Jennifer Casa is a mama + maker + homebody + rocker + dreamer. She knits, sews, cooks, crafts, designs, writes, makes music and snaps lots of pictures. JCasa handmade is her personal blog where she writes about all that good stuff.

Years ago, back when I was working as a foreign language teacher, I spent nearly every summer studying in and traveling throughout Europe. While refining my linguistic and pedagogical skills, I developed friendships with people from all over the world. Those experiences contributed a great deal to who I am today. And while my life has shifted gears over the past decade, I am delighted to reminisce each day about my travels from our home kitchen, cooking up the many recipes I learned over the years.

Friends from Denmark taught me how simple it is to brighten a salad with fresh corn kernels, and my roommate from Japan sparked an interest in bento boxes. A dear friend told me how her family picked mushrooms in the woods of Sweden growing up as she introduced me to chanterelles, cooking the precious golden trumpets with just the perfect amount of butter. And while traveling to Prague with friends from Italy, I learned that there needs to be a discussion about which pasta is to be made, and with which sauce. It’s all tradition. And I learned that good food can be so very simple, seemingly effortless, and never ever rushed.

There was (and probably still is) an Italian restaurant in Rothenburg ob der Tauber called Pizzeria Roma – it was there that I had my first taste of Gnocchi al Forno. Served in an oval-shaped casserole, those soft potato dumplings snuggled in bubbling sauce that had cooked all day and drenched in gooey cheese. It’s the kind of dish you share with a friend because it’s so rich and filling. So very good that you need a nap afterwards.

On a later visit to Italy, I learned how to make gnocchi – but believe me when I tell you, they are tricky to master. There needs to be just the right balance of wet + dry and not too much handling. Not enough flour means the dough will be too loose, and they’ll fall apart in the water. If you add too much, they become dense or chewy. And you need to get them out of the water and into the sauce within about a minute of when they start to float. But don’t be put off by those caveats – these delicate pillows will melt in your mouth and are worth every bit of effortlessness you can manage.


  • 2 lbs. of yukon gold or white potatoes, steamed* (with skins on), cooled and peeled
  • 3/4 cup of freshly grated Romano cheese
  • 1.5 – 2 cups of unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 egg
  • a few pinches of salt
  • + your favorite sauce

*It’s my opinion that steaming the potatoes makes all the difference. They cook through without becoming water-logged, resulting in a silky, smooth dough.

Place the peeled potatoes in a large bowl and mash with the back of a fork until there are no lumps. Add the grated cheese, a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if desired. Crack one egg on top and stir to combine. Add 1.5 cups of sifted flour to the bowl and gently combine with your hands, being careful not to overwork it. Sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and scoop out the dough. GENTLY form the dough into a ball, barely kneading it and adding flour as needed until it comes together and is no longer sticky.

Divide the dough in four. Roll one quarter of the dough into a long log that is about the thickness of your thumb. Dip a knife into flour and cut the log into 1” pieces. Then take a clean fork and dip it into flour. Turn the fork over so the rounded back of the fork is facing up. Use your thumb to gently roll one of the 1” gnocchi pieces downward along the tines of the back of the fork. As you do this, your thumb will create a small indentation on one side of the gnocchi, and the fork tines will create ridges along the curved side – perfect little nooks and crannies for your sauce. Place the gnocchi on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and continue in this manner until you have used up all the dough.

Cook in boiling water in small batches and watch for them to float – once they do, give them about another minute and remove with a slotted spoon and pop them right into your simmering sauce for just a few minutes. Serve immediately and devour.

These gnocchi can be made in advance and kept on the baking tray in the refrigerator until ready to cook that day. You can also pop the baking sheet of uncooked gnocchi into the freezer and after a few hours, place the frozen gnocchi into a freezer bag for later use, like the next day for lunch when you want more gnocchi, maybe with brown butter. Oh my.




Welcome Destri from  The Mother Huddle.

