Party Pumpkin Squares

A pumpkin for your thoughts! Pumpkin is such a wonderful food, so loaded with health benefits, and available throughout the year, that it's a wonder we don't eat it more.  Now, during this season of pumpkin pies, pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin casseroles, I pulled out an old favorite of mine from many years ago and decided to give it a few new twists by adding ground cloves and allspice.  The result was "Pumpkin Party Squares," great for a buffet dessert because, like brownies, they need no forks or spoons to eat them .... unless, of course, you put a dollop of freshly-whipped heavy cream on them, as I did, or vanilla ice cream.  The result is a sumptuous dessert and is a real treat on a cold October or November night. A great gift for your Thanksgiving hostess, too!


For the crust:

1 package store-bought pound cake mix
1 egg, slightly beaten with fork
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
2 tbsp. melted butter

For the topping:

8 oz. container of whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten with fork
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 can (16 oz.) pumpkin pie filling
1/3 to 1/2 cup of walnuts, or as desired


(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

(2) Mix crust ingredients in bowl and press into a lightly greased and floured 13" x 9" baking pan. Mixture will be crumbly but firm.

(3) Whip the cream cheese, eggs, condensed milk and pumpkin pie filling in a large bowl with an electric mixer or wire whisk until well blended.

(4) Add dry ingredients -- pumpkin pie spice, salt, cinnamon -- and stir to combine.

(5) Pour filling on top of crust. Sprinkle with walnuts.

Bake 45 minutes until set.

Cool, cut into squares, and serve with ice cream or whipped cream, or just as they are!

Italian Plum Cake - A Wonderful Late Summer Pastry

We've been enjoying this lovely European recipe for decades, which is best only at the end of the summer, when Italian plums are in season. Recently, we were delighted to learn that plum cake is a dessert widely eaten on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Seems all ethnicities do come together at the table. (Props to Barrie Rubinstein for this sweet culinary info.)

It's simple, light and airy. The plums are tart, the sugar is sweet. And dusted cloves and cinnamon on top of the cake will fill your house with an irresistible autumn aroma. Enjoy with ice cream, more dusted confectioner's sugar, or plain with a cup of tea.


3 lbs. ripe Italian plums, pitted and quartered
1/4 lb. butter
3 eggs, separated
1-1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
1-1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Ground cinnamon for dusting
Gound clovves for dusting
Granulated or sanding sugar for dusting


1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
2. Butter and flour a half cookie sheet.
3. Pit and quarter the plums and set aside.
4. Cream butter, 3 egg yolks and sugar with hand mixer.

5. Mix in baking powder and flour.
6. Beat 3 egg whites and gently fold into batter.
7. Spread on prepared cookie sheet.
8. Place plums on top of sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon, ground cloves and sanding/granulated sugar.

9. Bake for 30 minutes in 350F oven.

Finished, baked and ready to serve!

Red, White and Blueberry

More Memorial Day, Fourth of July (or any Sunday morning) fare ... fresh blueberry muffins.  They are quick and easy and really moist and delicious.  The secrets are sour cream, nutmeg and cinammon.  From start to finish, less than an hour. Here's the recipe:

  Preheat oven to 400ª. Bake at 350ª.

·           1 stick butter, melted
·           ¾ c. sugar plus additional for sprinkling muffins
·           2 large eggs
·           1 ½  tsp. vanilla
·           1 cup sour cream
·           2 cups flour
·           ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
·           ½ tsp baking powder
·           ½ tsp baking soda
·           Ground cinnamon for sprinkling muffins
·            2 cups fresh blueberries

 Mix wet ingredients
·          Cream butter and sugar with hand mixer
·          Beat in eggs, one at a time
·          Beat in vanilla and sour cream

  Mix dry ingredients
·           Sift flour
·           Stir in ground nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt

·            Stir wet into dry ingredients
·            Fold in blueberries

  Spoon into 12 muffin cups, sprinkle tops with mixture of cinnamon and granulated sugar.

  Reduce heat in oven to 350. Bake @ 350 degrees for 25 minutes, until golden brown, or until
  toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.

