Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fleischmann's Homemade Pretzels


Fleischmann’s Simply Homemade Baking Mix:

Pretzel Creations

            Wow, it has been quite some time since I’ve added to my “What I’m buying Up” section. Not exactly sure what that means.....We all know this gal likes to shop so it can’t be the lack of that….I’m always scouring the food store well after my list has been  all checked off and completed……I’ve got a pretty big mouth so I can’t imagine it being me wanting to keep something on the DL…..

            Well than, I guess it boils down to not enough time to blog about my everyday cooking, trying different places to eat, and buying new products to share. Waahhhh, wahhhh, waahhh, where does the time go???

            Enter- my decent summer tan, a few books read and conquered, and plenty of sand to clean out of my trunkJ    Needless to say, it has been a great summer but one in which you might have missed me.

            So even though I can’t promise a more week-to-week posting schedule, I can bring you a new product that Hubby and I are just smitten with.

            I actually can’t take credit for this find. Matt came along shopping with me and spotted this product perched high above the baking goods. I think the marketing team did a swell job on this as the picture on the box definitely caught his eyes in oh, about 2 seconds. He’s a sucker for soft pretzels so once he saw the glistening twists displayed, he presented them to me with that cute smile.

            He gets me every time.

            So long behold, we bought them, made them and are definitely going to be buying more. They have a great buttery taste and are quite crisp right from the oven.  The process isn’t exactly 1-2-3, but if you can manage to give yourself 20 minutes, you will be well on your way to snack Heaven. Enjoy…


To read more about the product as well as other items, click here

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Banana Nut Muffins


             How come I have less work to do in the summer but less time to do everything else I need to get done? Honestly, I don’t have to get up at 5am, sit in rush hour parkway traffic or commute during the months of July and August, yet I still have this ongoing to-do list and things that just aint gettin’ done. HHhhmmm….could it be that I
a.) sleep until 10 am most mornings
b.) take 2 hours to read paper, eat breakfast and peruse internet
c.) take naps as often as I can
d.) all of the above

            If you chose d., yes you are correct and now you think I’m a slacker…..eh, hate if you want….I merely try to live it up during these 8 weeks off while still sacrificing an ongoing to-do list and ever-growing not-done-yet list.

            So yes I am teacher who is still trying to soak in the next few weeks of sun as well as get what I need to get done before the alarm starts to ring once again. On the list:
-          Bake more
-          Cook new recipes
-          Finish my dining room furnishings
-          Organize my cabinets

            So although I can’t say I’ll be successful conquering that entire list, I can say I am well on my way. Case and point- this recipe. More baking…..check! Now although this is not exactly some revolutionary, drool worthy recipe, it was one that continued to repay me morning after morning. The muffins were probably the best ones I’ve made yet. Moist, fluffy, with a decent amount of texture, they accompanied my coffee and fruit bowl perfectly.

            So go ahead and make these, I think your morning will brighten……even if it doesn’t last as long as mine does! …….:) Enjoy
 



Banana Nut Muffins
Servings: 12 – 14

OBJ: TCW be able to try one more banana nut recipe to see if she can stop the search for the best one

Ingredients:
2 C Flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
4 overripe bananas
1 C brown sugar
¾ C (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ C chopped walnuts
Streusel Topping:
2 TBS chopped walnuts
1/3 C brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 TBS flour
1 TBS butter, melted

Procedures:
1. Preheat oven to 365 and line muffin tin with nonstick liners
2.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt, set aside
3. Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork just slightly, you still want them to have texture
4. With an electric mixer fitted with wire whisk, whip the remaining 2 bananas and sugar together very well, for a good 3 minutes
5. Add the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat well. Make sure to scrape down bowl at least once
5. Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Fold in nuts and the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula
6. Using a large ice cream scoop, spoon the batter into the muffin tins to fill about ¾ of the way. Give them a nice rap on the counter to get bubbles out
7. In a small bowl, mix all the streusel ingredients together except butter
8. Using a fork, blend in butter so that you have a moist crumb consistency
9. Sprinkle crumb topping over each muffin
10. Bake for about 18-20 muffins, or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan for a few minutes before turning out onto rack to cool
11. Serve warm or room temperature

 

 

 

 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mistral: Princeton, NJ

 
 
Final Grade: A

            Sometimes I think this blog should be re-titled, “WilltravelforFood.blogspot.com’! We, myself and Hubby, more often than not, arrange our plans and appointments based on restaurants within the vicinity. This may sound crazy, but for us whenever we get to hit the road for any reason we know we 1- will have to eat, 2- may never get to this area again and 3- can possibly cross off a restaurant from our list. It's a win-win for all involved……unless we are coming to your house for a BBQ or dinner, we then might have an issue with you.

