Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin Spice Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
Best Pumpkin Bar recipe BY FAR!! I've used mixes, concocted my own cream cheese frosting and researched a number of other similar recipes but still, Betty Crocker seems to come out on top.  She's one hell of a woman!
A perfect dessert for fall potlucks, these pumpkin bars are made even better with cream cheese frosting.
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 2 Hours 50 Minutes
Servings: 49

4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 can (15 oz.) plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
2 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup raisins, if desired

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 to 3 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, if desired

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 15x10x1-inch pan with cooking spray.
  2. In large bowl, beat eggs, granulated sugar, oil and pumpkin with wire whisk until smooth. Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Stir in raisins. Spread in pan.
  3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and bars spring back when touched lightly in center. Cool completely, about 2 hours.
  4. In medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, on low speed until smooth and spreadable. Spreading frosting over bars. Sprinkle with walnuts. For bars, cut into 7 rows by 7 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.
TIP: In a pinch, use 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice instead of the cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

Ready To Bake
Bite Sized Goodness
Cream Cheese Frosting Kissed

The Committed Pig

Located in Morristown & Manasquan, New Jersey, The Committed Pig is probably one of the BEST places to go for  Brunch these days.  The atmosphere is inviting, the menu is filled with favorites for every one's taste and the food is OUTSTANDING.

Open for Brunch and Dinner, this eclectic restaurant has a wide variety of options to tempt your palate.  The portions are satisfying and the ability to customize and make anything "your own" is accepted.  Check out some of my favorite menu items below:

The Committed Pig

Red Velvet Pancakes - fluffy red velvet batter, cream cheese glaze, bacon

The Croque Madame - shaved ham, fontina, gruyere, white cheddar, grilled sourdough, topped with a fried egg and mornay sauce, side salad

The Brunchwich - bacon, pork roll, fried egg, served on French toast

The Burgers - made with a hanger steak, short rib and brisket blend provided by pat la frieda ny. Such options include The Burgernut with American cheese, served on a glazed donut with ketchup & The 20 Dollar Burger - a One Pound Burger with American cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion, mayo, ketchup and mustard on a brioche bun

Manasquan, New Jersey

The Brunchwich

The Croque Madame with Jalapeno Peppers
On your way out buy a t-shirt or hoodie to show off your love of bacon!!!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Fried Noodles

If you love pasta and you love butter and you love fried eggs, then this is the dish for you.  Together, the combination sounds a little strange but… this depression dish that originated from my mother’s side of the family has become a favorite among all I’ve ever cooked it for.
Tender egg noodles are cooked in salted boiling water and quickly drained to be returned to a hot pot with vegetable oil and butter or margarine.  Seasoned with just salt and pepper, whole eggs are added and cooked through until the noodles start to crisp.  Viola!
Now, a modern variation I’ve done at home is to add sautéed kielbasa.  Old school finishing touches include topping these warm delicious noodles with canned prunes or peaches in light syrup.
DON’T RUN AWAY!! Come back, it’s not as weird or as terrible as it sounds!!  The salty, buttery, crispy noodles hit the sweet syrupy fruit and it is a combination that starts a party in your mouth with each taste bud dancing the night away!!  Perfect for lent, a late night cheap dinner or even brunch; it can’t get much easier than this!
·         3 cups dried egg noodles
·         2 quarts boiling water (salted)
·         1 tablespoon vegetable oil
·         ¼ cup butter or margarine
·         ¼ teaspoon black pepper
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         2 whole eggs
1.       Bring salted water up to rolling boil.  Add pasta and cook until a little past al dente.  Strain and place back into hot pot over medium heat.
2.       Add vegetable oil and coat noodles.  Add butter or margarine, salt and pepper and stir still the noodles start to sizzle and “fry” for approximately 3 minutes.
3.       Crack eggs into the pot and break yolk, stirring in to blend with noodles.  Sautéed until eggs are cooked through and pasta starts to brown and crisp around the edges.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mongolian Barbecue

Mongolian Barbeque

What is better than getting takeout from your favorite Chinese Restaurant?!?

Everyone is very particular when it comes to some of the basic “fast foods” such as pizza, Chinese food, sushi, subs, breakfast sandwiches, bagel/donut shops, etc. But…have you ever had the pleasure of going to a Mongolian Barbeque?  If not and you know where to find one YOU MUST GO!!!!!  And if you don’t know of any….research and get on that internet! It is something anyone and everyone should experience at least once in their life.

Fresh produce, shredded raw chicken, pork or beef, tofu, lo mein noodles, brown or white rice….you name it, you can make it.  The process is super simple and really quick.  This isn't anything fancy people, it's just food done right.

Starting with your bowl you first choose your protein and then move down the cold buffet with assorted vegetables; broccoli, bok choy, carrots, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, onion, zucchini (you get the idea).  Then you are to choose your sauces that when cooked together are going to glaze your meal to perfection.  Wine, sweet and spicy sauces, soy, sesame, garlic & ginger; you are the creator to make this your own. 

