make ahead

14 of my best soup recipes

Update: You can now listen to my posts! I’m working on figuring out how to make them into a podcast, but in the meantime, just click below.

I’m a soup fiend, as you’ll see on reading the stories that go with my best soup recipes below. My love affair with them has nothing to do with the weather, either. Hearty soups, filled with pasta, veggies, maybe some beans are the ultimate one-bowl meal in my book. For some, my Mikey included, a bowl of tomato soup and a gooey, grilled cheese sandwich is as comforting as a hug when you’re not feeling well. And then there are the soups that bring us back to your childhood, like one I recently made from Rachel (see the pasta & potato soup). While the soup of my childhood wasn’t exactly the same, her recipe, and more importantly, the way she wrote about it, reminded me of the pastina and broth I used to love.

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gingerbread hot cocoa

I know. Another gingerbready kind of recipe (and I’m sure that’s not even a real word, so forgive me, Ilina). It’s okay if you’re rolling your eyes; everyone else in my house is fed up with my obsession, too. The good news is that this recipe for gingerbread hot cocoa is the last of its kind that I’ll be sharing for 2015. Don’t worry—I already have a few gingerbread recipes in the bank for 2016!

It’s hard to believe today is December 21st. There was this quiet moment, just after Thanksgiving, where I felt like there would be time to savor this holiday season. I remember letting out a huge exhale (much as I just did while writing that sentence), and pressing the mental slow motion button. In hindsight, I’m especially thankful for that relaxing Thanksgiving weekend. Slowing down for those few days helped shore up energies for what has been a very busy December. We’ve clocked more than 1,500 miles this month to visit friends in Woodstock, Brooklyn, and North Carolina. And this weekend, we shall make one last visit to our house in upstate NY to unwind for a few days before welcoming a new year, and new possibilities. Continue reading »

Peppermint Fudge Brownies

One thing I never had to worry about back in Brooklyn, or even Woodstock for that matter, was too many sweets. I used to show up in the school yard to pick up the kids, armed with containers or baggies full of goodies. No one ever argued when I asked if they’d like to help me out by taking the day’s recipe testing treats home to sample. Things are quite different now, here in Maryland. I spend my days, hermit-like in my apartment cooking, baking, and writing. The only neighbor I know is my guy who lives next door, and a sweet gal who lives below me, and babysits the girls from time to time. I bring treats to the doormen, but that’s not nearly enough to help purge all the brownies that flowed from my kitchen this week. Continue reading »

grain-free peppermint fudge brownies

Consider these minty grain-free fudge brownies second cousins to my Peppermint Fudge Brownies, and third cousins to my Milk Chocolate Brownies. If you’d like to make them dairy-free, swap in 1/4 cup of oil (grapeseed or canola) for the butter. Next up on my testing list is to give these a try substituting granulated maple sugar for the cane sugar. If you want to give it a try, keep in mind that maple sugar is sweeter, so I would try 2/3 cup in my first round of testing. Let me know if you give it a go, and leave a note in the comments. Oh, one last note. If you’re not a fan of mint, just use all milk or dark chocolate chips (for a total of 9 ounces / 252 grams).

xo-Jennie Continue reading »

maple orange butter

I like to say I’m opinionated, and not just judgey, but who are we kidding? I’m a New Yorker. Perhaps even worse (or is it best); I’m a Brooklyn gal, through and through. We judge, regardless of what we say, and sometimes without any sensibility to our conclusions. And so that is why my visit to Teaism in D.C. about a month ago was such a pleasant surprise. I grubbed a ride into the city with my guy, and was delivered door to door from suburbia to Dupont Circle. When he first suggested it as a good place to settle in with free WiFi to escape the noise of construction currently going on at our building, I shrugged my nose. You know that kind of shrug where it pushes your eyeglasses way above your eyebrows.

I’d come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t like the place just based on the name. It didn’t sound appealing, even though I understood the play on words going on with it. Well, later that morning I enjoyed my size seven shoe with a side of some pretty awesome French Toast & Orange Butter. It sounds basic, I know. And for all intents and purposes, it was, but it was prepared so perfectly. Nice, crisp edges, golden brown, and that butter elevated the whole thing to spectacular. Now, if you’re an experienced cook, you already know making compound butters is incredibly easy. And if you’re new to this whole notion of mixing flavors into softened butter, then listen up—this is a trick you want to use for every brunch or breakfast you host. The wow factor tops the charts, and will ensure your place as a domestic diva.

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slow cooker lentil soup

I know what you’re thinking. We’re in prime cookie baking season, and all I have for you today is a pot of lentil soup. If you’re like me, though, the balance of getting all the things crossed off your To Do list this month is a little (okay, maybe a lot) overwhelming. Sweets will be in plentiful supply, whether you’re making them, or co-workers are bringing in treats. Real food, the fuel your body needs to keep going when it’s at its busiest, can be more challenging to pull together. And kids need to eat regardless of how busy we mamas are, right? So, that’s why today, on this Monday morning, I’m sharing my recipe for Slow Cooker Lentil Soup. It’s pretty hands off for you, while the slow cooker does all the heavy lifting. Continue reading »

Handle With Care: How To Ship Cookies & Other Sweet Treats

If you’re planning on sending sweet treats to friends far away, now is the time to start thinking about how to ship cookies and baked goods so they get there in one piece. I had a trial run mid-November, when sending my Italian Rainbow Cookies to my Food Blogger Cookie Swap matches (more on that, and the recipe for the cookies next week). Even though it’s only been a year since I last shipped edible Christmas gifts, I forgot how fun it is shopping for packaging. My pick this year was cardboard boxes that look like books I found at Michael’s. You open them to find a secret compartment that I filled with cookies—delightful, sweet intrigue, indeed. Let’s break this down, since you’ll need to give some thought to each step when it comes to baking and shipping your homemade goods. Continue reading »

potato focaccia

While many of you might need some creative ideas for turkey beyond heat and eat or sandwiches right now, I must confess that I rarely ever have leftovers of that variety. I tend to buy a bird just big enough to get us through the meal, and the carcass goes into a pot to make some stock at the end of the evening. This used to drive Mikey a bit crazy, but not being much of a turkey eater myself, it never ruffled my feathers.

Side dishes are another story. I must have mashed potato insecurity issues because I always make more than we need (even on regular weeknights). Virginia firmly believes she can survive on them, and I suppose with enough butter and milk, it might count as a well-balanced meal. I find mashed potatoes to be one of those foods that taste pretty good on their own when simply heated up, but what do you do when you’re left with just a meager cupful? What one might see as trash, I see as opportunity. That’s how my recipe for this focaccia came to be. Potato bread is one of my favorites, so combining that love with an Italian-inspired bread recipe was a no-brainer.

As my guy noted, there isn’t a distinct potato flavor. It’s more about what the addition of mashed potatoes does to the focaccia. They add a light, springy quality to the finished product. It’s perfect for eating as-is, or split in half to make sandwiches (turkey, anyone?). Any leftover focaccia can be cubed and toasted to use as croutons (that’s like leftovers squared, right?). Continue reading »

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 »

{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 »