my best pumpkin pie {video}

Last week my house was heavy with the scent of warm pumpkin pie. I know, I know. Who makes pumpkin pie a week before Thanksgiving? Me, that’s who. When my pie craving hit, I scoured the cupboards, convinced I had evaporated milk, but alas, there was none. I was going out to the store to get eggs and butter, and could’ve picked some up, but decided a pumpkin pie recipe sans the canned stuff might be more useful to all of you (spoiler alert: it was the best pumpkin pie, ever). We’ve all been there, at some point, a craving that seemingly can’t be fulfilled because of one missing ingredient, right? One day I might try making my own evaporated milk…(I can see Mikey doing an eye roll from above). For now, I decided to give it a try with heavy cream. I scaled back the amount of liquid, since my research told me it would be way too much cream if I just subbed in an equal amount for the missing evaporated milk. Continue reading »

no-roll pie crust {video}

Every morning I wake up, and promise myself I’ll get to bed early that night. And yet, here I am, almost midnight, talking about pie crusts. It’s a pressing subject this time of year. Literally. I know, the kids today use that word all wrong, but this is no joke. Tuck the rolling pin away, and let your fingertips do all the work to press the crust into the pan.

I’ve been hesitant to try this method for years now. I love rolling pie dough. Of course that only blossomed into deep affection once I developed a crust that didn’t result in tears. After years of working on creating a foolproof crust, would I have to abandon my tried and true recipe to use a new technique? The answer is no, thankfully.

The only tweak I made to my Foolproof Pie Crust is that I swapped in granulated maple sugar. It’s such a small amount, so don’t worry. Use what you have on hand. Here’s a quick video to show you how easy it is to use this no-roll pie crust method. So, I say put the kids on pie duty while you tackle the more challenging work to get the Thanksgiving meal on the table.

I’ll be back some time today, or first thing Wednesday with my new pumpkin pie recipe. If you’re not a fan of evaporated milk, or forget to buy it (as I often do!), you’ll want this recipe in your repertoire. The recipe also uses maple sugar, so it’s refined sugar-free. A nice option for a lighter dessert choice after enjoying the big feast.

Okay, time for some shuteye, folks. See you on the flip side.

Get my recipe for Foolproof Pie Crust here.

gruyère cheese & rosemary buttermilk biscuits

It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving, and so the countdown begins. I’m excited for the recipe I’ll be sharing tomorrow for a new kind of pumpkin pie (and a press-in pie crust!). Today I’m sharing a recipe for the best buttermilk biscuits, with a twist. A friend posted a question to Facebook today, asking if bread or rolls were a must. It’s interesting how divided the responses were. Some people were adamantly against it, feeling that it just distracts from all the other better food on the table. Others felt stuffing was suffice enough to serve as the bread component. I’m Italian-American. We’ve been known to eat spaghetti sandwiches (no joke). Carbs are our friends, not foes. So, yeah, I’m totally all about the bread basket, specifically buttermilk biscuits.

Gruyere Cheese & Rosemary Buttermilk Biscuits |

I made an actual list for Thanksgiving, but then I cleaned the house today, so the list is…well, somewhere, of which I don’t know anymore. My main objective for today is to get the bread for the stuffing, which I think is really considered dressing the way I make it (I bake it separate from the turkey). I’ll cut the loaves into cubes, and set them in a single layer to dry out a bit in preparation for making the stuffing (or is dressing?) on Wednesday. I’ll also get my final grocery list in order, so I can do my shop tomorrow (the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, in case you’re ready this late to the game plan). Here’s a peek at our menu. You’d think we’re hosting an army, but it’s just going to be five of us. I feel like we should probably cut back on some things, but we have our own favorite foods and traditions. I’m sure some of this year’s menu is about marrying our past with our present. Continue reading »

{how to} perfect mashed potatoes, every time

We grew up mostly eating mashed potatoes from a box. I once told that to my friend Carol, and she couldn’t believe such a thing even existed. The only time I really remember my mom making them from scratch was on Thanksgiving. Jokes about hanging wallpaper were inevitable. Mashed potatoes are the simplest thing to make, and yet, the easiest to mess up.

Many people reach for the hand or stand mixer to make them. Unless you’re careful, that’s a sure fire way to over work them, and make gluey, gummy potatoes. I’ve found four ingredients key in making the best mashed potatoes, ever: properly cooked taters, butter (and lots of it!), salt, and hot milk. And of course, the technique is crucial, too—ditch the electricity, and grab a hand masher. In fact, if your potatoes are cooked just right, a fork will even work for smaller, weeknight batches.

Continue reading »

{DIY} how to make brown sugar

It’s bound to happen, even if you’re a planner. You reach for the brown sugar, and boom—all out. No sweat; I’ve got you covered on this one. It’s so easy to make your own brown sugar at home that I rarely even buy it anymore. All you need is molasses and cane sugar to make it yourself. Of course, this means you need to have molasses on hand. Once you fall in love with molasses, the way I did a few years ago, that won’t be a problem. Here’s a quick video I made to show you just how easy it is to make brown sugar in the comfort of your own kitchen. And in case you need some inspiration to use up the rest of that molasses, I’m sharing links to a few of my favorite recipes. Continue reading »

the meaning of it all

I was cooking dinner last Friday when my phone beeped with a message from one of my best friends. It simply said “What’s happening to our city?”. I jumped onto Facebook to see what was going on, expecting it to be something related to NYC, only to see the news of the attacks in Paris. I’m still processing it all. The reality of the world in which my girls are growing up makes my heart ache. Four years ago, we retreated to Paris. It’s where I fulfilled a father’s promise, and resolved to keep on living, and dreaming.

As we gathered around the dinner table tonight, offering our thanks and appreciations, my guy said it simply, yet perfectly—he was thankful to be sitting with the people he loved, all of us safe and sound. Now more than ever, in a season where the lines between wants and needs are so easily blurred, let’s remember that kindness, love, and generosity of heart are the best gifts we can share with each other.

I originally wrote this post a few weeks ago, intending to share it then. But posting about Thanksgiving on the heels of Halloween felt amiss. Walking through stores last week, decked out with Christmas decorations, a few even echoing Christmas carols through the aisles, I felt confused. Now that it’s November 16th, my mind is thinking more about next week’s Thanksgiving dinner. I get to meet my guy’s mom, for which I’m very excited, and a bit nervous.  Continue reading »

jerusha’s pumpkin cookies

My mind drifted to our old apartment, the one back in Brooklyn, while driving Virginia to school today. Sometimes I feel like a stranger peeking into someone else’s life when I visit these old memories. I recognize the girl in them, but can’t quite connect to her anymore. Funny, how life can feel so short, and so long at the same time.

In a recent Esquire interview, Patti Smith said she’s on Life Four. I often feel that way, too. I remember telling a friend that my life doesn’t feel like chapters, all part of the same story of Me. My childhood, my years with Mikey, my life as a newly minted widow, and my life now—they all feel like separate stories.

Speaking of Patti, I can’t believe that this time tomorrow I’ll be on my way to NYC to see her at The Beacon with an old friend. Tomorrow, November 10th, marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Horses. I had the chance to take Isabella to her book signing in D.C. last month. Such a powerful moment to have her meet her, and walk off stage with Isabella whispering to me, “Mommy, she’s so beautiful”.

Much like the way my mind wanders, so do my words. The real reason I popped in today is to share a recipe for the best pumpkin cookies I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t really expect to be so wowed by them. Not because I didn’t trust the high praise Virginia gave when she first tasted them. It’s just…they’re pumpkin cookies. How exciting can a pumpkin cookie really be?

Her violin teacher baked a batch, and brought them in for her students at Woodstock Day School right around this time last year. I forgot what I was testing a few weeks ago, but it left me with a half can of pumpkin puree sitting in the fridge. I remembered how much Virginia loved those cookies, and luckily still had the recipe Jerusha sent in my email (sometimes clutter comes in handy!).

Later that evening, Virginia put on her apron, and mostly made the cookies on her own. So, there’s that too—the best pumpkin cookies ever, and so easy a seven year old can make them.

One Bowl Pumpkin Cookies |

The ingredients sound pretty basic, but don’t be fooled. These soft, chewy cookies burst with all those flavors you expect from a fall cookie. Perhaps it’s the magic of tasting my first treat baked by my little girl. Maybe Jerusha’s email had a helping of good vibes as a secret attachment. Or maybe, and this is more likely the case, the secret is, as my guy says—it’s love. Love is the secret ingredient. Always.

Here’s to my Life Four.

Six Years Ago: Golden Ricotta Pumpkin Fritters

Five Years Ago: Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies

Four Years Ago: Chocolate Chess Pie

Three Years Ago: Coconut Custard Pie

Two Years Ago: How to Measure Flour

One Year Ago: Homemade Bagels

Continue reading »

{video} how to clean potatoes

I had a lightbulb moment this past summer while vacationing in Cape Cod. A trip to the farmers’ market in Truro brought this counter full of summer veggies into my life (along with some incredible olive oil and jarred olives). The potatoes were still covered with a good deal of the earth from which they’d been plucked. It reminded me of a funny story from when I was a kid. Continue reading »

buckwheat banana bread

“I wonder if the neighbors think the guy in 720 and I are having some tawdry affair, as we wander to and fro each other’s apartments in the early morning hours. He brings me coffee at 5:30am, and I stroll over when I’m done for a refill. The fact that I tiptoe down the hall in my nighty, covered up with a sweater, must make it even more intriguing.”

I shared this thought with my friends on Facebook last week. It illicited a few chuckles, and talks of writing a screenplay. I’m sitting in Woodstock writing this post but my heart is back in Maryland. Settling in has not come without some bumps in the road; life has taught me to expect them, even though the height of each hurdle is still unknown as I thrust myself towards them. But, yes, we’re settling into routines, finding our footing as we delve deeper into becoming an “us”. Continue reading »

grain-free chocolate chip cookies

A funny thing happened while writing this post. My finger brushed the keyboard, hitting the delete key ever-so-lightly, and voila!—the whole post was gone. Nothing like losing an hour’s worth of work to keep it real (at 5:30am, no less). The magic combo of Apple key + z was no match for the cosmic forces intervening at that moment. I’m trying to let life not seem so loud these days, and if I can’t channel that zen approach while talking about chocolate chip cookies, then I may as well close up show now. To know me is to also know that I’m anything but a quitter. I’m too damn stubborn.

Besides, chocolate chip cookies are at stake here. Not just any ol’ cookie either. These here little fellas are grain-free chocolate chip cookies, and make me smile just as I write the words. See, Des can eat these cookies, and I’m thrilled for that fact. While working on recipes for that epic cookbook project (not mine, but I promise to share when I can), I shared a photo of grain porridge on Instagram. Des commented how lovely it looked even though she couldn’t eat it. Due to health issues, she has to avoid grains. Continue reading »