Monday, June 6, 2016

Fruity Pebbles and Trix Mini Donuts

Hi guys! It’s been awhile, I know. I will try to be better about posting all of our culinary adventures!

This was my 4th year participating in my company’s bake sale. It’s something people look forward to all year. This year I was on the committee and we really went all out – silent auction, raffle tickets, pretty pink décor (for BCA), etc. I wanted to think of something a little out of the box. Year after year I’ve seen much of the same items – cupcakes, cookies, pies. Although these are all GREAT things for a bake sale (and for life in general) I wanted mine to stand out. I wanted to make something really colorful and eye catching, so what’s a girl to do? I started Pinteresting any and all ideas. Enter: these adorabley instagram worthy mini donuts.

I’ve found that in years prior, the mini/bite sized items are the best sellers at our sale. People like to sample an array of treats, so making items smaller makes it easier for people to try multiple things (and not feel as guilty if you’re into that sort of thing). ANYWAY, I had the idea of topping my mini donuts with colorful cereal. I have seen this on social media – there’s a bakery on the Jersey shore that does this and I thought it was kind of genius. So no, not a completely original idea on my part but they did come out pretty cute! They all sold out and I was happy about that (all many goes to charity). The donuts themselves are regular vanilla donuts with a vanilla glaze (original recipe here). They make look small, but the bite packs a big punch – the soft, sweet donut with the crunchy cereal makes chowing down on one of these so satisfying. I used Fruity Pebbles cereal and Trix cereal as the toppings, but you can use whatever cereal you’d like!

PRO tip: If you make the donuts the night before, that’s OK (I put mine in a sealed Tupperware). Just don’t top them with the cereal until the day you are serving them. I read this tip and it makes so much sense – the cereal will definitely get soggy if it’s sitting on top of the glaze overnight. The best part of these is the crunchy cereal, so don’t make that mistake! The other tip is not to fill the donut cavity too much. I struggle with this every time I bake! If you fill them with too much batter, your donuts will end up looking more like misshapen cupcakes vs. donuts. I made extra just in case I didn’t like how a few of them came out.

Here they are displayed at the bake sale!

Thanks for reading! Will post again soon!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Twisted Elm Tavern - Best Brunch in North Jersey

Do you SEE this photo?! If you need any more convincing to visit this local gem, here you go…

The atmosphere is very relaxed – think rustic, big wooden saloon-type bar and high vaulted ceilings. Don’t be fooled by the simple décor – the food here is NO JOKE. I found this place by Googling “best boozy brunches in NJ” for a bestie date, and the Twisted Elm was on the list. We’re not your typical eating a side salad for lunch chicks – we want FOOD. Hearty, delicious food and a lot of it. I clicked on the Twisted Elm Tavern solely because I liked the name. After browsing some food photos online and on Instagram, I was convinced that this place would definitely be our speed. The photo that did it for me was the gorgeous MOUND of chicken and waffles that I saw someone post on Instagram. I screenshotted the photo and sent it to my friend. Her response? “We need it. What time we going?” The photo above is of my very own heavenly chicken and waffles.

We visited Twisted Elm at 1:00pm on Saturday. I made a reservation because I didn’t know how busy they got. There was a good amount of people there when we walked in. A good mix of younger people and families. They only offer brunch 11:30-2:30pm, so I wanted to make sure we were covered. The waitress came over immediately and asked us if we wanted our complimentary cocktail yet. UM…YES???? You can choose from a screwdriver, mimosa, bellini or bloody mary. My friend got the screwdriver, which came in a biggg glass. I got the mimosa and it was very tasty. The drink refills were very reasonable – I think my second mimosa was $6. As we enjoyed our drinks, the waitress brought over a complimentary basket of homemade biscuits and blueberry muffins. I mean, I already loved this place. Free drinks and carbs? Count me in. The biscuits were delicious, and were served with a strawberry butter on the side. I would normally not have tried it, but was feeling adventurous that day (reallyyyy living on the wild side, guys). The combo of the fresh biscuit and strawberry butter was delicious. I went back for more. The muffins we didn’t try – neither of us are big on blueberries so that was a little sad! They looked good though.

Now onto the main event. After seeing that mouth-watering chicken and waffles photo online, I couldn’t get it out of my head until we sat down to eat. There was no question – we both got the chicken and waffles. Excuse me, the chicken and BACON waffles. Yes, bacon inside the waffle. I can’t say enough good things about this dish. I’ve only had chicken and waffles once before, and was slightly weirded out by the combo. I’m from Jersey – not exactly chicken and waffles capital of the US. However, I savored every single bite of this meal at Twisted Elm. The waffles were perfectly cooked, and the bacon baked inside was such a welcomed surprise. The chicken was outstanding – bone-in, juicy and soft on the inside with probably one of the greatest crusts/breading on the outside I’ve ever had. It was nice and crispy and had a crunch to it. Getting the perfect bite of chicken, waffle and maple syrup was nearly heaven. They usually serve this dish with a blueberry agave syrup, but again, not big on blueberries so I opted for regular maple. If this doesn’t seem like enough food already, they serve it with these rustic, wonderfully seasoned potatoes on the side. I am a HUGE potato lover, and even those took the back seat to the chicken and waffles. Almost unheard of. The potatoes were really good though – they had a nice crispy skin on the outside and like I said, seasoned to perfection. The meal also came with a little side of fruit, which was almost comical to me. The fruit did not get touched, needless to say. We ate to the point of near death, and it was well worth it. We didn’t even eat dinner that night, and opted for light snacks instead. Bring your appetite.

In closing, I will definitely be back. My husband was insanely jealous of our photos, especially after we told him how awesome the food was. For all we got (free drink, free biscuit/muffin basket, another drink, 2 orders of chicken and waffles) the bill was roughly $50 for 2 people which was NOT bad at all. To me, this is the perfect brunch place if you live in the area. No prissy, uptight salad eaters allowed.

 A bestie date would not be complete without a selfie, duh.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

White Manna Hamburgers

Hi All! Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend. My husband and I finally got the chance to stop by White Manna Hamburgers in Hackensack, NJ. I have an ongoing list of local joints I want to check out, and this one has been on the list for a while. 

After driving by one day, I immediately knew I wanted to eat there. I love old timey diners and eateries! Upon further research, I realized that this little dive is actually quite famous - it's been featured on multiple Food Network shows (one being Diners, Drive-ins and Dives), and has been in business since 1946. People rave about the burgers, and now I can see why! 

White Manna Hamburgers in Hackensack, New Jersey

After digging a little deeper (I overly research EVERYTHING) there's a few things you need to know before going!

1. Ordering: There's a specific way to order your meal. The chef cooks the mini burgers right in front of you, and you order directly from him - number of burgers (they're small), with or without cheese, with or without onions, with or without pickles. The onions don't come in just a few pieces - it's like a HUGE dome of onions. Not my thing so I got mine without. If you want french fries or a drink, you order that from the person manning the cash register (the chef only takes burger orders). Condiments and ketchup are on the counter. 

2. Tight Quarters: What you see is what you get. White Manna really is that small. There's about 12 stools in the whole place. We sat at the counter to the left of the chef, and watched him work his burger magic. At one point I think he had 30 mini burgers on the grill at once. The patties are not pre-made either - we watched him pull off pieces of the meat mix and shape them quickly before plopping them on the grill. Super fresh! We dropped by at around 1pm on a Saturday and the place was PACKED. Because it's very small, be conscious of your place in line. It can get tricky with people picking up their food, paying and leaving. 

3. To Stay or to Go: You can get your order to stay or go - if you can find a spot, I suggest staying to eat. It's fun to watch the happenings of this place. There were locals that looked like they had been eating there for years. The chef knew a few people by name and sight. It's kind of like a local bar that's been open since the beginning of time and everyone knows each other. The decor looks like it hasn't been updated since the 40's, but that's what makes it cool. Just watching the chef churn out burger after burger with such precision was entertainment enough for me. This place cranks out 800 - 1,000 burgers PER DAY according to Food Network. 

4. Paying: If you stay to eat, you can pay when you're finished. When paying, remember exactly what you ordered. They don't give you a receipt so be conscious of that. This place is super cheap, it's actually kind of crazy what you get for your money! My husband and I each got 2 mini burgers with cheese, shared an order of french fries and each got a soda - the bill was $13. We work in NYC, and one sandwich for lunch could be $13! Outstanding quality at a great price. The chef has a tip jar - it's not necessary to tip. We did after seeing how hard he was hustling. Other people did too. 

5. THE BURGERS! Last but certainly not least, how were the burgers, you ask? After the confusing ordering process, remembering your bill, maybe getting confused who was next in line, waiting for the burgers to be cooked from scratch - how WAS it? It was quite honestly one of the best burgers I've ever had. No joke. I LOVE burgers and savored every single bite of my White Manna burgers. The burger itself was so tasty and tender. After being open since the 40's, this place definitely has their meat mix down pat. The cheese was super melty which I loved - huge pet peeve is when cheese on a burger is not melted all the way - gross. They use Martin's potato rolls which is the only brand my husband and I buy when we make burgers - they are simply the best! I put a little ketchup on mine and went to town. It's like biting into a little heavenly pillow. 

