Thursday, October 29, 2009

And the Winner is......

Roasted Pumpkin Risotto sent in by Mellissa Horner-Richardson

I have to say it was very hard deciding the winner and I will be posting all of the entries. (Just click here to see them) The winning recipes, pumpkin risotto was surprisingly easy to make. The flavor was incredible and it was so creamy. The night I made it, I served it with Mushroom Pies but it can easily be served with chicken or beef. So as promised here is the winning recipe!

Roasted Pumpkin Risotto

4 to 6 servings


  • 2lb pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced (or bacon)
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel and then cut the pumpkin into half, remove the seeds, further cut into slices and then into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the pumpkin on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted pumpkin cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Zucchini, Banana, Apple and Pumpkin Bread

Oh, I know what your thinking. Zucchini, bananas, apples and pumpkin all mix together sounds really gross, and I agree.  All I'm saying is that I make the same quick bread batter for each of these. A quick bread is just a bread that is made without yeast and there for does not require the time to ferment and then raise. It is baked as soon as it's made. Quick breads, when made correctly, come out moist and almost melt in your mouth. The trick is to not over mix the batter. The wet ingredients are combined into the dry and stirred or folded in until just combined. I have provided pictures of this so you know just exactly what I'm talking about.

Batter Ingredients:
-makes 2 loaves

3 cups flour
3/4 c veg or canola oil
3 eggs, beaten
1 c sugar
1 tsp b soda
1tsp b powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c chopped nuts (optional)

Zucchini: 2 cups finely shredded, unpeeled zucchini
Apple: 2 cups finely shredded, peeled apple
Pumpkin: 1 (15oz) can or 2 cups pumpkin puree
Banana: 2 c mashed bananas or about 6 medium to large, very ripe

Grease your loaf pans and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, b. powder, b. soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in the nuts if using. Make a well in the center and set aside.
In a med bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil, and your zucchini, apple, pumpkin or bananas.
Dump it all at once into the well you made in the flour. Using a wooden spoon stir until moistened. The batte will be lumpy and not look completely mixed.

Pour into pans and back 50-60 minutes in a preheated 350 oven or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How to: Roast a Pumpkin

Right now, pumpkins are as abundant as apples. They come in all different sizes and can be round or oblong in shape. Pumpkin is really nothing more then a squash such as butternut or acorn and can be used not only for sweet dishes but for savory as well. There is two main types of pumpkin that most people are farmilar with and that is the jack-o-lantern variety and sugar pumpkins. While either can be used in pumpkin dishes, it the sugar pumpkins that have the most pumpkin flavor and should be used in cooking. However by adding in some butternut squash or a sweet potato to your pumpkin you can give the jack-o-lanterns more pumpkin flavor. 
The best way to prepare pumpkin for use in dishes is to roast it. Roasting pumpkins is very simply to do and produces a flesh that you don't have to further puree down. Just scoop it out of the shell and let it cool before using. So to kick off our Pumpkin Contest, I thought I'd give you the run down on just how to roast these sweet orange beauties!

Roasted Pumpkin

Find pumpkins that are on the smaller side, about 8-10 inches across the widest part or 24 inches in diameter.  Remove the stem if you can and the pumpkin in half through the stem end.

Now if you want to roast the pumpkins seeds, I've found the best way to remove them is grab a handful and slowly pull them up, letting the gooey, stringy stuff, slide through your fingers. Then just put them in a bowl and set them aside for later. Take a spoon and remove the rest of the pulp.
On a baking sheet place the pumpkins upside down and place into a 350 degree, preheated oven for about an hour. I have a gas oven that retains quite a bit of heat once it's off so after the hour is up, I turn the oven off and let the pumpkins sit in the oven until they're cool enough for me to handle. This insures that they are roasted and soft all the way though.

You'll also notice that the outside of the pumpkin becomes a dark orange color and wrinkly when it's done. Then it just becomes a matter of scooping the flesh out into a bowl. One pumpkin should give you roughly 4 cups of pumpkin puree which is enough to make 2 pies. Since most recipes call for canned pumpkin anymore, you should remember that 2 packed cups of pumpkin is the same as one 15oz can.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL!?!?!?!

Okay, so I have to admit, I don't watch football. I don't know much about it. My father tried to explain the game to me once and well it just didn't sink in. I couldn't tell you what cause a first down or when a team gets to punt, but just like everyone else I do have my favorite team. The Giants! Why? Because even though I grew up in Pennsylvania, New York was just minutes away and it was just a short train ride to the big apple. I have always rooted for the Giants and the Yankees. :) 
During Sunday Football games, I was in the kitchen, making food with my mom for the boys. We usually made the same things; stuffed mushrooms or clams, buffalo wings, chips and dips, you know, party food! So I've decided that todays post is going to be a few of those great appitizer we used to make. Nothing fancy, just some quick and tasty finger foods.

