Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chocolaty White Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies

             So clearly this week has been quite hectic as I’m writing this post the day I am planning on publishing it! I don’t know about other bloggers but to me this is cutting it a tad close! And to be honest, I had no idea what I was going to bring you faithful followers two days ago! Luckily, I had two things I wanted to accomplish this week that would help me get some blog-inspiration: One of my besties got engaged and I wanted to try a new product….

                1- Kristen, one of my BFFs, got engaged this past weekend and I couldn’t be happier for her and John. So what do people like me do for celebrations?? Bake, of course! 2-I recently spotted a new item in the baking aisle that I wanted to give a whirl. I love to bake things from scratch and all but sometimes time is just not working on my side! Enter, cookie mixes and random candies left in the fridge to use up!

                So I combined those two happenings and wound up with some dynamite cookies! Buttery, chocolaty and a bit crunchy is how I would describe them but really all you need to know is that they are delicious, quick, and pretty inexpensive. J Needless to say, the ready-to-wed couple happily received them and one more positive: I even was able to save a few for me and Hubby to snack on! Rock on! (No pun intended, hehe)

Chocolaty White Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies
Makes: 28 cookies

OBJ: TCW be able to make cookies with little time to spare

1 package (14 oz) White Chip Macadamia Nut Cookie Mix (Betty Crocker ®)
1/3 C unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
½ C (heaping) plain M & M’s chopped
¼ C chopped milk chocolate pieces

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Stir cookie mix, butter and egg together until soft dough forms
3. Add M & M’s and chocolate pieces, stir to combine
4. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet
5. Bake for 13 minutes, rotating cookie sheets ½ way through baking, until light golden brown
6. Let cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, then remove to rack to cool completely

Surprise!!! She had no idea we were waiting for her :)
The happy couple:)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Slow Cooker London Broil

             Man I need to use my slow cooker more! I don’t know why I am so stuck on not using it since every time I drag it out of the coat closet, (yes, small spaces require odd storage arrangements!) I am so deliciously pleased. The  short rib recipe I made a while ago is still one of my favs and a few weeks back I made an awesome rendition of  steak ropa vieja and now with this London Broil recipe, I think it’s time to keep the SC in a more accessible location! HHHmmmmm, no way is it taking the spot of my beloved Kitchen Aid, but perhaps that toaster could move elsewhere. J

                So with that being said, I think it is clear to see why I am bringing this recipe to you today. I thought the meat was beyond great! It became somewhat of like a brisket and fell apart in shreds when pulled apart. The gravy was everything I was hoping for, however Matt wasn’t too keen. Disclaimer: he is not a gravy-kinda-guy. In fact, he cringes over anything with a thick and creamy consistency: ketchup, mayo, aioli, etc. I’ve tried to convert him but he has remained anti-condiment man!  Anyway though, if you like gravy, you’ll love this. I would have preferred to serve this over egg noodles or fettuccine but I only had potatoes in the house. Nothing too bad about some spuds with gravy, right?!?

                And besides it being oh-so comfort like in taste, it came together in, no joke, 5-10 minutes! I have an issue with SC recipes that have you cook first and then place in the device. To me, that defeats the purpose of the slow cooker being a time-saver’s best friend.  So this recipe is exactly what I am looking for when it comes to utilizing Mr. Slow Cooker. So if you’re like me, I know you’ll keep this one handyJ Enjoy…  

Slow Cooker London Broil
Serves: 3-4
Adapted from: Allrecipes

OBJ: TCW be able to buy a cut of meat normally meant for the grill and succeed in making it indoors

1 ½ lb London Broil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10.5) can cream of mushroom condensed soup
½ C water
½ tsp dried parsley
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp salt
3 fresh basil leaves, chopped

1. Place the London Broil in the slow cooker
2. Add the garlic, soup, water, parsley, oregano, salt and smooth ingredients over top of meat
3. Sprinkle the basil pieces on top
4. Cook on low for 6- 7 hours
5. Serve over egg noodles, fettuccine or roasted potatoes J

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Red Bank, NJ

Final Grade: B 

            For any of you who have been lucky enough to live within walking distance to a great restaurant, you know how spoiled you can get when the only effort needed to get a great dinner is finding your shoes! If you have yet to have the luxury of walking to a meal, I must say it is something that is easily taken for granted and consequently so difficult to adjust to when taken away. Hence is the case of Monticello, a place my husband and I walked to so many times before it relocated to Red Bank and took its place among a row of bustling eateries. And although I know its current location isn’t too far, I still walk by the old location in South Amboy and think about how much I miss the convenience and more importantly, the food!

            Now I must admit, once we found out where our beloved Monticello was going and then drove by it, my husband and I kind of vowed not to go back. We were, immaturely I know, bitter about them leaving us! “Oh good ol’ Cello’s (as we called it), there you are, come back!” we whined while driving down Broad Street. Well, if you hadn’t already noticed, Red Bank seems to attract more diners than South Amboy and apparently Monticello is staying there. So in the end, we succumbed to our pettiness and went back to enjoy some favorites and try some new plates…

            Luckily, things haven’t changed in the kitchen as the food was just as good as I remember. We started with a special appetizer of the evening: mussels and clams in a tomato broth with crumbled sausage and fresh herbs. The broth was everything a broth should be-flavorful, light and deep enough for dunking! Dunking, along with fighting for both the sausage and seafood, kept us all intrigued and ready for the next selection.  We went with another special of the evening: arugula salad topped with sliced duck. And although it was just a salad, it delivered much more than its namesake. The duck was cooked well while the placement of goat cheese and nuts offered a palate-pleasing texture element to the dish. A tart vinaigrette tied the flavors together and, like the 1st course, kept the forks battling it out for last bite.
Arugula Salad with Sliced Duck 
            As for entrees, the majority of the table went with familiar menu items from pre-move Monticello. I went with the dish that I have missed so much and have yet to find anywhere else.  Shrimp Notre Dame is unlike anything I’ve ever had at an Italian restaurant. The sautéed shrimp with fresh cherry tomatoes and shallots flambéed with brandy makes for a rich, creamy and sweet coating for the spaghettini. The flavors are deep and in a way luxurious, as it tastes like a cream sauce yet is surprisingly light from the tomatoes bursting each time you twirl your fork. The melted mozzarella atop is nothing short of decadent as it melts continuously throughout the meal making the sauce more and more velvety.
Shrimp Notre Dame
Another dish I had been craving was the Papardelle Monticello. This dish, while it had sausage at the previous location, was still so tasty. My husband ordered it with a request for sausage to be added and was quite content with his choice. The dish screams for summer since it combines wide pasta with zucchini, eggplant and fresh basil. The ingredients all marry together beautifully in a fire-roasted tomato sauce that is adorned with fresh mozzarella. C’mon, can you really beat that this time of year?
Papardelle Monticello
Gnocchi Monticello  was a dish we hadn’t had the luck of having years back but I sure wish we did. The potato gnocchi were slathered in a brandy and goat cheese sauce that was like a renovated vodka sauce-if-you-will. The pasta pillows were tossed with shrimp, artichoke hearts, portobello mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, shallots and peas. It may seem like overload in writing but let it be known, the dish is nothing you should shy away from.
Gnocchi Monticello
The last entrée ordered at the table was a special of the night: NY strip with sautéed broccoli rabe. The generously sized steak was seasoned well, cooked to desired temperature, and enjoyed fittingly.  
NY Strip Steak

            Desserts soon arrived and somehow we all managed to devour each one. The fresh fruit paired with gelato and whipped cream was like a trip down memory lane. And although my husband and I only had the gelato once when it was just a walk away, we still remember the quality and deliciousness. A crème brulee was also enjoyed and left at the table with not a speck left!
            Well, as hard as it is to not have our local favorite right outside the door, we are more than happy to share it with others! With good service, stylish and serene ambiance, and appetizing fare, I truly don’t mind hopping in the car. My only suggestion is that you do too.

