20 large mushrooms (any mushrooms that looks big enough to hold stuffing after you pop out the stem) –

– 1 tbsp. olive oil

– 1 pkg. beef chorizo sausage (I buy the kind that looks like Kielbasa)

– 1 large sweet potato, cooked

– 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs

– 8 oz. softened cream cheese
chopped flat-leaf parsley

– 1/8 tsp. coarse grain salt
pepper to taste

crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Grease a cookie sheet lined with foil, or a 9×13 pan.

Dust off mushrooms with a pastry brush or paper towel. Pop out and discard the stems.

With a pastry brush, brush the mushrooms with olive oil, placing mushrooms onto cookie sheet or into 9×13 pan.

Squeeze chorizo out of it’s casing into a skillet, and cook over medium heat until done, about 5-7 minutes (“done” meaning malleable, warmed through, needing to be drained of fat).

Use a slotted spoon to remove the chorizo from pan, or strain the chorizo.
In a large bowl, add chorizo, cooked sweet potato, bread crumbs, softened cream cheese, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

Mix well, until all ingredients are incorporated.

Scoop into mushrooms. It’s okay if the filling gets high!

Top with crumbled feta, as much as you like.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes (check after 15 minutes), until you can smell the mushrooms and the feta is melted, beginning to bubble and brown.

Apron Strings by Samantha Gianulis – Delightful appetizer- perfect to share at potluck or serve to your guests.

Presentable in a Pinch

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of the grocery store, scheduled to be somewhere in less than an hour with a side dish, as your needing-a-shower children tugged at you for Pop Rocks?

You grab something and go, hoping luck, imagination and experience will save you.

As the sun began to set last All Hallow’s Eve, I started on these mushrooms after returning home from two soccer games, one football game, and pumpkin hunting (it’s a bad idea, I discovered, to wait until Halloween day to get our carving pumpkin). When the mushrooms were done, I tented them with foil in a pretty white platter I got from my old friend Jen for my wedding, then took on the monumental task of making my tired self look presentable for the orange and black themed evening with our neighbors, friends, and overly excited children.

I had miracles to perform on this night, you know, the usual kind; impromptu costumes and sewing laces back onto princess slippers, never before tried recipes, carving a pumpkin just before sundown.

All I really cared about was the food. That was the most telling determination of what kind of mother I was, and am.

I defend my inability to sew an entire costume because I can sew a button on a garment and use a sewing machine. I don’t mind that my hand-carved pumpkins never look like a painting by Munch or a realistic creature from Greek mythology because I am a traditionalist, and it gets me off the hook when I say our pumpkins are meant to look “old school.”

But the food, the dish I bring is who I am and maybe even something my children take pride in. I must represent.

So, I pulled the food off. In addition to the stuffed mushrooms, I also wrapped some thin, medium-rare filet mignon slices up in store bought crescent rolls, baked them until golden brown, then topped them with a sour cream-dill-horseradish sauce.

My girlfriend hosting the Halloween party and home-base for raucous children didn’t ask anyone to bring anything, but, I just couldn’t go along with that. I, by nature, had to make the evening more difficult for myself. Half to blame is my mother’s philosophy of “Never go to someone’s house empty-handed” and the remaining culpability belongs to my “Cook until you reinvent yourself a thousand times” approach to being social. I am well aware of my quirks and worries, but at the root of it all – any holiday, party of festivity – is to enjoy oneself, to remember it with fondness, so I cook. I don’t have to, and I do have to.

And maybe I want my kids to know they can count on me to make something with an awesome-factor in a pinch. It feels like our entire life is “in a pinch”, but I seem to operate this way, and I am still standing. Leaning to one side, maybe, but standing.

The truth is, these mushrooms were not planned out. They were successful, savory, and sublimely sweet and meaty, but spontaneous. In a pinch. So many things, in a pinch.

I got to the grocery store at 4:30 p.m. that Halloween day, which was only crazier because it was a Saturday. By this time, I had been to four places to get pumpkins. I looked exactly like someone who had schlepped kids to games in 83 degree weather all day; hair flying out of it’s clip in all directions, absent of lip color, shiny face with beads of sweat on my cheeks. But I had a purpose, this was apparent. I hope it was apparent.

“I guess you guys are out of pumpkins, too?” I asked the grocery store employee working produce, trying not to sound like Wendy Whiner from SNL years ago. “I got one left, it has some abrasions, so I’ll just give it to you free,” he said. He went behind the swingy produce doors, and returned with a pumpkin that didn’t look so bad to me. It had N/C written on it next to a soft, pigmented area on the pumpkin. “Thank you,” I said to the clerk, making sure I looked him in the eye. I smiled at him, letting him know I appreciated the fact his generosity prevailed. I remember thinking that he probably wanted to be home with his own children spilling KitKats into a big pumpkin-shaped bowl, getting them ready for his own fun night. Yet here he was at work, giving me the last pumpkin in the entire city at no charge.

I could so make this pumpkin work, I thought. I felt like taking a nap right there in the potato and onion aisle but optimism, “Optimism will save you!” my horoscope had said earlier in the week.

I walked by the mushrooms that were on special. I stopped in front of their display to think, and the inertia of my following daughters knocked me into my shopping cart. “Did your father finish that sweet potato I made him in between games?” I got a quick, definitive “No,” so I chose carefully 20 big mushrooms, bought a beef chorizo, and grabbed some crumbled feta before leaving the store.

Once home, I cleared counter space, set out my ingredients, and pre-heated the oven to 425 degrees.

Follow these instructions, but not necessarily how I arrived at them, and I promise you a delicious hors d’oeuvre, that hopefully makes your kin proud.

Have a safe and happy Halloween.


Smantha Gianulis

Smantha Gianulis

Samantha recently released my her family food memoir, Little Grapes on the Vine…Mommy's Musings on Food & Family .

Samantha is a self-taught chef. She worked in the Catering and Special Events industry for seven years before becoming a stay at home, now a work at home, Mom.
She appeared on NBC's ivillage Live.

Smantha Gianulis GianulisApron Strings Cooking ColumnCooking and Recipes,Emotional and Social Well-being,Family FunCHORIZO AND SWEET POTATO STUFFED MUSHROOMS WITH FETA -  20 large mushrooms (any mushrooms that looks big enough to hold stuffing after you pop out the stem) - - 1 tbsp. olive oil - 1 pkg. beef chorizo sausage (I buy the kind that...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids