Saturday, October 29, 2011

Jap Chai

                Alright, I think I could be getting the hang of this. Although only my 2nd Asian dish, I am starting to see how this time of cuisine comes together. One word actually comes to mind: QUICK! Quick as in you better have your ingredients diced and ready, quick as in who cares if there are carrots on the floor, we’re woking here, and quick as in whisk, add ingredients, and get outta my way because I need to add the noodles before the sauce thickens too much! Yes, that has been the mayhem taking place in my kitchen during the past 2 weeks! Honestly though, it has been a blast and a terrific learning experience. The mess after we eat is like nothing I’ve ever seen, but the flavors from our bowls have been like nothing I’ve ever created. Not a bad swap in my mind…….
                This dish was recommended to me by my good friend Stephanie. Her recipe, which she found at So Tasty So Yummy, was my starting block. I tweaked it a little here and there because I didn’t have everything she had and I also like a lot of sauce on my dishes, so I added more to that part of recipe. The result was outstanding! The bites were amazingly sweet to start then the spice kicked in and left you in need of a cool drink. The contrast was quite addicting and had me grinning in delight! It is a dish that can be easily adapted to eaters who prefer more mild options or ones that are brave enough to step it up a notch. All in all though, it was another triumph for this novice Asian cookJ 
Jap Chae
Serves: 3-4
Adapted from: Stephanie Cooks

OBJ: TCW be able to strengthen her Asian cooking skills by making a new noodle dish

7 ounces stir fry rice noodles (1/2 14 ounce box)
2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, shredded
3 tablespoons soy sauce (note: more used later in recipe, see on bottom of list)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce( note: more used later in recipe, see on bottom of list)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, shredded
1 zucchini, cut into slivers
½ onion, cut into slivers
1 bag frozen Asian medley (cooked to package directions)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
2 tsp rice white vinegar
¼ c almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

Procedures:1. Prepare noodles according to packaging directions and set aside
2.  Combine 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, ginger, and chili-garlic sauce in a small bowl
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the soy sauce mix, let heat for 2 minutes. Add chicken and stir, cook until chicken is heated, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan. Add garlic, carrots, zucchini, onion, and frozen vegetables. Sauté for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from pan to plate
5. Place 5 tablespoons of soy sauce, sugar, the 1 tsp of chili-garlic sauce, 2 tsp rice wine vinegar, and the remaining 1 TBS oil to pan. Whisk to combine, keeping heat on medium
6. Add noodles, chicken, and ½ veg. medley, and almonds to pan. Stir to coat and heat through. (Wrap up the remaining vegetables and use in other dishes throughout week!)
7. Serve!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Eggplant Parm Pizza

                     MMMMmmmmmm, eggplant parmesan! I love eggplant and I love it fried even more! But with the weekend behind me and a figure I try to maintain, I felt the need to “health-ify” this dish. First things first, pizza, to me, is healthy. Dough= carbohydrate (a source of energy), sauce = vegetable (enough said), cheese = calcium and protein (good for you and good for you), therefore no changes are needed here. Now for the tweak……eggplant parmesan: normally fried, greasy, and quite heavy. I decided to bread it like usual because I have tried other options- egg white, whole wheat breadcrumbs, etc. and honestly they just don’t thrill me! So with that being said, I oiled my baking sheets and cranked up my oven so that the eggplant slices could almost fry on the oiled surface and get that oiled crispiness. After flipping during the baking process, I achieved my goal! The slices were delicious; I could have just eaten them off the baking sheet and called it a night! But why would I do that when the other option was to take the breaded eggplant, top it with 3 cheeses, then serve it as a pizza? No need to respond, you get my point!
                The result was an amazing pizza that Matt and I pretty much ate in silence because each bite was better than the previous! We did manage a few words but I’m not sure if they count because they were only in response to the pizza. Anyway, it was a great weeknight meal that I will be making again very soon! I hope you can do the same! Enjoy….

Eggplant Parm Pizza
Serves: 4-6
OBJ: TCW be able to recreate a normally calorie-busting pizza into a healthy and nutritious one!

1 pizza dough, thawed and left out to rise (about 4-6 hours)
1 C marinara, your own or jarred
½ C shredded mozzarella
¼ C fresh mozzarella (or about 4 slices)
1 medium sized eggplant, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
1 C Italian style breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
¼ C extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
S & P: salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes

1. Preheat oven, with pizza stone on bottom shelf, to 425 degrees
2. Using a pastry brush, oil 2 baking sheets with olive oil
2. Dip each eggplant slice into egg, drain excess, then coat both sides with breadcrumbs, shake off excess, place on oiled sheet. Repeat with remaining slices
3. Using pastry brush again, gently brush the top of each breaded slice with oil, sprinkle with S & P
3. Bake eggplant for 20 minutes, flip, and then continue baking for an additional 5-10 minutes. Bottoms and edges should be lightly browned
4. Remove from oven, place slices on a cooling rack, and let cool until ready to use (can be refrigerated for at least 2 days)
5. Roll out dough to desired pizza size, I usually stretch/roll/knead it to pretty much cover my pizza stone but you do what you like (smaller pizza=thicker crust, vice versa)  
6. Take stone out of oven, carefully place dough on top
7. Working quickly, spread sauce on top of pizza, leaving at least ½ - 1inch plain for crust, then sprinkle about ¼ C of shredded mozzarella on sauce, then top with eggplant slices (enough to cover sauce but with a few gaps), then sprinkle remaining shredded mozzarella on top of eggplant slices, and finally top with fresh mozz, sprinkle with grated cheese, S & P, a pinch hot pepper flakes (optional) and a few dollops of sauce
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges are browned and cheese is bubbling  
9. Remove entire stone and pizza from oven, place on cutting board, bring to table, slice & serve!

Oven cam..............

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ganga Asian Bistro

Ganga Asian Bistro
Final Grade: A

            Besides trying my hand at making Asian cuisine lately, I’ve also been researching and trying to find new places near me to order it. Luckily, I live in a well-populated area in which any kind of fare can be found within about a five mile radius. For some, that would be wonderful, for others, overwhelming. I have to take the side of the latter on that one though. Now don’t get me wrong, I love having endless resources around me to pick where to eat, but when the pool gets too full, the odds of finding a good place to chow, well, get slimmer. Fortunately, where I dined the other night was quite a find! I can’t take full credit for discovering them, but I can attest to their food, skill in preparing, and overall appeal to customers like myself.
            Ganga Asian Bistro is where my husband and I recently found ourselves on a late Saturday evening. The trendy and boisterous locale is located in a large free-standing building on busy Route 34 in Matawan. The décor is modern and quite eye-catching.  From the oversized fish tank to the enormous Bamboo stalks, you quickly forget you’re in Matawan, an otherwise low-key town. Patrons were dressed to the nines and the place was buzzing with large groups either gathered around the bar or waiting to be seated. Waiting, on that note, is to be expected here as it is both small and already pretty popular. The brightly lit bar is surrounded with only a limited number of stools, but on the outskirts are bar height two-top tables that are available for walk-ins who aren’t willing to wait for a seat.
Pepper Tuna....
           And to be honest, once your eyes have feasted on the delicacies coming out from the kitchen, you won’t want to wait!  We started our dinner with an appetizer of Rock Shrimp Tempura ($10). Sadly, the shrimp were drowning in their citrus mango sauce leaving us to wonder where the tempura went. On a positive note, the tiny shrimp were cooked through perfectly: juicy, plump, and maintaining their flavor. Next, we ordered the Miso Marinated Chilean Sea Bass ($9) served over black rice risotto. What a winner this turned out to be! The fish was seared with precision and presented to us beautifully. The meat was flaky and delicate, not to mention piping hot sitting on its pillow of risotto. The risotto was also well-received; it retained its heartiness yet was admirably creamy underneath the fish. As for sushi, we decided to try the Osaka Box Oshibako ($14) which was described as squares of pressed rice layered with spicy tuna and white tuna topped with a strawberry sauce and tempura chips. This was truly a dish to be “dished” about. The spicy tuna was fresh and the star of the plate, while the strawberry sauce nicely countered the heat of the roll. Finishing off the meal, we enjoyed a Pepper Tuna ($9) starter dish. This was served with a ponzu sauce and was quite large for being listed under the starter category. The tuna was so finely sliced that each bite highlighted its tenderness and peppered crust. It was a light and refreshing option for any diner wanting to try a bunch of plates, like ourselves.

Osaka Box Oshibako...
              Service was fair for the most part, yet I can’t fully present my opinion here as we were sitting at the bar area where the tables were up and about and the wait staff was probably having difficulties keeping tabs. They did check on us a decent amount of times throughout our stay.  Although frankly it was a little too much, to the point where nothing really could have gone wrong after just five minutes. Nonetheless, the timing of each course was good; we never wondered where our dish was nor were we being bombarded with our orders.
           All in all, this was a delicious and different dinner. We were able to try an ample amount of plates that truly displayed the expertise of the kitchen and experience of the staff. The setting was one that left us actually more awake after leaving then before arriving, a much needed effect after dining at many places that leave you ready for a nap! The menu was extensive and provides customers with a great variety of choices that would appeal to almost all palates. I know I will be there again very soon, this time with a reservation made and my appetite ready.
             Ganga Asian Bistro is located at 432 Route 34, Matawan, NJ 07747.

Total score 22/25
Final Grade: A
A: 21-25    B: 16-20    C: 11-15   D: 6-10    F: 0-5
Restaurant Rubric

Food Taste
Bland, boring, overcooked, underdone
Very little flavor, not much aroma
Flavors apparent, basic ability to please palates
Flavor worth discussing, chef’s use of ingredients impressive
Great flavor, taste lingers and leaves diner wanting more
Restaurant service
Inattentive staff, no regard for wait time
Staff average in helpfulness, timing alright, either more/less needed
Staff knowledgeable and attentive to needs without asking, timing very well executed
Remarkable and noteworthy, service so good you forget it is ever an issue elsewhere
Food Presentation
Cover it up please
Sloppy and the eater can tell little thought went into it
Descent presentation: looks alright, not worth a picture but enough to make you hungry
Admirable, it is apparent the chef plated with a consideration for presentation
Presentational talents are here. Looks beautiful and too good to dig in
Prices match quality
Prices are too high for quality
Prices are still too high but not outrageously
Some items are priced accordingly but not all
Most items are priced accordingly
All items are matched accordingly
Would I go back?
Not a chance ever
Looking forward to it
What time should I arrive?!?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spicy Garlic Shrimp

                          I am on to something here……Asian cooking! This is how it sort of happened….One of my closest friends, a fellow blogger as well, Stephanie, has been pushing me to do so for about a year now. Two things were holding me back- 1- I do not have the Asian ingredients needed to make most dishes and 2- I like getting Chinese/Thai take-out! But being that I am definitely getting bored with the usual olive oil, garlic, tomato sauté with pretty much everything under sun, I knew I had to get acquainted with a new cuisine to serve. Behold Stephanie and my adventurous side! She gave me the list (*see bottom*) of what I would need to buy for 95% of all Asian dishes and I went shopping……
                Speed up two weeks and a few new dishes that were good but ungbloggable, I have finally made something that I am proud to share! I found this recipe on Steph’s blog and just tweaked it with what I had in my freezer and vegetable drawer. I served it over rice and made frozen egg rolls to have on the side. It was so delicious; I still can’t believe I made it. It tasted 50 times better than takeout and was probably 50 times healthier too! I hope you try and enjoy as much as we did!

Spicy Garlic Shrimp
Serves: 4
Found on: Stephanie Cooks

OBJ: TCW be able to improve her Asian cooking skills by making a new dish

3 zucchini, sliced ¼ inch thick, then cut in ½
I bag (12 ounce) frozen vegetables (I used an Asian medley), steamed
¼ C roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
3 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 TBS fresh grated ginger
2 TBS vegetable oil
2 tsp chili garlic sauce
2 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 4 tsp. cold water
15-20 medium sized shrimp, cleaned

1. Combine the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, ginger, 1 TBS oil, and chili garlic sauce in a bowl, whisk to combine (I added an extra splash of everything, besides sugar, because I wanted a little more sauce to coat)
2. Add this mixture to a small sauce pan, bring to a boil. Let the sauce simmer for about 2 minutes
3. Add the cornstarch mix. Return to a simmer, cook until thickened, it should coat your spoon (FYI, this happens quickly)
4. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the other 1 TBS oil over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until done- pink in color on both sides. Using a slotted spoon, remove shrimp to small bowl
5. To sauté pan add zucchini and frozen steamed veggies, stir and keep flame on medium, cover to allow zucchini to soften, about 5-8 minutes
6. Add shrimp back to sauté along with the brown sauce and almonds, stir well to coat
7. Serve over rice

*Shopping List: Hoisin sauce, Oyster sauce, Soy sauce, Chili Garlic sauce, Fish sauce, Rice Wine vinegar, Corn Starch, and vegetable (Canola) oil*

Friday, October 14, 2011

Apple Peanut Butter Pinwheels

                     So this dessert came about when a secret present arrived at my door this week. Let me explain… husband has been reminding me of this “little” present for about 3 weeks now and I have been trying to guess what it could be. A puppy? The Nook? An Ipad? …… No, no, and no he continuously retorted to my outlandish guesses. He reminded me of the present’s “little, no big deal” attribute over and over again. Well, it arrived the other night after a school camping trip (hence the lack of this week’s posts) and I couldn’t believe my eyes! He ordered me special lighting equipment for my blog! He told me how frustrated he was getting with my dull and yellow-tinted pictures that were doing my food an “injustice”. Honestly, this has probably been one of the most thoughtful presents he has ever gotten me; others include my engagement ring and pearlsJ
                Having set up the equipment right away, I had to make something asap to see how much better my pictures could be with it. I went to the store, brainstormed something sweet to blog about that would be oozy, gooey, and ready for its close up! I grabbed some pre-made pie crust, chunky peanut butter, and pie filling and went with my first thought -to make pinwheels. Matt had class that night so I had the whole night to bake, take pics, and then take more pics! It was an exhausting and educational night! Luckily, 2 things occurred…..1- my pictures are ridiculously better and 2 – a delicious dessert is now sitting on my counter!
                As for the recipe, I have to note it was extremely simple and quick. I was a little apprehensive to blog about it though because at first I wasn’t sure the flavors worked as well as I had imagined they would. A twist on apple pie was what I expected but then the peanut butter threw me off, but then I really enjoyed the salty/sweet combo especially with the crusty pastry. I was genuinely confused being that I knew I liked it but I wasn’t sure if it was because A- it was actually good or B- just different and interesting to eat. LOL, I decided to poll some friends and a fellow blogger, Stephanie, and they all concurred- delicious and definitely bloggable! So enjoy……

Apple Peanut Butter Pinwheels
Servings: 8-10
OBJ: TCW be able to practice using her new lighting equipment by making a quick dessert and taking way too many photos of it

1 prepared pie crust, from a 2-crust package
¼ heaping Cup chunky peanut butter
1 ½ C apple pie filling
1 egg, beaten
2 TBS sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, cover a baking sheet with parchment paper
2. Roll out dough and place on baking sheet
3. Spread peanut butter all over, leaving about 1-1.5 inch border
4. Spread apple pie filling on top of peanut butter
5. Roll lengthwise tightly (Some pie filling will seep out, no biggie!)
6. Slice into 1 inch “pinwheels” and place face-down on sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the outer pie dough with egg, sprinkle (as best you can) sugar over egg
7. Bake on bottom shelf of oven for 28 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly, (when 3-5 minutes remain, rotate sheet in oven for baking evenness)
8. Remove pan to cooling rack, let cool for 10-15 on baking sheet
9. Using a spatula, remove pinwheels from sheet and let cool completely on rack
10. Serve warm with a large glass of milk or cup of coffee/teaJ

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gouda-Topped Pasta tossed with Bacon, Asparagus, and Tomatoes

                 So this is a recipe that was so unbelievably good that I had to put some others things on hold to blog about in order to bring it to you asap!  Honestly, this wasn’t even going to be a “blogged about” dish , since I was planning on just sautéing some onions, garlic, adding asparagus and chunky tomatoes, tossing with pasta and parmesan, then serving.  Nothing fancy, just a quick and tasty mid-week dinner. But then I saw the bacon and thought, “HHmmm, why not?”  Everything is better with bacon, right? So I began to cook with that motto in mind and carried on with the rest of my original plan…..That was improvement part 1 of this dish; improvement part 2 came at the very end. ..
                I had just mixed the pasta with the veggie/bacon mixture and thought how great it would be if I had some goat cheese to stir in to heartened it up a bit. Then I remembered the shredded Gouda I had bought recently! I tried to picture the dish topped with Gouda-it looked good in my head, then I thought about all the flavors going on with an addition of Gouda,-it seemed alright, and then I ran my idea past Hubby-he quickly contemplated it and replied, “Yes, please add  the cheese!”  So there it was, a simple pasta dish turned amazing with some help from bacon and cheese!  HHmm, how woulda thought?!? ;)

Gouda- Topped Pasta tossed with Asparagus, Bacon, & Gouda
Serves: 2-4
OBJ: TCW be able to use a few slices of bacon to flavor an otherwise simple dish

½ LB Campanelle pasta, or any other short variation
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ TBS unsalted butter
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
3 slices of bacon, cut into small cubes
¼ of a small onion, diced
½ C dry white wine (I use Pinot Grigio, but use what you booze!)
½ of a 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 buddle asparagus, stems removed and diced into ½ inch pieces
¼ C shredded Gouda cheese
S & P: salt and pepper

