Attention, holiday shoppers! Today kicks off the opening of the first-ever Real Simple holiday pop-up store in the heart of Rockefeller Center (right across from the giant tree and skating rink). If you’re in the area, stop by and say hello, plus get great gift ideas and holiday tips from our team of experts who will be doing demos and offering advice each day.
One of our experts is Jessica Seinfeld, who just released a new cookbook—Double Delicious! Good, Simple Food for Busy, Complicated Lives, a follow-up to her best-selling Deceptively Delicious. A mother of three young children (and married to comedian Jerry Seinfeld, of course), she also creates cooking videos for her website Doitdelicious.com, which aims to teach beginner cooks quick and easy recipes in a down-to-earth, non-threatening way.
Jessica will be demonstrating her Whoopie Pies and doing a book signing at the pop-up store this Friday at 1 p.m. I was able to catch her on the phone recently to get a little insight into her new cookbook and how she handles the holidays.
What makes the Whoopie Pies from your cookbook special?
Jessica Seinfeld: They are such a favorite of mine…this is pretty much the only item in the book that [nutritionist] Joy Bauer did not approve because I really believe in having treats in moderation and enjoying your life. Especially if you give your body the gift of eating well most of the time, then you deserve to eat what you want, always of course in moderation. So to me, this is a great tribute to a wonderful treat that I know I love and lots of people love. I wanted to find a way to get a little bit of spinach in them [the recipe calls for a ½ cup of spinach puree] but still, they’re full of fat, full of calories, and absolutely delicious. We all deserve to treat ourselves.
How is this cookbook different from your first?
JS: This book is full of great recipes just like the first one was, but this one is a little bit more focused on whole grains in the recipes than the first one was. I created a shopping guide to help people navigate supermarkets, which I find totally overwhelming, as well as reading food labels, which is next to impossible unless you’re a scientist. So I wanted to break that down for people.
Many of your recipes include vegetable purees. Do you have any tips for getting picky eaters to try or like new foods?
JS: For me, it was always just not putting stress around mealtime and finding another way to feel better about the food my family was eating.…People make pumpkin muffins all the time, or people make zucchini bread all the time, and oftentimes if you’re giving a kid zucchini bread or pumpkin muffins, you might not say they’re pumpkin muffins, [you’ll just say] they’re a muffin, if you’re dealing with a picky eater. So for me, this was how you remarket food for children that’s actually a favorite they already like, but it’s just got a little something extra in it to make it better for them.
Do your kids like to cook or help you out in the kitchen?
JS: Every time I pick up my knife, my son is right there putting his apron on and wants to help me. My daughter wants to be a waitress when she grows up and my son wants to be an ice cream man. So we’re very focused on the kitchen and food in our house.
What must-have ingredients are always in your refrigerator or pantry?
JS: I love olive oil. I love a high-quality olive oil, and I love a low- to mid-range olive oil that I keep for everyday cooking. The higher-end [oil] I use for salads or drizzling just for flavor, so you can not go through that high-quality one very quickly. It’s expensive, so I save it for special occasions. I always have garlic, I always have lemon, I always try to keep at least one fresh herb in the house, and I have my favorite knife and my absolute favorite cutting board. I find that having a great knife and a great cutting board makes me feel comfortable at all times, whatever I want to cook. And I think that’s half the battle for people, getting comfortable in the kitchen.
Do you get stressed out around the holidays? How do you manage that stress?
JS: I don’t get stressed out. I just try to manage my time really well. I try not to drink a lot of alcohol, because I know a lot of parties are focused on alcohol but…I’m so old now [laughs] that I get so tired when I drink anything. I really limit myself to one glass of wine if I’m at a holiday party and I nurse it for a long time. I think that cuts down on your tiredness and your exhaustion and your crankiness. And I try to get a little bit of extra sleep at night….My perspective is, if you’re so stressed out about the holidays, you’re doing something wrong and you’re not really focused on the most important things, which are being grateful for what you have and being conscious of other people who don’t. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I can give of myself and time and resources and thought to people who are less fortunate. And far be it for me to be stressed about anything that has to do with anything other than people in need.
What do you typically serve around the holidays? Do you have any family specialties?
JS: My anniversary is on Christmas, so Christmas is the one night a year that Jerry and I always go out to dinner…I’m going to make potato latkes for my son's school…and we’ll certainly have those for the holiday…I have to tell you that I’m the lamest holiday person that there is because I really don’t celebrate Christmas.
But do you make a big deal out of Hanukkah?
JS: Yeah, we do. We have the roast chicken and potato pancakes, and I make homemade applesauce. It’s not really the kind of deal with Hanukkah the way Christmas is. It’s just a different kind of holiday; it’s not as focused on giving gifts and parties and stuff. It’s a more introspective holiday, so it’s not that celebratory.
Do you do any holiday baking?
JS: Not really. I bake all the time anyway. Baking is my pastime. So I bake pies, and it’s such a great time of year to make sweet potato pie. We have so many apples left over from fall apple picking, so I make lots of applesauce and apple desserts and baked apples. I just made two amazing apple pies last night, and I made two pecan pies, and pumpkin pie of course. My family is crazy for pumpkin pie, which is wonderful, so I make one with a gingery crust and one with a regular graham cracker crust.
Do you have a holiday wish list?
JS: Jerry and I don’t really exchange holiday gifts…for my anniversary, I would like a cashmere robe and really nice, cozy slippers.
(image courtesy of Doitdelicious.com)