Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pesto Puffs

                Well, I recently had a dream come true. For the past 5 or so years, I have kept my fingers crossed that soon enough I would be able to host my first Thanksgiving. And so, last week  I lived my dream. I hosted my entire family-just about 40 people in all! It was wonderful, really! All the food was dynamite and even though it was like Kitchen Stadium in my house, I couldn’t have felt more happy and loved.  I can’t thank my family enough for all their efforts!
                But as all family gatherings go, there were some blunders! One of which was that we forgot to buy biscuits! No biscuits for Thanksgiving?!?! No stinkin’ way, we sent out Cousin James and he returned with about 8 packages of biscuits! 8 packages! Yes, that's 64 biscuits in all for all you calculators out there! Needless to say, we were well over the biscuit-to-person ratio!
                So what was I left with this weekend? Knee-high stuffing, piled-up ham and 15 pumpkin pies, well yes! But to that, let’s just throw in 3 extra packages of biscuits. Yikes! Even I, who has learned to love leftovers, was about to topple.
                Not to worry though, I shipped most off to family members and reinvented the biscuits into these little treasures. Oh man, what a winner! The pesto, which I bought at Costco, was strong enough to saturate and stand up to the buttery biscuit while the cheese provided just the right amount of ooze to counter the sesame crunch.  Need I say more? I doubt it, just go and see if you find any extra lurking cans of biscuits in your fridge. You never know, you may have an appetizer- in –the- making just waiting there. I know I did! Enjoy…

Pesto Puffs
Servings: 10 puffs

OBJ: TCW be able to create an appetizer using the unused cans of buttermilk biscuits found in her fridge

1 package (7.5 ounce) buttermilk biscuits, separated
¼  C prepared pesto
½  C provolone/mozzarella cheese , cut into ½ inch cubes
1 egg, whisked
Sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 375, line cookie sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray
2. Using a rolling pin, roll out each biscuit dough until it’s about a 4-4 ½ inch- long oval
3. Spread ½-3/4 tsp pesto in center of each dough, top with 2 pieces cheese...
4. Roll up starting at short end and twist edges good, then pinch seam to seal...
5. Place seam-side down on sheet
6. Brush egg wash on each piece, sprinkle with sesame seeds...
7. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown, some cheese may ooze if not sealed well enough (I love burnt cheese like that so I find this as a bonus!)
8. Transfer to a platter and serve!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Saddle River Inn

Final Grade: A
            If there was a picture next to romantic in the dictionary, it would be undoubtedly be one of The Saddle River Inn. This space, hands down, was the most charming and quaint place I have ever dined at. Better yet, it’s the most magical place I’ve ever been to, period. Nestled off a busy road, the barn-like venue not only transports you to la-la land but hits you with a 1-2 culinary punch.
            After being thoroughly impressed by Bergen County’s first offering to us, Cafe Panache, we had no excuse but to try another reputable establishment in the area. Not to mention, it was our two year anniversary and I, no way, was going to cook for that one. And so, we took a recommendation from our seasoned source and trucked it up the GSP for an 8:00 reservation.
            From the moment we arrived, we were in awe. The dining room is, as mentioned earlier, like a barn. Now this might sound somewhat anti-romantic, but just picture an enlarged log cabin, cozy wooden upholstered chairs, oversized fireplace, and ornate chandeliers overhead. Que the classical please! Simply dreamy in both obvious and unassuming ways.

                                                          And the food? Top notch. We started with their signature Sesame Crusted Shrimp ($15) and Cannelloni ($10). The shrimp were presented elegantly yet were robust in flavor. The accompanying curry sauce was smoky and deep, which made for a welcome addition of the sweet pineapple confit. Although the seafood app was delicious, the cannelloni won the first round for sure. Piping hot and bubbling over with blistered cheese, this Italian favorite had us at first waft. The tightly wound roll had markings of perfection everywhere: al dente pasta sheets, freshly simmered marinara, creamy duo of cheeses and hearty beef crumbles. My only complaint would be the minimal size, so be warned- this is not a choice to share.

