Trick or treat, trick or treat, give us something good to eat.
Give us candy, give us cake, give us something sweet to take.
Give us cookies, fruit and gum, hurry up and give us some.
You had better do it quick or we`ll surely play a trick.
Trick or treat, trick or treat, give us something good to eat.
~Author Unknown~

Here is a recipe for a sinfully delicious chocolate bark which I adopted from Bon Appetite Magazine. (You can find the original recipe here.) It’s a grown-up, gourmet take on Halloween candy utilizing the classic candy bars that we all love and have grown up with. This bark is easy to make, fool-proof, and addictive. (You might even want to make a double batch for a group because it goes fast!) It’s the perfect Halloween treat that I am sure you will love. 

1 1/2 bags of Nestle’s semi-sweet morsels
3/4 cup of 1% milk
3 Butterfinger candy bars, cut into irregular pieces
3 Heath toffee candy bars, cut into irregular pieces
8 Reese’s peanut butter cups (the large ones, not the miniatures) each cut into 8 wedges
1/4 cup peanuts or pecans
3 ounces high-quality white chocolate (chopped or use Nestle’s white chocolate chips)
1 box of Reese’s Pieces 
2 small bags of M&Ms

Line baking sheet with foil. Stir chocolate chips in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and warm (not hot) to touch.  Slowly whisk in the milk. This will make the chocolate thick and creamy, almost like fudge. Make sure chocolate is blended well. Remove from the heat.

Pour chocolate onto foil; spread to 1/4-inch thickness (about 12×10-inch rectangle). 
Sprinkle with Butterfinger candy, Heath candy, peanut butter cups, and nuts. Carefully make sure that all candy pieces touch melted chocolate to adhere.

Put white chocolate in heavy small saucepan. Stir constantly over very low heat until chocolate is melted and warm (not hot) to touch. Remove from heat. Dip spoon into chocolate; wave from side to side over bark, creating zigzag lines. Scatter Reese’s Pieces and M&M’s over, making sure candy touches melted chocolate.

Chill bark until firm, about an hour or overnight. Slide foil with candy onto work surface; peel off foil. Cut or break the bark into irregular pieces.
    Happy Halloween!
    Enjoy 🙂

    An Autumn Greeting 

    “Come,” said the Wind to the Leaves one day. “Come over the meadow and we will play. Put on your dresses of red and gold. For summer is gone and the days grow cold.” 

    ~ Anonymous 

    Burning bright hues of amber, orange and yellow are symbolic with the autumn season but these colors aren’t only found in the changing leaves. Squash is also in season and this butternut squash soup recipe is the perfect remedy for those cold days when your body and your spirit need a little touch of warmth.

    The word squash is derived from the Native American Narragansett word askutasquash, which means “thing eaten raw.” It was documented by Rhode Island founder Roger Williams in 1643 in his book, “A Key into the Language of America.”

    Though squash is commonly considered to be a vegetable for culinary purposes, it’s actually a fruit. The rule of thumb is that any part of a plant that contains seeds is a fruit. Vegetables are leafy parts of the plant or roots, like spinach or carrots. Thus, the exterior of the squash is known as the flesh and the interior is known as the pulp. Squash has many culinary uses but is also grown competitively. (See my photos of the giant pumpkins from the Bloomsburg Fair!) Squash was also made into pottery by people of the ancient Moche culture in Peru.

    In North America, there are generally two groups of squash: summer squash (immature fruit) or autumn/winter squash (mature fruit).  The most popular type of summer squash is zuchinni. It is easy to grow and requires little cooking time or preparation.  Winter squash, like acorn squash or butternut squash, is a bit more heartier and requires a lengthy cooking time. (But oooohhh is it worth the wait!) Pumpkins and gourds are also winter squash.

    Lady loves to lay next to the winter squash (pumpkins and gourds)!

    Butternut squash, a large vibrant yellowish/orange fruit, is at it’s peak during the fall season. It’s known in Australia and New Zealand as a butternut pumpkin. It is thought to have originated in Mexico and is very popular in Mexican cuisine. Grown on a vine, butternut squash has a yellow flesh and bright orange pulp. The ripper it is, the sweeter the flavor.

    Butternut squash can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. It is used in soups, salads, casseroles, breads, muffins, etc. It’s firm texture also makes it easy to grill and it is commonly found in South America as a side dish to barbecues. 

    Butternut squash is a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, magnessium and potassium. The best part about it is that it’s cheap and lasts for days. You can buy it and use it weeks later, at your own convenience.  Here is a classic recipe for a thick, velvety, flavorful butternut squash soup. It’s healthy, easy to make and guilt-free because it’s made without any cream.

    A large butternut squash cut in half.  When using, make sure to wash and discard the seeds.
    Fairytale Butternut Squash Soup

    3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon of butter (or butter substitute to save calories)
    1 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise, washed, with the seeds discarded (about 3 lbs)
    1 large yellow cooking onion, chopped
    3 stalks of celery, chopped
    2 tablespoons of fresh sage, chopped (a bunch of large leaves)
    6 cups of chicken broth

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rub the olive oil on the cut side of the squash and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast about 45 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and let cool.

    In a dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and butter.  Add onion and celery. Sprinkle some salt. Saute about 10 minutes until tender.

    Scoop out the butternut squash flesh (discarding the skin) into the pot. Add the chicken broth and a little salt to pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and let simmer for 30 minutes.

    Remove from the heat and use a food processor or hand immersion blender to puree the soup.  You can also use a blender to puree the soup but make sure you work in batches!  Return to the pot and keep the soup warm.

    Optional: You can give this soup a mexican flare by  adding some toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and a drizzle of sour cream. For a hearty Italian flare, try dipping in some crusty bread, or hearty pumpernickel croutons and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. But it’s equally as good on its own! 🙂

    Halloween is coming!!! This week I will be posting some of my favorite fall recipes that are perfect to feed a crowd or yourself in celebration of the fall season. I absolutely love this salad! The salad is my own fall concoction using ingredients that are in season. The dressing is a recipe from Southern Living magazine and is so fresh and flavorful. It’s the perfect compliment to fall apples. I added in a little bit of extra basil than called for in the recipe because I wanted to use it up from my herb garden before the REALLY cold weather comes! 
    Fall Apple Salad
    (Serves 6-8)
    2 heads of Romaine Lettuce, chopped
    3/4 -1 bag of spring mixed greens
    1 cup of whole pecans
    2-3 gala or other sweet apple, cored and sliced
    2 granny smith apples, cored and sliced
    1 container of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
    Salt and pepper
    Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    Brown Sugar-Cider Vinaigrette
    From Southern Living Magazine
    (1 Cup)

    2/3 cup canola oil
    1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
    2 green onions, chopped
    3 tablespoons light brown sugar
    3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    Whisk together all ingredients until blended. Pour entire cup over salad when ready to serve.

    For many American families, Friday night is synonymous with one special dish: PIZZA!!! I love and cherish this family tradition and can be found on most Friday nights feasting on pizza at the Gramercy. Baked in a small pan, a Gramercy pizza is only the size of a dinner plate and is unlike any pizza around.  It can be enjoyed as a meal but is most popular as an appetizer.

    The original panned pie is delicious – the cheese melts and browns perfectly, the crust is actually crusty and never soft, and the sauce is the best the in area.  But the toppings are delicious too, and include your choice of peppers, roasted red peppers, onions, sausage, meatballs, hamburger, anchovies, and black olives.  One popular pizza, the fresh tomato pie, is made with Pittston tomatoes straight from my grandfather’s garden and is only available for a limited time.

