Every morning I take roll call to make sure all of my backyard birds survived, especially when harsh weather strikes. Mr. and Mrs. cardinal, 2 bluebird couples, pine warblers and 2 yellow rumped warblers, sparrow clan, chickadee and titmice pack that ...

5 Ways To Help Wildlife Survive Winter


Male cardinal in sasanqua bush


Every morning I take roll call to make sure all of my backyard birds survived, especially when harsh weather strikes. Mr. and Mrs. cardinal, 2 bluebird couples, pine warblers and 2 yellow rumped warblers, sparrow clan, chickadee and titmice pack that always travel together. 


Female cardinal in flight off feeder in snow


And the list goes on...


Bluejay in snow on the ground


I worry for my babies when the wind howls and the temperatures plummet. Piling on layers of clothing and trekking like an eskimo through slippery ice patches and snow drifts two times a day (in sickness and in health) isn't always fun. But the inhabitants of my wildlife sanctuary are stuck 24/7 in wind chills and inclement weather with dwindling food selections so my few minutes of teeth chattering chills pales in comparison.


And yes, you may have an uninvited guest but all wildlife is welcome, particularly during the hardships of winter when harvesting their natural food sources becomes impossible.


Squirrel eating cylinder seed block in bird bath


Here are 5 things you can do to empower backyard birds and other wildlife to survive another day.

1.  Wildlife needs fatty high energy foods to get through winter. Suet, bark butter, sunflower seeds and nuts help them survive cold temperatures. Fruit, such as apples, oranges, and berries provide energy and water, in case your bird bath is frozen. I like to make my own combination of suet, chopped nuts, dried fruit, citrus and seeds. Sprinkle this delicacy on the snow covered ground under bushes and sheds or around trees so they can eat and be protected from weather and predators. By distributing food across your yard, it lasts longer and ensures that everybody gets some.


Suet seed and nut mixture for wild birds


2.  Wildlife cannot survive without fresh drinking water. They do eat snow as they feed but it's not the same. Heated bird baths are available if you're able to go that route but here's a more realistic approach. Supplying water is challenging, especially if the hose is frozen too. I keep small bowls of water on my deck rail year round for smaller birds that feel safe higher up. Nothing is easy in the snow but I shovel a trail from my patio door to the rail and deliver pitchers of water, multiple times a day, if necessary. It will stay unfrozen temporarily at around 20 degrees and above. I also hike larger jugs out into the yard if frigid temps stretch past a few days. Surprisingly, the sun will defrost the waters, even in the cold. Birds are smart and know to drink from the edges of bath bowls. Woodpeckers and squirrels can actually chisel the ice. Once you witness a tiny titmouse try to peck its way through ice for a drink, that will drag you out into the elements to help.


3.  For birds, surviving winter is about cover and clustering together. You'll see titmice and chickadees hang out. Blackbirds and bluejays will forget they are foes. Sparrows sleep in groups and robins nuzzle together for warmth. One creative way to nourish and protect wildlife, is to put your Christmas tree out in the yard. Tuck it into a corner by a shed or other bushes. Melt peanutbutter, pour over the tree, and throw on birdseed, raisins, and chopped nuts. Entertaining for you and energy for wildlife! Much better than trashing a healthy tree.


Christmas tree for birds


4.  Try to offer multiple feeders in a variety of sizes with different foods. Woodpeckers love suet and bark butter. Cardinals enjoy sunflower and safflower seeds. Robins prefer fruit and sometimes nuts. Thistle seed is a favorite for goldfinches. Place smaller feeders separately from those that are frequented by large birds so it's easier for all birds to dine.


Titmouse on peanut feeder

Multiple birds eating at feeders in snow


Don't forget ground feeders like doves and sparrows...


Doves feeding on ground in the snow


All my birds love bark butter, otherwise known as bird crack! Check out these adorable and very trusting pine warblers.