1. Boil water and make pasta according to box directions
2. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat bacon over medium heat. Let brown and get crispy around edges, about 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently
3. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and most of grease to a paper towel-lined dish. (Allow for some grease to stay on pan as this is mega-flavor!)
4. Place pan back over medium heat and add butter, oil, garlic, and onions. Sprinkle with a pinch S & P and stir frequently, 5-8 minutes.
5. Once onions and garlic are softened, add the wine and up the flame to high, bring to boil. While boiling, scrape the bottom of pan to get up the bacon grease. Let wine reduce, about 3 minutes
6. Lower heat to medium-low, add tomatoes, ¼ C reserved pasta water, bacon, asparagus, another pinch S & P, and stir well. Cover for ten minutes ( FYI-This is when I would add my pasta to boiling water)
7. Uncover lid, stir again, add pasta and mix to incorporate. Then, top with Gouda and cover pan, up the heat to high for 1 minute, turn flame off, bring to table and toss before serving!

I tried so hard to get a picture of the cheesy effect, this was the best I could do.......

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pesto, Mozz & Parmesan Rolled Chicken

                So the other night, I was lacking inspiration and craving something hearty and fulfilling. That’s a tough spot to be in if you’re, like me, the chef of the house. All I had out and ready to go was 2 defrosted chicken breasts. I thought about my options- breaded and pan-fried over greens, ehh, no good, diced and tossed with some pasta, oil & garlic, eehh, no veggie to add in, grill it and find some bread to form some sort of sandwich, ehh I had a sandwich for lunch……okay so I might have been a little cranky this evening, but I wanted something scrumptious, different, and well, quick, because I was getting pretty hungry!
                Back into the fridge I ventured and found a container of pesto all the way in the back…..ah ha! Alright, so now I had chicken and pesto… better shape than I was in 30 minutes ago, but still no definitive dinner plan. “Alright,” I thought, “let me see if I have any cheese to either A- layer the chicken with or B-roll it with.” I did have cheese and I decided to roll it with the chicken, pesto, some roasted peppers, and of course Parmesan (because I put it on everything!). I also had some lingering tomatoes to use up.  I decided to layer them on the bottom of my baking dish instead of rolling with the chicken because 1- I wanted to make some sort of sauce on the bottom and 2- the tomatoes would get watery and take away from the flavors from the pesto and cheese.
                So there, that was my cranky-beginning, happy ending dinner that I……served with frozen tater tots! I know, so ridiculous, but I had them in the freezer and I needed a quick starch and I didn’t have anything else to use! Enjoy…
Pesto, Mozz & Parmesan Rolled Chicken
Serves: 2
OBJ: TCW stretch 2 skimpy chicken breasts into a gourmet meal

2 medium sized boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded thin
¼ C pesto- homemade or store-bought (I recommend Buitoni)
¾ C shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
¼ C Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 whole roasted pepper, sliced thin
1 C Italian flavored breadcrumbs, plus 2 TBS
2 large tomatoes, sliced thin- about 1/4-1/8 inch
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
¼ tsp hot pepper flakes
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
S & P: salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. In the bottom of a medium-sized casserole dish, layer the tomatoes, drizzle 2 TBS oil, red pepper flakes, a pinch S & P, balsamic vinegar on top. Then, spoon the 2 TBS breadcrumbs and 1 TBS grated cheese over top, place aside
3. Lay out the chicken breasts, smear about 2 TBS pesto on each breast, leaving about ½ inch border, on top add the slices of roasted pepper
4. Top about ¼ C mozzarella over each breast, then sprinkle remaining parmesan cheese on top of mozzarella
5. Starting at smaller end of breast, tightly roll each piece of chicken up, use 3 toothpicks for each breast to seal
6.  Gently roll each breast in breadcrumbs, covering completely
7. Place chicken on top of tomato mixture, lightly brush each with olive oil
8. Sprinkle with S & P, bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle ¼ C of mozz on top of the chicken, then finish baking for another 10-15 minutes (total time:30-35 minutes), or until chicken is cooked through
Before baking, however please note that as my pics show, I burnt the cheese on top. So don't add on top until last 10-15minutes!!!
9. Bring to table and serve, be sure to scoop out the tomatoes underneath- they make this dish a winner!

*** Depending on the size of your chicken pieces, you might need less/more of pesto and parmesan. The pesto should be a thin layer and not goopy, same with the parmesan, too much and it will be salt overkill so make sure its just sprinkled over the mozz. ***