Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pesto Chicken Pizza

Ever have one of those nights where you just don't know what you want to have for dinner? That's how I was feeling last night. I threw around the idea of making hamburgers, then I just wanted a salad. When I got home from work, I opened up the fridge and freezer simultaneously and started looking around for some inspiration. I've had a half a ball of whole wheat pizza dough in my freezer for a few weeks and decided it was time to finish it up. So that came out first. I wasn't really in the mood for red sauce, and that's when I found a jar of Whole Foods pesto in the fridge door. Okay, now we're getting somewhere. Took out a piece of chicken and saw I had shredded mozzarella cheese. There we had it. Four ingredients for a simply delicious dinner!

I preheated the oven to 550 while cutting up the chicken. I let the chicken cook on medium heat on the stove while I rolled out the pizza dough (still not very good at this - but maybe the pizza making class I'm schedule for, will help!). I spread some of the pesto onto the pizza as a base and also put some in the pan once the chicken was cooked to marinate it a little. I spread the chicken over the pizza, sprinkled on the cheese, and of course added some red pepper flakes! Baked in the oven for about 12 minutes and then moved to the top rack under the broiler for another 3 or 4. TADA! Totally random, but fast and delicious week night meal :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cafe Matisse - Rutherford, NJ

We've had a gift certificate for Cafe Matisse since Christmas and finally had the opportunity to use it this weekend! What a treat! I HIGHLY recommend dining at Cafe Matisse, but I do think it's best fit for a special occasion.

I had been told that the eating outside in the garden was a 'must' during the summer, so I made sure to secure an outdoor reservation. Reservations book up very quickly... I called 7 days ahead and could only get a table at 9pm. Plan ahead!

Before we were seated, the staff encouraged us to check out their wine shop in the front of the restaurant. Although it's a BYOB, you can buy wine right when you walk in. We had brought our own, but we were still invited to a quick tasting before dinner.

We were seated at the most perfect corner table in the garden and felt like we were in another world. We both couldn't believe that we were nestled in Rutherford, NJ. There were adorable lights, fountains and chachki's all around us and it couldn't have been a more perfect night - the weather was superb.

The menu at Cafe Matisse is meant to be a pre-fix menu, so if you're looking for a light dinner, this is not the place to go. You have the option of a 3 course menu (2 entrees, 1 dessert) or 4 course (3 entrees, 1 dessert) and we opted for the 3 course option. As much as I loved the pre-fix menu, I think this is the one small drawback for Matisse customers. It's a dinner investment if you go there. You have to be willing to eat and spend. It's not a fit for light eaters and not a good fit if you don't want to spend $66 a person.

With that being said, our dinner was phenomenal. It was the most inventive menu I've ever had the pleasure of dining from. Our menu consisted of:

  1. Tart of Chestnut Goat Cheese, Thinly Sliced Duck, Date Raisin Candied Shallots with Wedge of Grilled Balsamic Glazed Radicchio, Dollop of Pear Jam, Drizzled with Rosemary Pumpkin Seed Pesto
  2. Pan Seared Veal Medallion with Julienne of Shiitake and Morel Mushrooms Tossed with Egg Noodles, Asparagus Tips, Drizzled with Morel Mushroom Demi Crème, Spring Pea Mint Jus, Topped with Dollop of Spring Pea Jam and Curried Walnuts
  3. Cubed Sushi Tuna Over Caramelized Onion and White Bean Hummus with Brunoise of Lemon Scented Peppered Zucchini Topped with Crostini and Olive Tapenade Drizzled with Harrisa Foam and Sesame Chili Oil
  4. Pan Seared Scallop, Lobster Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes, Peppered Beef Short Ribs, Morel Mushroom Crème Jus, Minted Pea Syrup, Cashew Vanilla Jus Topped with Ginger Pea Jam, Fingerling Chips and Curried Cashew

The dishes might have been slightly different, as the menu is constantly changing. For dessert we had:

  1. Grand Marnier Brulee, Vanilla Orange Tart with Vanilla Orange Anglaise and Orange Marmalade Drizzled with Chocolate Caramel
  2. Coconut Macaroon Cake with Raspberry Ginger Jam, Coconut White Chocolate Mousse and Toasted Coconut Topped with Fresh Raspberries, Julienned Candied Ginger and Drizzled with Raspberry Caramel and Coconut Vanilla Jus
Everything was delicious! My personal favorite was the sushi tuna dish... I've never had sushia grade tuna with hummus and it was perfection.

Besides the amazing food, the service was also an A+. Our waiter, Steven, couldn't have been any more personable and helpful. It was a pleasure to spend the evening with him.

All in all, DEFINITELY go to Cafe Matisse. If you're looking for a special dinner in Northern NJ, this is 100% the place.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bivio - Little Falls, NJ

A new brick-oven pizza restaurant opened up in Little Falls this month... I've been dying to try it! While they were 'Under Construction,' I kept peeking in hoping to see the oven, and praying that this new restaurant (within walking distance) was a gem.

GOOD NEWS! It's AWESOME! The owners had a vision of opening this pizzeria after many trips to Italy. They wanted to build a brick-oven, use all ingredients from Italy, and serve classic Neapolitan style pizza. They've definitely succeeded.

The restaurant is small - probably about 8-10 tables, as is the menu - not much to choose from outside of pizza and a few salads. It's a BYOB, my favorite.

We ordered two pizzas - Margherita & Porcini. The menu can be found here: The pizza was delicious! We were able to watch the owner/chef make the pizza right in front of us. Then he popped it into the brick oven and 2 minutes later - deliciousness. Although I love thin-crust pizza, my heart may be leading in another direction now. The brick-oven allows for the pizza to get very crispy on the bottom but still fluffy on the inside. It was still thin but not the cracker-like style I'm used to.

The staff was super friendly also, which is always a bonus. I can't wait to go back to Bivio and HIGHLY recommend it to everyone!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Dip

Just a quick post to recommend this dip to ANYONE and EVERYONE who loves spinach and artichoke dip as much as I do! The good news here is that this dip is yogurt based instead of sour cream and/or mayo - so it's so much healthier and you don't have to feel guilty about eating it! Kudos to Sabra for this, loving it :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dessert Pizza

Happy (belated) 4th of July everyone! I made an amazing dessert last night for our annual family BBQ and wanted to share it with everyone. Over the weekend I was visiting some old friends in Iowa and my friends mom made this. Instantly, I knew I wanted to recreate it :) It's simple and delicious and definitely a crowd pleaser!

What you'll need:
1 8 oz. package of Crescent rolls
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese (softened)
1/3 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of Vanilla
Assorted fruits, cut up in pieces

What to do:
Unwrap the crescent rolls and spread on a non stick baking sheet. Pinch together the perforated edges (where you would cut if you were making actual rolls). Bake this in the oven on 350 degrees for about 11-12 minutes or until golden brown.

While the "crust" is cooking, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Chop up your choice of summer fruits into bit size pieces to go on the pizza. I used strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, and peaches because that is conveniently what my mom had in the house.

After the crust is done cooking, let it cool before spreading the cheese mixture and then topping with the chopped up fruit. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge until you're ready to serve.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dinner at Marea

For Pete's birthday, I decided to take him out for a culinary experience, rather than just a "great dinner." With the help of my foodie friend Jenny, I chose Marea. Over the past few months, I've heard great things about Marea and knew it was a must-visit.

I kept the restaurant choice a secret and Pete was thrilled when I showed him the menu before we left the apartment. We both knew that we were going to be very full.

When we arrived at Marea, we were seated in the lounge area. We actually liked it more than the main dining room because it had a "hipper" vibe and we were able to people watch (It's near the bar). Since we knew this was going to be an intense meal, we opted for the recommended four-course pre-fix menu. We also agreed to not get the same dishes... We wanted to taste as many things as possible!


ASTICE nova scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant al funghetto, basil
*Pete had the Astice, which was to-die for. I had serious food envy. Not that mine wasn't good, but his was out of this world.

UOVO poached egg, spring garlic, bone marrow, baby eel, passatelli, barley brodo
*I went a little out of my comfort zone and tried the Uovo. It was definitely a "cool"dish and had great flavors, although the consistencies threw me off a bit. I didn't realize there was eel in the dish and slightly regretted choosing it afterwards.

Pasta Course:

The pasta course was incredible, hands down the stand-out course. It was a really difficult decision to choose our dishes, but ultimately we took the waitresses advice and went with the two most popular and well-known options...

FUSILLI red wine braised octopus, bone marrow
*Pete ordered the fusilli, which The New York Times recently called "a revelation." They were so right. I don't even like octopus and this dish was rockin'.

SPAGHETTI crab, santa barbara sea urchin, basil
*The winner of the night for me! The spaghetti was so delicious. I never thought I'd say this, but it was better than the spaghetti at Scarpetta. I had never tried sea urchin, but Pete ensured me that I'd like it. He was spot on! The hint of sea urchin mixed into the sauce was perfect. I could have had an entree portion!