            Dinners were well received and exemplified additional technique and care from the kitchen. I went with the Lamb Tenderloin ($36) while the Mr. went with the Pekin Duck Breast ($32).  My meat was seared beautifully and remarkably tender. The gnocchi surrounding the lamb would leave most wanting more; one because they were great and two because the plate contained a mere 5! Five gnocchi? I have two words for that: not cool. The duck was dynamite and fortunately had more to offer in the starch department. The sweet potato crepe was exceptional with its velvety texture and crispy edges. Not to be overlooked was the black peppercorn sauce that hovered perfectly between subtle and striking. A true testament to the talent behind the tables.
            As with any celebratory dinner, we found room for dessert. The apple tart was simple enough to satisfy our sweet tooth yet light enough to let us fully enjoy. The house made vanilla ice cream was a treat indeed which was apparent from our fork fight over it!
            The wait staff was impeccable. Not even one moment passed where we had to question or remark about a thing. They had the knowledge, experience, and demeanor that made us feel like royalty. Which I guess is quite fitting as the occasion was our Wedding and I truly got my Prince Charming that day…xo

The Saddle River Inn is located at 2 Barnstable Court, Saddle River, NJ. It is a BYO establishment. More information can be found at .

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, November 8, 2012

Watch Me Grow

       Great product alert: House of Pasta Frozen Pizza Dough. I probably should have blogged about this long ago as I have been faithfully using it for years now. It rarely, if ever, fails to impress me. Honestly, it turns out way better than any homemade dough I’ve ever made and is so reasonably priced, it is just a gem! You can find it in the freezer section of your grocery store, usually by the frozen pizzas and from my experience, it is also usually on the bottom shelf!
            All I do is either 1)- oil it and bowl, cover and let defrost in fridge overnight then let finish defrosting on counter for about 4 hours or 2)- oil it and bowl, cover and let defrost at room temperature all day and viola- it grows and grows and amazes me! It is like an edible science project!
            So I must apologize for the delay of this post, although some of you who know me on a day-2-day basis already have been let in on this fantabulous find. Anywho, now we all know where to find the next best thing to happen to your cooking since nonstick pans! J Enjoy….

House of Pasta Frozen Pizza Dough, 32 ounce

Servings: 2 frozen doughs 

1. Take out one dough, place in large bowl
2. Lightly oil dough and sides and bottom of bowl
3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, let defrost in refrigerator overnight then take out and let fully defrost and rise/poof at room temperature for at least 4 hours OR let defrost at room temperature all day: 6-8 hours (FYI-placing dough in warm spot(window with sunlight, under light, etc.) speeds up this process)
4. Once it has risen, punch down and roll out on a floured surface
5. Top as you like and bake on preheated pizza stone, enjoy!

****If still not poofing up after 4 or more hours at room temp., it may be too cold in your kitchen. All I can say is it will need more time- it will poof eventually. If not, it could be a bad batch maybe. In that case, uumm….order a pie! ****
****To see what package looks like, click here. I couldn't find their website and this was the only image I could find. ****


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pumpkin Cupcakes

              Isn’t odd how every fall we all become obsessed with pumpkin? Pumpkin-picking, pumpkin patches, pumpkin-flavored coffee, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin air fresheners, etc. You name it, I bet someone infused pumpkin into it somehow! And I am part of the majority here and cannot lie when I say, “I love me some pumpkin!”
                To be more honest, I actually love pumpkin-flavored edibles more than, say, pumpkin fragrance! Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the smell of um, the harvest?!? But I have to wipe my drool when I see pumpkin pie, pumpkin cappuccino, pumpkin ravioli, etc.
                Funny thing is that throughout my whole love saga with this fruit, I’ve only made something with it once! Pumpkin Spice Spread is don’t-miss-ridiculous! Seriously, it’s a recipe I hold near and dear. Anyway, back to my lack of pumpkin-ality, so not cool, I know. Well, here is to my # 2 pumpkin recipe…..
                Verdict?….More like a spiced pumpkin cupcake. Tasty? Of course! Does it need a bit tweaking? Maybe a touch, but pretty darn good anyhow! Should you try? Duh, I am publishing this! Well, if you aren’t a fan, I do hope to remake soon…..but for now, just add more frosting! Enjoy…

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Adapted from: Cooking Light
Makes: 16
OBJ: TCW be able to finally make something “pumpkin-y” this season

2 ¼ C flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1 C packed light brown sugar
¼ C unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 (12 ounce) container whipped cream cheese frosting
1 TBS cinnamon mixed with 2 TBS granulated sugar, for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, line cupcake pan with liners
2. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups and level with a knife. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, set aside
3. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat brown sugar, butter and vanilla together well on medium speed.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, and blend after each addition
5. Add pumpkin puree and blend well
6. Fold in flour mixture
7. Spoon mixture into cupcake pan, filling each almost full. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out completely clean
8. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on wire rack until completely cool
9. Frost each cupcake and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture