Category Archives: THANKSGIVING


punkin 005

Now that it’s November I can officially stop whining that the Summer is almost over, it’s done and like the first few days of November celebrate the dead, it’s a haunting reminder that my pool will not be used for quite a long stretch.  Breathing a deep breath it’s onto the FALL and WINTER  with the end of the year Holidays in front of us in all their PUMPKIN-Y spiced deliciousness……i’m not talking about the #PSL everything that has taken over everything we eat or smell but something enduring. An  American baked good long made long before Starbucks was even thought of.  PUMPKIN BREAD.12188474_10205151540770510_980123793_n An American “Quick Bread” as my mom’s old cookbooks called it..a bread made without waiting for it to rise from yeast, but using other leavening agents like Baking Powder or Baking Soda.  I’ve been cooking for years and still do not know why one is used over the other in certain dishes, but I’ll just do what I’m told.  For this Pumpkin Bread of mine, Baking Soda is the choice.  Do any of you remember your family baking this in a coffee can?  I do.  Another great memory of things that in the absence of a calendar or your iPhone giving you the date, you know what month of the year it is and certainly know the season.  Pumpkin Bread means October thru January.  Let’s get you in the mood..I like “mood”…makes for a better eating and cooking here’s my current home..thanks to my wife Deb for doing what I can’t (nor want) to do, and that is decorate the house, set the mood, make our home…I’ll happily stay in the kitchen.  punkin 009

If that doesn’t make you want to hang with some Pilgrims and Native North Eastern Americans and enjoy the dried corn and pumpkins, nothing will.  Something about these colors too, they are warm..evocative…and the spices in the bread, while sharp on their own blend into this orange hug that makes you happy.  Pumpkin Bread is supposed to taste of Pumpkins and Spice.   As the leaves turn and peak with the colors of Fall, fill your home with the warm scent of this Pumpkin Maple Sunflower Seed Bread.  Now let’s go into the kitchen…

TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes               SERVES: 8








1 1/8 CUP PUMPKIN PUREE (I RECOMMEND TRADER JOE’S ORGANIC PUMPKIN, but any good pumpkin puree works, If you are crazy enough to do the pumpkin puree from scratch, remember it’s a Sugar Pumpkin that’s used for Pumpkin pies, not Jack o’Lanterns, everything about them is wrong for this smooth puree, they are watery, tough to work with and full of fibrous flesh, so..while they look like the right thing..they are a different type of pumpkin than what’s used for cooking pumpkin..)


2 TBS PURE MAPLE SYRUP plus 1 TBS for finishing the loaf




Pre heat your oven to 350 Degrees F.  You will need 2 large bowls.  In one, crack the eggs and beat well, then add the oil, mix well..then the pumpkin, vanilla and maple syrup till smooth and well blended.  In the other bowl sift ALL the dry ingredients together. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry and gently combine the two using a folding motion JUST until lumps are gone, and it’s a smooth batter.  Over mixing will toughen the bread. Pour into a well greased loaf pan :punkin 001  Then top the loaf with the sunflower seeds       :12179337_10205151361846037_935758826_nPlace on a baking sheet and into the middle rack of the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating at the 30 minute mark.  That helps to evenly bake your bread. The bread is done when it’s springy in the center and a tester run into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  It should look well risen and like this:punkin 003   Here’s a close up of the top of the bread.  12188474_10205151540770510_980123793_n After the bread has sat out for 5 minutes, take it off the hot pan and leave it to cool on a wire rack. Drizzle the additional Maple Syrup over the top of the loaf.  Now leave it to completely cool before you serve/slice.  Fast forward 3 hours….time to slice it..LOOK AT THAT!~!!punkin 006 Moist, warm, spicy, you taste the pumpkin in the’s wonderful.  PLEASE don’t short cut and use Pancake lecture on Corn Syrup here other than Pancake Syrup is Corn Syrup with imitation flavorings and colors added…it’s texture is all wrong for this too.  So, if you plan on making this make sure you get yourself a nice bottle of American or Canadian Pure Maple Syrup, my favorite is the DARK AMBER grade.

I concede, I wave the white flag..Summer is over…let the Pumpkin Bread bake.  Enjoy!!!








It’s the night before Thanksgiving, and all through the house…hopefully there is no chaos in your Thanksgiving Eve.  There was a time when this night was the best night to bar hop thru Manhattan or wherever you live but it’s settled into a night with the family and getting ready for Thursday’s onslaught of family, friends, and lots of foods.  Can you imagine a Thanksgiving Day table without turkey and it’s Cranberry Sauce?  If you don’t care for cranberry sauce this may be a good time to go back to the Candy Crush game you were just playing.  If you DO care for Cranberry Sauce you will fall into a few different camps…there’s the IT MUST BE FROM A CAN, because that’s the way it was and always should be.  Respect that people, do not ever get between a Thanksgiving diner and their heartfelt sentiments, ever.  No dissing the canned.  Then another camp is the I HATE IT..ok, we’ve already dealt with that group of malcontents.  Another camp is the SCREW TRADITION LET’S MIX IT UP…a colorful group, to be commended for free thinking and wild abandon…is that an ancho chile dusted pecan in that raw chop of cranberries, limes, oranges and honey?  Kudos to the free thinkers!  There’s the NO WHOLE BERRIES group, they can get vicious if a stray whole berry makes it’s way onto their plate.  Be vigilant.  And then there’s the WHOLE BERRY WITH SOME INTERESTING ADDITIONS WITHOUT TURNING THE WHOLE THING UPSIDE Group…I fall into that one.  Familiar enough to the canned, whole berries for a daring culinary adventure of sorts, and a few additions to just make you think you could maybe win on Chopped or TopChef.

Let’s make Cranberry Sauce with a hint of orange, spice, and Rosemary.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 12-ounce package of fresh Cranberries

1 sprig fresh Rosemary

1 tsp. finely grated orange zest

1/4 tsp. ground allspice.

Combine sugar and water and rosemary in a saucepan. Bring to  a boil then add cranberries, return to the  boil. Reduce the  heat and boil gently for 10 minutes  Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon and gently apply pressure to some of the berries to ensure their popping.cranbrys Remove from heat as the berries should have all popped and thickened the sauce.  This is not be as “jelled” as the canned stuff but will have some body to it.  Add the Allspice and the orange zest now and blend.  Cover this and let it sit for at least 1 hour.  Then empty it into a bowl, removing the rosemary sprig.  Cover and refrigerate and serve the next day.  Warm, Spicy, Bright.  It brings all the flavors together that match your turkey or even pork and chicken.


I could eat this on it’s own, like a bowl of it…OK, i have a thing for anything cranberry.  I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!  Happy Cooking!!!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  I hope that lead picture draws you into this blogpost because not only is it a great dish for you to make, it means so much to me.  STUFFED MUSHROOMS PIZZAIOLA..let’s explore that…what makes it (Something) PIZZAIOLA?  The SAUCE.  Simple.  A blend of crushed Italian Plum Tomatoes, usually out of the can, preferably San Marzanos, then blended with OLIVE OIL, GARLIC, OREGANO, SALT, PEPPER.  That’s it. It’s used on Pizzas in Naples and paired up with other meats or poultry then baked, and that’s the sauce that makes these Stuffed Mushrooms Pizzaiola (meaning in the style of the Pizza Maker’s wife).  While the Pizzaiolo was making the pies, the wife who was the home cook was using the sauce in inventive ways.  Ok, that’s what I think happened so I am standing by that romantic explanation.  More importantly I want you do enjoy something that was a Holiday staple for my family at Thanksgiving and Christmas Day dinner year after year.  These are my mother’s Stuffed Holiday Mushrooms.  Only when making them last night did it occur to me that her recipe contained Pizzaiola sauce.  I love when that happens.  She was Napoletana, the sauce is Napoletana, stuffed vegetables are very Napoletana, it’s a dish that defines my family’s history.  AND it tastes awesome and that is why you want to make them.  Now is this exactly like my mother’s?  Let’s say 85%, I add some other techniques or steps to Mom’s standard Italian Fennel Sausage, pecorino, garlic, herb, and breadcrumb stuffing so this is MY VERSION of Mom’s recipe.  There’s enough of Mom’s recipe in here to make it mostly her’s, soeaster79momI don’t think she’ll be looking down from Heaven on my stove without smiling.  Miss you MOM!! That picture was taken by me Easter Sunday 1979 in our dining room..where all the Holiday Meals and Special occasions went down.  While cooking this last night my kitchen had every smell of the Holidays of my youth.  Happens everytime I make these Mushrooms for Thanksgiving.  Even if we dine elsewhere, I make a tray for home.  Try a Stuffed Mushroom slider sometime. Delicious!!  And the Pizzaiola sauce after baking is further seasoned by the mushrooms themselves and all the flavors in the stuffing.  Mom’s Thankgiving table was the stuff dreams were made of, at least to this kid..Stuffed Mushrooms, Stuffed Artichokes, Antipasto, her roasted red peppers (Holla!!),Finocchio on the table, nuts, dates, figs, fruit, Manicotti, Sausage and Meatballs, Turkey, Stuffing, Broccoli Rabe, “American” Broccoli, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Corn, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans Almondine, Cranberry Sauce..I’m not sure anymore if there was a salad…i’m thinking not…the dinner though would begin with chilled fruit cocktail in a stemed dish..This was as fancy as we got.  She even dressed her turkey, booties, fruits, garnishes, it was heaven.  Of course Italian Pastries but what everyone looked forward to were the pies…lots of, apple crumb, pumpkin, sweet potato, lemon merengue (my favorite), Cherry, Mince (no one at that one ),pecan, banana cream, chocolate get the picture.  If you are at all in tune with food the heightened standard and diverse recipes and preparations during the Holidays is an excuse to do what you are really doing all year.  I love it and I hope you do to regardless of what holidays at year’s end you celebrate or do not.  It’s a time for entertaining.  My mom knew how to entertain, although, she wanted everything cleaned up too quickly…lol.  That tradition I do not perpetuate!  Relax, the mess will still be there tomorrow.  I’m not taking up precious social time to clean up..later for that!

