Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pizza - My Ultimate Comfort Food

Boy have I come to hate the term "empty-nest."  After a lot of tears, I am now settling into "my new normal."  My sadness at the loss of daily interaction with my daughters has given way to excitement for them.  I look forward to the phone calls and text messages which keep me in the loop with what is going on in their lives.  It looks like I will survive! 

Pizza is my ultimate comfort food and I always seem to crave it when I am feeling depressed.  Well, I have had pizza a lot lately!  My daughters and I went to lunch at Pete &  Elda's in Neptune, NJ before they left for school.  The girls have gone there since they were babies.  Matt and I went there once a week when we were dating.  The place is insanely crowded even at the oddest of times which is a testament to how popular it is. The crust is cracker thin and the sauce is like nowhere else.  I think that it is a love/hate thing with Pete & Elda's pizza, but we are in the love group.  It almost shouldn't be called pizza since it is so different.  It just is Pete &  Elda's - a Shore classic.  An order of garlic bread with cheese and fried calamari - perfect! 

On move-in day at my younger daughter's school we went for pizza before heading home.  We had a delicious clam pizza.  It tasted especially good after our dining hall lunch - my daughter has no worries of the freshman fifteen!  I need to send lots of care packages...
Matt and I had a nice dinner for two last night and what else did we have?  PIZZA! 
Pizza with Figs, Prosciutto, Gorgonzola, Balsamic, and Arugula

Thank you to Matt for putting up with a basket case!  We won't be having pizza tonight!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Favorite Chicken Sandwich

My girls are getting ready to head off to college so this week has been all about favorites.  They each made a list of favorite home cooked meals.  One favorite that made both of my daughter's lists is our family's favorite chicken sandwich.  This sandwich is inspired by one served at Frankie's Bar and Grill in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ.  It is like a Cheers and is a favorite of locals.  There is a big open flame grill behind the large bar, and they serve some great burgers and sandwiches. 

Our long time favorite is their grilled chicken sandwich.  Grilled chicken breast, melted muenster cheese, crisp bacon slices, lettuce, tomato slices, served on a hard roll with a side of mayo.  I like to add some sliced avocado, too - perfect!  This is one tasty sandwich!  Two must have ingredients are: really good hard rolls, which we are so lucky to have available in our area, and fresh summer tomatoes.  These particular hard rolls are from Colonial Bakery in Lavalette, NJ - so good!  A good quality bacon is essential also.  So simple, yet so delicious! 

Did you know that a staple NJ breakfast is a hard roll with butter?  I don't partake too often because of the fat and calories but a good hard roll with butter is awesome.  It's apparently a New Jersey thing unheard of in other parts of the country.  I love NJ.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Friday Shrimp" on Tuesday - An Aarti Party!

My daughters and I got hooked on The Next Food Network Star.  I rarely watch the Food Network but was really drawn into the show this season.  Our favorite contestant, and ultimately the winner, was Aarti.  Aarti "experiments adventurously with Indian flavors and incorporates them into American classics."   We loved her personality and that she brought something different to the Food Network (and she's a blogger!). 

My daughter Ashley really likes Indian food so I have been dabbling with different Indian spices and dishes.  Since *gasp* college is right around the corner for both of my girls, I have made an effort to have a really nice meal each night featuring their favorite foods.  So in honor of Aarti's win, we had an Indian inspired dinner featuring Aarti's dish "Friday Shrimp."  I served the shrimp with basmati rice, Bihari Green Beans Masala, and homemade garlic naan.  It was a feast! 

We loved the shrimp but next time I will cook the garlic a little before stuffing the shrimp to mellow it slightly.  I loved the turmeric and coriander seasoning and the crisp fennel salad - just perfect!  The green beans were so delicious and would make a fabulous vegetarian main dish.  The spices combined with the coconut milk and crunchy almonds were fantastic!  The garlic naan was fluffy and buttery - need I say more?!  Oh, and we definitely don't need to worry about vampires!  So much garlic! 

Bihari Green Beans Masala

Yield 2 to 3 servings
Time 40 minutes
Recipe courtesy Julie Sahni


2 tablespoons vegetable oil or light olive oil
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro.


1. Heat the oil in a 3-quart sauté pan over medium heat. Add almonds and cook, stirring, until light golden. Remove from heat and transfer almonds to a plate or bowl; set aside for garnish.

2. Add onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, chili pepper flakes and salt to the unwashed sauté pan, and return to medium heat. Sauté until the onion is tender and begins to fry, about 4 minutes.

3. Add coconut milk and green beans. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 6 minutes.

4. Sprinkle beans with lime juice, and toss lightly. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and garnish with almonds and cilantro. If desired, serve accompanied by plain cooked rice or roti flatbread.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Beautiful Jersey Shore

I took a break from blogging this past week since my brother was visiting from California.  I look forward to catching up on everyone's blog postings this week.  Unfortunately, I recently took vacation time from work and was only able to take one extra day off this past week.  For my day off, we decided to stay close to home and visited Island Beach State Park, which is about five minutes from Seaside Heights, home of the "Jersey Shore" house.   Well, the park may be close to the boardwalk area of Seaside, but it is also worlds away, and it highlights the beauty of coastal New Jersey.  This is probably one of the last places that you would find Snooki and crew!    Oh, and by the way, I have lived in New Jersey my whole life and the MTV show couldn't be any further from a true depiction of the Jersey Shore that I know and love!  If you have never visited the beach towns of New Jersey, please do- they are just lovely. 

