Thursday, April 25, 2013

Slow Cooker Jambalaya

            There is a pretty funny story behind this meal. Let me begin…In the original recipe, it calls for ¼ tsp red pepper sauce, which as I thought, was referring to some sort of spicy red stuff. Not being a huge fan of spicy, I didn’t have many items to match that description. What I found that I thought would work was chili garlic sauce. So I went along with the recipe, added some chicken and called it a day. I was hosting a b-day party so, goodness knows, I had a gazillion things to do!
            8 or so hours later, we all sat down to eat the delicious smelling jambalaya. “This is hot,” “Oh man, spicy,” and, “G, you really kicked in the heat here,” are all quiet comments I hear lurking from the table. I, too, find this a bit spicy but continue to make the birthday gal proud (Mom) and eat away. Holy CraBumble! “This stuff is hot,” I soon concur. Then, I look over at my Grandpa and the poor man is sweating bullets. I say, “Papa, this is kinda hot, huh?” and he replies, “Why, yes darling, this is heavy on the spice, your Grandma must be in her glory.” At that moment, my Dad starts blowing his nose and my Mom comments, “This is one way to clear your sinuses.” All the meanwhile, I was just trying to enjoy the chicken, shrimp and rice but was truly held hostage by the chili sauce. So with all this who-ha, I had to come clean.....Well, the minute I mentioned my substitute, the table grinned and taught me some good lessons:
             1. red pepper sauce is not chili garlic sauce.
2. If you like on fire spicy things, add chili garlic sauce to them.
3. With any meal and especially this one, biscuits make it better!
** Don’t let my spice mishap scare you, this slow cooker meal, minus the chili sauce, was awesome and incredibly easy. I fully intend to make it the future! Actually, if you are a true heat-seeker, do what I did, just offer your guest bread and water!

Birthday Gal & Me, xo
Slow Cooker Jambalaya
Serves: 6 - 8
Slightly adapted from: Betty Crocker

OBJ: TCW be able to host a dinner party for her Mom’s bday while being, as usual, too busy to spend all day in the kitchen

 1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (1 cup)
2 medium celery stalks, chopped (1 cup) 
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 C chopped fully cooked smoked sausage (chorizo)
2 skinless boneless chicken breast, chopped into 1 in pieces
1 TBS parsley flakes 
½ tsp dried thyme leaves 
½ tsp salt 
¼ tsp pepper 
¼ tsp red pepper sauce- Frank’s® Hot Sauce 
¾ lb uncooked peeled deveined medium shrimp, thawed if frozen
4 C hot cooked rice
Biscuits (optional)

1. In 3 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker, mix all ingredients except shrimp and rice
2. Cover and cook on Low heat setting 7 to 8 hours (or High heat setting 3 to 4 hours)
3. Stir in shrimp. Reduce heat setting to Low; cover and cook on Low heat setting about 1 hour longer or until shrimp are pink and firm
4. Serve jambalaya with rice and biscuits
Note: This recipe was tested in slow cookers with heating elements in the side and bottom of the cooker, not in cookers that stand only on a heated base. For slow cookers with just a heated base, follow the manufacturer’s directions for layering ingredients and choosing a temperature.
I even made a cake to end the night on the right note!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ristorante Giorgia

Ristorante Giorgia
Rumson, NJ

Final Grade: A

            When a restaurant not too far from me gets reviewed by the NY Times, I can only do one thing: get a reservation. Luckily, getting reservations in NJ is, from my experience, a heck of a lot easier than in NY. Most places usually have openings on your desired weekend and will accommodate both small and large parties. And if you are a small party, say 3 or less, I know just the place for you to go and get cozy.

            Ristorante Giorgia, 102 Avenue of 2 Rivers, is exactly that place. I know what you are thinking…..”Rumson, oiy vey, let me go shine my shoes and have some clothes dry cleaned.” Not so fast my hungry friends. Giorgia’s is, yes, beautiful and glamorous but, no, nothing close to pretentious and stuffy. You won’t find valet attendants waiting for your arrival nor will your portions be smaller than your left eye. What you will find is a romantic and quaint rustic location where you and your guests will be treated to hearty Italian favorites, attentive service and an experience to remember.
            Let’s start with the fare. As for appetizers, we decided to go with a special of the evening. It was an easy decision to make as the sound of pureed roasted eggplant combined with crusty bread and parmesan then breaded and fried had us at first listen. The little rounds($14) were accompanied with a tomato sauce that added the right amount of acidity to balance the parmesan and smoky eggplant. Rather than order an additional appetizer, our intrigue of their menu led us to order a salad(10) comprised of arugula, oranges, beets ,fennel , and pistachios. Although heavy on ingredients, it came together light as a feather and left us with plenty of room for the main course.

            Any place that offers homemade pasta has a place in my heart. So with that, I had to go with some carbs that night. My husband was also in that pasta-mood since, as he put it, “this place makes me want a comfort-meal.” I went with the Tagliatelle con Funghi e Gamberi (16/24) and was in one happy place while eating. The combination of sautéed thick-cut mushrooms and seared shrimp both entangled in fresh pasta sheets drenched in a tomato cream sauce was downright dangerous. I was confused as to whether it was the sauce or the pasta that had me just fork-twirling away. Clearly, it was a great choice for the night. Matt went with a meat-lovers’ dream. His Penne con Salsiccia, nduja e Faggioli (15/20) had his name written all over it. To add to the beauty of the fresh pasta here was homemade hot and sweet sausage. To my objection, he asked to omit the cannellini beans but I honestly think they would have made the dish more cohesive. The pasta was consumed by very rich and fennel-laden meat which needed something to take it down a notch. Nevertheless, he had no complaints that it was hard to decipher between the pasta flavor from the pork flavor.

            To round out the night, and our bellies, we I decided on the Tiramisu cake. The slice was politely placed between us and the minute we both took a bite we arrived at the same conclusion: one slice is not enough. Eating this cake was, for real, like eating a slice of coffee-flavored cloud. Even though it was not made in-house, it had every marking of being crafted that day. I say crafted because the mascarpone layer had to done by someone with not only expertise but precision and caress. This dessert was a thing of splendor. Not that it was splendid enough to salvage, just good enough to be very thankful I always get the last bite.

            Service was not an issue. The hostess was quick to seat us while the water glasses were filled almost seamlessly throughout the night. Our wait staff was knowledgeable enough to field our newbie questions and adequately checked in on us to let us know they had our best interest. Wait time was impeccable and I am quite the stickler on that. I will spare you my soliloquy on being force fed courses, just know this place was a role model in that department.

            And so there it was, my first time at a NY Times reviewed spot. Did they hit the mark with their review? Well, let’s just say that although there isn’t much NY and NJ people agree on, I think this is one case where the lines will be blurred.

Ristorante Giorgia is located at 102 Avenue of 2 Rivers, Rumson, NJ 07760. More information can be found here.  

Total score 21/25

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?!?





Thursday, April 11, 2013

Oreo Trifle

        Here is my first trifle. I see them all the time on the Food Network, namely Paula Deen's shows. I’m sure many more people are responsible for the popularity of this dessert item. My apologies for my lack of research.  

            So why so long for me to try one of this super cool  treats? HHHhhmmm….good question. I chalk it up to a few things. For one, I didn’t, until now, own a trifle dish. Which actually, I still don’t know if I own as I bought what was advertised as a centerpiece! Eh, kudos for being resourceful, right? And the second reason why I haven’t made one of these is because, well, I couldn’t find the time to make all the layers. And three, I honestly am more a sucker for cookies, scones and pies. So here’s to trying new things.

            Let’s revisit that second reason why I haven’t made a trifle yet: no time to make layers. No I didn’t find some magical way to make more time for myself, I just took some shortcuts. The result was first, one big assembly line which had Hubby sweeping for hours and second, many second helpings of this dessert explosion, aka trifle. Enjoy…

Oreo Trifle
Serves: 12

OBJ: TCW be able to make her first trifle

1 container Cool Whip, semi-thawed
Chocolate cake, made according to cake mix directions (9x13 pan)
Store-bought brownies
1 package Oreos, crushed (a few left whole for top though)
2 packages of instant chocolate pudding, made according to box directions

1. Follow table assembly:
Oreos, with whole ones around perimeter
 Cool Whip
 Cake, crumbled
Cut up Brownies
Cool Whip
 Cake, crumbled
Cut up brownies
2. Cover and set in refrigerator for at least an hour to set

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Jalapeno Cheddar Wonton Rolls

         So here is an appetizer I created when I had two needs to address. 1- I wanted something salty and fried, 2- I wanted an appetizer for a fancier Friday takeout night for Hubby & I.

            I went through my options……chips and salsa- meh……frozen chicken wings- no, it was Lent so no meat…….fried zucchini- nah, I’ll use those tomorrow with pasta. Then it hit me like my 5:15 alarm: wontons! I knew I had them somewhere in the freezer….

            After removing about 5 undecipherable items, I found the wrappers.

            Uumm… now what?!? I thought maybe I would just fry them and eat them fresh from the fryer. Eh, kinda fun but not what I was looking to do. Then I thought I would fry them and create some sort of dip to use them with. Nope, no dip ideas. I meandered to the fridge and looked for some inspiration. What I found was 5 cheeses.  I contemplated making a 5-cheese wonton napoleon, but I wasn’t too sure about the goat and cheddar mingling! So I grabbed the one I thought would pack the most flavor into a little bite. Enter the jalapeno cheddar.

            And my friends, the rest is deep-fried history….Enjoy…:)

Jalapeno Cheddar Wonton Rolls
Makes: 10 

OBJ: TCW be able to fry up a meatless treat

10 wonton wrappers
5 slices of jalapeno jack cheddar cheese, cut in half
1 C vegetable oil (more or less though depending on your pot, see below)
Kosher salt
Salsa & sour cream, optional for dipping

1. Lay out the 10 wonton wrappers
2. Top each with ½ slice of cheese:
3. Starting at the long side, tightly roll the wrappers leaving a little bit of wrapper to moisten:
4. One at a time, use your finger and water to wet the exposed end. Then finish rolling it up and use a fork to seal the roll:
5. Repeat wetting, rolling and sealing with the remaining wontons
6. Cover and set in fridge while you heat up oil
7. Fill a small to medium size pot with oil so that it is filled at least ½ way up sides
8. Heat oil until it is hot enough to fry.  Test it by placing the end of a wooden spoon into oil, when it touches the bottom of the pan, if it is ready, you will see bubbles start to rise.
9. Drop 5 wontons into oil and fry for at least 2-3 minutes, until brown and golden
10. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and immediately sprinkle with salt. Repeat frying and salting process with remaining 5 wontons
11. Serve hot with salsa and sour cream