Homemade Snickers Bars {careful- these are addictive!}

These homemade snickers bars might just be my new favorite thing. Store bought Snickers bars are all well and good- but these take it to a whole new level. They’re chocolaty and nutty and melt in your mouth- striking the perfect balance between salty and sweet. It looks like a lot of steps, and it is, but they come together pretty quickly and require minimal dexterity to execute. Either way- these bars are worth any amount of effort. Plan on eating one and then giving the rest to deserving friends, or you’ll risk eating the whole batch!

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Makes one 9×13 pan or roughly 12 medium size bars

Bottom Chocolate Layer

  • 1 bag milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

Thoroughly grease you baking pan. Melt ingredients together in a saucepan over low heat, then pour into the baking dish and spread evenly. Let cool and harden completely. (I put mine in the freezer to speed up the process).

Nougat Peanut Layer

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 cups marshmallow fluff
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 cup salted peanuts chopped, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in sugar and milk, stirring until dissolved, then bring to a boil. Allow the mixture to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in fluff, peanut butter and vanilla, and whisk until smooth. Turn off the heat and fold in the peanuts, then pour over bottom chocolate layer. Let cool completely. (Again, you can use the freezer to speed it all up).

Caramel Layer

  • 1 14-ounce bag of caramels
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream

Combine ingredients in a saucepan over low heat. Allow the caramels to melt, whisking occasionally, until smooth – this took about 10 minutes for me. Pour over nougat layer and let cool completely.

Top Chocolate Layer

  • 1 bag milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

Melt ingredients together in a saucepan or microwave, then pour over caramel and spread until even. Let cool and harden completely.

Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving, or freeze for a good 15 minutes, then cut as desired. These can stay good at room temperature, but they do get gooey. If you keep them in the fridge, allow them to warm up a bit before serving.

Adapted from the recipe on http://www.howsweeteats.com

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Elizabeth’s City Pizza Overnight Review

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Last Thursday I placed my order for pizza delivery from City Pizza Overnight– and Friday afternoon, as promised, I came home to a huge, brown box at my doorstep.  City Pizza Overnight is a Chicago-based company that specializes in NYC-style pizza delivered overnight. It comes to you cooled and packed in ice, ready to crisp up in your oven and eat in 6-7 minutes. The ordering process is simple and straightforward, and their FedEx shipping process is seamless. They send you a confirmation and tracking number so you know exactly where your order is and when it arrives. Definitely easy and definitely convenient.

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For my pizzas, I tried a regular plain pizza, a gluten-free plain pizza, and a gluten-free pizza topped with onions, and peppers. Once out of the box, all you have to do in unwrap each pie and put them right on the rack in your pre-heated oven. The pizzas made my kitchen smell fantastic; a nice perk you don’t usually get to enjoy when you order pizza. I found it helpful to keep the cardboard circles from under the pizza- that way you can just pull them right out of the oven onto those and serve.

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How did they taste? The gluten-free options are a real accomplishment. They have a tender and crispy crust like you’d expect from a regular pizza, the sauce and cheese are in good proportion, and the vegetable toppings on one gave it a welcomed boost of flavor. For anyone with a gluten allergy who’s craving a pizza fix- this would surely hit the spot. The regular plain pizza for me tasted a little plain, for lack of a better word. It didn’t have the cheesy, crusty, unctuousness I’ve come to expect from plain pizza. But if you live in a part of the country where good pizza is far and few between, this might be right up your alley. And as I said before, the gluten-free options are a smart and delicious option even for those without a gluten allergy. You can even order up a bunch of pizzas and keep them in your freezer, ready to heat and eat at a moments notice.

Luce {Eclectic Italian in Caldwell}

While this area has no shortage of Italian restaurants, picking out the ones worth your time can be a challenge. Luce definitely rises to the top of this list, distinguishing itself with a creative menu and attentive kitchen and staff. A fixture on the Caldwell restaurant scene since 2001, Luce revamped its image and menu in 2011. They brought in Executive Chef Steve Saragnese (formerly of Babbo in NYC and Vetri in Philadelphia) to shake up their traditional Italian fare. Saragnese now serves an eclectic twist on Italian classics, showcasing a keen appreciation for flavor combinations and fresh, seasonal ingredients.

