Monday, November 19, 2012

No Respect

Brussels sprouts get such a bad rap.

But saute a bit of shallot and pancetta and you've gotta be out of your freakin' mind if you don't inhale these suckers.

At least this is my humble opinion.

The Husband: "That's a complete waste of pancetta."

He made this statement BEFORE eating the Brussels sprouts that I lovingly Catholic-guilted him into eating.

He DID go for seconds on his own accord. Honest to goodness. Yay, Husband!

I also informed my Moms that I will be schlepping over my fantabulous Brussels sprouts on Thanksgiving, which believe it or not, has totally turned into my most fave holiday in my old age.

It used to just be a day during which I nursed a massive hangover and tried to block out the hours upon hours of football being forced upon me.

But now, I unabashedly look forward to all that family time of eating and drinking and reminiscing with some laughing and crying thrown in for good measure. Wayyyyyyyyyy less hectic than Christmas, fo sho.

I use Italian bacon aka pancetta, which I always keep on hand in the freezer. But the recipe works with regular old Americana bacon, too. Obvi.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
By Rachael Ray

3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed, small spouts left whole, larger spouts halved
  • Salt and pepper, to your taste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
Brown bacon in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Add extra-virgin olive oil to the pan, 1 turn. Add shallots to the pan and saute 1 to 2 minutes. Add Brussels spouts and coat in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook Brussels sprouts 2 to 3 minutes to begin to soften, then add broth. Bring broth to a bubble, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook 10 minutes, until tender. Transfer sprouts to a serving dish with a slotted spoon and top with cooked bacon bits.

Friday, November 2, 2012

That Girl

You know those annoying posters on food Web sites who say they made the recipe BUT they changed this, this and that? God, those people are the WORST.

Yeah. I'm THAT girl today.

So the recipe I'm rockin' out to y'all involves grilled bread, but The Jersey Girl lives in a grill-less house. Say what?!?

I know.

It's a long, boring story that I've probably mentioned previously on my dusty blog. In a nutshell, The Jersey Girl's humble abode stands atop Jersey land that is surrounded by blueberry fields (natch) and when the wind howls across our terrain, it's pretty fierce and strong and insanely loud and it decided to take down The Husband's shiny meat-cooker one too many times. Therefore, my better half's cooking pride and joy swims with the fishes in a Jersey landfill somewhere over the rainbow. Of course a grill will be in the mix, when Deck Project Jersey Girl Style 2013 comes to fruition. (See, Husband. I'm writing about the fantasy deck to make it seem.... real.)

So I made my Grilled Bread with Prosciutto by using the oven's broiler. It's totally fab as are all the Barefoot Contessa recipes that I try. Totally recommend with a glass of wine. Really, what doesn't go with some vino, that is the question. Serve at your next cocktail party, mmmmkay?! Cause you know, parents of toddlers are ALWAYS throwing cocktail parties. (With themselves and Elmo.)

I am including some pics of the yumminess as well as my almost-2-year-old yumminess, Evan. He's been loving the whole Halloween scene. He rocked his pirate costume three times. (Totally worth the dollas. Thanks, Party City!) And we took him on a hayride extravaganza in Egg Harbor City on the Saturday before Hurricane Sandy. The romp in the hay - awesome; the storm - not so much.

In case you were wondering, all The Jersey Girl familia is safe and sound.

Grilled Bread with Prosciutto
(Makes 6 slices)
From "Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?"
By Ina Garten

6 slices good Tuscan round bread, sliced 3/4 inch thick
1 large garlic clove, cut in half
Good olive oil
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn in pieces
2 ounces smoked mozzarella, grated
3 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Prepare a charcoal grill with medium-hot coals or turn gas grill to medium-high heat.

Grill the bread for 2 minutes until golden on one side. Place the bread grilled side up on a platter and immediately rub the cut side of the garlic clove over the surface of the bread. For really garlicky fettunta, rub hard. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over each slice of bread.

Place the torn prosciutto over the grilled side of the bread and top with the grated mozzarella. Return the bread to the hot grill, cover the grill, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes - just long enough to melt the cheese and rewarm the toast. (Be sure the vent is open so the fire doesn't go out!) Drizzle with a little more olive oil, sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper and serve hot.

Please note: The Jersey Girl made her toasts using her oven's broiler.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lemon risotto

Risotto is so worth the effort.

Sure, all that stirring can be a pain in the you-know-what, but sometimes it's nice to just zone out while completing a kitchen task. (A glass of wine is also required.)

The recipe comes from Giada. Of course, she serves hers in dainty little lemon cups that she makes from scooping out the insides of actual lemons. I'm sure that presentation is FABULOUS for a dinner party or a fancy do, but when it's me and The Husband grubbing, a scoop on a plate is as good as it gets.