            Towns we love to ‘just so happen to be in’ or around are Jersey City, Morristown, New Brunswick, Westfield and most recently Princeton. The last one there being the focus for this review. Princeton- what a beauty. I had never really given the town more than just a thought involving an Ivy League school and it being close to Trenton. Basically and more realistically, I haven’t given this town its credit. Just in the past 6 months, I think I’ve pinned a handful of restaurants I need to get to  and read reviews about umpteen more. So naturally, when the opportunity presented itself a few weeks back for us to be in that area to drop off my cousin, I was like, “Slam bam, thank you Mam, we gonna chow right now!”
 
            After narrowing down our choices for that Sunday afternoon lunch, we decided to go to the much-desired Mistral.
            We opted to sit at their bar area where the kitchen is in full view. This, for me, is like being a kid in a candy store. Watching chefs work is so intriguing and entertaining. What’s more here is also getting a look at how the Chefs both handle and respect their ingredients. What I truly loved here was that many ingredients, from the croutons to the pickled vegetables, were labeled with dates.  Now I would hope most restaurants do this, but for me, actually seeing how literally fresh these items were did nothing but make me smile.
            Our lunch consisted of a few items to share, although our forks generally stayed in our own direction. I went with the Grilled Vegetable Salad ($8) and an order of the Warm Cornbread with Jalapenos and Honey Butter ($5). The salad consisted of locally grown summer vegetables tossed with fried crouton crisps, a few lettuces, fresh herbs and a light dressing to tie it all together. What I thought at first was just a heaping bowl of arugula actually turned out to be a pot of gold once I tossed what was on the bottom to the top. The vegetables had what was somewhat of a cross between a roasted and grilled flavor while the croutons dazzled up each bite with a fried crunch. Now the cornbread I knew I would have no problems with upon seeing. Arriving straight from the oven in its cast iron skillet with the butter melting more each second, I knew I had paired the salad perfectly. Oh how scrumptious that buttered and steamy bread was with each sliver of jalapeno. This was a dish hard to share.
                       Hubby had similar to say about his choices as well. He went with the Seared Halibut ($16) and a side of Bacon Beignets ($5). The fish was outstanding, simply put. Wrapped in Serrano ham skin and simmering in a broth sporting both turnips and rock shrimp, it was culinary craftsmanship at its finest. The broth alone could win awards, which is why if we had one complaint it would be: serve that dish up with some crusty bread please! The Bacon Beignets speak for themselves. Puffed, salty and rich in pork fat flavor, they had me wishing I was willing to share more of my cornbread!

            We skipped dessert as it was lunch and I, being a weirdo and all, don’t like to overstuff during the day for one reason: it ruins dinner. I live for dinner, if you haven’t noticed yet. Anyway, we did glance at the dessert offering and were both caught eyeing up our neighbor’s Pot de Crème ($9) with hazelnuts and thyme all in a too-cute tea cup. Oh well, we will be back again for dinner and will most definitely get our shot at dessert. Actually when we do go back, I already have a few things I saw the Chefs create that had my name all over them. I would list them all but I’d rather let you go there yourself and watch the spectacle of Mistral unfold before you.

 
Mistral is located at 66 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ. Visit their website for more information.

 

Total score 22/25

Final Grade: A

 

A: 21-25    B: 16-20    C: 11-15   D: 6-10    F: 0-5

Restaurant Rubric

 
1
2
3
4
5
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
disrespectful
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
Nope
Maybe
Looking forward to it
What time should I arrive?!?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Italian Ricotta Cookies



              Yum, these cookies! Little gems with just the right amount of sweetness and small enough to grab a few and have no shame. Add to that a cup of tea and you’ll have yourself one midday escape. Oh and plus they have sprinkles…..this undoubtedly makes everything better. Duh

            Only problem is….July- when a cup of tea and cranking your oven sound like we’re off our rocker!

