- Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner Blog

Month: December 2003

Holiday Recipes


Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Syrup

mainstayfood2From the kitchen of the Mainstay Inn Bed and Breakfast

The French toast must be prepared the night before, then baked just before serving.

  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (1 ounce)
  • 1 (1-pound) loaf French bread, cut into 12-14 (1-inch) slices
  • 2-1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon rum extract

Cranberry Syrup

  • 1 cup frozen raspberry-cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Grease a 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish.

In a food processor, combine the cream cheese and cranberries. Cut part way through each slice of bread to form a pocket. Fill with the cream cheese mixture and arrange in the baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk the cream, butter, eggs, nutmeg, sugar, vanilla, and rum extract. Pour evenly over the bread slices. Cover and refrigerated for at least 8 hours, or overnight. Preheat oven to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Whisk over medium-low heat until dissolved and lightly thickened.

Serve immediately, with cranberry syrup.

Yield: 6-8 servings; 2 cups of cranberry sauce

Pecan Tarts

woodleighlogoFrom the kitchen of the Woodleigh House Bed and Breakfast

Cheese Pastry

  • 1 (3 ounce) package of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sifted flour


  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon soft butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup coarsely broken pecans

Let cream cheese and butter soften. Blend with flour and chill for 1 hour. Shape into 2 dozen balls (about 1 inch). Place in small muffin pans. Press with finger to shape.

For filling, beat together eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla. Divide 1/2 pecans into shells. Add egg mixture, making it 1/2 full. Top with remaining pecans.

Bake at 325 F for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Christmas Wreath Cookies

mainstayfood3From the kitchen of the Mainstay Inn Bed and Breakfast

  • 2 cups butter at room temperature (1 pound)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cornstarch
  • Green food coloring
  • Red candy bits or baking decorations

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour and cornstarch and mix until just blended. Stir in the food coloring.

Transfer dough to a cookie press with a star tip. To make uniform wreaths, press the dough out in long strips. Using a knife, cut the dough into 2-1/2 inch lengths. Form each length into a ring. Overlap the ends slightly and press gently.

Place the wreaths on three ungreased baking sheets. Decorate them with the red candy bits or baking decorations so that they resemble wreaths of holly.

Bake for 10 minutes or until firm to the touch. Do not allow cookies to brown. Cool on wire racks.

Yield: 6 dozen wreaths

Salmon Cream Cheese

poorrichFrom the kitchen of Poor Richard’s Inn Bed and Breakfast

  • 1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese
  • 3-3/4 ounces red salmon
  • Dash of Tabasco
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped dill

Mash the above ingredients together. Good on Black bread with tomato!

Poached Pears with Brandied Cranberries

mainstayfood2From the kitchen of the Mainstay Inn Bed and Breakfast


  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 medium pears, peeled, cored, and halved

Brandied Cranberries

  • 1-1/2 (12 ounces) packages fresh cranberries (18 ounces total)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup brandy

First, prepare the pears. In a saucepan, bring the cranberry juice, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to a boil. Add the pear halves and simmer for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for 60 minutes or until thoroughly chilled.

Next, make the brandied cranberries. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 15x10x1 inch jelly roll pan.

Arrange the cranberries in a single layer in the prepared pan. Top with the sugar. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Spoon into a bowl and add the brandy, tossing to combine. Refrigerate for 60 minutes or until thoroughly chilled.

Serve the chilled cranberries over the chilled pears.

Yield: 8 servings

Holiday Orange Cranberry Bread

saltwoodrecipepicFrom the kitchen of the Saltwood House Bed and Breakfast

  • 2 sticks of butter (softened)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar (divided)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour two loaf pans.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until fluffy. Add 1 cup sugar beating thoroughly.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the orange extract and zest.

Next, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Fold one-third dry ingredients into the butter mixture, than one-third of the yogurt. Alternate until all are mixed. Add dried cranberries. Pour into prepared loaf pans and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

While bread is baking, mix remain 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup of orange juice together in a small saucepan. Heat until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. When bread is done, pour hot syrup slowly and evenly over bread. Let cool completely before unmolding.

