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!

Chicken Breasts in Tarragon Cream Sauce with Sautéed Mushrooms

Here's a delicious and impressive chicken entrée your family and guests will rave about.  An old French family recipe, it takes less than an hour from start to finish and uses everyday kitchen ingredients. Serve with rice or buttered noodles. Green beans are also a nice accompaniment, as is a salad. A perfect dish for every night or special occasions. Note: Dried tarragon is much stronger than fresh. As directed, use less.


1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 T butter, plus 2 T 

1 T extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 T

1 lb. thinly sliced chicken breasts

Flour seasoned with salt and pepper for dredging, plus 3 T for mixing with broth

1-1/2 c chicken broth

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 T fresh tarragon (or 1 t. dried)


1. Sauté mushrooms in butter and olive oil. Set aside.

2. Dredge chicken breasts in seasoned flour.

3. Melt 2 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in deep sauté pan

4. Sauté chicken to golden brown.  Set aside.

5. Make a "slurry" with the 3/4 c chicken broth and 3 T flour. (Mix together in separate bowl.)

6. Add remaining ¾ cup of chicken broth to pan. Scrape bottom of pan to incorporate brown bits.

7.  Mix slurry into pan and drippings. Mix well. Reduce heat and stir in heavy cream.

8. Add tarragon, chicken and mushrooms.  Simmer for 3-5 mins until chicken is fully cooked.

Serve with buttered noodles or rice.

Serve over rice.

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!

Celebrate Pie Day with a Peachiful Pie!

A delightful long weekend at the Cape and overripe peaches brought us to yearning for a delicious sweet fresh peach pie. As with most of the Empty Nester Gourmet's recipes, this one is easy and quick ... and on your dessert table, warm and ready to top with ice cream, in less than 90 minutes.


3 cups overripe peaches, peeled, pitted and cut in quarters or sixths
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten slightly with fork
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup whipped butter, melted
1 pie crust/pate brisée (bottom and top for lattice)
Egg wash -- 1 egg + 1 tbsp. cold water, slightly beaten with fork
Sanding sugar -- approx. 1 tbsp.
Optional -- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
2. Press bottom crust into pie plate, crimping edges decoratively.
3. Mix egg, sugar, flour, lemon juice and butter in a bowl until well blended. Set aside.
4. Peel, pit and slice peaches, and arrange in single layer on bottom of crust, then second layer.
5. Top with egg/sugar mixture.
6. Prepare lattice topping and layer on top of pie mixture, cutting edges and fitting snugly into crimped pie shell. (Use egg wash to seal edges.)
7. Brush top and crimped edges with egg wash, dust with sanding sugar, and cinnamon, if desired.
8. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 400F for 15 minutes, or until crust is browned. Reduce oven to 350F and bake for another 30-40 minutes, or until filling is well set. If crust browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Allow to cool for approx. 1 hour before eating. Top with your favorite ice cream, or whipped cream.

for your 4th of July Celebration
Low-carb, almost no sugar

Our recipe for dry roasted ribs is a delicious alternative to slathering sugary, high-calorie, carb-laden sauce. Containing almost no sugar, all you need is an oven set at 300F for four hours, a little water, and the delicious ingredients that are listed below. We served these with our Poblano Cornbread (recipe follows). This rub works equally well with chicken, just turn up the heat to 375F after 3 hours and roast for another 30 minutes, until brown and crispy.

Preheat oven to 300F


2-4 lb. rack of ribs
1 T high-quality smoky paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 T cumin, or more if desired
1 T ground chili seasoning, or more if desired
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp onion salt
Generous grind 5 pepper medley (Williams Sonoma)
2 T dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt or fleur-de-sel (Williams Sonoma)

Take ribs out of refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature (about 20 minutes).

Mix spices well in bowl, rub generously into both sides of a rack of ribs. Place ribs on a sheet pan that has been fitted with alum foil to catch drippings and place ribs on a wire rack over pan with 1/4 c water beneath rack. Roast in oven 4 hours, turning every 20-30 minutes, replenishing with 1/4 c water as needed.

Here's what they will look like when they are ready. Carve and enjoy!

The Perfect Turkey Burger for your Memorial Day BBQ!

For your Memorial Day BBQ, here's an amazing, cumin-scented turkey burger, redolent with spices and juiciness. All credit to "Top Chef" Ariane Duarte, who created the original recipe. We've added our own special touches.

They take only minutes to prepare and are loaded with flavor. Serve them on your favorite brioche rolls with Heinz Hamburger Dill Chips, a slice of tomato, and a side of onion rings or fries.  Tip: You can make extras and freeze. They defrost quickly and there is no noticeable difference in flavor or texture.

Ingredients -- Serves 6

2 lbs. of ground white and dark meat turkey
1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, small dice (depending on how much heat you like)
1/2 c. chopped cilatro or flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 small onion, diced
1/3 c. bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
12 slices Finlandia Swiss or Light Swiss cheese
6 burger buns of your choice

Process -- 10 minutes or less

In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Divide equally into four large burgers.

Grill on high heat -- 4 minutes on one side, then turn and finish for about 3 minutes to 4 minutes on the other. Add two slices of Finlandia Swiss and let melt.

Then place on your favorite bun and serve!

Arriba! Arriba! Cinco de Mayo! Fiesta Rolls!

Spice up your Cinco de Mayo feast with these awesome veggie treats that go from the hors d'oeuvre table to the dinner table ... They take less than 30 minutes to prepare, and just need a few hours in the 'fridge before serving. Serve with your favorite spicy salsa and guacamole. Makes four rolls, approximately 32 pieces.

One package of large ("burrito size") flour tortillas
Two containers (approx. 10 oz each) red pepper hummus
One green bell pepper, minced finely*
One yellow or red sweet pepper, minced finely*
One medium sweet onion, minced finely*
3 carrots, minced finely*
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced finely*

*Can be processed (separately) in food processor; drain of any water before mixing together

1. After mincing/draining veggies, measure out same amount of each ingredient and mix together.

2. Spread hummus thinly on large tortilla (approximately 1-2 tbsp. per tortilla)

3. Sprinkle with vegetable mixture.

4. Roll tightly.

5. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2-3 hours.
6. Unwrap, cut on diagonal.
7. Serve with your favorite Mexican tomato salsa. Delicioso!