My kids are to the funnest stage yet when it comes to reading books.  They ask questions about the story, laugh at the funny parts, and even act out scenes that we read.  I never really knew what fun we would have reading books.  I myself do not remember liking books until the ripe age of twenty.  Now I love reading, and am on a mission to get my kids hooked while they are young.  Even if it means getting a little messy.

I loved the series that Cassie recently had, A Book & a Craft on The Crafty Crow that shared crafts inspired by favorite books.  I began seeing all sorts of fun stuff my kids and I could make from their books.  I have found that most of our favorite books involve some kind of food too.  Pink cupcakes, Chef Bascettie’s pizza, Grandma’s award winning blueberry pie; all sorts of recipes can come from books.  That is what brought about this series, Storybook Recipes.  I hope you enjoy what we cooked up!

Porcupine No Bake Treats
Inspired by How Do You Hug a Porcupine? By Laurie Isop and Illustrated by Gwen Millward

How Do You Hug A Porcupine? by Laurie Isop is a new favorite of ours.  Laurie tells a great tale, and delivers a powerful message in the sweetest of ways.  The illustrations by Gwen Millward are whimsical and, by themselves, tell a story of how children can love and hug all kinds of different animals. Except for one little boy, who loves a porcupine.  How does one hug a porcupine? This is the part where my kids giggle, and the illustration that inspired our recipe. Marshmallows are always a winner in my house…

I won’t tell you how the rest of the story goes, I would hate to spoil the ending for you!  I love the lesson that you may run across someone hard to love, or someone different that seems hard to get to know – but with a little effort there is always a way.

Now onto the recipe and how it came together:

  • For little kids – it’s easiest if you have all the ingredients out and measured before you start.  Have the kids dump the first four ingredients (butter, sugar, milk & cocoa) into a small saucepan. Parents or older siblings bring this to a slow boil on the stove. Take off the heat and set aside to cool a little (but not too much!). Add the butterscotch chips (if you can’t find butterscotch chips try choc chips instead or leave these out altogether).
  • While this mixture is cooling have the kiddos combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Parents or an older sibling can then pour the warm chocolate mixture in, and if cool enough, let the kids stir it all up.
  • Place a piece of wax paper down onto a cookie sheet or plate.  Now scoop up the oatmeal mixture into something that will give you a little bit of a body.  We used our 1/3 measuring cup.  Make sure it is packed nice and tight, then turn over onto the wax paper, and lift up the cup to reveal the body.  Leave to cool and set.
  • Meanwhile the kids can push marshmallows onto the ends of the quills (pretzel sticks). Then push the quills into the body of the porcupine.  We had to form ours a little at this point, where the pretzels pushed out the sides, so plan on sticky fingers.
  • Now stick a Hershey’s Kiss on the front for the nose, and stick them in the fridge for about twenty minutes or until firm.

Now eat them!

This series will be ongoing on The Mother Huddle for the next 6 weeks and we are still taking submissions for it.  We would love to see what you can cook up from your favorite children’s book.  See the Storybook Submission Post for all the details!

Thanks so much for having me Kathreen!


For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

A few months ago, I was invited to contribute a recipe into an ebook to benefit the Red Cross. The girls at HowDoesShe did all the hard work organising this and they came up with the idea after the devastation in Japan earlier this year. Missy, Shelley and Alison introduce the project…

After literally MONTHS of creating, the “50+ Top Blogs All Time Favorite Recipes” cookbook is HERE!!! You may have seen a sneak peek of this gorgeous recipe book this past month. We hope you have been anxiously awaiting it. :) Now, until the end of August, it’s available for purchase. But wait, scratch that, it’s not a purchase. The best part is…

it’s a donation!

100% of your donation will go to the American Red Cross to help the many people who have been affected by recent natural disasters around the world.

