Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Heart Belongs to a Roni

A pepperoni roll, that is.  When my mother told me we were moving to Bridgeport, West Virginia in the 8th grade, I was devastated.  I thought everyone in WV was toothless, wore overalls, straw hats and had pigs for pets.  I was wrong.  Although I kid you not, the first day of school there was one guy wearing a straw hat with overalls.  West Virginia is a beautiful place with beautiful people.  Some of my best friends in this entire world are from West by God, Almost Heaven Virginia.  Sure you have families like the Whites.  But every state does.

West Virginia is its own state.  Most people don't know that.  They think West Virginia is actually Western Virginia.  It's not.  People from West Virginia HATE when you don't know it is its own state.  Get it straight or you might find yourself toothless.

There are also a lot of Italians in West Virginia.  I think half of my class had a last name that ended in an O.  Caputo, Oliverio, Dinaldo, Pecarro, you get the point.  Every year they have an Italian festival (also known as the Tally Rally, the Wop Hop and/or the Dago Shenago) in Clarksburg, WV.  Your mouth will meet some of the best Italian food here. 

Another beautiful thing that comes from WV...Pepperoni Rolls.  They are made in many different ways.  Some with stick pepperoni, some with sliced.  Some have cheese, some don't.  But there is no denying that they are AMAZING when they have the addition of some Oliverio peppers stuffed inside.  I wanted nothing more than some Oliverio peppers when I made these babies.

Here's What You Need:   
Pizza Dough
Pepperoni (stick or sliced...I prefer sliced)
Cheese (any kind, but I used mozzarella string cheese)

Here's What You Do:
Take the Pizza Dough out of the can (GASP!!!  I know I should have made these puppies from scratch, but I was being lazy).  Cut dough into squares (about 5"x5").  Top each square with about 3-5 slices of pepperoni a half of a piece of the string cheese and roll it up, sealing all ends so the cheese doesn't bubble out. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until browned in a 425 degree oven.  Let cool....this step is very important or you'll get cheese burns on your face...trust me.  Eat up.

I made a few adjustments and added some fresh spinach to some...hey, it made me feel a little more healthy.  And I know, I know, these are not how they are originally made.  The best roni rolls come from scratch.  But when a girl finds herself outside of West Virginia with no convenience store in town selling pepperoni rolls, you have to get clever...and fast.  And this is how I did it.

Almost Heaven...West Virginia.  And Pepperoni Rolls.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Food and Straight Jackets

 Photo from google images

We all do it.  Eat strange things or have a strange way of eating certain foods.  Some people have to dip their sausage in syrup.  Others like to dip their french fries in mayonnaise.  Some of these things make people cringe they are so odd.  But that's what's so wonderful about food.  Everyone has different tastes.  And different combinations of foods can make a person really happy or really freaked out.

Here are a few things I do that might get me thrown into a home for food weirdos.

1.  I have to have an ice cube in my milk.  Warm milk makes me want to puke.  Sorry.  I can't tell you how many comments I get about this quirky habit of mine.  "You put ICE CUBES in your milk?????"  As if it's really THAT strange.  I put ice in my water, tea, soda, coffee, etc., why the hell is milk so strange?

2.  When I eat a Kit-Kat, I remove all four sides of chocolate with my teeth first.  Then, starting at the top of the Kit-Kat, I remove layer, after layer of the wafers until it's done.

3.  I have my fear of other people's salads.  For more on that, go here.

4.  Sometimes when I chew gum, I split the piece in my mouth, so that each side gets to chew gum at once.  I've always been a fan of sharing.  Sharing with myself is no different. 

5.  If my mashed potatoes don't have gravy, I prefer to eat them mixed with corn, butter and salt and pepper.  Something about this combination is just heavenly to me.

6.  I like to peel the skin off my garlic by hand.  I know it's easier to smash it and then just rip off the skin, but I don't like to do it this way.  I like to do it my way.  So the next time we're cooking in my kitchen and I'm taking forever with the garlic...shut the hell up and deal with it.

7.  I feel extremely victorious when I peel an orange in one long peel, without it ripping.  I find Clementine's to be the easiest to accomplish this feat.

8.  When my sister and I were little girls, we used to dip white bread into A-1 sauce for a snack.  I used to also love peanut butter, mustard and pickle sandwiches.

9.  I am a serial dipper.  I love to dip food into sauces.  Blue cheese dressing, Italian dressing, Louisiana hot sauce, Sriracha, homemade honey mustard sauce...you name it.  And yes, I love french fries dipped in chocolate milkshakes.