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When I had dinner at Luce last week, I was impressed with the number of specials tacked on to their regular menu. The favorite that stood out was the butternut squash ravioli. Pillowy and light, filled with silky butternut squash purée and swathed in a nutty brown butter sauce, and topped with parmesan and crispy sage, it’s the perfect cold-weather pasta dish. The flatbread we tried was also a special, and hit all the right notes with creamy fontina cheese, peppery arugula, and crispy bacon. The flatbread was sprinkled judiciously with truffle oil, such that it didn’t overpower but elevated the whole dish. The Toasted bread with provolone cheese and roasted red pepper purée also delivered a serious flavor punch. What it lacked in beauty it made up for in taste; the sharp provolone and the tangy red pepper purée balanced perfectly, and the bread had a nice crunch. The eggplant caponata that comes with warm bread at the start of your meal is also a real standout, setting the tone for a flavor-packed meal.

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Luce offers an ample entrée menu, complete with standouts like Berkshire pork chop, filet mignon, gingered tuna, and wild Scottish salmon.  For our dinner, we tried the grouper, accompanied by whipped potatoes and garlic spinach. The fish was flaky and tender, and  served with just the right amount of creamy, garlicky sauce. We also tried the shrimp, served over a risotto with garlic spinach. Everything was cooked and seasoned beautifully no complaints from out table! For dessert we had Luce’s homemade brownie served with espresso chip ice cream and an espresso chocolate reduction. Rich, dark, and chocolaty- it hit the spot.

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Everyone at Luce, from the owners to the kitchen to the staff are warm, friendly, and helpful. Prices are reasonable considering the quality of the ingredients and the attention to detail. Though they don’t have a liquor license, Luce provides a wine list and will place an order for prompt delivery to your table. If you haven’t tried Luce, or haven’t been in years, give it a try- you’ll be impressed!

Pappardelle Pasta with Lamb Ragu {Perfect for Valentine’s Day Dinner!}

Hey readers! I’m Elizabeth, your new culinary contributor. I’m a Hamilton College and French Culinary Institute graduate, and a longtime NJ resident. Even with my highbrow culinary education, I still enjoy a bowl of Kraft Mac & Cheese and a slice of Funfetti cake as much as the next food lover (my French chefs would cringe!). You’ll find me sampling and creating all kinds of food from all types of cuisines; cooking, baking, cocktail shaking – the works. I also write healthy living recipes for insurance companies; so I’ve got lots of gluten-free, dairy-free, and veggie-laden recipes in my repertoire. I love traveling, spicy food, farmer’s markets, champagne, and throwing dinner parties for friends and family.

This Valentine’s Day, why not forgo the expensive pre-fix menu and overcrowded restaurant in favor of a delicious dinner at home. This pappardelle pasta with lamb ragu comes together quickly and makes your kitchen smell delicious. Its light on your wallet but still packs big gourmet flavors to celebrate the night. Serve with a green salad and red wine, and you’ll be sure to please!

Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu

Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb (you can use ground beef in a pinch)
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in puree
  • 3/4 pound pappardelle (get fresh pasta if you can)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Directions:

  1. In a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, the oil over medium heat. Add the carrot and the onion and cook over medium heat, five minutes or until the vegetables have begun to soften. Add the garlic and the mushrooms and cook for a minute more.
  2. Next, add the lamb, parsley, fennel, cinnamon, rosemary and thyme. Cook for five minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato paste and the wine and cook until mostly evaporated, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their puree, and bring everything to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low, cover your pan partially and cook until the liquid is slightly reduced, 25 to 30 minutes. If your ragu gets over-reduced, add a splash of chicken stock to thin it out again. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
  3. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, per package directions. Save 1 cup of pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce, along with the butter and toss over low heat. Thin the ragu with a splash of the pasta water if needed. Serve the pasta and ragu in bowls, topped with a scoop of the ricotta and a sprinkling of the chopped mint.

As a bonus- toast the night with a festive fizzy cocktail. Pick budget friendly Prosecco over pricey champagne, and mix it with 1-tablespoon pomegranate juice per glass. Serve in champagne flutes with a squeeze of lime juice and enjoy!