There’s perhaps nothing more iconic in New Jersey during the month of October than corn mazes, hay rides and especially pumpkins. Heading out to a farm with the family to pick pumpkins or enjoy a hay ride is a great fall tradition that shouldn’t be missed; for a list of pumpkin farms in your area, visit www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org. Since October is one of my favorite months of the year, I thought I’d share some fun facts about pumpkins and Halloween:

  • Pumpkin seeds should be planted the last week of May to the middle of June to allow them 90-120 days to grow.
  • The original birthplace of Halloween Jack-o’-lanterns is believed to be Ireland, where people would place candles in hollowed-out turnips to ward off ghosts and spirits.
  • Though many people only buy pumpkins to make Jack-o’-lanterns, pumpkins are actually among the most nutritious of all produce, supplying more beta carotene per serving than any other fruit or vegetable.
  • Besides the color orange, pumpkins come in white, blue and green varieties.
  • Despite public consensus, pumpkins aren’t vegetables — they’re actually fruits.
  • The largest pumpkin grown in the U.S. in 2018 weighed in at 2528 pounds, grown by Steve Geddes in New Hampshire.
  • Pumpkins usually always have one flat side, which is where they lay while growing.
  • Carving a pumpkin out from the bottom instead of the top usually makes for a better looking Jack-o’-lantern.
  • Always use a flashlight or another light source in the pumpkin instead of a candle for safety’s sake



When picking any kind of pumpkin, select one without bruises or soft spots. It may be greenish in color, but left whole in a cool spot — not refrigerated — it will ripen and turn orange. Always select a pumpkin with a nice green stem (I always say that a pumpkin without a stem is like a Christmas tree without a star on top), but never handle a pumpkin by its stem because it can break off easily.
Some people use Jack-o’-lantern pumpkins for cooking, but these were developed specifically to be oversized and thin-walled, with a huge seed pocket and a relatively small proportion of flesh. By contrast, the smaller sugar pumpkins, or pie pumpkins, will give you more meat for cooking purposes and often a better flavor and texture. Sugar pumpkins make an especially delicious pumpkin soup. For another interesting application, buy an extra sugar pumpkin, clean out the cavity, and use it as a tureen.If you can find it, I suggest using a variety called cheese pumpkins for pies. They’re medium-to-large-sized pumpkins with very flattened shapes, a light tan shell and orange flesh. Found most readily at farm stands and throughout New England, cheese pumpkins make delicious pies, while regular pumpkins — particularly sugar and especially Jack-o’-lantern varieties — sometimes make a stringy filling.
Instead of cutting and hollowing out a pumpkin for your Jack-o’-lantern, here’s a way to decorate pumpkins that’s different and colorful: Leave them intact and create a face using fresh vegetables. My mother used to decorate our pumpkins this way because it preserved the pumpkin, which she could then use in cooking after Halloween was over. Depending on what you use, you can give the pumpkins a wide range of personalities. I’ll never forget how my mother would use a carrot or parsnip to make a long, witchy nose, red peppers for lips, radishes for eyes, and string beans for eyelashes. Then she’d slice potatoes to make ears and make “hair” out of fennel tops. The result was unusual and very striking.My wife, Bette, who’s quite artistic, picked up a lot of kitchen techniques from my mother, and she’s decorated pumpkins for my NBC segments that were really something to see. 

Thought the Americans were the first to carve the orange fruit into freaky figures? Think again. Like most American folklore, this spooky ritual comes from our European ancestors. We’re a country of immigrants, so most of our traditions originate from outside the U.S.—and jack o’ lanterns are no different. The practice dates back to a centuries-old Irish myth about a man named “Stingy Jack.”

According to the legend, Jack was a devious fellow who outsmarted the devil time and time again.  Jack,was the town drunk but had a clever side,and so he met the devil one fateful night. The duo shared a drink and, too cheap to pay for his booze, Jack convinced Satan to morph into a coin that he could use to pay for their beverages. As soon as he did, Jack put the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross. The devil was unable to change back into his original form, and Jack held him that way until Satan agreed not to take his soul. Sneaky!Next, the shifty swindler convinced the devil to climb up a tree to steal a piece of fruit. He quickly carved the sign of the cross into the tree bark. Again, the devil couldn’t come down until he agreed not to bother Jack for another 10 years.Shortly after his meeting with the devil, Jack died. As legend goes, God would not accept Jack into heaven and sent him down to visit the devil in hell. But the devil kept his promise. He wouldn’t let Jack into hell, either, and imprisoned him to an even darker fate. The devil sent Jack into the dark night to roam the world for eternity, with only a coal to light his way. Jack lit the coal, put it in a hollowed-out turnip and has been drifting through the world, scaring children ever since.Townsfolk began to refer to this figure as “Jack of the lantern,” and shortly thereafter “Jack o’ lantern.” People began to carve their own lanterns out of turnips, beets, potatoes and eventually pumpkins in hopes of warding away any ghostly spirits.  


Over time the tradition reached American shores by way of mouth, and immigrants from various countries took their own approach to the ancient tradition. A chiefly American fruit, the pumpkin became our own adaptation of this European tradition, and it’s now a symbol of Halloween. As years went by, the spooky history behind this family tradition has been lost. So now carving pumpkins is synonymous with family and friends instead of spooky spirits.This October, when you reach for a warm glass of cider and a carving knife, remember the spirit of Stingy Jack, and spook your friends and family with this ghostly tale!

Click link below for Halloween Pumpkin Show






  • 2 heads escarole 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped 
  • 2 cans Cannellini beans 
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red crushed pepper   
  • Salt & pepper to taste 


Cut bottom core off escarole and rinse leaves well.  In a large pot, put in escarole leaves and add 4 cups of water; steam until leaves are tender.  Drain in colander and set aside. Place olive oil and garlic in the same pot and sauté garlic until golden brown. Add escarole and the remaining ingredients into the pot and stir. Heat thoroughly  





1 egg yolk

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 anchovy fillets, mashed

 1 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large head romaine lettuce, cleaned and cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces

Freshly grated Parmesan

2 cups croutons


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, garlic, Worcestershire, pepper flakes, mustard, and anchovies. Slowly whisk in the oils to emulsify. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  2. Place the lettuce in a large bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan and black pepper. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss well. Sprinkle top with croutons.

Recipe Courtesy of Wolfgang Punk 

Bette's Bartlett Pears with strawberry sauce




 6  Bartlett Pears, peeled but with stem and base left intact

   3/4 cup water

  1 teaspoon lemon juice

  1/2 cup sugar

  Strawberry Sauce

                  Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees

                 Stand the pears in a large casserole, add the water, lemon juice, and sugar.

                 Cover and bake for 45 minutes

                 Remove from oven and set aside.

                When ready to serve, place the pears on a serving platter, pouring the cooking

                    liquid over them.

                Top with strawberry sauce.


2 cups fresh ( or frozen, thawed) strawberries, washed and hulled

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoon cornstarch

1/3 cup brandy  ( optional)

red food coloring ( optional)

Place the strawberries in a medium-sized saucepan, add the water, sugar and lemon

juice, and bring to a boil over moderate heat.  When the strawberries are soft, 

remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Strain through a sieve, then return the mixture to the saucepan. 

Gradually stir in the cornstarch. brandy, and food coloring. 

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.

bette's peach cobbler




1 stick (4 ounces) butter, melted

· 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

· 1 cup all-purpose flour

· 2 teaspoons baking powder

· 1/4 teaspoon salt

· 1 cup milk

· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

· 3 to 4 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, thinly sliced

· 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375°.


Pour melted butter into a 2-quart baking dish (11x7 or 8-inch square). In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir to blend. Stir in the milk and vanilla until blended. Pour the batter over the melted butter. Toss the peaches with the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Arrange the peach slices over the batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. The top will be browned and the cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Serve warm with a little heavy cream, whipped topping, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Serves 6.



Pineapple Upside Down Cake



1/4 cup butter or margarine 

1 cup packed brown sugar 

1 can (20 oz) pineapple slices in juice, drained, juice reserved ( or fresh pineapple)

1 jar (6 oz) maraschino cherries without stems, drained 

1 box yellow cake mix 

Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). In 13x9-inch pan, melt butter in oven.

 Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter. Arrange pineapple slices on brown sugar. Place cherry in center of each pineapple slice, and arrange remaining cherries around slices; press gently into brown sugar. 

Add enough water to reserved pineapple juice to measure 1 cup. Make cake batter as directed on box, substituting pineapple juice mixture for the water. Pour batter over pineapple and cherries.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately run knife around side of pan to loosen cake. Place heatproof serving plate upside down onto pan; turn plate and pan over. Leave pan over cake 5 minutes so brown sugar topping can drizzle over cake; remove pan. Cool 30 minutes


 This rosemary Asian pear crisp is a fun twist to the normal fruit crisp. Packed full of sweet ripe Asian pears, golden raisins, minced rosemary and finished with a super crunchy oat topping. Perfect when served plain, sprinkled with powdered sugar or a big scoop of ice cream.




  • 3 Asian pears, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Pinch kosher salt


 1/3 cup brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats


 For topping: In a medium sized bowl add brown sugar, flour, unsalted butter, baking powder, apple pie spice and kosher salt. Mix until crumbly and stir in rolled oats.  For pear crisp:   Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray 8x8 pan with non-stick spray.In a large bowl combine all ingredients together and stir to evenly coat. Add pears to the prepared dish and top with prepared topping.Bake for about 40 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the pears are soft.
Posted by NUTMEGNANNY   



INGREDIENTS         Serves 10

 4  large ripe persimmons 

 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 

 1 3/4 cups sugar

 1/2 cup butter,room temperature

3 extra large eggs 

2  teaspoons vanilla extract 

2 cups all-purpose flour 

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

3/4 cup dried currant 

confectioners' sugar 


Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.

Butter and flour Bundt pan.

Peel persimmons.

Press pulp through coarse sieve into medium bowl. 

Measure 1 1/3 cups persimmon puree into small bowl. 

Mix baking soda into puree and set aside.

Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until blended (mixture will be grainy).

Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Mix in vanilla

Sift flour, cinnamon, salt, allspice and cloves into butter mixture; blend well using rubber spatula.

Mix in persimmon mixture, walnuts and currants. 

Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester comes out clean, about 55 minutes.

Cook cake in pan on rack 5 minutes. 

Turn out cake onto rack; cool completely.

Sift confectioners’ sugar over cake 

Recipe by Evelyn/Athens

My Persimmon Story

If you're lucky enough to have a persimmon tree, you're guaranteed to have plenty of gorgeous persimmons come autumn. Or, if you have a neighbor with one, you're bound to find a bag of persimmons on your doorstep one fall day. The prolific trees are especially striking when the leaves drop and the traffic-stopping bright-orange orbs are still clinging to the bare, gnarled branches, silhouetted against a clear autumn sky.

Even if you don't have a tree, or a neighboring one that you can benefit from, you might have seen persimmons at the market. Most likely they were Hachiya persimmons, the most common, elongated-shape variety. It's the one I recommend for this cake. They must be squishy soft before they can be used. If you buy them rock-hard, leave them at room temperature until they feel like water balloons ready to burst. When ready, yank off the stem, slice each persimmon in half, then scoop out the jellylike pulp and purée it in a blender or food processor.



 Pop's Tomato Sandwich - 1 Serving

2 - slices Italian semolina bread

1 medium-sized to large New Jersey Tomato sliced

2 or 3 thin slices sweet onion

olive oil

 balsamic vinegar 

dried oregano 

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

For this sandwich, you need the best semolina bread, perfectly ripe new jersey tomatoes, and the best olive oil. ( We always had olive oil and vinegar in the truck). If we were near a delicatessen or general store, sometimes my father would buy a little jar of mayonnaise and use that too. If you're using mayonnaise , spread a thin layer on both slices of bread. Then cover one piece with a thick layer of tomato slices, then thinlysliced onions. Sprinkle some hot pepper on top( as i got older i cut out the hot pepper)Dress with olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Top with second slice of bread.


Simple Pleasures

We have all kinds of upscale restaurants, and there is a lot of interest in complicated cuisines, but sometimes it's the really simple things that give you the most pleasure. When I was a kid, I had to help my father sell produce out of the back of his truck. At lunchtime he'd stop at some little store and buy a loaf of Italian bread. Then we'd find a place where we could pull off to the side of the road. He'd put down a piece of cardboard for a cutting board, slice the bread, cut up a tomato and an onion, and make tomato sandwiches. Sometimes when I come home from work and I'm too bushed to prepare or even eat a full meal, I'll make myself a tomato sandwich. Food brings back memories. You can sit down with the most ordinary things on your mind and eat something good and it will bring back memories - things you haven't thought about in years. Even memories that might not start out being so good seem to improve as time goes by. At the time I hated peddling fruits and vegetables out of that truck with Pop, but now I wish I had the time to pull off to the side of the road they way we did then. We don't have the luxury of slowing down - everything is geared to working and being productive. Produce, produce, produce! Wouldn't I love to be able to take my son and go sit by the side of the road and have a tomato sandwich? With the perfect ripe red tomato and good bread, there's nothing better. 





1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted


3 eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

3 cups sour cream

1 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half

Preheat the oven to 375*F

In a bowl, mix together all the crust ingredients, then press mixture on the bottom and sides of an 8 or 9-inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, salt, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract until smooth. Blend in the sour cream. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and bake for 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Top with cherries, then chill for 3 hours, and ENJOY





  • 1 (15 ounce) package pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 cups sliced white and yellow NJ peaches
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter


  • Prep   30 minutes Cook  45 minutes  

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate with one of the pie crusts. Brush with some of the beaten egg to keep the dough from becoming soggy later.
  3. Place the sliced peaches in a large bowl, and sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix gently. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour over the peaches, and mix gently. Pour into the pie crust, and dot with butter. Cover with the other pie crust, and fold the edges under. Flute the edges to seal or press the edges with the tines of a fork dipped in egg. Brush the remaining egg over the top crust. Cut several slits in the top crust to vent steam.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is brown and the juice begins to bubble through the vents. If the edges brown to fast, cover them with strips of aluminum foil about halfway through baking. Cool before serving. This tastes better warm than hot.