Pine warbler taking bite of bark butter from log

Pine warbler with bite of bark butter


5.  If you are a consistent chef, birds are dedicated diners at your feeders. Wildlife needs to eat everyday - rain, shine, heat or freeze, through work and vacation time. You wouldn't be happy if your favorite restaurant served food occasionally or every few days. It's cruel to start feeding birds and stop or leave empty bird feeders hanging. Wildlife is very loyal to their dining spots so please be consistent with supplying food and water.


Squirell tunneling for seed in the snow

Squirrel sitting up in tunnel of snow

Squirrel eating sunflower seed in snow


And here's the biggest mouth and appetite of all. A cute but hardy little menace :) Sunflower seeds are their favorites but they won't turn away peanuts or dried fruit and in desperation, they will suffer through the bitter flavor of safflower seeds. Of course the resident squirels in my yard never experience such states of hunger!





How To Use Cuban Oregano With Pork Tenderloin And In A Cocktail


Spicy Sweet And Green Nectarine 1 copy

Ever thought of adding fresh oregano to your cocktails? How about tossing a tablespoon of the fragrant leaves in an omelet? Oregano is a powerfully pungent herb but used in moderate quantities it lends a unique aromatic combination of earthy, floral, and spicy tones to both cocktails and savory dishes.


Most of the dried you buy in the store is a combination of Italian oreganos so you probably won't duplicate that mixture exactly but you can create delicious blends from your own dried herbs.


To dry fresh oregano trim the plant in the morning (this is when the leaves are the most fragrant) Wash well, drain. Then wrap them in a towel to remove most of the moisture. Transfer to drying racks for a couple of days.


Then, cover them loosely with tissue paper to keep dust off for the next two to three weeks, while they completely dry. When they crumble between your fingers, they're ready to be stored in glass jars or sealed in paper bags with holes punched in them. Keep in a cool dark place, if possible and try to use within one year.


Keep in mind that dried herbs produce a more intense flavor, so reduce the amount that you would use fresh by 1/2 or even 3/4 in some recipes.


There are at least three to four dozen species of this perennial. Here, I'm going to chat about Cuban Oregano. Mexican, Italian and hot and spicy are also growing in my own little farmer's market.


Cuban Oregano


Cuban oregano


As soon as your fingers stroke the thick fuzzy leaves, the aromatic oils waft through the air. At first touch, its succulent suede textured leaves cause you to think it's ornamental, rather than edible. But do not hesitate to dress up an omelette, sausage, or pork tenderloin with this floral, earthy herb. Some describe it as having an intense lemon lime taste. It pairs deliciously with other strong herbs such as, sage, rosemary, bay, and marjoram.


It's a member of the mint family, which is interesting, considering it doesn't smell like your typical mint. Cuban oregano originated in Southern and Eastern Africa and Southeast Asia. Like most herbs, it does not survive the cold. So once temperatures stay below 50 to 55 degrees, plan to trim it completely back for oils and vinegars, or to use as a dried spice. You can also keep it in a flower pot inside by a sunny window until spring.


This bold culinary character also has a property in it that helps neutralize spice or capsicum.


You may not have thought of oregano as a cocktail ingredient but it pairs perfectly with stone fruits, like nectarines. Here's a cocktail for you to enjoy while you're cooking the delicious pork tenderloin recipe below:


Spicy Sweet And Green Nectarine 3


Spicy Sweet And Green Cocktail


Printable Recipe


Servings - 1


1 nectarine (1/2 to muddle and 1/2 sliced in 1/4 inch wedges)

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

5 fresh Cuban oregano leaves plus a fresh stem of leaves for garnish

2 ounces mango rum

2 ounces original spiced rum

2 to 3 tablespoons of brown sugar in a paper or glass plate to rim top of glass

splash of club soda




Place half of nectarine, brown sugar and oregano leaves in a martini shaker. Muddle, to extract as much juice as possible.  Add both rums. Shake. Take one nectarine wedge and slide along rim of 12 ounce glass. Rotate rim of glass in brown sugar to coat. Add ice and nectarine wedges to the glass. Pour liquid over ice and top with club soda. Garnish with fresh oregano.


