Saturday, December 30, 2017

Spinach and Tomato Three Cheese Calzones

I've been sick since Christmas and have had zero appetite, but I've been itching to get going in the kitchen on SOMETHING! So, I gave these cute Spinach and Tomato Three Cheese Calzones a go.

I think they are much lighter than those found at your average Jersey pizza shop. You can of course serve them with some marinara on the side, but I ate mine sans sauce. The fresh vegetables really shine through, and I think an egg in the cheese mixture helps them not feel so heavy.


Spinach and Tomato Three Cheese Calzones

Makes 4 servings

For the cheese layer:
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the vegetable layer:
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
2 Tbsp. scallions, finely chopped
3/4 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 Tbsp. basil, finely chopped
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
Black pepper to taste

1 16 ounce ball of pizza dough

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, to prepare the baking sheet

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to brush the calzones

Flour as needed to roll out dough


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly oil your baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil and a paper towel. Set aside.

On a floured surface, divide pizza dough into four equal balls. Roll out each ball into a circle or a square.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl gently combine the egg, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Next, in a second bowl combine grape tomatoes, scallions, baby spinach, basil, 1 tsp. olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Evenly divide the cheese mixture among the rolled out dough pieces, covering half of the dough and leaving a 1/4-inch border around the filling.

Evenly divide the vegetable layer on top of the cheese layer, again leaving a border of dough.

Gently fold over the remaining half of the dough to cover the toppings. Fold the edge to seal in the filling, pinching with your fingers.

Place calzones on baking sheet. Brush the calzones with the remaining 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, dividing evenly.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

With the Quickness

My Grilled Italian Sausage with Cannellini and Baby Kale comes together in thirty minutes and is totally amazing. I cooked it late night solo while my husband is away. I get all up in the kitchen to clear my mind, but this is a total practical dish. It makes a great weeknight din.


Grilled Italian Sausage with Cannellini and Baby Kale

Makes 4 servings
1 pound hot sausage, cut into our equal links
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 5-ounce package baby kale
1 15-19 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a grill pan over medium-high heat, brown sausage on all sides.

At the same time, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic. Saute for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and cannellini. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add white wine and water. Add basil. Bring to a simmer.

Once the sausage is browned nicely, add it to the sauce pan. Cover and allow sauce and sausage to simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Right before serving, toss in kale. Wilt for 2-3 minutes.

Serve topped with parmigiano cheese and crusty bread drizzled with olive oil.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Not So Boring Chicken Soup

I'm so so so glad I made this soup yesterday. My little man has been up all night sick to his stomach, so I'm hoping when the dust settles he will enjoy the comforts of my Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo and Spinach.

This comes together in no time at all. Roast the chicken while you prep the veggies and start the pot. Toss in fresh baby spinach, basil and lemon juice at the end of the cooking time.  The herbs and lemon juice make the broth very layered in flavor.

Here ya go:

Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo and Spinach
Makes 6-8 servings

2 chicken breasts with skin and on the bone
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive olive oil, divided
1-2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
3/4 cup uncooked orzo
3 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
4 cups baby spinach
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

To serve: Top with your favorite cheese. Shredded mozzarella or grated parmigiano taste fantastico!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. olive oil divided evenly over each chicken breast and brush to cover each completely. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove skin. Dice chicken into bite-size pieces when cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, in a large soup pot over medium heat, add remaining Tbsp. of olive oil. Add carrot, celery, onion and bay leaf. Cook until vegetables become tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Add broth and water. Bring to a boil. Simmer partially covered for 20 minutes.

Add orzo. Cook until tender 10-12 minutes. Check to make sure your orzo and veggies are cooked with a quick taste!

Stir in chicken and the juice and oil from your roasting pan. Heat for another minute or two.

Stir in baby spinach, basil and lemon juice. Stir and turn off heat. Once the spinach wilts and the pot cools down, enjoy! Like Lidia Bastianich, I am a firm believer in letting your soup rest before jumping in.

Tastes great topped with shredded mozzarella or grated parmigiano .

Monday, October 9, 2017

Cajun Chicken Cutlets over Fusilli

This is by no means an original idea: Cajun Chicken Cutlets over Fusilli. Allegedly, Chili's serves something like this, according to the land of Pinterest. But I haven't been to a Chili's since 1999, so don't quote me. I'm sure it has a way catchier name on the Chili's menu.

This was really really good. Eveything works perfectly together. I love the final addition of fresh tomatoes and parsley right before serving. Keeps it light.

Be sure to get your hands on a fab cajun seasoning. Mine is from a wonderful market in my hood called Bagliani's. It is way better than the McCormick seasoning, I would say quite confidantly.

Believe it or not, The Husband cooked me something like this way way way back in the day when he was trying to woo me and I actually agreed to let him do anything in the kitchen.