    Gramercy pizza has been a staple of my life.  As a little girl, my eyes and mouth would water in anticipation as I watched my late grandmother roll the dough and my grandfather make the sauce.  My grandmother would give me little samples of dough so I could make my own at home, but it never turned out the same and I usually just ended up ordering one straight from the Gramercy.  When I lived in New York, I would pack frozen Gramercy pizzas to eat in the dorms whenever I wanted a good slice (and whenever I felt homesick.) While my heart is with the original pizza, my signature pizza is usually the white pizza with roasted red peppers and black olives. (Sometimes, I even order anchovies.)  If I was going to the electric chair, this would be my last meal, hands down.  A piece of a Gramercy pizza is the perfect slice, the ultimate fairytale feast!  Here are some photos of my favorite pizzas!

    The original slice: a plain Gramercy pizza.
    Fresh tomato pie with black olives.

    A plain fresh tomato pie slice.

    Crumbled sweet sausage, gorzgonzola cheese, carmelized onion and rapinni pizza.

    Mushroom pie.

    A pizza with green peppers.

    My favorite: a white pizza with roasted red peppers and black olives.

    “Alan Jackson Dip”
    The Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, TN

    The Grand Ole Opry reopened its doors to Music City last week, five months after the Cumberland River overflowed its banks and wreaked havoc onto the city of Nashville.  The Grand Ole Opry suffered heavy damage from the floods and underwent a massive restoration as a result. 

    For those who are unfamiliar with the Grand Ole Opry, it is the world’s longest running radio program which features American country music, blue grass, folk, and gospel.  It is a weekly country music stage concert that has aired live on the radio and now television since 1925.  It is a tremendous honor to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry and some of its’ elite members include Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Johnny and June Carter Cash.  Modern country music members include Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Reba McIntire, Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Trace Atkins, Dierks Bentley, Josh Turner and Brad Paisley.  Blake Shelton will be inducted as its newest member this year.

    Even though it was displaced as a result of the May flooding, the Grand Ole Opry broadcasts were not disrupted and instead found a temporary home in other venues. Click here to see Dierks Bentley give a backstage tour of the restored Opry House on Facebook.

    Grand Piano at the Opry House before the May 2010 flood.
     As a proud member of the Opry Fan Club, I was devastated to hear of the damage to the Opry house and the city of Nashville and am very happy to hear of its grand reopening. One of the best southern feasts I have ever had was actually at annual Opry Fan Club brunch. Being from the Northeast, I had never seen brunch served this way before and was really intrigued by the combination of ingredients. (Think: fruit salad, but smothered in some kind of mayonnaise or yogurt sauce, corn bread, pulled pork, etc. Not diet friendly, but delicious and very Paula Deen-esq.)
    The Grand Ole Opry Fan Club
    Annual Southern Brunch.

    There is even an Opry cookbook, Around the Opry Table by Kay West, which features the favorite personal recipes of many Opry members.  Here is a recipe that I adopted from the feature on Alan Jackson. This dip is one of my go to recipes because it’s easy and is absolutely delicious and ADDICTING.  I make it often and when I don’t make it, everyone complains. It’s the perfect snack to accompany your it’s 5 o’clock somewhere beverage.
    Alan Jackson in concert at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes Barre, PA.
    Alan Jackson Dip
    2 bags of reduced fat 2% shredded cheddar cheese (I like Sargento Natural or Kraft. Don’t get the finely shredded cheese for this recipe. The thicker cut, the better.)
    1 container of large stuffed pimiento olives, chopped 
    1/2 cup of reduced fat mayo
    salt and pepper
    Optional: Franks hot sauce
    Assorted crackers or pita chips to dip with!

    Mix together the above ingredients in a large bowl and serve! If you want to give it a quick, add in some Frank’s hot sauce. Really, that’s it!

    Jumbo stuffed pimiento Spanish olives.

    The harvest moon has arrived and the crispness of autumn has graced the air, bringing with it a cool chill that makes you want to wrap yourself in a blanket and hold a steaming cup of hot chocolate or a nice bowl of thick and flavorful soup. 

    But with the arrival of the cold weather will come your body’s constant but natural yearning to consume heartier meals, such as heavy cream-based soups. There are ways to indulge in your favorite creamy soup without consuming excess amounts of calories or fat.  Instead of using heavy cream or full fat milk and butter, you can often use reduced fat milk or a combination of the two.  Another amazing trick which I utilize often is to puree the vegetables so that the soup is thick and creamy but without any added fat. 

    Here is simple recipe for shrimp and corn chowder with bacon. I adopted this recipe from one found in a Cooking Light book. This is a good go-to weekday recipe because it’s simple and fast. The recipe calls for bacon but if you buy the thick center cut, this is the healthiest slice of bacon and the most flavorful. Plus a little bit will go a long way in this dish. 

    Fairytale Corn and Shrimp Chowder with Bacon 


    • 4-6  slices of thick center cut bacon
    • 1/2  cup of chopped combined celery, onion, and red bell pepper 
    • 2  (16-ounce) packages frozen baby gold and white corn, thawed
    • 1 bag of frozen baby shrimp
    • 2  cups 1% low-fat milk
    • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) reduced-fat shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese or colby jack
    • Handful of chopped chives
    • Salt + Pepper

    • Directions
    • 1. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from pan and blot with paper towels. Crumble and set aside. 
    • 2. Add the chopped celery, onion and peppers plus 1 package of corn to the pan cracklings; sauté 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
    • 3. Place remaining 1 package corn and 1 cup milk in a blender, and process until smooth. Add pureed mixture to vegetables in pan.
    • 4. Stir in remaining 1 cup milk, salt, black pepper.
    • 5. Stir cheese and then frozen shrimp. 
    • 5. Cook over medium heat (do not boil), stirring constantly, until cheese melts.
    • 6. Serve with bacon crumbles and chopped chives. 


    It’s the most wonderful time of the year for lovers of all things fall: mums, scarecrows, tractors, haystacks, pumpkins, crunchy leaves, fairytale feasts, and of course, the Bloomsburg Fair! 


    The 156th Annual Bloomsburg Fair is taking place this week in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. The first fair was held in 1855 after Dr. John Taggart visited a county fair in upstate New York and brought the idea home to Columbia County.  Five other gentleman then got together and decided to hold an agricultural fair if they could find enough people to exhibit fruits, vegetables and other products found on a farm.  After personally searching for exhibitors, the men organized a one day event and the first fair was held.  Admission cost a mere ten cents per person and the fair garnered a whopping thousand visitors the first year alone. The event gradually increased in size and by 1892, the event was operating for a full five days.

    Now, over a hundred years later, the Fair still draws thousands of people from all over the country in any weather conditions.  Originally held late October of each year, the fair is now traditionally held in September, the third Monday after Labor Day. The fair will take place this year from Saturday, September 25th through Saturday, October 2nd.  Over 75,000 people attended on opening day alone and my guess is that 99% of these individuals had something to eat there.

    The Bloomsburg Fair is like a huge playground for food lovers, interweaving different ethnic foods from around the globe with signature Pennsylvania specialties. Caramel candy apples, pumpkin rolls, apple and peach dumplings, hearty soups, hot apple cider, church sponsored barbecue dinners, beef brisket sandwiches from hundreds of vendors are all sold at the festival.  Here are some highlights of noteworthy fairytale feasts that can be found at the festival: 

    We’ll start with the cheesesteaks. Yes, cheesesteaks are a dime a dozen all over Eastern and Central Pennsylvania and at the Bloomsburg Fair.  But Vince’s Steaks have the longest lines at the fair for good reason – their cheesesteaks are amazing. And unlike in Philly, you’re allowed to ask for peppers or marinara sauce and other toppinon your steak sandwiches here.