Island Beach State Park is $6 per car load on weekdays and $10 on weekends - a bargain!  There are lots of trails to hike, and it's a great place to fish, crab, and ride bikes.   You can see lots of wildlife including osprey, foxes, turtles, and butterflies.  It is a great place for a picnic lunch or a lobster bake. 

Along the way, there is a great homemade donut shop, one of the few remaining in Central New Jersey.  The shop is Obco's on Fischer Boulevard in Toms River just across the bridge from Seaside.  The donuts are made fresh every morning and the shop closes once they are sold out.  This place has been around for years, and the donuts are light and delicious.  Don't worry- you can get lots of exercise at the park to work off the donuts!   
Donuts from Obco's - 547 Fischer Boulevard, Toms River, NJ

Monday, August 9, 2010

PA Dutch Farmers Market

While having a conversation with my cousin, it occurred to me that I rarely go to supermarkets.  "Then where do you buy milk?" my cousin asked.   "At the Amish market," I responded.  She asked if I go all the way to Pennsylvania for milk.  I suspect that she thinks that I am losing my mind!  No, the market that I go to is in Kingston, NJ, just outside of Princeton.  I buy the majority of my meat there and also milk.  The three shops that I generally visit are Beiler's Meats, Stoltzfus' Poultry, and Smoker's Deli.  I love all of the different cuts of meat available at Beiler's that are hard to come by in the grocery store (short ribs, hangar steaks, ground lamb), and the quality is unbeatable.   From Stoltzfus' I always buy the ground turkey, chicken cutlets, and I also love their chicken apple sausages.  Smoker's deli has great slab bacon, Canadian bacon, and no-nitrate hot dogs. 

I love that all of the meat comes from family-owned farms in nearby Lancaster County, PA.  I have never purchased anything that didn't seem fresh or was a little off, as happened regularly when I used to buy supermarket meats.  While I do not believe that they are certified organic, the farms produce all natural meats. The market is open Thursday - Saturday only, and surprisingly the Amish accept credit cards!  There are also coupons available on the market's website.  I find the staff to be extremely friendly and accomodating.  Everything is packed in freezer bags, clearly labeled and dated.  Stoltzfus' even provides ice for my cooler.  I try to resist buying a hot pretzel from the snack bar on the way out but usually succumb to the urge.  They are so delicious!

Chipped Prime Rib from Beiler's

One of the indulgent sandwiches that I made with the chipped prime rib.  Green bell peppers and onions were in my CSA box this week so I made cheesesteaks.  Delicious! 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Healthy Banana-Blueberry Muffins

It is so hard to go back to work after having a whole week off!  The alarm clock going off at some completely hideous hour, rushing to get ready, grabbing my laptop and heading to the Garden State Parkway - ugh!  Well, I did enjoy listening to my audiobook and was glad that I had taken the time to make these homemade muffins.  I enjoyed having one with my cup of coffee as I checked a week's worth of emails.   The little things can make life so much nicer!  

Healthy Banana-Blueberry Muffins
Martha Stewart


1 cup whole-wheat flour (spooned and leveled)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas (about 1 pound)
1/3 cup reduced-fat (2 percent) milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup frozen blueberries


1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a bowl, whisk together flours, wheat germ, baking soda, and salt.

2.In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In another bowl, mash bananas with a fork (you should have 3/4 cup); stir in milk and vanilla.

3.With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture and banana mixture to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined. Fold in frozen blueberries.

4.Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Let cool in pan 10 minutes; transfer muffins to a rack to cool 10 minutes more.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Bangain Bhartha that's bangin'!

I love eggplant so much.  It is definitely in my list of top 10 foods.  I make Italian and Greek inspired eggplant dishes but never have tackled an Asian eggplant recipe.  The first time that I had an Indian eggplant dish was in the spring at a restaurant in Media, PA near my daughter's college in Swarthmore.  It was so good and has left me craving it ever since.  It is a vegetarian dish made with roasted eggplant, onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, jalapenos, peas, and lots of spices.  Savory, sweet, spicy, creamy - perfect.  Served with basmati rice and garlic naan - oh yeah!   Well, when I got several eggplants in my CSA box, I just knew that I would have to try and recreate the baingan bhartha from Shere-E-Punjab. 

I searched all over trying to find a recipe that seemed to match what I had at the restaurant.  I distinctly remember peas and tasting garam masala.  The waiter had asked how spicy I wanted the dish and I responded with 8 out of 10.  He seemed a little surprised that I would want it so hot but it was perfect for me.  I can handle spicy food.  I finally found a recipe that seemed just about right on the blog showmethecurry.com - I followed their spice mixture pretty closely but did not have asofoetida so I went without it.  I used only one jalapeno (I could have used a little more heat) and grilled two Japanese eggplants totaling just over a pound.  I also used five plum tomatoes.  The resulting dish was fantastic!  I served it with basmati rice.  I also made garlic naan from the same site - so good!  It was great to step out of the box and try something new.  The bad thing about this - no leftovers and I am already craving this dish again!!