REAL FOOD REAL WORLD: This is the journey I hope you will join with me through my blog. I am passionate about teaching others to be comfortable in the kitchen, have fun with food, enjoy it, enjoy it in a good for you manner….create memories in the kitchen, and around the meal table…

GIVE A MAN A FISH, HE EATS FOR A DAY.  Teach a man to fish, he eats everyday… Simply put, you can give a person something that helps them at that time for that moment, but if you teach a person how to do something, they can help themselves from there on out. All the while in my career, I’ve enjoyed teaching cooks of all levels, competed both nationally and internationally, and now enjoy working independently with all who have an interest in Food Arts.   To guide individuals in a hands-on setting with their skills wherever they are at in a kitchen, and build on that,  is where I love to provide my cooking perspectives…thus encouraging individuals to enjoy life by eating at home more, and eating good food. Teaching people how to to work with what is fresh and at hand in their environment as well, thus saving cost AND encouraging healthy cooking and eating habits.

As I moved along in my culinary career, I’ve enjoyed Cuisine from ALL cultures around the world and how the culture relates to the cuisine, as well as fine dining, sauces, soufflés and cold soups as some of my very refined skills. Garde manger is my joy, which lead me to the ability to turn nothing into something, and now upping that skill to putting the healthy aspect on it!

I learned to enjoy cooking growing up in a family of 5 children, multiple foster children so to speak, and two parents who were great cooks, and avid entertainers.  Which then encouraged me to study under the ACF Chefs Apprenticeship program, while attending and taking college courses in the food service industry,   promoting me to continue learning under great chefs throughout the country.

 Again, as I moved along in my culinary career, I’ve enjoyed Cuisine from ALL cultures around the world  that leads to so many diverse and intriguing ways to cook….applying that to what is fresh and at hand in the environment I am cooking in is what I find exciting, and interesting to even the most “I hate to Cook” or “Intimidated cook”  to join me in the kitchen…I am not a big fan of cooking with over processed foods, yet understand why its convenience is what draws individuals to purchasing it and eating it….that is what I want to help people overcome and add fresh, healthy choices into their cooking, making healthy the easy choice.

I have developed many recipes over the years, I have published some in the paper for both small writer’s stipend, and some for nothing….I have been trained in a great foundation of the classics and the basics…so when I use a recipe from someone or somewhere else, I always give credit to where it came from, most of my recipes I have developed through testing, creating and documenting as I go along.

My all-time favorite ingredient honestly is what is right at hand…be it fresh, or what is left in the ‘fridge…the opportunity to create various dishes with the same ingredients that are different,  intriguing,  delicious and good for you is what I enjoy the most.

Enjoy these recipes by me, Chef Denise Murray                                         

Roasted Pumpkin    Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • Take your pumpkin and cut it up into good sized squares and grill with butter and spices and you make something better than pumpkin pie.

Prep Time: 10 minutes           Cook Time: 45 minutes          Total Time: 55 minutes


  • 4 to 6 pieces of pumpkin cut into 3 inch squares
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Sweet Spice                                                                                               Savory Spice
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar                                     3 tablespoons rosemary seasoning blend
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon                                                                     1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon allspice                                                                         1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg                                                                                    1 teaspoon crushed fresh garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea  salt                                                                                 2 teaspoon sea salt


Score the skin of the pumpkin pieces with a fork and set aside. Combine other ingredients. Place equal amounts of the oil & seasoning mixture on the top or inside of each pumpkin piece. Place on a medium hot grill and cook indirectly, skin side down for about 35 to 45 minutes. …or roast in the oven at 375 for 45-55 minutes

Low Fat Cream of Pumpkin Soup

Fall is the perfect time to bring out the stockpot and make warming soups. This low fat cream of pumpkin soup is perfect on a cold fall day or as an appetizer for a Thanksgiving dinner. A spoonful of plain low fat sour cream and can be swirled in just before serving along with thin slices of roasted apple, served with a slice of roasted pumpkin on the side..

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp. taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 3 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 6-ounce apple juice
  • 6 ounces low fat milk or canned evaporated milk
  • Freshly ground sea salt to taste


Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened. Stir in taco seasoning and cumin and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken broth, apple juice and pumpkin. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add evaporated fat-free milk and cook for 2 minutes.

Pumpkin nutrition facts

Pumpkin is incredibly rich in vital anti-oxidants and vitamins. This humble backyard vegetable is very low in calories yet good source of vitamin A, flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants like leutin, xanthins and carotenes. 

Health benefits of Pumpkin

  • It is one of the vegetables which is very low calories;  provides just 26 cal per 100 g and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; but is rich a source of dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. Recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
  • Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.
  • With 7384 mg per 100 g, it is one of the vegetable in the cucurbitaceae family with highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for vision. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A helps body protect against lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • It is also an excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds like alpha and beta carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.
  • Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the macula lutea in reitina of the eyes. Thus, it helps protect from “age related macular disease” (ARMD) in the elderly.
  • Rich in B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.
  • It is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
  • Pumpkin seeds are good source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids which are good for heart health. In addition, they are very good in protein, minerals and many health benefiting vitamins. For example 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 cal, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) etc… but no cholesterol. The seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to GABA in the brain.


  Denise Murray, now a 15-year resident of Forest Park. (Lived on the North shore of Chicago for 3 years prior, and a Southwestern before that) comes to us with over 33 years working in Food Service....

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