After seeing the devastation in Japan, several top blogs teamed together wanting to somehow make a difference. More than 50 blogs donated one of their favorite recipes to be compiled into an incredible cookbook designed by chickabug (design talent was 100% donated as well). Basically a lot of people worked really hard to make something extraordinary. Now, it’s in your hands to make a difference.

This one-of-a-kind cookbook was originally only going to be offered as an E-book for a $10 donation. But after receiving feedback from readers, we realized that many of you want a physical copy. We approached our favorite publisher, Paper Coterie, who was willing to donate 100% of the supplies, and 100% of the cost of printing for this amazing cause. Are you feeling the warm tinglies yet?! We are!!! This started out as one person having an idea. Now over 50 blogs and an amazing publisher are involved and now it’s YOUR turn.

Together we can will make a difference.

The E-book is for sale here for a $1o donation. If you have a computer in your kitchen or an electronic reader, (ipad, kindle,etc.) this is the copy for you. You can just click on the recipe you want from the table of contents and it will take you right there. It’s sweet.

The hard cover cookbook is also available, (wait for it…) for only $10. You will be amazed at the quality of this book. The only extra expense you will have will be for shipping ($4 or more depending on where you live and how many copies you order).

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You can smile knowing you made a difference to someone, somewhere. And you can smile because you will have a beautiful full color recipe book with gorgeous pictures and delicious recipes to try. We truly hope you love the cookbook. We think you will. You might just want to buy one for your mom, sister, and mother-in-law for Christmas. ;)

Please share this post with your friends and family on your blog, facebook, and twitter. Let’s make this go VIRAL! How cool would that be? Here is a button to put on your blog:

and the link: – Remember 100% of the proceeds will be benefiting the American Red Cross.

*The American Red Cross name is used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement, express or implied, of any product, service, company, individual or political position. For more information about the American Red Cross, please email books be available for a little over 2 weeks – starting Monday and continuing for the rest of August. The last day to order will be August 31.

{ 1 comment }

Thank you to Andrews McMeel Publishing for donating a copy of each of these books to giveaway to readers. I love being able to give stuff to my readers – as a little thank you for stopping by. So to be in the running to win ONE of these books please leave a comment telling me about what sort of things you like to cook for your kids – and what they love to cook too (or if they are too little to help what they love to eat) – I really want to know about your healthy choices not their favourite junk foods! {entries will be open over the weekend and will close Sunday night/monday am}. Winners will be contacted via email – Winners are: Jenny, Inge, Maya and Lisa.


Steampunk Softies: Scientifically-Minded Dolls from a Past That Never Was, by Sarah Skeate, Nicola Tedman. Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing (2011)

This incredibly detailed book – is not a kids craft book at all – its for those with a childlike heart, who love to play and experiment and have a little fun. These gorgeous characters, inspired by film and literary imagination, have been created by illustrator and character designer Sarah Skeate and costume designer and model maker Nicholas Tedman. This is not your usual DIY crafty softie toy how-to book. Its more of a guide to entertain and amuse and make these unusual and wonderful characters. They are not necessarily difficult to make – however you will need to have some sewing skills as there are not a lot of techniques explained and there is a huge materials list required. But if you are up for a challenge and you love everything steampunk, nerdy and kinda cool, then you will completely fall in love with this book.

Jurassic Towel Origami. By Alison Jenkins. Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing (2009)

This is a hilarious book – totally left of field for me – having never heard of towel origami before – but seems like it is a thing that people do. And Alison Jenkins is reviving it! I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this book – but my kids assure me its pretty weird – but in a good way! and off they went with towel and book in hand.

Ready, Steady, Spaghetti: Cooking For Kids And With Kids. By Lucy Broadhurst. Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing (2009). Originally published by Murdoch in 2007.

This book is a steal – I can’t believe its under $8 at Amazon at the moment. I don’t usually mention how much books cost – but really I was very surprised as it is a big colourful book and great value at twice the price! Most of the recipes are given a double page – with clear step-by-step photos, which are really handy so you can see what the mixture is supposed to look like along the way. The recipes don’t reinvent the wheel – rather they are a timely reminder for busy parents and budding cooks about some simple, fun and healthful recipes that can be made easily and quickly with fairly common ingredients.