Is your first thought for using oregano to toss it in spaghetti or sprinkle on pizza? Here's a scrumptious new take on how to use Cuban oregano:




Brandy Plum Pork Tenderloin Buttermilk Corncake 22


This Brandy Plum Pork Tenderloin is sweet, tender and full of flavor from the brandy and plum sauce. Pair fresh sage, Cuban oregano, caramelized onions, my secret ingredient added at the end, and then pile it all onto an individual corn cake, and you have an amazing palate pleaser!



Brandy Plum Pork Tenderloin 24


Brandy Plum Pork Tenderloin Served On Buttermilk Corn Cakes


Printable Recipe


Prep Time - 45 minutes to 1 hour

Cook Time - approximately 1 1/2 hours

Total Time - 1 1/4 - 2 1/2 hours

Servings - 6 (if each person eats 2)


Ingredients For Pork


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup onion

1 cup bell pepper

1 teaspoon fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 pound pork tenderloin cut in 1/2" slices

2 ounces brandy

1/2 cup plum sauce (a Chinese style cooking and dipping sauce found in Asian grocery store or in Oriental section of regular market)

2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 teaspoons fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/2 tablespoon dark pomegranate balsamic vinegar


Ingredients For Buttermilk Corn Cakes


2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup self rising corn meal mix

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon table salt

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

6 ounces of Greek vanilla yogurt (I used Chobani)

2 tablespoons sour cream

1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken

1 to 2 tablespoons of butter and canola oil for frying cakes


Directions For Pork Tenderloin


You need to scroll down and make the corn cakes before the pork OR you can make them 1 or 2 days before, rather than doing it all in the same night.


Salt and pepper each side of the pork slices.

Heat oil in a deep 12 inch skillet or stir fry pan. Add onions and peppers and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add ginger and sesame oil. Cook for another 6 or 7 minutes, until they are soft.

When you add the ginger, shove the peppers and onions to one side of the pan and place the pork slices into the skillet in a single layer. Cook 3 to 4 minutes per side. Stir meat and vegetables together.

Pour in brandy and allow to evaporate for 2 or 3 minutes. Add plum sauce and herbs. Allow sauce to just heat through and herbs to blend with everything. Then right before removing from heat, pour in balsamic vinegar.


Directions For Corn Cakes


This may seem a bit long and complicated for a corn muffin recipe but they're the most moist, tender, and flavorful ones I've ever tasted! You can transform your own corn muffin into a corn cake if you prefer.


Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to combine; set aside.

Whisk eggs in second medium bowl until well combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar to eggs; whisk vigorously until thick and homogeneous, about 30 seconds; add melted butter in 3 additions, whisking to combine after each.

Blend yogurt and sour cream together. Add half of that to the egg mixture, along with half of the milk. Whisk to combine. Whisk in remaining sour cream and milk until blended. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix gently with rubber spatula until batter is just combined and evenly moistened. Do not over mix.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon each, of butter and oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add additional grease to pan as necessary.

Using a medium ice cream scoop or spoon, pour batter into pan to make approximately 2 inch cakes. They don't have to be perfect. Just make them about the same size as the pork slices or slightly larger. Cook until fluffy and golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

This recipe makes approximately 48 corn cakes or 24 regular muffins. You need about 12 for this meal. You can do half muffins and half cakes. Leftovers corn cakes do make scrumptious pancakes with melted butter and warm maple syrup! You can also freeze either one in freezer Ziploc bags for 1 to 2 months.


Whether you dress up breakfast, lunch, dinner, or cocktail hour with Cuban oregano, I hope this article has given you ideas to try, and the inspiration to experiment in your own kitchen with the fresh flavor of herbs.


