Tag Archives: Chicken

{ El Vez } *****

 Chicken Chopped Salad1
 
121 S 13th Street (on corner of Sansom)
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215.928.9800

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No one enjoys Mexican food more than I do. I know it’s a bold statement, but I dare to make the claim and stand behind it. I could literally eat a taco for every meal, each day, for the rest of my entire life….and be perfectly happy about it!

Naturally, being a Philadelphia resident and a Mexican food slut, I was very anxious to try Stephen Starr’s trendy El Vez restaurant, located on the corner of 13th and Sansom. The décor is fitting for a place located in the heart of Philly’s Gay-borhood; the colors are loud, bright, and fun with retro wall hangings, and uniquely structured booths. The bar is certainly a scene, drawing quite a noteworthy crowd throughout the evening (Charles Barkley was there the last time that I visited!).

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I suggest that you grab a margarita at the bar before your meal but then head to a booth for your actual meal. Personally, I like to be out of the public eye when eating Mexican food, so I can get my grub on shamelessly. …Although sometimes I do get caught!

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#I’mNotPrettyWhenIEatMexican

My two favorite cocktails on the menu are: (1) Perfecto Margarita made with el jimador blanco, Cointreau, grand marnier, and fresh lime juice (on the rocks with salt, of course!)

Skinny Marg

(2) Guava Mojito made with Bacardi, Cruzan guava rum, pink guava puree, lime, and mint. El Vez is quite famous for their Blood Orange Margarita, but I not a fan of frozen margaritas, and it cannot be served on the rocks so I have yet to try it for myself (Yelpers rave about it though!).

Guava Mojito 

I have also tried the Pina Especiada with jalapeno-infused tequila and pineapple puree, as well as the Granada Margarita, which is their version of a pomegranate margarita. The pineapple one was too acidic and the pomegranate was very generic.

Pomegranate Marg

As far as food orders go, you MUST try the Taco Tasting Platter if you want to experience a variety of flavors in one convenient and satisfying plate ($25).

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It comes with an assortment of 5 soft-shell tacos, including: seabass, beef, chicken tinga, carnitas pork, and mahi mahi. The Mahi tacos are my absolute favorite and I usually ask for two of those, in place of the one seabass taco. The Mahi fish taco is life-changing, I kid you not!

Carnita Pork Steak Spicy Chicken

I also like their guacamole, which is an enormous portion to share for a table of 3-4 people. The Bazooka Limon with goat cheese, pistachio, chile flakes, and roasted tomatoes was recommended by my server on my first visit to El Vez, and it has remained my favorite. The creamy goat cheese offsets the acid of the roasted tomatoes and the pistachios add a lovely crunchy texture to the otherwise smooth Guacamole.

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Next on my list of suggestions are the Macho Nachos with shredded steak, black beans, smoked chili salsa, sour cream, white cheddar cheese, and monterey jack. These can be ordered in a half portion for just $6!!! It is a steal because the portion is still massive. If you are dining on a budget, this is the best bang for your buck!

Macho Nacho Upclose

If your looking to keep your figure, try the Mexican Chopped Salad with Blackened Chicken, which combines romaine, watercress, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, chayote, corn, and black beans with queso fresco, crispy tortillas, and both chipotle ranch and cumin-lime vinaigrette. It looks pretty straightforward when it arrives at the table, but the layers of flavor are complex and delicious. I like to switch between the two dressings with each forkful!

Chicken Salad

Lastly, I recommend the Creamy Poblano Corn Rice as a side dish. It is similar to a rich and creamy risotto, and it packs a tiny bit of heat. Ultra decadent, but delicious.

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This is a great place to celebrate a birthday, or go in a large group because the atmosphere is fun and loud. There is also a great little photo booth near the stairs to bring home memories of your experience!

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Filed under Brunch, Buck's County, Cocktails, Dessert, Gluten Free, Lunch Spots, Mexican Restaurants, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Restaurants, Take-Out

Satay Stir Fry Sauce *****

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When I am in need of a quick dinner, stir-fry is my go-to dish. I’ve always got an abundance of veggies in the fridge for my morning omelets, so I rarely even need to make a trip to the grocery store for ingredients. Plus, it doesn’t really matter what is in the dish (i.e. chicken, veggies, steak, tofu), because we all know the secret to an incredible stir-fry lies within the sauce.