Also in typical Giada fashion, marscapone and lemon are key ingredients. It's probably wise to have more than one use for the marscapone that you purchase so that you don't have to throw out the almost-entire now-moldy remnants of a tub wasting away in your fridge after literally using 2 tablespoons of it for ONE dish. (Apologies to all the starving people in the world. Never a fan of throwing out unused food.)

This risotto is super duper delish. It tastes really quite special with the lemon and marscapone. And I'm sure the lemon cup situation is wonderful touch if you can swing it.

Also, a word to the uninformed on risotto: The recipe calls for 2 cups broth, but I heat up more like 3 cups because 2 never seems to be enough. The recipe also calls for diluting the broth with some water. That's a good plan. I feel like measurements in risotto are kind of inaccurate, especially since you can cook it to your preferred level of  creaminess.

Lemon Risotto
By Giada DeLaurentiis

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large shallot, diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1/2 a lemon, zested and juiced
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 lemons, for serving (optional)

In a medium saucepan bring the broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep hot over low heat.

In a medium, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of the broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, mascarpone cheese, the lemon zest and juice, and the salt and pepper.

To serve in lemon cups: cut 1/4-inch off the bottom of each lemon so they stand on their own. Take 1-inch off the stem end. Using a grapefruit spoon scoop out the flesh of the lemon and discard. Fill each lemon with about 1/2 cup of risotto. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Serve immediately.

For other rockin' risotto recipes please check out:
Basic risotto
Butternut Squash Risotto

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Chicken Finger Conundrum

Chicken Fingers.

Who you foolin? You know your kid loves them.

There’s no need to get all judgy-mom/Jamie Oliver on me. I saw him do the vile gooey pink-chicken-parts-in-a-blender demo on his saving America from our obese disgusting selves program on ABC. I watched it from beginning to end. The entire series. It was fascinating. I think I was prego at the time. Probably stuffing my face with Fruit Loops and cheesesteaks while lying on the couch. Irony, yes?

 And I agree with that crazy British dude in all his lecturing glory.

But, the reality is: My Baby Evan grooves on his chickie.

What do you want from me?

Fortunately, the Jersey Girl has ways in which to rock out breaded chicken in a manner that is not disgusting. Or wrapped up in a pre-cooked Perdue package. Or found in the prepared frozen food section of the grocery. The HORROR!!

Sidenote: I’m not judging you if you feed these things to your kid. Or go the Mickey D’s takeout route. But I do hope you will consider the way shown below. Even me and The Husband eat these chicken fingers. The key to their fabulosity: garlic-infused Greek yogurt. Marinating in this wonder-sauce keeps the tenders so…. Tender.  

And you can make a whole bundle of them and sock them away in the fridge for your day-to-day operation. Or for those moments when you’re all like, “God. I’m exhausted. Calgon, take me away. Where’s my wine? Can I just watch Jersey Housewives? Jesus, kid. You need to eat. AGAIN!”

Shut up. You know you think these unmotherly thoughts.

Since we’re keeping it real, The Jersey Girl tends to order chicken fingers for the Babes quite often when we’re dining out. I’m not proud of this decision, but sometimes you gots to do what you gots to do – and by that I mean prevent screaming from an impatient toddler. The Husband staged an intervention this summer on the matter, so on a lunch outing the Jersey Girl ordered Evan a scrambled egg with cheese, which pretty much went untouched by a restless and annoyed toddler. I know his inner monologue was something like, “WTF? Where’s my chicken, Dad?!!! Chickie. CHICKIE. CHICKIE!!!!!!!”

Evan loves to play peek-a-boo. But, really. Who doesn't?

Rest assured, Evan makes his foodie Mama proud. While his old-standby of chicken fingers and fries (along with blueberries and strawberries brought by moi) often grace his plate in restaurants, he loves to try what me and his Daddy-O are eating, too, because the truth is my offspring eats enough for four people on a daily basis. So, he has the comfort of his familiar chicken while exploring the wonders of new tastes in what we eat. And well, I love that about my very hungry 21-month-old, who lately has been all about teetering and tottering with me in the kitchen with my pots and pans and wooden spoons. He tells me he’s making sauce. Should be delish.

Mmmmm. Chicken fingers. Yes, the salad will probably 
get thrown in your face by a 2-year-old who prefers a side of chips or pretzels.

Homemade Chicken Fingers
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 fat clove of garlic, chopped
1 ½ pounds chicken tenders
¾ cup Italian style bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Line a sturdy baking sheet with foil. Lightly brush with olive oil.

In a medium bowl, combine yogurt and chopped garlic. Place chicken tenders in the yogurt mixture. Marinate for 15-20 minutes. (Don’t marinate for long because the chicken will become tough and stringy. Yuck.)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

In another bowl, combine bread crumbs, cheese and salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. When the chicken is finished marinating, coat each chicken tender in the bread crumb mixture.

Place each tender evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Once all the tenders are breaded and lined up, drizzle each with some olive oil.

Bake in the super hot oven for about 12 minutes.

Enjoy with your hungry little monsters!!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Told Ya So

The true test of culinary greatness is when you can convince someone – in this case the someone is The Husband – that he/she really enjoys consuming an ingredient  - in this case, the ingredient is mushrooms - that he/she mistakenly thinks he doesn’t dig.

God, this husband of mine. Look, I love him with all of my soul. Even when he spills mustard, coffee or some other impossible element to Shout out, scrub out, curse out of his freakin’ million-dollar Ralph Lauren Polo shirts not even an hour – AN HOUR – after The Jersey Girl finishes laundry. Don’t even get me started on the bathroom. And if you must know, yes, he is a snorer.

I know that paragraph was riddled with about 100 husband/wife clichés, but it is SO my reality. What do you want from me?

Meanwhile, my loving better half who moves the earth and the moon and the sun to make my life and that of Baby Evan’s super duper fabulous - (Yes, I’m covering my bootie right now. But The Husband really is awesome despite my griping, pinky swear) – decides to protest the eating of mushrooms. Mushrooms. They’re perfectly harmless. God.

So, what’s your beef with mushrooms, Husband?!

When asked to reveal his inner thoughts on the shroom, The Husband calmly states while swilling his Stella, “You know what it is? It’s the texture.” Then he went on to say something about big mushrooms vs. little mushrooms and that he likes them when they’re in a dish with something else but they shouldn’t be the focus of the dish and he doesn’t like the chewy ones they put in the takeout at the Chinese restaurant….. At this point, as most seasoned wifeys masterfully do, I blocked him out. When he was at a wrap, I informed him that he would be trying stuffed mushrooms with red peppers and scallions, and he would like it.


He DID!!!!

In fact, he went back for seconds. AND THIRDS.

God damn, I’m amazing. Well, maybe I’m not that great, but the recipes of Lidia Bastianich are, and I guess really, I should be thanking her.

I strongly believe The Husband was head over heels with this dish due to the above-mentioned sautéed red pepper and scallion. The Husband loves his red peppers and scallions. And beer. And escargot, which is ironic, since the texture of a snail drenched in butter is totally similar to that of many button-sized mushrooms. (The Husband is rolling his eyes right now as he is not a fan of my lectures regarding the similarities between mushrooms and foods he claims to like, or my curseword-laden monologues about how our home is NOT a college dorm and please for the love of God pick up your clothes off the floor, or my subtle reminders that it REALLY is time to bring the mounting pile of castoffs in the spare bedroom to Goodwill. No, really.)

For the record, The Husband is amazing at making the bed, cleaning up the kitchen and tidying up toys. Plus he puts up with me and my questions and my giggles and my worries on a daily basis. So, he really is a saint of sorts. Plus, he rocks out with some fabulous diamond-laden jewels when the time is right i.e, Christmas, birthdays, Labor Day (Just kidding, Husband.) And Evan adores him. And so does The Jersey Girl!!

OK. So below is the recipe. These mushrooms would be fab at a cocktail party. Just stick a toothpick in it. Hee.

There are also some pics of Baby Evan (who is SO not a baby anymore) kicking it at a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park. The Husband did not understand why I failed to post pics of this event in my last blog entry. And my reason is….. well, I got nothin’.  Maybe I don’t want to remind all of us how bad this year’s team is.

Take it away, Lidia:

Stuffed Mushrooms
From "Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen"
By Lidia Mattichio-Bastianich

24 white or cremini mushrooms
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the tops of the mushrooms if you like
1/2 cup scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup dry white wine, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the stems from the mushrooms (set the caps aside), and finely chop them.

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the red peppers and chopped mushroom stems and cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove and cool.

Toss the bread crumbs, grated cheese, 2 tablespoons of the parsley and the sautéed vegetables until thoroughly blended. Season with salt and pepper.  Stuff the cavity of each mushroom with the filling, pressing it in with a teaspoon until even with the sides of the mushrooms.

Using 2 Tbsp. of the butter, grease a 12-by-18-inch low-sided baking pan. Arrange the mushrooms side by side in the pan and, using the remaining 2 Tbsp. butter, dot the top of each mushroom with about ¼ tsp. butter. Add the stock, wine if using and remaining 2 Tbsp. parsley to the pan. If you like, drizzle the tops of the mushrooms with olive oil. Bake until the mushrooms are cooked through and the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Serve the mushrooms on a warmed platter or divide them among warmed plates. Pour the pan juices into a small saucepan and bring to a boil on top of the stove. Boil until lightly thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon the juices over the mushrooms and serve immediately.

Please note: The Jersey Girl did use the optional wine called for in the recipe. She did NOT top each mushroom with a dot of butter, just a drizzle of olive oil. She also did NOT reduce the pan drippings into a sauce.

Hanging with Mommy.

Hanging with Daddy.

Directing Mommy and Daddy.

Checking out the Phanatic.

Taking a break to shout out some letters. 
Evan's obsessed with the alphabet.

Evan loves his Daddy!

Friday, June 29, 2012

That's Just How I Roll

Snickerdoodles are filled with cinnamony goodness. Last week, Evan and I bestowed a tin of these old-timey cookies to two of our most fave old-timers in the whole entire universe: Mommom and Poppop Sacco.

Yes, Evan is blessed with four great grandparents still going strong in their 90s. God bless. Even better, three of his great grandparents live five minutes away right here in H’town while his Great Poppop Ed lives about 30 minutes from our town. Visits bring many smiles to the young and the old, so we love stopping by for a little catching up.

While they say toddlers and seniors need their routines, the Jersey Girl decided to shake things up a bit with my recent visit to Casa di Mommom and Poppop. Oftentimes, Mommom and Poppop get one of my fabulous Sour Cream Coffee Cakes, but this go-around, I thought some Snickerdoodle action was in order. Cinnamon is involved in both treats, so I reasoned, “What’s the worst that could happen?” It’s not like I’m changing Mommom’s program or moving Poppop’s newspaper.

Thankfully, my gambling gal ways paid off: The Snickerdoodles were a hit with the gramps. Mommom, one of my lifelong inspirers of being a fab baker/cook, was fascinated with the perfect circular shape of my Snickerdoodles. She thought for sure that I sliced the dough into exact same-size rounds, meticulously measuring each one, when in fact I rolled the chilled dough into balls and then swished them around in a bowl of cinnamon sugar completely and totally eyeballing the situation. It ain’t rocket science.

Don’t get me wrong: Baking is totally based on rhyme, reason and order. Accuracy is my first, middle and last name when it comes to measuring. But baking also requires a sense of patience and calm and joy, which is why I SO love rocking out with my cake tins and such.  That sense of urgency which takes over our lives during the day-to-day goes out the window when baking.

So next time you feel like you’re going to flip your lid, try baking these puppies:

From “Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook”
Makes 36 cookies

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a medium mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1 cup sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

In a small mixing bowl combine the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. 
Roll balls in the sugar-cinnamon mixture to coat. 

Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 10 to 11 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool. Makes about 36 cookies.

Please note: The Jersey Girl uses extra-large eggs.

Here are links to more of my fave cookie recipes:

Chocolate Thumbprints - These are magnificently awesome!!

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies - These are the William-Sonoma ones. The Nigella ones are AWESOME. I'll have to post them for all y'all.

Ricotta Cookies - A staple at all Jersey Girl Family Functions.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Simple Kind of Life

I must admit, I was worried that my days and nights would be a bit empty while on my summer break from teaching, but The Jersey Girl was SO wrong, dear readers. SOOOOOOOOOOOO wrong.

If you must know, my break has been action-packed – in a stay-at-home chillin’ out mommy kinda way. I quite love spending all of my moments with my superfly Evan. We’ve been rolling to the playground and the library and his Aunt Michele’s pool to hang with cousins. Then there’s the beach. And last night, he kicked it at Citizens Bank Park to watch the Phillies ACTUALLY pull in a win. (Yeah, right. We were on the Walt Whitman Bridge by the sixth inning, but the Fightin’ Phils did for reals eek out a victory.)

Below is one of my summer experiments: Rosemary and Thyme Chicken Burgers. These babies are simplicity in their purest form, so The Jersey Girl highly recommends that you use really fresh rosemary and thyme. While processed cheese and ketchup (GASP!) can be used to mask a lowly burger’s flaws, this burger needs nothing more than the best and freshest ingredients you can find.

Rosemary and Thyme Chicken Burgers
3 servings

1 pound ground chicken
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded mozzarella

In a medium bowl, combine ground chicken, rosemary, thyme, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Lightly mix with hands until well combined.

Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When ready to cook, preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

Form the mixture into three patties.

Grill one side for seven minutes. Flip burgers. Grill other side for five minutes. Top with mozzarella cheese. Cover with a large lid or a piece of aluminum foil. Grill for 2 more minutes.

Serve on your favorite roll or bun! We topped ours with fresh arugula.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mission Not Really Accomplished

Repeat after me:

I will eat my vegetables.

I will eat my vegetables.

I will eat my vegetables.

My go with hypnosis has not brought about any desired success when trying to convince Baby Evan that yumminess can be found within his carrots, spinach and broccoli.

So, it’s time for a covert operation: Zucchini Pancakes.

Yes, a zucchini pancake has the appearance of a golden buttery griddled masterpiece of deliciousness, but best of all within its secret confines are shreds of (drumroll please) zucchini.

The recipe I used is the Barefoot Contessa’s. I added ¼ cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese to the zucchini mixture because the comments on the Food Network Web site indicated that the pancakes are bland. Eek. I didn’t think the dish was lacking in flavor, per se, but I do think the pancakes would be a fab vehicle for a goat cheese or sour cream topping of sorts. I actually thought smoked salmon would taste good on them. Is that weird?

