All Posts By Jennifer Perillo

Jennifer Perillo is a recipe developer and food writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her recipes and tips for feeding families homemade meals are a regular feature in Working Mother magazine, where she’s the consulting food editor, as well Relish Magazine, Parenting, Kiwi and her blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen. Jennie's first cookbook, Homemade With Love, is now available.

Stuck in a Carrot Rut? — Simple Scratch Cooking

by in Family, In Season, February 7th, 2012

ginger carrot soup
Something happened a few weeks ago while I was at the farmers’ market. As I scanned the stands, looking over the slim produce pickings here in the Northeast, I decided to get to the root of the problem — root vegetables, that is. It’s February, and we’re knee-deep in parsnips, turnips and potatoes. How I long for the first green cylinders of zucchini and sweet pods of green peas. Soon enough, asparagus.

Since I can’t get in a time machine and fast forward to spring, I decided it was time to get creative and work with what I had before me. Into my bag went a big bundle of carrots. Then they sat in the bin for a week. A whole week — thank heavens root vegetables are resilient and forgiving. I originally picked them up since they’re one of my daughters’ favorite vegetables. The problem is I tend to fall back on standard serving ideas, like simply roasting them or cutting into sticks to pair with dip. Not bad, but certainly a one-way ticket to boredom if done too frequently.

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Under Pressure — Simple Scratch Cooking

by in Family, How-to, February 1st, 2012

pressure cooker
Come cold weather, praises abound for slow cookers. I never got on that bandwagon. While I love low-and-slow cooking, when it comes to barbecue, I prefer my meals to come together more quickly on a daily basis. Why wait that long for a tender, melt-in-your-mouth beef stew when a pressure cooker can do the same job in less than an hour?

Back when I was a personal chef, I only had four to five hours to spend at each client’s house, to get five meals for four prepared from start to finish. Using a pressure cooker allowed me to not only multitask, but to prepare short ribs, pot roast and even soups in record time. It was just the primer I needed for feeding my own family years later.

Forget all your fears and the stories you’ve heard about pressure cookers in the past. In the 15 years I’ve been using mine, there’s never been an explosion. I started with a stovetop pressure cooker in the beginning, and in the last few years my electric one has become my new best friend. Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll realize from the first bite that is one “fast food” busy parents can feel good about serving their kids.

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Recipe for a Lasting Resolution — Simple Scratch Suppers

by in Family, Recipes, January 10th, 2012

macaroni and cheese
It’s a new year and headlines tell us it’s time for a “new you,” too. That’s easier said than done, as any mom will tell you. The responsibilities of parenthood don’t magically disappear with the change of the calendar year.

After a month of eating on the run, lots of baking, and perhaps lots of snacking, it’s hard to find the motivation to break up with those bad habits. Throw in a few major personal curve balls and well I found myself really down on my ability to find my way out, so to speak. What I realized while making a simple recipe for muesli the other day is that I need to be as kind and gentle with myself as I am with others.

How does any of this apply to getting the three meals plus snacks ready we need for our families each day? For starters, don’t try to change everything at once in terms of how you cook. Just because you know whole-grain flours are better for you, doesn’t mean you have to start using it in every recipe immediately. Give yourself time to learn how it works in your favorite dishes, and time to find new recipes you like using it in. Take a cue from your kids here, and learn how to walk before you leap right in.

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Easy Homemade Gifts — Really!

by in Family, Holidays, December 23rd, 2011

Easy Homemade Gifts
This week is like the holiday Olympics for moms, jam-packed with recitals, school parties and hours of gift-wrapping. Homemade gifts have always been my favorite to give, and they’re the ones that friends and family talk about for years to come. In the past, spending hours squirreled away in the kitchen wasn’t an issue, but life is quite different these days.

As my daughters grow, homework duties increased, and the list of recipients grew longer, I started re-thinking my homemade gift-giving strategy. I didn’t want to give up on the idea of hand-decorated cookies, but I began to realize I was in need of a compromise. Rather than start crossing names off my “nice” list, I decided to put friends, family and even my girls’ teachers in charge of the final product.

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Weeknight Potluck Playdates

by in Family, Recipes, October 27th, 2011

vegetarian lasagna recipeOnce three o’clock strikes, time seems to go to warp speed. Some days I feel like I’m on autopilot, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s far too easy to get caught up in the monotony of motherhood — it’s okay to admit we don’t love every part, like homework and that whole work-life balance.

For this very reason, I make a conscious effort to not over-schedule my daughters with afterschool activities. I’m a firm believer in letting them have some time to wind down and enjoy the simple pleasure of playing at home. Still, I find myself exhausted come dinnertime these days. I may not be zipping from dance class to soccer every day, but suddenly thrown into single motherhood means I need to find new ways to ensure dinner doesn’t become boring — for me to cook, and for the girls to eat.