            So maybe just wait to make these for a rainy cool day……or send the recipe to someone, like me, who bakes in the summer……or suck it up and put on a tank top and get crackin!

            Or if you must, pin the recipe and save for Christmas time. Being that the recipe makes about a million cookies, you’ll definitely want to make these come December. It will be you: 1 overwhelming Holiday stress: 0  

            Can’t believe I was just writing about Christmas…..ahh, enough of that…..Here’s to enjoying the sun, playing in the heat and (maybe) having some cookies along with! Enjoy….

Tip: place newspaper underneath cookies with sprinkling to save yourself a mess


Italian Ricotta Cookies
Makes: about 4 dozen
Source: Family Friend

OBJ: TCW be able to make one batch of cookies to feed a crowd

Ingredients:
½ lb butter, room temperature
2 C sugar
½ tsp salt
1 lb Ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grated rind of 1 orange
4 ½ C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Icing:
2 C confectionary sugar
¼ C butter, melted
3 TBS whole milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
Multi-colored sprinkles

Procedures:
Cookies:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper
2. Cream butter, add sugar and continue creaming.
3. Add eggs, ricotta, vanilla and beat well
4. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to batter along with orange rind and mix well
5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Let cool completely

Icing:
1. Combine all ingredients until smooth consistency
2. Spread icing on top of each cookie and add sprinkles

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Super Quick Reese's Peanut Butter Fudge


       Oh, Lauren…..you continue to amaze me with simple and delicious recipes…..I wish you were my neighbor….

            This one, super quick Reese’s ™ PB Fudge, was ridiculous. My family was smitten for hours this past weekend. The minute the outdoor gang heard that the indoor gang had fudge, the entire porch emptied out and the fudge-filled platter shrunk considerably. At one point, I think everyone had fudge in their mouths and more pieces on their plate. Needless to say, I wasn’t the one the party was for but I did get some serious recognition and praise. Don’t worry baby Mark- your Baptism was beautiful and I, your Godmother, was overjoyed to watch you be Blessed. I just won’t bring a dish to your Communion, deal?

            So this being such a hit, I had to share with my readers and those who attended the party, for which I promised the recipe ASAP. You can have this done and ready to serve in a snap. Be warned though, once it goes out- 1. There may be none left within minutes 2. Everyone will want the recipe and 3. You will be the center of attention.

            So with that, get on your Sunday best, brush them teeth and share on……Enjoy….

 

Reese’s™ Peanut Butter Fudge
Servings: about 25-30 pieces
Slightly adapted from: Lauren's Latest

OBJ: TCW be able to bring a dessert dish to a family BBQ that will please almost all

Ingredients:
1 can, sweetened condensed milk
3 Cups, semisweet chocolate chips
2 TBS sugar
24 full size Reese’s PB Cups, divided

Procedures:
1. Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with foil and lightly spray with nonstick spray
2. Place 16 peanut butter cups in single layer on bottom of dish:
3. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips, sugar and condensed milk in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring each time until completely combined and smooth
4. Pour melted chocolate over peanut butter cups and spread it over smoothly
5. Roughly chop remaining 8 peanut butter cups and press into chocolate, let set and come to room temperature (about 45 minutes) before covering with foil and refrigerating:
6. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, remove from dish, peel away foil and cut into bite-size squares
7. Enjoy! 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Grilled Corn with Cilantro Butter



         Dear Summer 2014,

                           Welcome! Thanks for making your appearance quick and steamy. After the winter we had, I am so glad you are here. I hope you continue to bring the warmth, sunshine and plenty of days where a BBQ is all we’ll want to do. Make yourself at home and please stay a while. We truly do love you around here!

                                                                                                                       Love, 

                                                                                                                              A devoted fan

            So it has arrived, huh? Good ol’ summer! Crazy how time flies. The thought of Fourth of July in just two weeks is absurd to me! Well, with that being said, I think it is only fitting that I bring to you a great recipe you can enjoy during a BBQ gathering or just a quick al fresco dinner at home.

