make ahead

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 »

no-bake gingerbread cream pie

The way I see it, we’ve only two more weeks of peak gingerbread season. I was a little sad about the reality of this since gingerbread is one of my favorite spice combinations. Then I was talking to one of my best friends about panettone, a brioche-like cake studded with dried citrus fruits and raisins, and how it’s traditionally only eaten during Christmas time. The same goes for Galette des Rois, a puff pastry cake filled with almond cream, eaten to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6th. It used to be this cake was only available for a limited time. When I visited Paris last winter, it was still in pastry shops, well into the end of January. Something about seeing the cake available well far beyond its intended purpose made it feel less special. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a heavenly confection, when made well (many shops in NYC aren’t worth the hefty price tag). There’s something about the anticipation, though, of knowing that it’s only available for a brief window. 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 »

marathon soup

It’s officially soup season in upstate New York. Being a year-round soup lover, I celebrate this time of year because I can justify making it for dinner, amidst the complaints from my soup-hating children. Yes, I know, how can they not like a steaming bowl of homemade chicken soup? Usually I can get them to fish out the pasta with their spoons. Neither of them will touch the carrots. They hate them cooked, and only like them raw. You’d think mushrooms were poisonous the way they shriek if I manage to accidentally spoon one into their dish.

Alas, this soup has everything I love it in. This is even a case where I’ll eat the chicken (I’m generally not a fan, even though it’s said I make an incredible roasted one). Something about adding tortellini to my soup brings back to being a kid. It’s like a fountain of youth with each slurp. 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.

mashed potato pie


Compensation was provided by Safeway, Vons, Randalls and Tom Thumb stores via Mode Media.

Growing up in an Italian-American family, Thanksgiving traditions were always a mash up of old and new—baked ziti served before the turkey is normal in every household, right? Eventually the baked ziti was weaned from our holiday table. In its place came a rich, cheese laden mashed potato pie that was a meal in itself. It was a hefty helping of buttery, whipped potatoes, seasoned with milk, mozzarella cheese, locatelli cheese, and prosciutto, all baked in a huge rectangular tray.

As I grew older, and began hosting my own Thanksgiving, many of those food traditions changed. Mikey began making a homemade stuffing, and I swapped in fresh cranberry sauce for the canned one that graced so many of our meals. One year I really went renegade and made an incredible spoonbread pudding in lieu of the potatoes. I don’t suggest ever doing something that radical unless you’re ready for a revolt. Most of my family tried it, and some even liked it (Mikey and I loved it, thank you very much) but my uncle was a stubborn one who refused to take a taste. He insisted he didn’t like it, even though he’d never tried spoonbread in his life. My family is not very open to change when it comes to their food. As I think back to that Thanksgiving ten years ago, I realize I was the one in the wrong. I should’ve approached the menu much the way I do cooking for my daughters. Change works best when it’s paired with something familiar.

Mashed Potato Pie | In Jennie's Kitchen

When Mode Media, my ad network, asked me to partner with them for a Thanksgiving post, I knew just what classic recipe I would put a unique twist on. The beloved mashed potato pie was on the chopping block. How could I reinvent it to satisfy both my needs for something new and their tastes?

For starters, I kept the mashed potato base simple with just a couple of pats of butter. I decided it was best to allocate the calories to the cheese and eggs I’d be adding to make this soufflé-like pie. I also swapped out the mozzarella my family usually used, and added a combination of grated Gruyere cheese and fresh ricotta. The pie puffs up slightly towards the end of cooking, and takes on a lovely golden hue. A little rest before serving ensures neat slices to serve alongside the turkey and other fixin’s.

Mashed Potato Pie | www.injennieskitchen.com

Visit your nearest Safeway, Vons, Randalls, or Tom Thumb store this holiday season to make your holiday shopping easy and affordable. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Safeway, Vons, Randalls and Tom Thumb stores.

Mashed Potato Pie

Serves 8

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter

3/4 cup (140 grams) ricotta cheese

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

4 ounces (56 grams) Gruyere cheese, grated

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Add the potatoes to a 4-quart pot. Fill with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are very tender when pierced with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F. Grease the sides and bottom of a 9-inch pie plate.

3. Drain the potatoes, and return them back to the pot. Add the butter. Cover with a lid for 2 minutes, allowing the butter to melt. Using a hand held mixer on medium-low speed, beat the potatoes just until they’re smooth (be careful not to overbeat, or they’ll become gummy).

4. Stir in the ricotta cheese, eggs, and half of the Gruyere cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the mashed potato mixture into the prepared pie plate. Evenly sprinkle the remaining Gruyere cheese on top.

5. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is slightly puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven, and let rest 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

{Make Ahead} The pie may be made through step 4 the night before. Cover with foil or plastic, and store in the fridge. Remove one hour before ready to bake, to let it come to room temperature.

ricotta & mascarpone cannoli

When I got back to New York last week, I had a few hours to get things done in Brooklyn. My trips to the city these days usually don’t take me beyond midtown. The kids stayed with my mom while I was away, and one of my best friends watched Miche, so before collecting the kiddos and the pup, I made sure to hit up Caputo’s. If I had to name one thing I miss most about Brooklyn, it would be mozzarella. I know, I know. It should be my mom, or my dear friends who have seen me through it all.

Alas, a warm, milky, ball of fresh mozzarella, is what I long for most. Honestly, the thought makes me ache, and small sighs stumble from my lips. I challenge anyone to find a better mozzarella in all of New York City (I’ve tasted many). Continue reading »

sweet & savory candied walnuts

As my plane touched down at JFK on Friday morning, I wasn’t sure if I’d really just spent 27 hours in Sacramento, or dreamed it. That’s what happens when you get on a plane to the west coast at 11:30am on a Wednesday, and find yourself back at your starting point less than two full days later. Standing under the walnut trees at Norene Ranches, though, I looked at the hundreds of acres before me, and realized it was worth the effort I made to get there. 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 »