The recipe advises you to shred the zucchini with a hand grater. But isn’t this the sort of thing for which a food processor with grating attachment was intended?

Hell, yes.

My zucchini was grated in 20 seconds flat.

I mixed the strands of summery green zucchini with the other ingredients using my bare hands. I thought that would be easier to do than messing with a utensil.

My mixture did get a little watery by the time I cooked the pancakes on my griddle due to the fact that I was doing about five things at the same time. Story of my life. Just drain the extra water out of the bowl. And add another tablespoon or so of flour.

I cooked mine on a griddle rather than a saute pan. That way I could get it all done in one batch. 

These were a hit with The Jersey Girl and Mister Jersey Girl aka The Husband.

As for Baby Evan –  His pancake hit the floor with the quickness. Good thing my experience as a journalist and a musician has prepped me for constant rejection.

Well, at least the Babes is thriving on blueberries, strawberries and bananas. And applesauce. Sometimes. Honestly, my greatest accomplishment this week is that he’s happily eaten raw red bell pepper strips two days in a row. Woo-hoo!

Zucchini Pancakes
From “Barefoot Contessa at Home”
By Ina Garten

2 medium zucchini (about 3/4 pound)
2 tablespoons grated red onion
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Unsalted butter and vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Grate the zucchini into a bowl using the large grating side of a box grater. Immediately stir in the onion and eggs. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the flour, the baking powder, salt, and pepper. (If the batter gets too thin from the liquid in the zucchini, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.)
Heat a large (10 to 12-inch) saute pan over medium heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil together in the pan. When the butter is hot but not smoking, lower the heat to medium-low and drop heaping soup spoons of batter into the pan. Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place the pancakes on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. Wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel, add more butter and oil to the pan, and continue to fry the pancakes until all the batter is used. The pancakes can stay warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.
Please note: The Jersey Girl added ¼ cup of grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese to the zucchini mixture.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I'm Going Hungry

Now that I’m on teaching hiatus, the Jersey Girl is actually available at normal people din din time.

From September through May, my baby momma day goes like this: Wakeup and entertain Baby Evan until my workday kicks off at 2 p.m. (when the bambino gets dropped off at his baby-sitting destination for the evening) and usually goes until 8:30 p.m., at which time Baby Evan wants his Momma and he wants his Momma NOW, along with a sippy of milk, a bowl of cookies and some vroom-vrooms (cars) or a ball. Then it’s off for teeth-brushing, diaper-changing, book reading (A minimum of three. Evan is very literary.) and nanni time aka baby’s bootie is in the crib with Mr. Teddy while Mozart and a humidifier lull him to sleep.

Then, and only then, does the Jersey Girl get to chow down. But, if we’re being honest here, I’m most likely washing up some yuckiness, putting away toys or getting in my happy clothes first. 

OCD totally trumps hunger.

And then, more often than not, exhaustion beats out the actual act of putting food into the mouth.

Needless to say, (and please do not throw tomatoes at me. I mean, who wants to waste a perfectly good piece of produce on a pathetically occasional blogger?) my weight currently is close to nothing. Honestly. I don’t think I’ve ever been at this weight ever. Well, except for the few years I was a shoe sales gal by day at Macy’s and a bleary-eyed newspaper copy editor/page designer by night. Working 18 hours a day, while not recommended, will completely help you shed some lbs. It will also drive you insane.

The positive I’m extracting from my uber skinny girliness: Instant excuse to go shopping.


And I get to groove on some Oven Fries from “Tyler’s Ultimate.”  The potato wedges are baked until crisp and golden, then they are topped with parmigiano-reggiano cheese and parsley. Total yum yums. And I SO don’t feel guilty. (Oh, who am I kidding? The Jersey Girl NEVER experiences guilty “what have I dones?” when it comes to the foods I eat. What’s the point?)

In addition, a pancetta-sauced chicken is decadently amazing. Lemon juice and red wine vinegar give the sauce a tangy punch, while fresh parsley adds a burst of color. Love it. The recipe is a part of Giada De Laurentiis’ Chicken and Shrimp Pancetta Chimichurri recipe. I did not cook the shrimp on the night I made the dish, but I am providing you the full recipe for both chicken and shrimp. I served the chicken and potatoes with some sauteed spinach. 

Chicken and Shrimp Pancetta Chimichurri
From "Giada at Home"
By Giada De Laurentiis

For Chicken and Shrimp:
6 (6-ounce) boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, for drizzling

For Chimichurri:
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 cloves garlic
1 cup packed fresh parsley 
1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves or 2 tablespoons dried
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat a grill pan or preheat a gas or charcoal grill.

Season the chicken and shrimp with the dried oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Grill the chicken for 5 to 6 minutes each side until cooked through. Grill the shrimp for 1 to 2 minutes on each side until pink and cooked through.

In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring constantly until browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, parsley, oregano, vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice. Pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Slice the chicken diagonally and arrange on a large serving platter with the shrimp. Drizzle with the chimichurri and sprinkle with the pancetta.

