Friday, May 2, 2014

New to NYC: the Waffogato

Every time I go to my aunt's house we have affogato for dessert, which I love. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, affogato is typically a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream (or fro yo!) drowned in espresso. I was just visiting her last weekend and we used vanilla frozen yogurt, but the time before that we used chocolate and vanilla gelato and put pomegranate on top. So good!
image c/o TIME
Any who, Dominique Ansel Bakery (yes... the cronut place) has done it again. On Monday they will be debuting the waffogato at a hunger relief fundraiser & it will be available in the store in Soho on May 9. When I first saw the picture of this I thought it was a waffle in espresso and immediately thought about how gross a soggy waffle would be. Then I actually read what it was and it's genius: waffle shaped ice cream that has bits of waffle and tapioca mixed in and topped with hot maple syrup espresso. As the ice cream melts you get the waffle and tapioca pieces and end up with something like a milkshake. If you can even wait that long for the ice cream to melt. I think this could be devoured in about 3 seconds.

I wonder if people will wait in line for hours to get one of these, too... Happy Friday!

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Search is Over for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate chip recipes are not hard to come across, but finding a good one is one of the hardest things ever. Since I was given this recipe 4 years ago I haven't found one to replace it. I've tried maybe two or three others and nothing compares. I guess the saying is true: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

These cookies come out chewy, big, chocolatey... the list could go on. I urge you to try it next time you want to wow people with one of the most common desserts ever. I usually use normal size chocolate chips, but I had mini ones on hand and I actually thing they look adorable. Chocolate chip size is totally up to you and what your personal preference is.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips (I usually end up adding more)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper/silicone baking mats.

Sift together dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, cream melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until blended completely. I use my KitchenAid fitted with the paddle for this. 

Beat the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla into creamed mixture until completely combined, light, and creamy. 

Mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon. 

Using a Vollrath Company size 30 cookie scoop (about 1/4 cup), drop dough onto cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. 

Bake 15-17 minutes, until edges are lightly brown/golden.

Allow to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. 

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Impressive & Easy Spring Dessert: A Win Win

Sometimes I get ambitious and pin these gorgeous looking things on Pinterest that I know I probably won't ever have the patience to make. I saw a strawberry tart that looked so pretty and when I saw it was essentially no-bake (aside from the crust) I knew I had to make it. The pin directed me to Closet Cooking, which I will definitely be frequenting now. It turned out to be a lot simpler to put together than I thought! I was quite pleased with myself.

This tart was not too sweet or lemony by any means. The crust tasted like shortbread with a hint of lemon and the cheesecake filling had a lemony hint as well that was actually refreshing. The strawberries on top were just the icing on the cake (yeah.. pun intended). The crowd was pretty large on Easter and there weren't too many desserts (a couple of pies, cupcakes, and something else); the other pies only had one slice missing and only 2 cupcakes were eaten, but this pie only had a tiny slice left in the dish by the end of the night.

No-bake Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake with Lemon Poppyseed Crust and an Abundance of Strawberries
Lemon poppy seed shortbread crust
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Lemon ricotta no-bake cheesecake filling
1 cup ricotta cheese
4 oz cream cheese, softened (I recommend using Philadelphia brand)
3 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest

Pie topping
About 2 lbs strawberries (try to find ones that are average sized, not too small or humongous) 

Lemon poppy seed shortbread crust
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

With a hand mixer or in a stand mixer cream the softened butter. Once butter is completely creamy mix in sugar, lemon zest, poppy seeds and salt until incorporated.

Add flour and mix until crumbs form.

Press the crust mixture into a 9-inch pie dish or tart dish (ungreased). 

Bake for 12 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool completely before adding in the filling (about an hour and a half).

Lemon ricotta no-bake cheesecake filling
Mix together ricotta, cream cheese, honey, lemon juice, and lemon zest until completely smooth (don't over mix though!).

Putting the pie together
Spread the cheesecake mixture in the cooled crust.

Slice strawberries into thirds lengthwise and arrange on top to form the pictured design.

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M&M Cookies for Every Occasion

Easter weekend came and went so quickly. I can't believe it's almost May already! Being home from school for 4 days for the holiday was great and I'm so happy I got to spend so much time with family. I also had a decent amount of time to spend in the kitchen. I got on a baking kick (my whole life is spent on a baking/cooking kick, but we can pretend it's sporadic) and since it was a holiday I used it as an excuse to bake more than usual because I could pawn treats off on neighbors, family, friends, etc. Not like you really need an excuse to do that though..

Every year I make M&M cookies for Christmas and Easter using the holiday edition M&Ms so the cookies look festive! I think Easter is my favorite because the pastel colors are too pretty. Occasionally I'll make them with the normal colored ones, too, since they're requested quite frequently. I've been using the same recipe for years and it never fails me, so I'll share it with all of you.

M&M Cookies
1 cup of backed light brown sugar
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of M&Ms (I usually just eyeball it and add as much as I think will look the best)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix sugar, eggs, shortening, and vanilla until completely combined in a large mixing bowl. I use my KitchenAid with the paddle to do this.

Add flour, salt, and baking soda into the creamed mixture and blend well.

Add M&Ms and mix by hand with a wooden spoon just long enough so the candy is evenly dispersed throughout the dough. 

Use a Vallroth Company scoop in size 50 to drop dough onto a cookie sheet that's lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Place the cookies about 2 inches away from each other. If you don't have a cookie scoop you can drop the dough by the teaspoon.

Slightly push a few (4-5) candies on top of each dough ball with the remaining M&Ms you have.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until edges are just starting to become golden.

Note: This makes about 36 cookies

Happy baking! More recipes will be coming your way soon!

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's A Wrap!

I went to a party with my boyfriend last night for his biology friends to celebrate their accomplishments. The hostess said she was eating a wrap a couple of weeks ago and someone asked about it and what was in it and all she could think to say was "it's a wrap." This led to the party theme "it's a wrap" with all wrap themed foods, decorations, and of course, rap music.

Theme parties are so fun to make a casual get together more interesting. It's always exciting to see what different dishes people come up with, too! I spent quite a bit of time on Pinterest (what else is new?) and just went with my original dish idea anyway. I asked for recipes so I could share the theme with you guys and save you hours on Pinterest!

The theme is perfect for something like last night where you're celebrating people getting scholarships, wrapping up PhD projects, getting awards, etc. It's also almost summer, so plenty of people are graduating, which is a huge reason to celebrate wrapping up! The theme could also be applicable to someone retiring, going to a new job, etc. and a bunch of these dishes are easy to bring to an office setting because they can just be warmed in a kitchen quickly or can be served room temp.

I brought my infamous bacon wrapped dates. Easiest dish ever and people actually request them!

Bacon Wrapped Dates
One piece of bacon for every date you have

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Cut dates lengthwise, but not all the way through so you end up with two halves. You just want to get the pit out.
3. After you pit all of the dates, wrap each in a piece of bacon and stick a toothpick in it to keep them from unrolling.
4. Place all wrapped pieces on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes (make sure the bacon is cooked!).
5. Serve right out of the oven or you can warm them in the microwave or an oven when you get where you're going! Warm is preferred, but people eat them cold and still love them!
Note: Before wrapping the date in bacon you can put some goat cheese with an almond, walnut, or pecan inside where the pit was! They're to die for. 

Another extremely simple, yet delicious app was cream cheese rollups. 

Medium sized tortillas
Vegetable cream cheese

1. Spread cream cheese onto flat tortilla so it's evenly distributed and completely covering the tortilla
2. Roll tortilla into a log
3. Cut into 1 inch pieces

This was considered to be "wrapped in cornbread." It just has a layer on top, but regardless of how much of a stretch that is, it was delicious. And vegan! You would never know it when you ate it though!

Vegan Jamaican-Style Black Bean and Coconut-Cornbread
Serves 6
2 15 oz cans of black beans, rinsed and drained (or soak you're own beans if you prefer.. I'm not big on canned anything, but it's the easier option!)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with mild green chilled (include he juices- don't drain them)
1 1/2 cups frozen yellow corn, thawed
1 white onion, chopped
A couple of handfuls of string beans (boil so that they're edible, but not mushy, and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces)
1/2 tsp jerk seasoning (you can add more to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (add more or less to taste)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
2/3 cups light coconut milk
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Lightly oil an 8-inch baking dish and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl combine beans, tomatoes (including juices), corn, onion, string beans, jerk seasoning, and pepper. Stir until everything is mixed evenly.
4. Pour bean mixture into the bottom of the baking dish and spread evenly.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and 1/4 tsp of salt.
6. Add coconut milk and oil into the flour mixture and stir well to combine completely, but don't over-mix!
7. Spread the cornbread mixture evenly over the bean mixture in the pan.
8. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes (the top should be lightly browned and when you insert a toothpick into the center it should come out clean.)
9. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving!

The next two recipes are extremely easy and both are delish. I made the Elvis bites, which were inspired by Elvis quesadillas I made a while back. Someone else made the s'mores puffs and people were raving about them.

Elvis Bites
Medium tortillas
Peanut Butter
Mini semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

1. Lay a tortilla flat and spread a few tablespoons of peanut butter to cover the whole thing.
2. Lay a banana along one edge, leaving less than a quarter of an inch border showing.
3. Sprinkle a few handfuls of chocolate chips over the peanut butter.

4. Roll the tortilla to form a log. The banana will straighten out and lose it's curve when you roll it.

5. If the end of the tortilla doesn't stay shut just spread some extra peanut butter to act as glue!
6. Cut the log into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces, depending on your preference.
7. Insert a toothpick into any pieces that don't stay shut.

Elvis Quesadillas
Medium tortillas
Peanut Butter
Bananas, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
Mini semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

1. Lay a tortilla flat and spread a few tablespoons of peanut butter to cover the whole thing.
2. Sprinkle a few handfuls of chocolate chips over the half of the peanut butter.
3. On the other half lay banana rounds to cover most of that side.
4. Fold the tortilla in half and press in a panini press for a few minutes, warm in the microwave, or warm in the over so that the chocolate is melted.
5. Cut into thirds and enjoy!

S'mores Puffs
Serves 8
1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
8 large marshmallows
1 or 2 (1.2 oz) milk chocolate candy bars, broken into squares

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Roll a chocolate square and marshmallow in a crescent roll and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and chocolate is melted.
4. Serve warm.

Some other things that people brought to fit the theme were spinach and feta stuffed puffed pastries, avocado rolls, turkey wraps, and apple pie (it's wrapped in pie crust!). The theme was fun and super creative.
Spinach and Feta Phyllo Triangles
Avocado Rolls (since they're veggie they're a cheap store-bought dish to bring!)
Turkey Wraps (another easy thing to pick up at the supermarket)

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dinnertime In Charleston

Just like I said in my post about the lunches we enjoyed in Charleston, it was hard to find a bad place to have dinner and luckily, we didn't! Everywhere we ate was very good and I would highly recommend. Again, reservations are basically necessary.

The first night it was cold and raining, so my mom and I chose to have dinner at the restaurant right next to our hotel, 82 Queen. I do have to say that the bill was on the higher end and we were a little nervous that every meal was going to come to $100, but they didn't. The restaurant is upstairs from the bar area, and you have to walk outside for a few seconds to get up there. It seemed a little iffy in the rain, but I guess they're used to these types of setups with so many restaurants being set up in former homes. It's what gives them charm!
The ambiance was intimate and quiet. You can enjoy a celebratory meal or a nice night out with friends and family here.

She crab soup is "the thing" in Charleston and 82 Queen is said to have the best, so my mom got a cup as an appetizer and loved it. I was so excited about the local seven salad- okra, carrots, corn, beans, heirloom tomatoes, radishes, greens, hushpuppy croutons and herb dressing. Smallest salad I have ever been served and in my opinion it wasn't worth $10. It was good, but I wouldn't suggest ordering it.
My mom was on a grits kick when we were down there since we don't really have them up in Jersey, so for her first dinner the BBQ shrimp and grits was an obvious choice. It had "southern comfort barbeque sauce," smoked bacon, scallions, and cheddar cheese. It was a good size portion, but maybe not for $27. This restaurant was just a bit on the pricey side.
I got the special catch of the day: pan seared snapper with carrot, spinach, cauliflower citrus, and pistachio. The funny thing is that it literally said "carrot" on the menu and that's what you got.. one carrot. The dish was really good and was totally worth it. The side portion wasn't very filling, but it was a large piece of fish for $28.

I met my friend, Lauren, for dinner on Tuesday night at her other favorite restaurant (Cru Cafe was the first), Blossom. Blossom is a sister restaurant of Magnolias and Cyprus. I can definitely see why this is a favorite of hers and it made it so much better since I got to see her! Lauren doesn't really come home much, even during the summer, so it was crazy when we realized we hadn't seen each other since New Years Eve 2012-2013. 

The front section when you first walk in. The restaurant has so much more seating behind where I took the picture from.

Reunited! We used to be inseparable
I didn't want to be obnoxious by taking pictures of everyone's food since I was more wrapped up in enjoying the time with my friend, so I just have a picture of my meal. My mom got a caesar salad to start (they're her thing) and the small plate cast iron scallops and grits (I told you that she loves grits)- white cheddar grits, creamy charred corn, leeks, bacon lardons, and beer mustard beurre blanc. The portion size was actually perfect for one person as an entree.
Lauren got the vegetarian meatballs with a parsnip puree, tomato and roasted garlic. It came with two (or three?) larger sized meatballs and this was also a perfect entree for one person. She got the sautéed spinach on the side and couldn't even finish it all.
I got the oven roasted salmon with Mepkin Abbey mushrooms, sautéed zucchini, and tomato broth with a side of sautéed spinach as well. Salmon is one of my new favorites as I've mentioned in other posts, and this dish was so good. I love everything it came with, too, so that was an added bonus!
Blossom restored our faith in normal priced restaurants, too. Coming from NYC, I always get told that food is so expensive somewhere and then when I get there I'm pleasantly surprised at how cheap it is because a $25 pasta dish that comes with no meat is the norm for me. After hearing nothing about Charleston prices we just assumed it would be average, but after 82 Queen we got a little nervous. For the salad, 2 small plates, 1 entree, and 2 sides, the bill came to about $95 with tip. Not bad at all!

The last meal my mom and I enjoyed might have been one of the best. High Cotton is always one of the first places people tell you to go, but for brunch. Brunch is such a big thing down there, according to concierge Neil, that they do it on Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately we weren't there over the weekend, so we decided to try it for dinner. Originally we had reservations at Hanks, but at this point we'd about had it with seafood. High Cotton had so much seating in multiple rooms. The decor was great and it was very intimate, but not too romantic. It was quieter when we went around 9 pm, but since there are so many tables it's probably safe to assume that when it's full it's loud. 

Mommy & I about to enjoy our last meal out in Charleston.
I started with the Ambrose Farms kale minestrone with olive oil & garlic croutons. I'm not much of a soup person, but I love soups where I can drain the broth off of the spoon and have something of substance. When I saw kale I knew I had to at least try it, but I ended up finishing it because it was so good!
My mom got the braised short rib cavatelli and couldn't even finish it because they give you so much. The description says "roasted parsnip cream, braising jus reduction, charred lemon parsley salad." I know.. you're probably drooling now. You should be.
Aside from fish I'm not much of a meat person (I know.. meat isn't fish. It is in my book). I loved that they had tofu on the menu and everything it came with was amazing. There were 2 huge blocks of pan seared cashew crusted tofu over sautéed spinach, eggplant caponata, ratatouille vinaigrette, and topped with baby watercress. I can't even begin to describe how delicious the eggplant caponata was. And I hate olive, which are usually in caponata, but not this one! The spinach was amazing and the chopped veggies (I guess those would be the ratatouille?) were a great addition. But seriously, the eggplant.. oh my. I dream about it.
High Cotton was a great way to end the trip, so I'm glad we chose to go there and got reservations. Even though people will tell you that you have to go there for brunch, I really recommend dinner in addition! 

Eating in Charleston was truly an awesome experience and there are so many more places I'd love to try when I go, but it will be difficult because I fell in love with some dishes I had on my trip. Don't stress over checking Yelp reviews or anything because as I've stated a million times, good luck finding under-par food. It's safe to say that when a tofu dish blows you out of the water, there's not much worry to be had when choosing a restaurant if they're all consistent. The biggest concern you should have is getting reservations. 

Every Charleston restaurant I went to used OpenTable and I have to app, so it was super convenient! It took about a minute to make reservations and then I could easily import all of the information into my calendar. If you're living in the 21st century and have a smartphone and live in an area with a lot of restaurants, make an OpenTable account and download the app. You can accumulate points, too! So worth it.

If you're going to Charleston- happy eating! If you aren't planning on going just book your trip now. You'll love it! Three or four days is the perfect amount of time to spend in this gorgeous, tiny, quirky, quaint city.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Charleston: Where to Have Lunch

Since I was in Charleston from Monday until Thursday and breakfast was always at the hotel I ate 6 meals out. That's a lot of food reviewing to take in in one post, so here's where my mom and I had lunch! We found that what everyone says about eating in Charleston is true: it's very hard to find a bad meal. Every single restaurant, no matter what the price range is, is decorated so nicely. Most places have white tablecloths and the decor is so tasteful and unique. I guess that fact that the buildings are so old helps add character, but none of the restaurants appear old at all. They all must have been renovated relatively recently.