Monticello is located at 69 Broad Street, Red Bank, NJ. Menus and other information, including catering details, can be found at

Total score 20/25
Final Grade: B
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, August 9, 2012

Cream Scones with Chocolate Chunks & Pecans

             As you might already know, I am a creature of habit. For me, everyday starts with coffee, newspaper, either a run/walk/yoga, then breakfast: English muffin w/ peanut butter and fruit, 2 hours later: yogurt, 1 ½ hrs after that, lunch: turkey sandwich and fruit, followed by the 4 o’clock snack: granola bar, and finally 6:30/7:00: dinner. During the school year, I obviously teach throughout the day and during the summer, I either go to friend’s pool, local waterfront park or take a drive to the beach. I know this sounds kind of funny, and for me slightly embarrassing, but I truly enjoy my structured day. Dinner is where I get creative and as this blog details, adventurous.
                But every now and then, one needs to shake things up a bit. No, I’m not going to train for a marathon or start eating Dairy Queen for lunch people! What I felt like doing last week though was make something that would jive up my day prior to noon. Enter scones, exit English muffin…
                Wowza! What a treat! I used the chocolate and nuts since I had them lingering in cabinet but the recipe recommends all types of variation. The base ‘scone’ recipe is the keeper here and will continue to be my go-to scone base in the future. The cream really made for a delicate texture while the generous amount of butter made them just flaky enough to be a contender in the pastry department.  All in all, they jazzed up my day and even had me contemplating ditching the granola bar at 4! Living on the edge, I know! Wwwellll, let’s just say there’s a wrapper somewhere;) Enjoy…..

Cream Scones with Pecans & Chocolate Chunks

Adapted from: Martha Stewart
Makes: 6 large scones

OBJ: TCW be able to branch out from her usual breakfast selection

¾ C plus 1 TBS cold heavy cream
1 large egg
2 C all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for work surface
¼ C granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp fine salt
6 TBS (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ C chopped semi-sweet chocolate
¼ C chopped pecans
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Whisk together ¾ C cream and egg
3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt
4. With a pastry blender, 2 knives, or a fork, cut butter into flour mixture until it looks like course meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining
5. Stir in chocolate and pecans
6. With a fork, stir in cream mixture until just combined (The dough should be crumbly-do not overwork)
7. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead it just a bit to get it fully combined. Then, pat dough into a 6 inch circle
8. Cut into 6 wedges and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet (FYI-I used a silicone mat rather than parchment)
9. Brush tops with 1 TBS cream and sprinkle with additional sugar
10. Bake until golden, about 19-21 minutes, rotating sheet ½ way through baking (odd timing I know, mine took 21 minutes!)
11. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes then remove to wire rack to cool completely

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Meatball Parm Subs

               So I am adding a new section to my blog: What I Am Buying Up. What you can expect to find here will be items that I find helpful in the kitchen or new products I want to try out. I already have featured some items on the site so I will add them to this section ASAP.
                The item I am highlighting today is Mama Lucia Frozen Meatballs. I know what you are thinking….Make your own meatballs, girl! Or maybe….. Didn’t your Momma teach you how to make meatballs?  And my response is….Yes, I will make my own meatballs the way I was taught, when I have time! And time, well, I just don’t have that much of it lately. I don’t know where it all goes but when I figure that out I’ll let you know. J
                And so yes, I used and will continue to use frozen meatballs during these hectic times. And when I am left with a few hours to chill at home or a rainy day keeps me indoors, I’ll buy some chop meat and roll my own meatballs. However in the meantime, I’ll use these and enjoy the lack of clean-up, hours of simmering, and skimming the grease! And I hope you too, give yourself a break and use these. They are really very good and with either your own sauce (I always have some frozen) or a jarred one jazzed up with some fresh herbs, they will be sure to please. Enjoy…..

Meatball Parm Subs
Servings: 2

OBJ: TCW be able to save time and energy by purchasing meatballs rather than making them

8 meatballs, frozen (from a 25.6 ounce bag-Mama Lucia Fully Cooked Italian Style Meatballs)
1 Cup marinara sauce (homemade or store bought)
1 C shredded mozzarella cheese
5-6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2, 6 inch sub rolls, cut open like a sub except DON’T go all the way through, only ¾ way
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
S & P: Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. In a sauce pan, heat marinara and prepare meatballs according to stovetop heating instructions
3. In a medium size casserole dish, arrange rolls so that they are snug and openings are faced up
4. Place and spread about ¼ C mozzarella on bottom of each roll. Cut meatballs in half and spoon about 4 meatballs (8 halves) onto each sub, spoon extra sauce over meatballs
5. Sprinkle remaining cheese over each sub so that the meatballs and sauce are almost covered:

6. Sprinkle Parmesan, basil and S & P over each and place on middle shelf of oven
7. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until edges of bread are starting to toast, cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown
8. Remove from oven and use tongs to place on plates