Ready to cook?  I use regular button mushrooms for this..why you ask?  When there are beautiful huge stuffing mushrooms to be had?  Think of all that shows up at the holiday table, there’s usually a high variety of food, some of it very rich.  I’d rather serve a small bite than something that could be it’s own appetizer for a sit down dinner.  Think BIG picture, not just BIG food.


50 MUSHROOMS, STEMS GENTLY SEPARATED (finely dice the stems)

1 1/2 lbs. loose mix of hot and sweet ITALIAN PORK FENNEL SAUSAGE meat

(or just one type)

3 sliced cloves of garlic

1 large whole clove of GARLIC

Olive Oil

1 tsp. diced PANCETTA

1/4 cup RED WINE

1 tsp.Oregano


1/4 cup DICED LOW MOISTURE MOZZARELLA(not fresh made)


1 ITALIAN ROLL, day old preferably..soaked in water, then squeeze out the water






Start by making the PIZZAIOLA SAUCE. Simple.  Crush the tomatoes with your hand or run thru the processor or a food mill.  I’m lazy.  I use my hands.  Less clutter and things to wash, but feel free to use whatever you are comfortable with.  Empty it into a mixing bowl.  Add 1 TBS. Olive Oil, I like the taste of Olive Oil, I like a good Extra Virgin in here.  Feel free to use what you like.  Add 1/2 tsp of Oregano that you RUBBED BETWEEN YOUR HANDS..key technique, you release the oils in the dried not use fresh for this. Salt and Pepper to taste..Smash one whole clove of garlic.  Add that..Now blend the ingredients and set it aside.

mushroompizzaiola 007  How beautiful is that!!??  And btw, since this is not cooked before you add it to the mushrooms the type and quality of the tomato is very very important.  Sometimes you can help out not so good tomatoes by cooking them in a sauce.  Not so with this Pizzaiola method.  The bright fresh taste of the tomato is highlighted in this sauce.  No 1.99 tomatoes here, they should cost you at least $ 2.50 or more.  Make that mental note.

Now the stuffing…it’s a Red Wine Braised Italian Sausage stuffing with some additions.let’s have fun with this.  In a large heavy pan for caramelization! add a little olive oil.  Keep on medium heat and add the pancetta.  When that is somewhat clear and has a little color on it add the sausage.  Let it cook on one side for at least 8 minutes or until it’s browned, then chop it with a spatula and turn the sausage meat so it now will evenly brown.  Let this cook for 5 minutes. Now add the sliced garlic.  Resist the urge to season at this point because sausage meat is well seasoned and soon we will be adding cheese to this..more salt.  You can always add salt, you can’t ever remove it, so trust me here. Now add the chopped stems and blend in well.  After about 2 minutes add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes then add the wine.  What an aroma you are now getting!! mushroompizzaiola 002 Let this simmer for at least 10 minutes.  If the wine evaporates before that just add a touch more.  This process infuses that tasty sausage with the wine flavor.  It’s delicious!  OK, take a piece out for yourself…are you smiling???  After 10 minutes, remove from the heat and let this cool down for at least 20 minutes.  In a large mixing bowl, add the remaining oregano, the breadcrumbs,the bread, all the cheeses, the parsley, and mix together. Now add the sausage mushroom mix and 2 tbs of that Pizzaoila sauce you made…blend well.  It’s ready when it looks like this:mushroompizzaiola 003  Then gently stuff each mushroom cap with the stuffing, just to the top, if there’s left over just add a little more to some.mushroompizzaiola 005  Place them into a baking/roasting pan that you’ve drizzled with some olive oil.  Next step…pre heat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Drizzle the Pizzaiola sauce around and over the mushrooms, another drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of some grated Pecorino Romano.mushroompizzaiola 010  You really have to be getting excited now.  Please say you are!!  Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.  At the 10 minute mark, rotate the pan.  Why?  I believe most ovens have hot spots so this just helps with an even cooking of the pan.  They are done when the mushrooms are soft.  Let them sit for about  5 minutes before serving and these reheat REAL well.  Here’s the finished product:

mushroompizzaiola 011



A wonderful starter to a big Holiday meal, or a side, or , away from the Holidays make this and serve with pasta..the sauce needs good bread for dipping or wonderful on pasta.