Baked Pasta with Pumpkin-Sage Sauce

baked pasta with pumpkin sage sauce

Oxygen magazine is known for healthy recipes, but when I saw this baked pasta with pumpkin-sage sauce, I couldn’t resist.  I totally made it fattening.  But it was worth it. It’s a real crowd-pleaser!

Baked Pasta with Pumpkin-Sage Sauce

adapted from Oxygen magazine, November 2015 issue

2 12-oz. boxes rainbow rotini

olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 teaspoons ground sage

2 cans pumpkin puree

3 cups whole milk

1 cup light cream

12 oz. grated pecorino romano

salt and pepper

1/2 jar (about 4 oz.) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

Cook pasta.  Saute onions and sage in oil for about 10 minutes, until soft. In pot, combine milk, cream and pumpkin. Whisk. Add onions, salt and pepper and 1/2 cheese. Cook a few minutes (doesn’t need to be thick). Put pasta in casserole dish. Pour sauce on top. Top with remaining cheese and tomatoes. Bake 400 degrees for 10 minutes and lower to 350 for 10 more minutes.

Scandinavian Roast Dill-Scented Chicken and Potato Gratin

potato gratin

New Scandinavian Cooking with Andreas Viestad is one of my favorite cooking shows. He’s always cooking outdoors on some makeshift stove, so I love to see what he’s going to do next. I have his cookbook and decided to make this roast dill-scented chicken with leeks and this potato gratin with parsnips and rutabaga.  I thought both dishes were very good, but I found that I didn’t like the taste of the parsnips in the gratin. I really like the rutabaga and potato together though. The chicken was perfectly moist with a nice hint of dill and leek.

roast chicken


Pumpkin or Butternut Squash Risotto

I have some carnaroli rice from Italy and decided to make this risotto di zucca by Antonio Carluccio, or pumpkin risotto by Antonio Carluccio, one of my favorite chefs.  I got a locally grown butternut squash so I used that instead of pumpkin.  I think most people are familiar with arborio rice but not carnaroli.  Carnaroli is also from Northern Italy and is used to make risotto.  It is considered the “caviar of rice.”  It has a higher starch content and can stay firm longer as you cook risotto.  This particular dish is a wonderfully creamy and delicious one for autumn.  It comes from Antonio Carluccio’s Italian Feast but he says it originally comes from Hotel Cipriani in Venice.  I adapted it to suit our tastes.  The original recipe calls for Parmesan and I used pecorino romano.  I also used water instead of chicken stock to make it vegetarian friendly.  And I didn’t use rosemary.

risotto, carnaroli, zucca, pumpkin, butternut squash, Antonio Carluccio



Almond Butter Quinoa Blondies

quinoa, almond butter, blondies

I made these almond butter quinoa blondies from Jennifer Meyering.  I had some quinoa flour in the pantry and wanted to use it.  This recipe was a great way to do that.  These bars are healthier yet still yummy.  I used Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips.

quinoa, almond butter, blondies

Day Trip to Mooresville, North Carolina

Mooresville, North Carolina is about 25 miles north of Charlotte in the Piedmont area of the state.  Its known for its connection to NASCAR, as a lot of people involved with racing live here.  There are a number of fun stops here for the foodie.  One is Alino Pizzeria, a pizzeria serving Neapolitan-style pizza from three ovens made in Italy.  The restaurant itself is no-frills with large, communal picnic table seating.  You order right next to the gelato case and then put a number on your table and someone will bring your order up.  We got a margherita pizza, and it was good.  The thing that always strikes me about Neapolitan pies is that they tend to be soggy, but my Neapolitan cousin said that’s how they should be.  This one was no different.  The crust had some char and a nice flavor, albeit soggy, and the cheese was creamy and delicious.  The sauce was good too, but a bit sweet for me.  All in all, I thought it was a good pie.


And one cannot visit Mooresville without going to the Mooresville Ice Cream Company, established in 1924, for some of their delicious DeLuxe and Front Porch brand ice cream.  I got pumpkin, Charleston sea salt and caramel and Nana’s banana pudding.

IMG_1634 IMG_1633

We also made a stop at La Patisserie.  We had wanted crepes, especially the mushroom one.  The store has two locations and I thought they were both open all day on Saturday.  So we went downtown, but it closes in the afternoon.  And they don’t have the mushroom crepe on the menu here.  We wound up getting some salads, quiche and mousse.  The salad was good, the quiche wasn’t so great, but the mousse was delicious.


We didn’t eat at the What-a-Burger, but I mention it because even though it is a chain, it is located in an old-fashioned drive-in.  It looks like a fun place to have a burger.

