Sunday, November 18, 2012

Food Is Quite A Novelty

***Out of Towners***

Gennaro's - Princeton, NJ

Pannette Balsamico
Gnocchi La Rosa
     I just have to write about this place... briefly. Post speed order weigh in, our lovely host family for the weekend took us to Gennaro's. Mary, Antonia and I split this spinach salad that was deadly. It had walnuts and gorgonzola cheese and had a light sherry vinagrette drizzled on top. The whole thing was topped with a few slices of grilled pears. Such a creative salad. Mary and I split the Gnocchi La Rosa and the Pannette Balsamico. BEST GNOCCHI EVER. The gnocchi weren't the normal small little footballs you're use to. No. They were these huge hunking blocks. Rather rectangular. They were bathing in the most amazing vodka sauce I've ever tasted, sun dried tomatoes and peas. We scraped every ounce of that sauce off the plate with the last few rolls from our second basket of bread.
     The Pannette Balsamico was penne pasta tossed in a balsamic cream sauce with grilled chicken and champignon mushrooms. This dish was fabulous too. Such rich and savory flavors. Pretty sure our bodies were in shock because they hadn't been that stuffed with such delicious food in a long time. Sitting upright, keeping our eyes open and staying engaged in the conversation was next to impossible. If you go to Princeton, you MUST eat at Gennaro's...especially if you're looking to carbo-load.

CocoLuxe - Peapack, NJ

Vanilla Bean Cake
     This was now the second time I got to experience the magic of CocoLuxe. It's this amazing bakery near Antonia's home in New Jersey. Her mom brought a carrot cake to Boston from this bakery once before and it was fabulous. This time, she got us a vanilla bean cake. Normally, when I think of cake, I want it to be chocolate. If there's no chocolate, I'm bored with it. However, this was a different story. This cake was so delicious and moist. You could really taste the vanilla bean itself in the icing. It was unlike any other vanilla icing I've ever had. It was definitely a buttercream frosting, but I didn't feel like I was eating a stick of butter in each bite (Mary and Antonia thought otherwise).

Cafe Kariz - Cambridge, MA

Classic Pepperoni and Cheese
Cinnabon & Pretzel Pit Stop
Artichoke, Black Olives, Feta and Spinach
     The ride back from races is always interesting. Food is such a novelty, so it's only natural to want to eat as many things as possible. This generally involves multiple stops. Unless... you go to a mall that has everything. We went on a little excursion somewhere in Connecticut to this enormous mall where we indulged in 2 huge cinnabons, a big salted pretzel and ice cream. Success.
     When we rolled back into town, we had collectively decided we were going to demolish a couple pizzas. Cafe Kariz did the trick. We ordered this phenomenal veggie pizza that had artichokes, feta, black olives and spinach on it. It was so good! Normally I'm not a fan of canned things on pizzas, and I think the artichokes were canned, but I didn't care this time. Why? Because there was cheese everywhere. Feta doesn't melt like most other cheeses, which made this pizza really unique in my mouth.
      The other pizza we got was half cheese and half pepperoni. Classic. These pizza were quick, delicious and satisfied our pizza craving. In an effort to cross one other thing off our list, we ordered a side of french fries... which turned out to be cajun waffle fries? Huh. Ok. Still tasty :]

Cookies and Cream Popcorn - Cambridge, MA

Cookies and Cream Popcorn
     I had been wanting to make this pinterest find for a while. The perfect opportunity presented itself when I found out that I was in charge of bringing snack for my faithgroup and one of my teammates (who had previously expressed interest in this recipe) got invited to train at the training center in Princeton. It was the perfect gift. So, making this is so easy. Melt a bag of white chocolate chips, pour it on plain popped popcorn and mix in chopped up oreos (or in this case, trader joe's joe-joes). I should seriously start mass producing this and selling it.