Oven Fries
From “Tyler’s Ultimate”
By Tyler Florence

2 russet potatoes cut in 1/2 lengthwise, halves cut lengthwise into fourths to make 16 big, fat wedges
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Preheat a baking sheet in the hot oven for at least 5 minutes.

While the baking sheet is heating, toss the potatoes with the olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. 

Then dump the potatoes out onto a baking sheet, spreading to a single layer. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, shaking the pan every now and then, until the potatoes are cooked through, brown and crispy. Toss the fries in a big bowl with the parsley and cheese.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kitschy Kitschy Yeah Yeah

Deviled eggs. Kinda trashy, kinda retro and kinda AWESOME.

For reals, who doesn’t love a deviled egg?

Tis’ the season for BBQing, picnicking and all that, so you gots to have a deviled egg recipe in your pocket.

Err. Well, your bag of recipe tricks, I suppose, would be a better place for a hard-boiled egg stuffed with a mayonaissy-yolky yellow-stained filling of deliciousness, right?!

There is a secret ingredient, natch. In my case, it’s horseradish. Gives it a good ole’ kick in the you know what. But your summer partay guests will be all like, “Bro, what’s in these eggs?!?” as they sashay to the buffet for seconds and thirds.

You could totally rock these out for a Mad Men finale soiree as well since Deviled Eggs were all the rage back in the day. Of course, if any of your posse actually WATCHED Mad Men, this would be a more enjoyable fete. My one bestie Sarah is a fan, as is my lil’ sis Monica who lives a bajillion miles away in Virginia and is ALWAYS an epi or two behind. (God, Monica. Get with the program!) And Aunt Lorraine watches, but she's kickin' it in Florida right now. Other than that, I gots nothin’. The Husband won’t even watch with me. Not that I’m bitter or anything. I mean, you know, I SO want to be a part of his daily TV experience each night: Flyers, Phillies, Sixers, Comcast SportsNight, MLB Network, Deadliest Catch, Hannity, Cheers reruns. I mean just shoot me now, why don’t you?

So, I’ll just be in the kitchen “deviling some eggs.” That really was a line on the only show I watch. Which is freakin’ amazingly fab, by the way. (OK. You caught me. I do zone out  to Jersey Housewives and Mob Wives late night. But when you’re ironing The Husband’s shirts (gah!!!) or picking up toy cars for the 900th time (super gah!!!), you need something mindless on the tube.

In the spirit of all things old school, my deviled egg recipe hails from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook (natch!). You would be horrified to see my copy. It is literally being held together with a rubber band. Sounds fab, I know. But I refer to this book like all the time.

I totally add more horseradish than the recipe calls for (we groove on things spicy in my house. Yowza.) And I whip the yolk filling into a light fluffy frenzy with my handheld beaters rather than the good ole’ mash-it-with-a-fork method, as advised in the recipe. I think Betty was trippin’ with that step. Be sure to chill the eggs for a bit in the ice box aka the refrigerator. And I like to garnish mine with paprika. Love the pop of color!

Just an update on The Jersey Girl since it’s been forevs since my last post: My piano studio students rocked out at my annual Spring Piano Recital last week. So amazingly proud of them. OMG!!! My recital is such an amazing day. I know it invokes anxiety in many of my pupils, but they ALWAYS put on such a fabulous performance. It is so awe-inspiring to see the progress my musical cohorts make each year. Love them with all of my heart!!!

Meanwhile, my beautiful Evan has been walking all over the joint. Yay!! We celebrated Memorial Day and the kickoff of summer down in Stone Harbor. While I don’t have any pics of him fist-pumping, you can see him kickin’ it along the gorgeous beach. He was all go go go during our time on the sandy shore. Momma got a workout going on while relaxing (ha ha) on the beach.

I’m on hiatus from teaching right now until after Fourth of July, so I will get cracking on my blogginess. Woo-hoo!

Zesty Deviled Eggs
From Betty Crocker’s Cookbook

6 Hard-Cooked Eggs
3 Tbsp. mayonaisse
½ tsp. ground mustard
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 to 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. prepared horseradish

To hard-cook eggs:

Place eggs in a saucepan. Fill saucepan with water at least 1 inch above eggs.

Heat to boiling in saucepan; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 18 minutes. Immediately cool briefly in cold water to prevent further cooking. Tap egg to crack shell. Roll egg between hands to loosen shell, then peel. If shell is hard to peel, hold egg in cold water while peeling.

For the deviled eggs:

Peel eggs. Cut lengthwise in half. Slip out yolks and mash with fork.

Stir mayonaisse, mustard, salt and pepper, parsley and horseradish  into yolks.  (Please note: The Jersey Girl mixes the yolk mixture with hand-held beaters). Fill whites with egg yolk mixture, heaping it lightly. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring into Action

Spring associations for the Jersey Girl include but are not limited to:

Cute clothes (I mean, don’t you totally covet the entire spring J. Crew collection? No? Just me?? )

Opening Day. (Which means The Husband will be spending all of his upcoming free time with his mistress aka The Phillies.)


