Thursday, May 31, 2012

Caramel Corn Chocolate Chip Cookies

            You know that face when you are eating something and you can’t exactly figure out what it tastes like? You know, you kind of squish your lips together, take out whatever you’re eating, look at it, look at someone else, then bite it again to try to figure it out? Well, I think these cookies with produce this reaction, in a good way of course. And the ingredient no one will be able to get will be caramel popcorn. Yes, the treat that is just fine and dandy all by itself, no alternations needed. Until now… because it is also the same treat that when thrown into a chocolate chunk cookie dough, it transforms into something so much better than when it was just in its bag.
                Alas, here is the recipe that I used…..I found it on Annie's Eats, an insane I-can’t-imagine-how-she-does-it food blog. Anyway, I had caramel popcorn just chillin’ in my cabinet since Christmas and needed to do something productive with it. I saw this post and added it to my favorites and viola, here she is. I tweaked it a bit but it is pretty much the same. Her recipe yielded 20-22 cookies, I super-sized mine I guess because I wound up with 15 chucksters! Either way though, they were downright delicious. I served them broken in half on top of French Vanilla ice cream over Memorial Day weekend. All cookies were enjoyed as was the what-was-in-that conversation that followed. I eventually gave in and enlightened them on the contents. As suspected, they all claimed that was what they originally thought…..yeah yeah yeah….. I simply smiled and nodded. So with that, I encourage you to try these, see what your friends say, and be entertainedJ Enjoy….
Caramel Corn Chocolate Chip Cookies
Slightly Adapted from: Annie's Eats

Makes: 15 large cookies

OBJ: TCW be able to use up the bag of caramel popcorn in her cabinet

2 C plus 2 TBS all purpose flour
¾ tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
11 TBS unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled (1 stick and 3 TBS)
1 C packed light brown sugar
½ C granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 C dark chocolate with cocoa nibs, coarsely chopped (dark chocolate chunks would work fine)
2 C caramel popcorn

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2. Line 2 baking sheets with either parchment paper, silicone baking mats, or just spray with nonstick baking spray
3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda with a whisk, set aside
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugars. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined
5. Mix in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until smooth
6. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the dry ingredients mixing until just combined
7. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the chocolate chunks and caramel popcorn
8. Roll a half-cup of dough into a ball. Holding dough in fingertips of both hands, pull apart into 2 equal halves. Rotate halves 90 degrees and place on baking sheet with jagged edges facing up. Leave space between each piece. Repeat with remaining dough
9. Bake, rotating after halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown, with puffy soft centers and harden edges, about 20 minutes total
10. Let cool on cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, then remove to cool completely on wire rack. Store in airtight container

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grilled Nutella Quesadillas

              Well folks, I think I’ve stumbled upon a fantastic summertime treat. The recipe below came to me the other day when I was perusing my cabinet in search of something sweet. I saw the Nutella and placed it on the counter. I thought about my choices- dip some strawberries into it, spread it on some pretzels, melt it and place on some ice cream. Eh, those all seemed too boring. I wanted to be a little creative, ya know like “Chopped” style.
                With that in mind, I ventured into the fridge and peered about. And they appeared, tortillas. The little ones I bought last week for fish tacos were the perfect partner for my Nutella needs. No, I didn’t just shmear it on the tortilla, fold it over and call it a day! I decided to grill it, or like we do at mi casa, plug in the grill and let it get hot. I buttered each side so that it would brown and perhaps become pastry-like when heated. Luckily, that assumption worked as did the creation itself. They were so good, a bit salty and a touch sweet but gooey enough to make you crave just one more slice. Even better though, they were 1-2-3 to make and 3-2-1 to clean up! So with the weather warming and your grill in need of some use, I urge you to fire it up and indulgeJ Enjoy...

Nutella Quesadillas
Serves: 4
OBJ: TCW be able to use her grill to make a dessert in less than 15 minutes!


