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 »

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 »

everything’s coming up pumpkin

I suspect pumpkin fatigue may be setting in right about now. That’s what happens when the internets are flooded with all things pumpkin before the sun has even set on summer. I’m here to say don’t give up. Once you expand beyond pumpkin spice lattes (guilty as charged), there’s plenty of recipes that’ll keep you enjoying this fall favorite. Here’s an oldie but goodie recipe for Pumpkin Buttercream Frosting, plus links to four more of my favorite pumpkin-inspired treats.

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 »

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 |

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.

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 »

a birthday, and on being thankful {coconut custard pie}

I looked in the mirror a few days ago and thought “holy shit” you’re going to turn 39 any day now. Then I glanced back, this time with a smile, and reminded myself I have survived 39 years on this planet. Sometimes the canvas of our lives seems like a Jackson Pollock painting. A spattering of events that require careful introspection so as to not miss the meaning in all those moments.

Yes, my 39 years thus far have had their share of doubt, uncertainty, and sadness. But, they have also been filled with more love than some people experience in a lifetime (and I’m counting on being here for at least 39 more, fingers crossed). The tough times etch their way into our souls like a branding iron fresh from the flames. At moments, I have felt tired and weary, quite sure I was ready to throw in the towel. The last 16 months have been particularly exhausting. It has felt like dog years in terms of my growing process, but I am still standing. I wake each morning with resolve, ready to do it all over again…ready to keep this promise to myself. Continue reading »

The First Thanksgiving {chocolate chess pie}

It's funny how I can feel so alone in a crowded room these days. This little place here in cyberspace, though—I never feel alone here. The sincere comments, emails and well-wishes over the last week have only reaffirmed what I've always believed—there are more good people in this world than we sometimes realize.

When I wrote a post asking friends to make a peanut butter pie to celebrate Mikey's life and the love for everyone in their own lives, I never expected the amazing domino effect that would follow. One woman wrote to tell me she has a peanut butter chocolate cupcake on the menu at her cafe in Buenos Aires in honor of Mikey, with the proceedings going to a charity that helps kids in need.

It reminded me of Eric Carle's story the The Tiny Seed, the way the love Mikey and I shared made it's way through the borders of Argentina into the heart of a woman neither of us knew. There are many more stories like this, and they make my heart swell with hope.

Continue reading »

spiced scented cranberry sauce {day 106}

Thanksgiving preparation has officially started, and I wasn't sure what to expect as I set out to make the cranberry sauce. I'd bought the cranberries last week, and there they sat in the fruit drawer of my fridge. I'd stare at them each time I opened the door, and think "maybe tomorrow the mood will strike to make it".

Well, Thanksgiving is only three days away, and this year I'm blinking in disbelief at how fast this fall has gone by. I go to bed each night thinking of how I found him when I heard he had collapsed. I replay this scene over in my mind before I go to sleep to remind myself that this is really my life, my reality.

I've written about being thankful, and I encourage the girls every day to remember how fortunate we are in spite of this sad truth. For now, my goal is a short term one—get through Thanksgiving. A reader who has also suffered this kind of loss, commented that the anticipation leading up to the "day", be it an anniversary, birthday, or holiday is sometimes harder than the day itself. I've hit two big "days" so far, and I believe that to be true too.

Continue reading »