Here is my way, which is the only way.

Kidding! (Not really).

Cajun chicken cutlets over fusilli
Makes 4-6 servings

2 lbs. thin chicken cutlets
4 Tbsp. cajun seasoning, divided
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp. butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2
Pasta water
1/2 lb. to 3/4 lb. fusilli pasta
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
Parmiggiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

In a rectangle glass dish, whisk together 3 Tbsp. cajun seasoning and 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Add chicken cutlets. Massage cajun oil all over chicken cutlets. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

In a grill pan over medium heat, cook chicken cutlets in batches, about 3 minutes each side. Set aside and keep covered.

In a large pot of salted water, cook fusilli pasta as instructed on the package.

As the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter. Add garlic and cajun seasoning. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add a couple of ladles of pasta water, 1/2 and /1/2, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle bubble. Once pasta is cooked, add it directly to the saucepan. Heat through for another minute.  Add more 1/2 and 1/2 or pasta water if you want it saucier. Turn off heat and toss with a handful of cheese.

To serve: Place a spoonful or two of pasta on a plate. Top with one or two pieces of chicken and then top with fresh tomatoes and parsley. Add more cheese if desired.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Late Night Pasta

During the school year, my din din often goes down around 10 p.m. with a glass of vino and some DVR'd trash TV.

Piano teachers get on the clock once the school dismissal bell rings out, so this leads to some interesting eating times.

Me - I like to fine dine when everybody packs up and leaves and my brain is clear of Mozart, scales and phrasing. The kid is in bed. Oh, and the school forms are signed. The school lunch is packed up. The laundry is started. The great room is tidied. The mail is sorted.

I mean really, does it ever end?

So yeah, then I eat dinner.

Here's a perfect recipe for such cirumstances:

Spaghettini with Prosciutto, Peas and Arugula.

It comes together in 20 minutes and is just right for good eats after a working momma finishes her day.

My recipe serves one, but you can easily double or quadruple it for the fam.

Spaghettini with Prosciutto, Peas and Arugula
Serves one

4 ounces spaghettini
Olive oil
1 fat scallion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1-2 thin slices of proscuitto, chopped
1/4 cup frozen peas
2 cups arugula
1/4 cup half and half
Pasta water
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmiggiano to taste, grated

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook your pasta as instructed on the package.

In a large saucepan, add olive oil. Heat over medium heat. Add scallions, garlic, red pepper flakes. After 3-4 minutes, add the prosciutto. Raise heat slightly. Saute for five more minutes. Season with pepper and a little bit of salt. (The prosciutto brings saltiness to the game.)

Add half and half and a ladle of pasta water. Add peas. Cook until peas are heated through and the sauce bubbles a bit.

Add pasta and arugula. Toss. Add another ladle of pasta water. You can add a splash of half and half, too, if you desire.

Turn off the heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil.

Top with parmiggiano.

Enjoy with your fave wine, a mindless show and solitude.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Italian Cooking for Stoonads: Aglio e Olio

Last time I made Aglio e Olio it was so outrageously delish I said to self: This should go on the blog.

Then my other self replied: Really, Susan. What jackass doesn't know how to make pasta with a bunch of oil and garlic?

My reply was something like: I never really made Aglio e Olio until adulthood. My moms never made this. Not until reading Lidia Bastianich cookbooks from cover to cover did I really understand what to do. Maybe the people will want this recipe.

Sure, I had seen this classic yet basic dish on menus at Italian restaurants forevs, but I never order pasta with garlic and oil when dining out because it defeats the purpose to me. (When I actually go to a lovely restaurant, I like to get all wild and crazy: Risotto, lamb, lobster. You feel me?)

This is as basic as it gets, I think. Of course, I could be wrong. There is something that happens at just the right moment to make a pasta dish magical. So maybe you do need some instruction on what to do.

In my opinion, the key to success with Aglio e Olio is to use a great olive oil (I love Cento); fresh fresh fresh flat leaf parsley - and a lot of it; and a good amount of the water in which your pasta cooked. And of course, high quality pasta is a must. I always use DeCecco or Barilla and sometimes fiddle around with the high falutin gourmet stuff. But really DeCecco and Barilla are my go-to brands. And cook the pasta to instruction. A timer is your friend, my friends.

Aglio e Olio Spaghettini
Serves 2

1/2 lb. spaghettini or thin spaghetti, preferably DeCecco
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling, preferably Cento
6-8 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Pasta water
To serve: Olive oil and grated parmigiano cheese

In a large pot of salted water, cook your spaghettini to the directions on the box to al dente.

As soon as you add the pasta to the water, add 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. Immediately add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook slowly over medium heat. Do not burn the garlic!!