The cooking process: the chef takes your bowl of goodness and places it on a large Mongolian Grill that is a huge, flat, round griddle.  Everything is placed on this sizzling flattop and is rotated until cooked through, being worked by the chef with very long chop sticks.  Your meal is finally magically placed in a new bowl and presented to you piping hot and ready to warm your soul.  Finishing toppings include sesame seeds, pineapple, spicy chili sauce, peanut sauce & toasted peanuts. You can also take a side of their local honey to drizzle on for some sweetness.

Inexpensive, quick and easy, fresh and healthy…what more could you ask for?  When your belly is full and your wallet isn’t empty, that makes me happy.

Try it, you’ll like it!

Steamed Pork Dumplings
Fresh Vegetables, Spicy Chili Sauce, Toasted Peanuts & Sweet Soy Glaze
Pork & Lo Mein with Garlic Ginger Sauce
Brown Rice & Tofu = Total Deliciousness

Friday, December 26, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie, my one favorite comfort food in addition to a good old-school, home-style baked macaroni and cheese. I love the flavors that warm your heart, soul and tummy... like a big hug from the inside out!  Slow cooked tender chicken, fresh vegetables, fragrant herbs and flaky buttery crusts that melt in your mouth...what could be better?!!!!?!

Everyone has their own recipe and no ones is better than your mothers or your grandma's (I get it), but what I'm going to share are a few different ways to serve up a basic recipe that can also be turned into a delicious Cream of Chicken Soup!

I'm a big fan of the "soup starters" you can find in the produce section of your local markets that typically have a carrot, onion, parsnip, turnip, celery and fresh herbs such as parsley and dill. This variety of vegetables gives the traditional pot pie a fresher, sweeter flavor. Low sodium chicken stock and a roaster chicken will set you back less than 20 dollars for a completely satisfying meal.

Now, of course the filling is important but what about the crust? Biscuit topping, puffed pastry or the traditional pie crust? Whatever the choice, your preference is what will make your "famous" chicken pot pie your own!

  • 3/4 cup margarine
  • 1 soup starter packet or 2 cups total small to medium diced carrots, celery, onion, etc.
  • 1 Tablespoon each fresh chopped dill & parsley
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken

In saucepan, melt butter over medium - low heat. Add diced vegetables and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened.
Stir in chicken and herbs; remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper as desired. Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan or individual baking dishes. Top with second crust or biscuit topping. Bake according to directions or approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until crust /biscuits are golden brown at 425 degrees.
I'm always looking for inventive ways to use up leftovers.  So if we are having a second or third round of pot pie, I take the above mixture and add 1 cup of chicken stock and 1/2 cup heavy cream over low heat to make a delicious cream of chicken soup.  If you'd like to really spice things up, the addition of a little hot sauce makes a delicious Cream of Buffalo Chicken Soup ...top off with Cheddar & Scallion Baked Biscuits and you will be sure to have rave reviews, especially if you are entertaining a football crowd!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2014


What exactly is this magnificent, sweet bread that is on shelves in markets and bakeries across the world that shows up around the holiday season?  Is such a massive dessert/breakfast snack the equivalent of the Italian Fruit Cake or Irish Soda Bread?  Well, tonight on Christmas I tasted my very first one.  I felt like a chef that was taking a leap into another universe I had simply not had the privilege of ever experiencing before.  Why have I not had this sooner!!!!!
Panettone = Delicious
Plump Raisins, Orange Essence, Bittersweet Chocolate... the fantastic aromatic and delicately sweet bread is the perfect accompaniment to tea and coffee and can be served and topped with a variety of condiments such as nutella, mascarpone, whipped butter or preserves; served alone is ideal when fresh and even warmed from the oven. 
Leftover Panettone should not be discarded.... oh no, that is a crime in itself!! In fact, having some for the following day is even encouraged for a beautiful brunch item or dessert idea many won't have at their next holiday party. Two fantastic and simple uses for any Panettone that is left over is to make French Toast or Bread Pudding!! 
William Sonoma has a wonderful Panettone French Toast recipe that is easy and super tasty!
A spongy golden Italian egg bread studded with dried fruits, panettone is traditionally served during the Christmas holidays. Here we transform this sweet bread into a delicious version of French toast.


  • 1/2 purchased panettone, about 1 lb.
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 Tbs. Cointreau or other orange liqueur (optional) 
  • 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • Softened unsalted butter for brushing
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • Warm maple syrup for serving


Cut the panettone into 5 or 6 vertical slices, each 1 inch thick. Discard the end slices. Cut the remaining slices in half.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs until just blended, then whisk in the milk, orange zest, orange juice, Cointreau, granulated sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour the egg mixture into a large, shallow bowl (you may need 2 bowls) and add the bread slices. Soak, turning once, about 10 seconds per side.

Heat an electric griddle on medium heat and brush with butter. When the butter foams, add a few of the bread slices (do not overcrowd). Cook, turning once, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Turn the slices over again and cook for a few minutes more per side until browned to your taste. 

Using a slotted metal spatula, transfer the French toast to serving plates, place them in the oven and turn the oven to 200°F. Repeat to cook the remaining bread slices.

Dust the French toast with confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately with maple syrup.

Is Bread Pudding more your style?  What about Food Network's Rachael Ray's Eggnog Bread Pudding! 
Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray

  • 1 loaf panettone, available in Italian specialty stores, cut in half (enough for about 5 cups, diced)
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • Optional accompaniments:
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Whipped cream
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
Place a tea-kettle of water on to boil for a water bath. With a serrated knife, remove the side crusts from the half piece of the panettone. Cut into 3/4 to 1-inch dice. You should have 5 cups. Reserve the cubed panettone in a large mixing bowl.
For the eggnog custard, in another bowl thoroughly whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar, half and half, rum, vanilla extract, and a healthy grating of fresh nutmeg. Pour this over the bread cubes.
Spray a 12 hole muffin tin with vegetable cooking spray. Ladle the bread/eggnog mixture gently and evenly into the muffin tins. The big cubes sticking up look nice. Place the filled muffin tin in a tall sided cookie sheet or roasting pan. Transfer to the preheated oven and carefully pour the hot water from kettle onto sheet pan, creating a water bath for the muffin tin to sit in.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes until the tops are nicely browned, and a toothpick comes clean from the center.
Bread pudding may be served warm or cold. Vanilla Ice cream or whipped cream would be great accompaniments.
Alternately place the muffin tin in a roasting pan on the stove. Pour in up to 1-inch of boiling water. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 15 to 20 minutes. The puddings will puff and a toothpick will come out clean from the center. The tops won't brown with this method. Perhaps a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar at serving time would be nice.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Last Minute Hors D'ourves

Homemade Rice Balls
Fried Golden Brown
Serve with Marinara Sauce, Balsamic Glaze or Basil Pesto
 Looking for some last minutes Cocktails and Hors D'ourve ideas?? Clean out those closets, pantries and liquor cabinets!!  I went on a search late last night for something to bring to my parents for their Christmas Eve party.  With a small container of Arborio Rice in my kitchen I thought... Rice Balls!!!
I searched the fridge and found some mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, some prosciutto in the freezer and panko bread crumbs in the pantry; from there I started the easy process of making an impressive and delicious appetizer. Not the mention the fact that now there is more space in my cupboards!!!
Win Win!
3 cups Arborio Rice
6 cups Hot Water or Vegetable Stock
Any Italian Cheese
All Purpose Flour
Vegetable Oil
Cook standard risotto until aldente (I like to toast my rice in butter and olive oil with garlic before adding the liquid) Take off heat and fold in grated cheese, stirring till melted thoroughly and evenly distributed throughout.  Taste seasoning and adjust as needed with salt and pepper.
Spread risotto out on plastic wrapped lined sheet tray to cool.  Scoop risotto into 1 inch balls and freeze.  Once frozen the breading process can begin with a flour, egg and panko breadcrumb coating.  Once coated, place balls back in freezer until vegetable oil in sauté pan is hot; about medium heat for 4 minutes.  Fry until golden brown and finish in 350 degree oven until internal temperature of 145 degrees or until hot in the center.
Use any extra rice balls as the perfect addition to a soup.  They work fantastic with something as light as an Italian Wedding Soup (especially when the rice balls are made with ground sausage) or as robust as a Red Bell Pepper & Smoked Gouda Bisque with Roasted Corn & Cilantro!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Holidays

The hustle and bustle...

The running around...

The shopping...

The long lines...

The maxed out credit cards...

The traveling...

Now, take a deep breathe and stop and clear your mind.  Lets think...but what about the magic?  Where is all that "tis the season" & "holly jolly" kindness anymore?  Drivers cut each other off without warning, doors aren't held for others at the post office when packages are being carried beyond anyone's site, and people have no patience.

The holidays come so fast that before the one we are trying to experience is even here, we are already preparing for the following festivities that are months and months away.  Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas... on December 26th mark my words, you will be seeing Valentines Day Candy on the shelves at your local markets. 

What ever it is that you are going to celebrate within the next few weeks remember the basics...remember what all of the craziness around us is all about!! Family, Food, Friends, Memories, Celebrating.  Enjoy Life!  Think about the positive! Be thankful, be grateful and feel lucky to have what you have. 

Take a moment this year and try to pick a day or even an hour and do what you feel is "right" to celebrate whatever it is that you'd like.  Enjoy Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah; if you aren't a holiday person then enjoy the snow, the music and decorations from afar. 

It's so easy to get the Winter Blues.  All of your favorite shows on television go on their mid-season finales, it's cold, etc. Try to turn one negative thought each day into a positive.  On your long ride home from work after a stressful day, enjoy the Christmas lights; when stuck in traffic after traveling all day to visit family and friends, be happy you have your family and friends there with you to celebrate with; when you are tired from cooking and cleaning all day to host a party, be thankful that you had a packed house of loved ones enjoying themselves and were there for you! The holidays are what you make of them!

My day of relaxing is coming soon.  I like to take a day to give myself the gift of true relaxation.  Then I order out Chinese Food, watch cheesy Christmas Movies and have Hot Cocoa for dessert before driving around to look at Christmas Lights in town. 

Happy Holidays! Make them happy the best way you know how!