom all over with a fork, and bake for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small pan and saute the shallots over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tender. Place the goat cheese in the bowl of the food processor and process until crumbly. Add the cream, eggs, basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper and process until blended.

Scatter the cooked shallots over the bottom of the tart shell. Pour the goat cheese mixture over the shallots to fill the shell (if the shell has shrunk, there may be leftover filling). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tart is firm when shaken and the top is lightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve hot or at room temperature.

French Onion Soup
Makes 6 servings

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
5-6 large yellow onions, sliced
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. flour
4 cups beef broth
2 cups water
3/4 cup white wine
Baguette, sliced and lightly toasted
Gruyere cheese, shredded

Melt butter and oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Once the butter bubbles, add onions. Saute for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper and thyme. Add sugar. Cook for about 20-25 minutes. Onions should be golden and soft.

Add flour. Stir, cooking for a minute or two.

Add broth, water and wine. Bring mixture to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

To serve:

Ladle soup into ovenproof ramekins or soup bowls placed on a rimmed baking sheet.

Place a toasted baguette slice on each bowl of soup. Sprinkle with shredded Gruyere. Place under a hot broiler until cheese is bubbly and browned.