Once the garlic and pepper are fragrant, add two ladles of boiling pasta water to the saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer.

Using a pasta ladle, transfer cooked pasta directly to the simmering garlic sauce in the pan. Toss gently so that the pasta is coated in the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another minute or two. Add another ladle or two of pasta water. You do not want dry pasta! Drizzle with more olive oil and top with parsley. Toss. Turn off heat. Serve with parmigiano cheese.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Popcorn Chicken is the Best

So this tidbit slightly horrifies me: Popcorn chicken was invented by KFC.

And my son lives for Popcorn Chicken.

Deep breaths, Susan.

Nothing against KFC, just the thing is The Jersey Girl does not do fast food. Oh yes, I ate my fair share b-b-b-back in the day. But I gave that shiz up for Lent in 1997 and haven't gone a day with it ever since. A great decision, I must say.

So my 6-year-old first got his hands on some popcorn chicken at school. Which is comical. Fast food. School lunch. Same thing? Argh. I hope not. My ignorance is bliss.

But he talked on and on (he tends to do that) about this mysterious Popcorn Chicken. Mommy, have you had Popcorn Chicken? Popcorn Chicken is the best. It looks like popcorn. It tastes like popcorn. Mommy, is popcorn actually in Popcorn Chicken? Mommy, we MUST make Popcorn Chicken.

So Pinterest to the rescue. Yeah, I am one of THOSE moms. I pin a good game, but do I really follow through on my 8,000-plus pinning acqusitions? Probably not.

The Baked Popcorn Chicken recipe from Tastes Better from Scratch is the bee's knees, for sure. Three out of three kiddos approved. And this is a great recipe to get your kids in the kitchen "helping" out. Banging the bejesus out of cornflakes is super fun. See below:

I served the popcorn chicken with ranch, spicy mustard and of course, ketchup for the kiddos. BBQ and buffalo sauce are also great dips. And I'm not gonna lie: The grownups got their popcorn chicken on, too. Enjoy!

Baked Popcorn Chicken
By Lauren Allen
Taste Better from Scratch


2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces (about 2-3 large breasts
2 large eggs
¼ cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 1/2  cups corn flakes cereal lightly crushed
½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon paprika


Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place chicken pieces in a bowl or ziplock bag and add flour, stirring or shaking to coat completely. Set aside.

Add eggs and milk to a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside. In another shallow bowl combine crushed cornflakes, salt and pepper, garlic powder and paprika.

Dip each piece of flour-coated chicken into the egg mixture, followed by the cornflakes, gently pressing the cornflake mixture into the chicken. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Flip chicken and return to oven for an additional 7-8 minutes or until cooked through. 

Serve warm with BBQ sauce, ranch, or your favorite dipping sauce.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Jersey Fresh Turkey Chili

I thought up this recipe recently while jazzercising in my basement. Yes, I am an exercise hound. I get my fitness on solo each day with trainer guru type video vixens demonstrating routines all fab and done up with their motivational speak while my pathetic asthmatic lungs gasp for air and I  sweat profusely in my-oh-so-uncoordinated manner rocking designer Old Navy leisure wear. It ain't pretty, but it gets the job done. And I love it. Exercise is such a high.

I will admit, while visions of Jersey Fresh Turkey Chili danced in my head I found myself a few steps behind the Comcast OnDemand - or is it Xfinity OnDemand - workout gal. If she were instructing me in real life, I probably would have gotten a lecture or two. Or maybe she would make me drop on the spot and do twenty pushups - which  I would kill. Totally.

But whatevs, this chili rocks! And the fitness peeps would probably dig it because it is totally healthy and it does not make you feel like a disgusting fat slob after eating it. Yay. It doesn't have that whole heavy factor that so many chilis have.

Yes. You may notice I top it with sour cream and cheese. That's how chili is SUPPOSED to be enjoyed according to legend. Or according to me, the creator of this awesomeness. Honestly, the four toppings: chopped Jersey tomatoes and scallions, shredded cheddar jack cheese and a dollop of sour cream are like a quartet of perfection. Don't mess with it! Trust me.

Jersey Fresh Turkey Chili

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, minced
1.3 lbs. ground turkey
2 tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. chili powder, divided
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
2 small or 1 large poblano pepper, chopped
2 corn ears, cooked, with kernels stripped from the cob
1 15.5 oz. can black beans, rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

To serve:
Fresh tomato, chopped
Scallions, finely chopped
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar jack cheese

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno. Saute for 4-5 minutes until glistening.

Add ground turkey. Brown the meat, stirring occasionally. Season with cumin, 1 Tbsp. chili powder and salt and pepper to taste.

Add bell and poblano peppers. Cook for about five minutes so that peppers soften.

Add corn, beans, broth, remaining Tbsp. of chili powder and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer partially covered for 30-35 minutes. The corn kernels will separate as the chili simmers.

Stir in cilantro. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve in bowls, topping each serving with fresh tomato, scallions, sour cream and cheese.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tomato, Zucchini and Fresh Corn Soup

I know it's 1,000 degrees out with a humidity level that is absurd, but this soup recipe is so necessary right now for the amazing tomatoes, zucchini, basil and corn that are rocking it in Jersey markets or in your garden. And, I'm holding out hope for some cool summer nights on the horizon, no?

Tomato, Zucchini and Fresh Corn Soup features roasted zucchini as the star, with corn, tomatoes and basil as the secondary players. All come together in a marvelous act. You will definitely want encore bowls of this yumminess.

You can also make the soup with just a can of chopped tomatoes or a bag of frozen corn if that's what you got. But when you have your hands on the good stuff - out right now - this soup is your everything.

It totally freezes beautifully, too.

Tomato, Zucchini & Fresh Corn Soup
From "Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day"
By Kate McMillan

2 zucchini, trimmed, halved and sliced
3 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l.) vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup (6 oz./180 g.) corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
1/3 cup (1/2 oz./15 g.) chopped basil

Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Toss the zucchini with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Set aside.

In a large, heavy pot, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stir to combine, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Puree half of the soup in a blender. Return to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Return the soup to a boil, add the corn and cook for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and stir in the basil. Serve. Serves 4-6.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Eggplant Only in My Dreams

One of the benefits of my insomnia is that I dream colossal epic dreams that I remember quite vividly upon waking up no less than three times per night usually over a 6-to-7 hour rest, if you can call it that. Tossing and turning to settle; craving water; trying to find zen after crazy adrenaline triggered by copious amounts of asthma meds; dozing in and out; waking up to use the potty; tucking in the sheets; feeling hot; feeling cold; stretching; uber focusing on every creak, snore, breath that torments my ears as signs that others are at rest while my non-stop mind is not; pep talking to psyche myself up for some shut eye; making mental lists; worrying; fluffing pillows; pacing; refilling my water glass; anticipating the drill-like sound of the alarm (which I always beat by waking up before its shock-to-the-system buzz). This pretty much sums up my daily sleep situation for my whole entire existence. About once every month or two, I will crash and burn, sleeping hard and unscathed until like 10:30 in the morning. Then I wake up startled, heart racing, wondering what in the hell just happened.

My dreams stay with me for very long periods of time. I feel like this is a blessing because so many people forget their dreams instantly. I have dreamt of my deceased grandmothers; I knew I was having a baby boy without a doubt because of my dreams; I dream of people I haven't seen in ages and then that day I see them; I dream multi-chaptered dreams of my friends and family. And I remember so much. Plot lines. Character development. Dialogue. Costumes. Sets. The twists and turns. So many details. It's a bit trippy. But I accept this as my sleep reality: Little sleep and a whole lot to think about.

Last night, I dreamt of this: Eggplant on a bed of arugula, topped with goat cheese, a plum tomato salad and a drizzle of balsamic. The colors, the plating, the taste - all there in my dream. Vividly. I woke up wanting to eat this immediately. Of course, I needed to make this happen ASAP.

My dreams always mean something. I think. Probably not. Although, I have read that people who remember their dreams more than three times per week are considered out-of-the-ordinary genius masterminds as opposed to common folk who actually sleep a solid eight hours, feel well-rested and remember nada.

So clearly I am a major rock star omniscient smarty pants.

I tell this to myself daily as I walk into rooms with a purpose, the task at hand slipping from my mind in a blink of an eye. Why am I here? I'm so existential. Or when I leave the grocery store only to immediately create a new list of items because I forgot this or that.  Or when I run back to the house halfway down the street to double check that I locked the door or to grab my phone mocking me from the kitchen island.  But, but, but.... I'm a dream erudite. Who cares if I'm a total moron in real life.

So, Summer Eggplant Salad. That's what I'm calling this dish. It is a wonderful salad fit for a dinner party or a fancy shindig or just you and The Husband on a Monday. Cause that's how we do. You can prepare the tomato salad and grill the eggplant ahead of time. And then plate it right before serving. I love how this dish highlights so many Jersey Fresh goodies at this time of year: Eggplant, tomatoes, basil and parsley. The goat cheese and balsamic are some decadence thrown in for good measure.

Summer Eggplant Salad
Serves 8

Eggplant layer:
1 medium-large eggplant, cut into 8 to 10 half-inch thick slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat grill pan over medium-high heat.

Brush each side of eggplant slices with olive oil. Season each side with salt and pepper to taste. Grill each side of eggplant for 6 to 10 minutes per side until nicely marked. Set aside.

