Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chocolate Lovers Club

I love me a Groupon! It's a great way to find out about new places and try them without a lot of financial risk. After a very disappointing meal at Rats in Hamilton, I'm leery of trying a pricier place without knowing if it's worth it.

So when a Groupon came through for Chocolate Lover's Club and I just had to go for it!

It started with a taste of 75% Jamaican chocolate that had exactly 2 ingredients : chocolate and sugar. Heaven!

Then we had Nappa cabbage & pineapple slaw with cocoa nibs.

Chocolate jerk chicken & shrimp over rice.

And ice cream with hot fudge and an iced Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee chaser!

Joanne - the proprietor had tons of chocolate facts, like having our own private Alton Brown for the night.

It was a fun way to spend an evening and I recommend it, especially for the social aspect - you'll meet a lot of other folks who love chocolate as much as you do.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: PB&U - Peanut Butter Restaurant

My daughter and I both love peanut butter so we were very excited when we saw PB&U in the Moorestown Mall in Moorestown, NJ. It's a quick service concept - order at the counter and eat in the provided tables.

Little miss ordered a half PB pizza with chocolate chip and M&M toppings:

While I ordered on of their "creations"...

....peanut butter, banana, bacon and honey.

The pizza was good but would have been very good if there was less peanut butter on it. It was mouth glue-ingly gooey.

The sandwich was less than good. Oh, I know you're thinking I deserved what I got for ordering bacon and peanut butter but I'm a pretty adventurous eater. And being a foodie, I know what goes with what before I put it in my yap.

Bread was ordered toasted on purpose to offset the PB and bananas but it was not toasted to crispness. And like the pizza, there was too much peanut butter. Bananas were not ripe enough and joined the PB and bread to make cement in my mouth. AND THEY DON'T SERVE MILK. Really?! At a peanut butter themed restaurant. No milk. Ok, WHATever. Resorted to diluting the wad with Nantucket Nectar Lemonade.

Worst of all the bacon was undercooked. I was looking for the salty, crisp bacon to play off the sweet honey and creamy banana & PB. But it was chewy and fatty making the whole sandwich an unpleasant texture. This was the second time this week, I had undercooked bacon served to me on a sandwich - ATTENTION! ALL FOODSERVICE PEOPLES...cook the damn bacon or don't serve it at all. Thank you.

Overall rating: Great idea - meh execution.

- DK

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: Vincetown Diner

On a recommendation from a twitter friend, we took a ride to Vincetown, NJ in search of the Vincetown Diner. It looks like any other diner on the outside but it's menu is far from ordinary. Many items are organic and the ingredients are as local as possible. A creative flair adds gastronomic fun - the chicken cupcakes, for instance. Excellent chicken meatloafs made in muffin pans with mashed potato "frosting".

My hubby, Monsterfink, had a burger made from local beef that he greatly enjoyed. And our daughter ordered the Mickey pancakes with sausage:

that came with REAL maple syrup!

Her breakfast sausages were out of this world - I snagged a taste!

My entree came with a salad that was actually a salad - so many other places plunk down a bowl of sad iceberg, but this salad was crisp, fresh and had a homemade crouton. Bonus!

Entrees also come with warm bread with 3 types of organic butter - cranberry (tangy creamy goodness), plain, and parsley garlic (OMG- soooo good!).

The meal was so big with 2 full sized chicken cupcakes and half the plate filled with seasoned veggies, I took half home for a full meal the next day. Entree was only 14.99 so both the meals I got out of it were only 7.50 each.

Dessert was to die for blueberry crumb pie made in house with local NJ blueberries. The berries were sweet and paired perfectly with the butter crumb topping. Served warm with whipped cream, it was heaven on a plate.

My daughter's ice cream was beautifully presented, rich and creamy...

This meal was a perfect end to our summer foodie staycation. To combat my food hangover after the week long foodventure, it's on to exercise, whole grain and organic produce goodness!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

RTB: Crock Pots = Healthy Cheap Eats (part 2)

On day 2 it was Grain A Palooza in the crock pots...

Crock Pot 1: steel cut oats in water with a pinch of salt - to be used at ready to go oatmeal. Got 'em bulk at whole foods and paid like $2 for what ended up being an entire crock of oatmeal. Not bad for shopping at a store known as "Whole Paycheck", huh?

Still not impressed with the cheap eats? Hang in there...

Crock Pot 2: didn't have a plan so I scrounged through the pantry. Found one packet of Kashi pilaf left in a box and a quarter a bag of brown lentils. They were tossed in again with water and a pinch of salt. The neutral flavor of the water lets me season and use the finished product any darn way I want. Might even use this one as breakfast.

Not lovin' the whole grain, used what I got laying around to make complete vegan protein goodness? Alright...hang onto yourself....

Crock Pot 3: remember the vegetarian stock from Healthy Cheap Eats part 1? Tossed that in with some spelt berries I got FREE from a dietitian colleague who was lucky? enough to win a 25 pound bag of it. It can be tossed in salads, soups, used as a side dish or dressed up as an entree.
It make a whole pot of whole grain high protein love that COST NOTHING! The stock was made from trimmings and the spelt was a freebie, so there!
If you have any tips or tricks to save time and money on food, leave 'em in the comments - don't be stingy, share the love!

PS: Toast the spelt first before crock potting for a nuttier flavor.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Staycation: Ringing Rocks Park and Homestead General Store

If you follow my tweets, you know I love love love Suburban Organics. And will often add a bag of coffee locally roasted in Buck's County to the order. This info will appear to have no bearing on the post but, hang in there, there's a point to this.

During our staycation we went to Ringing Rocks Park which is only an hour's drive away. After packing a picnic lunch, half a gallon of water and a hammer (for the rocks) we were on our way.

Right before the turn for the park, we passed a general store advertising ice cream and fresh roasted coffee. Too bad I'm not Tyler...

After some hiking, hitting rocks (yes, about a third of them do ring!) and having an overall grand time for absolutely no money (the park is free), I figured it'd be OK to spend a few sheckles at the the general store.

After entering, the aroma of coffee pulled me to many bins of bulk coffee by Homestead roasters - very same local Buck's County company I had purchased through Suburban Organics! This was the origin and I was thrilled to have found it, even by accident. After helping myself to a pound of an intriguing blend...

We ordered Pennsylvania Dutch ice cream in a mind bendingly good flavor: cake with fudge frosting ripples and sat in the dining room to enjoy it.

My daughter loved that the chairs looked like watermelons. (So did I.) And there were pump pots full of brewed coffee to enjoy with our ice cream.

I can't recommend this enough...Ringing Rocks is just big enough to spend a few unusually fun hours and cooling off in the the general store on the way out was a perfect end to the day. The ride to and from on either Route 29 (NJ side) or 32 (PA side) is tree lined and offers amazing views of the Delaware.

Crowded theme parks will never rival a trip with my little girl where we share exceptional food and natural wonders.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Staycation: Field Guide for New Hope, PA

During our Staycation, we spent some time about a half an hour away in New Hope, PA. Although fun, it's one of those towns that brings a lotta tourists.
To successfully New Hope on a summer Sunday, a few givens need to be considered:
- most shops don't open until noon
- once shops open, parking and traffic are an issue
- shopping in specialty stores does not thrill children
- crowds hit the restaurants at lunch & dinner

Check it:
- Bring a cooler with an ice pack and bills/change for parking.
- Park in the Union Square parking lot between 10-10:30. It'll be dead cause most everything isn't open yet.
- Eat brunch at Sprig & Vine, which opens at 10:00. It's an excellent vegetarian restaurant with generous portions so pack half up in the cooler.
- Check out Olive N Grape after brunch cause it opens at 11:00 and is a short walk from the restaurant.
- Walk to the back of the Union Square Parking lot at noon for the Children's Museum
- After the Museum, the kids'll let you shop for a while now they've been fed/entertained and all the stores are open. And you'll notice the parking lot is full and there are people everywhere! But you already have a spot, so nyeh to them!

At Sprig & Vine, My French toast with blueberry compote and ginger lemon cream was spicy, sweet and decadent!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Staycation: New food joints close to home

This year we bought an iPad, renovated the deck, invested in a Big Green Egg and purchased an elliptical machine. Just doing' our part to stimulate the economy... but that doesn't leave a heckuva lotta ching for vacations.

But a vacation can still rock without departing for places far, far away. And in many ways a vacation from home base is better. No packing or layovers. No dealing with family members curled into fetal positions due to fear of flying. No week's worth of laundry to do when you get home.

We eased into Staycation nice n easy today. You know how when you're busy with daily life you tend to eat out at the same restaurants? Not during Staycation you don't! The whole fam had dinner at Dolce and Clementes in Robbinsville, NJ.

My picky 6 year old was very happy with her slice of pizza with housemade sauce and fresh mozzarella (once I picked off the fresh basil of course).

Hubby (aka Monsterfink) ordered and inhaled a toasted Parmesan sandwich that was half homemade meatballs, half sausage and smothered in the fresh mozzarella. Crunchy toasted roll, meaty and cheesy heaven.

I had the Woody (heh heh)... smoked turkey, sharp cheddar, bacon, sun dried tomato and roasted red pepper mayo on a toasted roll. Enough to fill me up for dinner and bring half home for dinner tomorrow.

Annnnd...it's an Italian market so there are huge glass cases with foodie coma inducing things to buy, take home and cram in mah face! Like the seven (count them) seven cheese Mac & cheese that's waiting in our fridge right now. I can hear it calling...

I ate my sandwich too fast on our Staycation to take a pic. But this is the sandwich I inhaled on my first visit. Chicken breast, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella and balsamic reduction on a toasted roll. Mmmmmm. Yeah.. Good times.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More Meatless Monday Madness

Writing this post Monday night after doing an entire vegan day. The plan is to finish this, shower and hit the bed before some kind of animal related item jumps into my gob. Seriously, how do the vegans do this everyday?
So, get this, Sunday night I actually write a menu like I would for something at work cause it's just about the only way I can be sure to keep it animal free. One of my menued items was a grilled peach snack which I manage to screw up by seasoning with honey ginger white balsamic vinegar. Honey comes from bees so the peaches get put away for a Tuesday snack.
Anyway, here's what I ended up with..
Oatmeal and brown rice protein powder cooked in a mixture of water and coconut milk seasoned with cocoa powder, salt, vanilla and beet sugar. Apparently regular sugar can be processed with bone char so that's out. Beet sugar it is. And coffee with Mimic Creme because I learned my lesson the first week. (See my last Meatless Monday post.)
Salad - sliced radishes and radish greens dressed with cinnamon pear balsamic vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette.
Vegan burrito - whole wheat tortilla, BBQ rub seasoned corn pan seared with chipotle olive oil, spelt, onions, garlic and Helen's Kitchen Vegan Chorizo
I have not yet found a premade frozen vegan or vegetarian burrito that tastes like...anything I would want to spend money on or eat again. But mine was quite yummy so I made enough to put up 3 more in the freezer.
Suburban Organics banana split and spread with chocolate PB2. So. Damn. Good.
Shirataki noodles stir fried with beet greens and roasted edamame seasoned with fresh ginger and General Tso's sauce over raw kale. Grabbed a double sized side of Sodexo's country kitchen vegetables to go along with it cause I was dining at work.
Spelt topped with Italian seitan, tomato sauce and vegan mozzarella shreds. Nuked till warm. Hey- I was out of ideas, had the stuff in the fridge and it worked.
Almost killed it when I passed the empty pizza box from my hubby and daughter's dinner. A little cheese was stuck in it so I plucked it and almost tossed it down the hatch. Stopped myself just in time!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

RTB: Crock Pots = Cheap Healthy Eats (part 1)

My day job keeps this foodie busy on workdays which doesn't leave alot of time to make tasty and healthy food. Having lost 60 lbs in the last 15 months, I have few tricks up my sleeve to make sure I'm eating what's healthy and not what's easy. Typically, easy = not so good for me.
Enter the best gift ever - the three compartment crock pot ! It's 3 crock pots in one unit and each pot has independent controls. Meaning that one can be set on high, one at low and one not turned on at all if that's whatcha wanna do. So awesome for makin' alotta different food.
So, I had 2 whole days off in a row last week. (Right!? How'd that happen?) Set up the crock pots on day 1 with...

Sofrito is kinda a spanish mirepoix. It's usually buzzed raw in a food processor and used in stews, etc. But Monsterfink hates the texture of
veggie although loves the flavor. So our sofrito gets slow cooked and pureed before it smothers grilled chicken with cheese on top. (Yummmm!)
Vegan Chili:

This recipe came from the Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps I won from Steph Chows. Great recipe - my only change was to toss in a few dried, diced ancho peppers. No recipe is ever made as is in my house. Gotta make 'em my own!
Homemade Vegetable Stock:

Every friday Suburban Organics delivers a box of AMAZing organic veggies to my doorstop. When I make salad, etc I can't bear to toss out the perfectly good trimmings so I keep 'em. Like that honkin' big chunk from the bottom of a head of cauliflower or a ton of broccoli stems. I mean, how much broccoli slaw can one girl eat? They all get dumped in the crock pot with filtered water, celery, carrots and onion. Then set & forget - if the stock isn't quite flavorful enough when all the veggies are soft, strain and simmer on the stovetop to reduce it.
Once everything is done, it get's separated into serving sizes, dated/labelled and put up in the freezer. Homemade so it tastes great and is seasoned to my own finicky tastes, thaw and use so I stay on the path to healthy hotness and CHEAP!!!!!!
What's not to love?
- DK
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