Finding just the right sauce can be tricky though, which is why I am sharing this incredible recipe for Satay Stir Fry Sauce. It only requires a few ingredients and it makes just about anything taste amazing! The surprise ingredient is chucky peanut butter, which thickens the sauce and allows it to better adhere to the veggies and/or meat for a more flavor-packed bite. I love this sauce because it is just the right consistency and balance of Asian flavors—incorporating soy, orange, ginger, peanuts, and garlic.

Use this for vegetarian stir-fries with eggplant, mushrooms, onions, snow peas, and carrots served over rice or use it as a dressing/dipping sauce for grilled meat kabobs.

All you need is….

{ Ingredients for Satay Sauce }

  • 4 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons Tamari sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 inch ginger root, peeled and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 orange, juiced

{ To Make the Satay Sauce }

Combine all of the ingredients in a sauce pan over medium-high heat and stir until well combined. The peanut butter and honey should be dissolved.

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Filed under Asian Cuisine, Recipes

Lilly’s on the Canal ****

Outsde of Lily's
609.397.62422
2 Canal Street
Lambertville, NJ 08530
 

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Unlike most females, I’m not usually one to make a big fuss over my birthday. Sure, I like a glass of champagne and something sweet to celebrate the start of a new chapter in life, but rarely do I attempt to make formal plans and I NEVER get caught trying to split the bill with my “20 closest girlfriends” at some hoity-toity birthday dinner. Those dinners always turn into a shit-show when the check arrives and the 3 real best friends—usually the roomates—end up having to pay the remainder of the unsettled bar tab while the 17 drunken acquaintances dance away.

This year, I wanted to celebrate my 24th birthday in the normal fashion—doing something quiet and relaxing. My friend, Liz, took me for a pedicure and treated me to lunch. It was a gorgeous day so we drove out Lambertville, NJ and went to Lily’s on the Canal for some Class-A chick food. The menu features incredible gourmet salads, unique sandwiches & wraps, and delicious homemade desserts. It is an ideal restaurant to bring a woman on a date, and it is the perfect spot for a ladies luncheon.

I decided to order a modified version of the Baby Spinach Salad, which came fully-loaded with grilled marinated chicken breast, balsamic glazed Portobello mushroom cap, goat cheese, seasonal tomatoes, avocado, and balsamic vinaigrette ($14). 

Chicken and Spinach Salad 

There is not one bad thing I can say about the salad. It was all of my favorite ingredients on one plate in a perfect entrée-sized portion! The chicken was warm and juicy, and the mushrooms were seasoned perfectly. I also am a huge fan of their homemade salad dressings.

Liz ordered the same salad but got it standard issue with Grilled Marinated Chicken Breast, Balsamic Glazed Portobello Mushrooms, Buttermilk Bleu Cheese, Seasonal Tomato, Avocado, and Ranch Dressing.

We also decided to share an order of the Skinny French Fries ($5), which are cut shoestring style and fried to golden delicious crisp!

Lily's French Fries

Some of my other favorite meals at Lily’s include:

The Penne with Vodka Sauce—and I usually add chicken, but you can also choose to add grilled shrimp ($15). Like it says on the menu, “it’s an oldie, but a goodie!”

I am also obsessed with the Caesar Salad with Chopped Romaine Lettuce, Creamy Goat Cheese, Applewood Bacon, Parmesan Croutons, and Caesar Dressing ($13). It is a twist on a classic Caesar, which normally has Parmesan, but the goat cheese and freshly cooked bacon bits put this salad over the top!

The burgers at Lilly’s are also quite good, and can be ordered in several different variations. I like the Three Mini Angus Beef Sliders, which are served open face with Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions, and skinny fries ($12)!

Sliders and Fries

A lighter way to enjoy their burgers, is by ordering the Burger Salad (made with Certified Angus Beef or Vegetable Patty) served over mixed greens with red onion slices, guacamole, spinach hummus, and black bean salad with a balsamic vinaigrette ($12). Not only is it delicious and filling, but you cannot beat the price for what you get!

The only dish I have tried that I wouldn’t recommend getting would be the New York Strip Steak with Blue Cheese, Mushrooms, and Onions over Skinny Fries ($25). The steak was small and very fatty. It was also very oily and too way heavy with the fries.

Steak and Blue Cheese

If you can manage to save room for dessert, I would suggest ordering a slice of one of their incredible seven layer cakes: Coconut Cake, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Truffle Cake, Chocolate Kahlua Cake—just to name a few!

Dessert Display

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Filed under Bakery, Buck's County, Cafe / Bistro, Cakes, Dessert, New Jersey Restaurants, Take-Out

Lindo Michoacan ******

l
 
702.735.6828
2655 East Dessert Inn Road
Las Vegas, Nevada

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It was night number two in Vegas and I wanted to get some quality Mexican food while I was somewhat close to the border. I didn’t want hoity toity, expensive Mexican food on the strip though. I wanted authentic Mexican at a reasonable price and so I turned to my dear friend, Google, to help me find a place. My search returned a restaurant by the name of Lindo Moachan and Yelp helped me to confirm that this was in fact a good, if not the best, spot to get Mexican “off the strip” in Vegas. One look at the menu and I was sold, so I hopped in a Taxi with my friend and the two of us headed out on a 15-20 minute drive outside of the city.

With only the first 5 minutes of the drive behind us, I started to get leery of our destination based on surrounding neighborhood, which was quickly turning into dingy strip malls and impoverished dessert homes. But then I noticed that all of the store signs were in Spanish and I knew we were getting the real deal—this was going to be a Mexican fiesta. Sure enough, we walk in and are just about the only gringos in the place. A mariachi band is playing to the left of the bar, a quincenera fills half of the dining room, and everyone is rolling their “r”s as they talk a very quick Spanish.

I take a seat, order a Javier Margarita on the rocks with salt and sit back in my booth with a smile. What more could one ask for?

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Margarita

Oh, yes…. homemade corn chips served with salsa and a spicy black bean dip! 100% complimentary and amazing, but I also had to order the Guacamole ($8.25), which was made to order at the table! My friend and I ate the entire serving, which included nearly 3 beautifully ripened avocados!

Chips and Salsa

Guacamole Bar

Round numero dos on margs.

For an entrée, we decided to share the Chicken Mole Poblano ($14.95) and 2 of the Carne Asada Tacos ($3.75 ea.). Mole, a traditional Mexican sauce made with dried chilies and a strong chocolate flavor, sauce can be a massive hit or miss depending where you get it. However, I was willing to take my chances at this place and I am so glad that I did, because it was the best mole that I have ever tasted. The chicken was pounded out nice and thin and the sauce, which is thick almost like a gravy, was ladled on top. The dish was accompanied by refried beans and seasoned yellow rice.

Chicken Mole Poblano

The carne asada taco was also incredible, with tender and well-seasoned beef in a soft flour tortilla—simple and good.

Carne Asado

It was time for round numero tres on margs and then it hit me that we were out in a random strip mall in the middle of the dessert and finding a cab probably wouldn’t be the easiest task in the world (especially after a third margarita!). And that is when Lindo Moichan solidified their number one ranking in my book. Upon asking my server about the likelihood of catching a cab back, he informed me that they offered a free driving service back to the strip for tourists that made the trek out to their restaurant!!! Seriously?!?!

Ohhhh and they let us take margs to go for the ride home! The driver wouldn’t even accept a tip from us when we got out of the shuttle car.

Amazing meal and service. I will definitely be back!

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Filed under Bars, Cocktails, Las Vegas Restaurants, Mexican Restaurants, Take-Out

{ Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette }

Cilantro Dressing on Fajita Salad

I love Southwestern-style salads, but I hate the calories that come with Chipotle Ranch salad dressing. So I set out to make a healthier alternative with fewer calories. The result?

This flavorful cilantro-lime vinaigrette made with greek yogurt. The yogurt gives the dressing a smooth creamy texture without the fat, while also sneaking in some additional protein.

I use this dressing as a veggie dip, as a sauce for chicken and beef empanadas, and of course, for salads (my favorite is over spinach in combination with with my black bean corn salad recipe).

{ Ingredients }

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup 0% plain yogurt (I like Fage or Chobani)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Cilantro Lime Ingredients

{ To Make the Dressing }

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

In food processord

  1. Continue to add olive oil 1 tbsp at a time as necessary to create a smooth finish.
Finished Dressing

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Bhatti Indian Grill *****

Bhatti Restaurant

(212) 683-4228

100 Lexington Ave

New York, NY 10010

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What sets Bhatti apart from the millions of other Indian restaurants in Curry Hill?

It’s BYOB with NO CORKAGE FEE!!!

I went for dinner with my girlfriends last night and had a fabulous meal. It’s the perfect spot for twenty-something-year-olds that are just getting their start in the Big City–it feels modern and fancy, but it’s budget friendly, and the food is truly delicious. I will certainly be back….again, and again, and again!

[ Note: Order the Bhatti grill specialties rather than the curried sauce dishes. You can get Chicken Murgh Masala and Chana Masala anywhere in Curry Hill, but finding succulent and juicy grilled meats is a little more difficult. So order from the Bhatti when eating at Bhatti! ]

When eating Indian food, I always recommend ordering a bunch of plates to share amongst the table because the food is heavy by nature. The flavors and textures can also get repetitive if you order just one item for yourself. I mean, after 3 or 4 forkfuls of creamed spinach, you start to crave something with a little more substance! So we did a family-style Indian feast last night, and here are the highlights:

Indian Cracker with Sauces

To start the meal, we ordered one Vegetarian Kebab Sampler and one Meat Kebab Sampler. I was far more impressed with the selection of grilled meats from the Bhatti, but then again I am a carnivorous foodie! Highlights from the meat appetizer platter included:

Bhatti Meat Sampler Platter

Bhatti Ki Chaamp,  a succulent lamb chop marinated in traditional Indian spices and then grilled to perfection. Dip it in the spicy cilantro-mint chutney, and swoon….

The Tandoori Murgh, boneless chicken cubes marinated in yogurt, ginger, garlic, and spices, was hands down the star of the platter. In fact, I decided to order another portion to accompany my dinner!

Tandoori Chicken Murgh

The Raunaq-e-seekh, which is a traditional seekh of lamb mince, flavored with herbs and spices with a colorful gard. 

My favorite Vegetarian appetizer was the Bhatti Paneer Tikka, which is spiced cubes of soft cottage cheese, marinated in yogurt and spices, grilled to perfection and served with bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes. 

Bhatti Sampler Plate2

For dinner we shared the Saag Paneer, which is a rich dish of creamed spinach and spices, studded with fresh cottage cheese. Put this over a little bit of the long grain rice, or soak it up with some fresh Garlic Naan, and you will be in heaven. The Garlic Naan at Bhatti is a-m-a-z-i-n-g by the way. It is served freshly baked with just the right amount of ghee and garlic.

Bhatti Garlic Naan

I requested that we order my go-to Indian entree, and my friends indulged me by allowing me to get the Chicken Murgh Tikka Masala, which is marinated boneless chicken cubes, grilled, and then stewed in a creamy tomato sauce.  I order this dish all time, and thought that Bhatti served a very tasty version of this classic Indian entree.

Bhatti Chicken Tikka Masala

I also could not resist ordering the Chana Masala, which is a dish of curried chickpeas, stewed in a creamy tomato sauce with onions.  It was incredibly rich, but so are most oil-laden curry pots in Indian restaurants.

Bhatti Channa Masala

And, lastly, we shared an order of the Lamb Rogan Josh, which was probably my least favorite of the curry dishes. The combination of the heavy meat with the indulgent sauce really through me over the top after having grazed on so many other rich dishes.

Bhatti Rogan Josh

Overall, I would recommend ordering

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Filed under Indian Restaurants, International Restaurants, New York Restaurants

{ Butter Chicken – Murgh Makhani }

Butter Chicken Plated

Indian food is notorious being rich, but in the wintertime I crave a hearty meal like butter chicken over basmati rice. The curry warms you from the inside and the meal sticks to your ribs for hours; it’s the epitome of comfort food. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many good Indian restaurants where I live in Bucks County (I can’t express how much I miss Bombay Darbar in Miami). And as a result, I have begun experimenting with Indian flavors in my kitchen at home. This week I decided to tackle a recipe for Butter Chicken (traditionally known as Murgh Makhani) that I found on Pinterest.

I followed the recipe (taken from www.ecurry.com) almost exactly, but I did have to modify some of the seasonings due to the limitations of my spice pantry. None-the-less, the recipe came out incredible, hitting all the flavorful notes of an authentic Indian supper.

I will warn you though that the dish is time consuming to prepare. The chicken needs to marinade twice, and ideally overnight in the second marinade, so plan ahead with this meal!! Other than that, the dish is relatively easy to prepare once you have all of your ingredients gathered. Like I said, I made some very minor modifications to the original recipe in order to make it more user-friendly for the average american spice pantry. I will definitely be making this dish again, using the exact recipe listed below:

{ Ingredients }

  • 2 lbs boneless chicken breast –  rinsed, patted dry, and cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive Oil for basting while grilling

For the Yogurt Marinade:

  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt (I use Fage 2%)
  • 1/5 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tsp tumeric powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1.5 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 Tbsp ginger paste
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic paste

For the Makhani Masala Sauce:

  • 2.5 inch fresh ginger, made into a paste
  • 8-10 closed of garlic, made into a paste
  • 2-4 jalapeños, slit
  • 4 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 black cardamom pods
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 2.5 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • 3.5 cups tomato puree
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1.5 Tbsp almond paste* (see note!)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1.5 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp heavy cream

**NOTE: Take a handful of almonds and soak them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Strain (reserving the liquid) and blend in a food processor with a 1/2 tsp of the reserved liquid.

{ Directions }

Cut the chicken into cubes.

Slicing Chicken

Apply the chili powder, lemon juice, and kosher salt to the chicken breasts and set aside for 20 minutes. This is the first marination.

Seasoned Spice Chicken

Combine the Greek yogurt, red chili powder, salt, ginger-garlic paste, lemon juice, garam masala powder, and olive oil in a small bowl and mix well.

Yogurt Marinade

Yogurt Marinade2

Apply this marinade to the chicken and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight!

Chicken in Marinade

Put the chicken on skewers and cook on a grill or in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking process.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet. Add the black cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Sautee until the spices begin to sizzle and become fragrant, then add the ginger paste, garlic paste, and the jalapeno chilis. Cook for 5-8 minutes; the water in the garlic and ginger paste should reduce drastically.

Add the tomato puree, red chili powder, and kosher salt. Cook at a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes. The puree will reduce to a thicker sauce and the oil will separate to the sides of the pan.

Add 2 cups of boiling water to the pan, then ass the almond paste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Then add the sugar and fenugreek leaves.

Return the cooked chicken pieces to the pan. Stir well to combine so that the chicken is coated with the sauce. Cover ad simmer for 8-10 minutes. Lower the heat and add the garam masala and the heavy cream. Stir in the cream and simmer at a low heat for an additional 5 minutes.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and a splash of cream before serving.

Butter Chicken in Pan

I served my butter chicken over basmati rice, with a side of Garlic Naan (a recipe that I also got from www.ecurry.com).

Homemade Naan

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{ Best Lunch Spots in Buck’s County }

Finding good food on-the-go is tough when you don’t live in a city studded with Pret a Manager, Chipotle, and five-star food trucks. In Buck’s County, the options are pretty limited to full-service, sit-down restaurants or drive-thru, fast-food establishments. If you don’t brown paper bag it to work, you’re looking at either an overpriced gourmet salad, a 40-minute sushi luncheon, or a greasy quarter-pounder in the McDonald’s parking lot. But thankfully, local restaurant owners are finally starting to fill this market gap by opening quick-service lunch spots with high-quality food.

Here is a list of my favorite lunch spots in Buck’s County:

1. { Sariano’s Country Cafe }

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

Located right in the heart of Lahaska, is this adorable French cafe with homemade croissants, fresh soups, and delicious Croque Monsieur sandwiches. You can eat al fresco at any of the outdoor cafe tables, or take your order to-go (just be warned that there is only one indoor table, so might not be the best option for a cold/rainy day!). The menu is posted on a black board behind the counter, and although isn’t terribly long, neither is the wait for your food!

I highly recommend the Grilled Vegetable & Mozzarella Sandwich, which is served warm on a Fresh Butter Croissant ($7.00). The vegetables are chopped up nice and small, and the croissant provides delicious and sturdy base for the sandwich, keeping it together as you eat.

Of course, this being a French cafe, I also recommend the Croque Monsieur sandwiches, which are served on homemade French bread. They have the classic Ham & Cheese ($5.50), but I suggest trying the Goat Cheese & Proscuitto ($6.50) combination, which isn’t something you see every day! Keep in mind that these sandwiches are served hot, so the cheese is warm and bubbly when they come out of the oven. Delicious.

And lastly, I really enjoy Sariano’s Shrimp & Corn Chowder Soup ($7.00), which is creamy and slightly spicy but not too heavy. The soup prices seems a little high, when compared those of the sandwiches, but the portions are really generous and it comes accompanied with your choice of crackers or homemade French bread.

If you’re really in a hurry, Sariano’s also offers an assortment of pre-made meals that you can choose from.

2. { Jule’s Thin Crust }

Photo taken from TheMainLineVine

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With new locations popping up all over Buck’s County, it is clear that Jule’s Thin Crust has found a recipe for success. This gourmet pizza shop, which relies heavily on locally and organically grown produce, offer 22+ varieties of pizza, innovative salads, and gluten-free, as well as whole-wheat, products. If you stop by for just a few slices, you can choose from anything available on the line and get back to work within 10 minutes. And if you’d rather place a full pie or custom order, you’re looking at a total wait time of about 15 minutes, but you’re more than welcome to bring a bottle of wine to help pass the time while you wait! Just keep in mind that you’re still at a pizza place, so to all my wine-snobs: NO, there will not be glassware!

I suggest trying the new Buffalo Chicken Pizza with hormone free chicken, chopped celery, blue cheese, mozzarella, arugala, and buffalo sauce ($2.90 per slice). Or the Kim’s Pie with hormone free chicken, portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, balsamic BBQ glaze, mozzarella, and chives ($2.90 per slice).

Another classic, loved by all, is the Brushetta Pizza with Chopped Organic Tomatoes, Fresh Cubed Mozzarella, Garlic, Oregano, and Arugala, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil! It will revolutionize your idea of pizza.

3. { Marhaba }

Photo Taken from The New York Times

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Tucked away on a side street in Lambertville, is one of the best Middle Eastern Restaurants that I have ever been to! The interior is cozy, the prices are reasonable, and the food is authentic and a-m-a-z-i-n-g. The Gyro Sandwich, which is slow roasted lamb, topped with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and tahini drizzle on a warm homemade pita ($5.95) is a deal that can’t be beat and so it has become a regular weekly lunch for me and my mother.

Photo Taken from Jersey Foodies

I also recommend the Babaganough, which is a grilled eggplant spread mixed with tahini, garlic, and fresh lemon juice ($5.95) served alongside warm homemade pita bread. The spread has a zesty flavor and a creamy texture, that is beautiful when paired with the zatter spices on the pita bread.

Photo Taken from ThePalatePrincess

4. { Genivieves Panini & Salads To-Go }

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I found this place on Groupon a couple of weeks ago, and I have been hooked ever since! Located in the center of Doylestown, Genivieves serves up seasonally inspired food made with locally produced ingredients. The sandwiches are crafted like a work of art and the flavor combinations are a food-enthusiasts dream. My personal favorites are: the Vegetale with grilled asparagus, plum tomato, gooey taleggio cheese, and fresh pesto on multigrain bread ($7.50);  and the Tuscany with grilled chicken breast, sautéed broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone on rustic ciabatta bread ($7.50). 

In addition to their fabulous warm panini’s, Genivieves also offers gourmet salads, homemade soups, and assorted baked goods. And if you find yourself addicted, as I have, then you can also order their food for catered dinners with 24 hours advance notice. Unfortunately, Genivieves is take-out only, so you cannot dine-in.

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Filed under Baking, Cafe / Bistro, Coffee Shop, French Restaurants, Italian Restaurants, Lunch Spots, New Jersey Restaurants, Philadelphia Restaurants, Take-Out

{ Homemade Empanadas }

I’ve been hunting for BA’s most delicious empanada for months now, and so far, my favorite contenders for the title also happen to be the spiciest (list of top 10 picks coming soon!). However, finding the right combination of tender meat, flakey dough, and proper spice can be quite a challenge in a country where hot sauce and chili peppers are shunned like the the plague. Also, Argentines don’t like to combine different food groups when it comes to stuffing empanadas (in a manner akin to children segregating their mashed potatoes from their meatloaf, as if an imaginary forcefield was dividing their plate). It’s either meat or cheese….never both in one pastry!

This continues to boggle my mind, because they have all the best ingredients at their disposal…they just never seem to get assembled in the way that I would combine them. I love meat and I love cheese….so why not put them together in one super delicious empanada, rather than forcing me to take a bite of caprese followed by a bite of carne (besides that fact that it always lures me into purchasing two empanadas, of course)?!

In an effort to solve this rather distressing empanada dilemma, I have decided to try making my own! Which brings me to TheGrubDaily’s first ever food event–a DIY Empanada Party, hosted in conjunction with the fabulous KitchenParty.org and LVstudio! I offered my home and empanadas caseras in exchange for good company and a bottle of wine to share! It turned out to be a wild success, as 120 empanadas were served before people began using their paper plates as fans in my tiny, overheated apartment.

I laid out a buffet table with various ingredients for filling the empanadas (chicken, beef, cheese, tomato, act…), and all 25 attendees were given the opportunity to come and make their own creations! With the help of a few native Argentine girls (Valeria and Elvira), everyone was shown how to properly stuff and close the empanada dough and then they were sent into the oven for baking!

The following recipe is a very Traditional Argentine Beef Empanada filling, showed to me by my very dear cleaning lady. The one below it, is a spicy “Gringo” version of that recipe, as adapted by myself. I recommend using Saltena empanada shells (or Goya, if you are in the US), rather than wasting time on homemade ones.

Traditional Argentine Beef Empanada Filling:

{ Ingredients }

  • 1/2 kg (1 lb) of lean ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 beef bullion cubes
  • 2 scallions, chopped (white & green parts)
  • 1/2 cup pimento stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped

{ To Make the Filling } Heat the vegetable oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and kosher salt. Sautee until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant.

Add the ground beef, breaking it up with back of a spoon. Add the cumin and beef bullion. Cover pot with a lid and allow to cook for 2 minutes.

Mix beef, stirring in scallions and chopped olives. Once the meat is cooked through, remove from heat and fold in chopped egg. Allow to cool and then use for empanada or taco filling.

“Gringo” Spicy Beef Empanada Filling:

{ Ingredients }

  • 1/2 kg (1 lb) of lean ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small green pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 beef bullion cubes
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 2 scallions, chopped (white & green parts)
  • 1/2 cup pimento stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 1 yukon potato, boiled and chopped small

{ To Make the Filling } Heat the vegetable oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, peppers, and kosher salt. Sautee until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant.

Add the ground beef, breaking it up with back of a spoon. Add the cumin, cayenne pepper, tomato puree and beef bullion. Cover pot with a lid and allow to cook for 2 minutes.

Mix beef, stirring in scallions and chopped olives. Once the meat is cooked through, stir in chopped potato and remove from heat. Allow to cool and then use for empanada or taco filling.

**I like my meat extra spicy, so I also added a couple of dashes of Cholula Hot Sauce while cooking!

Spicy Shredded Chicken Empanada Filling:

{ Ingredients }

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 spanish onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2-1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 scallions, chopped (white & green parts)
  • Slice Jalapeños (optional)

{ To Make the Filling } Place chicken breasts in a large stock pot, adding enough water to cover the meat. Heat over a medium-high flame, allowing to simmer until cooked through.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, before beginning to shred chicken (using hands or two forks).

In a large stock pot of a medium high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic and sautee until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Add the cumin, cayenne pepper, green onion, kosher salt, chicken stock, and 1/2 cup of the tomato puree. Return the shredded chicken to the stock pot and stir to combine (if the meat needs more moisture, add more of the tomato puree).

Allow to cook for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and use to as empanada filling or taco meat!

{ To Assemble the Empanadas } Remove an empanada dough from the package and wet one half of the pastry edge using a finger dipped in water. Spoon a your desired filling into the middle and fold over the ends (so moist end meets dry end), pinching hard to ensure that they are properly shut.

Then crimp the edges using a fork or your fingers, as we have done here:

Place onto a greased baking sheet and allow to bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees until the edges and tops are golden brown (about 10 minutes).

Remove from oven and enjoy!

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Filed under Baking, Recipes

Trattoria Toscana *****

 
553 State Route #1
Whippany, NJ 07981
973.386.0303

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Everyone knows that New York is host to wealth of fantastic Italian restaurants–Marea, Babbo, Del Posto, Scalini Fedeli, Patsy’s, Carmine’s (just to name a few)–but outside of the city, off of route 1, lies a “hidden gem” by the name of Tratattoria Toscana. I use quotes because although it has a very inconspicuous location, it is well known among foodies, locals, and Italian’s looking for a proper pasta with gravy. This place is always jam packed and the delicious food being served is worthy of such loyal patronage.

Rodolfo Monti and his son, Giacomo (with names as authentic as their food), are the owner and chef of Trattoria Toscana, and although their menu offers a variety of well-loved Italian classics, their culinary speciality is certainly from the Tuscan region.

To start, I suggest the Sliced Pears, Prosciutto, and Shaved Parmesan Cheese ($13) or my personal favorite, Mussels cooked in Spicy Tomato Broth with White Wine and Garlic ($11). Another great way to sample the menu is to split a pasta dish or two between the table as an appetizer. The Amatriciana cooked with pancetta, onion, tomato, and pecorino cheese is very flavorful red sauce with a delicious hearty bacon flavor.

For my main dish I ordered the Braised Short Ribs in a Chianti Wine Reduction, served with Parmesan Risotto and Garlicky Broccoli Rabe. As if all of these plate components aren’t already my favorite things to eat, they were also cooked to PERFECTION! The meat just seemed to fall apart each time I poked it with the fork, and the risotto was a perfect creamy compliment to the flavors of the Chianti wine reduction. The pair was like an upscale, Italian version of mashed potatoes and gravy. And the broccoli rabe, which can be a hit or a miss for many restaurants, was out of this world good. The garlic seasoning was just right and it was cooked without being too mushy. This dish certainly makes my list of Top 10 Food-gasm experiences.

My mom ordered the Tilapia Livornese topped with capers, black olives, caramelized onion, and tomatoes and served with oven-roasted potatoes. Stealing a small forkful from her was a challenge, thats how much she enjoyed it. The fish was light and buttery and the sauce was incredible.

My dad, on the other hand, opted for something a little bit richer–the Lollipop Lamb Chops in an aged balsamic reduction, served with risotto and roasted potatoes (see photograph at top). As you can see in the photograph, the lamb is cooked to perfection with a bright pink hue in the center of the meat. The balsamic reduction had a nice flavor but thankfully was used sparingly, so as not to take away from the quality taste of the meat. And the potatoes–although just a side component on the plate–were also very nicely done with a crispy outer shell and piping hot center.

After finishing with our main courses, we ordered a round of cappuccinos and a large piece of Homemade Ricotta Cheesecake to share as a table. The coffee was nothing special but the cheesecake was very delicious. It was not too dense or too sweet, and the fresh berries and whipped cream around the edges of the plate were great addition to each bite. A perfect way to end a fabulous meal!

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Filed under Cocktails, Italian Restaurants, New Jersey Restaurants