Tomato salad:
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup red onion, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Gently mix all ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.

To assemble salad:
8 grilled eggplant slices
Tomato salad
4 cups baby arugula
8 Tbsp. fresh goat cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Balsamic vinegar

On eight salad plates, place 1/2 cup of baby arugula. Season with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

On top of arugula, place a slice of eggplant.

On top of each eggplant slice, place one Tbsp. of goat cheese.

Spoon 1/4 cup of tomato salad onto the goat cheese. Lightly drizzle 1/2 tsp. of balsamic vinegar onto each finished plate.

Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Manic Working Weekday Din

When I'm mommin' it, workin' it and domestic goddessin' it, I cook a little something like this: Turkey Burgers and Mac and Cheese. Not exactly stylin' and profilin' but it gets the job done.

I mean, yeah, my 6-year-old has yet to taste a burger in his life, but whatever. He can eat two bowls of elbows slathered in cheese and we'll just call it a day.

Both recipes are vintage Rachael Ray. I did amend the burgers because hers involve bacon and red pepper relish and in my humble opinion both are totally unnecessary. Sometimes her recipes have like 100 flavors going on. Annnnd, that's not my style. The burger mix itself has 10 - yes 10 - ingredients. That's enough, Rachael. Seriously.

Also, with the mac and cheese I did not use nutmeg. I used ground mustard to season the sauce. And I used cheddar jack cheese because that's what I had up in the fridge. Also, a little black pepper never hurt anyone.

On the day I made this, I whipped up the mac and cheese first thing in the morning because of work obligations and four loads of laundry. I mixed the burger meat in the morning as well. And then after my son's t-ball game, I dusted off my pants and cooked the burgers, popped the mac and cheese under the broiler, got the boy washed up and poured a glass of wine. It's all about the timing and the juggle, no?

I literally had no extra time to get a salad or veg together so carrot and pepper sticks it is!

Here ya go with the recipes:

Cheddar Cheese and Macaroni
From "30 Minute Meals 2"
By Rachael Ray

Makes 4 entree servings or 8 side servings

1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked 8 minutes to al dente or to package directions

1 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil (once around the pan)
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
3 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (a couple of pinches)
Salt, to taste

Heat a medium-size deep skillet over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When butter melts into the oil, stir in  flour.  Gently cook, whisking flour and butter, together until smooth and flour has had a chance to cook, about 3 minutes.

Slowly add milk while continuing to whisk. Gently bring milk to a bubble while stirring frequently. Allow the milk to thicken a bit, then stir in 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, a handful at a time. Season sauce with nutmeg and cayenne. Taste and add a little salt, if you like. Add cooked pasta to the sauce and coat completely by turning over and over in the cheese sauce. Transfer to a baking dish, top with the remaining cheese, and place under a hot broiler for a minute or two to brown the top.

Please note: The Jersey Girl uses dry mustard in place of nutmeg. She also uses fresh  black ground pepper to season the sauce and cheddar jack shredded cheese instead of white cheddar cheese. This dish may be made ahead and popped under the broiler when ready to serve.

Urban Cowboy Turkey Burgers
From "Cooking 'Round the Clock"
By Rachael Ray

Makes 4 burgers

1 package (1 and 1/3 pounds) ground turkey breast
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large shallot or 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1/2 small green, red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
1-2 tsp. hot sauce, such as Tabasco
2 tsp. Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick
Olive oil for drizzling
4 slices of pepper jack cheese
4 crusty Kaiser rolls, split

8 slices of turkey bacon (optional)
1 cup sweet red pepper relish or jelly (optional)
Red lettuce (optional)

Chop garlic and veggies.

If using bacon, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon, wipe excess grease from skillet, and return skillet to heat.

While bacon is cooking, combine turkey, garlic, shallot or onion, thyme, cilantro or parsley, bell pepper, serrano or jalapeno pepper, cumin, hot sauce and grill seasoning. Divide mixture into 4 equal mounds then form into patties. Drizzle patties with olive oil to coat. Cook in skillet over medium-high heat until done, 5 to 6 minutes on each side, placing the cheese over the patties in the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Serve on rolls with your toppings such as the bacon, red pepper relish and red lettuce. The Jersey Girl however likes romaine lettuce and tomatoes. Classic! These burgers are great open face as well or even without the roll if you are a carb-free kinda person.

Please note: The Jersey Girl uses the cilantro, jalapeno pepper and red pepper options when making these burgers. She cooks the burgers in a fab grill pan, not just a regular old skillet, also. See below:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Don't Call it a Comeback

I read somewhere - most likely on the internets - which is why I can't quite recall, that sun-dried tomatoes are back, baby. (They say we don't remember what we read on screens. I read that fact from somewhere, too. Again, don't know where. But it does sound like something that I would have found on the Drudge. And I 100 percent believe it. But I digress.)

