A Pinch of This, A Dash of That

Jessica Kelleher and her husband moved to Franklin from Massachusetts seven years ago when she was pregnant with their second daughter. As she was living the mom life, she became friends with their neighbor, who first put the idea of starting a catering business in her head. The neighbor was stressed that her husband volunteered them to host a Christmas party at their house. Jessica insisted not to worry, she would make the food for the party and already had all the chafing dishes and supplies. Jessica attended business school, but dreamed of going to culinary school. Cooking was her creative outlet and she would throw cultivated parties with food as the main attraction. After the Christmas party was a huge success, her neighbor asked why she wasn’t doing this for a living. That’s when Jessica decided to mix her business background with her passion to create Pinch & Zest, where she would be the executive chef for weddings and private events.

Jessica went full force and built her own state of the art commercial kitchen in Spring Hill. It was completed in July 2019. She says, “I finish my beautiful commercial kitchen and my business starts taking off, and then COVID hits and nobody has weddings anymore.” But in 2021, they catered 15 local weddings. To achieve the best quality service, they never book two weddings in one weekend. Jessica’s sous chef and pastry chef, Cassidy Ebert, helps her with menu development and testing recipes. Jessica loves asking couples what their comfort food is so they can draw from that and elevate it for their special day using the freshest ingredients and gorgeous presentation. The betrothed get to visit the commercial kitchen before the wedding to taste their personalized menu along with some other surprises. Plus they always accommodate guests who are vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free.

This time of year Jessica loves crafting sauces and braising meats. She says, “I’m not a southern cook, so my version of brisket is red wine, beef broth, all the veggies like carrots and onions, and slow braise it for hours. It makes the whole place smell like fall.” She adds, “My favorite style overall of cooking is light, fresh Italian, so it’s not the classic red sauce and cheese. I love capers and white wine sauces and things like that.” She realizes cooking isn’t for everyone, so Pinch & Zest recently introduced Pinch Meals for people in a pinch! Individuals, couples, and families can choose prepared meals to be delivered to their home weekly. Pinch Meals can also include boxes of from-scratch baked goods or sandwich platters for the office.

Jessica enjoys experiencing Nashville restaurants and getting inspired at the Franklin Farmers Market. On the first of the month, it’s become a tradition for Jessica’s family to try a new-to-them restaurant for dinner. The rules are no phones and no kids menus. She wants her kids to expand their palates and change their perspective on foods they may think are “gross.” She says, “The girls are just hilarious. I’m like ‘okay try this piece of shrimp’ and they’re like ‘ewww.’ And I go, ‘no, you can’t say that, we’re going to try it.’ So they do and it’s been great. It’s something they get excited for.”

Jessica and Cassidy are thrilled for you to try their seasonal recipes and to dive into catering this year’s holiday events.

Jessica's Fall Recipes

Butternut Squash Soup (serves about 6 people)

● 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
● 1 large yellow onion chopped
● ½ teaspoon sea salt
● 1 (3-pound) butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cubed
● 3 garlic cloves chopped
● 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
● ½ tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
● 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
● 3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
● 1 can of full fat coconut milk – shake it, pour it out into a measuring cup and
microwave it to warm it slightly
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper and sauté until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the squash and cook until it begins to soften, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, sage, rosemary, and ginger. Stir and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant, then add 3 cups of the broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the squash is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Let cool slightly and pour the soup into a blender, working in batches if necessary, and blend until smooth. If your soup is too thick, add up to 1 cup more broth and blend.

Serve and garnish with a couple tablespoon swirls of coconut milk and chopped fresh parsley!

Pumpkin Muffins (makes about 15 muffins)

● 1 and 3/4 cups (219g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
● 1 teaspoon baking soda
● 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
● 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
● 1/2 teaspoon salt
● 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
● 1/2 cup granulated sugar
● 1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
● 1 and 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
● 2 large eggs
● 1/4 cup milk, at room temperature
● 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar
● 2 Tablespoons (30ml) pure maple syrup
● 2 Tablespoons (30ml) milk*
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with cupcake liners. This recipe makes 15 muffins, so prepare a second muffin pan in the same manner. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together until combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs and milk together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then fold everything together gently just until combined and no flour pockets remain.

Spoon the batter into liners, filling them almost full. Bake for 16-17 minutes at 350 or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pan as you make the icing.

*For mini muffins, bake for 11-13 minutes at 350°F. Whisk all of the icing ingredients together until combined and smooth. Drizzle over muffins before serving!

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