Check out the oregano video on my, Quick Tip Herb

Gardening Video board on Pinterest



Strawberry Moonshine French Toast Topped With Pistachio Lime Cream

Strawberry moonshine french toast with pistachio lime cream 4

Enjoying summer strawberries happens in stages for me. Since I live in the largest strawberry producing city in Virginia and go through close to a bushel each season, I consider myself an expert in this tasty subject :)


Stage one of my bright summer berry journey launches with the first of the season, the most scrumptious, best ever Pungo Chandler berry. Small to medium, vivid ruby red with a juicy sheen.


One of those close your eyes and appreciate every succulent moment, knowing it will end but trying not to think about it. A brief pleasure that I long for and anxiously await each April/May.


Next, are the rest of the local crop, always far superior to grocery stores and still supporting farms and knowing where your produce comes from.

Strawberries closeup in midnight moonshine

The final stage is mid summer, when I must say farewell to another strawberry season and try to adjust to 10 months of grocery store berries.

Strawberry moonshine french toast with pistachio lime cream 1

So, what to do with a bounty of perishable berries? Again with the stages, the first 10 to 15 strawberries are greedily devoured over the counter, as I transfer them into open containers for the frig. My daily recipe menu for these precious gems is very basic. Yogurt, cereal, bowl of mixed fruits. To quench my fancy side, there's 

Cinnamon Basil And Cognac Strawberry Shortcake On A Vanilla Waffle 


Citrus Pineapple Sage And Tequila Pork Burgers With Strawberry Basil Slaw


Vanilla Ginger Cookie Cheesecake With Honey Bourbon Strawberries

Email me at jennifer@thequeensempire.com for the above recipes.


For this brunch, the most important thing was letting the fruit shine without a lot of additions. Nothing to cover up the flavor, only a little strawberry moonshine enhancement.

Strawberry moonshine french toast with pistachio lime cream 2

Then there's the bed for that luscious topping. Bread for French toast makes a difference. It's an important part of the package. I'm a big fan of Pepperidge Farm flavored breads. They're small enough to stuff or to just layer 2 or 3 slices with fresh fruit! To continue the summery theme I'm using their limited edition strawberry. A hint of fruit flavor, soft and dense enough to soak up the rich custard.

Strawberry moonshine french toast with pistachio lime cream 5

French toast is not just a throw together brunch for me but a premeditated indulgence of seasonal fruit, interesting textures and a fantastic way to explore what's in my liqueur cabinet. Some Tequila Rose Strawberry Cream liqueur found its way into the cream:) You see what's happening...we're building layer after layer of the same flavor in different forms.

Strawberry moonshine french toast with pistachio lime cream 3

Not that I don't love my maple syrup but this delicacy deserved a unique topper. Introducing...pistachio cream, featuring two of my favorite flavors, mascarpone cheese and crunchy pistachios. Where has this nut been all my life? For years I wouldn't eat them because every pistachio dessert I tried featured a heavy dose of almond flavoring, which I don't like. So I associated that taste with pistachios. Boy was I wrong! Now, I add those roasted crunchy little nuggets to savory dishes, vanilla ice cream, salads, and even a spoonful of Nutella topped with a few nuts for a snack!

Strawberry moonshine french toast with pistachio lime cream 6

Moral of this brunch saga is, try this strawberry French toast. It will definitely wake up your palate and maybe turn you into a morning person ;) Welll, that might be stretching it a bit, but give it a whirl and please share your favorite seasonal French Toast in the comments!

Strawberry moonshine french toast with pistachio lime cream eating

Strawberry French Toast Topped With Pistachio Lime Cream


Printable Recipe


Prep Time – 30 to 40 minutes

Cook Time – about 12 minutes

Total – 42 to 52 minutes

Servings - 3


Ingredients For Fresh Strawberry Topping


3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

3 tablespoons strawberry moonshine (I used Midnight Moon)

2 tablespoons sugar


Ingredients For Pistachio Lime Cream


8 ounces mascarpone cream, softened

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 teaspoons lime zest

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1/2 cup pistachios, ground to paste plus some whole nuts for garnishing


Ingredients For Cream Custard


2 eggs

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup Tequila Rose strawberry cream liqueur

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon of butter

6 slices Pepperidge Farm strawberry bread (leave on the counter to dry out while you prepare everything)

powdered sugar to sprinkle on top (optional)


Directions For Strawberries


Mix all ingredients in a bowl and allow to marinate while you make everything else.


