Long Island Mom

What I've learned about being a mom.

Butternut Squash Risotto

I’ve written before about risotto in Lemon Shrimp Risotto and Risotto Cakes – something my mom made really often in our house as teenagers because it was filling.  My brother could eat like you have never seen before so she was all about recipes she could scale larger.  Problem was, no matter how much risotto she made, Cam would finish it.  A bottomless pit for sure.

I decided to make it with butternut squash this time, as more of a fall-flavored dish and it came out great!  Risotto is one of those dishes that takes really well to leftover veggies and meats of all kinds, so when I didn’t know what to do with this butternut squash I had laying around (just made soup with it a little bit ago), risotto immediately came to my mind.


This is not a recipe for a busy weeknight.  I made it Tuesday when I was off for Veteran’s Day and knew I had time to relax and make it.  I promise it is worth the time and is not difficult at all, just a little time consuming.  Contrary to what you might hear, you do NOT have to sit next to the stove and stir the entire time this is cooking.  By all means, walk away for a few minutes, just don’t let it burn!

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Butternut Squash Risotto

2 tbs olive oil + extra for roasting squash

1/2 large brown onion, chopped

1 small or 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch pieces

1 tablespoon fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups chicken stock

2 tbs butter

1/4 cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese

salt and pepper


1. Roast butternut squash in a little olive oil and salt and pepper on a baking sheet at 350 for 15-20 mins.

2. Saute onion on medium/high heat in 2 tbs of olive oil and salt and pepper until soft, 4-5 mins.

3. Add cooked butternut squash and saute (smash if you desire a smoother consistency)

4. Add rice and cook, stirring, for another 2 mins.

5. Add wine and saute another 2 mins until pan is dry

6. Add 1 cup of chicken stock at a time and stir occasionally until the pan looks almost dry, then add the next cup.  Cook until rice is tender and cooked through. (15-20 mins)

7.  Turn off heat and add butter and parmesan, stir until melted together and serve warm.


We served this with grilled dry-rubbed spicy chicken (recipe for that up tomorrow) and roasted asparagus (another one I plan to post).  Hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

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Butternut Squash Soup

I’ve been dying to make this but I’m pretty picky about how I like my butternut squash soup.  I don’t like it too sweet, no curry flavor please, just straightforward, fall-flavored, squashy-goodness.  With heavy cream.   I mean come on, how good is heavy cream in a soup?

So I tinkered around with a few recipes I found online and kind of made my own up.  And I have to say, it came out pretty awesome.  I also have to say, that in an ironic turn of events, I ended up with soup in my hair and telling my husband ‘you were right.’  Which is not my favorite thing to do.

Two years ago Dave bought me an immersion blender as a stocking stuffer.  I love a good kitchen gadget, but I found this one unnecessary and returned it.  Tonight, while making this soup and blending up small batches of the hot liquid making sure to cover the blender with a towel, I had the ‘man I wish I would have kept that’ thought.  Then, after turning off the blender and carefully removing the top, it bubbled up and splattered directly into my hair.  Yes, Dave, you were right.  The soup is still worth it.


Butternut Squash soup

1/2 stick of butter

1 tbs olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 apple, peeled and chopped

3 lbs of butternut squash (2 small or 1 large)

4 cups of chicken broth, veggie broth, water, or a mixture

lots of salt and pepper

3-4 sage leaves

1/3 cup heavy cream (optional, but is it really?)

parmesan rind (optional) *


1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut squash in half and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 40-50 mins until tender.

2. Saute onion and apple in butter and salt and pepper on medium heat for 5 minutes until soft.

3. Once squash is cooked and cooled enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and add to the apple and onion.  Add broth or water, sage leaves and parmesan rind* and simmer, breaking up the squash as it cooks and starts to dissolve into the soup, about 15 minutes.

4. Blend in small batches, or, if you’re smart, keep the immersion blender your husband gave you for Christmas and just whizz it up.  Turn off the heat and add the cream.  Enjoy!

* my mom has always talked about putting in the end of the parmesan cheese wedge leftover after you’ve grated all you can from it into soups and stews.  It melts right into it and gives it a cheesy background flavor that is unbelievable.  I’m hooked.


Hope you enjoy this as much as we did!





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Sweet and Spicy Bacon Chicken Bites

Couldn’t resist this one when it came across my search for Football Food on Pinterest.  Sweet, spicy, bacon wrapped chicken bites.  They were incredibly easy to make and addictive-ly tasty.  This is going to be my go-to ‘what can I bring?’ dish from now on.



A great finger food for that “bring a dish” party. What could go wrong with bacon, sugar and spices? Nothing. Cubes of chicken wrapped with bacon and coated with brown sugar, chili powder and cumin. Baked until crispy. A skill level of 3/10 (easy). Plus it is easy to double or triple if needed.
Author: Dan Mikesell
Recipe type: Party
Cuisine: American
Serves: 15 servings
  • about 1¼ pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1½ pounds bacon
  • ⅔ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 T chili powder
  • ½ t cumin
  1. Preheat oven to 350 convection. In a large mixing bowl, combine ⅔ cup dark brown sugar, 2 T chili powder and ½ t cumin. Mix well.
  2. Clean and trim about 1¼ pounds of skinless boneless chicken breast. Cut into approx. 1 inch cubes.
  3. If using thick bacon, thin out with the back edge of a chef knife. Cut the bacon in half, roll around the chicken cubes and secure with a tooth pick. This is the point to cover and refrigerate for better timing.
  4. Prep baking sheet with aluminum foil a rack and spray with PAM.
  5. Roll the pieces in the brown sugar mixture. Be sure to pack some in the ends. Place on the rack.
  6. Bake until golden brown. About 35 minutes for me. Cover with foil on heavy dish to keep warm until served.


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Rigatoni with sausage and brussel sprouts

Is it Brussels Sprouts or Brussel Sprouts?

In any event, I never ate them growing up – and I was forced to eat a lot of things.  I think my mom had a mental block against them.  Well, now they’re everywhere.  The first time I had them I was at a BBQ place with my husband and some of his friends and his buddy Alex insisted I try a deep-fried brussel sprout.  It was amazing and from then on I was hooked.  I love them roasted in the oven with just a little olive oil and salt and pepper, and even more sauteed in a pan with bacon and finished with balsamic vinegar.  Trader Joe’s also sells this stuff called ‘Cruciferous Crunch’ that is a mix of broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and kale all shredded that is amazing roasted in the oven.



Tonight, I felt like pasta, and brussel sprouts.  And sausage.

I’ve made a pretty common Italian dish with orecchiette, sausage and broccoli rabe that you can find in lots of great Italian restaurants in my area of Long Island.  I like broccoli rabe but it is very bitter and my husband isn’t the biggest fan.  So tonight, I subbed brussel sprouts for the broccoli rabe and rigatoni for the orecchiette.  It was so awesome and done in 30 minutes.  My kind of meal.

Sub any kind of pasta you like for the rigatoni.  (orecchiette, penne, etc)

Sub any kind of hearty green veg for the brussel sprouts.  (broccoli, broccoli rabe, etc)

Sub chicken sausage for the pork sausage if you’re trying to be more healthy.



Rigatoni with Sausage and Brussel Sprouts

1/2 pound of rigatoni

1 bag or 1 stalk of Brussel Sprouts (about 1 lb)

1/2 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 pound italian sausage

1 cup white wine

1 cup vegetable or chicken broth

salt and pepper

red pepper flakes (optional)

1 tbs olive oil

shredded or grated parm cheese


1. Cook pasta according to directions

2. Crumble sausage and sauté in olive oil until browned (2-3 mins)

3. Add brussel sprouts, salt and pepper and brown (2-3 mins)

4. Add onion and garlic and sauté another 2 mins

5. Add white wine and chicken broth and simmer for 3-4 mins

6. Add red pepper flakes and combine with pasta

7. Top with shredded parm cheese and enjoy!


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Pumpkin Everything

It’s Fall, it’s cool out, and pumpkin is everywhere.  I used to love the arrival of the pumpkin spiced latte and pumpkin muffins, but now I think we’ve gone a little overboard.  Trader Joe’s is pumpkin central right now with everything from the standard canned pumpkin for pies to pumpkin flavored pop tarts.

I make Pumpkin Spiced Lattes at home, and it’s actually pretty simple without all of the chemicals in the Starbucks variety.  I keep a small container of pumpkin pie spice by my coffee maker (I actually have a Nespresso and it has changed my life) – and you can buy it pre-blended in the spice aisle of the supermarket, or make your own from :

4 tbs ground cinnamon

4 tsp ground nutmeg

4 tsp ground ginger

3 tsp ground allspice


Add this to your coffee along with your usual milk and sugar routine and it satisfies the PSL without the huge amount of calories and the chemicals.


Also, I’ve been looking for a way to add pumpkin to a recipe in a savory dish and found this from Skinnytaste (I know I’ve been posting a lot of her recipes but they’re just so good).  It’s a cheesy baked pumpkin pasta and it was absolutely perfect.  I subbed regular pasta for the whole wheat variety, parm for the pecorino and sage for the rosemary.  It’s quick and easy, cheesy and comforting.




So go ahead and overdose on pumpkin, but try to add these lower-calorie and natural options.  Enjoy Fall!

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

Now that Autumn is officially here, cooler weather and all, I am loving the Fall-inspired recipes I’m finding on Pinterest and Facebook.  I found a great recipe from local Oceanside, NY mom Gina Homolka on her website Skinnytaste for a Chicken Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash.  Easy, low in fat but high in flavor, and full of all of the Fall awesomeness I was looking for.



I am not a mushroom fan, so I omitted those, and swapped the farro for couscous because it’s what I had in my cupboard.  I also topped it with parmesan cheese :)



Super delicious, give it a try!