Get Jennie’s recipe picks fit for a crowd »

Double-Duty Dinners — Simple Scratch Suppers

by in Family, October 6th, 2011

crispy steak sandwiches
My motivation for cooking has changed somewhat over the last eight weeks. Every meal I prepare serves as a reminder that Mikey is no longer at our dinner table. I still have two young children to feed, though, so the kitchen has not collected dust in the days and weeks since his death. In fact the contrary has happened, and I often find solace in chopping and sautéing.

Cooking is a constant, a variable that hasn’t changed. I still can chop an onion the same way I did before August 7, albeit the tears are for a different reason now. I’ve also found myself relying on the standards: the meals I can prepare with my eyes closed. Roasting a chicken is easy and I get the double reward of having leftovers to make soup, pot pie or even chicken croquettes. The same goes for steak, and even beans — leftover homemade pintos get new life as refried beans for tacos.

Jennie’s recipe inspirations »

One Mom’s Journey From Fussy to Foodie — Simple Scratch Suppers

by in Family, September 27th, 2011

fussy eaters
I wrote a post with this very title for my own blog eight months ago. Not surprisingly, it was pretty popular. Every parent wants to know the secret weapon that’ll get his or her kids to eat a well-balanced meal. I’m not here to share some infinite wisdom, but I do have a story that I think will provide other parents some comfort.

There was once a little girl who rolled her eyes at the thought of eating meat. In fact, she went so far as to hide it in the opening under the table where the leaves were supposed to be tucked away. She also had an issue with any type of sauce on her pasta. She survived on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for all of elementary school, and well into middle school.

Read Jennie’s important takeaway »

Easing Into Back-to-School Dinners — Simple Scratch Suppers

by in Family, How-to, August 16th, 2011

back to school
When I first wrote up my outline for this blog, back to school dinners seemed a sensible choice given school starts this week for many families around the country. Nowadays, we all seem to be running short on time. People rely on meals out of boxes and bags, thinking there’s not enough time to cook. I wanted to offer you tips and ideas for making weeknight cooking easier.

Then something happened to change my perspective and outlook.

My husband died suddenly.

When I say suddenly, I mean just that. He was helping our daughter ride her bike, told her he needed to sit for a moment, then keeled over from a massive heart attack. Some of you, perhaps many, probably know about this already given the amazing show of support and love that has filled the food community.

So, why am I here talking to you all about back-to-school dinner ideas?

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Menu Planning vs. Cooking on the Fly — Simple Scratch Suppers

by in Family, How-to, August 9th, 2011

cooking on the fly
Procrastination has been my strong suit ever since I can remember. Term papers were finished just before dawn on the day they were due. Studying for tests took place until the moment the bell rang, in an effort to cram in all I should’ve been paying attention to during the semester.

It’s quite funny, now that I’ve immersed myself in a world looming with deadlines. I’m not talking about my day job as a food writer. I’m talking about motherhood. Those in the trenches with me understand the feeling of a never-ending to-do list — laundry, homework help, cleaning, etc.

You’re wondering what any of this has to do with getting dinner on the table, right? Well, it certainly explains why I’m not a menu planner. I often give the excuse that I don’t want my “creativity” to be crowded. I say meal planning isn’t for me because I love the flexibility it offers to enjoy what I’m craving at the moment. The real reason I don’t plan our weekly meals, though, is to keep my love for cooking alive. If I planned our meals, I mean really sat down with a pen and paper, dinnertime would feel like a chore — and I already have plenty of those.

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Why Your Pantry Should Be Your Best Friend: Simple Scratch Suppers

by in Family, Recipes, August 2nd, 2011

pantry primer jp
In my house, the first rule of mealtime is there are no rules. Provided the options are healthful and balanced, what matters most importantly is that my husband and daughters leave the table feeling satisfied and excited for the next meal. Keeping an open mind when thinking about dinnertime also takes a lot of stress out of cooking from scratch, and gives the feeling that my options are limitless.

Another safety net to help with dinnertime is my pantry. Stocked with a mix of home-canned and store-bought ingredients, I can create a dinner menu based on how much time I have available: canned beans for quick and easy meals, cooked-from-scratch beans when time is more generous. Here are five of my favorite pantry essentials:

Dry Pasta: Get the kids involved when loading up the pantry with this ingredient. I’m amazed at how my oldest daughter turns her nose up to spaghetti, but goes crazy for bow ties. Even though the taste is the same, I’ve learned shape really matters to kids.
Try this recipe: Ravioli With Creamy Tomato Sauce

More must-have pantry items »