Thursday, July 26, 2012

Poppy Seed Popovers with Gruyere

               You know what’s interesting? The fact that I still wear my retainer at night! Haha, just joking…really though what I find so peculiar is that some dishes/sides/snacks etc. can be recognized by more than one name. I find this both fascinating and confusing. Case and point: hoagies and subs, gravy and sauce, pork roll and taylor ham, sprinkles and jimmies…
                Okay, before there is a food war here, I need to defend myself: Yes, I am aware there are differences between some of those examples. Relax, I’m not saying each of those pairs are mirror images, I’m just pointing out that they can be easily confused. Perhaps maybe by only people like me but even so, they get a little dicey.
                Which brings me to this post….Popovers, which I believe can also be called Yorkshire Puddings. This is because a few years back I made Yorkshire Puddings and they were essentially just like the Popovers below. They were minus the cheese and seeds but the concept was the same…. Simple batter that poofs up, is hollow in the middle and light as a feather. Now as a teacher and all, I did some research. It seems that Yorkshire puddings are generally made with the drippings of a roast beef and, fittingly, served with beef. Popovers are basically made of milk, flour and eggs and aren’t exactly tied to any entrée. Did you just learn something? Yes you did, I know it!
                Well, whether you call these Popovers or Yorkshire Puddings, you’re most definitely in luck because they are incredibly delish. Enjoy…

Poppy Seed Popovers with Gruyere  
Makes: 8-10
Adapted from: Bon Appétit

OBJ: TCW be able to replace the buttermilk biscuits she usually serves with roasted chicken

1 Cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk, room temp
2 large eggs, room temp
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
¾ cup grated Gruyère cheese (about 3 ounces), room temp
1 TBS poppy seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350°F, place muffin pans inside to preheat as well
2. Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl to blend
3. Heat milk in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until very warm, about 125°F(about 5 minutes on high flame or until beginning to smoke)
4. Whisk eggs in large bowl to blend
5. Gradually and slowly whisk warm milk into eggs, whisk until this gets very foamy
6. Gradually stir flour mixture into milk mixture just to blend (batter may still be slightly lumpy)
7. Stir in poppy seeds
8. Remove hot muffin pans from oven. Spray pans with nonstick spray. Spoon about ¼  cup batter into each of the cups (3/4 way up sides)
9. Top each cup with 1 ½ tablespoons cheese and use a butter knife to gently stir into tops
10. Bake until puffed and deep brown, about 40 minutes. Remove popovers from pan, serve warm with butter

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sriracha Stir-Fry & Day 2 Spring Rolls

               The last thing you probably want in this heat is a ridiculously spicy meal. Sorry to say folks, but that is just what this week’s post is going to bring you. So go ahead, turn up the AC, pour yourself a large glass of water, rock the tank top and let’s get cookin!

                This dish sort of came from 2 blogs, one- Stephanie Cooks and the other- So Tasty, So Yummy. It seems as though Stephanie adapted her recipe from STSY’s Katie, so I looked at both and took aspects of each, as well as modified with what I had in stock. I also upped the amount of some ingredients as I like my sauces, well, saucey!  Anyway, the dish was incredible! However, you really have to be a “heat-seeker” to agree with me. If you are like mi madre, and request your Thai dishes, “mild, mild, very mild,” then you should either leave out the Sriracha in the sauce completely or just do 1 TBSP. There is still Sriracha in the marinade though so even if you omit it from sauce, it will still be a touch hot. Just a warning friendsJ

                Now for the Day 2 Spring Rolls: OMIGOODNESS, if I could only computer-transport some to you right now! They were beyond great. Again though, since my original dish was very spicy, so were these little fried bundles. I had never used won ton wrappers before, so this was quite an adventure to tell you the truth. I figured that filling, rolling, sealing and frying these treats would be a walk in the park. Well let’s just say it was more like a sprint in the park! Haha, well maybe it wasn’t that bad, but luckily because I took a lot of photos, I think you’ll be fine. Which is good because if you make the first recipe, you just have to make the second! You’ll be thankful you did, I know it! Enjoy…..

Sriracha Stir-Fry & Day 2 Spring Rolls
Serves: 3-4
Adapted From:  Stephanie Cooks and So Tasty, So Yummy

OBJ: TCW be able to make some sort of stir-fry that mimics the flavor and heat of her favorite Thai dish: Pad Kee Mao

1 ½ -2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
Marinade for chicken:
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp Sriracha
2 tbsp  and 1 tsp cornstarch
8 tbsp water
2 tbsp Sriracha
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
Stir Fry:
1 green and yellow zucchini, chopped
I  (7 ounce)can baby corn nuggets, drained
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tbsp cooking oil, divided
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

½ package Thai stir- fry rice noodles, made to box directions except rinse under hot water at end

1. Toss ingredients for marinade in a bag. Add chicken- allow to marinade 30 minutes or longer- I did 2 hrs
2. Once ready to cook, combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside
3.  In a wok or large skillet add 2 Tbsp oil and heat over high flame. Once hot, add the veggies and garlic
4.  Cover and cook 5 minutes, until heated through and softened. Remove veggies and garlic from the skillet to a plate/ bowl and cover
5. Add the other Tbsp of oil along with the chicken. Stir and cook until cooked through. Add the sauce mixture and turn up the heat, allowing the sauce to thicken, stir throughout this process. Once thick, add the veggies back to the skillet, toss together and heat for 1 -2 minutes. Serve over rice noodles or rice


Day 2  Spring Rolls

Won ton wrappers, about 12-15
Leftover stir fry mixture, without noodles or rice
1 Cup canola or vegetable oil
Store bought or leftover packets of Duck sauce

1. Finely chop your leftover stir- fry mix
2. Place 1 ½ tsp of mixture on one end of won ton wrapper, wet edges of wrapper with water, roll over once, fold edges toward each other, then continue to wrap up, seal & pinch edges with your fingers, repeat with remaining leftovers and wrappers
3. Heat oil in a deep skillet (enough to fill ¼ way up the sides of skillet), once hot (test with back of wooden spoon-if bubbles go right up spoon-you’re ready), add wontons to oil (don’t crowd the skillet though, about 5-6 is probably fine)fry one side of spring rolls until brown, then flip to fry other sides, about 1 minute for each side, remove to paper-towel lined plate, sprinkle with salt and serve with Duck sauce

Here is my how-to in pictures:....
The one I'm pointing to is the optimal appearance you are going for. You can see all my trials though, FYI- they all fry wonderfully and, as long as each opening is pinched and sealed, do not ooze!

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Raritan, NJ
Final Grade: A

            I must admit I am not a beef eater. In fact, hardly do I consider myself a carnivore since I probably eat red meat once every six months. But even someone like me, every so often, craves a steak. Now for someone also like me, who lives/breathes/loves the culinary world, finding a place to satisfy this need should be easy. Eh, not so I must say. I can find pasta, seafood, Chinese and burger places in a snap, but finding me a top-notch steakhouse is not an easy task. And although I do know of a few, the atmosphere they elicit is a little, say, dark and mellow. Now I do not blame them for their “manly” vibe, I just wish for a brighter, more lively steak place. Well, this wish just came true…. Char, off 202 in Raritan, NJ, combines both contemporary and vibrant décor with downright mouthwatering steak.  Oh yes, time to ritz it up and step out for a steak dinner!

            Char, a restaurant a friend of mine has been pushing me to try for quite some time now, is not only a place where you can enjoy a hearty meal but also a place where you can enjoy the surroundings. The waterfall entryway and oversized granite bar quickly transport you from the highway just outside, while the dining rooms are large with dramatically high ceilings filled with both tables and booths. Not to mention, for those who prefer a more "natural" setting, the outdoor area is a perfect option.

