Working Weekend

Ever have one (or multiple) of those days where you feel like you just don’t stop going and going? Well, that’s how my weekend felt! I’m certainly not complaining, but it left me little time to spend in the kitchen.

On Friday after work, a group of us decided to go to a local Mexican restaurant for happy hour to take advantage of the 70+ degree weather, where they have $2 Sol beers all day, every day. Conveniently, that’s also the name of the restaurant. We wound up hanging out for a solid 3 hours, and ordered some nachos and stuffed jalapenos – delicious! By the time we got home, we were zonked, so fiancé and I each grabbed a slice of pizza from our local pizzeria that we pass on the way home, and caught up on the excess TV we hadn’t finished from Thursday night.

Saturday was all business, but it started out with the fiancé making buttermilk pancakes! While I love cooking, it’s always appreciated when someone else does it for me. After fueling up and enjoying an episode of DC Cupcakes, I hit the books. Four hours later I came up for air, just in time to head to the grocery store! On our trip I picked up some leeks for a recipe later this week. Little did I know that they were about $4 each, and I grabbed two. Holy moly they are expensive! This feta, leek, and potato tart I’m making on Thursday better be delicious. Dinner was a quick peanut stir-fry that I was too hungry to photograph. We then went to see Paul, which was absolutely hilarious, and stopped to take some pictures of the “super moon.”


Sunday, the “day of rest” was far from it. I was up early to head to my parent’s to meet with a potential wedding florist. After my mom and I did that, we stopped at my favorite bagel spot, Bagel Chateau, where I picked up what I think is one of their best sandwiches. I know it’s New Jersey so everyone assumes we all love “pork roll” or “Taylor ham”… but I’m not a fan. Instead, I got what they call a “dutch,” which is a mixture of eggs, potatoes, and cheese served up on your bagel of choice. It was just what I needed to fuel my run! After a trip to Trader Joe’s my mom and I headed to the park to get our run on. My mom is new to running, so I was super psyched to see her finish an entire mile without stopping! I did three, which is a great feat considering my foot. I’m starting to think I’m back in the running game, but I don’t want to jinx it. I then headed home to finish up even more homework.


Homework Nerd Alert!


Where was my fiancé during my super busy Sunday, you may ask? Oh, he was just completing his Rita’s Ice Tour, 2011 edition. Last year, I too accompanied him on the adventure, but couldn’t due to my schedule this year. They stopped at 14 Rita’s and sampled a different flavor at each. Head over to his blog to read about it!

I really slacked on Sunday night’s dinner, too. I headed up some Gardin chipotle lime “chicken” strips, and paired it with some southwestern hash-browns. The hash-browns were a nice gussied-up version of just plain ‘ole pan-fried potatoes, and I think would go well at any time of day. Yum!

Southwestern Hash-Browns
– Serves 4 –

4 cups frozen hash-browns
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup corn
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp Adobo
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp taco seasoning
6 Tbsp cooking oil

1.  Preheat skillet with 3 Tbsp of cooking oil. Add a layer of hash-browns to cover the skillet (2 cups). Cover, and let cook for 12 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in another skillet, preheat 2 Tbsp oil, add sauteed onions, and cook for 5 minutes until onions begin to become translucent. Add black beans and corn, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Set aside.
3. After 12 minutes, flip the hash-browns, and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
4.  Repeat steps 1 and 3.
5. Combine the hash-browns and bean mixture back in the skillet, and cook for 2 minutes.

Veggie burgers and Mexican BBQ

Yesterday was seriously delicious.

My parents and I decided to go to lunch in New Brunswick to catch up and talk wedding business. My dad works at Rutgers, so everyone is pretty familiar with the food options in the area. After much debate on what we wanted, we settled on Old Man Rafferty’s. Though I hadn’t been there in easily 10 years, I remember it being pretty good.

I started off with a coconut flavored iced latte. It was topped with
real whipped cream and absolutely delicious. For my entree, I went
with the veggie burger paired with sweet potato fries. My mom got the shrimp salad “boat” and my dad the chicken salad “boat.” My parent’s meals were paired with a Greek salad and pita chips, and looked awesome. My veggie burger was really good. It had a nice char-grilled flavor, but wasn’t over-done. At one point I really questioned if it was veggie – it was impressive! The fries were sliced thin and had the perfect crisp. It was served with a cucumber ranch dip that I used both for my burger and my fries.

Later that evening we decided to head to The Grub Hut in Manville with the usual foodie suspects. BBQ and Mexican in one place?! Not only does it sound amazing, it is amazing. I don’t even know where to start with this place. It’s nothing special on the outside, and even when you walk in; there are a few table and chairs on either side of the doors, and then the kitchen area is wide open with metal everywhere – they don’t hide anything, and they don’t go for looks either. But when the food is that good, does it really matter what the place itself looks like? If you are ever in the mood for smoky, excellently seasoned and perfectly cooked food, and A LOT of it, then I would absolutely suggest The Grub Hut. They actually used to be called The Rub Hut, but added a G in front, probably for the best.

In terms of their menu, it’s pretty impressive; they offer brisket, chicken, pork, Texas link, and ribs all done either in a traditional BBQ way, or Mexican style and served up either in a burrito, flauta, taco, enchilada, or chimichanga. You can even order the mother of all combos and have some BBQ and Mexican heaven together. They offer individual sized meals as well as those you can share with a table, such as a THREE POUND burrito!

