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US Cooking Tour Stop 15: New Jersey

 When planning a trip to visit a new place, I spend extensive time researching where and what we will eat while we're there. As proper foodies do. While living in Pennsylvania we had a trip planned to Philadelphia for a conference my husband had. We had visited Philly a few times before, fell in absolute love with the city, so we asked my parents to fly up from Oklahoma and meet us there for the week. 

One of the days we planned to wander outside the city to explore a bit. We continued driving a little out of the way from our planned stops and next thing we knew we found ourselves in New Jersey. I ended up finding a super cool diner featured on Guy Fieri's Diners Drive-In's and Dives and so we went in for dinner.

Guy had reviewed the chicken croquette's while he was there, so of course that's what I ordered. Sidenote: I absolutely hated them. They were nothing like what I was hoping for and I ended up picking off of everyone else plates. I may not have enjoyed my meal, but what happened next makes it one of the sweetest memories.

We noticed the owner of the restaurant visiting each table to shoot the breeze and soon found him at ours. He asked us where we were from and was completely enamored with our "accents". He stayed and chatted for a long time and then said he would be right back. When he came back, he had his camera and asked to take our picture! What? Why on earth would the guy want our picture? He snapped a group photo of all of us, got our names, and then told us he was going to upload our photo to their Facebook page. HA! He said he wanted to remember the nice family from Oklahoma. We laughed but told him to go for it. When we were gathering our things to get up and leave he came back to our table with two large cake boxes tied with string. 

He said he wanted to send us off with an authentic New Jersey coffee cake, one for my parents and one for my little family. If that's not THE nicest thing ever! Whoever said people up north are rude have it all wrong. The cake was completely off the charts - hands down the best coffee cake I'd ever had and to this day I've yet to find one that compares. It is such a special memory for me and what I think of every time I think of New Jersey.

The Garden State is what we rolled last week and the recipes were a hit! 

For the main dish every single person who submitted a suggestion said to make Pork Roll Sandwiches, but they had to be made with Taylor Ham. Great. Any time it's a specialty to the state, I know I'm going to have a hard time finding it locally, and most of the time not finding it at all. I was dead-set on getting the official Taylor Ham, because from everything I read there is not a proper substitute. I scoured the grocery stores online shopping and finally hit the jackpot at a specialty store in Tulsa. There were 3 Taylor Ham rolls to the whole state and I managed to secure one!

But why is my wrist so veiny?

New Jersey is known for their pork roll, egg and cheese sandwiches on a hard roll and I did my best to recreate it. I wasn't sure what to expect with the ham, was more than a little nervous, but they turned out being so delicious. I get the hype!

Here is what you need to make it - if you can find it, that is.

Pork Roll AKA Taylor Ham Sandwiches 

4 hard rolls, like kaiser or even a bagel

4 eggs

4 slices American cheese

John Taylor's Pork Roll

Butter, for rolls

Thinly slice the pork roll and score 4 times on the sides - this helps it lay flat while frying.

Fry it up in a frying pan until brown.

Butter and broil to brown your rolls.

Fry your eggs, making sure you break your yolk and cook through.

Top egg with American cheese and cover to melt.

Add the ham, egg and cheese to your roll and enjoy!

As a side I made Disco Fries, which many people suggested as well. They were much like Canada's poutine, which I am head over heels for. We liked the disco fries, but poutine will always have my heart. The main difference is disco fries uses mozzarella cheese while poutine uses cheese curds. 

Disco Fries

Fry or bake up some french fries and when they're cooked melt some mozzarella cheese over the fries. Top with brown gravy! You can make your own, but I used a packaged brown gravy. 


Dessert was blueberry pie, so I made blueberry hand pies. They were so flaky, and buttery and flavorful. Everything you could hope for with a handmade pastry. Yum! 

Blueberry Hand Pies


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 16 tablespoons butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, cold


  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tablespoon cornstarch 
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sugar for garnish
  1. To make the pastry: Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter, working it in to make a coarse/crumbly mixture. Leave most of the butter in large, pea-sized pieces. Add the sour cream, and stir until the mixture starts to come together in chunks. Turn it out onto a floured work surface, and bring it together with a few quick kneads.

  2. Pat the dough into a rough log, and roll it into an 8" x 10" rectangle. Dust both sides of the dough with flour, and starting with a shorter end, fold it in three like a business letter. 

    Flip the dough over, give it a 90° turn on your work surface, and roll it again into an 8" x 10" rectangle. Fold it in three again.

  3. Wrap the dough, and chill for at least 30 minutes before using.

    To make the filling: If you're using fresh berries, rinse and drain well. Place fresh or frozen berries in a saucepan. Whisk the cornstarch with the sugar, and pour over the berries. Add the salt and lemon juice, stirring to combine.

    Place the saucepan on a burner set to medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until the small amount of liquid in the bottom of the pan comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. 

    Preheat the oven to 425°F; place a rack on the middle shelf. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    To assemble the pies: Roll the dough into a 14" x 14" square, cut out sixteen 3 1/2" squares.

    Divide the filling among eight of the squares, using about a heaping tablespoon for each. Brush some of the beaten egg along the edges of each filled square.

    Use a knife to cut a vent into each of the remaining eight squares.

    Top each filled square with a vented square, and press along the edges with the tines of a fork to seal.

    Brush the top of each pie with the remaining beaten egg, and sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Transfer the pies to the prepared baking sheet. 

    Bake the pies for 18 to 20 minutes, until they're a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

I had a great time "revisiting" New Jersey last week. If only I had the recipe for the nice guy's coffee cake! 

I am a modern day homemaker with a passion for family, cooking, celebrating, decorating, travel, and memory making! The Lord has blessed me with the desires of my heart in my husband and our two sons. We recently built our dream home and cultivating a loving and happy haven for my family is where I find so much joy.


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