2 small flour tortillas
2 TBS Nutella hazelnut spread, divided
About 1 TBS unsalted butter (will not use all)
2 TBS chopped toasted hazelnuts or walnuts


1. Preheat indoor grill to medium-high or outdoor grill to low
2. Spread 1 TBS of Nutella on half of each tortilla
3. Fold the tortillas over, spread ¼ tsp butter on each side of tortilla
4. Place on grill, flip after 3 minutes or until grill side down is getting lightly browned, grill other side for 1-2 minutes

5. Remove from grill to platter, slice each quesadilla into 4 pieces, and sprinkle with nuts
6. Serve!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Pt. Pleasant, NJ
Final Grade: B

            Well, I think it’s safe to say summer is upon us folks! And if you’re like me, the beach is where I want to dig my feet, rest with a good book, and find some great summer eats! And while I didn’t exactly find a place to eat on the beach yet, I am bringing you a place today that isn’t too far away. 709 Restaurant and Bar, situated on Arnold Ave. in Point Pleasant is place you may want to put on your beach weekend agenda.

            Executive Chef Mike Jurusz, formerly of The Atlantic Bar & Grill in Seaside Park, and Proprietor Carl LaManna have created a space that offers all types of food you crave. Their menu is broken up into quite catchy and entertaining categories: “Let’s Begin”: appetizers, “Warming Up”: soups, “Going Green”: salads, “Handhelds”: lobster roll, fish tacos, grilled cheese, etc. “Easy Sliders”: explanatory, “Gourmet P’Za”: explanatory, “Canoodling”: pastas, Entrees: “Swimming”: Fish, shellfish, etc., “Walking”: steaks, chicken, etc. Not to mention, they have an extensive sushi and raw bar menu that will make your decision making even more difficult.

            My family and I were there this past Saturday night to take my mother out for Mother’s Day. We were lucky enough to get reservations the previous weekend since there were 6 of us as nothing less than that is permitted for reservations. We arrived on time and were placed in a small booth that wasn’t the best for us, my father and brother both being over 6 feet! They understood our concern without a problem and quickly sat us in the quieter, back dining area. The space was well designed, I liked the bar area with the booths for say a lunch or just appetizers, but for dinner I like their back room area in that it is still open and unpretentious yet not loud from the bar.

            Our waitress soon arrived and although she seemed new, she was pleasant, knowledgeable and courteous. She read off a slew of specials and was patient enough as we “himmed and hawed” about what to get. Our selections were, for the most part, great yet I feel there is still room to grow here at 709.

            We began with  the 709 Pu Pu Platter ($21) that included rice balls, fried calamari, coconut shrimp, goat in the coat and assorted dipping sauces. The rice ball or “arancini” was my favorite. It had a decent amount of spice and sported an impressively crispy shell. The calamari was nothing to brag about but nonetheless, it was gone before I had time for another try. Goat in the Coat, a simple roll of goat cheese coated in herbed breadcrumbs, was creamy beyond belief, another winner of the platter.

            We ordered 2 sushi rolls for an appetizer as well, however they came out completely after they cleared our platter. I was fine by this if they were going for a “sushi course,” but since we ordered them for an appetizer, we all expected the sushi to come out simultaneously with the Pu Pu! Fortunately, the rolls went over so well we barely remembered they came out so late. The Rt. 35 Roll ($12.95) was outstanding, filled to the max with shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, and avocado. While the Rock N Roll ($8.95) was equally as delicious with simply spiced tuna topped with sliced avocados.

            Dinners were well-received all around yet some suffered from temperature issues. I went with the Rack of Lamb ($31) and was very glad I did. The meat was cooked perfect to my medium-rare request and the goat cheese smashed potatoes were divine. Another hit of the table was the New England Lobster Roll ($18). The amount of massive lump lobster meat was ridiculous as was the fact that it was butter poached! There were two orders of the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes ($29) at our table and both were packed with flavor but sadly not that hot. To me, when something isn’t hot it just isn’t as good. My husband, having been one of the recipients, admired the taste of the cakes but had a hard time eating his lukewarm entrée. My father ordered the 16 ounce Cowboy Ribeye Steak ($32). He also had a dish that tasted great but was much too cool to truly enjoy.
            Desserts for Mother’s Day were a must. Ironically, my mother lacks a sweet tooth and didn’t indulge as the rest us did. We split the Peanut Butter Explosion ($7) which was a chocolate cake paired with peanut butter mousse then topped with brownie bits and some peanut butter chips. I found the dessert to be decent, a bit too rich for my liking though. Most enjoyed it still and with the other tantalizing options on the dessert menu, I’m confident I’ll find something next time to fully enjoy.
            So with Memorial Day right around the corner, your flip flops dying to get out, and the beach chair making its way to your trunk, I think it is an opportune time to start thinking about your seaside dining destinations. And just like the beach gets crowded before you can blink, the same can be said for restaurants. Now even though I feel 709 has some improvements to be made, I do think time will help this place work out the kinks. I hope you give this place a chance to make its mark and perhaps a memory for your summer vacation.

709 Restaurant and Bar is located at 709 Arnold Ave., Point Pleasant, NJ. More information, including menus, can be found at

 Final Grade: B

 Total score 17/25
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, May 3, 2012

Prosciutto Roasted Halibut

            Well, hello there again! I am not back this time to enlighten you on my hectic schedule. Rather, as I presumably think you like better, I am here with a great new recipe to dazzle up dinner time!
                Halibut, oh halibut, you are so freakin’ expensive! Don’t you agree? Well I think the price of that fish and say, sea bass, are ridiculously too high in price! And since I can’t change that, I don’t often buy it and substitute either tilapia or flounder. But when a recipe comes along that just sounds too darn good for a cheaper fish, every once in awhile you just have to splurge! Now for some, that’s easier said than done as I am a coupon-cutting, what’s the deal-of-the-day, yes I buy store brand, kinda gal! But even I hand over the Benjamins when a recipe calls it.
                Case and Point: this recipe. Now I could have used the cheaper fish, but the picture in the cookbook looked great and when I saw the fillets in the glass case looking so beautiful, I had to have the Halibut. And I am so thankful I did for this was de-lic-ious! Yum, yum, yum, the fish was so tender and perfectly simple enough against the salty prosciutto. Not to mention, the rosemary lemon butter! Where do I even start on that? I think I should make a tub of it each week and drizzle it on everything in my fridge, haha. Just think: flaky, juicy meat, wrapped with salted ham, drizzled with lemon butter seasoned with rosemary……yes, that’s your stomach growlingJ Alright, well you get my point: make this dish as soon as you can, spend the extra cash, and enjoy every morsel…..
Prosciutto Roasted Halibut
Serves: 2

OBJ: TCW be able to make a plate-pleasing and tasteful fish dish


2, 8 ounce fillets of halibut or striped bass (skin removed)
2 thin slices prosciutto di Parma
2 TBS unsalted butter
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 TBS fresh squeezed lemon juice
Olive oil
S & P, salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil, place fish on foil and brush each side with oil and season well with salt and pepper (more pepper than salt though since prosciutto is salty!)
3. Wrap each fillet with a slice of prosciutto to form a wide band around the center of the fillet
4. Arrange the fillets on the baking sheet so that seam side of prosciutto is down...

5. Roast for 10-15, until fully cooked (my fish took 15 minutes, it all depends on size of fillets, just make sure the meat is fully white and flakes when forked)
6. Meanwhile, while the fish is roasting, in a small sauté pan, melt butter with rosemary sprig over medium-low heat until butter has melted. Keep heat on medium-low for about 5 minutes, for butter to brown and rosemary leaves to crisp
7. Discard rosemary, add lemon juice and mix well over flame. Set aside for fish
8. Once fish is done, plate each piece and spoon the rosemary butter on top