All of the entrees sounded great, so choosing dinner was tough. We knew that Marea is known for their seafood, so we both chose from the fish menu.

CAPESANTE roasted sea scallops, marinated beets, frisee, grilled wax beans, yellow tomato, hazelnuts
*Pete had the roasted sea scallops and they were phenomenal. We both thought that there were little mushrooms on the plate as well, but looking back, they were definitely hazelnuts. Oops! The scallops were cooked perfectly, seared hard on the outside, but fluffy on the inside.

IPPOGLOSSO herb crusted alaskan halibut, broccoli rabe, soppressata, porcini mushroom, cipollini
*Another great dish. Once again, perfectly cooked halibut! And the fish was so light and fluffy... It was just delicious. Luckily, it was light because the pasta had filled me up a bit!


Picking our desserts was basically torture. EVERYTHING sounded great. Our waitress was really helpful and picked out two winners for us.

BOMBOLONI - fried doughnut holes, lemon cream, prickly pear sorbet, cassis
*These doughnut holes were so good! They were sugared on the outside and so light and airy on the inside! Paired with the sorbet and lemon cream... Amazing!

AFFOGATO - zabaglione gelato, espresso and amaro
*The affogato was similar to a grown up milkshake! As full as I was, I could not put this down.

Overall, our experience at Marea was incredible. Our waitress was superb... We even made sure to tell one of the managers on our way out. For a special culinary experience, definitely try Marea!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rooftop dinner

Last night I had some friends over for dinner on the roof of my apartment building. I didn't get to take any pics but I do want to share the recipes. Both very easy but absolutely delicious. I found this recipe for chicken nuggets a few weeks ago and finally got around to making them last night. Follow the recipe and instructions exactly and you just can't go wrong. The only thing I did differently was that I didn't add Parmesan cheese in the bread crumb mixture - just not a huge fan of it.

The other dish I made was something I just found recently but knew instantly that it was going to be a big hit - arugula, walnut and gorgonzola pasta. Again, the recipe and instructions are perfect and I can't wait to make this again :)

That's all for now - ENJOY!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day Mexican Fiesta

Last year my brother, sister, and I made an impromptu Mexican fiesta for Mother's Day. Everything turned out to be amazing so this year we decided to continue the tradition, but really plan it out. My brother did most of the researching but we both put the menu together. Sabrina and I did all the food shopping while Jesse stayed home to plant the lilac bush we bought my mom for Mother's Day. (Side note: For as long as I can remember, this has a been a favorite of hers - I'm surprised it took us so long to get her one of her own.) Anyway, I don't have pictures of all the individual things we made but here's the table and then tell you all what there was.

Not pictured - we started the afternoon off with a giant bowl of guacamole and a huge dish of sangria. When it comes to guac, I've found that the best way to make it is to mix in a few spoon fulls of the salsa of your liking into some mashed up avocados. Then I add in some roasted jalapenos, garlic, and salt. The sangria was made with two bottles of Spanish roija wine, sprite (zero), a few shots of brandy and cut up lemon, lime, apple, orange, and handful of strawberries.


  • Salad: baby arugula, baby spinach, mango, corn, and toasted pecans. For the dressing we combines olive oil, apple cider vinegar, juice of 2 limes, chili powder, and cayenne pepper - mmm!
  • Yellow rice
  • Beans
  • Grilled zucchini, mushrooms, red peppers, onions, and jalapenos all marinated in tequilla, lime juice, and cilantro.
  • Chicken breasts and skirt steak both marinated in an asada sauce (I WILL post the recipe for this sauce that we made, because it was TOO DIE FOR, just need to find it).
  • Corn tortillas and whole wheat tortillas
And it was a make your own fajitas :) Everything was amazing and Mexican fiesta has officially become a tradition at the Toledano house for Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Well, I suck

As Jen previously mentioned, I too have been totally slacking on the updating. It's not that I haven't been going out or cooking, just busy I guess. Jen talked about a new restaurant in Montclair that she went to called Tosca - and when I was home a few weeks ago, my sister and I went there. Have to say that we had a GREAT experience. Brought a nice bottle of wine (red of course), shared a salad (unfortunately no pic, but it was superb), and then each had a main course. Sabrina opted for the salmon with veggies and potatoes, and while I do not like fish AT ALL, she said that it was great. She really raved about the mustard sauce that came with it.

