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.