Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bacon & Cheddar Scones

           I’m going to make this short and sweet since it is the week of Christmas and New Year’s and I’m sure you and me have a gazillion things to do. So between giving gifts, receiving gifts, organizing what needs to be, well, organized, cleaning up way too much wrapping paper, and hosting a luncheon, I have about .2 seconds to post this week!

            Fear not my hungry pals, I found just the recipe to keep you (and me) satisfied. It's a bread product, it has bacon, it has cheddar, and it goes well with butter…..need I type more?!? I think not, enjoy……

Cheddar & Bacon Scones
Makes: 8
Adapted from: Food Network , Emeril Lagasse
OBJ: TCW be able to turn a dessert treat into a savory side

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 ½ C flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1tsp salt
½ stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about ¾  cup)
¼ C diced onions
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¾ C half and half, plus 1 TBS extra
Dried parsley (for tops)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
2. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon, stirring, until crisp about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well on paper towels
3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter, cheese, onions, and pepper with a pastry blender or fork, and work just until it starts to form lumps and come together
4. Add the bacon and add the half and half and work just until it becomes a sticky dough, being careful not to overwork
5. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and pat until it comes together. Form into 1 large circle, about 7 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick and cut each into 8 wedges with a sharp knife
6.  Transfer to baking sheet with a spatula, leaving 1/2-inch space between each wedge. Paint the tops of the wedges lightly with the remaining 1 tablespoon of half and half and sprinkle with parsley
7. Bake until golden brown, 22 to 23 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the baking sheet. Serve warm


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Peanut Butter & Nutella Cookies


               I kept my word and here they are……peanut butter and Nutella cookies. Do you know what you get when you put two things together that taste good enough simply on a spoon? You get an empty plate, duh! Or in my case, a batch of Holiday cookies destined for some cool people.
                I love giving food gifts. The look on people’s faces when you hand them a hand-wrapped bundle of goodies straight from your kitchen is one of those gifts that truly exemplifies the phrase, “some things money can’t buy”. Now I know money has to buy the ingredients and all but you get what I mean. I’d take a batch of these over a lotion set any day, wouldn’t you?  Brownies or patterned socks, no brainer! But to that I realize not all of us are culinary-inclined or free enough to make cookies from scratch or anything for that matter to give away. And so it for those people that my dry hands and cold feet, not my belly, thank you! Enjoy…

Peanut Butter and Nutella Cookies
Makes: 55-60 cookies
Source: The Sisters Cafe , Mindy

OBJ: TCW be able to make cookies for Holiday gifts

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) room temperature
2/3 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy – I used crunchy)
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 2/3 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Heaping 1/3 cup Nutella
1. Cream butter, peanut butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla together until smooth.
2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt and add to butter mixture in 3 transfers, beating to combine after each transfer
3.  Add Nutella in dollops over the top of the dough. Use a butter knife to swirl the Nutella through the dough, about 2 times. Do not over mix

4. Cover with plastic wrap and chill the dough in fridge for 15 minutes
5. Spoon dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart, keep dough refrigerated in between baking
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 15- 18 minutes. Bake until slightly brown at edges. Let cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool completely

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Very Veggie Grilled Cheese

                I must be honest here, this post was supposed to be Nutella Peanut Butter Cookies. But you see, I came home sorta late this week and lazily looked up a recipe to use. Then I took out everything I needed, did laundry, got my pjs on and headed back to the kitchen….for dinner. I realized while assembling dinner that that was just as “bloggable” as the cookies were and ditched the cookie idea. The sandwich was ooey, gooey, is-this-really-healthy, delicious!

                So do I wish I had some cookies to be eating now? Yes, of course!  But in the end, dinner was quite enjoyable, the mess was nothing compared to what cookies would have done to the kitchen, and I now have some weekend baking plans:) Enjoy...
Very Veggie Grilled Cheese
Makes: 1 sandwich

OBJ: TCW be able to create a kicked up and healthier version of a childhood favorite

2 slices whole grain country bread (I recommend Arnold’s)
4 slices extra thin provolone cheese (I recommend Sargento)
¼ C broccoli florets, diced
5-6 slices thin zucchini
3 slices tomato, drained on paper towel
1 TBS balsamic salad dressing (I recommend Ken’s Honey Balsamic)
S & P: salt and pepper

1. Drizzle and smear salad dressing onto both pieces of bread
2. With dressing side up, lay and overlap 2 pieces of cheese on top of 1 piece of bread, then spread broccoli pieces over cheese, then place zucchini slices on top of broccoli, then lay tomato slices over zucchini
3. Season with S & P, lay and overlap 2 remaining pieces of cheese, top with the dressing-side down other slice of bread
4. Place on Panini press and cook for about 5-8 minutes or until bread is browned and cheese is slightly oozing
5. Cut and serve to yourselfJ

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Final Grade: A
            I’m not one who usually falls behind on restaurants: news, openings, events, you name it and there’s a pretty good chance I can give you some dish on it! (pun intended) Sadly though, lately I’ve dropped the ball on the dining scene scoop. One place in particular has been told and retold to me quite a bit and I, shamefully, haven’t followed through. Until last week that is…
            Xina, the BYO place right before the Seaside Bridge, has been on my radar for way too long. And after finally getting my fill there, I am quite upset I waited this long.
Crunchy Pepper Tuna
            In addition to hearing that the food is ridiculous, I’ve also been told be prepared to wait. I guess that is the price you pay for some good grub though! Anyway, once you do eventually get a seat, you will be thankful. The atmosphere is ½ trendy ½ casual: a mix I say equals heels on the weekend and sneaks during the week. The oversized sushi bar is quite the looker, with fresh & bright seafood displayed throughout. There is a cozy fireplace that anchors the place which provides a welcoming warmth from the bay breeze just outside the window. Another scenery plus? The lighting. Not too bright, not too dramatic, a few nice fixtures that enhance the space, basically a job well done.
Spicy Rock Shrimp
            Now for the better part: food. The menu is extensive and there are nightly specials that do their best to throw you off as well. We started with three appetizers, but were tempted by about 10 others. I had the Spicy Rock Shrimp ($) and was completely wowed by my choice. The little batter-fried shrimp were decently crunchy, but were best highlighted by the spicy gochujang sauce. Another pleaser was the Spicy Crab Salad ($6). It was cool, fresh and vibrant with flavor, finesse, and presentation. Our final app was the Crunchy Pepper Tuna ($10). The seared fish slices were feather-like in texture but heavy-hitters in taste as the speckled spices really dressed up the offering.
Beef with Seasonal Vegetables
               Entrees were all, “table-is-too-quiet,” good! I went with the Beef with Seasonal Vegetables ($15) and was most impressed by the meat. The Flank Steak was like butter, aka nothing I had ever had in a stir-fry. The brown gingery sauce was too good to not mention here, although I can’t say more than that- I ate it all too fast! A simple Shrimp Tempura Roll ($6) and eye-catching Tuna Amazing Roll ($13) rounded out our dinner. The rolls were done exceptionally well- proportional, fresh, and beautifully plated. If I had to choose a winner though, the ladder would win. With a combination of white tuna tempura, spicy tuna and peppered tuna all tied together with a mango and eel sauce, it was asking for an applause. Enter standing ovation!

Tuna Amazing Roll
            So even though it took me entirely too long to get to this TR hot-spot, I am dying to get back. I doubt I’ll be able to bypass the wait like I did by going during the week though. But from what I heard, saw, and now tasted, I think waiting for dinner from this kitchen is worth the wait any day!
Xina is located at 3430 Route 37 East, Toms River, NJ. More information can be found at           
Total score 22/25
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?!?