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Category Archives: Sauces

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Primavera

Roasted vegetables are winter’s answer to grilled vegetables. In some parts of the country, the flowers are blooming and flip-flops are still appropriate footwear. But up here, we awoke to a world coated in white. Winter has arrived. And when the weather gets cold and the grill has been packed away for the season, it’s time to fire up the oven for some sweet roasted vegetables. The best part about roasting veggies is that it has the ability to coax some fantastic flavor out of some normally lackluster winter produce.

I love roasted vegetables on ciabatta bread with fresh mozzarella and pesto, toasted in the oven. Yum! It’s one of my favorite sandwiches in the world. But today we’re adding our delicious roasted veggies to a pesto pasta dish for a cold weather version of Pasta Primavera.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Primavera


  • 1 Squash, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half-moons
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, cut in half, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 1/2 cups Grape Tomatoes, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups small Mushrooms, rinsed
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 pound Pasta

For the Pesto:

  • 1 big bunch of basil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup parmesan (or parmesan cheese blend)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 6 Tbps+ olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the vegetables in olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Place the pepper halves cut side down. Cook for 20-35 minutes. The squash will probably be ready in about 20-25 minutes. The remaining veggies will take longer. Remove the veggies from the oven. Place the pepper halves in a ziploc bag to help the skin to pucker as it cools. Season the remaining veggies in a bit of salt and pepper. When the pepper has cooled, remove from the ziploc and peel away the skin. Cut the pepper into small pieces.

Cook the pasta according the package directions. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the pesto. Pull the basil leaves off of the stem.  Place in a food processor and pulse slightly, giving the leaves a course chop. Add all other ingredients, except the oil, and mix until well blended. Gradually incorporate the oil until you reach your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

When the pasta has finished cooking, strain and return to the pot. Toss the pasta with some of the pesto and the roasted veggies. Serve hot with grated parmesan cheese.

Serves about 6


It’s Thanksgiving Week! Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy

You didn’t think I’d leave ya hanging for Thanksgiving, did ya? I’d never do a thing like that! I figured it wouldn’t do you very much good if I waited until the day after Thanksgiving to share all of the delicious things I ate, so I’ve decided to officially declare this Thanksgiving Week on The Gourmand Mom.

We’ll start with the basics; turkey and gravy; and go from there. We’ll work our way through a fantastic Spiced Sweet Potato Puree with Pecan Streusel. Our mouths will water over some homemade Cranberry Orange Sauce. Then we’ll take a look back at my favorite stuffing recipe and a few other previously posted dishes which would make perfect additions to any Thanksgiving table. After that, we’ll try out a new doughy dinner rolls recipe I’ve got my eyes on. Finally, we’ll move on to the desserts; my mom’s Pumpkin Coconut Pie and my favorite Chocolate Pecan Pie. After that, well, we’ll just have to see where it goes from there.

Today, we’re starting with the turkey. I’ll let you in on my dirty little secret. I haven’t roasted a whole turkey in years. For the past fews years, I’ve been roasting a bone-in whole turkey breast separate from the drumsticks. Some people may claim that this is Thanksgiving culinary sacrilege. I claim that it produces the best end result. Here’s the deal… when you cook the turkey whole, you’re forced to continue cooking that big ole turkey until the slowest cooking parts come up to a safe temperature. In the mean time, this often results in overcooking and drying out the faster cooking breast. And who likes dried out turkey breast?? Not me!

By cooking the turkey breast separate from the drumsticks, you can cook each part to perfection. The roasted turkey breast continues to make a stunning presentation on the Thanksgiving table.  Serve it with roasted drumsticks on the side and you’ll hardly notice the difference. Besides, how long does everyone really sit and gaze at the whole turkey before it gets carved and served anyway? The roasted turkey breast is big, golden brown, and perfectly moist. Your guests will have nothing to complain about.

Because the turkey breast is smaller, it will require less cooking time. Furthermore, the smaller size is easier to handle overall. So, my recommendation is to cook a large turkey breast separate from the drumsticks. My grocery store carries whole turkey breasts right alongside the whole turkeys. One large turkey breast should serve at least 6-8 people with some leftovers. If you’re serving a large crowd, buy two. For dark meat lovers, grab a couple drumsticks. Go crazy. Buy more than two. Then roast (or braise) the drumsticks separately and serve with your perfectly roasted turkey breast.

There are many creative recipes out there for turkey. Food Network is consistently a wonderful source for turkey recipes and other Thanksgiving menu ideas. Today, we’re sticking with a basic herb-roasted preparation. We’ll rub the turkey with an herbed butter, then begin by roasting at a high temperature to achieve a nice brown color on the skin while searing the exterior to lock in the juices. Then, we’ll lower the heat and let the turkey finish cooking to perfection. As the turkey cooks, delicious juices will collect on the bottom of the roasting pan. We’ll enrich the flavor of those juices by placing a few aromatics, in the form of celery, carrots, and onions, in the bottom of the roasting pan. While the turkey is resting, we’ll be able to turn those juices and a bit of chicken stock into a simple and delicious pan-gravy.

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy


  • 1 6-7 pound Turkey Breast (bone in)
  • 1/2 stick Butter, softened
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Rosemary
  • 3/4 cup Carrots, coarse chopped
  • 1 Onion, quartered
  • 3/4 cup Celery, coarse chopped
  • 2 cups Chicken Stock


The night before, remove the turkey breast from it’s packaging. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and sit, uncovered in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the butter, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Rub the herbed butter all over the turkey. Working from the edges, try to loosen the skin and rub some of the butter directly onto the turkey breast. In the bottom of the roasting pan, scatter the carrots, celery, and onion. Add the chicken stock to the bottom of the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and roast for 25 minutes. The skin should take on a nice golden browned color. Baste the turkey with the pan juices. Then, lower the heat to 325 degrees. Periodically, baste the turkey with the juices from the bottom of the pan. (If the bottom of the pan becomes too dry during cooking, add a little more stock.) Continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Use an instant read meat thermometer, inserted into a deep part of the breast, to check the temperature. A 7 pound turkey will take approximately 2 hours at 325 degrees, after the initial 25 minutes at 475 degrees. When the turkey is cooked, remove the pan from the oven. Loosely cover the turkey with foil and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the gravy and side dishes.

Serves about 6-8, generously

Turkey Pan Gravy


  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 Tablespoons Flour
  • Drippings from Turkey
  • 1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock (approximately)


Pour out the turkey juices from the roasting pan. Strain to remove the vegetables. Allow the juices to sit for a few minutes. The fat will rise to the top. Pour off the fat and reserve the remaining juices. Add chicken stock to the juices to make a total of 2 cups liquid. In a saucepan, combine the butter and flour over medium heat, whisking continuously. Cook for a minute or two. Then, whisk in the turkey juice/chicken stock. Bring to a simmer.Cook for 2-3 minutes until the gravy begins to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired.

Makes 2 cups

Now, if you’ve just got to create that beautiful, Norman Rockwell style, picture-perfect bird, here are a few tips for handling that whole turkey:

  • Do not stuff your turkey. Stuffing your turkey presents a food safety and moist turkey challenge. Since the stuffing is in contact with the raw turkey, it will need to reach a temperature of 165 degrees to be safe. In order to reach this safe temperature, you’ll often end up cooking the turkey longer than necessary. Instead, bake your stuffing separately and throw a few herbs and aromatics into the turkey cavity; celery, onions, carrots, garlic, thyme, rosemary, etc.
  • Allow your turkey to sit uncovered in the fridge overnight before roasting. This will help to produce a crispier skin.
  • Start your turkey at a high temperature (475 – 500 degrees) for the first 20-30 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 or 350 degrees to finish cooking.
  • Don’t bother with that flipping the turkey technique you may have seen. In my opinion, it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
  • To brine or not to brine? Brining your turkey in a solution of salt, water, and other seasonings is said to produce a juicier and more flavorful turkey. There are people who swear by brining to produce the best turkey. I’m not one of those people. I’ve brined and I’ve not brined. In my opinion, the difference is minimal. But if you’ve got the time  and space to do it, go for it. Click here for a useful resource on brining.
  • Loosely tenting the turkey with foil during cooking can help to prevent over-browning and keep the turkey moist. Be sure to remove the foil during the last 45 minutes to achieve a nicely browned skin.
  • To be safe, all parts of your turkey should register 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Some resources list 180 degrees as the minimal temperature. The USDA recommends 165 degrees as measured in the  innermost part of the thigh and wing and the deepest part of the breast.
  • Let your turkey rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving. This is a good time to make the gravy and finish reheating your side dishes.
  • After dinner, throw the whole turkey carcass into a large pit of simmering water. Follow my procedure for chicken soup to make a tasty turkey soup. Click here for my chicken soup procedure.

A few excellent resources for turkey info:

FDA – Let’s Talk Turkey

Food Network – Top Ten Turkey Tips

Food Network – Turkey Recipes and Turkey Calculator

Spaghetti and Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Sauce

My husband can’t sit down at an Italian restaurant without ordering Spaghetti and Meatballs. It could be the finest Italian restaurant with a menu dripping in tempting options and all he wants is Spaghetti and Meatballs, preferably with garlic bread. It’s truly one of his favorite meals and he craves it the way that I crave a good piece of dark chocolate or wedge of brie with baguette. So, when I decided to make this simple, classic dish for dinner yesterday, I knew he’d be thrilled.

