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Chocolate Toffee Banana Bread

It's been way. too. long. since I posted a sweet treat! Can we agree on that?  It's not because I'm trying to be healthier, though I would love to believe that.  What's really happening is I overloaded on Valentine's Day and Easter candies and so I didn't feel the need to bake something to satisfy my sweet tooth.

However, now that we're having a bit of a break from the candy-heavy holidays, I'm back!  These bananas and this chocolate are not going to eat themselves!

This venture started out with me realizing I've never before posted a plain banana bread on this site.  As you can see, unfortunately, that is still the case.  Eeep.  I started out wanted to make a plain banana bread and then I really wanted to incorporate chocolate in the batter.  And then I wanted extra chocolate in there.  But then I ran out of chocolate chips so I added toffee chips.  Done!  I'm done now!

It turned out so good though.  I'm a fan of this combination and I would recommend that you give it a shot as well!

 

Chocolate Toffee Banana Bread
makes 1 loaf

Print Recipe

  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar(light or dark)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips
  • 1/2 cup toffee chips (or you can use 1 cup of chocolate chunks/chips instead)


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Use cooking spray or butter to coat a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

2) In a large bowl, mash the bananas.  Add the melted butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla.  Use a large spoon or a whisk to stir everything together well.

3) Sift together the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, flour, and cocoa powder.  Add to the bowl and stir just until combined.

4) Stir in the chocolate pieces and the toffee pieces.

5) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place in the oven for 55-60 minutes, or until the center of a toothpick comes out clean.

6) Place the pan on a wire rack and cool for 10-15 minutes.  Then gently turn the pan over to remove the bread from the loaf pan.  Place the bread on a cooling rack and cool until desired.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

--recipe slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Turkey Taco Salad

It's Taco Time!

Can we talk about how I forgot to add the CHEESE to the salad pictured above?  If you know me, you know that cheese is my one true love.  So how did I forget to add it to my salad?  Ugh.  Fail.  Anyhow, the salad still tasted amazing and I'm including the cheese in the recipe below.  Don't forget about it like I did!

Also, happy belated Cinco de Mayo?  I didn't eat this salad on May 5th, but I never really need an excuse to eat Mexican food anyway.  This salad was the perfect combination of eating a tasty thing, but also eating something relatively healthy.  I'm being real when I say I still have leftover jellybeans from Easter that I am munching on daily.  Soooo a salad?  Yup, I need that in my life.

 

Turkey Taco Salad

Print Recipe

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 onion, finely diced
  • 1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • dash crushed red pepper
  • dash smoked salt - optional
  • 6 cups shredded lettuce
  • shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • for the rest of the salad - shredded lettuce, diced avocado, green onions, sour cream

1) In a large saucepan, drizzle in the olive oil.  Add in the onions and saute for a minute or two, until the onions begin to soften.

2) Then add the turkey to the pan.  Sautee until cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Drain any excess liquid.

3) Pour in the tomatoes and add the seasonings, from the chili powder down to the smoked salt (if using).

4) Allow the mixture to simmer for another 2-3 minutes.

5) Place the lettuce in the plates or bowls to be used.  Add the turkey mixture on top.

6) Dress the salad with the desired toppings (I chose diced avocados, cheese, green onions, and sour cream.  Serve immediately.

--recipe slightly adapted from Real House Moms

Baked Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Spring is here and I know it's not exactly the time to start indulging in a lot of pasta because "getting our summer body ready" season is ALSO herrrrrreeeeee.  But I would like to point out that if you must eat pasta during this time (which is something that I feel like I must do), then this should be your first choice.  It's not as heavy as you might think.  I also really like to take this to work because it fills me up sufficiently for lunch and I seldom feel the need to eat a whole chocolate bar in the afternoon.  Not that I would ever eat a whole chocolate bar in the afternoon.  I definitely have not.  Not at all.

So anywho, I'm throwing you some pasta goodness with this here baked dish.  I've made baked ziti before, but not quite like this.  Since this pasta is pretty thin, the cheese and sauce was incorporated nicely into each and every bite.  I may always need to eat my spaghetti and meat sauce in a baked form from now on!

 

Baked Spaghetti & Meat Sauce
makes 6-8 servings

Print Recipe

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup + 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, separated
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt & freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • basil, julienned, for topping
  • cooking spray


1) Preheat oven to 350F.

2) Use the cooking spray to prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Set aside.

3) Drizzle the olive oil into a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until translucent.

4) Add the ground beef to the pan and allow to cook through for ~5 minutes.  Use a spoon or spatula to break up the meat as it cooks.

5) Sprinkle the garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano to the pan and allow to cook for 2 minutes.

6) Slowly pour in the marinara sauce and allow the mixture to cook for 10-15 minutes.

7) In the meantime, boil the water in a large pot over high heat.  Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the package.  Once cooked, drain the pasta and add to the saucepan with the meat mixture.  Stir together until the pasta is fully coated in sauce.  Add salt or pepper to taste, keeping in mind that extra cheese will be added in the next step.

8) Move half of the pasta to the baking dish.  Use a large fork to twirl the pasta into 6 mounds.  Sprinkle the pasta with 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

9) Repeat the previous step with the remainder of the pasta and sauce, adding another 1/2 cup of mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese on top.

10) Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle another 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella on top of the pasta.  Return to the oven until the cheese is melted, another 5-10 minutes.

11) Top with basil, oregano, and freshly cracked black pepper before serving warm.

--recipe slightly adapted from Shutterbean

Butternut Squash & Cranberry Quinoa Salad

I've been in a bit of a phase lately.  It's what I'm calling my "healthy phase".  So I guess that's a good thing, right?  I'm not going to lie to you.  I'm still eating a ton of jelly beans, because It's Easter.  However, when I'm not eating way too much sugar, I'm busy balancing things out with some butternut squash and quinoa.

I've also started a Brussels sprouts addiction.  I never knew this was a thing, but its a thing.  I posted a picture of some diced and prepped Brussels sprouts on my instagram the other day (ig - @thehobokitchen).  I got a few comments letting me know of new-to-me ways to roast the Brussels.  So basically this means I'll be over here making Brussels sprouts fo' life!

Speaking of healthy ish, let's eat the heck out of this butternut squash/cranberry/quinoa situation.  We've got a bit of everything here.  All the textures and flavors keep your mind entertained when really you're just doing something good for yourself. No issues with that!

Before I let you get to the recipe, can we also just appreciate the weather today?  It's going to be in the mid-80's.  Come on Spring and Summer. Get here soon please!

 

Butternut Squash & Cranberry Quinoa Salad

Print Recipe

  • 3 cups butternut squash, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup shallot, finely chopped (~1 shallot)
  • 4 tablespoons pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 5 leaves basil, julienned
  • salt and black pepper

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2) On a baking sheet, toss the butternut squash with the olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the squash is tender and golden.

3) Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa until the water runs clear.  Make the quinoa per the package instructions.  Set aside to cool slightly.

4) Make the balsamic vinaigrette by whisking together all ingredients.  Season to taste. Set aside.

5) In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, butternut squash, cranberries, raisins, shallots, pistachios, and basil.  Toss gently to mix the ingredients together.  Pour the vinaigrette over the salad.  Toss once more to incorporate.  Season with more salt and pepper, if necessary.

6) Cover and place the bowl in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

-- slightly adapted from the Little Broken blog

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

I was sort of surprised that, with all the hummus recipes I've posted over the years, I've never delved into a roasted red pepper version.  I think it due to two things -

1. I used to dislike red peppers.  I've really only started to love red peppers in the past year or two.  Once I realized this was a vegetable for me, I have been roasting and sauteing it like it's my job.  Not all of these ventures have made it to the blog, but a decent amount of it has. 

2. I've also been skeptical about roasting my own peppers at home.  This is my first foray into doing this and it was unbelievably simple!  No more skepticism here!

So let's get into it and make sure we jump on that roasted red pepper hummus train.  No excuses!
 

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
makes 4-6 servings

Print Recipe

  • 2 medium-to-large red peppers
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste
     

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2) Slice red peppers in half and remove the seeds.  Place the peppers sliced side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

3) Roast in the oven for 25 minutes.  Do not move the peppers during this time.

4) Remove the peppers from the oven.  Place on a cutting board and cover with a large bowl to steam them for 15 minutes.

5) Gently peel the skins off the peppers and place them in a food processor.

6) Add the chickpeas, peanut butter, garlic, lemon juice, and seasonings to the food processor as well.

7) Drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is running.  Add more oil or water to bring it to your desired consistency.  Taste and add more seasonings as necessary.

Zucchini Salami Pizza

I cannot claim credit for this pizza, as much as I would really love to.  This creation comes to you by way of Harry's Italian Pizza Bar (I did a review of Harry's a few years ago here).  I didn't order this pizza on that trip, but on another recent visit to Harry's, this pizza became known to me.  It was love at first bite.  I immediately knew I was going to recreate this at home because I wasn't waiting for another trip to the restaurant.  Plus, what else are food blogs for, if not to experiment at home!

Now, zucchini and salami are not at the forefront of my mind when I think of a perfect pizza topping combo, but I will say that they are amazing together.  The zucchini is crisp and fresh while the salami is salty and chewy.  These two textures and flavors combine to make a sensational pizza experience that I will be recreating every chance I get!
 

Zucchini Salami Pizza

Print Recipe

  • 1/2 medium zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup diced salami
  • 2-4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into rounds
  • 1 batch pizza dough (homemade or store-bought)

Prep the zucchini:

1) Cut the zucchini into rounds.  Stack the rounds, and then slice into matchsticks.  Spread the matchsticks out on a layer of paper towels and sprinkle the salt over the zucchini.  Set aside for 15-20 minutes.

2) After the time is up, use paper towels to blot the excess water that has extruded from the zucchini.


Assemble the pizza:

3) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

4) Spread the pizza dough over the prepared baking sheet until it is the desired size.

5) Spread the basil pesto over the dough, leaving about 1" border around the edges.

6) Place the mozzarella on top of the pesto.

7) Cover the mozzarella with the zucchini matchsticks and the salami.

8) Bake the pizza for 15 - 17 minutes, or until it reaches the desired level of done-ness.

9) Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  If desired, top with oregano, black pepper, and or basil before slicing and serving.

Beer & Brown Sugar Kielbasa with Sauerkraut

Sooooo, you know when you're supposed to get a thing done but then life gets in the way and you definitely did not do what you were going to do?  Yeah, that's this blog post.  My fault!

But I'm here now.  I'm really excited about this recipe because it was quick and easy and really tasty.  I've never made kielbasa before, which is surprising, given that I spent over 5 years living in Pittsburgh.  Fun fact: Pittsburgh has a huge Polish community.  Shockingly, I think I've probably had kielbasa itself only a handful of times.  So this recipe is way way wayyyy overdue.  Another fun fact: I thought I didn't like sauerkraut.  Um, no, I apparently love sauerkraut.  This is a thing.

Let's make this new-to-me thing together.  There are 4 ingredients, so you absolutely have no excuse.  Let's do it!

 

Beer & Brown Sugar Kielbasa with Sauerkraut

Print Recipe

  • 12 ounces beer (can or bottle)
  • 1 cup tightly packed brown sugar (light or dark is fine)
  • 3 lbs polish kielbasa
  • 32 ounces sauerkraut, drained (can, jar or bag if fine)


1) In a small pan over medium heat, add together the beer and brown sugar.  Stir together until the sugar melts and the mixture thickens slightly.  Remove from heat and set aside.

2) Slice the kielbasa into links and add to the slow cooker.

3) Drain the sauerkraut and place it on top of the links.

4) Pour the beer and brown sugar mixture over everything.  Cook on High for 4-6 hours, or on Low for 8-10 hours.

5) Serve as desired (by itself, over rice, or on a sandwich roll).

--recipe from Brown Eyed Baker

Pesto Goat Cheese Flatbread

Folks, I'd like to present to you...a GREEN PIE.

Yes, that's right.  We're covering both Pi Day and St. Patrick's Day in one blog post.  This was a happy accident.  I'm (once again!) cleaning out my refrigerator and freezer.  I found pizza dough, pesto, and goat cheese.  I love all of those things, so of course I'd love them together, right?

Being a self-proclaimed nerd, I knew that Pi Day - March 14th - was coming up, so I wanted to showcase a pie.  Pizza = pie!  Just so you know.  Also.  St. Patty's Day is March 17th.  If there is any holiday that we take seriously in Hoboken, it's St. Patty's Day.  In fact, we already celebrated last weekend, on March 4th. But don't you worry...we'll celebrate again on the 17th.  No missed opportunities over here!

I love how this flatbread turned out.  It's a quick and tasty snack.  It would pair well with a creamy soup, or it can be eaten on its own if desired.  I made mine ever-so-slightly more healthy with the addition of sprouts, but these are not necessary.  Any way you want you want to slice it (pun intended), this is a delicious choice.

 

Pesto Goat Cheese Flatbread

Print Recipe

  • 1 batch garlic herb or regular pizza dough (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto
  • 2 - 4 ounces goat cheese
  • freshly cracked black pepper (optional)
  • sprouts (optional)
  • red pepper flakes (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) Use floured hands to spread the pizza dough over the baking sheet until it is the desired size.

3) Spread the pesto evenly over the dough.

4) Slice or crumble the goat cheese.  Place the cheese evenly on top of the pesto.

5) Bake until the pizza dough is as crispy as desired, about 10 - 15 minutes.

6) Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 5 minutes before slicing as desired.

7) Optional - Sprinkle the pizza with the black pepper, sprouts, and red pepper flakes before serving.

8) Serve warm!

Sel et Poivre: A Review

Sel et Poivre is a cute, quaint French restaurant that is tucked away on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  It is designed in the style of a classic Parisian bistro, and their classic French dishes are served with an update style.  The owners are Christian and Pamela Schienle, a husband and wife team.  Christian is also the executive chef and the wine director and he oversees all the desserts, which are made in-house.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this restaurant is quickly approaching it's 28th (yes, 28th!) year in business.  They have been in the same location the entire time. If you're familiar with the lifespan of many New York City restaurants, you'll recognize that this is the equivalent of multiple restaurant lifetimes.  Because of this, the Schienle's are familiar with a number of their patrons.  Christian greets them at the entrance by name and ushers them to their seats.  Throughout the evening, he can be spotted throughout the dining room, making small talk with everyone, answering questions, and making sure the guests feel welcome.

Before we get into the food, here are a few additional things I learned -

- At the time we visited the restaurant, they were in the middle of a Wild Game Festival.  They serve game at all times (see their Wild Game Menu on their site), but they were running a special menu then to highlight their offerings.

- They offer daily specials, which includes some of the wild game that was featured for the Festival.

- There are different specials associated with different days of the week.  There are patrons who will come to the restaurant on certain days just to ensure they can feast upon a certain meal, such as coq au vin, sweetbreads, and more!

- They offer prixe fixe options for lunch, dinner and brunch.  Check out the menus on their site!

And now, the food...

Wild Boar Pate Plate - This was not on our tasting menu, but Christian brought it out for us to sample.  It is not on the regular menu but is typically offered as a special.  The plate contains a slice of the wild boar pate, red wine mustard (yum!), slices of baguette, a dried prune, and cornichons.  I'm not a fan of pate in general, but I tried everything else on the plate and it was all tasty.  I personally loved the red wine mustard.  Red wine and mustard combined into one condiment?  Thank you!

Lentil Soup - Can I admit that I've never had lentil soup before?  Can I still remain in the foodie club?  This lentil soup has a chicken and potato base and it's blended up so well that it tastes super creamy, even though there is no cream added.  It was delicious and I recommend it for sure.

Also, please keep in mind that we were served from the tasting menu.  So these portions are a bit smaller than those you would see when ordering from the regular menu.

Salmon with White Bean and Green Beans in a White Wine Sauce - Spoiler alert.  This was my favorite dish.  I loooove salmon but it's not great everywhere.  It is great here.  The salmon was tender and flaky and the white wine sauce was delicious.  I made sure to eat everything on this plate.

Bistro Burger - I was pretty nervous about this one, as I prefer my burgers to be cooked well done or medium well.  This Bistro Burger was presented medium rare.  Cue my racing heart!

Still, it was fantastic!  Set et Poivre has used the same butcher for almost 28 years and the burger patties has been the same the entire time.  This burger was so simple but very juicy and flavorful.  I would definitely order it again!

We also received a side of fries with the burger.  Now, I am a fry fanatic.  I could eat them every day if I didn't stop myself.  These fries were so delicious!  They take Idaho potatoes and double fry them so that they end up crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  I'll take another round of these please!

Escargot - We received a surprise course during dinner - escargot!  It was not on the menu but one of the ladies we were dining with asked about it and Christian graciously brought out a few servings for us.  The escargot was presented in a divine garlicky pesto sauce which really paired well with it.  I made sure to drag some of the homemade bread through this sauce as well!

Wild Boar Osso Bucco with Wild Mushroom Risotto - This was our last main dish.  I confess that I've never tried wild boar before, so I was looking forward to this.  The meat was so tender that it fell right off the bone.  The flavor reminded me of pork, but also of beef.  The wild mushroom risotto was absolutely delicious.  It was creamy and the mushrooms provided a nice bite.

Warm Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream - On to the desserts!  This was my favorite dessert.  That's shocking, considering I'm a huge chocolate fan, and the other dessert is chocolate.  The crust on this tart was crisp, and the apples were caramelized, soft and sweet.  The ice cream was cold and creamy.  I could eat a few of these in one sitting!

Chocolate Terrine - This dessert was a nice end to the meal.  It's a rich, creamy, chocolate mousse, layered over a tart fruit puree.  It was the best way to close out this amazing meal!

**Disclosure: I was provided this meal free of charge.  However, all opinions are my own!

Curry Fries

I cannot contain my excitement any longer.  I had another recipe planned to post today but it wasn't nearly as exciting as these curry fries are (in my opinion)!

Typically I wouldn't make a recipe like this because it's what I call a "two-parter".  I have to make the curry sauce and then I have to make the fries.  However, we are talking about fries, which are my spirit animal.  (Just go with this analogy please). 

When my mom and I traveled to Edinburgh last fall, we stopped at a cute restaurant for dinner after trekking up to the Edinburgh castle for a few hours.  We were famished and we ordered quite a few dishes.  Since we both love curry and I have an obsession with fries, we decided to order the curry fries.  It might have been the best food decision of the trip.  I knew I needed to recreate this once I returned to the States.

Of course it's taken my months to get around to it...but I've finally made it happen!  Can I also just give a shout out to Trader Joe's for their out-of-this-world frozen fries?  Seriously, I'm never making fries from scratch again when they can be this good with minimal effort.  Bravo Trader Joe's.  You're taking over the world with your Movie Popcorn and Frozen French Fries.  I can dig this.

I also really dig this curry sauce.  I had some left over after I drenched the fries in it, but that just means that I had some the next night as leftovers!  That's a win-win situation right there.
 

Curry Fries
makes 4 servings

Print Recipe

For the curry sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 4 roma tomatoes, diced and seeded
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk or cream

For the fries:

  • 2 lbs frozen fries
  • cooking spray
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red chili pepper
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese or paneer cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, for topping (optional)

Make the curry sauce:

1) Place a medium-sized pot over medium heat.  Add the oil and the butter.  Allow the butter to melt.

2) Add in the garlic, ginger powder, tomato paste, garam masala and curry powder.  Use a wooden spoon or spatula to toss the mixture together.  Allow the mixtures to cook for about 4 minutes, stirring every minute.

3) Toss in the tomatoes, water, and salt.  Allow the sauce to simmer over low heat for 1 hour, stirring periodically.

4) Remove the sauce from the heat.  Use an immersion blender (or a regular blender) to puree the sauce to the desired texture. 

5) Add the sauce back to the pot and stir in the milk or cream until fully incorporated.  Cover the sauce with a lid and keep warm until time to serve.

Make the fries:

6) Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Add the frozen fries.  Toss the fries with all of the seasonings, reserving the cheese.

7) Bake according to the directions on the package.

8) Once the fries are done, add the desired serving amount to a plate or serving platter.  Drizzle with the warm curry sauce.  Top with the cheese if you are using it.  Serve immediately.

--recipe slightly adapted from Oven Baked Curry Fries