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.



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.

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 »

turmeric tea

My desk is covered with printouts about reusing cooking oil, turning old cooking oil into biodiesel, maltrodextrin, MSG, and a recipe for making homemade Funyuns. What began as a challenge by my daughter to make a healthier version, has blossomed into a two-part cooking series with her sixth grade class. The crazy part here is that none of us have even tasted a Funyun. It began as a discussion in class, while reading the ingredients on the package from another student. Isabella chimed in, and said “I bet my mom can make them healthier”. I love her confidence in me, but food can be a tricky issue with families. Not everyone has the same litmus test for what they should, and shouldn’t be eating. Continue reading »

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 »

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 »

a leap of faith

It is said that we’re our own worst critics. I’ve always grappled with that thought. A healthy sense of self can only come with proper introspection. Seeking out our imperfections can be a fine line, though, and for me Mikey was always the one who helped balance the extreme standards to which I held myself. His belief and enthusiasm for my work was the wind my sail needed to keep going on, even when publishers and agents said I didn’t have the numbers needed to sign a book.

And then he died. My numbers soared. I wrote a book.

I learned a lot in that process. A lot. The most important takeaway was reaffirming what I already knew—I can’t put my heart into anything I don’t believe in 110%. I am incredibly proud of the work that went into Homemade with Love. I had a team of people who believed in me beyond the numbers. The book designer, Amanda Richmond, had a personal connection, having been a longtime reader here. She captured my essence so perfectly in the look and layout. The photographs, well, when I look at them, I see more than just food. I see myself in them, and I think that is something only a friend could’ve captured. Penny is my friend; she knew me, knew the importance of the story being told.

And then came the second book. I could tell early on, in fact after handing in the first draft of the first 40 pages, that something didn’t feel right. After a month of hard thinking, and trying to find a resolution that would satisfy both myself and my publisher, it became clear that the relationship had run its course. Better to leave on the high note with a beautiful book in hand.

My scheduled second book, a memoir, was one story that I couldn’t compromise on. I’m still living. My girls may one day read it. It’s about my life, and the only person capable of shaping that story is the person living it.

It left me in a quandry. How do I keep on doing what I love, and on my terms? Is it possible to straddle the line between the world of self-publishing, and traditional publishing, a toe in each one, to satisfy all the desires and needs I have as a writer? Just writing about this seems a bit taboo. What will other publishers think? We shall see. I’ve since signed with an incredible new agent, that makes me feel like Mikey’s in my corner again, cheering me on. Katherine has an energy, and excitement, for my work that is infectious, in the best of ways. Together we’re working on a proposal for a new cookbook that I know is one this world needs.

Before we met, and signed to work with each other, I had thrown all my energies into launching my own magazine-style journal. In a way, I think everything timed out perfectly. By time I met Katherine, my work on Simple Scratch Cooking: a homecook’s journal for making easy, everyday meals was well on its way to fruition. There was no turning back. I had to take this leap of faith on myself. Yesterday was the moment of truth. As I looked at the proofs, I decided to jump. I placed the first printing order, and made a “soft” announcement about it.

What followed has truly humbled me.The orders have been steadily flowing in, and I wonder if I’ll need to do a second printing. Could that really be possible? I felt a little guilty for not sharing it here first, but didn’t want to inundate all of you on my subscription list with too many emails. The first issue is in final production now, and will arrive at my house for packing and shipping around October 15th. Provided there are no delays with shipping, I’ll spend the 16th, the day that would’ve been our 10th wedding anniversary, stuffing, labeling, and sending out the first volume in what will be a quarterly journal filled with recipes,  essays, and a peek at the memoir.

Before Michael passed away, I always imagined we’d have a celebration to renew our vows. It’s funny how the journal’s production schedule just so happened to work out like this. I suppose in a way the 16th will be a renewal of vows, a renewal of promises to myself, and a reminder that I need to keep believing in my own worth, and work, as strongly as he did.

Right now the journal is available for sale online only. If you know of a local store that might like to carry it, please feel free to put them in touch me with at injennieskitchen@gmail.com. I can discuss it further with them. Here’s the link to purchase it for yourself, and if you order before October 15th, I set up a special code to receive a 10% discount. Thank you. Thank you so very much for being the best readers ever.



Music Pairing: Roar by Katy Perry

***UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered the journal. The demand was so incredible that the first printing has SOLD OUT. A second printing has been ordered. All magazine orders placed after 10/5/14 will be sent out the first week of November. Thank you for patience, support, and enthusiasm for this new venture.***