New and Old Favorites at the 2015 North Carolina State Fair

The 2015 NC state fair has a lot of new food this year.  I can’t get into some of the ridiculous fried stuff at state fairs like peanut butter pickles.  But I will taste some of the more tame fried food.  Here are some new things at the fair this year:

Fried pimento cheese wonton’s from Woody’s–These are a winner.  What’s not to like about pimento cheese?  (These are easy to find if you just look for the big balloon blimp in the sky.  Do not follow the festival food map because it lists Woody’s in a different location.)  WINNER

pimento cheese

Fried s’mores–Hmm, this was a little disappointing. I was expecting a square smore deep fried, but this was just marshmallow deep fried with chocolate syrup–no graham.  If that’s your thing, you’ll like it.

s'mores, smores

Nu Jersey Turnpike sausage baguette from Baguettaboutit–A mild Italian fennel sausage with a roasted red pepper sauce in a crusty baguette.  My friend always gets sausage and pepper sandwiches, and this was a really nice change–especially the good bread.  WINNER


And Baguettaboutit also has delicious vegetarian sandwiches like this one with Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Tofurky Italian Sausage + Cracked Pepper and Parmesan Sauce.  WINNER


Candied yams ice cream from Lumpy’s–I love Lumpy’s ice cream.  But this flavor fell a bit flat for me.  Yam/sweet potato ice cream can have a starchy mouthfeel.  This one had some marshmallows scattered throughout, but I think a sweet syrup would’ve masked some of the starchiness.


Sour lemon ice cream from Country Folks Creamery—I always like to get the ice cream that’s churned with a John Deere tractor.  This year’s new flavor is sour lemon.  It is sour, which I like, and definitely real lemon.  It reminded me of lemon gelato.  It’s really good.  WINNER

sour lemon ice cream

White chocolate mini baguette from La Farm Bakery–I love white chocolate, so I had to try this baguette.  La Farm makes great bread, but this just didn’t do it for me.  It was a bit too sweet and I just didn’t taste the white chocolate like I wanted to.  I was hoping it would be melted in the middle but it was mostly bread.  We also got an asiago parmesan bread for the road that’s great!

white chocolate

In addition to the new food at the fair, we got some old staples that we know we like.

Fried cheddar nuggets from Wisconsin cheese

fried cheese

a cinnamon sugar elephant ear

elephant ear

I also got some barbecue and slaw at Big Al’s in Raleigh


And my friend got mini donuts–these tasted like they were made with funnel cake mix–I’m not a fan of that flavor but if you are, you’ll like them.

mini donuts, mini doughnuts

Muscadine grapes are from North Carolina, and this muscadine grape slushie was a sweet, refreshing drink!

muscadine grape

I checked out my favorite things at the fair–like the cake decorating contest.  This cute cake was the winner.

NC state fair winning cake

I love the folk crafts at the Village of Yesteryear, the gardens and bonsai trees, and the North Carolina pottery tent.  I even took a stroll through the soybean farmers’ tent with a wall of the Bayer logo.  I tried not to think about all the soybean oil I ingested and had a good time!  (I did see a food booth somewhere at the fair advertising that all its food was cooked with olive oil.)  Anyway, a good time was had by all!

Two Stops on the North Carolina Barbecue Trail

With the North Carolina State Fair going on this week, I thought I’d write about North Carolina food.  I recently had barbecue at two really great restaurants on the North Carolina Barbecue Trail.  The North Carolina Barbecue Society is a group that claims that North Carolina originated barbecue.  It has published a map of restaurants that serve barbecue, the North Carolina Barbecue Trail.  I have eaten a lot of barbecue in North Carolina, but I had never been to any of the places on this list.  Until now.  In North Carolina, barbecue means pulled pork barbecue (although you see it served chopped or sliced too).  For those who don’t know, North Carolina has two types of barbecue based on the sauce, eastern and western.  Eastern is made with a vinegar-based sauce and western is made with a tomato-based sauce.  This is how it’s always been defined to me.  However, I’ve been reading about a third kind, Lexington-style, made with ketchup.  I prefer eastern-style barbecue.  I don’t think I’ve had it in the western part of the state.  I have eaten it in Lexington, NC, too.  (South Carolina has another option, mustard sauce, that is also delicious.)

Hursey’s Barbecue in Burlington, NC


OK, I have a new favorite barbecue and it is Hursey’s.  They cook it perfectly–just the way I like it.  Hursey’s has a barbecue sauce that you can add to the barbecue.  I didn’t because it was delicious just the way it was cooked.  But the sauce is also good, and I bought some to take home.  The menu at Hursey’s is definitely for a carnivore–they don’t have many sides typical of barbecue restaurants (so vegetarians beware).  However, if you eat meat, this is the place for you.  Of course, I got barbecue, but the broasted chicken sounded intriguing.  It is fried chicken that local barbecue guru Bob Garner says is cooked in a pressure cooker so it’s not too greasy.  The night I dined here they had a special, fried corn.  I tried it, not knowing what to expect.  It was on the cob and so crispy and delicious.  They need to add it to the menu.


Carolina Bar-B-Q in Statesville, NC


The barbecue at Carolina Bar-B-Q is made from pork shoulder, not pork butt.  It is served without seasoning/sauce and you add what you like–eastern or western style.  For vegetarians, they have a vegetable plate where you can choose sides from a long list.  To me, these sides really stand out at Carolina Bar-B-Q.  They are fried to order in clean oil, perfectly crispy, not greasy, and very tasty.  This is the first time I’ve seen fried yellow squash, and it was great.  Normally, I don’t eat fried food, but this could make me a convert.