            To me, corn is synonymous with summer. I sadly eat the canned or frozen varietals during the other 9 months of the year and get quite excited when the first stacks of ready-to-be-husked ears appear at the market. Nothing beats a good, buttered and salted fresh piece of corn on the cob. Well, maybe a soft-serve vanilla sundae with chocolate sprinkles does, but that’s a different course so it doesn’t count!  Anyway, yes good and fresh corn- simply summer and scrumptious to me.

            But somehow I made it even better…….grilled and smothered with butter and fresh tangy cilantro. Then, once the butter has charred into it, a decent sprinkle of sharp Parmesan and some salt and pepper…….oh how you will thank me. So with that, you’re welcome in advance, and I wish you happy and tasty BBQing this season! Enjoy…

 



Grilled Corn with Cilantro Butter
Serves: 3-4
OBJ: TCW be able to put a twist on a summer favorite
 
Ingredients:
4 ears of corn, husked
3 TBS unsalted butter, melted
2-3 TBS fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
S& P: salt and pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
 
Procedures:
1. Soak corn in cool water for about 30 minutes
2. Preheat grill over medium-low flame
3. Mix melted butter with cilantro
4. Drain and dry off corn, brush liberally with butter mixture
5. Grill, turning every 2-3 minutes, for a total of 10-15 minutes (or until you get decent char)
6. Before taking off grill, brush one more time with butter mixture and cook for additional 1 minute
7. Remove from grill and sprinkle with S, P, and grated cheese
8. Enjoy!
 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

First Time Foodie Adventure.....



First Time Foodie Adventure:

Whole Foods

            Whole Foods, a recent phenomenon in my book. Or more precisely, a place where people go to get wholesome and fresh food items, from seafood to saltines. I think everything there is organic and lists most ingredients on the label that you can actually read. This all sounds well and dandy, I know. But for me, I have actually always been on the fence with this place. First of all, I have heard and all-too-quickly agreed that it wasn’t Whole Foods, but rather Whole Paycheck. And for two, I have always been in the mindset of the best way to be healthy is to cook at home and control your own quantity and ingredients, none of this ‘where was it grown’,’ what was it sprayed with’, and ‘can I pronounce its components’ stuff.

            Now don’t get me wrong, I think all those fundamentals and practices are great and kudos to you if you can abide by them 24/7. For me, I know I can’t and have therefore, become very accustomed to La Shoprite. Ha

            Well, I must take back some opinions, my friends. A Whole Foods Market has just opened in our neighborhood and I recently took my first trip…..

            Simply beautiful. The colors, the displays, even the organization was eye-catching. I loved every nook and cranny, from the cheese counter to the brick oven pizza station. The place wasn’t as expansive as I thought it was going to be, yet it had the perfect amount and offerings of everything one might need.  I would actually venture to say that having such limited supply of items made for easy shopping (read: quicker shopping). I tried to stop and examine each aisle but as I usually am, I was hungry and we had to get something for dinner.
            We decided to get 2 pre-portioned fresh fillets of Sea Bass, a pound of bread & asparagus salad, and ready to heat empanadas. The latter for appetizers, because life is too short to not have them.

            The bill didn’t faze me at all, in fact I think it was pretty close to what we would spend elsewhere. I mean, if you do all your shopping there, from yogurt to romaine lettuce, you will spend more. But if you are looking for a few quality items and know what you want, the price tag won’t cause any flinches.

            The end result was quite yummy. My favorite was the bread salad, it had such balance of textures, flavors and spice. The empanadas were quite delightful too, as we heated them to a crisp and dunked them in the accompanied tangy glaze.
            So it is a true fact that I will be back. In fact, I hope it is true that I do so very soon. I saw one too many yummies that I need to try. Not to mention, I just want more time to peruse their collections and selections. And fortunately, as I have learned, I won’t be breaking the bank by doing so either. My pennies and dollars will be put to good use indeed, which is more than I can say after most shopping trips. Win!

 

Whole Foods Market is located at 113 Route 9 South, Marlboro, NJ 07726. Check out their Website, Facebook page, and Twitter.