I decided to keep it simple and went for the spicy salami pizza. This was phenomenal! The middle of the pizza was a little soggy, but with such thin crust, that tends to happen. Other than that, it really was very good. I definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone who's looking for Montclair eats.

That same weekend while I was home, we decided to make some spinach artichoke dip on Sunday afternoon. This really has become a family favorite of ours, especially because it is low fat and very easy to make. Ingredients include: 14 oz artichoke hearts drained and finely chopped, 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained, 2/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 3/4 cup light mayo, 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder. Mix all the ingredients together and spoon into a 9 inch baking dish. I usually sprinkle on some extra shredded mozzarella cheese on top to give it that brown effect that I love. Bake this for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees and serve with blue corn tortilla chips or whatever you'd like :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sorry blog, I've neglected you.

I need to apologize. I haven't been blogging. And I've definitely been cooking and dining out, so I have no excuse!

Since my last post, I've been to a few restaurants in Montclair, so I'm going to do a quick assessment of each. They weren't bad experiences, but they also weren't as unreal as Culinariane, so I don't think they need their own blog post.

Tosca - Tosca is a new restaurant in Montclair, on Church St. It's next to the movie theater, so it's a great option for dinner and a movie. Dinner here was very nice. I think they're still a work in progress and learning to handle the Montclair weekend rush. I had a linguine puttanesca. The sauce was delicious - one of the better one's that I've had. And my stepdad, an Italian food connoisseur, agreed. The problem was the linguine. It was very al dente. Everyone at the table had mixed experiences as well. I think they're still working on their pasta dishes, but I wouldn't rule this place out. It has serious potential! I've heard great things about their pizzas, so that's what I'll be ordering next time.

Trattoria Rustica - As far as I know, Rustica has been on Bloomfield Ave. for quite some time, but somehow I haven't been. The restaurant is very simple inside, a little rustic decor, and when I went, it was virtually empty. Granted, it was a weeknight and about 6pm (Yes, I was striving for an early bird special). For dinner, again, I had puttanesca sauce. This time I asked for it with whole wheat penne. Pathetic, I know, but I'm trying to watch the waistline. The food was good. The service was good. The price was good. Overall, just good. Would I go back? I'm not sure. With all of the other options in the area, I can't see it happening. But they did give me a $10 off coupon for next time, so that may help. Maybe I should apply for Extreme Couponing.

Gencarelli's - My aunt has been begging me to try Gencarelli's for a while, but somehow it never happened. I recently bought a gift certificate on Groupon [$20 for $40 worth of food] and it expires in May. So, I finally went. I was pleasantly surprised. The decor was very nice and the service was phenomenal. Our waitress couldn't have been any sweeter and one of the owners came by to check on us. That might have been because my aunt is a regular, but I'll still give them the credit. We shared a tapenade crostini for an appetizer which was delicious. For dinner, I had eggplant/zucchini parmesan. It came with a side of pasta. The sauce was a little tart and when I brought home a doggy bag for Pete, he agreed. But, the eggplant/zucchini was really tasty! I loved the combination, which I've never had. I think I'd go back to Gencarelli's. My one thought is that it's overpriced. It's in the same price range as Osteria Giotto (my favorite), and to be honest, it's just not there.

So, that's what I've been up to lately. I've been cooking a lot too, but I'll save that for another posting. Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Culinariane, Montclair!

For the past few months I've been dying to try Culinariane in Montclair. Finally, I made the reservation far enough in advance that we were able to go this past Saturday night. Let me preface this by saying - We're critical. My boyfriend and I love food, love eating out and we've been to some great restaurants. We have high standards. This exceeded them!

Culinariane is truly a treat. It's not inexpensive, no liquor license and it's not on the "main drag" in Montclair. And somehow it is still packed. A true testament to how delicious the food is.

We started off with two appetizers -

  • Crab, Papaya, Potato Napoleon, Pickled Habañero, Cilantro Cream
  • Cornmeal Crusted Oysters, Horseradish Cream, Micro Greens

Both were great! I'm not a huge fan of oysters, but these were phenomenal. The cornmeal crust was great. The crab dish was not what I expected. I envisioned a "stack" but this was more like refined nachos. So good!

For dinner, we went with:

  • Pan Seared Sea Scallops, Forest Mushroom Ragout, White Truffle Oil, Mushroom Syrup
  • Australian Lamb Top Sirloin, Pea Puree, White Asparagus, Parmesan Fondue, Mint Pistou

I couldn't try the lamb because I gave up meat for lent, but my boyfriend loved it. The plate was cleaned. I tried the pea puree, asparagus and mint pistou - all great.

The sea scallops were fabulous. We both had never eaten scallops with a truffle sauce ... usually have had them cooked much lighter. They were great! And so were the mushrooms.

For a dessert we shared - Lemon Meringue Martini, Vanilla Wafer Crust, Cherry Surprise. It was the perfect refresher after a heavy dinner.

All in all, this place was an A+ and I would go back in a heartbeat. The service and decor was just as great as the food. This is a special place - perfect for an anniversary or birthday! You won't be disappointed.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chiptole Chicken

Every day I receive emails from different websites to recipes. Most of the time they're nothing special, but once in a while I find something that looks great and I save it for future use. Yesterday I was home in Wayne and we were trying to decide what to make for dinner, when I remembered this recipe for chipotle chicken and sweet potatoes - SOLD! So we went food shopping, stocked up on the ingredients and were ready to cook dinner. First thing we did after preheating the oven was cut up all the sweet potatoes into the one inch cubes like the recipe calls for and arranged them along the bottom of a pyrex dish.

Then we made the marinade for the chicken. All the ingredients seemed a bit odd to me at first glance but as I started adding them in and smelling it, I knew it was going to be good. I then coated all the chicken breasts in the sauce and covered them on a plate to soak while the potatoes were cooking a bit. After I let the potatoes cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, I took it out and placed the chicken (that was in the marinade this whole time) right on top of the potatoes.

Put it back in the oven at 350 degrees for another 20 minutes and dinner was ready. Pretty simple dinner that was one of the most delicious meals ever. The final product is below but I didn't get a picture of my place because it was too good not to start eating right away! When I make this again, I think I'll cook the potatoes and the chicken separately, because I like my potatoes nice and crispy, and although these were amazing, not crispy enough for my liking.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My first pasta masterpiece!

Yes, you read correctly - MASTERPIECE. Let me explain. I've made pasta before. And I've made some great pasta dishes before. But nothing like this. This was perfection. My boyfriend had NO complaints, no suggestions... He even went for seconds!

I'm not one for measurements, so you'll never see that in any of the recipes I blog about, only desserts. Cooking isn't a science. It's an art. And it's supposed to be fun, not stressful!

To start, I cooked about 5 garlic cloves and 1/2 yellow onion in EVOO on low-medium heat for about 5 minutes. Then I threw in a can of diced tomatoes (un-salted, always) and one can of whole/peeled tomatoes that I previously blended to make it "saucier." I let that cook on medium heat for about 30-45 minutes, enough for the tomato sauce to cook down. If not, canned tomatoes will taste slightly bitter.

Then I added a handful of spinach, 1 cubed yellow squash, 1 cubed zucchini, and one can of cannellini beans. Turned the heat down to about a 4 (Yes, I unfortunately have an electric stove) and let it cook for about 20 minutes.

When it was finished, I turned the heat off and tossed in 1 lb. of whole wheat pasta and mixed it together. Sprinkle with some cheese and you have yourself a delicious dinner! And healthy!

Also, I'm a big fan of Bethenny Frankel's "Use what you have" motto. If you didn't have one of these vegetables, use a different one. I found some spinach and randomly threw that in. That wasn't in my original idea. Just go for it and be creative!

Where to Start?

Well I guess the answer to this would be PIZZA! My favorite pizza I ever made was the first time I tried making it on the BBQ last summer. Simple, whole wheat crust (99 cents from Trader Joe's) with marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella. One thing I did differently that really gave it a nice kick was when I oiled up the dough before I put it on the grill, I added in some red pepper flakes and oregano. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love my food super-spicy. I also put the flakes on the sauce before I added the cheese. When using fresh mozzarella to make your own pizza, always make sure to pat it dry. They naturally have a lot of water, and it tends to soak out when its cooking and then you end up with watery pizza. And VOILA! This was one of my first pizza's and was definitely the best. Shape wasn't perfect, but oh well. Served with a little side salad and a glass of wine on a summer night and it was perfect!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Now I have 1.5 blogs!

So, my first blog was about Reality TV. My second is about food. My two favorite hobbies! Looking forward to sharing this with Brigitte and posting our culinary adventures!

First Post

Since Jen and I love exchanging recipes for fun, exciting, and healthy dinners as well as giving each other great restaurant recommendations - we decided to share it with all of you. We'll each be blogging about dinners that we make, recipes we find and want to attempt, and amazing meals we have "from both sides of the Hudson." Jen being in New Jersey and me being in New York, we can cover both sides!