I do know for absolutely certain - because my good old fashioned cookbooks - like the ones printed and bound - have said this: sun-dried tomahtoes were all the rage, dahling, back in the 1980s and 1990s until they were overused so much they were shunned by anyone who is anyone in the world of cooking. Leading up to their demise, they were like the avocado of that time. Or the kale. Or the truffle oil. Or the quinoa.You get me? Off topic: How quinoa became a thang I will never know. When will quinoa's day come and go? That really is the question.

OK. Focus, Susan.

But just like bodysuits (gag) and flannels (this one I am behind as long as they are from J. Crew or Lucky or something), the cool stuff from the 90s is all the rage here now in 2017 and that includes sun dried tomatoes.

So, yay me for being right on trend with this fabulous Angel Hair Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese by Giada.

Truth is I have been making this dish since 2007 when I saw Giada whip it together in a very chic kitchen on the Food Network (remember when they actually showed interesting cooking shows of people actually cooking on the tellie?  Memories....). And soon thereafter, I got my paws on the cookbook Everyday Pasta. In 2007, sun-dried tomatoes still weren't exactly the hotness on ingredient lists. At that time it was more like fancy salts (eyeroll) and slabs of bacon.

But I treat my food just like fashion, bandwagons be damned. You won't ever catch my in a bodysuit or willingly eating quinoa whether it  is 1997 or 2017. And if I want a sun-dried tomato in a dish, I'm going for it. Because they taste good. And that's that.

The pasta is very bold in flavor, and the goat cheese adds a phenom touch. I love it tons.

And so did my son. Which floored me. A 6-year-old asking for seconds of sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. I'll take it.

I served this with a wonderful panko crusted salmon dish by Barefoot Contessa. Recipe is here: Panko-Crusted Salmon

Doesn't the salmon look fab?

As for the sun dried tomato pasta, I use tomatoes not packed in oil like the recipe says. I use regular olive oil in place of the sun-dried tomato oil. Also, I used spaghettini instead of angel hair aka cappellini. I find cappellini gets too dry for my liking.

And just a little tip so that you don't find tomato paste rotting in your fridge a week later: You can store leftover tomato paste in little baggies or in ice cube trays in your freezer. Yay!

Here is the salmon plated with the pasta. I love the colors and the textures:

As for the sun-dried tomato pasta, I use tomatoes not packed in oil like the recipe says. I use regular olive oil in place of the sun-dried tomato oil. Also, I used spaghettini instead of angel hair aka cappellini. I find cappellini gets too dry for my liking.

And just a little tip so that you don't find tomato paste rotting in your fridge a week later: You can store leftover tomato paste in little baggies or in ice cube trays in your freezer. Yay!

Angel Hair Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

4 to 6 servings
From "Everyday Pasta"
By Giada De Laurentiis

1 (10 ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped (oil reserved)
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
1 pound angel hair pasta
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3-4 ounces fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil from the sun-dried in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine and chopped sun-dried tomatoes and simmer until the liquid reduces by half, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta and parsley to the tomato mixture and toss to coat, adding some of the reserved pasta water to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper. Mound the pasta in bowls, sprinkle with the goat cheese and serve.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Classic for a Reason: Chicken Piccata

I was going to post the recipe last night - the actual day of making it. But it didn't seem right. A gal safe and sound in her house in Jersey sharing a classic, uncomplicated recipe for Chicken Piccata while all this turmoil was going on across the pond in Manchester.

I don't know.  I guess I take my news hard. After scouring the news channels and internets for hours, I just headed to bed where I tossed and turned and didn't sleep much - for about the thirtieth night in a row.

Cooking settles my soul.  I'm surrounded by chaos it seems day in, day out - regardless of what is happening in the current news cycle. I'm sure everyone feels at times that the hustle and bustle of work and child-rearing, bill paying and housekeeping can wear you down. That's when I turn to making something wonderful in my kitchen.

Chicken Piccata is a classic. It doesn't require fancy ingredients, and it often is a crowd pleaser. I find it very comforting as well. Two years ago, I suffered a miscarriage. My family insisted I eat something upon returning home from the hospital trying to conclude the most unsettling day I have ever had in my life. Head pounding, heart breaking, delirious from trying to understand the unfathomable. I ordered some Chicken Piccata from a local restaurant. I ate about five bites before collapsing into a bed filled with loss and tears. But in some way that simple Chicken Piccata made me feel like maybe everything will be ok. I like to make this dish when we need our spirits lifted. When we need a fabulous dinner without a lot of thought. I hope you do the same. 

Chicken piccata
Makes 4-6 servings

2 lbs. thinly cut chicken cutlets
½ cup flour, plus 2 Tbsp.
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 cup of white wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp. capers
4-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
¼ finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

On a baking sheet, line up your chicken. Season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper.

In a shallow dish – like a pie dish – whisk together flour with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge the seasoned chicken cutlets in the flour.

Meanwhile, in a large pan heat up a Tbsp. olive oil. Lightly brown chicken on each side – about three to four minutes per side. Remove to a covered dish. Repeat until all chicken is cooked and removed from pan.

Melt butter and a little more olive oil in the pan over medium high heat. Add garlic, shallots and lemon zest. Saute until fragrant. Add 2 Tbsp. flour. Whisk until blended.

Add white wine. Bring to a boil and allow wine to reduce to about half. Mixture should slightly thicken. Add chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Add lemon juice and capers. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about five minutes.

Return chicken to pan. Cover. Cook over medium-low heat until everything is cooked through.

Top with chopped parsley and serve.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Turkey Cutlets

Like most peeps trying to get din on the table day to day, I often rely on chicken making frequent appearances on the menu. Roasted, grilled, baked, breaded, sauced, stir-fried, slow-cookered. You follow me, I'm sure.

Of course noshing on the the same thing again and again no matter how you shake it up is the B-word: Boring. Oh, how I loath boring. Boring is a bore! Who wants to be boring? Nobody! That's who.

So I decided to get wild and crazy with chicken's unboring cousin: Turkey.

Right. Turkey is totally boring, too. It's not like I'm talking about quail or duck or pheasant. Just a turkey. But this recipe uses turkey cutlets. Ooooooh. Cutlets.

And turkey tastes way different than chicken. And it has it's own texture. And it's not chicken. So.....there.

Ta da:

No you aren't missing anything. This dish isn't exactly setting the culinary world on fiyah. Glamorous. Sexy. Food pornish. No. Not really at all. That's not what we're going for here, are we?

I can tell you it's good. And your kid will eat it. And it's fast. What more do you want from me?

If you do not have fresh rosemary or thyme just use some dried. As I often do, I cook din at 9 a.m. in the morning and the husband and kiddo heat up the grub at din din time while I work my weirdo-person hours. The turkey reheats just beautifully. It goes great with noodles, rice and of course potatoes in all forms. The last time I made it I put some buttered corn on the side because my kindergartner has a thang for corn. Yes it was frozen. But I made homemade bread that day, too, so we have that going for us.

I got this recipe on Pinterest. I love it. I made it twice and honest to goodness it works. 

This is like a very organized recipe. I love lining up the cutlets on a sheet pan to season them all orderly like so:

 Yeah. I said I love doing that. 

And everything cooks in one pan. First the turkey:

Then the sauce:

Easy peasy. This is a great recipe for all y'all who don't like to cook. Very low stress.

Rosemary and Thyme Turkey Breast Cutlets

  • 1 lb. thinly sliced turkey breast cutlets
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 4 tbsp butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme

  1. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.
  2. Season the turkey breast cutlets* with salt and pepper on both sides. Once the pan is nice and hot, add the turkey cutlets and sear for about 1 minute on each side, then remove from skillet to a plate to keep warm. You might have to do this in batches if your skillet is not large enough to fit them all in at once.
  3. Once all the turkey is cooked, pour in the white cooking wine** and use a spatula to scrap the bottom of the pan to loosen all the browned bits. Once the liquid has reduced, lower the temperature to medium-low and add in the butter, stirring till the butter melts. Add in the chicken broth, rosemary and thyme and simmer for a couple minutes.
  4. Add the turkey breast cutlets back to the pan, including any juices that may have collected at the bottom of the plate. Coat the turkey with the sauce and let simmer a couple more minutes, until the turkey is heated through again. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Escargot Go Go

So, right. I've been told by some peeps here or there that I know my way around the kitchen. But even the most confidant of chefy type wannabes can be presented with a dish and be like, "Oh, please sweet baby Jesus, don't let me eff this up."

Take, escargot. No, really. You can make it at home. Here's the dilly-o:

First of all, the Jersey Girl does not store escargot shells up in here. No, sir. A kitchen gadgety hoarder I most definitely am, but in my old age I have decided that kitchen gadgets that serve one purpose to be purposefully used once every five years have no purpose in my kitchen. Good riddance.

But up my sleeve I do have a gorg set of white ramekins that rock my world.

After doing some research I learned that these vessels are super perfect in which to cook the escargot. Who needs shells that make your fork meeting delicious garlicky snails even more of a challenge?

So, where do I get escargot in my parts?, dahling. Click here to see what I bought.

