A Soup, A Pound Cake, a Novel

Greetings from Quarantine Day 2. Yesterday felt like another one of those days where switches flipped all across the country, when people started taking the #stayhome orders more seriously, including my children. I went for a run, tested a vegan Caesar dressing recipe for my book, took the dogs for a walk, and made the famous Sarah Keiffer pan-banging cookies. What about you? Here’s today’s episode of Project, Pantry, Purpose…

Project: Pound Cake

If you started the focaccia recipe yesterday, continue that today. If you didn’t, let’s make a pound cake. This is still 100% delicious without the berries.

1 pat butter for greasing pan (or cooking spray)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest (optional, my kids like it better without)
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries or raspberries or blackberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a standard 8 1/2-by-4 1/2 inch loaf pan.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, mix together sugar and lemon zest with a fork until well distributed. Add sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract; whisk to blend. Fold in dry ingredients. Once it has come together, fold in berries. You don’t want to overmix. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes until top of cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before slicing.

Pantry: Tomato-White Bean Soup

Makes 4 servings; Serve with crusty bread or that focaccia you started yesterday.

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnishing
1 slice smoky bacon (optional)
1/2 large onion, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1 stalk celery, chopped (optional, about 1/2 cup)
1 large carrot, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
red chili flakes
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 1/2 cups cooked white beans (3 15-ounce cans, drained)
3 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
Parm, for garnishing

In a medium soup pot or Dutch oven, add olive oil and bacon, if using. Add onion, celery, carrot, salt, pepper and pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and all but 1/2 cup of beans.

Remove the bacon, chop into small pieces and add back to pot. Add broth (it should just cover beans) and bring to a boil. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup, adding water or broth until it reaches desired consistency. Stir in your reserved beans, warm through, and serve with lots of Parmesan, olive oil, more freshly ground pepper, and crusty bread or focaccia.

Purpose: Read a Novel

From longtime reader Amanda:  “I work for an indie bookstore in Arlington, VA, and we, like all other indies, are really struggling right now. We’ve closed the floor of our store to the public and are relying on our online orders to keep us going…A lot of us are offering free shipping right now, and it’s one of the best things you can do to keep community hubs like us thriving! (I’m biased towards my own store, One More Page Books, but there are hundreds of other great ones!)”

Thank you, Amanda! I’ll add that if you don’t already know the local bookstore to support, you can find it on indiebound. Might I recommend ordering Separation Anxiety, by Lauren Zigman? People are loving it. As my friend Rory says, “Judy, the protagonist, is excellent company.”

It brought me great comfort hearing what everyone was up to on yesterday’s post. I hope it did the same for you. Keep the recipes, projects, stories, movies, games, puzzles, ideas coming in the comment field, please.


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Thank you – thank you – for this. It’s amazing the places we can find community and it makes my heart happy to know (despite the news reports…) that we are all in this together.


Ha, in my case it’s me (the 26 year old) harassing my parents about staying inside…….. going to attempt some bread tonight, I made Allison Roman’s focaccia a couple of weekends ago and it turned out GREAT and then last weekend I made it again and I ruined it I think I may have over-proofed it/left it in the fridge too long? It smelled legit SOUR in the fridge. I baked it anyway but it came out crunchy not soft. Trying to remain sane over here and wishing I had an extra bag of flour to experiment with! Loving the pantry recipes though.


Thank you! Your posts have inspired and comforted me for many years. Like a previous reader said, I check this site daily. I’m thrilled for the distraction of new content and the feeling of community.


Thanks for this, Jenny! I’ll definitely be making this soup sometime this week! And I will most certainly be reading novels too! I work for the Denver Public Library and we are currently closed until further notice— lots of time for reading! I’m also getting my on-again / off-again book club back together to read / discuss books over group text and video chat! Stay healthy and safe!

Mom of Boys

The blueberry yogurt cake will be for tomorrow morning! Great idea!

Tonight, buttermilk poached salmon (from an article I just read) with kari leaves. Salmon from the freezer. We have leftover buttermilk from a carrot cake icing I made Before. We are using everything we have in the kitchen hoping our CSA basket arrives on Thursday as previously planned.

Aside from work, today involved checking in with all of the old folks in our lives and talking my mom through online grocery ordering. We did some serious weeding and the kids are working on homework provided electronically. Expecting a mean game of Risk tonight! We’ve discovered the most critical foods we lack are milk and raisins. Our teenager thinks tortilla chips should also be added to this list.

Thanks again for helping us all feel part of something.


Thank you so much for these posts! I love having some ideas to keep me from being overwhelmed by the many choices available that I end up not being able to pick anything. Having all of us at home has been a big change, but so far we have had the opportunity to explore the state park near us, work on art projects and make pizza dough. Thank you for sharing your day with us. I’ll be checking back every day 🙂


Thank you for continuing these posts. Today my daughter and I made KAF cinnamon raisin sourdough bread (without the raisins). We’re enjoying our neighbors from a distance and trying to get work done while trying to keep our almost 4 year old occupied.


Also, thank you for the idea to order books from our local independent bookstore. Just used your link to buy something and it will give us something to do tomorrow (to drive over and pick up curbside)!

Jenn in GA

I’m still going to work every day at the optometry practice where I am employed in GA. It’s not very real yet here to most people. So, I bought some chickpeas and canned tomatoes to add to the spinach and coconut milk I already had at home so I can make one of my FAV DALS recipes. Thanks for the simple yummy lunch that will keep me going. Keep posting more pantry meal ideas.


So grateful you’re doing this. Started the focaccia yesterday with my 9 year olds (looks boys – science!) and making your tomato white bean soup today. Here’s hoping life returns to normal quickly.

emily collins

i didn’t see your first quarantine post yesterday, but i am delighted to read day 1 and day 2. we are americans living in florence, italy, for a long time. you all are where we were a few weeks ago. our lives have changed almost every day. and in other ways remaining the same, with mostly staying at home. we have now learned how to have apertivo time with friends via Zoom. i will make your tomato-white bean soup next week. we are all in this together. xoxo


Made Irish soda bread in honor of St. Patrick’s day yesterday which seemed to pass without the usual fan fair. The sun is shining today so I’m looking for an outdoor hike today on local trails. Thinking of a fire pit to warm the evening.

Thanks Jenny…..your posts brighten this time and give me something to look forward to each day.


I’m going to make your back-pocket risotto with sausage crumbles tonight. So happy to have ingredients on-hand (and for your reminder yesterday)! When i clock out from teleworking, i am going to try and finish “Dr. Zhivago” (#lifegoals). I had higher hopes for 2020, but here we are….oh, but I just taught my 12 year old son how to scrub a toilet, so that’s something?


I am so happy to see your Pantry, Project, Purpose posts—thank you sincerely for these little prompts of mindfulness and connection. Didn’t see yesterday’s post until this eve, but we made your pound cake recipe yesterday anyhow, as chance would have it 🙂


We tried the focaccia yesterday, and my 5 year old has no declared that every Friday is Focaccia Friday! Thank you


Ahhh thanks so much for including my bookstore link! It has been a wild week of absolute chaos and this made my day ❤️


We are in such a new place for our family- rationing ingredients. We are by no means going without as far as food- we will eat and be sustained, however, we don’t have all the options that we are used to. Anything that we want at our fingertips! I think that this is a good thing for us and we are considering what we eat much more than we have before. I mention this because I want to make all the baked goods in your posts, but we don’t have much in the way of eggs or butter or flour and so far, it hasn’t been in the stores near us. (I think that they will be stocked again, but it is a matter of getting to the store when items are there. We are in shelter in place since last week.) So we look at our week and how much of certain items we have and where we can best use them. We are appreciating what we DO have though!

I used the link for indie bookstores that you provided and contacted a local store to see if we can order a couple books to be shipped. We are trying to not spend money unnecessarily with an uncertain future- and so it is figuring out a balance to still be able to help others.

Thanks again for your posts!


All your post do this but this one in particular (timing, quarantine cabin fever) made me happy and inspired me to baptize my new dutch oven. Had to improvise some on the soup because I didn’t have everything in same amounts, but close enough with minor adjustsments. I always laugh when people rave about recipes but used all different ingredients for a totally different dish… so didn’t do that! Just in time for friends who drove by with a loaf of rustic bread while remaining at a socially acceptable distance on the street. Next up, pound cake. About to start reading On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and lined up Separation Anxiety as the next one! Stay healthy and thanks for the excellent company here.


Thanks for these posts! Would you do anything differently if using frozen berries for the pound cake?


Just maybe let them sit on a paper towel for a while and gently dry, so they aren’t super liquidy when they thaw….


Having regular DALS posts to read is truly a bright spot in this pandemic. Thank you!


Just had to say the soup was truly amazing! Been looking for a recipe that mimics ham and bean soup, and this fits to a t. I added two more slices of bacon, and ommited a can of beans and it was still AMAZING!!


Tried the soup recipe tonight and it was a hit. My 6 year old son had 4 bowls! I really enjoy your column, thanks!


Putting in a plug for my local bookstore who is offering free shipping right now. R.J. Julia in Madison, CT rjjulia.com


The whole fam loves Blueberry Loaf! About to make our third one since you posted this. One will go to our neighbours as a thank you for changing our snow tires. We’re all Paying it forward in this time of crisis. Stay safe!


This soup has gotten me through quarantine. My boyfriend and I have nicknamed it “reset soup.” Every time we feel like crap, or start getting down or just generally exhausted, I’ve made this soup and it feels like we’re cured. Thank you so much!!