The meal started off great with nicely seasoned tortilla chips and an awesome salsa. It is super chunky, and spicy and tangy in a way that most salsa’s seem to miss. I went for the chicken chimichanga, while my fiancé got the ground beef jumbo burrito. They were both HUGE! I was really pleased with my choice of chicken; it was smoky and definitely had a BBQ flavor, but also had a serious kick of Mexican spices. Shoved into a huge tortilla that was fried with rice, beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato paired with some sour cream and guacamole = heaven. I only ate about half, and am saving the rest for tomorrow night’s dinner! Everyone else at the table went for the BBQ side; a BBQ chicken sandwich, a platter called “Hog Heaven” that had chorizo, ribs, brisket and pulled pork, and a Pit Master platter that was similar. Most of their entrées come with two sides; they have everything from fried plantains and rice and beans to “loco” fries doused in jalapeños and cheese.

Jefe Grande Chimi

Needless to say we all waddled out of the restaurant, and headed not home, but to Rita’s. Yes, we’re gluttons for punishment and decided to stretch our stomachs just a little more. While everyone else went for ice, I got myself some vanilla soft serve with rainbow sprinkles – my own personal heaven. I only finished about a quarter of it, but it was well worth every bite.

Thankfully, I went for a four mile run today and watched myself in terms of eating, since yesterday was a serious glutton fest. But what can I say? You need one of those every once in awhile!! And I’m definitely planning on going back to The Grub Hut to enjoy some more Mexican BBQ in the future!

Rita’s Tour – The 2010 Edition

This past Saturday was the first day of Spring. So, as they do every year, Rita’s gave out free 10oz servings of their famed ice all day. Being a bunch of gluttonous children, my fiancé (you can read his tour round-up here) and a group of friends and I decided upon the ultimate task – 10 Rita’s in one day, a new flavor at each location.

Last year, the group made it to about five locations in only a few hours (it was a Friday so needed to be done after work). Knowing that this year it fell on a Saturday with a gorgeous forecast, we got cocky. About a week prior to the event, a few different e-mails were exchanged with maps of potential stops. It included a trip to Stuff Yer Face in New Brunswick for ‘bolis, and a detour to look at a potential wedding venue. We also stumbled upon a Cupcake joint, Sugar Mommy’s Cupcakes, that I’ll detail in a separate blog entry.

After starting our trip at about 12:30pm and devouring our ices at about 1, we then spent the next 8 hours driving to various Rita’s Ice locations in New Jersey. We made stops in Bridgewater, Somerville, Flanders, Denville, Berkeley Heights, Westfield, Plainfield, and finally Edison. We searched for a Rita’s in Morristown that no longer exists, and ran out of time before heading to Milltown. But at any rate, I sampled eight different ice flavors, preparing me for the season ahead. They included Alex’s Lemonade, Green Apple, Florida Orange, Sugar Free Cherry, Wild Black Cherry, Coconut, Pistachio, and their newest edition – Peeps. Oh yes, you read correctly – Peeps flavored ice! As in the little bird shaped marshmallows that are covered in sugar, usually found in Easter baskets. It tasted nothing like Peeps, but more like birthday cake, which I was more than okay with. It’s neon yellow color was another selling point.

I really liked all of the flavors. But, I think Alex’s Lemonade and the Coconut were my favorites. I think the only ice I wouldn’t order again would have been the Wild Black Cherry. That was definitely sub-par, and had more of a grape flavor than anything else. The Peeps was also super-sweet, so that would have to be consumed sparingly.

By about stop 5, we were all looking for food. The mere thought of devouring ‘bolis at Stuff Yer Face is what I think kept us going. So, we decided to head there after our 7th stop. When we finally got to the restaurant, we made no qualms about our purpose. We didn’t get drink wristbands, and ordered water and an appetizer almost as soon as we sat. After surviving on water ice for almost 7 hours, we needed solid food, quickly. We all dug in to our hot wings and onion rings as soon as they were brought out, and anxiously awaited the arrival of our stromboli. The restaurant has a lot to offer; there are pre-suggested combinations, and also a “create your own.” My fiancé always orders the same create your own, and after trying it, follow suit. It has mozzarella cheese, chicken, buffalo sauce, onions, and broccoli. It is absolutely amazing.

After realizing the time, we knew we’d only have time for one more Rita’s, since they close at 9pm. We headed to the one nearest to where we live, and waited in one last line. By the time we got our ice it was 9:15, and the line showed no chance of stopping.

I woke up today feeling great. Sure, I might have been a little sugar hungover, but I managed to run 7.5 miles (longest single run logged yet!) and I could absolutely eat another Rita’s Ice right now, preferably a Gelati. I’m so excited that ice and ice cream season is finally here. I’m looking forward to more outdoors frozen treat devouring, and saying goodbye to eating it while hiding under a blanket indoors.

All in all, our group (4 people) went to 8 locations, and sampled 20 flavors. Pretty impressive, if I do say so myself! I hope Rita’s is ready for next year, because we’ll be back – bigger and badder than ever!