Cookies and Cream Popcorn
  • 1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels, or 2 bags tender white popcorn
  • 1 (12 oz) bag Vanilla Candy Melts, such as Wilton
  • 24 Oreo cookies, chopped into pebble size pieces (about 3 cups)
1) Pop popcorn kernels in popcorn popper into a very large bowl, according to manufacturers directions (or alternately in microwave if using microwave popcorn bags). Remove any unpopped kernels. Toss chopped Oreos into popped popcorn.

2) In a small saucepan, melt Vanilla Candy Melts stirring almost constantly until melted and smooth. Drizzle half of melted candy melts over popcorn mixture. Toss several times with a rubber spatula then drizzle remaining melted candy melts over popcorn mixture and toss mixture gently for about 30 seconds - 1 minute until evenly coated.

3) Pour mixture into wax paper to allow mixture to cool and candy melts to set. Store Cookies and Cream Popcorn in an airtight container.

Biba Baked Beans - Cambridge, MA

Biba Baked Beans
     Crock pot Fridays at work. Great idea, right? So Griff and I decided to make this happen. He was making cornbread, and I wanted to make this recipe for Biba Baked Beans that I got from some old guy at a neighborhood potluck here in Cambridge. I loved this stuff so much and had to get the recipe from him. I made the vegan version, partially because that's what he served and I loved it, but also because one of my coworkers is vegan and I wanted him to be able to enjoy it. So the night before, I started soaking my beans in salt water with a little thyme. This was my first time doing this, so I really didn't know what I was doing. When I woke up the next morning, the beans had sucked up every ounce of water in the bowl. The original recipe is below, but I had a few modifications or changes I'd recommend. Feel free to make it vegetarian by omitting the bacon. It's still amazing. If you're soaking your own beans, make sure you add enough water. If you're cooking it in a crock pot, plan on cooking it for an hour or two longer than if you were actually baking it like the recipe says. If you're doubling the recipe, only use one jalapeno. Also, coriander and cilantro are the same thing? Who knew?

Biba Baked Beans
  • 1 cup dried kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup dried cannellini beans
  • 1/2 cup dried Great Northern beans
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 pound thick-sliced smoked bacon, in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crushed canned tomatoes
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Grated rind of one orange
  • 1/2 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar (approximately)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1) Place beans in a bowl, cover with cold water to a depth of 2 inches, add thyme and salt and allow to soak at least 4 hours or overnight.

2) Heat a heavy 2- to 3-quart casserole. Add cumin seeds and stir until they begin to dance around and smell toasty. Remove seeds and set aside.

3) Add oil. Saute the onion, carrot and bacon for 10 minutes, until the bacon is golden. Add jalapeno pepper, garlic and cumin seeds and cook a few minutes longer.

4) Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

5) Drain beans and add to the casserole along with canned and fresh tomatoes, maple syrup, brown sugar, bay leaf, orange rind and crushed peppercorns. Stir in all but 1 tablespoon of the coriander. Add 2 cups cold water. Cover and bring to slow simmer.

6) Place beans in oven and cook for 1 hour. Add vinegar and season to taste with salt. Cook 1 hour longer, until liquid has been absorbed but the beans are still moist.

7) Adjust seasonings. Add salt and pepper and up to 2 more tablespoons cider vinegar if desired. Garnish with reserved coriander.

Pinkberry - Boston, MA

Chocolate Hazelnut Frozen Yogurt 
     After running around Boston like a crazy person on a mission to pick up a check for my boss, it was 5:45pm, pitch black outside, I was frustrated and I still needed to go row. Solution? Get frozen yogurt. Load up on chocolate. I ventured to Pinkberry in the Prudential Center mall. It was my first time. The workers were super friendly and they let me try 4 different flavors. This was all new and exciting for me :] I ended up ordering the chocolate hazelnut frozen yogurt and they topped it with brownie bits, dark chocolate crisps, heath bar, sea salt crackers, and a couple of those chocolate filled wafer sticks. I was in heaven. This little bucket of joy was so full of chocolate, and I didn't feel too bad for eating it. My mood improved by leaps and bounds thanks to this. That and the perfectly flat water in the basin. So I went for a row. 

