The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 New Year’ s Eve Coup Quashing Appetizers

New Years Eve in Timesquare

Happy New Year!

So you have secured the privilege to host the largest event in most people’s social calendars all year and you want to hold on to this honor for years to come.  This is not an easy task my friend!  At least half of your friends and family that are attending your New Year’s Eve party this year have thoughts of forcing a coup d’état, that would make Napoleon Bonaparte blush, leaving your house empty on this festive occasion.   The best way to quell this treacherous scheming is to fill your visitors’ bellies with delicious foodie fare that will have them craving your apps like Charlie Sheen desires seven gram rocks.  The following is The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 Coup Quashing Appetizers.

1:  Candied Bacon with Mixed Nuts

If you read this blog you are well aware of my love of, alright obsession for, bacon, so it should be no surprise that the first appetizer on my list is full of salty smoked swine.  I created this recipe for Christmas this year because I had some left over slab bacon that I did not want to go to waste.  It was a huge hit, so even though there is no official recipe yet, it is not very difficult to make.  Please note that when I made this delightfully spontaneous dish I did not measure the spices so feel free to tweak the recipe to fit your tastes.

Slab Bacon

Slab Bacon

First you will need to acquire the following ingredients:

1 Pound of Slab Bacon (preferably from your favorite Pork Store)

1 Table spoon Cinnamon

Maple Syrup (Enough to coat bacon)

2 Jars of Emeralds Sweet and Salty Cinnamon Sugar Mixed Nuts

2 Table spoons of Brown Sugar

Candied Bacon

Candied Bacon

Preparation:

  1. Cut the Bacon into ¼ inch bite sized pieces making to cut against the grain as to preserve the integrity of the fat to meat ratio of the slab bacon.
  2. Place a ½ pound of the cut bacon into a skillet set to medium high heat.
  3. Sprinkle ½ tablespoon of cinnamon on Bacon once a layer of grease forms on the bottom of the pan.  Mix Well
  4. Cook bacon until very close to being done and then drizzle maple syrup into the pan coating the bacon evenly.
  5. Cook Bacon until it is crisp.
  6. Remove Bacon from pan and place on plate and allow it to cool for approximately 10 minutes.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 for the other ½ pound of bacon.
  8. Fill two serving dishes (I use holiday tins to be festive) with the Emerald’s mixed nuts and top with Candied Bacon.
  9. Dust with Brown sugar and mix well to incorporate the bacon into the nuts.

This dish is easy to create and even easier to serve to your guests.  Simply prepare this crunchy, salty, sweet concoction the night before and set it out shortly before your guests arrive.  I assure you this hodgepodge of awesomeness will make at least a few of your guests Tweet the praises of your shindig, like a 14 year old girl who just received her first kiss.

2:  Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip

New Year’s Eve Parties are hard to cook for because people are constantly on the move.    Furthermore, everyone is dressed up to ring in the New Year, so unfortunately the gold standard in appetizers, The Chicken Wing, is absolutely out of the question.  Right?  Wrong!  This tangy Buffalo Chicken Dip is the perfect solution to this sticky fingered dilemma.

This is another dish that can easily be made the night before and reheated just prior to your guest’s arrival.  Paired with a strong tortilla chip like Tostitos Scoops this magical potion will make your Grandma’s Onion Dip feel like Latoya Jackson at a family reunion.

3:  Double Bruschetta

 

Double Bruschetta

Double Bruschetta

As most of you already know, I am from the Armpit of our fine country, New Jersey!  New Jersey is known for a few things; the Mob, thanks to the Sopranos, the New Jersey Turnpike, thanks to the smell of cheese and death that emanates from it, Snookie, thanks to Ulster County, New York, and Jersey Fresh Produce, thanks to being the Garden State.  As the Facts of Life theme song once said, “You take the good, you take the bad,” (I just lost a man point there) and that pretty much sums up my love hate relationship with New Jersey.  I could do without being associated with the horrid odor of the Turnpike and Snookie invading my shore line like an overweight, orange skinned, vodka laced Godzilla, but then I would have to do without the mouthwatering taste of fresh Jersey Tomatoes and I can’t have that!

In celebration of the only good thing to be associated with New Jersey since the first game of Baseball was played on June 19, 1846, I present to you this jaw dropping bruschetta recipe that will make your guests proud to be from THE GARDEN STATE.  Unlike ordinary Bruschetta recipes, this one throws sun dried tomatoes into the mix, and then prompts you to melt cheese on pre-made toast squares.   What you end up with is an appetizer that is not only healthy but is also a true crowd pleaser.  These crispy slices of heaven will make your guests completely forget that Chris Christie is our governor and their car insurance is higher than most people’s mortgages.

4:  Crunchy Swiss Cheese and Ham

 

Crunchy Ham and Cheese Bites

Crunchy Ham and Cheese Bites

If you are anything like me you always have some left over Christmas Ham that you are not quite sure what to do with.  Sure you can have Ham and Cheese sandwiches for lunch for a month, or you could make some fantastic Split Pea Soup, but why not share the wealth, in the form of a crunchy tasty treat.   These crunchy Swiss cheese and Ham patties are a great way to recycle that Holiday Ham in a fun and scrumptious way.

The home style appeal of these flavorful morsels transport me back to a simpler time when instead of Panko or Tempura batter, cornflakes would do just fine as a crunchy coating.  I like to serve these delicious nuggets with a variety of mustards, such as Dijon, Spicy Brown, and Yellow.

5:  Fried Green Beans with Wasabi Ranch Dipping Sauce

 

Fried Green Beans

Fried Green Beans

This recipe is one of my all-time favorites for any kind of entertaining.  Fried Green Beans can be served to a small dinner party with a refined palette or to a group of booze laden football fans on any given Sunday.  Either way these crispy fried tidbits are always a hit.

Kat and I found this recipe when we first got our Deep Fryer and went on frying binge that almost caused a zombified John Candy to rise from his grave and join us.  We literally fried everything, French Fries, Tator Tots, Hot Dogs, Twinkies (R.I.P.), Oreos, Snickers, and when we ran out of the normal things to fry, we went rouge and started tossing veggies into the hot oil.  After we gained 10 pounds in a month and our cholesterol was twenty points higher we had to retire the fryer for a while but this recipe always remained a staple.

Weather you use all or none of the recipes above, I hope that reading this article inspired you to create some amazing appetizers for your guests.  Remember your friends and family came to your house to celebrate the New Year, it is up to your spread to keep them coming back for more.  I hope your New Year’s Eve Party will be a complete success and no usurpers are victorious.  As Cersei Lannister said, “When you play the game of thrones you win or you die.”

Happy New Years to you all and thanks for a wonderful 2012!

The Blue Collar Foodie goes South Of the Bergen County Border and visits Tito’s Burritos in Morristown, New Jersey

As a foodie blogger and all around food fanatic, when one of your friends says you need to try, fill in the blank food, at, fill in the blank restaurant, you only have one option.  That option is to plan a date, and make it happen.  If I did not listen to peoples suggestions I would be sitting at the same 15 restaurants all the time, scouring their menus for something that I have not yet tried.  So with that said, while out at a bar one night when my friends told me I had to try Tito’s Burritos located at 26 Washington St., in Morristown, NJ, without hesitation and much like a 1970’s movie star, I replied sure enuff’.

After talking about this establishment for damn near 30 minutes at the bar, making our entire group famished and craving Mexican Food, I could not resist doing some research on the internet when I got home.   The Googles informed me that not only was there a Tito’s in Morristown, NJ but another location just down the street from me in Ridgewood, NJ.  Once I found out this tidbit of information I knew I was going to have to attend Tito’s Burritos as my alter ego The Blue Collar Foodie and not as the mild manner Clark Kent, so I could inform my readers all about my gastronomic adventure.

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After planning a date that fit into both of our calendars, Kat and I met up with Brian and Kristen in downtown Morristown, New Jersey to check out this trendy burrito spot.  Unfortunately, dinner time in Morristown, NJ is as crowded as Times Square on a Saturday afternoon, when it comes to finding a parking spot.  After we completed our search for a parking spot and scored a decent one thanks to the eagle eyes of our friends, we proceeded to walk towards Tito’s Burritos which about a five minute walk from our car.

Upon approaching this establishment I got a vibe that I have not felt since I visited San Diego, California and ate at a local burrito joint that was highly recommended in the downtown area.  From a distance you can tell, that Tito’s Burrito’s is not all about flashy decorations and flair like other restaurants trying to lure you in with bling only to break your heart with sub-par sustenance.

When you enter Tito’s there is a small eating area and a counter that is designed to make ordering quick and easy.   There menu is posted on the wall in giant letters so everyone can read it while the wait on line.  Gracing that menu is a myriad of Mexican dishes that would make Speedy Gonzales’s grandmother drool, and from what I heard that lady can cook.  The menu is broken down into categories for ease of use, and lists Burritos, Tacos, Salads, Nachos, Quesadillas, Kids Dishes, Sides, Wings, Chicken Strips, and Desserts.

                 First and foremost, there is the Burrito list and considering that this spot is named Tito’s Burritos and not Tito’s Tacos I think Tito knows how to rock him some yumminess wrapped in a tortilla.  The highlights include the Mac Daddy described as being filled with grilled grade A steak with black beans, yellow rice, Tito’s cheeses, sour cream, pico de gallo salsa & fresh guacamole for $9.50, or for those looking for something slightly different they offer the Hang Five Shrimp Burrito which is chock full of Sautéed garlic shrimp, with shredded cabbage, yellow rice, pico de gallo salsa & cilantro/lime sauce for $9.25.  You can also find out the Special Burrito of the Day by calling, checking the chalkboard, or by checking out Tito’s Facebook & Twitter feed to be informed.  When I visited Tito’s the special of the day was a Jamaican Jerk Burrito with jerk flavored chop meat and all the fixings.

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The rest of the menu did seem intriguing and almost tempted away from the Burrito list with offerings such as the Steak Taco, the Classic Quesadilla, and a boastful statement next to the wings that reads “THE BEST IN NEW JERSEY.”  I was tempted to stray from my first instinct, but as in life decisions like that almost always end in heartbreak and despair.  So instead of wishing I stuck with my gut, when I reached the counter I ordered the Jamaican Jerk Burrito which set me back $9.50, while Kat went with the Mac Daddy, which as stated above was also $9.50.  As for Brian and Kristen, they ordered another Mac Daddy and two steak tacos respectively.

After we ordered, I wandered around the establishment to get a feel for the restaurant.  It was obvious by the décor that Tito is into long boarding, surfing, and hanging out hippie style.  All the Tito’s swag that is for sale has a retro southern California feel to it.  Even their slogan, which is, “It’s all good,” can’t be uttered without conjuring an image of a surfer giving you the hang ten sign.  Furthermore, in the back of the restaurant there is a wall of pictures submitted by loyal customers and famous people that have all, “Shown Them Their Tito’s,” which includes flicks of Tito’s favorite customers, exotic and interesting locations where Tito’s stickers have been sighted, special events, Tito’s staff and more!  The Tito’s stickers are free with any purchase by the way.

As our order came up, I ventured to the condiment cart to dress my burrito in style.  This cart is jam-packed with all of the necessities to make your burrito ready for the gala.  Fresh made Pico De Gallo, Pickled Jalapenos, Salsa Verde, and over a dozen different hot sauces are at your fingertips to garnish your selection however you please.

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At first glance I was slightly disappointed in the overall size of my Burrito which was defined as HUMONGOUS burritos.  Now if you follow my blog, you know I have already reviewed a spot  called Blue Moon which offers burritos the size of my forearm, so I was sad to see that Tito’s did not measure up to Blue Moon’s gargantuan fare.  But as many ladies have told many men, many many times size sometimes is not all that matters.  After the first bite of this large, but slightly not HUMONGOUS, burrito, size did not matter.  The flavor that was contained in this 12 inch tortilla was all that I cared about, and it was tremendous, especially when topped off with their fantastic Guacamole.  As Kat stated by the end of the meal, I just want it to last forever because it tastes so damn good.

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The Burritos seemed to have the right balance of ingredients swimming in the proper quantity of sauce and cheese, which is a hard thing to find in a world of mass produced burritos that are put together with caulk guns and ice cream scoops with about as much care as a third rate doctor at a clinic is Botswana. These Burritos seemed to be judiciously constructed by some sort of Zen burrito master with a fifth degree black belt in yummy.  My only complaint was that according to the menu, we were supposed to offered free homemade tortilla chips with the purchase of our burritos but we never received them, nor did we ask for them because I did not realize this menu side note until as we were about to leave.

While we were finishing up our meals Brian decided to order a classic Chicken Quesadilla for  all of us to share, which of course I did not complain about because then I would get to try one more item on the menu.  The Quesadilla came with Tito’s Guacamole and Sour cream and tasted so good that even though we were all filled almost to capacity, we did not waste one bite of it.  The chicken inside was plentiful and grilled just right and when combined with the sauce and cheese made for a gooey masterpiece.
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Thanks to Brian and Kristen, Tito’s Burritos has earned a coveted spot in my regular rotation of pseudo fast food joints, and I can’t wait to try the one located on East Ridgewood Ave, in Ridgewood, NJ.  From the relaxed bohemian atmosphere to the serious eats that are served, Monday – Saturday: 11:00am to 9pm and Sunday: noon to 8pm, Tito has made this Blue Collar Foodie very pleased.  As an added bonus, if you work in the area of Ridgewood or Morristown, both Tito’s Burritos locations offer to-go orders and delivery which can save you some valuable time on your lunch hour.

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Judgment:

Overall:                  3.5 out of 5

Taste:                    4.5 out of 5

Presentation:         3 out of 5

Value:                   3 out of 5

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