Stuffed Mushrooms:  
1 lrg pkg of white button mushrooms
1 stick of butter
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs Italian seasoning
2 tbs fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c - 1 c bread crumbs

In a lrg sautee pan, cook the sausage, breaking it up while cooking. Meanwhile, pull the stems from the mushrooms and the the caps and stems with a damp towel to remove and dirt. Chop the mushrooms stems and set aside. Once the sausage is cooked, removed it from the pan to paper towels to absorb some of the fat. Discard any dripping that remain in the pan. Return the pan to medium heat and melt the butter. While it's melting pulse the sausage in a food processor until it's fairly small. This is so you don't have any big chunks of sausage in your filling. Once the butter is melted, add in the garlic and onion and cook for about a minute. Return the sausage to pan, adding in the seasoning and the chopped mushroom stems. Cook briefly until heated through. Add in the bread crumbs, starting with just 1/2 a cup. Once they are stirred in, if the mixture is still really wet add a little more until the mixture holds it self together. Place about a tablespoon of filling into each of the mushroom caps, using your hands to compress and shape it. Once all the mushrooms are filled, place them into a baking dish big enough to hold them all, just barely touching. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in a preheated 350 oven for about 30 mins.

Potato Skins:
4 lrg russet potatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic powder
4 c cheddar cheese
1/2 lb bacon
1/2 red onion, minced

Wash then wrap the potatoes in foil and bake in a preheat 350 oven for about an hour or until they are easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool. While the potatoes are cooking, chop the bacon slices and cook until brown and crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain. When the potatoes are cool, slice each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides leaving about a 1/4 inch of potato. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Flip them skin side up, drizzle again with oil, salt and pepper and bake for about 15 mins. Remove from the oven and sprinkle garlic powder on the insides. Fill each skin with minced onion, bacon and cheese. Place back in the oven and cook until heated through and the cheese has melted.

Buffalo Wings:
2lbs of wings and drumettes
1 bottle of your favorite hot sauce
2 tbs butter
1 clove of garlic minced
2 tbs flour
2 tbs white vinegar
oil for frying.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter. Once melted cook the garlic for about 30 seconds then add in the flour. Pour in the bottle of hot sauce, whisking to prevent lumps. Pour the vinegar into the hot sauce bottle, cap, and give it a shake, then empty it into your sauce. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Heat a large, deep pot with enough oil to come half way up the sides. Once the oil has reached 350 degrees, cook the chicken pieces a few at a time, until crispy and cooked through. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Toss in the sauce and serve with blue cheese dressing.

Blue Cheese Dressing:
1/2 c milk
1/4 c mayo
1/4 c sour cream
1 c blue cheese crumbles

Whisk the milk, mayo and sour cream in a bowl. Fold in the blue cheese and serve with buffalo wings.

Easy French Onion Dip:
1 (16oz) container sour cream
1 pkg french onion soup mix

Combine the sour cream and soup mix in a bowl. Let sit for 15 mins before serving. Serve with potato chips.

Crescent dogs: (Pigs in a blanket)
2 pkg of crescent rolls such as pillsbury crescent dinner rolls
1 pkg of little smokies

Cut each of the crescents in half. Starting at the wide end, roll a little smokie in the dough and bake in a preheat 350 oven until golden.

Cocktail Winnie's:

1 pkg of min hot dogs
1 small jar of currant jelly
2-3 tbs spicy brown mustard

In a small sauce pan over low heat, cook the jelly until melted. Pour it into a small crockpot or fondue pot and whisk in the mustard to combine. Stir in the hotdogs and cook for a few hours before serving, allowing the hotdogs to become hot and fully cooked. Serve them right out of the pot. These are a family favorite and are always the first things to go!

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Bruschetta, pronounced bru-sket-ta is a wonderful mouthful of joy. While Americans have turned these yummy little toasts upside down, calling almost any type of topping bruschetta, it's the still the original tomato topping that rocks my world. When making this appetizer you want to use the freshest ingredients possible. That means using ripe tomatoes, fresh garlic and fresh basil leaves.

1 French Baguette
1 lb vine ripened tomatoes
a few cloves garlic
salt and peper
balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil


Make the bruschetta a day ahead of time so that the flavors have time to meld.
Cut each of the tomatoes in half and gently squeeze them over a bowl to remove most of the seeds. This will prevent it from becoming soupy. Finely dice the tomatoes and put them into a bowl.

Take a clove of garlic and give it a good smash, run your knife though it to mince it some. Sprinkle the garlic with a pinch of coarse salt, then take the side of your knife and mush the garlic by pushing down and pulling it across the garlic. This will make it into garlic paste. You'll have to do this process a few times until the paste forms. This allows the garlic to mix in well and helps to mellow the flavor some. Once you have the past, add it into the tomatoes.

Take about 10 basil leaves and stack them on top of each other, then roll them tightly length-wise and thinly slice the basil into ribbons.


Add it into the tomatoes and garlic and season with some pepper. Add in a just a splash of balsamic vinegar, no more then a teaspoon, and a drizzle of olive of oil. Stir and give a taste. Add more salt, pepper or basil to your tastes. I go kind of light on the basil because I didn't want it to overpower the rest of the flavors.
To prepare the toasts, you want to slice the baguette on an extreme bias. This gives the bread more surface area and actually makes it easier to bite into and eat. Place the bread on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Place into a preheated 350 oven for about 10 mins. You want to toasts to be golden and crispy. 10 mins is just an extreme approximate and will vary greatly depending on your oven. While the toasts are getting toasty, slice the root end off of a large clove of garlic. This should let you be able to peel the rest of the skin off the garlic clove, keeping it whole. When your toasts are done and still hot, rub the cut side of the garlic all over it. and the garlic will melt into the toast. Top with about 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of the bruschetta and then just a little sprinkle of fresh Parmesan cheese. If I was Rachel Ray, here is where I would say Yum-o!!

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


October is finally upon us and it is quite possibly my favorite months. While the candy and treats of Halloween rank high on my list what I really love about October is Oktoberfest!!!!  My mother side of the family is mostly German and you can’t go wrong with German food, especially the wonderful German beers and sausage. One great tasting and simple German dishes is Sauerbraten. Once you’ve tried it, you will never forget the distinct flavors that make up this dish and I’m sure you’ll be making every October.


2 c beef stock
1 c red wine
1 c red wine vinegar
1 onion, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Fresh thyme springs
2-3 bay leaves
2 tsp juniper berries
1 tbs black peppercorns
1 tsp whole cloves
3-4 lb boneless chuck roast

1 c beef stock
2-3 tbs olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
4 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbs fresh
4 tbs flour
4 tbs ginger snap cookies, crushed fine
Salt and pepper


Three to four days ahead of time marinade the meat. Combine 2 c beef stock, red wine, red wine vinegar, onion chunks, thyme sprigs, crushed garlic, bay leaves, juniper berries, peppercorns and cloves in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Cool to room temperature. In a large re-sealable plastic bag, place the meat, pour the marinade on top. Squeeze out as much air as you can, place on a plate in case the bag leaks and let sit in the frig turning every day.

Preheat oven to 350 and remove meat from marinade. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Strain the marinade, discarding only the solids. Heat a large oven proof pot over medium heat and add in the olive oil. Brown meat on both sides, about 5-6 minutes per side and remove to a plate. Add the carrots, celery, chopped onion and garlic to the pan and cook for a couple minutes or until the onions start to become translucent. Add in the thyme and sprinkle in the flour. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the marinade and remaining 1 cup beef stock. Bring to a boil and return meat to the pot. Cover and cook in the oven for about 2 ½ hours.
When your meat is done, remove it from the pot to a plate and let sit covered with foil. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Whisk in the gingersnaps and simmer until thickened.
Thinly slice the meat and serve with spaetzle, the veggies and sauce from the pot.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chicken Marsala

This dish is actually a take on the Italian classic, Veal Marsala. Chicken is a cheaper choice of meat as well as readily available in super markets. Marsala is a fortified wine, meaning they alcohol to it, usually brandy. It has  a distinct flavor and other wines should not be used in it's place. If you don't have, or don't want to purchase chicken cutlets, you can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Butterfly the breast then cut in half. Pound each slice to about a 1/4 inch thick.


4 chicken cutlets
2 small containers of sliced fresh baby bella mushrooms
3-4 c Marsala wine
2 tbs butter
4 tbs olive oil
3 tbs flour plus more for dredging
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c chicken stock
1 lb spaghetti

In a large pot melt the butter along with 1 tbs olive oil. Sautee the garlic till fragment, about 30 seconds, then add in both containers of mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes more. Sprinkle with 3 tbs flour, stir and cook for another minute. Add in 2 cups marsala wine and the chicken stock. Bring to a roiling boil over high heat. Boil for 10 minutes. Sauce will thicken and reduce slightly. Keep covered over low heat until ready to use.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta about 7-10 minutes or until al dente.
About half way through cooking the pasta, add the remaining 3 tbs olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Season the cutlets with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Sautee the cutlets quickly, about 3 minutes per side. Add in the remaining 1-2 c marsala wine. You want the wine to come about ½ way up the chicken. Turn heat to high and boil till ready to serve. This allows the wine to reduce and also flavor the chicken.
Drain the pasta and return back to the pot. Add in all but ½ c of the mushroom sauce that you were keeping warm, and toss it with the spaghetti. Place the spaghetti in a large deep serving platter. Arrange the chicken on top and pour the wine over it all. Pour the reserved mushroom sauce over the chicken and serve.  Serve it with a tossed salad.

H A P P Y  C O O K I N G !!

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