My timing was impeccable. By the time my husband walked through the door, the sauce had been simmering away on the stove for three hours. The meatballs had been baked and added to the sauce. The garlic bread had been prepared. Our house was bursting with the warm, delicious aromas of tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. Upon stepping into the house, out of the chilly autumn air, my husband took one breath before his eyes lit with joy. What are you cooking? I told him to take a guess. Spaghetti and Meatballs??? His reply was dripping with eager anticipation. I nodded. And garlic bread?? Yes, of course. And I could see him physically buzzing with excitement. Such joy from such a simple meal.

And in that moment, as he stood there, still removing his jacket and shoes, with a child-like grin on his face, it occurred to me that I could profit from this glee. Maybe I should ask for something. Perhaps those fuzzy winter boots I’ve had my eye on. Or a Mercedes E320! No, no! A pony! I’ve always wanted a pony. Yes, that’s what I would ask for.

Then, as fast as it arrived, the moment was gone. The kids began climbing his legs while the dog anxiously communicated his desire for a walk in his typical brutish manner. So, no pony for me. Though, my husband’s evident joy was sufficient reward.

During the hot summer months, when tomatoes have reached their glorious peak of flavor perfection, it would be a pity to use canned tomatoes in your sauce. (Click here for my Fresh Tomato Marinara Sauce recipe.) But, right about now, when tomatoes have become mealy and bland, you’d be silly to use anything other than canned tomatoes. Most canned veggies have a justifiably bad rep for being loaded with salt and drained of their nutrition. But, tomatoes may be one of the rare exceptions. I actually read an article once, which claimed that tomatoes may actually benefit in both flavor and nutrition (lycopene content) from the canning process. Just look for tomatoes which don’t contain extra sodium.

Both my sauce and meatball recipes are simple, classic preparations. No fancy ingredients or interesting twists. Just basic, delicious spaghetti and meatballs, cooked the way I remember from my childhood. The sauce is slow cooked for about 3 hours to allow a rich tomato flavor to develop. Onions, garlic, basil, parsley, and crushed red pepper provide just the right amount of seasoning. The meatballs are basic beef meatballs, blended with a bit of cheese and a few seasonings, then bound together with an egg and a touch of bread crumbs. You can use any type of ground beef or other ground meats in your meatballs, but as with hamburgers, the higher the fat content of the meat, the juicier and moister the resulting meatball will be.

Classic Slow-Cooked Pasta Sauce


  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves Garlic, smashed
  • 3-4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 28-ounce cans Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 6-ounce can Tomato Paste
  • 1 6-ounce can Water
  • 5-6 sprigs Fresh Parsley, leaves only
  • 6-8 Basil Leaves, chiffonade
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Salt and Crushed Red Pepper, as desired


Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and smashed garlic cloves. Cook for a few minutes until the onions are tender and translucent. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Fill the tomato paste can with water and add to the saucepan. Stir in the fresh parsley leaves, basil, and bay leaves. Cook over low heat, partially covered, for about three hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with crushed red pepper and salt, as desired.

*This recipe makes a great big batch of sauce, perfect for leftovers or freezing!

Classic Baked Meatballs


  • 1 1/2 pounds Ground Beef
  • 1/2 cup Bread Crumbs
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Parsley
  • 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place all ingredients in a bowl. Use your hands to blend, until all ingredients are evenly combined. Using your hands, roll 12-15 meatballs with about 1 1/2″ diameter each. Place the meatballs in a baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes until fully cooked. Set aside or add to the sauce as it cooks.

Makes 12-15 Meatballs

Fettucine with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce

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Here in Syracuse, fall has definitely arrived. The trees are peppered with red, orange, and yellow and the leaves have begun their graceful journey to the earth. The crisp air has the rich smell of autumn, the kids are rejoicing in their collection of hoodies, and pumpkins are ripe for picking.

This past weekend, we took the kids to a great little place called, The Hollow, where every year we enjoy pumpkin picking and assorted fall festivities. There’s a small petting zoo (with a strange animal we dubbed a puppy-cow), a giant ‘sandbox’ full of dried corn kernels, small ride-on tractors, and piping hot, fresh apple fritters. For the first time this year, we even took the kids into the corn maze, which our three year old managed to guide us out of with only one small wrong turn and minimal panic.

Now what?

Then, of course, there are the pumpkins. This year, we finally remembered to bring a wagon so we could carry more than one or two pumpkins back to the car.

Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins! I love a good pumpkin parfait or a sweet and spicy pumpkin pie, but pumpkin also works beautifully in savory dishes, like my flavorful Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce over Fettucine. Have I got your attention? This recipe is beyond simple and unbelievably delicious. I honestly squealed with delight when the spoon entered my mouth. I start with a basic alfredo sauce of butter, cream, parmesan cheese, and a touch of garlic. Then, I add a generous amount of pumpkin puree to the creamy sauce and stir. Simple as that. The result is pure autumn magic. Seriously, I promise that you won’t be disappointed!

I’d intended to do a photo guide on preparing fresh pumpkin puree to accompany this post, but the day took on a life of its own. Soon, I promise. In the meantime, canned pumpkin puree will work perfectly. Just be sure that pumpkin is the only ingredient.

Fettucine with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce


  • 1/2 stick Butter
  • 1 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano/Parmigiano Reggiano blend, grated
  • 1 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • Salt and Pepper, if desired
  • Chicken, cooked (optional)*
  • Pumpkin Seeds (for garnish)
  • 1 pound Fettucine

*I used chicken tenders, seasoned with salt and pepper, then baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.


Cook fettucine according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Turn the heat down to medium low and add the cream. Whisk to combine. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the cheese and whisk to combine. Whisk in the pumpkin puree and continue cooking for another minute or two. Taste and add salt and pepper, if desired. (The cheese already adds a good deal of salty flavor, so you may not need any extra salt.) If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little extra cream or even a touch of milk to thin it out.

To serve, spoon some of the hot sauce over cooked fettucine. Top with the warm chicken, pumpkin seeds, and additional parmesan cheese, if desired.


Chicken Tikka Masala

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So, guess what? I found out, after the fact, that Alec Baldwin was in my grocery store, at the very same time I was in there picking up an onion and serrano peppers for this dish. Apparently, he was there with his mom, who lives in the neighborhood. They were filming a holiday commercial for Wegmans, the most super-awesome grocery store ever. In fact, Mr. Baldwin claims that Wegmans is the primary reason he’ll never be able to get his mom to move to the west coast. Hey, Mr. Baldwin… if you’d let me know you were gonna be in town, I would’ve had you over for dinner, Gourmand Mom style. Bring your mom!

Alas, we ate our dinner without the Baldwins, as usual.

This post has been a long time coming. If you’ve been with me from the beginning of this blog, you may remember the passionate tale of mine and my husband’s common obsession with Chicken Tikka Masala. For me, Chicken Tikka Masala runs a very close second to Macaroni and Cheese as a dish I could eat at every meal, every day, for a very long time.

In essence, Chicken Tikka Masala is composed of chunks of marinated chicken in a spicy tomato-cream sauce. But, search for a recipe and you’ll be presented with a mind-boggling array of completely different interpretations of this dish. In fact, every chicken tikka masala I’ve ever tasted has been quite different from the next. I’ve tried making it several times, experimenting with the proportion of spices, source of creaminess, and type of pepper used for heat. And every recipe I’ve tried has resulted in the same, over-spiced result. Not over-spiced in the hot and spicy sense, but just generally over seasoned with garam masala, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and the like, resulting in an indiscernible cloudy taste. This result isn’t necessarily wrong. As I’ve said, there are varying preparations of this dish, but it’s not the flavor I’ve been going for. My goal is to create a Chicken Tikka Masala similar to our favorite Chicken Tikka Masala, which is lightly spiced and full of creamy tomato flavor; a good amount of heat, with a pleasant flavor.

It occurred to me that I just needed to be more gentle with the sauce preparation. Rather than lightly marinate the chicken and heavily spice the sauce, as many recipes instruct, I decided to be a little more aggressive with the marinade and conservative with the sauce. My husband, an experienced amateur musician, compared my approach to something called Subtractive EQ, a process used in music recording which involves turning down the levels of certain frequencies to achieve the desired result, rather than turning up the levels of other things to counterbalance something else. He appropriately coined my culinary approach to our Chicken Tikka Masala as Subtractive Flavoring.

Well, my subtractive flavoring approach produced the best result yet. The sauce was rich with tomato flavor, with a good amount of heat, and a perfectly balanced level of spice; a really pleasant tasting sauce, which I’m happy to share with you.

After reading my previous post about my Chicken Tikka Masala, a very thoughtful friend sent me a couple of spice mixes direct from India, along with a beautiful bowl and spoon. I recognize that not everyone has a friend living in India to send you spices. But, never fear. This recipe calls for a spice blend known as Garam Masala, which is readily available in most well-stocked grocery stores. My grocery store carries multiple options for Garam Masala, right alongside the Oregano and Parsley. Masala simply means mixture, which is exactly what Garam Masala is; a mixture of multiple spices. Look for something which contains a blend of coriander, cumin, ginger, chile powder, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves.

In addition to my new approach with the sauce, I cooked the chicken using a different technique, which I saw here. Cooking the chicken breasts on a cooling rack, set above a baking sheet, allows the excess marinade to drip away during cooking and the chicken to cook more evenly. It’s still no substitute for the tandoor cooked chicken from our favorite Indian restaurant, but in the absence of a tandoor oven, it’ll suffice.

Chicken Tikka Masala is best served with a side of basmati rice and naan bread. I made fresh naan for our dinner, following a recipe I found online, but was less than satisfied with the end result, which resembled more of a pizza dough than a light, floppy piece of naan. Don’t get me wrong, I love pizza dough, but it’s just not the same as naan. I’m going to keep working on the naan recipe and will get back to you when I’ve got it right. In the mean time, check your grocery store for pre-made naan. My grocery store carries it in the frozen food section, as well as in the bakery department.

Chicken Tikka Masala


  • 1 1/2 pounds Chicken Breasts, trimmed of excess fat

For the Marinade

  • 2 containers Plain Yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp Garam Masala
  • 2 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2 inch segment of Ginger, grated

For the Sauce

  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 small Onion, diced
  • 1 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1 1-2″ segment Ginger, grated
  • 2 small Serrano peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Garam Masala
  • 1 (29 ounce) can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup Tomato Paste
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp Cayenne (plus more, if desired)
  • 1 tsp Salt (plus more, if desired)


Combine all marinade ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Place the chicken breasts in the marinade and toss to evenly coat. Refrigerate and allow the chicken to marinade for at least six hours or overnight.

Preheat broiler. Place a metal cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. Spray the cooling rack with cooking spray. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and and allow the excess marinade to drip away. Place the chicken on the cooling rack. Place the baking sheet, with the cooling rack above it, about 10 inches below the broiler. Cook for 15-20 minutes, turning the chicken halfway through, until the chicken is cooked through. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chicken breast. Allow the chicken to cool, then cut into medium-sized chunks. Set aside.

To make the sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and serrano peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent. Add the garam masala, stir, and cook for another minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Continue cooking until heated through, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and add the cream. Add the chicken. Cook for a few minutes to heat. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, as desired.

Serve with naan and basmati rice.

Spicy Bacon Mac and Cheese

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I’ve never met a macaroni and cheese I didn’t love. My heart swoons over every possible incarnation of pasta and cheese. I love it homemade or frozen. I like it creamy or baked with an egg. I’ll even eat the kind whose cheese comes in powdered form, even though the ingredient list makes me cringe. And during my teaching days, I ordered school lunch mac and cheese almost every single day. That was some good mac and cheese! If I were to be stranded on a desert island and had to pick just one food to eat until rescued, I’d be hard-pressed not to select mac and cheese, even though my logic tells me that would be a poor choice. Macaroni and cheese makes my heart sing with joy.

The chilly turn of the weather has me bypassing light crisp salads in favor of hot, filling dishes, such as my beloved macaroni and cheese. The fun thing about macaroni and cheese is that you can get really creative with customizing your favorite blends of cheese. It’s hard to go wrong. Start with a base of milk, thickened into a sauce with a roux of flour and butter, then have fun throwing in your favorite cheeses or whatever you’ve got leftover in the fridge. There are endless mouth-watering combinations. My favorite versions usually involve melty and delicious brie. But for tonight’s rendition, I was looking for a little spice. So, I threw in some Pepperjack cheese in combination with creamy cream cheese and flavorful sharp cheddar. For a little added flavor and crunch, I added some crumbled bacon. Bacon makes everything better!

Have fun with this recipe. Follow it as written, or substitute with equal quantities of your favorite cheeses. Take it as a basic mac and cheese recipe, and get creative from there!

Spicy Bacon Mac and Cheese


  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 3 Tbsp Flour
  • 2 cups Milk (skim would be fine)
  • 4 ounces Cream Cheese (1/2 bar)
  • 4 ounces Pepperjack Cheese (5 slices)
  • 4 ounces Shredded Sharp Cheddar (1 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/2 pound Bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 pound Pasta, cooked


Cook the pasta according to package directions. Strain and set aside. In a saucepan, combine butter and flour over medium heat. Cook for a couple minutes, until it forms a thin paste-like consistency. Add the milk and whisk to combine. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook for a few minutes until the milk thickens. Turn the heat down to low and add the cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted into the sauce. Season with salt. Stir in the crumbled bacon. Pour the hot sauce over the cooked pasta and toss until evenly coated. Serve immediately. Garnish with a few pieces of crumbled bacon and a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese.

Beef Stroganoff

My husband is a recovering picky eater. When we first met almost fifteen years ago, there was a lengthy list of things he wouldn’t eat. I nearly ended the relationship on the spot when I discovered he didn’t like bacon. Doesn’t like bacon??? Clearly, this was a cause for alarm. But, I stuck around. And as our relationship developed I learned more about his lifelong history as a picky eater. I giggled when his mom shared stories of ordering cheeseburger happy meals, sans the burger on the cheeseburger. I questioned his ability to eat a turkey sandwich with swiss cheese and mustard on whole wheat every single day, without exception. And I puzzled over the quantity of Sunny D he consumed. What in the world is Sunny D, anyway??

As a person who thrives on cooking and eating a wide variety of foods, I was flummoxed by his limited diet and long list of food biases. Thankfully, since the time we met fifteen years ago, he has greatly expanded his food repertoire. Not only does he eat bacon, he loves it. Burgers delight him. And he now eats a tuna sandwich for lunch every day instead of turkey and drinks real orange juice, made from real oranges. He still won’t eat Chinese food, or anything whose name or flavor profile slightly resembles Chinese food. And I’ve repeatedly failed to get him to appreciate duck. But, for the most part, he eats whatever I place in front of him. For that, I am thankful.

But during our early days, cooking for my picky mate was a bit more challenging. He had not yet grown to trust my cooking ability and I was not fully clear on what he would or wouldn’t eat. So, imagine my delight when I discovered that one of his favorite meals was Beef Stroganoff. That just so happened to be one of my very favorite meals. I was happy to make it for him. There are endless versions of this classic recipe floating around. My version is my memory’s adaptation of the recipe my mom used to make for our family. I’m not sure how it compares to my husband’s childhood memory of Beef Stroganoff, but he’s never complained. No matter how you make it, it’s hard to go wrong with tender bites of beef in a creamy sauce over buttered egg noodles. Perfect comfort food deliciousness.

Beef Stroganoff


  • 1.5 pounds Beef (Flank Steak, Sirloin, Bottom Round, Chuck Roast, etc.)
  • 5-6 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 small Onion, chopped
  • 2 cups Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Beef Stock
  • 2 Tbsp Worchestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 3/4 cup Sour Cream
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 bag Wide Egg Noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • Butter, for noodles


To prepare the meat, cut the beef into small slices or chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and toss so that each piece is evenly coated in flour. Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms and onions are tender. Remove the mushrooms and onions from the pan and set aside.

Add a few more tablespoons of oil to the pan, over medium heat. Add the beef in a single layer. Cook for a few minutes on each side, until the beef is browned and almost completely cooked through. (It will finish cooking as it simmers in the sauce.)

Add the beef stock to the pan and use a wooden spoon or whisk to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Return the mushroom and onions to the pan and simmer for a few minutes. The sauce should begin to thicken.

Add the worchestershire sauce and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down the heat to low and add the sour cream. Stir until evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Serve over hot, buttered egg noodles.

Serves 4

Almost Perfect Fontina Chops

A few years ago, in search of child-friendly dining option, we found ourselves in a Bonefish Grill. Prior to this visit, my only knowledge of Bonefish Grill was through one of our family members, who spoke with great passion about the Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola Butter he’d eaten there. At the time, he’d claimed it was the best meal he’d ever eaten. Based on his description of the meal, I made the silly mistake of trying to cook this idolized meal for him. We went over to our local Whole Foods to buy the finest, freshest ingredients. I meticulously crafted the meal as described. Then we all sat down to enjoy the meal together.

Well, my Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola dinner came out fantastic, truly fantastic. Everyone was fully pleased, except perhaps, the family member I’d cooked it for. His critique was that it was almost perfect. I’d accepted the praise and thanked him. I’ll take an almost perfect review. But, my husband wasn’t about to let his comment go. What do you mean almost?? He pressed. What should have been improved? Our family member then tried to argue that it couldn’t possibly be as perfect as in a restaurant because I didn’t have access to restaurant stuff. We giggled and let it go, but we still joke with him today about his almost perfect comment. All in good fun and with love.

So, when I found myself sitting in front of the Bonefish Grill menu, there was part of me that was very strongly leaning towards ordering the Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola Butter, so that I could dissect the dish and discover the errors of my almost perfect recreation. And then I spotted the Fontina Chop; a pork chop with Marsala sauce, prosciutto, garlic, and fontina cheese. Just reading the description had me salivating. I almost always order steak or seafood in restaurants, so a pork dish was a departure for me. But it sounded so irresistible. And it was. It was probably the best rendition of a pork chops and gravy dish I’ve ever eaten. If you ever find yourself in a Bonefish Grill, I highly recommend this dish.

Notice the absence of Fontina cheese; the result of cooking and photographing with two little people and a dog at my heels. My cheese was added post-pictures.

It was years ago, but the flavor combination in that dish stuck with me. So, I decided to have a go at recreating another Bonefish Grill dish. My advantage, this time, is that I’ve actually seen and eaten the sought after dish. My disadvantage is that it was so long ago that my memory will be fairly worthless in terms of comparing the actual taste match between the dishes. Regardless of differences between Bonefish’s dish and mine, I have to admit that this recipe is delicious…almost perfect.

Fontina Chops

Inspired by Bonefish Grill


For the Pork Chops

  • 2 Boneless Pork Chops
  • 1 Egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup Bread Crumbs
  • 2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Fontina Cheese, shredded

For the Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3-4 slices Prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 cups Baby Bella Mushrooms, Sliced
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup Marsala Wine
  • 1 can (15 ounces) Chicken Broth
  • 1 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • Salt and Pepper


For the pork chops:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim any excess fat from the chops. Season with salt and pepper. Dip the chops into the beaten egg, then press all sides in the bread crumbs until thoroughly coated. Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof pan. Place the breaded chops in the pan and cook for a minute or two on each side until golden brown. Place the pan in the oven and cook until the pork chops are fully cooked. Time will vary depending on the thickness of the chops. My 1″ pork chops took about 15 minutes in the oven. A instant read thermometer inserted into the center should read 165 degrees.

(**Edited to Add: The USDA has recently reduced its recommended safe temperature for pork to 145 degrees. Based on this new recommendation, you can probably cut the cooking time to about 12 minutes in the oven, but cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your chops. An instant-read meat thermometer is your best friend in determining doneness!**)

For the sauce:

Prepare the sauce while the chops are cooking. Heat olive oil in a pan. Add the mushrooms and prosciutto. Cook for 8-9 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic. Cook for another minute or two. Then removed the cooked mushrooms, prosciutto, and garlic and set aside. Add the marsala to the hot pan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add the chicken broth. Return to a simmer and cook until a little more than 1 cup of liquid remains. Place the cornstarch in a small bowl. Spoon a few tablespoons of the hot liquid into the cornstarch and stir until combined. (Dissolving the cornstarch in a small amount of liquid before adding to the sauce will help to prevent lumps from forming.) Then, add the cornstarch mixture to the pan and simmer for another minute or two to thicken. Return the mushroom mixture to the pan and simmer for a minute to reheat.

To serve:

As soon as the pork chops come out of the oven, sprinkle the fontina cheese on top. Allow the pork chops to rest and the cheese to melt for a couple minutes. Then spoon the sauce over the chops and serve. Smashed Red Potatoes and Steamed Asparagus make wonderful side dishes!

Serves 2

Hubby's dish, cheese properly applied.

Since writing this recipe, it has come to my attention that the Bonefish fontina chops are not breaded. I stand by my breaded chops in this recipe, as it is hands-down my favorite way to prepare pork chops. But, if you’re looking for a more similar recreation to Bonefish’s dish, you may wish to skip the breading steps and simply season your chops with salt and peppers and sear in a pan before finishing in the oven. Enjoy!

Goat Cheese Manicotti with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce

I’ve got mushrooms on the brain and they’re growing like a fungus. Perhaps it’s the approach of fall and the sudden drop in temperature around here. Can’t seem to think of a thing to make which doesn’t somehow involve mushrooms, which is quite unfortunate for my anti-mushroom husband. But my most recent mushroom creation even managed to delight my mushroom avoiding husband.

The idea began after staring at the log of goat cheese, which has been sitting in my fridge, leftover from our last wine and cheese night. If you’ve been reading for the past few weeks, y’all know how I feel about goat cheese. You’ve seen the salads covered with goat cheese and pizza of goat cheese, figs and prosciutto. It occurred to me that the leftover goat cheese would be lovely in a ravioli, but for lack of a pasta maker, I abandoned that idea. But the pasta idea was not a total loss. Manicotti or large pasta shells would make perfect vessels for my precious goat cheese. I decided on using manicotti.

I blended the goat cheese with ricotta cheese and a touch of mozzarella, then bound the cheeses together with a lightly beaten egg and piped the mixture into the cooked manicotti pasta. After baking the filled pasta until fully cooked, the cheesy pasta is topped with a creamy mushroom sauce, accented with garlic and Italian cheese flavors. The result is a super satisfying meal, perfect for the rapidly approaching fall weather.

Goat Cheese Manicotti with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce


For the Pasta:

  • 1 8 ounce package of Manicotti (14 pieces)
  • 3 cups Ricotta Cheese
  • 8 ounces Goat Cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup Mozzarella
  • Leaves from 3-4 sprigs Parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 Egg, lightly beaten

For the Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 4 cups Wild Mushrooms, chopped (Shitake, Cremini, Oyster, etc.)
  • 1 tsp Minced Garlic
  • 2 cups Light Cream
  • 1/2 cup Italian Cheese Blend (Asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Fontina…)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • Black Pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.

Boil the manicotti according to package directions. Rinse with cool water.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, mozzarella, parsley, salt, and pepper. Before adding the egg, taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper, if desired. Then, add the beaten egg and stir to combine.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a wide tip and pipe the mixture into the cooked pasta. Alternately, use a spoon to fill the pasta. Place each filled manicotti into the prepared baking dish.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes until completely cooked through.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Heat butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes, until tender. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Pour the cream over the mushrooms and stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes until the cream begins to bubble and thicken. Add the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired.

Pour the mushroom cream sauce over the pasta before serving.

Oven-roasted Pulled Pork and Summer Peach Pizza

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Recently, I was having a conversation with someone who was tossing around the idea of opening a pizza shop in a city whose pizza market is predominated by chain restaurants. I suggested that as a way of setting himself apart, he should focus on using very fresh ingredients; local, seasonal, and organic when possible. In addition to offering a really good traditional pizza with traditional toppings, he could offer a special of the month, something a bit different, which features the most seasonal produce. As an example, I threw out peaches. Well, that got an odd look. So, I continued, Maybe with a BBQ type of sauce and pork or something. The odd look remained.

Over the next couple days, I mentioned this peach and pork pizza idea to a handful of other people, all of whom had the same confused reaction. Maybe I should have let it go, but for some reason, I couldn’t get this pizza off my mind. I mean, people put ham and pineapple on pizza. So why not pork and peaches?

I let the idea simmer in my brain for a while. The pork should be slow-cooked and tender, like pulled pork. The peaches would need to be roasted to make them extra sweet and tender. The sauce should full of tomato flavor, but with a definite sweet bbq accent. The cheese should be melty and mild. The more I thought it through, the more convinced I became that it would work.

So, I picked up a big pork shoulder and got cooking. Pulled pork is something which works best when cooked low and slow. There are several ways to do it, all of which can be successful. My preferred method is to oven-roast the pork, since I can use that method year round and I find that it produces a less mushy result than with a slow-cooker. You can decrease the cooking time by increasing the heat, but low and slow is your best bet for a tender roast, which will pull apart with ease. My recipe is sort of in middle as far as heat and time goes, but if you have more time on your hands, lower the heat and give it a bit more time.

For the sauce, I made a Honey Garlic BBQ sauce. I cooked the sauce along with the pork to pick up some of the pork flavor and allow the flavors to blend and concentrate. This also allows the onion and roasted garlic to slow cook for an even sweeter flavor. For a leaner end-result, you can cook the sauce separate from the roast.

Pulled Pork and Summer Peach Pizza


For the Roasted Garlic-Honey BBQ Sauce:

  • 1 15 oz. can Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Tomato Paste
  • 1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Mustard
  • 1/4 cup Worchestire
  • 1/4 cup Honey
  • 1 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 head Roasted Garlic, cloves removed from the skin*
  • 1 Small Onion, chopped

For the Roast:

  • 1 5-7 pound Pork Shoulder
  • Paprika
  • Brown Sugar
  • Salt
  • Cayenne Pepper

For the Peaches:

  • 2 Peaches, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

For the Pizza:

  • 2 12″ Prepared Pizza Crusts
  • 2-3 cups Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1/3 cup Chives, finely chopped

*Click here for my guide to roasting garlic.


To prepare the roast, trim the excess fat from the exterior. Rub the roast all over with paprika, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a heavy dutch oven pan with a tight fitting lid or in a baking dish that is just big enough to hold the roast, combine all sauce ingredients. Place the roast on top of the sauce and cover. If using a baking dish, tightly seal the pan with foil. Place it in the oven and cook for about 5 hours. No need to check, stir, or baste. Just pop it in a let it do its thing. You’ll know it’s done when the meat starts to pull away from the bone and the internal temperature, as measured with an instant-read thermometer, has reached at  least 170 degrees. You can also test the meat by scraping a fork into a piece of the roast. It should easily shred from the roast.

For the peaches, place the thin slices in a small baking dish and toss with the brown sugar. You can omit the sugar, if desired, but the small amount of sugar gives the peaches a very light, sweet glaze. Place the baking dish in the oven during the last 30 minutes of the roast’s cooking time.

When the roast is cooked, remove from the oven. Carefully lift the roast from the pan and place it on a rack or in a colander to cool for about 15 minutes.

While the roast is cooling, pour the sauce through a strainer to remove the chunks of onion, garlic, and any pork pieces. Allow the sauce to settle. Then, pour off any excess fat, which will rise to the top or use a spoon to remove the fat. Taste the sauce and adjust the flavor with more salt, cayenne, or honey, as desired.

When the pork is cool enough to handle, but still warm, use a fork to begin pulling the meat. If you scrape the fork against the meat, it should start pulling apart easily. Discard any fatty chunks. I like to go back over the meat with my fingers after pulling it, to make sure there are no slimy, fatty bits remaining.

Pour the sauce over the meat and toss to combine.

For the pizza, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scatter the sauced pork in an even layer over the crust. Place several slices of peach on top of the pork. Sprinkle with a good layer of mozzarella cheese. Garnish with the chopped chives. Bake for about 12 minutes until everything is hot, the cheese is melty and the edges of the crust are golden.

Makes 2 12-inch Pizzas (plus leftover pulled pork for sandwiches!)

This pizza was really good. Even my skeptical husband was pleased!

The Gourmand Mom

Good food, seasoned with a dash of life

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