There are quite a few recipes that kids can tackle on their own (depending on age) and many more where little hands can assist. There are many healthy choices for busy parents like simple stir fried vegetables and sausage pie and few others that are a bit more demanding time wise but worth a little effort if you have a little more time – like gnocci and fish cakes. This is not a health food book though – its a real food for real families book – there is a treat section and party section – and anything homemade with real ingredients is a step towards teaching kids about real food.

Bean Appetit: Hip and Healthy Ways to Have Fun with Food. By Shannon Payette Seip and Kelly Parthen. Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing (2010).

Shannon and Kelly are founders of the kids cafe and cookery school – Bean Sprouts – which looks like fun – anyone been there? This book is sort of aimed at kids – it’s bright and colourful with fun character illustrations perfect in a kiddo book. However as the kids it’s aimed at are preschool age and not likely to be reading yet (unless they are genius children), and older (7+) kids might think this book is a little cheesy (my kids did), so then if this book is really for the grownups it is a little hard to look at. Instead think of it as a book for preschool age (and younger) kids and parents to use together.

But design aside – the recipes, ideas and concepts that it discusses are really good. It is more than a cook book – it is an activity book which includes creative ways to encourage healthy eating and creates a positive attitude toward meals, making food and cooking fun, and using interesting and colourful ingredients. [Woman’s day has some sneak peaks of a few of the recipes you will find inside.]

Disclaimer: The publisher provided with a review copy of these books. The Amazon links are affiliate links.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

I have started up two new regular columns here at whipup – to replace my previous newsletter. My new newsletter will be available via email only and will contain lots of news and crafty links and special offers – so you should sign up (yes it is still free for those who asked) (sign up at the bottom of this post).

To replace my previous newsletter which was available here and via email I am adding a ‘Crafty news and links’ column and a ‘From Kathreen’ column. The Crafty news and links will include lots of tutorials, crafty news, special offers, competitions and all the other bits and pieces that come through my inbox and that I found on my travels through the web. The ‘From Kathreen’ column will be more personal stuff from me – what I am up, my craft, cooking, and kids adventures.

So here is my first in this series – What’s cooking.

Over on my other blog – that I share with my brother – I post the occasional recipe – this weeks it’s Chocolate bean brownies. I know totally weird – but strangely delicious and addictive. I have been researching no-wheat and no-sugar cooking as we are trying to be healthier and eat cleaner. This is part of cutting out all processed foods and getting back to basics with our cooking and eating.

I found the original recipe at 101 cookbooks – a really great cooking blog. I tweaked the recipe quite a bit and my final version is posted here. This is a great recipe for those trying to cut out wheat or who are gluten intolerant. It is a moist dark chocolate brownie made with fiber-and-protein-rich black beans – and it’s wheat-free. Also great if you are trying to cut out sugar! They make an excellent healthy treat for kids too.

But of course being the blog hound that I am – I had to find out a bit more about using black beans in cakes and sweets. Not sure really where this recipe originates – maybe adapted from the Asian use of red bean paste in sweets. And I came upon quite a few other recipes and ideas …

  • This recipe also includes a banana and used agave nectar as the sweetener.
  • This brownie recipe adds choc chips and peppermint essence.
  • This recipe adds apple sauce and muscovada sugar as the sweetener.
  • Here is another flourless and sugarless version – using dried fruits as a sweetener. With a good explanation of the whole no-sugar thing.
  • And here is another one – with the addition of cinnamon.
  • This recipe uses a little kahlua and coconut oil
  • This one has added peanut butter. mmmm.
  • This one is a bit different – with Carob, banana and agave syrup – looks pretty good.

For even more crafty news, tutorials, reviews, special offers and updates subscribe to our newsletter via email.