That's all for today! We will definitely be back to this local gem soon!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Beautiful Cake Batter Bark with Sprinkles

Hi guys! I made this super pretty Cake Batter Bark for our holiday cocktail party and it was a big hit! (Original post here). It's pretty easy, and only takes 4 ingredients - dark chocolate, white chocolate, cake mix and sprinkles!

My bark before I broke it into pieces - Love it!

I always like to have a few dessert options for my parties, and this one is easy to make AND can be made in advance. I made it the day before and let it harden in the fridge. Right before guests came I broke it into pieces with my hands and threw it in a festive Christmas server.

The only mistake I made was not waiting until the dark chocolate was completely cooled before adding the white chocolate layer - as you can see by my photos, the 2 chocolates mixed together a bit. The original recipe has one clearly white side and one dark side. It still tasted great though and was a pretty dessert to make for a crowd! I would definitely make it again - next time I might add some nuts or something to give it a crunchy element.

My bark all ready to be eaten!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bacon Wrapped Crackers - Cocktail Party Heaven

Hi guys! The holidays are still upon us, which means (hopefully) some more fun parties to attend. With those parties usually comes some delicious cocktail party food!

My husband and I hosted our annual Christmas cocktail party a few weeks ago. Not a gathering goes by where our friends and family don't request Greg's bacon wrapped crackers! They are SO easy and a huge crowd pleaser. Check out what you'll need and step by step below. And if you need any more convincing than BACON WRAPPED CRACKERS, see photos below.

I know. Just ridiculously good looking, right?

What You'll Need:
(Makes about 25, depending on how many pieces of bacon in 1 pound)

  • Club crackers
  • 1 pound of bacon (preferably regular cut, not thick)
  • Brown sugar
  • Baking sheet with wire wrack 
  • Measuring spoons

How To:
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees
  2. Cut each piece of bacon in half
  3. Put a teaspoon of brown sugar onto each cracker. Friendly tip - if you use a measuring spoon that's longer in shape, it allows for more even distribution on the cracker vs. a rounder shape teaspoon.
  4. Wrap one slice of bacon around the sugar-covered cracker. Start at one end of the cracker, hold end of bacon tightly onto cracker, and wrap diagonally until cracker is wrapped snugly. The bacon should cover most of the cracker as shown in the photos.
  5. Place on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet to avoid sogginess (seen below). 
  6. Bake for 2 hours.
  7. Can be served hot or at room temperature. 
  8. Snag one while you can, there will be none left! 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Apple Roses!

Hi everyone! Hope you guys had a great Thanksgiving! We made these neat Apple Roses as a surprise Thanksgiving dessert treat and were really happy with the results. We did a trial run at home before the holiday, just to make sure they came out OK. They are really fun to make and not too difficult. They look really impressive, and are a great treat to take to someone's home as a host/hostess gift! The original recipe (see below) makes 6 roses, so we doubled it. They are the perfect light dessert after everyone eats too much and just wants a taste or something sweet. Highly recommend trying them!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

How To Make...Tropical Tacos!

Hi friends! This has become one of my husband and I's favorite weekday meals. It's so flavorful and most of all - pretty quick to make. Tropical tacos,  as we know call them, kinda happened by accident. We bought this sauce to try with pork, but realized after we got home that it's supposed to be for chicken. Don't worry - you won't be sorry. The flavor combination works just as well on pork tenderloin! Read on for the how to.

You'll Need:

  • Pork tenderloin
  • Gold's Dip n' Joy Sweet and Sour Saucy Chicken Sauce
  • Shredded cheese
  • Hot sauce
  • Hard taco shells

1. Marinate a pork tenderloin overnight in Gold's Dip n' Joy Sweet and Sour Saucy Chicken Sauce.
2. Put in grill pan to get some color on the outside of the meat
3. Cut into cubes, then put back in the pan to cook through with more of the Gold's sauce and some hot sauce, if desired.
4. Serve in hard or soft taco shells with shredded Mexican 4 cheese blend.
5. Top with a little more hot sauce if you like things spicy!

The sweet and spicy sauce combined with the pork and crunch of the hard taco shell (and of course, cheese) is really kick ass. Enjoy!

Here's what the sauce looks like. Definitely a keeper!