Holiday

Easy as Pie...Banana Cream Pie

In the spirit of the holidays I would like to share one of my favorite holiday dessert recipes with you.  This recipe was created by my amazing and talented grandmother, Rosemarie.  Grandma Rosemarie makes all of her desserts from scratch, crusts, fillings, cookies, cakes you name it, but this pie was the only exception.  It consists of store bought graham cracker crust, instant vanilla pudding, fresh bananas, heavy cream, milk and vanilla...that is it!  It takes minutes to prepare and doesn’t have to be baked in an oven!  I have enjoyed this Banana Cream Pie every Thanksgiving for the past 23 years! It just isn’t the holiday season without this silky, crunchy, creamy delight and my incredible family members enjoying it together around the dining room table while sharing stories.

Ingredients-

  1. 1 Graham Cracker Crust
  2. Jello Brand Vanilla Instant Pudding (1 small box)
  3. 1 ½  Ripe Bananas sliced into ¼ inch round slices
  4. 1 ½ Cups Milk (I use 2% or Whole)
  5. ¼ Cup Heavy Cream

Whipped Cream Topping-

  1. ¾ Cup Heavy Cream
  2. 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  3. ½ Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

Steps-

  1. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, whip together the vanilla pudding mix, milk, and ¼ cup heavy cream until thick (pudding like texture).
  2. With a rubber spatula fold in the banana slices.
  3. Pour the pudding mixture into the graham cracker crust.
  4. Using the stand mixer or hand mixer beat the ¾ cup of heavy cream, vanilla extract and sugar until stiff peaks form.
  5. Scoop as much of the whipped cream as you like onto the top of the pie and spread it out evenly to cover the entire top of the pie.
  6. Let it set in the fridge for about an hour or two (or overnight) and serve!

 

Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Sage Leaves

I’ve said it before, but there is nothing like a meal full of pumpkin and sweet and savory spices in the month of October.  As the temperature starts to drop and we start to retrieve our coats and scarves from storage, there’s nothing more comforting than a hot bowl of soup.  Since Halloween is quickly approaching, and you’re going to need a festive food to eat while you watch Hocus Pocus (I know you love it), I have developed the perfect Pumpkin Soup recipe for you.  It’s my own “witches brew” full of aromatic spices and rich, pungent flavors.  A creative and impressive way to serve this soup at your Halloween party or even Thanksgiving dinner, is to hallow out small pumpkins, ladle in the soup and have your guests eat right out of the pumpkins!

 

 

Recipe Feeds 2 People

Ingredients-

  1. 1 Tablespoon of raw bacon chopped fine
  2. 1/3 Cup White Onion Finely Chopped
  3. ½ Tablespoon Butter
  4. 1 Clove of Garlic Minced
  5. 1 Bay Leaf (leave it whole.  It is just a flavoring agent)
  6. 1 Cup Chicken Stock
  7. 2 Sage Leaves (Plus a few more for Garnish- optional)
  8. ¾ Cup Pumpkin Puree
  9. ½ Honey Crisp Apple or Macintosh Apple (peeled and diced)
  10. 1 ½ Teaspoons Dark Brown Sugar
  11. ¼ Teaspoon Cinnamon
  12. Dash of Ground Ginger
  13. Dash of Nutmeg
  14. 1 ½ Teaspoons Maple Syrup (optional-you may like it less sweet)
  15.  Salt & Pepper to taste
  16. ½ Cup Milk
  17. Garnish with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche

Steps-

  1. Heat a medium saucepan on medium heat.  When the pot is hot put the chopped bacon in the pot.
  2. Allow the bacon fat to render and for the bacon to brown and get crispy.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set it aside (use it as garnish later).  Leave the fat in the pot.
  3. Add the butter to the pot on medium-low heat.  When the butter melts add the chopped onions, whole bay leaf and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent. 
  4. Add the chicken stock, pumpkin puree and sage leaves.  Bring it to a simmer, stirring periodically.
  5. While the mixture is simmering, place the chopped apple in a microwavable dish and microwave it on high for 3-5 minutes or until soft and mushy.
  6. Add the cooked apple, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, maple syrup, salt and pepper to the pot with the pumpkin mixture.
  7. Allow to simmer with the lid on for 10-15 minutes to bring the flavors together.
  8. Remove from the heat and using an immersion hand blender or a regular blender, blend the soup until it is silky and smooth.  Pour the mixture back into the pot.
  9. Add the milk to the pumpkin mixture and simmer for another 5-10 minutes or so.
  10. Remove from the heat and serve! I heat up some olive oil in a pan on high heat and then fry up some sage leaves in it.  The sage gets crispy like a chip and acts as a great garnish on top of the soup.  You can also put a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream and a drizzle of honey, or even some toasted pumpkin seeds!  The opportunities are endless.

   

Pumpkin Beer & Apple Cider Braised Bangers

Last year, I was lucky enough to visit my boyfriend in Germany while he was studying abroad.  We visited some of most unbelievable cities like Berlin, Munich, Freiberg and Bonn.  The infrastructure of each city was entirely unique, but they were all equally beautiful and interesting.  Another major commonality between these cities was their love for sausages and beer.  I have never tried so many different types of sausages in my life! You’ve got your Nürnberger Rostbratwurst, your Knackwurst, Currywurst, Bierwurst, Blood Sausage…the list goes on and on! In honor of their tasty cuisine and their famed Fall festival, Oktoberfest (which started yesterday in Munich), I have created a delicious Fall recipe that incorporates both beer (or should I say bier) and sausages.  I slow cook the sausages in a sweet and savory mixture that includes apples, apple cider, sage, onions, sauerkraut, and of course beer. I don’t use just any kind of beer, I use Pumpkin Ale!  Every Fall season you can find dozens and dozens of different Pumpkin Ales lining the shelves of your favorite beer distributer.  I used Blue Point’s Pumpkin Ale because it has such delicious, aromatic spices in it which really compliment the apple cider…oh and it’s from Long Island, and we all know that only good things come from Long Island (wink wink).  I served my sausages with homemade potato and cheese Perogies and a tall glass of the Pumpkin Ale to bring out the flavor in the dish.  “Anderen Helfen Bitte!!” “Another Helping Please!” is what you’ll be shouting!

Recipe Feeds 2-3 People

Ingredients-

  1. 2 Inch cube of Thick cut bacon (chop into small pieces) (or about 2 Tablespoons of Chopped sliced bacon)
  2. 1 ½ Medium Vidalia Onions cut into thin slices
  3. 1 Large Garlic Clove Minced
  4. 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  5. 4 Sage Leaves
  6. 2 Honey Crisp or Macintosh Apples peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  7. 1 Lb. German or Irish Style Pork Bangers (Sausages)
  8. 1 Cup of Pumpkin Ale (I used Blue Point Pumpkin) You can use any dark beer but I like the pumpkin because it has such wonderful fall spices in it.
  9. 1 Cup Apple Cider
  10. 1 ½ Cups Sauerkraut
  11. 1 ½ Tablespoons Whole Grain Mustard
  12. ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper (or more if you prefer)
  13. Salt to Taste

Steps-

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F
  2. In a Dutch Oven ceramic pot (I use a le cruset) or any oven safe pot, cook the chopped bacon over medium heat until the fat renders (melts) and the bacon starts to get crispy.  
  3. Add the butter to the pot and allow it to melt.
  4. Add the onion, sage leaves and garlic to the pot and cook on medium-low heat until the onions start to soften and caramelize slightly in the butter.
  5. Add the apple chunks and cook for about 5 minutes to bring the flavors together. 
  6. Pour the onion mixture into a bowl and set aside.  Leave all the drippings in the pot and place on medium heat.
  7. Sear the sausages on each side in the pot to give them some color and to lock in the juices.  Remove the sausages from the pot and set aside.
  8. Deglaze the pot by pouring in the beer and the apple cider while the pot is on medium-low heat. The liquid will bubble up nicely. Using a wooden spoon scrape up all the nice bits that are at the bottom of the pan from when you cooked the bacon and onions. 
  9. Add the onion and apple mixture back into the pot along with the sauerkraut and mustard, and stir until combined. Add about ½ teaspoon of salt and about ½ teaspoon of pepper to the pot. 
  10. Add the sausages back to the pot and cover the pot with a lid. 
  11. Place the pot in the oven and cook covered for about 45 minutes to 1 ½  hours or until the apples are soft and the sausages are cooked through.  Then remove the lid and cook for another 10-20 minutes or until the liquid reduces and reaches your preferred consistency.  I like for the liquid to reduce down a substantial amount so you are left with a less soupy consistency.  Although the sausages are cooked after 20-30 minutes, when you allow them to cook in the juices in a covered pot for an hour- an hour and a half, they become tender, buttery and full of flavor!
  12. Add more salt and pepper to taste and some extra finely chopped sage for color and flavor (optional).
  13. Serve with mashed potatoes, or my favorite, potato and cheese perogies.

Steps-

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F
  2. In a Dutch Oven ceramic pot (I use a Le Cruset) or any oven safe pot, cook the chopped bacon over medium heat until the fat renders (melts) and the bacon starts to get crispy. 
  3. Add the butter to the pot and allow it to melt.
  4. Add the onion, sage leaves and garlic to the pot and cook on medium-low heat until the onions start to soften and caramelize slightly in the butter.
  5. Add the apple chunks and cook for about 5 minutes to bring the flavors together. 
  6. Pour the onion mixture into a bowl and set aside.  Leave all the drippings in the pot and place on medium heat.
  7. Sear the sausages on each side in the pot to give them some color and to lock in the juices.  Remove the sausages from the pot and set aside.
  8. Deglaze the pot by pouring in the beer and the apple cider while the pot is on medium-low heat. The liquid will bubble up nicely. Using a wooden spoon scrape up all the nice bits that are at the bottom of the pan from when you cooked the bacon and onions. 
  9. Add the onion and apple mixture back into the pot along with the sauerkraut and mustard, and stir until combined. Add about ½ teaspoon of salt and about ½ teaspoon of pepper to the pot. 
  10. Add the sausages back to the pot and cover the pot with a lid. 
  11. Place the pot in the oven and cook covered for about 45 minutes to 1 ½  hours or until the apples are soft and the sausages are cooked through.  Then remove the lid and cook for another 10-20 minutes or until the liquid reduces and reaches your preferred consistency.  I like for the liquid to reduce down a substantial amount so you are left with a less soupy consistency.  Although the sausages are cooked after 20-30 minutes, when you allow them to cook in the juices in a covered pot for an hour- an hour and a half, they become tender, buttery and full of flavor!
  12. Add more salt and pepper to taste and some extra finely chopped sage for color and flavor (optional).
  13. Serve with mashed potatoes or my favorite, potato and cheese perogies.

Pumpkin Multigrain Waffles with Apple Cider Syrup, Golden Raisins & Slivered Almonds

Nothing says Fall like the smell, taste and site of pumpkins!! Pumpkin is such a wonderful, versatile ingredient because you can use it in both savory and sweet dishes.  This dish is also inspired by another fall favorite, fresh apple cider.  What I discovered during my “Chopped Challenge” win on the Andersen Cooper Live show (see the media tab) was, when you cook down cider it reduces down into this thick, sticky, sweet syrup just like red wine does when you’re making your favorite Bearnaise.  The combination of the savory, spice filled waffles with the tart apple cider syrup and sweet, golden raisins is truly the perfect way to start the fall season. I add some crunch to the dish by sprinkling some  toasted slivered almonds over the top.  Since the waffles are multigrain and do have some nutritional value, I like to top mine with a nice dollop of delicious honey butter...hey live a little.  I invited some friends over, warmed up some fresh apple cider, and plated up colossal mounds of these wondrous waffles. 

 

Pumpkin Multigrain Waffles with Apple Cider Syrup & Golden Raisins

(Feeds 4 People)

Ingredients-

  1. 2 Cups  Multigrain Pancake & Baking Mix (I use Trader Joes)
  2. ¼ Cup Dark Brown Sugar
  3. 1 Cup Pumpkin Puree
  4. 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  5. ¼ Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  6. ¼ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  7. ½ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  8. ¼ Teaspoon Baking Powder
  9. ¼ Teaspoon Baking Soda
  10. 3 Eggs
  11. 4 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter (melted)
  12. ½ Teaspoon Vanilla
  13. 1 2/3 Cups Milk (I used 1%)
  14. Slivered Almonds (lightly toasted)- Garnish (Walnuts are also great with this dish)
  15. Powdered Sugar- Garnish

 

Apple Cider Syrup-

  1. 1 ½ Cups Apple Cider
  2. Dash of Cinnamon and Nutmeg
  3. 1 Tablespoon Honey
  4. 2 Tablespoons Real Maple Syrup
  5. ½ Cup Golden Raisins
  6. 1 ½ Tablespoons Butter

Steps-

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the Multigrain Baking Mix, Brown Sugar, Salt, Ginger, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Baking Powder and Baking Soda. Set aside.
  2. Separate 2 of the eggs, and beat the eggs whites with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until the whites form stiff peaks.  You want the whites to be stiff and foamy and full of air.  Set the beaten egg whites aside.
  3. Using a whisk or a stand mixture, blend the remaining egg (do not separate from the whites this time) in with the dry ingredients along with the vanilla, Pumpkin, Milk and melted Butter.
  4. Using a rubber spatula fold the stiff beaten egg whites into the waffle batter.  You want to fold it in so that the air from the egg whites stays in the batter.  This will help you to have nice, light and airy waffles.
  5. Heat Your waffle iron on high.  When your waffle iron is heated, spray it with nonstick cooking spray and pour about 1- 1 ½ Cups of Batter into the center of the iron.  Close the lids and cook them for about 5-6 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. While you are making the waffles prepare the syrup!  Keep the waffles in the oven on a very low heat to keep them warm if necessary.
  6. Pour the apple cider, 1 ½ tablespoons of butter and raisins in a small saucepan or nonstick skillet.
  7. Cook on medium heat stirring occasionally until a lot of the liquid evaporates leaving you with a syrup-like consistency.
  8. Stir in the maple syrup, honey and spices.
  9. If the syrup is too tart for your liking, add more honey or a little brown sugar. 
  10. When the syrup is at your desired consistency, remove from the stove. Be careful not to reduce it down too much because it can get too dark in color and start to burn. If it thickens too much add a little more apple cider.
  11. Dust some powdered sugar on top of the waffles, drizzle on the syrup and raisins and then finish it off with some toasted slivered almonds or walnuts.

Loaded Brussel Sprouts

When planning a dinner party for some of my closest friends, I didn’t want to serve them your ordinary chips, dips, cocktail weenies etc.  I wanted to come up with something unique and delicious to impress my gang and have them screaming “we’ve GOT ROOM FOR MORE!”  My friends Jon and Chris and my sister Christiana are all huge Brussel sprout fans, but my boyfriend Daniel is not the biggest fan.  After serving this savory, sweet, creamy, crunchy appetizer, you better believe everyone turned into a Brussel believer!

Ingredients

    1. 1 container of fresh whole brussel sprouts ( about 2 cups)
    2. Herbed chevre goat cheese (About 4 ounces)
    3. Thick cut bacon cooked until crispy and cut into small bits (about 1/3 cup of bacon bits)            
    4. Extra virgin olive oil
    5. Good quality balsamic vinegar
    6. Sea salt & Black Pepper

    (Serves 4-6 people)

    Steps

    1. Cut the ends off the Brussel Sprouts and slice each one in half vertically.
    2. Thoroughly clean them under warm water in a colander
    3. Preheat the oven to 375 F
    4. Put the Brussel Sprouts in a pot and cover with water (about an inch above the brussels)
    5. Bring to a boil and cook until the Brussel Sprouts are slightly tender (can be pricked with a fork)
    6. use a slotted spoon to strain the Brussels out of the water (be gentle so they don’t fall apart).
    7. Place them onto paper towels and gently pat them dry.
    8. With a small spoon or knife dig a small circular dent into the center of each Brussel Sprouts with the cut side facing up.
    9. Place them cut side up onto a cookie sheet pan and baste them with olive oil
    10. Sprinkle with sea-salt and ground black pepper
    11. Place under the broiler in the oven for a few minutes until they start to get browned
    12. Remove from the oven
    13. Roll small balls of goat cheese using your fingers (wet your fingers lightly if they stick) about the size of a shelled hazelnut, and press them into each indent inside each Brussel Sprout.
    14. Place a bacon crumble or two on top of the goat cheese
    15. Place back in the oven for a moment until the cheese starts to melt slightly  and become one with the Brussel Sprouts
    16. Right before you serve these delicious hors d’oeuvres pour about 1/2 a cup of balsamic vinegar into a small non-stick frying pan.
    17. Cook it over medium heat until it starts to bubble and reduce down into a thick syrup.
    18. Drizzle a little of the balsamic reduction onto each stuffed brussel sprout using a small spoon.
    19. Serve on a nice serving dish with our without toothpicks…I believe your hands are the best tool!

    Now sit back and watch your guests pop these in their mouths faster than you can say #gotroomformore?