10.  If something has ridges...say a Ruffle...I will eat each ridge individually.  Keeps me from eating 100 chips in one setting too...this one has an upside.

11.  I do minor surgery on my meat before I eat it.  Mostly chicken.  I don't mind biting into gristle on a steak, but biting into something odd in a piece of chicken has been known to make me gag into my napkin.  At the table.  Fancy restaurants and all.

12.  I hate cheesecake.  It tastes like the smell of puke to me.  This one also has an upside, an upside for my ass.

13.  I prefer to wash down popcorn with a glass of chocolate milk.  Great combination of flavors.

14.  I used to dip pretzel rods in milk before eating them.  Yummmmy.

You know you have them too.  What are they?? 


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Grilled Nutella-Nana-Butter Sandwich

When you're starving, you'll come up with the best of foods.  I've been religiously eating Ramen noodles so that I can afford Christmas gifts this year.  (Ya'll better be thankful if you receive one because my stomach and my taste buds surely are suffering).  
The roomie bought some Nutella the other day and I found a banana in my freezer.  So I decided to make a grilled Nutella-Nana-Butter Sandwich (love that name by the way...don't you dare steal it).  Nutella, Banana, Peanut Butter sandwich.  And it was the most delicious thing I've eaten this week.  

Butter two sides of your bread.  Top one slice (the non buttered side) with peanut butter, Nutella and then banana slices. 

Top it with the butter side up piece of bread.  Add it to a hot skillet, brown on both sides, cut in half and go to town on the gooey goodness.

Add a little powdered sugar and it would be a most delectable dessert or brunch sandwich.  Don't forget to serve with napkins.  Lots of them.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Memphis Must

 Birds Net Egg Roll at Saigon Le, Memphis, TN

I love stumbling upon interesting foods.  Foods that you have to work with first to eat.  There is a great little Vietnamese restaurant in Memphis called Saigon Le.  And they have this fun, and delicious appetizer called a Birds Net Egg Roll.  For years, I thought it was called the Birds NEST Egg Roll.  But either I am a total idiot, or they have a misprint on their menu, because it clearly says Birds NET (and, I distinctly listened to her repeat it back to us as birds net.  So I guess that makes me a total idiot).  

Anyways, it's an egg roll filled with pork and shrimp and probably cabbage, carrot and other goodness, and then it looks to be wrapped in some sort of noodle and fried.  I could be totally wrong here.  There may be a sweet technique to making a batter turn out this way, but I'm gonna stick to my guns and say this is some kind of noodle.  The browned, beautiful little nets arrive at your table (6-8 of them) atop a bed of romaine lettuce, mint and cilantro leaves.  It's served with a little bowl of fish sauce for dipping.   

The best way to eat them, in my opinion, is to lay a piece of romaine down on your plate, top it with a birds net, squeeze on a line of Sriracha, top that with a few mint and a few cilantro leaves, roll it up in the lettuce, dip it in the fish sauce and chow down.

If you live in Memphis and have never eaten it (I lived here for a good 4 years without discovering it), TRY IT.  If you are visiting Memphis and are looking for some good grub, GO THERE.  And if you don't ever plan to come to Memphis, YOU'RE AN IDIOT AND ARE MISSING OUT! 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Run for your Life

My sweet FREE kicks from Nike.  Ugly as sin, but like pillows on your feet!

I hate cardio.  I hate not being able to breathe.  Who doesn't, well maybe David Blaine.  But I hate being overheated, sweaty, out of breath, red-faced, and in pain.  And when I see die-hard marathon runners, I want to offer them large quantities of cheeseburgers.  They just look like that picture of the human body with no skin, just muscles.  And it kinda freaks me out.    

I ran competitively.  In elementary school.  Yes, I said elementary school.  In the 6th grade we did this HUGE presidential race with other schools in our district.  And I had a lot of fun that day.  I ran the 440 relay and threw a discus.  I loved the 440.  Something about the technique of grabbing that baton and running like you're being chased by a pack of wolves is exhilarating.  We got 4th place and it was my first and only ribbon ever won in a sporting event.

I also hate team sports.  I hate being the one on the team that lets everyone down.  I'd rather let myself down a million times over than let someone else down.  So I stick to sports where I'm in competition with myself, and beating the other people's scores within the individual competition is just icing on the cake.  Like disc golf.  I'm trying to beat my own score.  But in essence, it's nice to beat the scores of the other people you're playing with.  However, if I suck that day, I'm not hurting anyone but myself.

