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Butternut & Parsley Pasta

Butternut Squash is another amazing fall flavor. It is a winter squash, and it’s sweet, nutty flavor is perfect with the cool breeze of fall coming through your window, or to pair with the flavors of Thanksgiving. It is high in potassium, vitamin B and vitamin C, so it’s healthy too! When I receive my October issue of the Rachael Ray magazine, this delicious butternut squash recipe was in there, and I knew I had to make it soon. Perfect way to end a fall-filled weekend!

Butternut & Parsley Penne

recipe from EveryDay With Rachael Ray, October 2013 issue

ingredients
1 1/2 lbs pre-cut butternut squash cubes, or 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup EVOO, plus more for drizzling
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated or ground nutmeg
1lb penne rigate
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems and leaves separated, each finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 piece fresh ginger, peeled then grated or finely chopped
1 chile pepper, such as Fresno or jalapeño, finely chopped, or 1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 bunch scallions, whites and greens separated, each finely chopped
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
A handful grated parmigano-reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish

directions
Preheat the oven to 475. On a baking sheet, drizzle the squash with some of the oil; season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Roast until just tender and brown at the edges, about 17-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil, salt and add the penne and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta; reserve 1 cup of starchy cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 1/4 cup EVOO in a large skillet, for turns around the pan, over medium-high. Add the parsley stems, garlic, ginger, chile and scallion whites; swirl 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and reduce heat to a simmer. Add half a ladleful of the pasta cooking water to the sauce. Add the pasta, parsley leaves, scallion greens, squash and cheese to the skillet. Stir to combine. Adjust the seasoning.
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The spice of the pepper, ginger and garlic is the perfect pairing to tone down the sweetness of the squash. So yummy! Enjoy!

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Grandma’s Apple Pie

I’ve mentioned time and time again how much I love the fall. The crisp cool air, pumpkin spice lattes, football, the leaves changing colors, the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves, and of course apple picking and the smell of apple pie baking. Today I went apple picking with my family, something my mom loves to do as well. The sun was shining, the sky was bright blue, the air was cool, but warm in the sunshine, and we set off to go to a local farm to apple pick. There were so many apples to choose from! Jonagold, Cameo, Gala, Empire, Red Delicious, Liberty, and much more. We picked pounds and pounds of apples – me of course with my eating bag, and then my baking bag.

You can use all types of apples for baking and cooking. Some apples do not hold their shape and turn to a watery mush in a pie or bread. Make sure to do your research before you cut an apple for baking. Some sure fire types you can always count on for baking are Cortland, Empire, Jonagold, and Fuji. Others such as Gala, Macintosh, Braeburns are great for sauces. A lot of farms provide either a sheet describing the different types of apples they grow, or will have signs in the fields. Or you can simple look them up as my sister kept asking me to do!

Apple picking is so much fun for kids and adults! So plan a nice fall weekend out in the sunshine, and pick some fresh apples! And continue down to find out my absolute favorite thing to do with my apples. Make my grandmother’s absolutely delicious apple pie!

Apple Fields

Apple Field 2

Apple Fields 3

And don’t forget to hit up the farm stand for Apple Cider Donuts!! These are so scrumptious, with the hint of apple and sweetness from the sugar or cinnamon they sprinkle on top! Yum!

Cider Donuts

I got home and immediately piled some apples into a bowl. They are just so pretty to have as decoration. I typically keep my apples in the refrigerator to keep them fresher, but for the first day they were just too pretty not to have out!

Apples

So here is the part you’ve been waiting for. My grandmother made the best apple pie ever. I know, I may be biased. And I am sure everyone says this of their grandmother. But I am 100% serious mine is the best. Really. And let me tell you, Thanksgiving is NOT Thanksgiving without it. But I jump ahead a few months. 🙂 I am always in charge of making the apple pie at the holidays. Not only do I love making it, but for some reason no one else does and everyone claims mine always comes out the best. Now, I don’t know about that (:)) but I will never turn down making it! For a long time I actually didn’t have my grandmother’s recipe, and my grandmother came down with Alzheimer’s before I could ever ask for it. So, I worked my hardest every year tweaking a recipe I had from Girl Scouts to make it taste like grandma’s. Last year, while my parents were displaced due to flooding by Hurricane Sandy, and I had no power from her wrath, we all piled at my aunt and uncle’s house to stay warm and cozy, and put smiles on each others faces during a tough time. My parent’s had brought some apples over from their house, since they were now living with my aunt and uncle, and my aunt says “Hey, why don’t we make grandma’s apple pie? The recipe is in my recipe box.” Now, imagine the confusion yet happiness on my face when I heard those words. The words telling me all my years of work and tweaking and rewriting had been sitting in my aunt’s recipe box! So of course, my response is “What?!?!?!?! You have grandma’s apple pie recipe???” And my aunt said, “Of course! You don’t?!” So, one good thing came out of the storm. I am now able to keep this recipe in my recipe box, make it every year, pass it down to my grandchildren one day, and now to all of you. I will caveat this by saying, I have NO idea where she got this recipe from. So if it is copyrighted somewhere, please tell me so I can give credit where credit is due!

ingredients

1 Deep Dish Pie Crust (Just use the store bought, but feel free to make your crust from scratch!)
5 thinly sliced, peeled apples (a mix of Granny Smith and Fuji or Gala is my grandmother’s recipe. Today I used a mix of Empire and Jonagold, but the Granny Smith is distinctly my grandmother’s taste).
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown suagr
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tbs lemon juice (this is so the apples don’t turn. If you mix them right into the filling mixture you can skip this step).
1/4 cup flour
4 tbs butter, sliced

directions

Preheat the oven to 375.

Mix the sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the apples as you peel and slice them. (If you peel and slice all at once, use the lemon juice to mix them in a separate bowl).

Roll out the bottom of the pie crust into your pie dish. Fill the bottom crust with the apple mixture. Dot with the butter.

Roll out the top of the crust and close the top and bottom together with the crimping/fluting technique. (Honestly, I am terrible at this part! If anyone has any tips please do share!). Cut slits in the top in a star shape to let the steam out.

Added by me: This is not part of my grandmother’s recipe, but I love this part of the pie. I brush the top of the pie with a bit of milk and sprinkle with about 1/8 cup granulated sugar to give it a shiny sugary top. You can skip this step if you prefer a plain top.

Bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes. Depending on your oven and how thinly you slice the apples, this could take longer. Be sure to insert a knife into the slits to test if the apples are soft before you consider your pie done. If the edges start to brown too much before the cooking is complete, cover with tin foil. Serve warm and with a scoop of ice cream. Enjoy!

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Autumn. Sunday. Football. Chili…

Autumn, or fall, is officially here! And it’s Sunday football day. That means it’s the perfect day to have a huge pot of chili simmering on the stove. So that’s what I did. A chili recipe I modified from none other than my NFL cookbook! You should definitely make this chili next Sunday. It’s warm and comforting and perfectly tasty.

Game-Day Smoky Chili

recipe modified from The NFL Gameday Cookbook by Ray Lampe a.k.a Dr. BBQ copyright 2008 by the National Football League

ingredients
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 jalepeno, diced
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup water or chicken stock
1 bottle beer
4 canned chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 tbs good-quality chili powder
1 tbs ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 lbs turkey chop meat
1 15oz can black beans

directions
In a Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions, bell pepper, jalepeno and cook until soft. Add the garlic and chop meat. Cook until meat is browned. Add the tomatoes, water, beer, chipotles, chili powder, cumin and salt. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour. Add the beans and more water, if needed. Cook another 30 minutes until desired thickness.

Serve with your favorite chili toppings! Mine are shredded cheddar cheese and chopped scallions. Enjoy, and Let’s Go Jets!

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Asian-inspired Soup

It’s a cool September day in the northeast and I feel like I may be getting a cold, so I felt it was the perfect night for soup. I bought some beautiful, baby bok choy (Chinese cabbage which has a lot of vitamin A) at Trader Joes yesterday (have I ever mentioned how much I love this store?), and was inspired to make an Asian style soup.

I created this recipe based on the flavors of an udon noodle soup you find on the menu at a Japanese restaurant. As I write this blog post, I’m warm and content eating my soup. Hope you can be too!

ingredients

1tbs oil
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup white wine
1 14oz can of vegetable or chicken broth
1 squirt of siracha sauce
2 tbs low sodium soy sauce
2 heads of baby bok choy
2 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup shredded chicken
Pepper to taste
1 soup package of ramen noodles (without the seasoning)
1 egg (optional)

directions

Over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in the oil until soft. Add the white wine and reduce.

Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the siracha, soy sauce, bok choy, and scallion. Cook about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and noodles.

(At this point, I like adding an egg also. When you get this soup out, a poached egg is added to the pot. When you break open the egg, the yolk oozes out into the soup and it makes the broth thick and delicious. To avoid another pan, I don’t poach the egg separate. I add it to the broth at the end. A bit messier, but worth not cleaning the extra pot!)

After the noodles cook for a minute, add the egg slowly to the pot and let poach while the noodles cook another 2 minutes. Enjoy!

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Greek Style Roasted Lemon Chicken and Potatoes

Aunt Toula was in my kitchen this Sunday afternoon 🙂

As my cousin would say, if you say this phrase in my family, you know what’s cooking. I’ve told you about my Aunt Toula before. My great aunt who has taught me so much about cooking. This dish…the warm, roasting chicken smell; the lemony-garlicky-peppery taste; the soft, fresh bread sopping up the thick, juicy oil… Every bit of making, cooking and eating this dish encompasses the memory of my great aunt.

I used to go to California to visit my Aunt Toula and Uncle John every summer when I was a young kid. Every time we flew out there, my aunt would have this chicken ready for us as we arrived from the airport. The waft of this amazing aroma would hit you as soon as you walked into the house, and with a huge smile on your face you knew you were in your second home with a great aunt and great uncle that were more like a third set of grandparents. Before my aunt passed away, she passed on her secrets to making this dish and now I’ll share it with all of you. I will say, everyone makes this a bit differently. Even in my own family. Here is my version. My aunt taught me as a little of this and a handful of that, but I’ve tried to measure out the ingredients based on the perfect smell she taught me to look for!

ingredients
1 whole chicken
2 1/2 lbs of potatoes, peeled and cut into equal large cubes
3 lemons, juiced
1 14oz can of chicken broth
1 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil (you can use regular extra virgin olive oil but the Greek has a distinct flavor. This can be found on the supermarket now!)
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 tbs garlic powder, plus more to sprinkle on top
1 tbs pepper, plus more to sprinkle on top
2 tsp salt, plus more to sprinkle on top to taste
Paprika for color

directions

Preheat the oven to 400.

Mix together the lemon, chicken broth, oil, garlic powder, pepper and salt in a large bowl. This is a key step. You’re going to bathe both the chicken and the potatoes on this mixture. Doing this helps get the mixture into all the parts of the chicken.

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Bathe the chicken in the mixture first. Get the juice into the cavity of the chicken as well as under the skin, between the legs, etc.

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Place the chicken in a roasting pan (today I used a throw away for easy clean up!). The put the cubed potatoes in the bath. Let them sit for a few minutes. Then transfer them to the pan around the chicken.

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Place the garlic cloves around the pan. Sprinkle the chicken and potatoes with more garlic powder and pepper (quite a bit), salt to taste, and a bit of paprika for color. Transfer to the oven and let cook for 2 hours. Baste every 40 minutes or so and if you see the top of the chicken start to brown too much, cover with tinfoil.

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After 2 hours remove the chicken and let sit for about 20 minutes under tinfoil before slicing. This is how the pan should look before you remove the chicken.

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Remove most of the juice as well and place the potatoes and remainder of the juice back in the oven to continue cooking for another 20 minutes. The potatoes should be completely soft but start to develop a crisp on the outside. The juice will start to brown as well. The pan should start to caramelize.

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Once cooked and sliced, serve with a salad and plenty of fresh French bread for dipping!


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Sushi night out with the girls

I went out for sushi with the girls tonight at a sushi joint that recently opened in my hometown. I absolutely had to share what I got because it was so unique and so good! I’ve recently gotten into seaweed salad. If you’ve never had this before, it’s so good and so refreshing. I’ve been ordering it at my local sushi restaurant with a marinated octopus and I’ve fallen in love with the sweet vinegary taste of the marinade/dressing. So when I saw this roll on the menu I had to try it. I ordered a spicy salmon and avocado roll that was topped with salmon and this seaweed salad. Yes topped with this amazing, refreshing, tasty salad! This roll was absolutely so good. The refreshing flavor of the sushi and avocado topped with the cold, sweet taste of the salad was perfect and so delicious. To the point where I am totally ordering a side of seaweed salad in the future to eat with my rolls. Even if you don’t see this roll on the menu, I suggest at least trying the salad, but definitely try it in combination with a roll. Happy Saturday!

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Broiled Salmon with Garlic, Mustard and Herbs

Salmon is one of my favorite fishes. Whether cooked like this meal I’m about to share with you, or as sushi. And it is very good for you. It is very high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which medical research shows can help lower triglycerides and blood pressure, among other health benefits. This is definitely a fish you want in your diet. Pair this with mustard as this dish does, which also has omega-3 fatty acids in it, as well as Brussels Sprouts, which has sulforaphane (believed to have anticancer properties), and you have one super healthy meal.

This dish created by one of my favorite celebrity chefs of all time, Giada de Laurentiis, is simple, delicious and healthy. A great go to meal for during the week after a long day at work. I urge you to try it, and urge you to try other dishes by Giada. Along with my family, Giada helped me grow in my cooking abilities between her shows and her many cookbooks. I actually met her at a book signing for this very cookbook – she is super nice and so sweet! Here is the recipe.

recipe from Giada de Laurentiis, giada’s family dinners by Giada de Laurentiis, copyright 2006

ingredients

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs Dijon mustard
2 tbs whole-grain mustard
3/4 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tbs dry white wine
1 tbs olive oil
Non stick cooking spray
6 (6-8 oz) salmon fillets
Salt and pepper
6 lemon wedges

directions

In a small bowl, mix the garlic, both mustards, rosemary, and thyme. Mix in the wine and oil. Set the mustard sauce aside.

Preheat the broiler. Line a heavy rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with the nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the salmon fillets on the baking sheet and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Broil for 2 minutes. Spoon the mustard sauce over the fillets. Continue broiling until the fillets are just cooked through and golden brown, about 5 minutes longer.

Transfer the fillets to plates and serve with the lemon wedges.

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Choose your choice of vegetables, tonight as I mentioned I chose Brussels Sprouts, to side the salmon with. For the Brussels Sprouts, I cut them in shreds and sautéed with salt, pepper an red pepper flakes until cooked through. Enjoy!

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