cookbooks: simple scratch cooking

simple scratch cooking

I was telling my husband on Sunday afternoon how refreshed I was feeling after the Thanksgiving break. It’s surprising, in a way. I spent much of last week cooking and baking, and I spent a fair amount of time organizing and cleaning. Putting on a Thanksgiving feast for 8 adults and 5 children is hard work, despite the fact that I loved every minute of it.

I should have been worn out, both physically and mentally. Instead, I felt inspired and rejuvenated.

Being totally immersed in a creative project — and cooking is definitely that for me — seems to have a snowball effect. The more I create, the more I want to create. And so, despite having a PowerPoint presentation that I needed to work on over the long weekend (which doesn’t count as the kind of creativity I was going for), I found projects to keep my mind and hands busy.

One of those projects that I dove into this weekend was cooking from Jennifer Perillo’s first edition of her new quarterly journal, Simple Scratch Cooking: a homecook’s journal for making easy, everyday meals. The issue is a beautiful 13-pages filled with recipes and essays written in the style of Jennie’s blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen. I’ve been reading In Jennie’s Kitchen for several years now, and it’s one of the handful that I go back to regularly.

Because my family loves the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, I baked the peanut butter swirl brownie recipe on page 16 of Simple Scratch Cooking, Fall 2014. The brownies were so good that the first batch disappeared within 24 hours. The kids blamed each other for eating more than his or her fair share, and they both blamed their father for eating too many. (I’m pretty sure they were right, on all counts.)

To appease the household, I baked another batch before the weekend was over.

The brownies were incredibly easy, and we were eating them warm out of the pan within an hour. My swirls weren’t as pretty as those in Jennie’s photographs, and I should have sifted the powdered sugar to eliminate lumpiness in the swirl, but by the time I started baking the second pan of brownies, I knew that no one in my home cared what they looked like, only that they tasted amazing.

I’m so excited about this project of Jennie’s. I love the journal and its concept: reliable from-scratch recipes and personal essays are what I’m drawn to. This is one of the main reasons that I’ve been a long-time reader of In Jennie’s Kitchen, of course, and it’s why I bought the first issue of Simple Scratch Cooking. It’s also why I pre-ordered the Winter issue.

Of course, I also pre-ordered because I have a recipe being featured in the new issue. (Thanks, Jennie!)

Jennie has graciously offered a discount code to you, dear readers, so that you can receive 10% off of your first order on any in-stock Simple Scratch Cooking items, including the preorder of the next issue, Winter 2014 (vol. no. 2). The discount code is MG2014.

Happy shopping!

peanut butter swirl brownies | the merry gourmet

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15 Responses to “getting ready for easter”

  1. 1
    Flavia — April 15, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

    Hi Merry, My family is Italian (on both sides) so big family dinners were the norm when I was growing up. Holidays and special occasions (baptisms, first holy communion, confirmation, birthdays, showers) were of course, the biggest of the family gatherings. The best tip I have to offer for any family gathering is to have multiple members of the family participate in preparing the meal so that it all doesn’t land on one person. If my parents were hosting at our family home, they would prepare the main course and maybe one or two side dishes. One of my aunts is a fabulous bread baker, so she would always bring several loves of her “feather bread”, another one of my aunts is an excellent cook all-around and she would bring side dishes and/or appetizers. My late maternal grandmother “Nonna” Liliana would bring her famous “crostata di confettura” (Jam Tart). Cooking for a gathering was truly a family affair! Alternately, if all the cooking was done at our house, the adults who knew how to cook were always helping, and that included doing the dishes before, during and after the food preparation. We’d have music playing or a sports game on the TV (watched mainly by the men!) and lots of talking and laughing going on. Having everyone contribute to a family holiday meal isn’t only a great way to get help, but it’s also a wonderful way to create lovely memories. And I believe it’s especially important for young children to see their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents all involved in the making of a family meal, because it’s also memories in the making and sets lifelong family traditions that they will someday continue in their homes.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 16th, 2011 @ 8:12 am

      Those are wonderful tips, Flavia. We do a similar thing – enlisting various family guests to bring some of the side dishes or desserts. It’s wonderful because everyone gets to feel that they contributed. And you’re right – great memories can be built from these experiences. Thanks for sharing!

  2. 2
    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — April 15, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

    My dining room has seen far more use as a photography studio than it has seen for an eating space in the past 19 years but I still do use it for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. And yes, I go all out typically. Tablecloth, a centerpiece in keeping with the season and and usually my good Lenox china and serving pieces. Why have it if I don’t bother. My kids hate it because cleanup is a bit harder but it’s so seldom, I don’t mind washing my good crystal by hand to be able to celebrate the effort of the prepared meal with some style.

    One thing that became a family tradition my grown children look forward to even today…is this breakfast using hard boiled eggs. It began as a dish to use up eggs but we love it and it’s now a tradition even when I don’t have to boil and color eggs for their baskets:

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 16th, 2011 @ 8:14 am

      Barbara – I think you’re right about going all out with the china and tablecloths. It really makes the meal a truly special occasion. And I love your tradition of using hard boiled eggs for your breakfast!