I started running again in say, 2004.  My beautiful friend Cassie and I decided to start walking.  We'd walk and then pick out a landmark and run to it.  Sprinting between walks.  And damn, did we end up looking GOOD that Summer!

So I recently started doing that again.  And damn it, if it doesn't feel good.  After a good sprint/walk session, I look in the mirror and can see color in my face.  I have a glow.  I feel great.  My lungs, that are exposed to lots of carbon monoxide on a daily basis (yes, I'm a smoker), thank me.  My heart plays a funky beat.  And my attitude....oh my attitude improves greatly.  I become a positive thinker.  I find the girl that is a confident, smart, capable, person. I lose her sometimes.  I wish she'd just stay put. 

What does this have to do with a kitchen you might say??
And my answer...get off your ass and exercise. Because you'll feel less guilty eating a gallon of ice cream afterwards.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Will Blog for Money

Will Blog For Money

I moved to Memphis in 2002.  I tried to get a job for months with no luck.  They say it's easier to know someone when you're on the job hunt.  Well, I knew a handful of people.  None of whom helped to get me a job.  So I decided, what the hell, I'll move on and get my masters degree in journalism.  (Don't judge if I don't have perfect grammar or write complete sentences...they didn't teach us that in school....I promise).  So I went to the University of Memphis, got me a fancy schmancy piece of paper, with a pretty high GPA I might add and tried to THEN find a job in Memphis.  I did manage to get a part-time job in a great little advertising agency where I learned a lot of things.  Media buying, marketing budgeting, advertising planning, and project management, among them.  

Currently, I bartend for my money (though not NEARLY enough).  Bartending can be like stripper money at times.  And it's hard to leave a fast-paced, busy-as-hell, fun job where you can make a weeks worth of pay in 5 hours to go sit in a cubicle for 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, pretending to work, while really being bored off your ass, facebooking, having to follow rule, after rule, after rule.  

The other main reason I do it...I suck at job interviews.  Seriously.  I have been known to say some of the most outlandish things on interviews because my nerves get the better of me.  Take for instance, my interview for a marketing position at Gold Strike Casino.  Here's the short of it:

Gold Strike interviewer - "Jessica you look SOOOO young.  Our security guards are probably going to ask for identification each and every time you show up for work.  What are we going to do about that?"

Yours Truly - "Well....you haven't seen me naked....YET."

Yes, I a.) said "you haven't seen me naked" on a job interview, and then immediately b.) said YET!  As if to imply that at the work Christmas party they could definitely count on me shedding my Christmas sweater! GEEZ!  My foot couldn't get any further down my throat.  And no, I didn't get the job. 

Soooo.... back to the point.  If you know anyone that is looking for a smart-ass, dirty-mouthed, fun-loving, blog writer, who rants on and on about nonsense, and sucks at job interviews and will NOT actually get naked at the Christmas work party (unless lots of tequila is involved) send them my way so I can continue to write my blog and have fun in life and not have a real job where I'm handcuffed to a desk.  Or if you just have suggestions on how I can make some money writing this blog, send them my way.

Now call your friends and hook a bitch up (preferably those of you in Australia, Greece, Spain or Brazil).  Get Busy.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Photo from Nadia G's Press Kit

My blog is not related in any way, shape or form to Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen show.  I didn't steal the name from her, I have no desire to be her, and I wish to not be compared to her. 

I gave Nadia's show a try.  I even kinda liked it at first.  But after watching one episode, where she overly acts like a bad ass with a really annoying accent while cooking in 4 inch stilettos, I became annoyed to no end.  She wears too much makeup, too much jewelry and too much nail polish.  I wish she'd just cook and not talk.   

I'm not buying your hard ass character, Nadia...me and you...playground...3pm...I'll kick your ass.  Be sure to wear your stilettos. 

Friday, December 02, 2011

Burgh, Burgh, Burgh...Burgh is the word!

Maybe the prettiest city I've ever laid eyes on! ~ Photo by my amazing sister, Leigh Skaggs.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The City of Bridges.  The Steel City.  Home of the 6-time Superbowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, 3-time Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and the 5-time World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates (not to mention 2 pre-World Series wins), though the last time has been since 1979...so come on Pirates, get your shit together.  You know you're from Pittsburgh if you know what a Yinzer, a gumband, a buggy and a jaggerbush are.  My place of birth.  

Fortunately, we still have family living in the good ol' Burgh.  So we get to occasionally (though not enough) go up for a visit and hit up all our old stomping grounds.  Many of them food stomping grounds.  I mean let's be honest, there are no two things more nostalgic than food and music.  Ok, at least in my mind.  I hear a song or smell food and I'm taken back to a different place in time.  I can remember who I was with and what I was wearing most times, and that's a large feat for me, seeing as how I have NO long term memory whatsoever.  

But back to Pittsburgh.  There's no way in my lifetime I will eat my way through the various foods of this city.  But I have come to know many places that I must hit up each time I visit, and am learning that there are in fact a few, that I don't need to hit up anymore, because the others are just on a different level.  And yes, I am going to catch major hell from my family and friends loyal to the Burgh for this one, so read on if you dare.
Here are some places we went on our trip up for Thanksgiving.

First stop, straight off the airplane, I kid you not...Mike & Tony's.  Home of the best damn gyro you will ever wrap your lips around.  I don't know what it is, I will never be able to explain it, but it's THE best.  Others claim to have the best gyro in town, but they are liars.  And they should be arrested for such bullshit claims.

  mmmm...Mike & Tony's

After getting full of Mike & Tony's, we usually head to the Strip District.  No, this is not a titty bar neighborhood.  This is a strip of land that is home to many specialty shops and local business owners selling anything from flowers, jewelry and food to Pittsburgh sports teams garb.  There is a little gem of a place here called the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company.  They have more cheese than Kim Kardashian's ass.  More bread than Warren Buffett.  If you need a cheese for the perfect fondue party, they got you covered.  If you ate a cheese somewhere and are desperate to find it, they will find it for you.  And not only will they find it, they will let you try BIG HUGE chunks of their cheese UNTIL you find it.  I'm talking chunks that would cost $3 at the grocery store.  They take good care of their people.  And you'll be called "dear heart" throughout your whole experience by the woman in charge.  And who doesn't want to be called dear heart while sampling some of the best cheeses in the world??

  Cheese, glorious cheese!!!! (Pennsylvania Macaroni Company)

Next, we found ourselves at the Breadworks.  They have any bread imaginable.  And it's fresh.  And it's delicious.  And they have salt sticks, which is a roll with caraway seeds, topped with kosher salt.  And I'm a stickler for bread.  And salt.  So I was in heaven eating this little sucker.

Bread...my favorite thing on Earth. (Breadworks)

The next day, more family had arrived for the Thanksgiving festivities.  First stop...The Original.  It's a hot dog shop in the University of Pittsburgh area.  A small order of fries can feed 3 people.  We got a medium for 6 and were satisfied.  Ok, everyone but my brother-in-law but he's like Homer Simpson.  These fries are delicious.  And they come with cheese sauce and gravy.  And you dip them in the cheese, then the gravy and then you drool all over yourself.  So get extra napkins.  People who don't frequent this place always mess up and get a large fry for 2 people.  A large fry at the O can probably feed the entire homeless population in Pittsburgh.  So make sure you have a big enough stomach to handle the large.  The bathrooms at the O are also an original.  Because they are scary.  Very Scary.  But don't let that keep you from going.  You have to experience the bathrooms to have the full experience of the O.

The Original - or if you're a local, the "O".

Next stop...Mike & Tony's of course.  But some of our crew wanted to hit up Primanti Brothers.  Me being one of them.  It had been well over 7 years since I had a Primanti sandwich.  A sandwich topped with whatever meat and cheese you choose, coleslaw and french fries.  It's a Pittsburgh favorite.  It's a Pittsburgh legend.  But in my opinion, it's not the best thing Pittsburgh has to offer food-wise.  If you've never had one, by all means, try one.  But just know, there are MUCH better places for food out there.  Like Wholey's fish sandwich in the Strip District.  Get one of these, you won't be disappointed.  I will say that my cousin swears by the Deluxe Double Egg and Cheese Primanti.  He claims it will change your life...so maybe I'm just ordering wrong.  He's born and bred and still lives in the Burgh, so I trust his opinion.

 Pastrami Primanti

There are so many great foods in this city I didn't touch on.  Like the Roethlis-burger at Peppi's (wear elastic waist pants for this one).  Obviously I can't touch on all the delicious food offerings in Pittsburgh.  Many of them I have yet to discover.  And this blog would be so long you'd be bored by now (you better not be bored by now).  But these are the go-to's for our family when we visit.  We'd be lost without them.  Our experience in the Burgh would be incomplete without them.  We'd weigh a lot less without them, too.  GO STEELERS!