Directions For Pistachio Lime Cream


Stir first four ingredients together. Then blend in pistachio paste. Set aside.


Directions For Cream Custard


Whisk first five ingredients into a bowl. Heat skillet over medium heat. Add butter. Dunk each slice of bread into the cream, making sure both sides are well coated. Place into the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side, about 5 or six minutes per side.


Top with the strawberries and a delectable dollop of pistachio lime cream. For a pretty final touch, sprinkle some whole pistachios and powdered sugar on and then block out some time to kick back and enjoy!


Saint Patrick's Day Chocolate Pound Cake Pistachio Trifle

What to do when your Saint Patrick's Day cake doesn't turn out as planned? Trifle it! My delicious dreams of chocolate pound cake strips filled with pistachio cream and topped with a special green buttercream frosting were dashed when my cake was undercooked in the center, just at the top where it cracked. The rest was great.

Saint Patrick's Day Chocolate Pound Cake Pistachio Trifle 5

My grandmother whipped out perfect buttery, rich, vanilla laden pound cakes without a fancy Kitchen Aid mixer for years. I have made her recipe many times with no problems, until recently. I could blame it on the oven but other cakes turn out fine. Once I got a new mixer I thought that would solve the problem. I could be facing worse issues than baking more pound cakes though, so no complaining.

Saint Patrick's Day Chocolate Pound Cake Pistachio Trifle 6

Even with a list of simple ingredients, the perfect pound cake can still be tough to accomplish. Using powdered sugar, like in my grandmother's, produces different results than granulated sugar, which is found in most recipes. The dense structure is not cooperative with much added liquid. Then there's loaf pan versus bundt versus tube pan. Each conducts heat in a distinct way. Conclusion - Practice practice practice.

Saint Patrick's Day Chocolate Pound Cake Pistachio Trifle 7

I believe my grandmother's basic pound cake is the best but I've yet to discover its chocolate equivalant. I do enjoy tweaking and experimenting so this isn't the end of this cake's story. It's full of that signature buttery flavor that pound cake is famous for, along with a deep chocolate melt-in-your-mouth decadence!   You break a slice and the texture is dense and solid, moist, not spongy. Definitely worth pursuing.

Chocolate pound cake

Now for our trifle...

Because this Saint Patrick's Day dessert was for a meeting, I needed a solution that didn't involve making another cake that day. The only time I've developed one of these layered creations was when a cake or cookie vision went sideways. You bake a beautiful cake, the last thing you want to do is chop it into pieces and smother it in cream and pudding :)

Saint Patrick's Day Chocolate Pound Cake Pistachio Trifle 2

Here's a very simple dessert for your Saint Patrick's Day celebrations. And you do not have to risk cake disappointment. Buy a chocolate pound cake or bake one, if you prefer. A box of pistachio pudding, a bag of pistachios, and whipped cream (I did make the cream but you could use cool whip).

Saint Patrick's Day Chocolate Pound Cake Pistachio Trifle 3


The, 'oh my, YUM' ingredient is Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur, an Irish cream, Irish Whiskey, and chocolate based liqueur. Brush each piece of cake with this potion and your trifle becomes worthy of an Irish party! Pistachios haven't gained the popularity of a pecan or walnut in baking but I love them with chocolate and the pudding has bits of nut it it too.

Saint Patrick's Day Chocolate Pound Cake Pistachio Trifle 1

While it was not the oohh lala Irish themed dessert I was striving for, it's a good solid save :) And since you can see the bottom of the bowl with little left, this Saint Patrick's Day dish turned out to be a fantastic ending to a frustrating day in the kitchen. Now you can add it to your fun Irish parties!

Saint Patrick's Day Chocolate Pound Cake Pistachio Trifle 8


What are you CREATING MORE of in your kitchen today? Something tasty for Saint Patrick's Day?