·           Add 1 ½ cups grated apples instead of blueberries
·           Add chopped pecans to topping
·           Fold in 1 ½ cups mashed bananas and ½ cup walnuts to batter
·           Use raspberries instead of blueberries


Blue Cheese Stuffed Burgers

Not for the faint of heart or appetite, our blue cheese stuffed burgers, topped with caramelized red onion and sautéed cremini mushrooms, are a hearty dinner for Dads on their special day, and anyone else who loves burgers!  The magic of this meal is the complexity of flavors created by use of spices and herbs. It's easy! Here's how we did it:


1 lb ground beef
1/3 c seasoned breadcrumbs
4 T crumbled blue cheese
Salt & pepper
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 red onion, sliced very thinly
Butter and extra virgin olive oil for sautéeing
Pinch granulated sugar for caramelizing
Whole wheat hamburger rolls (optional)
Vine ripened or heirloom red tomato (optional)
Dry white wine for deglazing
Pinch each of oregano and thyme for seasoning
Onion and garlic salt for seasoning

1. Mix breadcrumbs into beef. Divide into four sections.
2. Add 1 T of blue cheese into center of each patty, fold over and seal.

3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, oregano. Set aside.

4. Heat sauté pan with 1 T butter and 1 T extra virgin olive oil. Thinly slice red onion, and add to hot sauté pan. Sauté until limp, then deglaze with white wine. When wine has evaporated, lower heat, and allow to sauté gently until brown and caramelized.

5. In another sauté pan, heat 1 T butter and 1 T extra virgin olive oil. Add chopped creminis, and sauté until until soft (about 7 minutes). DO NOT ADD SALT OR PEPPER until cooking is complete. It will rob the mushrooms of their natural flavor. When mushrooms are done, sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper. Set aside.

6. In third sauté pan, heat 1 T butter and 1 T extra virgin olive oil and add burgers to hot pan. Sprinkle with more salt, oregano, onion salt and garlic salt. AlsSear 6 mins on one side, flip and another 5-6 minutes on the other side.

7. Serve on toasted whole wheat buns. Note: Adding tomato slices on bottom of bun will absorb juices of burger and "cook" the tomato. Absolutely delicious!

Serve with a green salad and watch them disappear!


Here's an authentic, spicy dish you can make in less than an hour!  We love it served with rice and a high-quality mango chutney. Garnish with a spritz of lemon and chopped cilantro. A sure winner, weeknight or weekend!

2 tbsp oil
2 c onion, chopped finely
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 fresh tomatoes, chopped

1/4 to 1/3 c heavy cream

Spice mixture
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp celery seed
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped


1. Sauté onion in oil until translucent

2. Add tomatoes, chicken, spice mixture and sauté for 15 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked.

3. Add cream, reduce heat to low, and sauté until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Serve over rice, with a high-quality mango chutney.  

Garnish with a spritz of lemon and chopped cilantro. 

Enjoy with a sparkling Reisling or Kingfisher beer!

Springtime Lamb Stew

"Marie avait un petit mouton..."

When my husband was a child, his NYC teacher asked the students to recite something in front of the class. His mom, a French American, helped him to memorize the French version of "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Translated, "Marie avait un petit mouton." 

We remember this cute little nursery rhyme fondly while making a delicious French lamb stew. This dish is from his mom's recipe book.

Nothing says French like an authentic French stew, especially on a cold springtime day, and this one adds a twist that keeps all of the flavor locked into the stew. Here we took license with the original French country recipe, by adding the peas as a side rather than incorporating into the stew, and by creating a buttery mash of pommes de terre au persil (parslied potatoes) as an accompaniment. This version retains all of the hearty meat and mushroom taste, and puts us in mind of Provençal forests, while adding perfect accents with potatoes, parsley and peas.

This recipe will take a few hours to prepare, so give yourself ample time some morning or afternoon and enjoy the process, as you lovingly craft a dinner with complex flavor for cherished family and/or friends that they can't get just anywhere. As with most soups or stews, for some reason this one tastes better after it has been cooled and reheated, or the next day.

It's a wonderful dinner to serve, feels very elegant and makes you appear an accomplished cook, especially when accompanied by a fine beaujolais and crusty baguette.

2-3 lbs. lamb steaks (round bone), cut into 1-2" pieces
1/2 to 1 c. hearty red wine (use only wine that you would drink at table!)
3 tbsp. flour
2 medium onions, chopped coarsely (about 1 cup)
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in butter
1 lb. carrots, cut into 2" pieces
1 lb. frozen peas
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into thirds 
1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
4 - 6 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. freshly chopped thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Sauté the mushrooms in 1-2 tbsp. butter and olive oil until deeply browned and set aside.

2. In a large dutch oven, add 1-2 tbsp. butter and sauté the lamb in stages so as not to cool down the pot, until richly browned and leaving a fond or tiny bits on the bottom of the pot.
These are the crusty, caramelized bits you want to render from the meat; they are called the fond.
They will add flavor and character to your stew.

3. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the juice of the meat, sauté the onion and garlic until wilted and soft, about five minutes, stirring frequently. 

This is how your onions will look after you've added the wine and the slurry.
4. While the onion is cooking, make a
slurry of 2-3 tbsp. flour and very hot water in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the flour completely. Add to the cooked onions and stir until well incorporated.

5. Add back the meat, add in the carrots, mushrooms, bay leaf, thyme and stir well to incorporate.
6. Add more wine, about 1/3 cup. 
7. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stir to incorporate, lower heat and simmer on low heat, stirring every 10 - 15 minutes or so, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot.
8. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, boil the potatoes in salted water.
9. When the potatoes are cooked (about 10 minutes, or when a fork slides through easily), drain and mash in same saucepan, using a fork or a potato masher. Add 2 tbsp. butter and freshly chopped parsley, mix and set aside.
10. Prepare the peas according to package directions, and when cooked, add butter, salt and pepper to taste.
11. After a few hours, check the stew and adjust flavorings to taste.
12. Serve with peas and potatoes, crusty bread and a hearty beaujolais.  Bon appetit!

Chicken Soup for a Winter that Won't End

"Snow is cold, rain is wet, chills my soul right to the marrow ..." Carole King

If you're suffering the slings and arrows of an outrageous spring, with snow and wind and weather that resembles January rather than April, here's a way to warm it up inside. Put on a pot of chicken soup! It is a perfect dinner, rich and delicious lunch, pairs perfectly with crusty bread, white wine and pasta/noodles. It's easy (easier than it looks!) and can serve six or more. Just put it into the pot and let it simmer! Top with grated parmagianno reggiano or your favorite oyster crackers.

Total cooking time – about 3-4 hours including prep


1 whole air-cooled or air chilled chicken (about 3 lbs)

1 large onion, quartered

3 stalks celery, cut in half lengthwise and then into 3” pieces

1 lb. carrots, cut into 3” pieces (or get the small ones in bag)

1-1/2 cups College Inn chicken broth

3-4 chicken bouillon cubes

6 cups water (be sure the water is warm or hot before you add it to the pot – I use cold water out of the tap, put the bouillon cubes with the water in a measuring cup, and microwave it for a minute or two, then add to the pot)

Salt and pepper (I use French Sel de Mer and freshly ground pepper)

2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. high quality organic olive oil

Bouquet garni – 6 cloves garlic, 10 sprigs fresh parsley, 4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried thyme), 1 tsp. herbes de provence – wrapped up tightly in cheesecloth


1. Into a large stock pot, heat butter and olive oil.

2. Salt and pepper chicken, and place whole chicken upside down in butter/olive oil,

3. Sear until browned. Turn chicken and sear on the other side.

4. Add onion, celery, carrots, broth, water, bouillon cubes, bouquet garni. Be sure the liquid covers the chicken almost completely.

5. Simmer on medium for about three hours. Watch the pot, maybe put a lid askew on it so that all the steam does not escape.

6. As it is simmering, you might want to add a little dried thyme to the top of the chicken and/or more salt and pepper.

If you use the air cooled chicken, there is (magically!) no scum to skim!! The best chicken ever!

7. When the soup is done, remove the chicken from the pot and debone it. Throw away the bones and put the chicken back into the pot. 

Serve piping hot with bread, buttered noodles, salad or just by itself.