            Although the space had an “unsteakhouse-like” feel, it certainly delivered on the steakhouse promise. Yes, I know I’m jumping ahead here in the meal, but I feel obligated to bring you the “beef” right away. We both ordered the Filet Mignon, mine an 8 ouncer and my husband’s a 12 ($29.95/$33.95) and both went with a medium-rare temperature request. To say it simply, they were divine. Each was cooked exactly as we ordered and accompanied by a whole roasted and seasoned head of garlic. The steaks’ edges were seared and glistening with their own sense of pride. Our knives cut through each portion with not a bit of effort, I’ll have to tell our waiter to keep the steak knife next time. And for a salt and pepper on everything-kinda-gal, I still don’t even know if they were present on the table. The only negative: I should have known to order the larger option as watching Matt continue to enjoy was not exactly fun.
My 8 ounce steak
            Luckily though, the more time he spent on his main course, the more time I had to eat up our sides.  And while I know nothing beats a good steak, I also know what comes pretty darn close: great potatoes. That is of course, great potatoes piping hot, layered with a creamy cheese sauce bubbling over in magazine appearance. For sure, our Potato Gratin ($6.95) had looks to kill and fortunately flavor to back it up. It was browned so expertly in that the cheese made for a buttery crust all around the top, while the insides were silky and rich layer upon layer. It was, by far, the best rendition of this dish I have ever had. More on the conservative side, we split the grilled vegetables ($6.95) as well. I can’t say they were the best ever, as I eat more grilled veggies than most I know, but I can say they could take the place of my version any day.
Potato Gratin
            Again moving in an odd order here, we ordered the Crab Cake Appetizer ($14.95) and Mixed Green Salad ($7.95) to start our meal. The crab cake was undoubtedly the second-best thing we ate that night, next to the steak of course. To be even more honest, it rivaled some of the many crab cakes I’ve eaten in while too! The lump crab meat was not only abundant but ridiculously juicy. Additionally, I loved the textures within the cake from the corn, peppers, and spices.  The patty was simply seared and sported its meat under no coating whatsoever. It was as if the chef knew this meat was good enough to take center stage. And if the plate was its stage, the foam circling the cake was a great participant as well. The dish, as a whole, was eclectic in design, fresh with ingredients, and delicious in deliverance.
Crab Cake Appetizer
            And so to get back on track here, let’s end with dessert. After being almost filled with the night’s eats, we somehow made room for sweets! The Strawberry Shortcake ($8.95) was just the thing we needed to end our visit to Char. The clouds of mascarpone filling paired rightly so with the large hunks of fresh berries and sugary crust of the biscuit. Our forks seemed to be at war while trying to enjoy our last course. Fortunately, as he always does, Hubby let me have the last bite. But for the record, I hope it’s not really the last bite as I’m already salivating to go back.
Strawberry Shortcake

Char is located at 777 Route 202 South, Raritan, NJ 08869. They will be opening a new location in late August in Red Bank, NJ. Check their website,, for more information including hours, private parties and special menus.

Total score 23/25
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, July 5, 2012

Blueberry Bread

              I must admit I fall victim to farmers’ market deals. I know I live with only 1 person yet I buy enough produce to feed 4. I just can’t help myself when peaches, pears, apples, corn, and say, eggplant are selling for ½ the price of what the supermarket is charging. Maybe it is my way of rebelling against the big store chains or maybe it’s just maternal to want to feed more mouths at dinner  or perhaps it’s just because I feel a sense of achievement when I can use up lbs upon lbs of fruits and veggies in one week while also allowing us to reach our  fiber quotas! Well, anyway I look at it, the fact remains the same- This teacher can definitely use a lesson in buying for 2, not 2 X 2!
                And since I have yet to learn that lesson, another week has arrived where I have too many blueberries to use up. I’ve been adding them to my yogurt, topping them with cool whip, tossing them in our salads and yet I still have about a pint to go. Blueberries with pasta anyone?? Haha,  I may have thought about it but even I can’t go that far. What I finally decided to do is bake something that might provide us, or hopefully you, with a morning, afternoon, or nighttime treat. I found this recipe by just searching “blueberry bread” on the internet and clicking on the first site I found attractive. Luckily, it appeared simple, I had everything on hand, included good reviews, and contained a fun ingredient: orange juice. Funny how I just bought Mr. OJ this weekend and figured we’d drink it over the next few weeks. I never thought I’d be adding it into any one of our meals. I love ingredients like that, ya know the ones that you could quiz your guests about or the ones that allow you to use up odd items you have lurking around. I think this one takes the former here but either way, it made for a subtle citrus flair in the bread.
                The only way I adapted this recipe was by making the walnut, sugar and oat topping. It was something I thought would set this bread apart from other breads I’ve tried. I’ve seen toppings on many muffins but rarely do I see them on breads. And now that I’ve dappled in this trick, I vow to never go back to topless breadJ I can only hope you vow the same, enjoy…..

Blueberry Bread
Servings: 12 slices
Slightly adapted from: Taste of Home
OBJ: TCW be able to use up her blueberries so that they don’t go bad

2 C plus 2 TBS  flour, divided
¾ C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 egg
 2/3 C orange juice
2 TBS unsalted butter, melted
1 C fresh blueberries (or frozen that are not thawed)
¼ C walnuts, crushed
¼ C old fashioned oats
1 ½ TBS sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2. In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda together
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg, orange juice and butter together (note: add butter slowly as you don’t want your egg to cook and also note this mixture gets lumpy)
4. Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just moistened
5. Toss the blueberries in the 2 TBS flour then fold the blueberries into batter
6. Pour into greased 8 in. x 4 ½ in. loaf pan
7. In a small bowl, combine walnuts, oats and sugar, sprinkle on top of batter
8. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until toothpick placed near center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove from pan to cool completely on wire rack (when getting bread out of pan, you will lose some topping, it's okay though, enough will remain on bread, no worries!) 
9. Slice and enjoy