Smoked Turkey and Stilton Mayonnaise Tea Sandwiches

lindaleerecipeFrom the kitchen of The Linda Lee Bed and Breakfast

  • 1/4 c crumbled Stilton cheese
  • 3 tbl. mayonnaise

Generously butter thinly sliced whole wheat bread. Spread a mixture of mayonnaise and crumbled Stilton cheese on bread. Add a thin slice of smoked turkey. Top with another slice of bread. Trim crusts and cut into triangles.

The Dormer House Crumb Cake

dormerhouseFrom the kitchen of the The Dormer House Bed and Breakfast


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 4 tablespoons corn oil
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla


  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 4 sticks of butter or margarine

Combine eggs, milk, corn oil, and vanilla. In a separate bowl sift together all dry ingredients for cake. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients.

For crumb topping, melt the 4 sticks of butter (cool) and add to the dry ingredients. Mix with a fork.

Spread cake mixture into a greased sheet pan. Sprinkle crumbs over top and bake at 350 for about 25-30 minute or when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Crispy Traditional Potato Pancakes

carrollvillaFrom the kitchen of Pam Huber of the Carroll Villa Hotel

  • 2 pounds russet (baking) or Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions, including the green part
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Peel the potatoes and put in cold water. Using a grater or a food processor coarsely grate the potatoes and onions. Place together in a fine-mesh strainer or tea towel and squeeze out all the water over a bowl. The potato starch will settle to the bottom; reserve that after you have carefully poured off the water.

Mix the potato and onion with the potato starch. Add the scallions, egg, and salt and pepper.

Heat a griddle or non-stick pan and coat with a thin film of vegetable oil. Take about 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture in the palm of your hand and flatten as best you can. Place the potato mixture on the griddle, flatten with a large spatula, and fry for a few minutes until golden. Flip the pancake over and brown the other side. Remove to paper towels to drain. Serve immediately.

You can also freeze the potato pancakes and crisp them up in a 350-degree oven at a later time.

Variation: If you want a more traditional and thicker pancake, you can add an extra egg plus 1/3 cup of matzah meal to the batter.
Yield: about 2 dozen pancakes.

Victorian Wassail

  • vicwassail2* 24 whole cloves
  • * 1 orange
  • * 9 cups apple cider
  • 4 cups cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon Angostura bitters
  • 24 whole allspice
  • 1 cup dark rum

Press cloves into orange. Place in heavy large saucepan. Add cider, cranberry juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, bitters and allspice. Bring to simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to very low, covering and simmering 1 1/2 hours. Strain into punch bowl. Ladle into cups. Add 2 tablespoons rum to each cup, if desired.

Apricot Bars

lindaleerecipeFrom the kitchen of The Linda Lee Bed and Breakfast

  • 2/3 c dried apricots
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1-1/3 c all purpose flour
  • 1 c packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt

In small sauce pan simmer apricots in enough water to cover them for 15 minutes. Drain and cool to room temperature and chop finely. Beat together butter, granulated sugar, and 1 cup flour with electric mixer on medium speed until mixture resembles course crumbs. Press evenly over bottom of a greased 9 inch square metal baking pan (do not use a non stick pan) and bake until golden, about 25 minutes at 350°. Beat together, in the same bowl, apricots, brown sugar, eggs, baking powder, vanilla, salt and remaining 1/3 c flour on medium speed until well combined. Pour over crust and bake until topping is set and golden about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in a pan on a rack and cut into 12 bars. Dust with 10x sugar.

Doggie Biscuits

doggiebillmaeFrom the kitchen of the Billmae Cottage

  • 2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered dry milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Mix all the ingredients together. Roll out to 1/4 or 1/2 inch thickness and cut out any shape you chose. Place on a baking sheet and cook in a 350° oven for 20-30. Cool and let your doggie enjoy!

Victorian Christmas Traditions

IllustratedLondonNewsengravingMost may not realize we owe many of our Christmas traditions to the Victorians, more specifically Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. When Queen Victoria married her German prince in 1840, he brought a new vitality to the German customs practiced by the English royals for the last half century, the most popular of which the Christmas tree – a rather scrawny looking thing which sat on top of a table in the parlor or sitting room.

The popularity of the Christmas tree is thought to date to 1848 when “The London Times” featured a full-page illustration of one of Albert’s trees at Windsor Castle. The custom took hold immediately as most everything the popular young royal couple did. And, adding to the mystique, Prince Albert was said to have donated decorated trees to schools and army barracks.

dickenillustation4According Dane Wells, Cape May’s Victorian Christmas “guru” and co-owner of The Queen Victoria Bed and Breakfast, England was ready to embrace a joyful Christmas after having suffered through the anti-Christmas sentiment which came in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. Many scholars also gave the publication of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as much credit for bringing a joyful
spirit back to the holidays.

These forces combined with the Industrial Revolution that gave rise to a middle class looking to spend their money on anything which would highlight their new-found wealth.

However, early Victorian Christmas trees were simply decorated with nuts, fruits, buds, pretzels and decorated eggs, all of which, according to Wells, dated back to pagan fertility symbols celebrating the winter solstice.

Godey'sLadysBookThe Christmas tree tradition arrived in America around 1850 with the publication of Godey’s “Lady’s Book” which featured an engraving of the very same tree “The London Times” illustrated had two years earlier.

By 1901, buying a tree from a commercial vendor had become so popular the conservationist president Theodore Roosevelt refused to have a Christmas tree in the White House to protest the deforestation the craze caused. As a result, the first Christmas tree “farm” was started that year in Trenton, New Jersey.

kissingundermistletoe2We can give the nod to the Victorians for other traditions as well. Mistletoe, for example, started with the Victorians in the form of a glass ball called, appropriately enough, a kissing ball. They lined the ball with various greens, among them Mistletoe and hung them in the doorways. Anyone caught under the glass ball – well you know the rest.

Mistletoe goes even further back to earlier centuries when friends would be presented with a sprig of the evergreen (evergreens, any kind, were seen as a harbingers of good luck because, unlike other plants, they stayed green and did not die) as a wish for a prosperous new year, and the sprig offering was generally followed by a kiss on the cheek.

wassailWassailing or caroling actually began in medieval times, also as a pagan ritual, like decorating with evergreens. The wassail, a hot beverage usually made with hot ale or mulled cider, was a ritual honoring the apple and fruit orchards in the dead of winter. Farmers went from farm to farm pouring wassail on the roots of trees while making a lot of noise to scare off the bad spirits responsible for making the days shorter and colder. Eventually the custom of going door to door singing and drinking became a Christmas tradition.

Period magazines often offered gift-giving suggestions to their Victorian readers, anxious for something unique to give to their friends and loved ones.

As for fancy gift wrapping – that came much later in the century as store-bought gifts became more popular. Presents typically got the red ribbon treatment and were often hidden among the branches of the Christmas tree.

What did the Victorians buy? Here’s a sampling.

Gifts of food – preserves, jams jellies, cookies, candy, and fruit, particularlyoranges and apples as well as plants.

vichatGifts for the ladies included doilies, silver tea balls, frames, dressing table mirrors, embroidered handkerchiefs, vases, jewelry, purses, articles of clothing such as gloves, scarves, mufflers, and for that very special lady a nice hat.

Gifts for the gentlemen included – Cigars, cigarette cases, scarves, mufflers, umbrellas, carriage robes, and we’re sure a nice port or bottle of sherry wouldn’t be turned down neatly filling – a silver vest flask.

sledFor the Victorian boy a nicely hand-crafted tool box would be received with glee, a sled, boxing gloves, stamps and stamp albums, a jackknife, books and, of course, marbles and whistles. A puppy was always appreciated as well as a Shetland pony for those with the means.

For the Victorian girl all the things listed for a lady would be appreciated save for the doilies and tea balls. For the Kraft-conscious, the gift of note paper with a monogram, and sachets made from dried flowers and herbs from the garden – specifically a lavender or lilac sachet which tended to hold their fragrance longer, or a small pine needle pillow. Books, canaries, and hair ribbons were also common gifts. And of course – dolls, doll houses, puppies, and the ever-popular Shetland pony.

Wondering by now what the Victorians did to celebrate the New Year? Well, it seems that during the 1870s the custom of young, eligible gentlemen calling on young, equally eligible young ladies came into vogue. New Year’s Eve celebrations did not occur until after World War I. The Victorians rang in the New Year with an elaborate open house which lasted from noon to 6 p.m. The gentlemen paid short calls at each household and left their calling cards. The young ladies, surrounded by family, of course, received the gentlemen and then offered them light refreshment. The custom became so popular that young ladies vied with each other as to the number of calling cards each had received. The custom quickly faded, however, some ten years later, when the young ladies’ families realized that more drinking than calling was being done.

vicwomenPeople still entertained on that day but their doors were open to family and close friends, not anxious young gentlemen callers.

So how hard is it to have a Victorian Christmas? It requires a gathering of greens, hanging of mistletoe, and the family tree trimming party, complete with ornaments selected or made by the whole family. And don’t forget the Shetland pony under the tree.

NOTE: A special thanks to Dane Wells of The Queen Victoria, as well as Elizabeth Bailey, curator at the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts for their research assistance in helping with the traditions of a Victorian Christmas.

Tips for a Victorian Style Holiday

feathersmactree3The following tips come from Dane Wells, who along with his wife Joan own and operate the prestigious Queen Victoria on Ocean Street in Cape May.

Rather than try to recreate a precise Victorian decor per se, why not consider using Victorian concepts to add a new richness to your family’s Christmas celebration this year. Six tips a Victorian would suggest to add meaning to your contemporary Christmas:

1. Scrawny trees are great, especially with strong branches, to hold and display more meaningful stuff: A basic principle of Victorian decor: More is not enough!

2. Flaunt it! Victorians were flaunting their newfound wealth and technology in everything they did, including decorating their trees and houses at Christmas. Go for it, got something you are proud of? Flaunt it, might just go on the tree in some way.

3. Accentuate the Positive. The Christmas tree actually has its origins in pagan times. During the Winter Solstice, the pagans used evergreens to ward off the evil spirits of darkness (these plants didn’t “die” as the rest did). Do you have anything you think would benefit from the positive forces of light? Find a way to put it on the tree.


Want a more Victorian Christmas? Hide gifts in the tree!

4. Evergreen Inspiration. Little sprigs of evergreen, tied with a colorful bow, can be placed over picture frames as nice small decorations The Pagans hoped that placed over door and windows, these sprigs would ward off the evil spirits of darkness.

5. Gifts in the Tree! In the 1860’s and ’70s, Some used their Christmas trees, much as we use stockings today – for small, compact gifts. One suggestion is to have a tree done this way, laden with small gifts, sweets and so on for the kids, or visiting friends or relatives to find. The Victorians would put this tree up Christmas eve as Santa’s surprise for the kids in the morning. By the end of Christmas day, this tree would have been picked clean.

6. Do it Yourself! Do not hire a decorator to do your tree. Christmas trees should be a family affair, reflecting the hopes, traditions, and interests of each family. Family art work, crafts and memories packed on in full are much more fun than a pristine color-coordinated tree that is simply done for design. Perhaps the kids would enjoy crafting small family snapshots on gaily decorated mounts and giving them a favored spot on the tree. Many collect ornaments from trips they want to remember or that have been given to them by special friends. This is the kind of thing the tree should be all about.

More Tips for a Victorian Holiday

woodleighhouse27. Think Green! Green roping was wrapped around fences, looped on stairways, and attached to outdoor light fixtures.

8. Ivy was used as a temporary picture frame or wrapped around a hanging picture wire to look as if it were holding up a picture.

9. Pucker Up! Create a kissing ball. Kissing under the mistletoe was a Victorian inspiration. The Victorians lined a glass ball with greenery, including mistletoe. The balls were hung in hallways, doorways, or parlors. Anyone caught under the ball was kissed.

10. Family Fun! String popcorn, cranberries, and crabapples to hang on the tree. It is an activity that the whole family can enjoy.