    The fish and chips were really delicious. The meal was wrapped in newspaper – such an authentic, lovely touch to compliment the food. The fish was not too oily and was perfectly done. With little sprinkle of salt and vinegar and a drizzle of lemon juice, the flaky fish and the roasted potatoes were absolute perfection.  In fact, this was the freshest bite I had at the fair. Loved it!

    Another favorite Fair treat is the Grotto Pizza. Grotto Pizza is a chain restaurant with locations in Northeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware. While I can technically have this pizza anytime, it’s just too hard to say no to that gooey cheese and sweet sauce so I had to have it. Other people must feel the same way, because the Grotto stand is always crowded every year. And for $2.50 for this single tiny slice of pizza, it better be good! 

    You can’t visit the Bloomsburg Fair without having some Old Fashioned Birch Beer poured from a barrel! 
    The Fair features hundreds of different vendors selling food items, home goods, and more.  I came across this little stand selling an asortment of gourmet dips and instantly fell in love.  There was a sample of each dip displayed in its own wicker basket cooling container ($33). The dips (3 packets for $14) are 100% natural, containing no preservatives. They’re really just dried spice mixes that you can add to cream cheese, mayonaise, sour cream, greek yogurt, etc.  (And yes, you can substitute fat free yogurt, etc. to make the dips healthy!) I took home the Excellent Crab, Irish Cheddar & Ale, and Rockin’ Ranch. To visit the website and try these delicious dips for yourself, click here.

    The Bloomsburg Fair offers plenty of soup options to warm up the soul.  One stand that I enjoy is Nana’s Nook, which serves homemade New England Clam Chowder, Maryland Crab Soup and Cheddar Ale.  If you want to try a sample, just ask and they are more than happy to help you.

    Another option for soup is the “pot pie” stand.  In Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, what they label “pot pies” are really delicious cups of a broth based soup with vegetables, ham or chicken, and homemade pieces of pasta that are similar to dumplings.  

    One of my longtime standing favorite stands at the Fair is the Baked Potato stand. They do sell complete dinners there, but all I have eyes for are the baked potatoes there. You can order one with your choice of toppings.  This one was served with cheese, broccoli and bacon bits.

    One of the most prominent offerings at the fair are the many ham/beef dinner stands which serve up hundreds of blue plate like dinner specials and sandwiches.    


    Anyone from Pennsylvania knows that one of best fall desserts to have is a Pumpkin Roll. I literally die for Pumpkin Rolls – and will blog about them at some point this season. If you are at the fair, you have to try the Pumpkin Roll ($8.75) from the Pennsylvania Dutch Stand near the Grandstand.

    You can’t go to the Bloomsburg Fair without getting an apple dumpling. These little bundles of joy are admittedly the main reason why I keep coming here every year. The marriage between autumn and apples is most beautifully exemplified in this distinct dish. 

    Lastly, if by some miracle you’re still hungry as you’re leaving the fair or you need a little something to bring home, stop by the apple stand near Gate 3. It’s easy to spot – it’s a booth literally carved into the shape of an apple.  You can get cider, lemonade and other gluttonous fair-essential treats like fried oreo cookies and or the famous fried apple rings. 

    Yes, there are other things to do at the fair besides eat – like see the agricultural exhibits that showcase the biggest and best produce and baked goods from the county and beyond.  Since I was a little girl, my favorite part of the fair (besides the apple dumplings) has always been seeing the “great pumpkin” (think Charlie Brown) exhibits on display. I just love them and used to think they were the pumpkins that were used to make Cinderella style carriages. They still haven’t lost their magic.

    There are still TWO more days to visit the fair this year! Here is some important info to know if you go:

    Admission gates are open daily from 7 AM to 9 PM.

    Admission is $5.00 per person, with free daily admission for children 12 years old and under.

    High school students are admitted free of charge on Friday October 1st.

    Parking is $5.00 per car, including free tram/bus service to and from the parking lot and admission gate.

    Enjoy! 🙂