I can't even find fresh mint in my town. And if you wait to hit the markets by 5 p.m. on some days in H'town, the fresh bread is GONE. So the chances of me finding escargot here are pretty slim. Reality is a bitch but we food snobs persevere. I knew the internets needed to be involved if escargot was getting cooked up by moi.

Finally, how do we get them all delicious? Really all you need is a boatload of butter, shallots, garlic, parsley and wine. Pop them in the oven and in minutes, voila! Make sure you have some amazing bread on the side!

These were a hit when I made them the first time last summer down the shore. I wasn't even in my kitchen and I was a total nervous nelly. But all escargot tasters gave rave reviews! I made this round for The Husband for Valentine's Day. He loved them, natch. Honestly, they taste better than those I've had in restaurants.

Hope you give this fanciness a whirl.

Escargot a la Bourguignonne
Makes six ramekins of 8-12 escargot

Container of 48 petite escargot
1 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
1 shallot
4 big garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. white wine
Salt to taste

Special equipment: Six 5-inch wide ramekins

In a food processor, place parsley, peeled and quartered shallot and 4 peeled garlic cloves. Pulse until finely minced.

In a glass bowl, place softened butter. Place mixture from the food processor in bowl with butter. Add white wine and a pinch of salt. Blend with a fork. (You can make this ahead and set aside.

In a strainer, drain escargot but do not rinse.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place six ramekins on a baking sheet.

Place 8-12 escargot in each ramekin. Top evenly with butter mixture.

Place in hot oven and bake for 12 minutes.

Serve hot with delicious bread!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Olive Tapenade

Olive tapenade is a fab dish to make when you are having guests or need to make something to schlep to a gig offsite. Of course the fact that not everyone grooves on olives could jack up this plan. So make this if you really know your audience.

Since the Jersey Girl comes from a bunch of Italianos, you can bet your bottom dollar that my fam digs the olive tapenade and will hunt you down for the recipe and ask about it over and over and over again. The recipe comes from Debi Mazar and her Tuscan farmer chef husband Gabriele Corcos. I love it because I get to use my mortar and pestle. And the fresh parsley and lemon juice really brighten it all up. I serve it with sliced tomatoes, goat cheese and toasted bread or crackers. 

Pitting olives isn't exactly the most glammest of job. In fact, it's the pits. Ba dum dum. In case you don't know how to do it: Gently push down firmly on a back of a knife placed over a whole olive. The pit will push out of the olive. Consequently, it will probably roll onto the floor or all over the counter making an oily mess and prompting a stream of profanity. So have wine and your swear jar on hand. And maybe just buy pitted olives.

I love the mix of green and black olives in this. The colors and deep flavors are gorgeous up against lovely tomatoes and soft goat cheese.

Olive Tapenade
From "Extra Virgin"
By Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar

2 anchovy filets
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 cup black Nostraline olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 cup green Sicilian olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and chopped
Toasted country bread slices, rubbed with raw garlic, for serving
1 heirloom tomato, sliced, for serving

Mash the anchovies with the garlic in  a mortar and pestle, then mix well with the chopped olives. Combine with the 1/2 cup olive oil, the lemon juice, parsley and capers.

Spread the tapenade on the garlic rubbed toasts. Drizzle with olive oil and top with a slice of beautiful heirloom tomato.

Please note: The Jersey Girl serves this with goat cheese as well.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Crackalicious Onion Dip

I'm just gonna tell you straight away: Get  your extra crunches in. Exercise at least an hour every day. Drink a vat of detox water. And eat as much as your heart desires of this insane in the membrane Pan-Fried Onion Dip.

Seriously. OMG. Seriously.

I don't even like chips.

Or onion dip.

I mean skeeve.

But the next time you have a party. Make this.

I'm sure you're like: Bitch, please. Where was this two weeks ago for the freakin' Super Bowl?

Yeah. I know I suck. Maybe you can get it in for those riveting World Cup qualifier games. Or March Madness. That's big, right? Right?!

So the ratio of real onions to the trifecta of  totally fattening clog-your-artery ingredients - mayo, cream cheese, sour cream  - is like 3 to 1. I believe. I told myself. I really don't know. But whatever. That's what it looked like. And, oh right: You cook the onions in vegetable oil AND four tablespoons of butter. But, I mean who's counting?

This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe. So you know it's good. And she does not give a flying fig if this dip is healthy. And well, it's not!

This is more time consuming than opening a packet of tan chemicals labeled Onion Dip Mix and dumping it into a container of sour cream. But it so worth it. Your guests will love. Trust.

Pan-Fried Onion DipFrom the Barefoot Contessa CookbookBy Ina Garten

2 large yellow onions.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter.
1/4 cup vegetable oil.
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.
1 teaspoon kosher salt.
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature.
1/2 cup sour cream.
1/2 cup good mayonaisse

Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions.) Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.
Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature.