Archive for June, 2008

Herbed Turkey Burgers

Using ground turkey can be a challenge as it can very easily dry out during the cooking process and due to the low fat content (I use almost fat-free) it really needs help in the seasoning department. Because I’ve been blessed with my herbal garden (i.e. several herbs in pots on my deck), I have an abundance of various herbs I need to start using. I came up, with what I think, is a perfect turkey burger recipe – moist, flavorful, and tasty.

What strikes me as odd when I make turkey burgers as opposed to ground beef burgers is how different I treat them. With ground beef, I simply use sea salt and freshly ground pepper. That’s it. That’s all I believe a burger needs. But with the turkey burgers, they need a little (or maybe a lot of) help. Because the use of herbs in my burgers gave them some nice green coloring, I decided to carry that over into my side dish of whole wheat couscous and peas that I threw some butter, olive oil and Parmesan cheese in.

A few things I did different…I threw some horseradish cream in there for a little kick and I used a packet of instant oatmeal to bind the burgers (instead of breadcrumbs). The oatmeal is not even noticable in taste or view.

Overall ratings – Turkey burgers – 5 stars

Herbed Turkey Burgers

1 pound ground turkey breast

1 T. Dijon mustard

1 T. light mayo

1/2 T. horseradish cream

1 T. each of minced fresh parsley, rosemary, basil

1 egg

1 packet of instant oatmeal

Combine all in large bowl and gently mix. Using a non-stick skillet or grill, cook burgers about 7-8 minutes each side. Turkey burgers tend to take longer to cook than beef, so be sure they are done inside.


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Salsa Latina, Matawan, NJ

I am by no means an expert in Latino cuisine, but I know one thing for sure – I love it. Sure, I’ve tried my hand (with the help of Goya) at making Latino recipes at home, but I know when I really want to eat some good stuff I have to go out for it. Growing up in the Elizabeth, NJ area, there were no shortages of Latino eateries – great little Cuban luncheonettes where you could get an awesome Cubano sandwich. Later on, lived in Weehawkin, NJ, surrounded by West New York and Union City, where these charming little eateries sometimes only had the menu in their native language and I’d feast on black beans and rice. Ahh…good times.

So, moving down to Upper Monmouth County, land of the chain restaurant, has been an interesting challenge to the palate. Naturally when I heard all of the buzz over at my favorite food board, Chowhound, about a new Puerto Rican eatery in Matawan, I needed to get there. Fast. I headed there this past Saturday night and had a late seating, around 9:30 p.m. Had called earlier and confirmed they were serving til 10:00 p.m. Cute, little place in a strip mall. Nice decor inside as well. Fantastic music playing.

We ordered one appetizer, Papa Rellenas, Stuffed Potatoes with Beef. These are deep-fried balls with mashed potatoes inside and a seasoned beef center. The appetizer was two generous servings. The presentation I thought was a bit weak. They were on a very large plate and had what looked like someones leftover salad thrown across the plate. I think a smaller plate or bowl, maybe with some sort of dipping sauce could have helped. The flavors were pretty good, nicely seasoned and then as I got to the center of mine – coldness. Mine had not been heated all the way through. Very disappointing.

Meanwhile the waiter had stopped at our table to let us know that the beef for the Ropa Vieja my husband had ordered had went bad and they didn’t have anymore. What is wrong with me? We should have left right then and there. I think that’s one of the worst things you could tell a diner – food went bad in the kitchen. How gross. Just say you ran out. How many people were served this dish before they deemed it bad? Just too nasty to think about.

So he ordered the Pork Chops instead and I went with the Skirt Steak. The Pork Chops had a otherwise good sauce on it but the meat was dry according to my husband. My steak was chewy and difficult to cut. I really only managed a few bites before deciding it was just bad. We both ordered yellow rice and black beans. The rice, an enormous serving, was dry and flavorless. It also had a few pieces of some sort of sausage with a perfumy aftertaste (meaning not good). The black beans had no discerning flavor to them at all. The fried plantains were lukewarm, some even cold, and very thick. Anywhere I’ve had them before and upon researching various online sources, shows plaintains to be flattened out before their second frying. These were about an inch or more thick each.

I thought after this terrible meal, is it just me, no it can’t be. So many people on chowhound raved, but upon further investigation I noticed about three of those reviewers had posted once ever on chowhound – for this restaurant’s thread…interesting, no? Was it an off-night for the place? Was it because we went so late? I don’t know, nor do I care, because I will not be heading back there again. I’ve also learned recently on Chowhound another Puerto Rican eatery has opened in Keansburg with two positive reviews. I’ll give it a shot. After all, the folks over at Chowhound led me to The Flakey Tart

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Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Here’s a somewhat decent recipe for something new with chicken from Real Simple magazine. This dish has potential as I thought the artichoke filling was quite good, but not enough. If I made this again, I’d prefer to bake them and also include more stuffing. I’d probably also either add some more cheese on top and come up with some sort of white wine sauce. As far as the tomato salad, I actually didn’t make, though I can’t remember why. I just tossed some grape tomatoes in olive oil and sea salt and threw them in there for some color.

Overall rating – 3 stars

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Tomato Salad

1 6.5-ounce jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
2 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
8 baguette slices, toasted (optional) 






Mix the artichokes, parmesan, and 1 tablespoon of the thyme in a small bowl. Cut a 2-inch pocket in the thickest part of each chicken breast. Stuff a quarter of the artichoke mixture into each pocket. Rub the chicken breasts with 1 teaspoon of the oil and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium. Grill the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, 6 to 7 minutes per side.

Mix the tomatoes, shallot, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the remaining oil and thyme in a large bowl.

Slice the chicken, if desired, and serve with the tomato salad and baguette slices, if using.

Substitution: If you don’t care for artichokes, try stuffing the chicken breasts with one of the following: olive tapenade; Feta and pine nuts; or roasted red peppers and Parmesan.








CALORIES 301 (39% from fat); FAT 13g (sat 3g); CHOLESTEROL 96mg; CARBOHYDRATE 7g; SODIUM 699mg; PROTEIN 38g; FIBER 1g; SUGAR 3g  
 Real Simple, JUNE 2008


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Sesame-Crusted Salmon & Beans and Rice

Damn you black beans! What is it with me and black beans? I can’t make a decent black bean soup and then I attempt to make black beans and rice from Cooking Light and they turn into a soupy mess?? I usually throw together my own beans and rice recipe so why the hell did I bother with a recipe this time?? It was just okay for me. The original recipe was just for Black Beans and I threw in some brown rice hoping it would absorb some of the liquid but it didn’t…

Now the salmon on the other hand….You know my photography is horrendous but this came out quite pretty and more importantly it tasted pretty darn good! Not sure of the inspiration but it may be because I had purchased black sesame seeds for a vinaigrette I made recently (not good…) and I saw I had white sesame seeds so I thought I’d throw them together and see what happens (there are white sesame seeds on there, just can’t really tell). The sesame seeds gave the salmon a nice texture and flavor. Something a little different than just searing. This I would make again.

Overall ratings:

Black Beans and Rice – 2 stars

Sesame-Crusted Salmon – 4 stars

Sesame-Crusted Salmon

1-2 pounds salmon, sliced into strips

1/4 c. each of black and white sesame seeds

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Combine sesame seeds in shallow dish. After washing, drying and slicing salmon, season with salt and pepper. Place salmon into sesame seeds to coat each side. On a non-stick skillet, heat olive oil (about 1 T.). Add salmon and cook approximately 4-5 minutes on each side until done.

Simple Black Beans (Caraotas Negras)

Frijoles is the generic Spanish term for beans, but caraotas refers specifically to black beans, the most common variety on South American and Caribbean tables. These beans cook down to create a thick and rich sauce—good to serve over Venezuelan White Rice or arepas. Make the beans up to a day ahead; you may need to add a little water when reheating, as the mixture thickens with time. 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup water
2 (15-ounce) cans 50%-less-sodium black beans, undrained
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper to pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in sugar, garlic, black pepper, and cumin; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 cup water and beans; bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and stir in vinegar.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 2/3 cup)CALORIES 128 (25% from fat); FAT 3.6g (sat 0.3g,mono 2.1g,poly 1.1g); IRON 2.2mg; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 58mg; CARBOHYDRATE 23.3g; SODIUM 294mg; PROTEIN 6.2g; FIBER 7.6g

Cooking Light, JUNE 2008

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Random Musings…

Here’s some foodie news bits and bites…

Pack Your Knives and Go (Lisa!)….

So if you read this blog there’s a good chance you’re a fan of my favorite show, Top Chef. Justice was served this week as Stephanie was crowned the first female Top Chef. Congrats to Stephanie who I was rooting for as my #2 until Dale (yeah, that’s right, it’s because he’s cute, just like my love for Sam Talbot from Season 2 – see my story on how I met him…) got the boot and she slipped into my favorite spot. I did feel bad for Richard who was extremely talented and has a cute fauxhawk, but I was rooting for a chic to win this time. And not Lisa!! Especially after what she said about food bloggers….

Pig in Boots

How freaking cute is this pig with her little boots on? Caught this on Serious Eatswhich leads to a story about how miss piggy has to wear boots because she has mysophobia – fear of dirt. Cute and sad at the same time.

Good Eats…Monmouth County

So since the summer is practically here with the smoldering heat we’ve had here in NJ, I figured I’d remind you of some of my top picks for shore eating, especially if you are making your way over to the Jersey Shore. All of these picks are right off of Route 36 in Northern Monmouth County.

The Flakey Tart, Atlantic Highlands– Awesome bakery. Hit it on your way down or up to Sandy Hook and grab some scones, mac ‘n’ cheese or pan chocolat.

McDonagh’s, Keyport– Want some bar grub and a pint? Head over to McDonagh’s Irish Pub for a banging Guinness BBQ Burger and have a pint of Blue Moon for me.

Drew’s Bayshore Bistro, Keyport– Maybe you have a hankering for some heat? Drew’s offers up New American cuisine with a touch of Cajun-Creole flavors. BBQ Pork Strudel, Jambalaya and Etouffee…mmmm

Trinity Restaurant, Keyport– My fav joint for it’s Catalan Clams, Waygu Burger with Foie Gras & homemade ketchup, and Mango Mojito.’s Munchmobile was just there recently and raved about the Soft-Shell Crabs.

Pirate’s Cove on the Bay, Belford (Middletown) – Dining with a view? Eat outside on the deck overlooking the bay while enjoying your seafood.

Oishi Sushi, Hazlet – My choice for fresh sushi. Try the Mark Roll (made with crab salad and crunchies).

So next time your in the area, pay a visit to one of my favorite places!






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Grilled Thai Beef (Salad)

So you ask why is the “salad” in parenthesis? It’s because I didn’t make that part of the recipe. I only made the steak. I eat salad every day for lunch so there’s really not a chance in hell I’m eating it for dinner too. I love my salad but I need something of more substance when dinner time rolls around. One order of carbs please!

Here’s another recipe from Ellie Krieger and her new cookbook. A good steak marinated overnight and then thrown on the grill is perfection. This was a good marinade, a multi-purpose marinade I’d call it. I’d use this again on chicken, seafood, or for grilled vegetables. Had a nice little kick to it. And I love the taste of fresh ginger in or on anything.

Overall rating – 3 stars

Grilled Thai Beef Salad

1 pound top-round London broil or flank steak, about 1 to 1 1/2-inches thick
3 tablespoons lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons red curry paste or chili-garlic sauce
1/2 head red-leaf lettuce, torn (about 6 cups)
3 shallots, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup), divided, for garnish
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, rinsed and dried
1 cup basil leaves, sliced into ribbons

Rinse and pat the meat dry. Place in a sealable plastic bag or small glass dish. In a medium bowl combine 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, soy sauce, canola oil, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and red curry paste. Pour half the mixture into the bag with the meat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice to the bag. Seal tightly, and marinate meat in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Reserve the rest of the mixture refrigerated, to dress the salad.

Spray grill or grill pan with cooking spray and preheat. Grill steak until medium-rare, about 5 minutes per side, depending on desired doneness. Let rest until room temperature then slice thinly against the grain.

Combine lettuce, sliced shallot, cilantro, basil and beef in a salad bowl, reserving a few shallots for garnish. Add the reserved dressing and toss to coat. Divide salad among 4 plates and garnish with reserved sliced shallots.

Nutrition Information
Nutritional Analysis Per Serving Calories 345
Total Fat 18.5g Saturated Fat 4.5g
Monounsaturated Fat 9g Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 51mg Sodium 440mg
Carbohydrates 12g Protein 33g
Fiber 1g

Recipe Summary
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings (1 serving is about 2 1/2 cups salad)

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Arte y Pico Award

I am humbled that Julie over at Peanut Butter & Julie bloghas bestowed this cool award on me. Sure I’ve been tagged for meme’s before but I’ve never received an award from a fellow blogger so a big THANK YOU!!! to Julie. Not only did Julie award me the Arte y Pico award but she had some kind words to say about The Average Cook. I encourage you to visit her blog, it’s a wonderful foodie site, with ever-changing content and great recipes. I read a lot of blogs but there are only a small handful I actually copy recipes down from and this is one of them. And she’s got a little bit of Jersey Girl in her!

And I’m also giving Julie credit for the explaination of this award I’ve pulled directly from her post:

The Arte y Pico award is given to those who are creative and have a penchant for art.  The responsibilities that go with this award are as follows:

  • Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
  • Each award needs to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog.
  • Each award winner (upon acceptance) should show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award.
  • Each winner should show a link to the Arte y Pico blog, so that everyone will know the origin of this award. 
  • The rules of the Arte y Pico should be displayed.

I’ve decided to make my selections all Jersey Girls :):

Caviar and Codfish – Robin, a fellow NJ blogger, is not only a great cook with fabulous food pictures, but is a great writer! Her pics should seriously be in a magazine.

Jersey Bites – Deb is another Jersey Girl. Not only does she run a great blog at Jersey Bites, but she has another great site, Jersey Biters, that I’ve mentioned on here before. It’s a web community to discuss what else but food…cooking, eating out, etc.

Exit 117a – Marilyn’s site focuses on a little bit of everything Jersey, but there are a ton of restaurant reviews on there for us foodies. She too has a web community over at Bayshore Friendsto discuss all things Bayshore (here’s a linkto define Bayshore).

Thanks to these three chics for providing me good reads!



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