My 2018 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Competition for ICE

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I almost completely forgot to share my recent entry into the Institute of Culinary Education’s 2018 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Contest!  So here’s the deal:

I’m entering to win a full scholarship (valued at $160,000 dollars) to perfect my cooking skills, learn the business aspects of running a restaurant or catering business and to bring professional cooking classes to group homes like The Mentor Network in Ewing, NJ.

I’ve dreamed of having a restaurant but have been told many times to do something else because most restaurants don’t succeed, and on and on, etc.  While that may be true, I have never lost my passion for cooking for others and for learning.

While home visiting my family on the west coast, they always say, ”Dena, you should cook professionally.”  Oh sure, I say.  This last visit home my father flat out said, “Do what you’re passionate about,” and my daughter Emma said, “Mommy just cook for others, you know you love it.”

So, along comes this contest and here we are.  Please vote for me to win a full scholarship to The Institute of Culinary Education. Your vote would mean the world to my kids and I!

Please Vote for Me Here!




Honey Mustard Ginger Chicken With Sweet Potatoes


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half, lengthwise
3 scallions, chopped (including the dark green stock)
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thin
1 knob ( about 2 inches) of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
Garlic powder
Ginger powder
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp honey Dijon mustard
1 cup water or chicken stock

2 small sweet potatoes washed and cubed


Season both sides of chicken with salt pepper garlic powder and ginger powder.

Cover iron skillet or Dutch oven with 2 tablespoons of olive oil get pan nice and hot.

Pan sear chicken for about 3 minutes on both sides. In the last-minute add your garlic and ginger slices. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside.

Mix honey, mustard, two tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 – 1 cup of hot water deglaze your pan with the mixture add chicken and sweet potatoes bring to a simmer and then place in the oven for 40 minutes covered.

Serve chicken with sweet potatoes on the side drizzle with the sauce or if you’re not doing paleo go ahead and serve it over a nice dish of white rice.

Basil Pesto: So Simple & Savory For Summer Dishes

Basil Pesto by Dena Ferreira, Photo by Jason Homa Photography

Basil Pesto by Dena Ferreira, Photo by Jason Homa Photography


2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (I triple wash them first then dry)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts (I often use walnuts or a combination of nuts)
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese


Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add a little more than 1/3 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.

If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

Great over pasta dishes, tomatoes, fish, beef, sandwiches, salads and crostinis.

Basil Pesto Preserve by Dena Ferreira, Photo by Jason Homa Photography

Basil Pesto Preserve by Dena Ferreira, Photo by Jason Homa Photography

“The way to his heart is through his stomach.” The Very Best Lasagna Recipe

Photo by Kevin Twomey

This lasagna recipe is one of my favorites. I enjoy taking my time with it, allowing the sauce to cook for several hours in my favorite Le Creuset in the oven so that each of its distinctive spices have time to blend with one another. This is the perfect dish to impress “the one” if its true what they say, “The way to his heart is through his stomach.”


1 pound dried lasagna noodles (I prefer oven-ready)
3 tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground Italian sweet sausage
1/4 pound ground Italian spicy sausage
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon dried fennel
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes or sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 quart ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 pound of fresh mozerella shredded or sliced
1/2 cup grated Grana Padana

Preheat oven on to 325°.

Coat a large skillet with olive oil, add beef and sausage and brown until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add anchovy paste, fennel seeds and season with salt and pepper. In a food processor, combine the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, basil, parsley, and oregano. Process until pureed, add to the pan with the ground meat and stir to combine. Stir in the flour. Add the wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and add the heavy cream and the cinnamon.

At this point I like to slow things down. The entire apartment smells of fresh herbs, garlic and savory sausage. Boyfriend and friends are growing hungry, but hold on. Anything really good is worth waiting for.

Remove your Le Creuset (or other cast iron oven) from stovetop and place into heated oven covered and cook for 4 – 6 hours on 325°. If you don’t have time for this step, simply cook on medium temperature on stovetop for 1-2 hours.

Preheat Oven to 350°

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta and the parmesan. Stir in the egg and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the lasagna: Coat the bottom of a deep 13 by 9-inch pan with olive oil. Top with a spoonfull of sauce. Arrange 4 noodles lengthwise in a slightly overlapping layer on the sauce. Dollop 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over the pasta, spread to the edges with a spatula. Spread 1/3 of the sauce/meat mixture over the ricotta. Sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella on top of the ricotta. Top with a ladle full of sauce, spread evenly. Repeat with the next 2 layers of noodles, ricotta, sauce, and cheeses. Top last layer with noodles, sauce, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. Tap the pan to force out air bubbles. Cover top with alluminum foil, removing the last 15 minutes.

Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven. Let lasagna rest for 30 minutes so the noodles will settle and cut easily. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.