  3. 3
    Aunt Darlene — April 15, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

    Always have ham. Since my cousin Terry give me at Christmas a $100 gift certificate to Honey Baked Ham, I use it at Easter. You can’t go wrong with the spiral cut ham. Amy, Karen & I decide what we will make. We always have potato salad, deviled (dressed) eggs, green bean casserole, mac & cheese. Sometimes we have marinated veggie salad, broccoli casserole, sweet potato souffle. Jason & Karen graciously host the holiday meals in their large home and the good china and crystal is used. Oh, we can’t forget about the desserts. Of course, the tradition has always been to fill MANY plastic eggs filled with candy or money. The men hid the eggs outside while we make sure there’s no peaking from the five children. Family being together is always a blessing. Of course, Easter means a lot to Christians.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 16th, 2011 @ 8:15 am

      Darlene – Family is SO important, and it’s wonderful that you can all get together that day. Hope you all have a great Easter!

  4. 4
    Lana — April 15, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

    We are not believers, but we celebrate Easter in in the eastern Orthodox (Serbian) tradition, which is my heritage:)
    I color the eggs (usually in onion skins, for different shades of brown) on Good Friday, and we have an “egg war” for Sunday breakfast: the winning egg is saved, the ones that lost are eaten along with spring onions, radishes, freshly baked bread, and farmers’ cheese.
    Families exchange the eggs between each other (usually at church).
    Easter dinner is usually roasted young lamb or a piglet, with bibb lettuce dressed with a vinaigrette, spring onions and radishes, new roasted potatoes and fresh bread.
    As a finish, there is a dessert, open to choices:)
    We celebrate this holiday as the arrival of spring and the new beginning. No presents, no egg hunts (at least not traditionally – as I live in the U.S., we have hidden eggs every single year:), no jelly beans:) But a lot of beautiful eggs:)

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 16th, 2011 @ 8:16 am

      I love hearing about other traditions! Thanks so much for sharing, Lana. I’d love to see some of the eggs you all decorate and color with onion skins. I bet they’re gorgeous.

  5. 5
    Steph — April 15, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

    Growing up I spent most holidays at my Italian grandparents’ home, where the whole family would gather to eat, drink, talk, and eventually play cards or board games.
    Since grandma passed away 9 years ago much has changed. I met my husband and had a baby, and most holidays now are spent with his family. They are smaller affairs, but no less filled with food!
    While Thanksgiving is all about turkey and sides, Christmas about the roast, pasta and shrimp cocktail, Easter is all about ham and desserts. My Italian grandma went all out each Easter to the extent that I felt the actual dinner suffered. There was Easter bread, egg biscuits, boiled biscuits, rice pies, ricotta pies, rice and ricotta pies, and of course the Italian Easter pie.
    It is quiche-like, though grandma’s was heavier on the dried sausage and cheese, lighter on the egg. She baked it in a square Pyrex baking dish, pie crust on the bottom, lattice on top.
    My husband’s Irish mother makes a similar concoction, taught to her by her Italian MIL. The biggest difference is in the name; theirs is ‘pizzagaina’.
    Online these days I find references to ‘pizzagaina’ and ‘shadone’. Obviously something was lost in translation. With my new family, I’m hoping to resurrect these recipes with the hand-written cards in grandma’s scrawl as a guiding light.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 16th, 2011 @ 8:18 am

      Steph, those traditional Italian Easter dishes sound incredible. I’m intrigued by the Easter pie. If you make it, please post about it! And you are so lucky to have your grandmother’s hand-written recipe cards. Such a treasure!

  6. 6
    Aggie — April 16, 2011 @ 10:35 am

    Easter is one of my most treasured holidays. It just brings me such happy memories. We usually spend it with my parents, grandparents and siblings…and it’s so much fun now with the kids to have an egg hunt around the house and yard. Of course we love to color our eggs, that might be one of my favorite things to do with the kids. The Easter bunny always brings us a new Disney movie each year (he knows we are trying to grow our collection). We usually have a wonderful Italian meal with my family. Over the last couple of years I’ve made the Italian Easter bread that my grandmother always made when I was young but no longer makes. I love that Easter bread. 🙂

  7. 7
    Aggie — April 16, 2011 @ 10:38 am

    PS…that is the sweetest picture ever. 🙂

  8. 8
    Gail — April 16, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

    There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to make and eat lemon desserts.
    I’ll pipe some meringue baskets or cups and bake them slowly, then fill with lemon curd. Or maybe a lemony baked pudding cake….I just know lemon looks beautiful on my good dishes.

  9. 9
    Martha — April 16, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

    We always eat holiday dinners at the dining room table, set with sterling silver flatware and flow blue china. We have a mid-afternoon dinner, as did my Eastern/Southern family growing up. All these elements set the meal apart from regular dinners and add to the memories.

  10. Pingback: tips for dressing up holiday dinners | the merry gourmet

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