Tip for dining in Charleston: always make reservations. Almost every place takes them and they're almost necessary at 90% of the restaurants if you want to eat any time before 8:45. I even advocate making lunch reservations.

Right after we checked in to The Elliott House Inn we beelined it for lunch because we were starving. First stop? Magnolias on East Bay St.

I had the grilled vegetable wrap- portobellos, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, red onion, sprouts, spinach, fresh mozzarella, habanero hummus, and pecan pesto. It comes with your choice of a side, so I got the collard greens. Everything was good, but I do have to say that I didn't taste any habanero hummus (basically the reason I chose to order this wrap) and it could have used more than a teaspoon of the pecan pesto (the other part of the reason I ordered it). The presentation was nice and it didn't fall apart on me, though, so aside from those two little complaints I enjoyed my meal.
My mom got the Charleston crab cake sandwich with green tomato-caper tartar sauce and a side of jalapeño-peach coleslaw. She really enjoyed the meal and it seems that the coleslaw is the best side choice here for lunch.
Magnolias was very good, but nothing to write home about. The service was great, but I couldn't tell you when it wasn't the whole trip. The people were all so genuinely nice. 
Mommy and I still happy even after being up at 6:30 am to head to the airport.

The next day we had lunch at Caviar and Bananas up on George Street, right across the street from the College of Charleston. My friend was having lunch there and texted me that she completely forgot to mention this place and the kale salad is amazing. It's set up where you go to different stations and can build your own salad, sushi, etc. type of thing. They also have pre-made things, which is where the kale salad is and my mom got pan fried tofu, an Asian BBQ meatball, and a grain salad (I can't remember which one). I got the naked kale salad- kale, almonds, cranberries, blueberries, aged gouda, grape tomatoes, and lemon vinaigrette- and roasted asparagus. Everything we had was delish. I highly recommend this place for a quick, affordable lunch. You can see the full menu here.
They also sell grocery items in the center of the store where you can get everything from Bloody Mary Mix to pasta or olive oil.

Naked kale salad and roasted asparagus
In the marketplace there's also a little stand where you can get food from Caviar and Bananas! Fun fact: Blake Lively used them as a vendor for her wedding. Since I adore her it gave me all the more reason to try it out!

Our last lunch was at one of my friend's two favorite restaurants: Cru Cafe. From the looks of the outside of this place I don't think I'd really be enticed to try it, but apparently it's getting really popular and the concierge at my the Elliott House said he highly recommended it and it was possibly his favorite place to eat.

It's super tiny inside, so definitely make reservations for any meal here, especially if you're planning on eating during the "normal" lunch or dinner times (e.g. 11:30-2 and 5:30-8:30). That goes for most restaurants in Charleston, as I stated before. 

I got regular coffee, which was hazelnut flavored. I'm not sure if that's what they always have or if it changes, but I'm not too big on flavored coffees and theirs was good. It wasn't a really noticeable hazelnut flavor.

I got the Chinese chicken salad- julienne napa cabbage, carrots, peppers, daikon, red onion, and ginger dressing. Also, I ordered a side of the seared mushrooms. Everything was incredibly good. I was nervous about the size of the salad because in the pictures I had seen of it it didn't look very big, but it was quite large and filling. Also, it's hard to tell from pictures that there's chicken because it's all shredded, but there's enough chicken that you get some with every forkful. The mushrooms were so full of flavor and were the perfect texture. I think my mom ate 3 and I finished the rest, which was a lot. 

My mom got the 1/2 sandwich & a soup option. You can't choose any wraps as a sandwich if you do this, but they have plenty of yummy sandwich options. She chose the grilled marinated chicken club on sourdough bread. There were two soups that day: tomato bisque and some creamy mushroom soup. Clearly from the picture my mom chose the tomato. Both the sandwich and the soup were really good.

All of the three spots we went to had awesome menus and so many options that sounded good. If you're in the mood for a heavier meal then you're better off at a restaurant like Magnolias, but for a lighter, more normal sized lunch then Bananas and Caviar or Cru Cafe are for you! 

As I said, the service everywhere was great and the decor was always nice. When choosing a restaurant it's not so much a factor of what people said about it (because there really aren't bad reviews), but more of what the menu has and what you're in the mood for. 

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