Time for a pedicure.

Window cleaning.


God, my list is so lame.

Today, we will focus on the asparagus. Particularly, the asparagus salad the Jersey Girl rocked out on Easter – the only holiday that the fam permits me to host.

Truth be told, I was totally hoping The Husband would burst into the house during March, pop open a bottle of bubbly and declare, “Woman, Pack your bags. I am whisking you off in a private jet to Aruba for Easter.” Ironically, I have washed my hands of General Hospital for almost a year now. So where this dream came from…. Who knows?

Fun fact: March was the month that The Jersey Girl household was keeping it real with a minimum of one family member per day suffering from some kind of cough, cold or bug. As if, there isn’t enough laundry and cleaning to do when we’re healthy. Thanks, God.

Once April rolled around, my sickly party of three was finally on the mend. And, so of course the Jersey Girl was all about planning the Easter festivities.

By this stage of the game, holiday preparations are a bit like clockwork. Or, tradition if you will.

For instance, my Easter brunch always features Lidia’s Scallion and Asparagus Salad. It’s super awesome and springy. An easy breezy red wine dressing brightens up the blanched vegetables. Once it’s all tossed together, the true symbol of spring – eggs in hard-boiled form – are scattered atop the bowl of green lovelies. Then, you just chill the salad until time to serve.

I suppose the kink in the matter is that the dish MUST be prepared the day of your brunch. This is where my OCD-type list-making comes in real REAL handy.

Scallion and Asparagus Salad
From “Lidia’s Family Table”
Lidia Bastianich
 Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus
3/4 pound scallions
3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt, or more if needed
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled

Cooking the Vegetables
With a vegetable peeler, shave off the skin from the bottom 3 inches or so of each stalk, so they cook evenly. Snap off the hard stubs at the bottom of the asparagus stalks—they'll break naturally at the right point.

Trim the root end of each scallion and the wilted ends of the green leaves. Peel off the loose layers at the white end too, so the scallions are all tight, trim, and about 6 inches long.

In a wide deep skillet, bring 1 quart of water (or enough to cover the vegetables) to a boil, and add the asparagus and scallions.

Adjust the heat to maintain a bubbling boil, and poach the asparagus and scallions, uncovered, for about 6 minutes or more, until they are tender but not falling apart, and cooked through but not mushy. To check doneness, pick up an asparagus spear in the middle with tongs; it should be a little droopy but not collapsing.

As soon as they are done, lift out the vegetables with tongs and lay them in a colander (any fat asparagus spears may take a little longer, so leave them in a few minutes more). Hold the colander under cold running water to stop the cooking. Drain briefly, then spread on kitchen towels, pat dry, and sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon salt over them.

Making the Salad
Slice the asparagus and the scallions into 1-inch lengths, and pile them loosely in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the oil and vinegar over them, then sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper. Toss well, but don't break up the vegetables.
Quarter the eggs into wedges, and slice each wedge into two or three pieces; salt lightly and scatter the egg in the bowl, and fold in with the vegetables. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Chill the salad briefly, then arrange it on a serving platter or on salad plates.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chicken Take 99

It’s safe to say my kid is an eater.

Put some deliciousness on Baby Evan’s tray and he shovels it in, wolfs it down and I’m pretty sure he says, “Please sir, may I have some more?” in between gulping a chilly sippy of ice water and cleansing his palette with 5, 6.… er, 12 blueberries.

Breathe, Baby Evan, breathe!!!

Baby Evan eats often. I’m confident he consumes something every two hours. Not that I’m counting.

Basically, my kid breaks into fits of laughing/crying because he’s THAT excited for yum yums. 

So, if you  need to find me, look in the kitchen. I’m most likely mopping up the remnants of Evan’s meals from my once-shiny floor, wiping down his greasy paw prints from my countertops and scrubbing the high chair - again! -  while sorting out what he’s going to eat next.

It is now clear to the Jersey Girl why my Mom always had enough meals to feed an army in the house at all times. I can not fathom how much food this kid will eat during his teenage years.

And I completely understand why my Mom was so OCD about housekeeping. And why she drinks heavily. KIDDING!!

Word on the street – aka unsolicited pointers from moms my age – is that once Evan turns 2, he will no longer eat anything ever again. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Seriously, Mom. Ummm. Stop taking my picture and feed me.

These days, I am so over-the-moon thrilled when Evan eats something new and totally digs it, especially if the foodie item came from a good place - like a farm - rather than a package. (Yeah, Mr. Animal Cracker and Pepperidge Farm Goldfishie, I’m talking to yous.)

Chicken with Leeks. Yes, it’s good stuff! Sure, cleaning leeks is a pain in the bootie, but the final product is worth the effort. Make sure you soak those suckers, drain, rinse and repeat – maybe twice.

The fact that Evan eats leeks fills my heart with joy because it’s a not-so-obvious vegetable choice. This is food that grownups can eat as well, natch. And really, we all could use a good new way to cook up boring old chicken breasts every now and again. The green leeks taste so yummy with the simple chicken. And leeks just make me long for springtime, right?

 Leeks cooking up. Smells fab.

Chicken with Leeks
6 good size chicken breasts
¼ cup flour
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 medium leeks, sliced into discs and rinsed really really well, drained
½ cup white wine
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a shallow dish, combine flour with ¼ tsp. salt and pepper. Mix together.

Dredge each chicken breast in the flour mixture. Set aside.

In a large, deep pan, heat 1 Tbsp. butter with 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Once bubbling, cook chicken breasts, about five minutes per side. Repeat with remaining butter, olive oil and chicken breasts.

Remove chicken to a covered dish to keep warm. Return pan to heat. Add leeks to pan. Cook until glistening, about five to 10 minutes. Add white wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits off the pan. Add chicken broth. Simmer leeks for about 10 more minutes. Return chicken to pan. Cook for about five minutes more. Make sure your chicken is cooked through and leeks are tender!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Party Like a Rock Star

Crostini and bruschetta make the perfect party food. And the Jersey Girl should know, since she is such the partying fool.

Yeah. You got me. That was so five years ago. OK. Make it like 15 years ago.

True. My throwdowns these days are usually a party of three involving The Husband, The Baby and The Wifey/Momma.

But when we’re not playing beer pong or downing Jell-O shots as The Beastie Boys and Nine Inch Nails blare away with me, a raring-to-go Susan, shimmying across the dance floor in my vinyl go-go boots, you will probably find us chilaxing on the couch sharing a bottle of red with a plate of crostini on hand as Evan drops his sippy cup and points to the TV saying “Boo” in reference to his beloved Blue of Blue’s Clues fame.

Reality check: We don’t REALLY play beer pong or do Jell-O shots or listen to Nine Inch Nails at Chez Jersey Girl. Do I look like an animal? Just having a reminiscent moment of my days as a Delta Gamma, that’s what I am-a. I sometimes imagine my house as a skankadelic fraternity basement trapped in the 90s.


Sidenote: I think if I presented The Husband with a tray of Jell-O shots he would probably ask for a trial separation. However, he would totally dig the vinyl go-go boots.

So crostini and/or bruschetta. They sound so fancy pants, right?! So simple to make, peeps. So simple.

No joke: I cooked these babies in September, making use of the final days of the majorly awesome Jersey tomato. Way to stay on top of things, Susan. Good job!!

Procrastination is not my middle name, but “Really Bad Blogger” probably should be. Trust me, when I’m doing my fifth load of laundry of the day, vacuuming, organizing toys and scrubbing the floor, I really REALLY would much rather be blogging.

Maybe if I get a bumper sticker that says, “I’d rather be blogging,” I would more actively pursue this hobby.

Working moms have hobbies?!? Say what?

I’m giving all y’all two recipes: One by Giada and one by moi.

Obviously, the one invented by me – piano teacher by afternoon/night, average mom who is always cleaning by day – is vastly superior to that of Giada De Laurentiis - seasoned Food Network glamazon/New York Times best-selling author/culinary empire owner who probably has a staff of 100. It’s like the choice has already been made for you. Duh.

I made both of these on the same day. And, they were awesome. They go fab with a glass of red wine. But really, who are we kidding? Make that a bottle of wine.

Baked Caprese Salad
4 to 6 servings
From “Everyday Pasta”
By Giada De Laurentiis

1 baguette, sliced ½ inch thick (30 to 36 slices)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Roma tomatoes, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ¼ lbs. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Leaves from 1 bunch of basil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet, brush with some of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until the bread is pale golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Top each slice of bread with a slice of tomato and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with a slice of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with salt. Return the baking sheet to the oven until the cheese and tomato are just warm, about 5 minutes.

Arrange the toasts on a serving platter. Top each toast with a basil leaf. Using the brush, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

Note from the Jersey Girl: I cooked these at 400 degrees Fahrenheit just because high temperatures from the oven always set off my smoke detector (no matter how often I clean the oven). I snipped the basil into ribbons. Also, I only salted the tomato. Giada goes kind of overboard with the salt, in my very humble opinion. Also, I only made about 12 of these because me and The Husband would NEVER eat that much. Jeez.

Prosciutto Arugula Bruschetta

1 baguette cut into 12 slices
Olive oil for drizzling
12 slices prosciutto
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Drizzle the bread with olive oil and place on baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine lemon juice, lemon zest, 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss dressing with arugula.

Place a small bunch of dressed arugula on top of each slice of prosciutto. Place a slice of mozzarella on top of the arugula. Roll up the prosciutto around the arugula and cheese.

Remove crostini from oven and top with prosciutto wraps. Serve!!