Archive for December, 2007

Puffy Eggs in Casserole

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Happy New Year!!!!

I am renaming this recipe, Deflated Eggs in Casserole, because they never got “puffy” like it should have. I did half the recipe so maybe that could be why it was so flat and dry?? Or because I used skim milk? This could also be the result of my stove, I’ve mentioned previously that it’s not working like it should. But here it is if you are apt to try it. Maybe it will work out better for you. It’s actually from a cookbook I really like and have had many successful other results from other recipes, Around the Table: Easy Menus for Cozy Entertaining at Home, Ellen Wright.

It did actually taste better than it looks but I would only make it again if I stayed true to it, meaning not halfing it. I also omitted the parsley as I didn’t have any fresh on hand.

Puffy Eggs in Casserole

1 loaf French bread

2 T butter, softened

12 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

1 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 c whole milk

1/4 c butter, melted

3 T fresh parsley for garnish

6 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained on paper towels and crumbled for garnish

The night before serving, cut the bread into 1 inch thick slices and spread with softened butter. Butter a large oval or round baking dish that is 2 to 3 inches deep. Layer the bread in the dish, then add the beaten eggs, cheese, milk and melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, remove the dish from fridge and let sit at room temp for one hour. Preheat oven to 325 F. Bake until golden brown and puffy, 50 to 60 minutes. Garnish with parsley and bacon and serve immediately.

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Christmas Cookies!

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Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas everyone! I spent the entire weekend making cookies (and other things) for tonight and tomorrow. I was able to make five types of cookies this year and would love to share them with you. I know I’ve said before on this blog, I’m not a baker, but when it comes to cookies, I rock. Going clockwise, I’ll tell you a little about each cookie and all recipes will follow.

Raspberry Jam Thumbprints -I found this recipe several years ago in the book, Traditional Christmas Two, Cooking, Crafts & Gifts, a present from my mother. You can use your favorite jam or preserves, but I prefer raspberry.

Biscotti -My mother and I have been taking turns making this biscotti recipe for Christmas every year. The recipe is out of one of my old favorite cookbooks, Dom DeLuise’s Eat This…It Will Make You Feel Better. This is a traditional Italian cookie that we must have for Christmas. They are very easy to make as you just need to form the dough into a loaf and then slice it halfway through baking to get the cookies shape.

Snowballs -Some people call these Russian Tea Cakes, I call them Snowballs because that’s what they look like to me! They are delicious, very buttery, just melting in your mouth. I’m not sure where this recipe came from but my mother was making these way before I was.

Chocolate Cherry Drops -This is a new recipe for the year. Unlike all of the other cookies which I make every year, I always throw in a new one. This one came from a very small Hershey cookbook, Hershey’s Favorite Recipes, I got back in the 80’s when I went to Hershey Park with my family. I think it’s an okay cookie, though I wouldn’t make it again. If you make these, leave plenty of room on the baking sheet because they spread a lot.

And last but not least, Chocolate Chip Cookies -I’ve been making this recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook since I was a wee child. These cookies are legend. I’ve tried other recipes but none compare. When I was in high school, I started by bringing them to my fellow cheerleaders and would give them out to the fans, even our mayor would stop by every game to get some! Once I got into college, I made them every weekend during football season for a group of friends, the Fat Boys, who weren’t necessarily fat, but played football and loved these cookies. By the time we were all seniors, the whole football team would stop by their place for these cookies! Richard Bey, who if you don’t remember, was the Jerry Springer before Jerry Springer, even came to our campus during football season. Someone told him about the cookies and he signed an autograph for me, “To the Campus Cookie Lady!” So I can pretty much make these with my eyes closed!

Hope you’ll try them all!

Raspberry Jam Thumbprints

1 c butter

1/2 c packed brown sugar

2 egg yolks

2 c flour

3 T jam

Heat oven to 300 F. Combine butter, sugar, and egg yolks. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add flour. Beat at low speed until soft dough forms. Shape into one inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Indent each cookie with thumb. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until set. Take out of oven and indent again. Spoon 1/4 tsp of jam into thumbprint. Cool completely before storing. Do not stack cookies, they will stick together. Makes 3 dozen.

Biscotti

2 1/2 c flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 c. margarine

1 c sugar

4 eggs

1 T anise

Sift flour and baking powder in one bowl. In another blend margarine, sugar and eggs (one at a time). Mold into a loaf on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Remove and slice and turn cookies on side. Bake 10 minutes until slightly browned.

Snowballs

1 c butter

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 c flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c confectionery sugar

Combine butter, vanilla, sugar. Add flour and salt. Form into small balls and bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 10 -12 minutes at 350. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional confectionery sugar.

Chocolate Cherry Drops

2 blocks (2 oz) unsweetened baking chocolate

1/2 c butter

1 c sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 c flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 c chopped and drained maraschino cherries

Melt baking chocolate. Cream butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add chocolate and blend. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to chocolate mixture. Stir in cherries. Drop by rounded teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12 to 15 minutes. About 4 dozen.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c brown sugar

1/3 c butter

1/3 c shortening

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 c flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

6 oz (or more!!!) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375. Mix sugars, butter, shortening, egg and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoon about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until lightly brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool slightly before removing. About 3 1/2 dozen. If using self rising flour, omit baking soda and salt.

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Restaurant Reviews: Mad Batter, Cape May, NJ & The Continental, AC, NJ

A few weeks ago, we made our yearly December migration to beautiful Cape May, NJ. As I mentioned in last year’s recap, I love Cape May, I was married there, vacation there all the time and eventually want to live there permanently. Nothing is more beautiful around Christmas than Cape May. However, this year, we only went for the day as we’ve been super busy.

We left very early in the morning and an hour and a half later got there just in time for breakfast. Where else would I eat breakfast at in Cape May but my favorite NJ restaurant, The Mad Batter. Since I hadn’t eaten here since last December I was anticipating being at my favorite spot. However, I couldn’t deviate from my most beloved breakfast item, the Croustade, scrambled eggs, roasted pepper and garlic, with green onions, sausage and Pepper Jack cheese served over brioche with home fries and of course, delicious coffee. If this sounds familiar it’s because I ordered the same thing last December. My husband teased me about being boring but I said if I ate here more than once a year I’d order something different. As always, it was absolutely delicious.

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The husband ordered the Helsinki, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, green onions and Swiss cheese. He enjoyed it very much and I sneaked a bite and thought it was very good. As always, the service here is great, I adore the setting and am always waiting for a return trip here.

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On the way home, we made a little detour to a little place called Atlantic City. We felt like trying our luck at my favorite casino, Caesar’s. While there, we were getting hungry for dinner so we took a walk around The Pier (a connected mall) and thought the menu sounded interesting for The Continental. The look evoked a Jetson’s-like atmosphere and we were seated around a retro fireplace. We started with Cheesesteak Egg Rolls, which we really enjoyed and Zucchini Fries, also good. My husband ordered the Pad Thai for his entree which he said was okay, but lacking in shrimp. I ordered an appetizer for my entree, Lobster Mac and Cheese. This was nothing special. It was made with orzo and fontina cheese. The only good part was picking out the very small amount of lobster in it. The service was just okay here. I do not recommend this place. The only good thing was that we headed back to the casino where we proceeded to win a little to cover the cost of the mediocre meal!

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So overall, The Mad Batter – AWESOME, as usual…. The Continental…ehhh….just head to the casino….

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Hungarian Beef Goulash

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Here’s another hearty winter stew, Hungarian Beef Goulash. I know my grandmother used to make this all the time for my grandfather because he was Russian and loved this Eastern European dish. (Yes! Little known fact, I’m a quarter Russian!!) However, this was my first time making this and I’m not sure if it really came out right. It didn’t taste much different than a regular beef stew. There is a possibility I may have not been paying attention and didn’t add enough paprika which is a signature ingredient. I have other Goulash recipes I’d like to try to get the right taste for Hungary’s national dish (according to Cooking Light) but I doubt I’d make this particular recipe again. I did also forget to add the lemon juice at the end, maybe that was the missing ingredient?? (again, not paying attention…) It wasn’t horrible, just not memorable…. If anyone can recommend a good goulash recipe I’m all ears….

Overall – 2.5 stars 

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Beef Goulash


Hungary’s national dish is a meat stew flavored with paprika and caraway seeds. Browning the meat first yields the most flavorful result. You can also serve over egg noodles.


1 1/2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon butter
4 cups chopped onion (about 2 large)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 cup chopped plum tomato (about 3)
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup water
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
2 1/2 cups cubed peeled Yukon gold or red potato (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Dredge beef in flour; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook 8 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in paprika and vinegar; cook for 2 minutes. Return beef to pan. Add the tomato, caraway seeds, and bay leaves; cook 3 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 cup water, and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour and 45 minutes. Add potato; cover and cook 1 hour and 15 minutes or until very tender. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and juice. Discard bay leaves.Yield:  8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)CALORIES 242 (23% from fat); FAT 6.1g (sat 2.6g,mono 2.3g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 24.2g; CHOLESTEROL 47mg; CALCIUM 31mg; SODIUM 517mg; FIBER 2.5g; IRON 2.8mg; CARBOHYDRATE 22.4g Cooking Light, JANUARY 2007

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Restaurant Review: Trinity, Keyport, NJ

****** NEWS UPDATE ****** See my more recent review here!!!

Keyport, New Jersey is a quaint, little town on the coastal side of Monmouth county. There are a lot of pretty Victorian homes, a small main street with some unique shops, and a handful of really great restaurants. One of the newer ones to open is Trinity Restaurant. It’s housed in a multi-level century old church and features Latin, Asian & Mediterranean cuisine. I’ve been wanting to try this restaurant since it opened this year as I heard many positive reviews about it. We made plans for this past Saturday night with friends to have dinner there.

Upon entering the restaurant you are immediately greeted by the friendly owner. The place was absolutely beautiful. To the left was a bar and directly in front was the first floor seating area. There was also a second floor with additional seating overlooking the first floor. The refurbishment was absolutely stunning. As we waited for our dining companions we had a drink at the bar. The bartender was very friendly and helpful and made some suggestions for the menu. Once our dining partners arrived we were led upstairs to a table right next to the balcony overlooking the first floor.

The waitresses brought out some marinated olives, which were excellent, and fresh rolls. All entrees were also served with a salad of mixed greens.

For appetizers, I had the Catalan Style Clams ($12), a dozen little neck clams with chorizo, Spanish peppers, white wine, and a touch of cream, served with some garlic toast. I dived right into this and thought it was fabulous. The clams were perfect and the combination of flavors with the chorizo and peppers was perfect. My husband had the soup of the day, Manhattan Clam Chowder which he said was very good, with huge chunks of clams, vegetables and beans.

For our main entrees, I choose the Grilled 8 oz. Filet Mignon with House Steak Sauce ($26) served with Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables. I ordered it medium rare and it was cooked perfectly. The seasonings were spot on and the meat was amazingly tender and flavorful. I savored every bite. The steak sauce was also very good, with flavors similar to A1 Steak Sauce. The mashed potatoes were just right and the fresh vegetables were a selection of carrots, parsnips, and broccoli rabe. My meal was fantastic.

My husband, on the other hand, wasn’t as thrilled with his choice. Being a huge fan of Veal Marsala he went with the 14 oz. Veal Chop – Veal “Marsala” Re-Thought…Truffled Parsnip Puree, Wild Mushrooms, and a Marsala Reduction ($36). He didn’t realize it said Veal Chop and was expecting veal cutlets as you would usually get with veal marsala. He had never actually eaten a veal chop and decided he didn’t like them. He said the meat was lacking flavor and had too much fat on it. I took a small bite of it and it tasted alright to me but I’m not a huge fan of veal. Although, I must note he did eat it all.

Our dining companions had Linguini with Clam Sauce and the Roasted Chicken. They also had the Manhattan Clam Chowder and the Beet Carpaccio. They said they both enjoyed everything they had ordered.

For dessert, I had the Green Tea “Tiramisu” with Fortune Cookie Crumble and Dark Chocolate Sauce. This was ok, not great. If you didn’t tell me it was tiramisu I would have not thought it was. I will say the chocolate sauce was amazing though.

The only negative to this meal was the wait staff. Our waitress was very young and inexperienced. She had brought back the wrong drinks at one point, forgotten to bring my drink another time, and was generally missing in action. There was a very long lag waiting for the dessert, however she did acknowledge it a few times and kept coming over to apologize. The chef actually walked the dessert up. We were actually ready to cancel the dessert as it was coming up the stairs.

Overall, because the ambiance was so beautiful and my appetizer and entree were so great, I cannot wait to return here. I was worried my husband would not want to go back because of his veal chop but he said he was interested in trying other items on the menu. So that was great news for me! I think this is an undiscovered gem so far although most tables were taken. As we were leaving, the owner made a point to come over and thank us for dining there and asked us how everything was. Always a nice touch. Another interesting tidbit was that he mentioned the menu changes every few months. Well, I will definitely be visiting here again! I think if they can work out the kinks with the wait staff and the kitchen can handle the crowds I think this place will do amazing.

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Guest Review: Gorgonzola Chicken Penne

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Hello readers. I have a bit of a change for you today. My dear cousin Liz loves to cook as much as I do and I’ve invited her to contribute to the blog. Here’s her first entry, Gorgonzola Chicken Penne. Thanks so much Liz! Looking forward to seeing some more from you in the future!

Hello. I am Danielle’s second cousin, Liz. I am also Italian and love to cook and bake. Glad to see we have such talented cooks in our family. I want to thank her for allowing me to be a “guest” here for “The Average Cook”.

When I was a waitress for my boyfriend’s (now husband’s) uncle’s Italian restaurant, I would always cringe when anyone would order blue cheese dressing, made from Gorgonzola or blue cheese. I could not understand how anyone would cover their salad in mold. Yeeuuuch! However, I guess it’s true that as you age your tastes do change. Today I often crave it! Especially accompanied by hearty buffalo wings with crispy, crunchy celery.

Gorgonzola is a blue veined Italian blue cheese made from unskimmed cow’s milk. It can be buttery or firm, crumbly and quite salty, with a ‘bite’ from its blue veining. It has been made since the early Middle Ages, but only became marbled with greenish-blue mold in the eleventh century. It is often used in Italian cooking. The name comes from Gorgonzola, a small town near Milan, Italy, where the cheese was reportedly first made in 879; however, this claim of geographical origin is often disputed by other towns.

I have subscribed to Taste of Home magazine now for just about three years. I opted to buy their hardcover “Holiday and Celebrations 2007” cookbook and while skimming through it this recipe just shouted “Oh, yeaahhh baby! Make me!!”

I must say I was in my “half-hour” dinner-making pinch before I had to rush off to work tonight and almost shrugged off trying to prepare this dish. But I was NOT having leftovers again. So, I gave it a go. To my surprise the prep time was minimal and easy. I cut a corner by using a steamer bag of frozen broccoli instead of fresh broccoli. I used Pinot Grigio for the white wine.

The combination of butter, onion, flour, chicken broth and wine with the Gorgonzola in the sauce made it so creamy, velvetty and down-right scrumptious. No restaurant could have made it any better tasting. I know it was good because my two finicky eight-year-old boys scarfed it down! And so did my nineteen-month-old! And of course my husband cried in delight. This is a keeper!

From Taste of Home Holiday & Celebrations Cookbook 2007
originally submitted by C.W. Steve Stevenson, Newfoundland, PA

Gorgonzola Chicken Penne

2 cups uncooked penne pasta
2 cups fresh broccoli florets (or 1 frozen steamer bag)
1 T. water
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
9 T. butter, divided
1 large onion, chopped
6 T. all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup white wine or additional chicken broth
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
Pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, place broccoli and water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes or until crisp-tender. (Or if using the frozen bag, steam in microwave following product instructions.) Set aside.
In a large skillet, saute chicken in 3 tablespoons butter until no longer pink. Remove and keep warm. In the same skillet, saute onion in remaining butter until tender. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually add broth and wine or additional broth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat to low; stir in cheese until blended.
Drain the pasta and broccoli; add to the onion mixture. Add the chicken; heat through. Season with pepper. Yield: 6 servings.

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Chicken Sofrito Take Two

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If you recall a few months ago, I posted a recipe on Chicken Sofrito. It was my first time using sofrito and I loved it. Just to quickly recap, sofrito is a cooking base of tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cilantro, and garlic. I use Goya Sofrito, but in the future, will probably try to make my own. For this meal, I just threw together some chicken and veggies and tossed it in the sofrito and baked it for a little over an hour. I thought it was awesome and so easy and quick to make. Definitely a keeper!

 Overall rating: 5 stars

Baked Chicken Sofrito

Serves 4

1 pound, boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into large pieces

2 small onions, diced

1 green pepper, diced

4 medium red potatoes, quartered

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 jar Goya Sofrito

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 9×13 baking dish, combine chicken and vegetables. In a separate bowl, mix sofrito with about 2/3 c. of water and stir to loosen sofrito and make more of a sauce. Pour over chicken and vegetables and combine. Cover with foil and bake for approximately one hour. Take foil off and bake for another 15 minutes or until chicken is done and no longer pink inside. Stir occasionally while baking.

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