Baking

gingerbread crispy treats

Last week when I told Isabella I wondered what gingerbread rice crispy treats would taste like, she rolled her eyes and said “oh here we go…gingerbread this, and gingerbread that”. It was a page right out of the Michael Perillo playbook. He would’ve teased me incessantly about the tear I’ve been on the last two weeks. I just.can’t.stop.

I won’t stop.

But, I think we covered that with my last post, you know the one where I made a NO-BAKE GINGERBREAD CREAM PIE. Sorry, but that one got me really excited—I had to get that out, and only all caps would do. Can you tell I’m feeling punchy tonight? I’m just feeling a groove I haven’t felt in quite some time, and truth be told—it’s nice to be my own muse, of sorts. I’ve nothing more witty to say about this recipe, just that it’s so easy, and the perfect thing to make when you’re short on time (and who isn’t this week?). Provided you have the ingredients on hand, these treats are ready to eat in about 45 minutes, from start to finish. You can make a tray, wrap it in a cloth, and bring it as a hostess gift (the gingerbread twist ups the ante, making them worthy in my opinion). Last minute class party? It’s great for those, too. Continue reading »

gingerbread chess pie

You know those days, the ones where you do seemingly nothing, and yet you walk away feeling so fulfilled? That was today. It was a snow day, sans the snow. I’m sure any of you watching the weather saw news of a Nor’easter. There was talk of snow, a lot of it, too. There was also talk that the air mass could change temperatures and directions, and maybe we’d just get rain. Well, it was the latter, but combined with below freezing temperatures, it made for icy, slick conditions this morning. The delayed start email came at 5:55am, and I was thankful for the extra couple of hours of sleep. Less than two hours later, a follow up email came that school was cancelled. Continue reading »

pumpkin slab pie

I know, it doesn’t look like much, but believe me that this pie will change your life. At least when it comes to making pie for a crowd. The weather changed rather abruptly last week. Between that and the sudden realization that Thanksgiving was around the corner, my cravings for pumpkin pie, both eating and baking it, kicked into high gear.

I’ve been doing a lot of baking for the school store, and I wondered the best way to sell the pie there without needing plates or utensils. Slab pie came to mind. Rather than baking it in a round pie plate, you use a jelly roll pan, creating bar-like pieces. The yield is also incredible, turning what would’ve normally been a deep dish pie for 10 into a more suitable serving size of 24 square bars. Continue reading »

foolproof pie crust

Before I talk about that lovely looking pie crust above, I wanted to share some information from my morning drive. I popped into the city for brunch with a dear friend, and spent the morning commute listening to Brian Lehrer. The open enrollment period for health insurance under the Affordable Healthcare Act begins this Sunday, November 15th. I realize there are a lot of people who have had nightmare experiences with coverage since its enactment but when you hear the numbers of how many formerly uninsured people now have coverage, it’s clear that this was a step in the right direction. Nothing is perfect, and healthcare costs in our country still need much improvement.

The boggling aspect is the fact that each state can implement it as they see fit. Some have signed onto the federal program, and others opted to create their own state-managed ones. If you’re in New York state, and need help navigating the process, or are having issues with the insurance you already signed up for through the health exchange, it may worth giving the Community Service Society a call. I had no idea this existed, and am bookmarking their number for the future. I thought it was worth sharing that information. Even if you’re not in New York, perhaps your state has a similar organization that can help.

Okay, now onto something I think we can all agree about—pie! More specifically, pie crust. How many tears have you shed trying to create your own masterpiece? How many hours have you spent trying to make the perfect pie crust, only to be let down, yet again by a recipe that didn’t deliver? I feel your pain. It took years for me to settle on one that works perfectly—every.single.time.

The best part? You don’t need to chill the crust. Yes, you read that correctly. Finally a pie crust you can make, then roll and bake, in one felt swoop. The recipe is from my cookbook, Homemade with Love, so it may seem familiar to some of you. With Thanksgiving just two weeks away, my guess is this recipe will become your BFF.

Stay tuned for this pumpkin pie coming up next week. Until then, have a wonderful weekend. And don’t forget to be gentle with yourself these last six weeks of 2014. The holidays are a mixed bag of happiness and heartache. I think it’s human nature to dwell on what you wish things could be, instead of seeing the goodness in what’s right in front of us. I know quite well that managing it all can feel like a full-time job. Much love and hugs for staying by my side these last few years.

xo—Jennie

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More from In Jennie’s Kitchen:

Simple Scratch Cooking: a homecook’s journal for making easy, everyday meals

Fall 2014 – digital edition

Winter 2014 – available for preorder

Foolproof Pie Crust

Recipe from Homemade with Love: Simple Scratch Cooking from In Jennie’s Kitchen

Makes two 9-inch pie crusts or 10 hand pies

How many times have you tried a piecrust recipe claiming to be the best, only to find yourself reduced to tears? Yeah, me too. The inspiration for this crust came from Mollie Cox Bryan, and her recipe for a vinegar piecrust in Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pie. Vinegar has long been a secret shared for pie crust making, but it often gets paired with shortening. I’m not a fan of processed foods, so even organic shortening doesn’t appeal to me. I set out to have the best of both worlds—a buttery crust, with a tender crumb, that was a cinch to roll out. Now that I think about it, maybe we should call this the best piecrust ever.

Music Pairing: Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch by The Temptations

1/3 cup (50 grams) yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 cups (200 grams) all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out

1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) salt

1 teaspoon (6 grams) natural cane sugar

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks – 168 grams) very cold butter, cut into 12 pieces

1 large egg

1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons ice cold water

Add the flours, salt and sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 1-2 times to mix well. Add the butter and pulse a few more times, until it forms a sandy-looking mixture, about 4 to 5 one-second pulses. Add the egg, vinegar and water. Pulse until it forms a solid ball of dough, about 8 to 10 one-second pulses.

Dump the ball of dough out onto a well-floured counter or smooth surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, wrapping one of them if you’re only make a single-crust pie (see sidebar). Roll one disc of dough out into a circle large enough to fit your pie plate. Proceed with the directions for whichever pie recipe you are using.

Freeze it! If you’re only making one pie, wrap the remaining disc of dough tightly in two layers of plastic wrap, then store it in the freezer in a zip top bag. One day before you plan to use it, transfer the wrapped dough to the fridge and let it thaw overnight. Use as directed in the selected recipe.

homemade bagels

I’m not sure where the time goes lately. It feels like I just shared the recipe for my turmeric tea blend, but the reality is that was two weeks ago. From this point on, I imagine the rest of 2014 will fade as fast as the sun just before it dips below the horizon.

I’ve got quite a few recipes to share, but before I even go there, this one for homemade bagels is long overdue. I’ve no poetic prose to go with them. You just need to know one thing—you need these in your life if a) you love bagels, and b) you don’t live in NYC. I know one of you will chime in about Montreal bagels. To each their own, but there’s no convincing this Brooklyn born and bred gal that anything tops a NYC bagel. And even a great one is hard to come across there nowadays. Most are doughy masses, with no flavor worthy of the calories. Continue reading »

black & white cookies

Do you ever have those moments where a memory comes flooding back so vividly you feel like you’re in the moment? It happened today as I was driving to pick the girls up from school. Way back when Virginia was a wee one, I made up a bedtime song to the tune of Love Train. It went something like this…

Babies around the world,

Hold hands…

Let’s start a sleep train, a sleep train.

Isabella was only six or seven then. We’d place our hands on each other’s hips, and boogie into the bedroom at our old apartment on Henry Street. I can see Virginia with that squinted-eyed smile, newly minted with a tooth, or two. One night Michael came home to witness this silliness, and he wasn’t surprised at my goofball creativity to make bedtime fun. He grabbed a hip, and joined in. Continue reading »

the inevitable…

I’m sure a few of you saw this coming. I haven’t started making gourmet meals for my new little lady, and must confess, I don’t see myself doing that (never say never, though, right?). Frankly, I don’t know enough about dogs’ nutritional needs to start cooking for Miche full-time, but I do know that onions and garlic are on the ‘No” list, and since I cook with those regularly, it would mean making two meals. Honestly, that’s not happening. I’ve never catered to my girls in that way. Besides, there are so many high-quality foods to choose from that I can feel good about feeding her.

Treats are a different story, though. As I started looking at labels, I followed the same rule of thumb for feeding my family. If I can’t pronounce it, then I don’t feel comfortable giving it to Miche. I did come across The Honest Kitchen brand, and loved the ingredient list: barley flour, chicken, molasses, water, eggs, coconut oil, cranberries, and parmesan cheese. It came with a steep price tag, though, and I knew I could make something of the same quality at home for a lot less money. Continue reading »

a clean slate

I don’t know what to say, really. I pressed the publish button on my last post with much hesitation. I’ve shared some tough moments here, but talking about my perceived faults as a mother was not easy. Regardless of how much I struggle with it, though, being a mom is the single most important thing I will ever do with my life. The Mr. used to often say a test should be required to have children. I knew exactly what he meant. It wasn’t about being perfect all the time, rather the ability to understand the overall responsibility. It’s so much easier to manage this delicate balance when you’re part of a team. You can hand over the baton when patience runs thin. There’s also someone else to remind you that one bad moment doesn’t erase the many good ones. Continue reading »

I lost it

There’s simply no sweet way to sugar coat my behavior a few nights ago. I take my life into my hands every night I tuck my girls in. Maybe my drama is in overdrive, but have you ever stepped on a tiny Lego? If so, then you understand the pain it induces when it burrows itself deeply between your big toe and whatever we call the one next to it.

Almost three years ago my life fell apart. I’ve been struggling to put it together, piece by piece, but the reality is it can never go back to what it was. There are so many hard things about accepting this truth, but one of the most difficult is being thrown into single motherhood. I know women who have gone through extraordinary feats to become mothers. Their need to have a child was something so deep, they couldn’t imagine life without one. Continue reading »

mixed berry muffins

Where to begin? It has indeed been a while since I’ve been here. While the packing felt utterly overwhelming at times, the move was ultimately uneventful, and for that I’m eternally thankful. I’m sitting here with this silly grin, as I write in my backyard. The sun is strong, but the wind is an equal rival, and the trees provide a natural umbrella of shade. The wind chimes are softly dancing behind me. My smile is from the wonder as I pop my head up from the computer to gaze at the woods behind the house. Perhaps the property sounds grander than it is—I only own a 1/4 acre, but it’s my 1/4 acre. The woods behind the house are protected property, providing us with some extra peace and solace. To my right, is another 1/4 acre of field that belongs to my neighbor, and she kindly lets the kids play there. Continue reading »