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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Creamy Pumpkin Penne Pasta

  1. Hey, hey, hey, it's Pumpkin Week this week on Good Morning Idaho.  I'm honored to be asked to cook something up for my third year.  I wanted to come up with a savory pumpkin dish that was on the healthy side.  I made this dish with whole grain pasta which is high in protein.  Pumpkin fruit is one of the widely grown vegetables that is incredibly rich in vital antioxidants, and vitamins.  Pumpkin seeds have many health benefits.  You can read all about them here.  This is a very quick and easy recipe for a healthy weeknight meal.  Not to mention delicious!  Tune in to Good Morning Idaho Channel 6 at around 6:40 a.m. tomorrow!

Creamy Pumpkin Penne Pasta

serves 6


  • 1/2 pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

  • 1 pound whole grain penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese or cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
  • freshly grated nutmeg


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.  Spread the pepitas in a pie plate and toast for about 5 minutes.  
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente.  Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the starchy cooking water.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, add the olive oil and melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallots, garlic and thyme and cook over medium heat until the shallots are softened, about 5 minutes.  
  4. Add the pumpkin puree into the pot and cook over medium heat until hot.  Mix in the mascarpone (You could substitute regular cream cheese or ricotta cheese) and the 1/4 cup of grated cheese.  Add the pasta and the reserved cooking water and toss to coat thoroughly and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer the pasta to bowls,  sprinkle the pepitas, parmigiano and chives on top then grate a little fresh nutmeg as well (trust me, use the fresh stuff!) and serve.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I'll be making this delicious soup on Good Morning Idaho tomorrow morning.  I love fall, I love soup and I especially love butternut squash soup.  Butternut squash can be quite a pain to peel and cut but with this recipe there is no peeling necessary.  You can roast the squash with the peel on and then scoop out the flesh to make this soup.  How easy is that?

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

(serves 6-8)


  • 1 medium sized butternut squash
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 medium sized granny smith apple
  • 1/2 of a sweet onion (Walla Walla or Vidalia)
  • 8-10 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 C chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 C water
  • 1/3 C heavy cream
  • goat cheese crumbles and pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Roasting the squash:
  1. Slice the squash in half lengthwise and clean out the seeds.
  2. Melt 1 TBSP of the butter and brush it on the squash.
  3. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast for 60 to 70 minutes at 425 degrees

Making the soup:
  1. Peel and medium dice the apple and the onion.  Finely chop the sage leaves.
  2. Melt the remaining TBSP of butter in a dutch oven or medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the apples, onions and sage. 
  3. Saute for about 8-10 minutes.  Set aside until the squash is done.
  4. When the squash is done, scoop out the flesh and add it to the apples, onions and sage.
  5. Add the broth and water and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook for about 15 minutes.
  6. Add the cream and then blend the soup well with an immersion blender until smooth.  You can use a regular blender as well.  Just be sure to do it in batches and do not blend while it is boiling hot.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve hot and garnish with crumbled goat cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds (optional).


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Easy No-Bake Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

Easy No-Bake Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

I spend almost everyday in the kitchen baking.  Even in the dog days of summer.  Most of you probably try to avoid baking in the summer at all costs!

I love cheesecake.  I love it's versatility... different crusts, flavors and toppings galore.  I prefer the traditional vanilla flavored with lots of fresh strawberries and whipped cream!

I recently found this recipe online for a no-bake cheesecake made with Greek yogurt.  Greek yogurt?  So it's even gotta be healthy right?  ;-)

I tweaked the recipe just the bit.  I made it in a pie form and in standard sized cupcakes.  It is light, creamy and delicious!

Ingredients for crust:

  • 1 C graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 C (1/2 stick) unsalted butter (melted)

Ingredients for cheesecake:

  • 1 1/2 C vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1/3 C sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Ingredients for strawberry topping:

  • 2 C sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp lemon juice


  1. For the crust, mix together the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter.  Press into a 9 inch pie plate or a spring form pan.  Chill in the refrigerator while making the filling.
  2. For the filling, with a stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, yogurt and sweetened condensed milk on medium speed, for about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy.  
  3. Add the vanilla and salt and mix well.  
  4. Pour the filling onto the crust and smooth out the top.  Chill in the refrigerator overnight or for about 12 hours.  
  5. For the strawberry topping, sprinkle the sugar over the sliced strawberries.  Stir well.  Stir in lemon zest and juice.  Let strawberries sit and macerate for about an hour.  Spoon strawberry topping over sliced cheesecake just before serving.  Add a dollop of whipped cream if you like!
Serves 8.  Adapted from a recipe by Jessica Merchant.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Frittata Frenzy!

When I first made a frittata for my family a few years ago, you would have thought that I parted the Red Sea.  My boys were so impressed.  A frittata sounds, looks and tastes kind of fancy but honestly, it is super simple, healthy, and delicious.  What I love most about it is you can put just about anything in it, including whatever crazy random leftovers you have hanging out in the fridge!  Another thing I love is the fact that it is a dish that is totally suitable for breakfast, lunch, brunch dinner or in my house, the ultimate midnight snack!  You can serve it warm or at room temp.

Now, understand that this is a dish that I don't really have an actual "recipe" for because I make it a different way every time.  Sometimes totally on the stove top, sometimes totally in the oven, sometimes a little of both.  Also, each time I make it I put in different veggies, cheese, or occasionally meat.  Recently I saw Chef Mario Batali throw leftover spaghetti in a frittata on The Chew!  Brilliant!

I will share with you my favorite way to make and eat a frittata.  I prefer a Mediterranean medley of flavors.  Italian cheeses, fresh herbs... yum!

Mediterranean Frittata

Serves 6-8   (or 3-4 in the Renn house)


  • One dozen large eggs
  • 3-4 TBSP whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 C diced onion (red or sweet)
  • 1/2 C diced raw mushrooms
  • 3 C fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 C diced sweet grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 C crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 C grated asiago cheese
  • 1/4 C grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh herbs (such as basil or Italian parsley) for garnish. (Optional)


  1. In a large bowl, beat eggs and milk together.  Add salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. In a large non-stick oven-proof skillet over medium heat, melt the butter then add the olive oil.
  3. Add the onion and mushrooms and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
  4. While the onion and mushrooms are cooking, microwave the spinach in a bowl for 2 minutes then drain all liquid out of it by squeezing it in a clean kitchen towel.  Let cool then finely chop and add to onions and mushrooms. Stir well.
  5. Add the grape tomatoes, stir, then add the egg mixture.
  6. Cook, over medium heat, occasionally stirring for about 7 - 10 minutes or until the mixture is just about 3/4 solid, 1/4 liquid.  
  7. Stir in all of the cheeses.
  8. Place the skillet in the oven under the broiler (about 4 inches from flame) for about 3 minutes to finish cooking the eggs.
  9. Let cool slightly then turn the finished frittata onto a large plate and slice into 6-8 servings.
  10. Serve each slice with some fresh herbs and a little additional shredded cheese for garnish.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Foolproof Steak Marinade

Here is a recipe for a foolproof steak marinade.  It will make even inexpensive cuts of meat taste delicious.  I usually use this marinade for top sirloin or petite sirloin steaks.  This recipe makes enough for about four 1/2 pound steaks

Foolproof Steak Marinade


  • 1/3 C soy sauce
  • 1/3 C vegetable oil
  • 1/3 C worcestershire sauce
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • 4-6 cloves of fresh garlic (minced fine)
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped chives or green onions
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper


1. Mix all ingredients together well in a medium bowl with a whisk.  
2.  Pour mixture into a one gallon sized zip top bag.
3.  Score steaks on the diagonal at one inch intervals on both sides.
4.  Put steaks into the bag with the marinade and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 6 hours.
5.  Let the steaks come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before cooking.  
6.  Take the steaks out of the marinade and let the excess drip off.  Pat dry with paper towels then grill, broil or cook on the stovetop in an iron skillet to desired doneness.  Here is a temperature chart to follow:

Meat Temperature Chart
Well done

120° - 125°
130° - 135°
140° - 145°
150° - 155°
160° and above

Never check doneness of any meat by cutting into it.  Doing this will make all of the juices run out and leave you with a dry piece of meat.  Instead, always use a thermometer. The temperature will rise about another 5 degrees after you remove it from the heat source.  Allow meat to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing into it.  This allows time for the juices in the meat to coagulate.  If you really want a rich tasting piece of steak, melt a pat of butter on top while the steak is resting.  That is what all of the restaurants do!  It gives it a carmelized, nutty flavor.  Yum!  


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin Week on Good Morning Idaho!

We had a ton of fun this Halloween morning on Good Morning Idaho.  It's Pumpkin Week and I made Pumpkin Spice Pretzels.  Click here to watch the segment and have a Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Pretzels for Pumpkin Week on Good Morning Idaho

I love cooking with baking with pumpkin!  I have no idea why I don't do it year round.  I always wait until September and then get inspired by all of the pumpkin recipes I see online.  I found a recipe for Pumpkin Praline Pretzels on the blog, Sally's Baking Addiction.  I made a few slight changes when I baked them myself.  They are so very tasty!  Especially right out of the oven.

Pumpkin Spice Pretzels

(Makes 8 pretzels)


Pumpkin Glaze

  • 1/2 C dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 C unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp whole milk 
  • 2 Tbsp pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 C  powdered sugar
Pretzel Dough

  • 1 packet or 2 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
  • 1 ½ C  warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 4 C  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 gallon of water for boiling
  • 2/3 cup baking soda

Pumpkin Spice Topping

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice


 First start by making the glaze.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Next, stir in the brown sugar and the milk.  Bring this to a boil without stirring for about a minute to dissolve the brown sugar.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the pumpkin puree and sifted powdered sugar.  Mix well.  Let this sit until the pretzels are done.  It will thicken up by then.

Put the water and baking soda in a medium pot and bring to a boil.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Next, make the pretzel dough.  Dissolve one packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons of instant yeast in 1 1/2  cups of warm water in a large bowl.  Add the salt and brown sugar.  Start mixing in the flour, one cup at a time.  Once it is thoroughly mixed, turn the dough out on a floured counter or cutting board and knead for about 1o minutes.  After kneading, cut the dough into 8 equal parts with a sharp knife.  Roll each piece of dough into a long snake, about a foot and a half long.  Make a big U shape, twist the ends then fold down into a pretzel shape.  Do this to all of the pieces.  

One by one, dip the pretzels with a large spider strainer or large spatula into the boiling water with baking soda for 30 seconds.  Remove and let drip over the pot.  Place onto a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed well with non-stick spray.  I baked four at a time.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.

While pretzels are baking, make the pumpkin spice topping.  Melt the butter in one small bowl. Mix the sugar and pumpkin pie spice well in another small bowl.  

When the pretzels have baked for 10 minutes, take them out, brush them with the melted butter and sprinkle on the sugar/spice mixture.  Put them back into the oven for five more minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.  

Once the pretzels have cooled for about 10 minutes, drizzle them with the pumpkin glaze and enjoy!