Maggiano’s Little Italy

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I and my husband are very big fans of italian food! We just love all the fresh flavors, and the comfort that comes with each dish. We have been to many gourmet, high end restaurants in NYC, including Mario Batali’s Del Posto – which by the way was amazing, but we still keep returning to our beloved Maggiano’s Little Italy in Hackensack!

They have great service, and the restaurant is very nicely decorated, it always feels like Christmas in there and in a good way! Everytime we go, let it be just lunch or a celebration, the holiday spirit is there and we end up very happy afterwards!

For my husband’s 27th birthday we decided to go again to Maggiano’s and let me tell you, it was one of the best decisions ever!

We had a great time and shared some delicious food! Our feast started with some Calamari Fritte with marinara sauce, which were great! Crispy but not oily, with some lemon and marinara they were pure perfection! For our appetizer, we also shared the Pepperoni & Arugula Flatbread, with roasted garlic and truffle alfredo sauce! The flatbread is very delicious, crispy, with a peppery taste from the arugula that balances very nice the pepperoni, the alfredo sauce is like a blanket of goodness, that you just can’t get enough!

Pepperoni & Arugula Flatbread:

My drink of choice was a Raspberry Lemonade, which was too sugary for my taste, but diluted with some water was very good!

For my entree, I went with the Balsamic Glazed Salmon with Orzo. It was a great dish, the salmon is baked on a cedar paper, the glaze is very good and everything is served with a warm orzo salad, with spinach and sun dried tomatoes mixed in – I can’t wait to recreate it at home!

My husband went with the Lobster crusted Tilapia with orzo, and this dish by far was the highlight of our evening! I had a few bites, and it was pure heaven! When they say lobster crusted, believe it, it is indeed lobster crusted, you will find big pieces of lobster on top of two filets of tilapia all in a creamy sauce! If you have to pick one dish, please go with this one!

Obviously we couldn’t finish all of the food, so we asked for the leftovers for to go, and as you can probably guess we still had space for some dessert. Since their desserts are amazing, we decided to go with the Tasting plate, which had Apple Crostata, Tiramisu, Chocolate Cake and Creme Brulee, it was supposed to come with a piece of cheesecake too, but since they were out of it, we got an extra tiramisu!

Everything tasted super fresh, and very delicious!

Creme Brulee:

So here I am, telling you, that if you like italian comfort food, fresh, with great flavors, lots of options, great service and unforgettable desserts go to Maggiano’s! The prices are affordable, and the portions are great, so you can count on leftovers for the next day! There is a vide selection of seafood, chicken, pasta and vegetarian dishes! The wine and cocktail list is very nice, and one regular dessert easily feeds two people! Great atmosphere, and very nice staff!

Website: http://www.maggianos.com/en/Pages/home.aspx

Menu: http://www.maggianos.com/en/Pages/Menu.aspx

Disclaimer: The restaurant staff was not aware that I will write a review afterwards, all the opinions are my own, and we paid for our dinner!

Caramelized Apple Tart

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Nothing probably screams more autumn, than having apple and pumpkin dessert! Last week I shared a transitional recipe from summer to fall, by making a Pumpkin Ice Cream, today I am bringing to you Caramelized Apple Tart!

I am a crust girl; I just love the flaky and buttery stuff! And there is nothing worse to me, than a DRY apple tart! Maybe some people like it, but not me! That’s why I cook my apples, well, to be precise I caramelized them – with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, for a few minutes! By doing this you will achieve a great consistency and your tart will taste amazing!

I also added one pear to the mix, since the pear cooks faster and gets softer that the apples, it blends very well with the brown sugar from caramelization and when the filling is added to the tart, it kind of glues together all the pieces!

This tart can be easily made vegan, just use soy butter – make sure you chill it very, very wel, since it tends to have a softer consistency! Also, instead of the cream and eggs wash you can just use oil and sugar!

This tart would be a very nice addition to any holiday menu, or to just have a slice waiting for you in the fridge on a week night!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 sticks cold butter
  • 2 tbsp butter at room temperature
  • ¼ ice cold water
  • 5 apples
  • 1 pear
  • 5 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp rum
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F.
  2. In a food processor combine: flour and butter until crumbles are formed, add the cold water.
  3. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour at least.
  4. Wash, peel and chop the apples and the pear.
  5. In a pan, on medium heat add 2 tbsp of butter, chopped apples, the pear, 4 tbsp of brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract and rum. Mix well everything and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Let the mixture cool at room temperature.
  6. Roll ¾ your dough to fit into a 9 inch round tart form. Mine was too crumbly, so I just pressed it with my fingers into the tart pan.
  7. Using a fork, puncture the dough, add one cup of uncooked beans or rice and bake it for 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the tart pan from the oven, discharge the rice/beans, and add the apple filling to the tart. With the leftover dough decorate the tart.
  9. In a bowl, mix 1 tbsp of brown sugar with the egg and cream to create the egg wash for the tart. Reapply a few times while the tart is baking
  10. Bake for another 40 minutes.
  11. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, or chilled by itself!

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies with Reese’s Cups

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There are things in life that are just right! Like ice cream, cheesecake, creamy potato soup with bacon, pizza, shoes, chiffon dresses and many others! One of the best, is by far a decadent flourless dessert, and since we all know that PB + Chocolate is a match made in heaven, this is the route I took!

These cookies are amazing, very, very dense, you like almost have to wash them with a glass of milk, or in my case  vanilla almond milk, which by the way, pairs so well with Chocolate & PB!

Each bite is filled with mini Reese’s cups that hide some extra PB!! And, as I mentioned, there is no flour in this recipe, so you can totally enjoy and get lost in the Peanut Butter flavor!

One factor that I like about this cookies is that they are ready in 30 minutes start to finish, and you need only one bowl to mix all the ingredients! And if you are a PB lover, you may already have all the ingredients for this recipe, one more winning point – you only need 4 ingredients, yes, only 4!

Even if you are not a PB lover, I would recommend trying these cookies, since they may totally change your mind, and since they have enough protein to keep you full for a few hours they are totally welcomed for breakfast or as a snack! :)

Ingredients:

(adapted from AllRecipes.com)

  • 2 cups creamy PB
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup Reese’s cups or chocolate chunks

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the peanut butter, eggs and sugar until well blended, add the Reese’s cups. Using an ice cream scoop, take balls of dough and lay them on a cookie sheet. Press with a for to make the cookies 1/2 inch flat. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Let cool completely before serving.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

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Ever since I saw these brownies on Recipe Girl, I couldn’t take my mind off them! And can you blame? Well, no – since they are definitely dreamy! A layer of gooey brownies, topped with cookie dough, what can be better!

I made some changes to the recipe: to save some time I used a box mix for the brownies, this amazing Double Fudge Brownie Mix by Duncan Hines, and added a cup of chocolate chunks! I loved how rich, dense, fudgy and “chocolatey” these brownies turned!

While the brownies were baking to heavenly perfection, I started making the cookie dough layer, I used the recipe from Recipe Girl, and doubled it! Yes, I did double it!! :) I wanted a very, very thick layer of cookie dough!

Once the brownies were done baking, I cooled them and topped them with the amazing layer of cookie dough, and some mini chocolate chips! I found it, that they tasted better once chilled overnight!

These brownies are the perfect dessert to please both: a chocolate lover and vanilla one! Fun to eat, and oh so cute! Definitely a nice addition to any party or a delicious sugar fix during the week! Do yourself a favor and make them! :)

How to make a Lasagna – Step by Step

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One of the few meals that I don’t mind turning the oven on during this hot weather is lasagna! I just love all the layers covered in marinara sauce and cheese! I usually make my lasagna with ground chicken or beef, for this one I used lean ground chicken! Another favorite is adding shredded carrots and mushrooms to the mix! The carrots provide a very nice sweetness, and the caramelized mushrooms taste great and add a very nice texture. Lasagna is very dear to my hear, since it’s a dish that me and my mom were making together for family holidays! This recipe makes 8 serving, but it lasted in our house only for 24 hours, I assume it was that good ? :)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of lean ground chicken
  • 5 large carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce
  • 1 jar of alfredo sauce
  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup of canola oil
  • 1 box of lasagna sheets
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

Fill 3/4 of a large soup pan with water and bring to a boil.

 

In the meantime, in a large wok (that you would use for stir fries) on medium heat start sauteing the carrots in 1/2 cup of oil.

Chop the mushrooms:

Add them to the cooking carrots:

Mix in 4 tbsp of tomato paste and the water, stir well and cook for 10 minutes:

By now the water should be boiling, so add 2 tbsp of canola oil and some salt to it, and prepare to add the lasagna sheets to it. I used the Colavita semolina, because I like the taste and the texture. Barilla is another brand that I like. Even if on the package it says to boil the sheets for 14 minutes, mine needed only 8. Also, I used 4 sheets for each layer, so a total of 12 per my entire lasagna.

Add them to the pan and boil until almost done, note that we still have to bake the lasagna, so you don’t want to over cook the sheets!

While the lasagna sheets are cooking, add the chicken to the carrots and mushrooms mix.

Not the best picture, but voila, this is what raw chicken looks:

Add 1/3 of your marinara sauce, I used spicy tomato and basil, for a little kick and some basil fragrance:

Stir, mix, stir until well incorporated :) Cook for 5 minutes.

Now, your lasagna sheets are done, lay a clean towel on your counter and arrange your lasagna sheets lengthwise on it to drain the excess liquid. I boiled 6 sheets first and after that the other 6.

Spray with oil the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan, and start layering all the goods. Start with 4 lasagna sheets. The chicken should be done by now, so turn the heat off. Take half of the mixture and distribute it evenly on top of the lasagna sheets:

Take some Alfredo sauce or maybe a four cheese sauce and add some on top of the meat.

Also, add 1/3 of the remaining marinara sauce:

Sprinkle everything with a decent amount of mozzarella cheese:

Repeat all the steps for one more layers. When you are done, add the last layer of lasagna sheets, pour the remaining alfredo sauce on top:

Add, the remaining marinara sauce:

And cover everything in cheese, you basically created a pizza top!

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes at 400F until the top is golden brown!

Let the lasagna cool for at least 15 minutes before serving!

Enjoy,

Catalina

Shrimp and Scallops with Jasmine Rice – a 20 minutes Dinner!

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In our family we really love seafood and always have jumbo shrimp and scallops in our refrigerator! They are just so versatile, and you can cook them in 20 minutes start to finish, perfect for late night dinners when you don’t want to spend an hour at the stove! Another plus is that seafood is delicious and healthy! Here, I am presenting you a dinner that was put together in 20 minutes flat! After I defrosted the shrimp and scallops for 5 minutes in warm water, I cleaned the shrimp and started cooking the seafood in some butter. In the meantime, I added a cup of organic jasmine rice to 1 ½ cups of boiling water, seasoned with some salt and pepper and simmered the rice on low heat for 20 minutes! While the rice was cooking, I added some organic garlic paste to the seafood and some organic red chili peppers paste, salt, pepper, lemon grass and ½ cup of water to create a fragrant and buttery sauce! The seafood is cooked the rice is ready, and dinner is served in 20 minutes!  :) This is what I call Fast Food! :)

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb jumbo shrimp
  • ½ lb jumbo scallops
  • 1 cup organic jasmine rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • 4 tbsp organic butter
  • 1 tbsp organic garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp organic red chili peppers paste
  • lemon grass
  • salt & pepper

 Directions:

 Boil the water. Add 1 ½ cups of boiled water to a sauce pan, season with salt and pepper, and simmer the rice in it for 20 minutes with the lead on. In another pan on medium heat sauté the shrimp and scallops in 4 tbsp of butter, after 5 minutes add the garlic & chili paste, followed by the remaining water, lemon grass, salt & pepper. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the seafood with the sauce over rice!

 My favorite part of this dish, except that it comes together in less than 30 minutes, is that the fluffy rice absorbs all that buttery sauce, and it becomes infused with all those great garlicky flavors that pair very nice with the jasmine fragrance and has a nice kick from the chili paste!

 Enjoy,

 Catalina

A Taste of Tropics (Sugar Free) Vegan Popsicles

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The summer is officially here since they opened the outdoor pool at our apartment complex! With all this hot weather I tend to enjoy more grilled food, light salads and desserts that will still make me look good in that swimming suit while enjoying them by the pool! On a hot afternoon after some tanning and swimming all I crave is a cold and refreshing popsicle! And to give to my pool experience a more tropical touch I have created these sugar-free popsicles! Using coconut milk, mango, papaya and lychee juice they truly bring the tropics to you! The coconut milk makes them very creamy, with a hint of coconut flavor! The mango and papaya are rich in Beta Carotene that your skin needs so badly during sun exposure! The 100% natural Lychee juice adds the right amount of sweetness so you can classify these delicious popsicles as dessert!! With less than 200 calories per serving these popsicles will be a summer staple in our family!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 can of coconut milk
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1 cup frozen papaya
  • 1 cup of 100% Lychee Juice as this

Direction:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree.
  2. Pour mixture into popsicles mold.
  3. Freeze for at least 6 hours or until frozen solid. To release popsicles, run hot water on the outside of popsicle molds for a 2-3 seconds.

Enjoy guilt free :)

Catalina

Sour Cherries Creamy Cheesecake Brownies

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After eating enough healthy bread and salads, I decided to bake a glorious and rich dessert to indulge over the weekend! I wanted something decadent, with chocolate but creamy at the same time, my husband on the other end requested something with sour cherries, and to satisfy both parts I came up with this Sour Cherries Creamy Cheesecake Brownies!

The first layer is made of rich and gooey brownies, with lots of chocolate chunks mixed in, the top layer is a creamy cheesecake with sour cherries! When you take a bite all the flavors just explode and make your taste buds very, very happy! The brownies being sweet and with lots of chocolate chunks are balanced very nice by the hint of tartness from the cherries, and everything is covered in a blanket of smooth, delicious and very creamy cheesecake!

Ingredients:

For the brownies:

  • 1 cup  unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup of chocolate chunks
  •   1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Cheesecake:

  • 2 packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 jar of sour pitted Cherries, like this
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven  350 degrees. Spray an 9×13 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place two pieces of parchment paper lengthwise and 1 sheet on the bottom of the greased pan, this will help to remove the baked brownies from the pan. Spray the sheets with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, followed by the vanilla extract. Mix in the flour, cocoa and salt in a separate bowl.  Slowly fold in the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, making sure not to over mix. Add the chocolate chunks to the batter.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and set aside. Start working on the cheesecake.

4. To make the cheesecake beat the cream cheese with sugar on medium speed until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and continue to beat on medium speed until well combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Scrape the bowl and mix on low for another 30 seconds. Drain the excess liquid from the cherries and fold them into the cheesecake batter. Pour the cheesecake filling on top of the brownies and bake for one hour.

5. Let the cake cool at room temperature and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Enjoy,

Catalina

Organic Oat Bran High Protein Bread

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We are all busy people, and sometimes as much as we want to eat healthy and clean life just gets in the way and all the plans are screwed up! By now we all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and when we make our “health” resolutions we have all the good intentions not to skip it, and not to replace it with a donut (on a regular basis)! Sometimes, before going to sleep I make all this grand plans, that tomorrow I will do my workout in the morning followed by a healthy bowl of oatmeal, or a spinach smoothie, but some of the nights I end up sleeping so bad that when I wake up next morning I am already rushing and running late! In this case, I don’t even have enough time to pack my lunch, and can’t even think of having breakfast at home!! So here comes to my salvation this bread! It is all made with organic ingredients; it packs 10 grams of protein per serving and only 265 calories!!! Grab a thick slice of this goodness and a banana and you have a complete meal, full of protein and whole grains!!

 

The secret ingredients in this breakfast bread are the Oat Bran Cereal and the Kefir! Have you ever heard of Kefir? Well, kefir is very popular in Eastern Europe, I grew up drinking lots of eat! The Kefir is a combination of fermented milk and kefir grains (a combination of bacteria and yeast), it has a consistency similar to thin yogurt, comes in different flavors and is packed with 11g of protein and only 110 calories per cup! Kefir is also a good source of calcium and while yogurt contains only two to three strains of “live and active” cultures, Kefir is packed with a unique blend of 12 probiotic cultures. My favorite brand is Lifeway Organic, and some of the benefits of drinking Kefir (from their website) are:

1. Stimulate digestion.
2. Lose weight.
3. Enhance immune system.
4. Alleviate lactose intolerance, IBS,
5. Crohn’s and colitis

Ingredients:

Please note that all the ingredients are organic.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of 1% fat cottage cheese, unsalted
  • 1 cup Kefir, unflavored
  • 1 cup Organic Oat Bran Cereal (I used this)
  • 1 cup Organic Oat Bran Pancake & Waffle Mix (I used this)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 scoop protein powder (I used Sun Warrior Vanilla)
  • 1 cup flour
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a pound cake baking pan with non stick oil and set aside. Using a wooden spoon, or the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, cream the cottage cheese and sugar together, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, add the vanilla extract and the kefir, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the baking powder, protein powder, salt, flour, Oat Bran Cereal and Oat Bran Pancake & Waffle Mix. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mix everything using a spatula just until the dry ingredients are well incorporated, do not over mix.

Bake for 1 hour , or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Allow the bread to cool to room temperature for 30 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack.

Slice the bread and store in ziplock bags up to 4 days.

The bread has a very nice cake – like texture, very dense and moist and it is very good served toasted with a little butter on top!! I love it because it is very portable, I took a few slices with us at the beach for a quick snack, and also I enjoyed it at the office with some berries on the side!

Enjoy,

Catalina

Triple Chocolate Brownies with Caramel and Whipped Cream

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We all know that the power of chocolate is very, very hard to resist, and when a craving hits, in my opinion, it has to be fixed asap!! Brownies are one of my favorite desserts, and when they are loaded with chocolate chunks, melted chocolate, topped with some silky whipped cream and caramel sauce, they make my heart sing and my world spin! There is no way I can resist the urge of having an extra piece, and it is totally worth it, since it makes me very happy!

Now, this batch of brownies exceeded my expectations, they turned our very chewy, dense and you can definitely feel the abundance of chocolate in your mouth! They pair so nice with the whipped cream and the drizzle of caramel sauce just takes them over the top!

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chunks
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • whipped cream
  • caramel sauce

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven  350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place two pieces of parchment paper lengthwise and 1 sheet on the bottom of the greased pan, this will help to remove the baked brownies from the pan. Spray the sheets with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a medium heatproof bowl, set over a pan of almost simmering hot water, melt the semisweet chocolate, stirring occasionally until smooth, add the butter and stir until well combined. Whisk in the cocoa powder until combined. Set aside to cool.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture; followed by the flour, mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until just combined, add the chocolate chunks. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and level the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs attached to it, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack at room temperature. Remove the brownies from the and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares. Decorate with whipped cream and caramel sauce before serving!

Now, to save some time, I just used store bought whipped cream and caramel sauce! But I must say that it worked out pretty well, and I am in love with this brownies! Chocolate + Caramel + Whipped Cream is a combo that will always work, you just can’t go wrong with it!

Enjoy,

Catalina

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