Saint Patrick's Day Chocolate Pound Cake Pistachio Trifle 4


Saint Patrick's Day Chocolate Pound Cake Pistachio Trifle


Printable Recipe


Prep Time - 30 minutes if using store bought cake, pudding, and homemade whipped cream

Cook Time - None

Total - 30 minutes plus 1 to 2 hours of chilling time

Servings - 10 to 12




- 1 3.4 ounce box instant pistachio pudding mix

- 2 cups cold milk (I used 1 1/2 of 1% and 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream)

- homemade whipped cream (recipe below)

- 1/2 loaf of chocolate pound cake (you can use any chocolate cake but pound cake is denser)

- 1 to 2 tablespoons Kerrygold Irish cream liqueur (Bailey's Irish cream or Amaretto is also fine)

- about 1/4 cup roasted pistachios (you can use more on the top or also distribute some inside the trifle)




I used a smaller dessert dish than a traditional trifle bowl. If you're filling the typical deep trifle bowl you'll need to double the above ingredients.

1.  Prepare pudding according to box directions. Set aside.

2.  If using homemade whipped cream, prepare and set aside.

3.  Chop cake into bite size squares (about 1 inch)

4.  Place cake pieces into bottom of bowl, enough to cover it.

5. Gently brush cake with Irish cream. Keep the liquid on the cake as much as possible so you do not change the consistency of the pudding or cream.

6. Spread some pudding over the cake without letting any cake crumbs mix into the pudding.

7.  Next, a layer of cream, being careful not to let any green blend into that layer.

8.  Repeat until all of your ingredients are gone or you reach the top of your serving bowl, ending with whipped cream. (I only had 2 layers of everything with a little bit of cream left.)

Refrigerate any pudding or cream that's leftover. Cake can be stored in a Ziploc bag on the counter for 4 to 5 days or frozen 3 to 4 months.

9.  Garnish the top with pistachios

10.  Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before serving, if possible.


Homemade Whipped Cream



- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons powdered sugar

- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla




1.  If you have time, freeze your mixing bowl for about 15 minutes. The cream comes together a little faster.

2.  Add all ingredients into bowl.

3.  Use either a hand mixer or large stand with whisk attachment and start blending on low to minimize splatter. Then increase to medium until you reach a thick and soft texture. 


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Pumpkin Pasta With Pecan Beer, Country Ham And Peas


As an online chef you juggle pots, pans, camera and computer in order to churn out culinary creations to keep your followers drooling for more.


Pumpkin Pasta With Pecan Beer Country Ham And Peas 1


Fall is such a fabulous time to be in the kitchen. The colors, aromas, and brisk cleansing air breathes new life into your recipes. A time for warm flavors, spicy foods, and fresh starts! I unapologetically add another pumpkin dish into the culinary cybersphere.  To the naysayers of the numerous recipes that incorporate the orange squash I say, tis the season, taste, and go with it. The holidays are brief and breeze by quickly.


Pumpkin Pasta With Pecan Beer Country Ham And Peas 6


Let's talk alcohol. The emerging variety of craft beers is a home chef's paradise! Often a recipe and shopping list begin with the adult beverage and then I develop edibles around that. Pecans are an all year long staple in my kitchen, so I was intrigued by this Abita Pecan Harvest Ale. Smooth nuttiness with a sharp finish to cleanse the palate. Salty ham brought out the floral blossom notes and it made a rich amber sauce similar to the shade of pecan.  A fantastic contrasting affect on this full-bodied fall pasta. 


Pumpkin Pasta With Pecan Beer Country Ham And Peas 4


Creamy sauce coats tender pillows of Panarese, an Italian pasta. It's more meaty and smooth than regular noodles or spaghetti. A pop of green peas, earthy sage, and decorated with snippets of country ham that provides a salty bite to slice through that decadent cream. Each crunch of pecan brings autumn to mind.


Pumpkin Pasta With Pecan Beer Country Ham And Peas 2


Now on to the real star of this culinary show, pumpkin. For this type of dish, I prefer the milder squash flavor of fresh pumpkin rather than canned. Just slice little pie pumpkins in half, scoop out the seeds, and bake skin side up for approximately 30 to 45 minutes or until fork tender. Then scrape the flesh into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Fresh fall squash flavor without the aluminum can taste. But canned is more convenient so use which ever fits into your schedule.


Pumpkin Pasta With Pecan Beer Country Ham And Peas 5


I freeze in 1/2 cup increments in plastic containers to use throughout the year. My African Grey parrot loves it. Make your own pumpkin oatmeal and of course this pasta meal anytime!


Either way, blended together with mascarpone cheese, the result is richness surrounding that substantial bite of pasta. Take to your next fall potluck, holiday party, or enjoy as a comfort food weeknight dinner!


With crazy schedules, it's also an important time to remind you that The Queens Empire encourages home chefs to join the Create More movement, which celebrates creative multi-tasking and helps artisticpreneurs pursue all of the right brain endeavors you desire without boundaries or being forced into a traditional box. 


Pumpkin Pasta With Pecan Beer Country Ham And Peas 3



Pumpkin Pasta With Pecan Beer, Country Ham And Peas


Printable Recipe




Prep Time – 1 hour (if using fresh pumpkin)

Cook Time – 1 hour (if using fresh pumpkin)

Total Time – 2 hours

(subtract 30 to 45 minutes if using canned pumpkin)

Servings – 4 to 6




- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

- 2 teaspoons dried sage

- ½ of small onion, chopped small

- salt and pepper to taste (go light on the salt because the ham is salty)

- 3 slices of Red Eye country ham, divided. Have this sliced thin at the deli, then you cut it into ½ inch slices. Add 2 slices into the sauce pan and hold back 1 to stir into the pasta at the end. (this is less salty than traditional Smithfield ham)

- ½ cup Abita Pecan Harvest Ale (if you cannot find this one, use another fall or pumpkin beer)

- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese

- 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (I recommend the name brand stuff here for the best flavor)

- 1 cup pumpkin puree (freshly roasted has the best flavor but you can use canned)

- ¾ cup frozen peas, unthawed

- 4 cups cooked pasta, which is about half a bag of Pasta Panarese. Cook according to package directions but al dente, as it will finish cooking in the sauce. (I used Pasta Panarese, sold in the specialty Italian section at most grocery stores, but you can use whatever you like) Reserve 1/3 cup of pasta water

- strips of the third ham slice for garnish

- 1/2 to 1 cup of pecan halves for garnish

- 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish




1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

2. Add sage and stir for about 30 seconds to release the fragrant oils. Be careful not to burn it.

3. Toss onions in along with salt and pepper. Cook until tender.

4. Add 2 slices of the ham and cook for just a minute or 2 or it will be chewy.

5. Pour in beer. Raise heat to medium high briefly until alcohol evaporates.

6. Turn heat back down to medium or medium low. Melt in the mascarpone cheese, whisking until smooth.

7. Then blend the pumpkin in, again whisking until incorporated with the cheese.

8. Next stir in the Parmesan until melted.

9. Add peas and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes until tender.

10. Toss pasta in and coat well with the sauce.

11. Pour in pasta water, a little at a time. You may not need all of it. Just enough to loosen the sauce up a bit.

12. Spoon into bowls, top with remaining ham, pecans and cheese. Serve immediately.


Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


If your grocery store doesn’t have Redeye country ham you can use traditional Smithfield ham. It just has a little bit stronger, saltier flavor.


Here are the instructions again for fresh roasted pumpkin that I outlined in the blog post:


Wash and slice little pie pumpkins in half, scoop out the seeds, and bake skin side up for approximately 30 to 45 minutes or until fork tender. Then scrape the flesh into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze in well sealed plastic containers for 6 to 8 months.


What kind of pumpkin dishes are you whipping up in your kitchen this holiday season? Share in the comments below and connect with us on:


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