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Cider Pork Chops

Thanks to my friend Callan who runs this fabulous Facebook group Weekly Menu Recipe Swap, I found this incredible Apple Cider Dijon Pork Chop recipe with a side of roasted sweet potatoes and apples.  The whole thing took 20 minutes and the results were lick-the-plate awesome.  I added couscous but we really didn’t need it, the sweet potatoes are filling enough.  It’s the perfect Fall recipe and was soul-satisfying.  Here’s the link to the recipe and a pic of my delicious results.  Hope you enjoy!!

Also, join Callan’s Facebook group to post your favorite easy recipes and see some great ones others are posting!




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Mac and Cheese

My mom’s macaroni and cheese is one of my all-time favorite foods and reminds me so much of my childhood.  When I went away to college, this was one of the recipes I begged my mom to give me, and when she did, she omitted a key ingredient, the Coleman’s dry mustard.  I only realized she ‘forgot’ to tell me about it when I saw her making it the summer after my Freshman year when I was at home.  No wonder it didn’t taste like hers.  Coincidence? Or was she ensuring I would always come home for her cooking?  I have the recipe now, and I make it for my own family, but something about the way she makes it will always make mine feel inadequate.  Must be all the love in it or something :)  Here’s the recipe, with the dry mustard, which can be found in a regular grocery store in the spice aisle.  Don’t forget it!
1/2 stick butter
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 lb macaroni
4 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 lb shredded cheese (I use monterey jack and cheddar but you can use pretty much any cheese on earth.)
salt and pepper
Coleman’s dry mustard
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Boil macaroni 1 minute less than on package and drain
3. saute garlic and onion in butter and olive oil, salt and pepper
4. add dry mustard and flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute
5. add milk and whisk until it’s no longer lumpy.  cook on medium, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken.
6. add 1/2 of the shredded cheese and mix until melted
7. mix in cooked macaroni, put in a pan, cover with the rest of the cheese and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
You can also put the unbaked mac and cheese in the fridge a day or even 2 ahead, then pop it in a 350 oven for 45 minutes.


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Ropa Vieja

Tried traditional Ropa Vieja at a Cuban restaurant a few weeks ago and fell in love. Shredded flank steak in a delicious tomato-based sauce, served over white rice. I found this slow cooker version while looking through dinner ideas on Pinterest (I have found countless recipes on Pinterest, it’s a great resource for recipes). You can get the recipe here :


I cooked it for 8 hours on low and it was really done at about 7.  I shredded it and kept it on the ‘warm’ setting until we were ready to eat, and served it over plain white rice and a side of roasted broccoli.

For the roasted broccoli, which is the only way we eat it now, follow this very simple recipe:

Cut broccoli into bite-sized pieces, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, put on a sheet pan in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes. If you like it darker and more tender, cook another 5 minutes. We like it with a little bite to it.



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The School Lunch

School starts in 2 weeks for my little Pre-K kid and it will be the first time I will have to pack her a lunch and not just a small snack. To say Sofia is picky is a gross understatement. She lives on Cheerios and apple slices. She seems to be gaining weight and her doctor is not concerned (she’s ‘following her own line’ on the growth chart), so I just keep offering her different foods in the hopes that something will stick.

One of the things Sofia will consistently eat is peanut butter. We stick it in milkshakes, make sandwiches, spread it on apple slices or let her dip pretzels in it. It’s her only source of protein aside from her morning glass of milk and the occasional cheese on a slice of pizza. So, when we got the ‘Peanut-Free class’ letter, I nearly had a panic attack. What the hell am I going to feed this kid?

I am not in any way suggesting that my kid’s eating preferences trump another kid’s life-threatening allergies, so please no comments on how insensitive I am. I feel absolutely awful that some kids and their families have to worry throughout every day that if a kid forgets and opens a snickers, their child may need an ER visit.  I just cannot imagine. My issue is one of logistics and planning, so very low on the totem pole of real worry.

The idea of packing a Bento Box lunch like this every day induces such guilt-ridden anxiety in me I can’t even entertain the thought.



Who has the time for this? I’m serious. If you stay at home, you’re likely chasing kids around trying to get them to wear something acceptable for school before you shove a piece of toast down their throat, lunches in bookbags and out the door. If you’re a working mom, then you’re probably throwing lunches together while doing your hair while finishing whatever lesson plan/report/meeting agenda that you didn’t have the energy for the night before. Who is this mom who makes Pirate-themed lunch boxes for their kid every morning? What kind of drugs are you on to get the energy to do this? Pass them around, please.

I wrote an (I’m sure annoying) email to my daughter’s teacher about lunches. She had no idea what she was getting herself into giving a paranoid, writing mom her email address. I promise to use it sparingly/I’ve already written her 2 emails and school hasn’t started yet. I was hoping she would have some insight, given the fact that she has probably taught in peanut-free classes for awhile now and seen some creative ideas. Hopefully not the Pirate Bento Box.

She suggested Sunflower Seed Butter. I kept an eye out for it at Trader Joe’s, and lo and behold, an entire display of the stuff right by the produce. These people are smart. Made a sandwich for Sofia for lunch and she ate every bite. Success!! Pass this info along to all your fellow peanut-free moms, it may save their sanity!

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