Stuffed Pumpkin with Alpine Cheese and Bread

This recipe popped up on my Instagram feed and I wanted to share it with you. The stuffed Pumpkin is delicious and will be perfect on your Thanksgiving table next week! The rich, nutty cheese flavor infuses with the sweet pumpkin. The cheese melts into the tender pumpkin and forms a creamy texture. I added a hint of hot pepper for a jolt. The result: a warm, tasty comfort food that will serve as an impressive appetizer for your family and friends.

A stunning centerpiece on your Thanksgiving table, the stuffed pumpkin with Alpine cheese is a delicious blend of nutty richness and seasonal warmth.

Which cheeses are alpine? They are a diverse grouping from mountainous regions of Europe. Varieties include gruyère, emmental, comté, taleggio, swiss and raclette. Alpine has a long history dating back centuries, rooted in the traditional practices of alpine communities where cheese-making served as a crucial means of preserving surplus milk. These cheeses are crafted with attention to detail and benefit from the high-altitude alpine vegetation and flora. This creates their distinctive, robust taste – nuttiness, earthiness, and a touch of sweetness.

Makes 2 stuffed pumpkins

2 sugar pumpkins
½ loaf semolina bread (or preferred bread)
2 cups, cubed alpine cheese
2 tablespoons butter, more for coating pumpkin and baking sheet
1 3/4 cup creme fraiche or substitute with sour cream
1 tablespoon nutmeg
½ tablespoon or more, hot pepper flakes
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

FYI Lisena Garden Center (125 Cross Bay Blvd.) has sweet pumpkins for a sweet price!


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and adjust the oven racks if needed. With a sharp knife, cut the top of the pumpkin off, as if you were making a jack o’lantern. Then  scoop out the seeds. Save the seeds for toasting. Salt the inside of the pumpkin. Lightly coat the pumpkin and baking sheet with butter. Roast for 25 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, cut the cheese and bread into half inch cubes. In a bowl combine the bread, cheese and spices with the creme fraiche, mix.
  3. Remove the half-baked pumpkins. Keep the oven on. Let the pumpkins cool a little until you can handle them. Stuff the pumpkin and put them back in the oven without tops for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Transfer to a plate and serve hot!

Arverne East Urban Nature Preserve

Fall is the best time to hike, walk, spy migratory birds, and embrace the changing leaf landscape. And we don’t have to make a trip up to Hudson to enjoy all that. NYC Parks offers us diverse natural and urban landscapes with endless exploring and learning opportunities. Would you guess we have over 1,700 parks, playgrounds, and recreation areas throughout the five boroughs? I was impressed to read that number.

Fall foliage at the Arverne East Nature Preserve Rockaway

I’d estimate a few hundred of those green spaces are in Rockaway. It’s fair to say we’ve all noticed the lovely new parks along the boardwalk – the labyrinth, the pickleball court, the adventure course (my favorite), the dog park, the parkway multi-purpose area with a volleyball court, stadium seating, the lawn and what about the new colorfully designed kids playgrounds – all of which are nestled within native gardens, cute seating and picnicking areas.

But there’s a sweet hidden gem a short bike ride away in Edgemere that has slipped through the community collective. Maybe it goes unseen because its perfectly native camouflage meshes seamlessly with the coastline. I’m talking about The Arverne East Nature Preserve. My Insta friend Gordon (a former Park Ranger, oh so cool!) reminded me of the park. We chatted about the lack of press around its opening which happened this past June. I’ve been meaning to “blow it up” in my column so here goes…

The Nature Preserve is an impressive 32 acres of native coastal vegetation with paths for walking and biking. The access points are located off the boardwalk at  Beach 44th and Beach 56th streets. You can also enter via Edgemere Avenue at 44th where there is parking (ADA  compliant). At this entry, you’ll see a modern building constructed of beautiful vertical wood slats (teak?). This will be a Parks Dept. base and a multi-purpose community center for activities, learning, events, and other purposes. I’m excited to see what happens there and how we as a community can utilize this space.

Boarded-pathway-Arverne East Nature Preserve Rockaway

The paths blend harmoniously with the surrounding nature following the organic shapes of the environment. The material varies from synthetic boards to cement. The boards immediately brought me back to childhood memory – a field trip to Sunken Forest on Fire Island. I believe that is my first vivid memory of being immersed in nature. I remember the feeling of the boards under my feet, the multi-layered sounds of the birds, and the scents of the salt and soil. In Arverne East Preserve you will have a similar sensory experience with the unique addition of the urban world around you.

In the preserve, you will see pitch pines, goldenrod, aster, evening primrose, common marine grasses like bluestem, reed, and more. These plants create a canvas of bright yellow, burnt orange, warm browns, and calming green hues. The vegetation is strategically designed to be a green infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff and support storm projection.

Mixed-use-Fall foliage at the Arverne East Nature Preserve Rockaway

Arverne East Nature Preserve was conceived as a part of the net-zero development in Edgemere which we are now calling Arverne East. The complex will be one of the most environmentally conscious developments in the United States, achieving net zero – meaning human-caused greenhouse gasses are balanced by human-caused carbon dioxide removals over a set time frame. Bravo Rockaway!

tagged in nyc parks

Get Weird In The Kitchen With Ghoulish Quesadilla Pumpkins

Ghoulish Quesadilla Pumpkins

If you’re a regular reader of The Tomato, you know by now that I enjoy taking on creative food projects. And Halloween is a fine time to get weird in the kitchen. Last year I made funny little Frankenstein Avocado Toasts (recipe here). This meal is a cute activity for the kiddos and they get the enjoyment of eating their monster creatures for breakfast.

This Halloween weekend I challenge you to create Gooslish Quesadilla Pumpkins! I had a blast with this. Get wild with the Jack-o’-lantern expressions. The more cheese and veggies oozing out of the mouth and nose the better. Use corn for teeth and olives for eyes. Design your plate as a pumpkin patch by garnishing it with fresh greens and herbs. Here’s the recipe and instructions!

Ghoulish Quesadilla Pumpkins
2 quesadillas

4 medium tortillas
½ cup cheddar cheese
About 2 ounces of each Vegetable:
Chopped peppers
Chopped onions
Sliced olives
Greens and herbs for garnish
Hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional:  sour cream or salsa

Shape: Using a knife (a butter knife for the kids is ok), cut a pumpkin face into one side of each tortilla. Shape the outer rim for detailed work or to fashion a stem.

Assemble: On a baking sheet, place a layer of cheese on the opposite side of the tortilla (the one without the face cut into it). Add the veggies, cilantro, and salt/pepper. Place the “face” on top. Add the finishing touches like a few chopped peppers hanging out of the mouth, corn for teeth, olives for eyeballs, etc.

Bake: baste the top face with oil.  Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until the cheese is oozing and the tortilla is golden brown. Plate and adorn with greens for the pumpkin patch effect. Serve warm with a side of sour cream or salsa.

For me, working with food is an exciting challenge that pushes the boundaries of conventional culinary practices. It’s an opportunity to turn ingredients into a vibrant canvas for imaginative expression. The process is inherently fun! It encourages spontaneity and inventiveness, resulting in dishes that are not only visually interesting but also tasty and nutritious. From constructing edible sculptures (ahem, jello) to crafting colorful meals, food play transforms the kitchen into an artist’s studio. This offers me and I hope you, an exciting outlet for creativity that feeds your body and your imagination.

I’d like to share your cute or deranged quesadilla pumpkins on my Instagram feed. Tag me – @theglorifiedtomato.  Let’s see how weird Rockaway can get with this. I’m betting real weird…

Ghoulish Quesadilla Pumpkins4 Ghoulish Quesadilla Pumpkins5 Ghoulish Quesadilla Pumpkins3 Ghoulish Quesadilla Pumpkins2


tagged in halloween, recipe, recipes

Fall Garden Observations and Homemade Echinacea Tea

Homemade Echinacea Tea
Sip echinacea tea on a chilly fall evening, taking a pause to enjoy a quiet moment.

I’ve been puttering around the garden. There’s so much to do, see, smell and enjoy in the fall. I’ve discovered a landscape of mushrooms under the oak hydrangea and other mushroom villages nestled below the brush. They indicate a healthy garden because mushrooms thrive in rich, organic soil. I’m not a mushroom expert but I take pleasure in investigating the funny little things. With the cool autumn season and consistent rain, the fungi appear to be honey fungus or milk cap. Both are cold-weather lovers and northeast natives. The underside characteristic is a smooth striped pattern. The mushrooms are yellow and light orange to brown. Honey fungus and milk cap are safe to eat and sadly not psychedelic. There are of course many poisonous look-alikes. Unless you’re a mushroom aficionado, enjoy wild mushrooms for their beautiful weirdness, not for nutrition.

I’m out front with some friends having lunch the other day and Juan notices two small birds bouncing through the front garden. At a closer look, we caught sight of a beautiful thing. The birds were also lunching, eating milkweed bug larvae off hardened stalks. These moments of nature are why I cherish gardening.

I thought the birds were a type of finch but later that day, I poked around the internet to learn they are more likely kinglets (maybe golden-crown) or North American vireos.

I need to point out that feeding birds is just one example of why you should not clear out your garden in the fall. Leave half of your perennials as is. What looks like a dead plant is in actuality beaming with life, hosting insects and housing seeds for the birds and other vital garden go-ers. The ecosystem of your garden lives year-round, let nature do its thing.

My neighbor Alex passes by as I’m propagating stonecrop. We chat and he asks what my favorite plant is in my garden. This is the most difficult question! He was looking for recommendations for his own space. I suggested the ever-giving echinacea plant with its vibrant pink flowers, long blooming season and hardiness. I should have guessed his next question, “Have you ever made tea with it?” I felt awkward having to tell him, no actually.

So here I am, with plenty of coneflowers still in the garden, I’m finally brewing homemade echinacea tea. What parts can be used for making the tea? All the parts including the roots! Here is a simple recipe!

Homemade Echinacea Tea 1

Homemade Echinacea Tea
Makes 2 cup

Fresh Leaves – Rinse all plant parts thoroughly. Use 1 cup of fresh echinacea leaves, flowers, etc. Chop for a stronger tea, use whole for a milder version. Boil water and steep for 20 min.

Dried Leaves –  Rinse well. Use rope to hang and sun dry outside for two days or dry inside hung in a warm, well ventilated room – about 5 days. Break the plant matter down into crumbles. Use 1⁄2 cup of the dried echinacea in a tea bag or use loose, steep then strain.

Pair with lemon, honey or sage for a multi-layered essence.

Echinacea tea is traditionally associated with medicinal benefits, including supporting the immune system and reducing the duration and severity of common colds. It possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidants. Use this recipe to stay healthy during the approaching cold and flu season.

For more on edible gardens, visit and follow Paula on IG  for more – @theglorifiedtomato.

tagged in garden, recipe