Mariposa Bakery - Cambridge, MA

     Still working through my post speed order treats list, I wanted to find a chocolate chocolate chip muffin. Problem.... NOT ONE BAKERY IN CAMBRIDGE SELLS CHOCOLATE MUFFINS. Believe me. I called 12 different bakeries, visited 6 or 7 other coffee shops. Nothing. Not even Starbucks or Whole Foods. I was so upset. That didn't last long. Eventually I "settled" on a bakery I've been wanting to visit called Mariposa. They had told me they had a mini chocolate bunt cake,  and I figured that was as close as I was going to get. So I ordered this perfectly fluffy and chocolatey bunt cake with powdered sugar on top. It was soft and moist and just great! I had the silly idea that I would only eat half and would save the other half for later. But, as I said, that idea was silly. So I polished off the whole thing and ordered a chocolate chip cookie, which was equally delicious. 

Zoe's Kitchen - Cambridge, MA

Sweet Potato Pancakes
     After Head of the Charles, Ilana recommended getting sweet potato pancakes from Zoe's. She said they were phenomenal and oh boy... they were just that. I headed in on the Sunday morning after the Harvard - Yale game and it was a madhouse. Luckily, I was alone, so I found one seat at the counter and didn't have to wait at all. Beyond the thousands of hungry people, the place had a retro classic diner feel. I ordered three huge sausage links (hello sodium) and three sweet potato pancakes. The pancakes were so delicious! I couldn't believe it. They were full of spice. The pumpkin pie kind of spice. I thought they may taste a lot like normal pancakes with just a little pumpkin flavor. No no. This was a whole other animal. They served theses cakes with a whipped spice butter. I tried the butter on its own at first and was not really impressed, BUT then I put it on the pancakes and it brought them even more to life. It was mind blowing. AND they served pure maple syrup. Props Zoe. You done well. 

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies - Cambridge, MA

     So I frequent this blog called Fat Girl Trapped In A Skinny Body... probably because I feel I can relate. She has this recipe for goat cheese stuffed chocolate chip cookies, and I had leftover goat cheese from some pizzas Antonia and I made the other day. I figured, why not? I made only a half batch in case they didn't turn out. She said the combination of goat cheese and chocolate is divine, and I wanted to test it out. 
     Final analysis? My emotions are mixed. The cookie part is beyond delicious. But I'm not sure how I feel about the tang of the goat cheese mixed in. I first tried one right out of the oven and that was definitely not my favorite. Maybe because the goat cheese was warm? But normally I'm not adversed to warm goat cheese. After they had cooled for a couple hours, I tried another one and enjoyed it a bit more. However, I still can't decide how I feel about it and it's really bugging me out. I think because I had such high expectations. Hmm... maybe having another will help me figure things out :] Also, my roommate uses parchment paper to cook his cookies on and it makes them absolutely perfect. I figured I'd try it out this time and it worked like a charm! The bottoms of the cookies were perfectly crisp and they spread so nicely. Loving this parchment paper. Unreasonably excited.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (not instant, although it may work, I just haven’t tried it)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk, or dark chocolate, which ever you prefer)
  • 5 ounces goat cheese (1 small log)
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2) Beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). With the mixer on low, add the egg and the vanilla.

3) Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together into a separate bowl. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture.

4) Add the oats and chocolate chips and mix just until combined.

5) Drop 1-inch mounds of dough onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper. take each ball of dough in your hand and slightly flatten it. To half of the semi flat dough rounds, add add a small dollop of goat cheese. Cover the goat cheese with a piece of semi flat dough. Roll it around in your hands to seal the edges and to reform a dough ball. Place it back on the cookie sheet, spaced about 1-2 inches apart. Flatten each ball slightly with a damp hand.

6) Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a baking rack and cool completely. Store baked cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for about 3-4 days.

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