Recipe #4 – Chocolate Pudding Cream Tart

Located in How Easy is That?

For my next recipe, I decided to make another dessert.

As you may recall, I purchased a tart pan from Williams-Sonoma last week and I decided that it was time to break it in! By the way, this recipe was made on Saturday morning, so I didn’t wait very long to give it it’s first use!

Ina has many tarts sprinkled throughout her cookbooks. Some of them are savory, but most are sweet, desserts. However, I wanted chocolate! So I found the Chocolate Pudding Cream Tart inside the How Easy Is That? cookbook. I gathered my ingredients and everything was going to plan, until one step…..

The recipe requires that you combine the scalded milk with the egg mixture in your stand mixture. Which went swimmingly: I poured the milk in slowly and had the mixer on stir so it wouldn’t scramble the eggs, which it didn’t. However, after doing that, Ina says you need to cook the mixture over the stove until it thickens. Her recipe says cook it for 5 to 10 minutes.

Well…I cooked it. But after 8 minutes on the stove with constant stirring, it had thickened a bit so I thought it was ready. I removed it from the heat and continued on with the recipe by adding the chocolate and butter and whisking until it turned into a nice chocolate-y pool of goodness!

(Or so I thought)

I then poured the mixture into the prepared tart pan with its cooked graham cracker shell, put the plastic wrap on it, and shoved it in the fridge to cool/harden. After about an hour, I checked on it and it was still pretty liquidy, but Ina says it will take around six hours to completing become pudding consistently so I didn’t worry too much.

However, when it reached Hour 5 and not much had changed I did begin to worry!

I didn’t want chocolate milk and I didn’t want to lose the whole thing, so I placed the tart pan in the freezer for the final hour.

It did freeze, but when I cut into it about 90 minutes later, I realized my problem. The custard didn’t cook long enough and thus thicken properly. I was so disappointed that this one didn’t work out. I was really hoping that my first experience making a tart would be a success.

Also, it was the first recipe that I was failed by Ina, I feel like. Prior to starting this blog, I made a few of her recipes here and there and everything always came out amazingly. But not this time. While I know this isn’t technically Ina’s fault, I am still disappointed. I think I am more disappointed over the fact that I feel like I have failed Ina.

However, I wanted this recipe to be good and turn out okay, so I’ve decided I’m going to make it again at some point. In fact, I already bought the chocolate. I just need to get the whole milk, which is a necessity when making this since anything but whole milk won’t cook and set properly.

So there you have it! My first “fail.”

But I plan to march onward and try again and continue to make more recipes. After all, this experience is so that I could learn something, after all!

My “fail” or a chocolate cream pudding pie.

Hey! I Changed Up the Site!

So I know this blog has only been around for a little over a week, but I wasn’t LOVING the old layout. I think this new theme really speaks to what I see this blog as — a collection of my thoughts and a record for this project. I also chose fonts that I really like and feel are easy to read.

I hope you like it too. If you follow me through WordPress, check out the main site and let me know what you think of it.

Is the Expensive Vanilla REALLY Worth It??

The other day I was poking my way around Ina’s website and I realized that she uses vanilla that costs around $33 for 4 fluid ounces. It’s from Madagascar and I’m sure it’s excellent.


Is it REALLY worth that much money? How does it compare to the McCormick one that I buy and use?

I know she wants us to use the BEST ingredients, but I can’t bring myself to spend more than a tank of gas on vanilla extract. To me, it doesn’t really seem worth it. After all, you use so very little in each recipe. In fact, I remember one day I made chocolate chip cookies (not Ina’s, Tollhouse actually) and I forgot to add the vanilla to that recipe and I couldn’t even tell the different.

So really, it doesn’t seem necessary to spend that much money on something that usually gets overpowered by other flavors.

However, there may be a time when I have some extra cash that I’d be willing to buy it. After all, four ounces will last for quite a bit of time if you’re just using a teaspoon or two here and there.

Luckily it’s also sold at the Williams-Sonoma I went to last week, so I can get it easier.

But for now, I’ll stick to the McCormick brand and pretend that I can justify spending all that money on dark brown vodka.

Recipe #3 – French Chicken Pot Pie

French Chicken Pot Pie from Make It Ahead

On Friday I decided to make another recipe from one of Ina’s cookbooks. The meal I made it for would be dinner so I paged my way through the “Dinner” sections of each of her eleven cookbooks until something caught my eye. I eventually found the French Chicken Pot Pie.

I went to the grocery store, found the leeks and mushrooms and opted for the a roll of the Pillsbury biscuit dough over the boxes of puff pastry as she suggested (I wanted to save a few bucks!), and I went home.

This was the first time that I can recall in which I cooked with leeks. And it was interesting. Every time I watch a chef on TV cook with leeks they say something like “You need to wash leeks really well because they are so sandy and dirty.” Remembering this, I was prepared for a mess of sand and dirt, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. These leeks were relatively clean and required only minimal additional cleaning.

The hardest part about this recipe was all the prep work. First you have to cook the chicken in the oven, then wait for it to cool to shred it by hand to get the pieces of chicken that will be “pie friendly.” Then you need to cut carrots, mushrooms, and the leeks into bite-sized pieces (half-inch dice). All of these cutting took some time and was probably the most time-consuming aspect of the recipe.

Finally, my mise en place was done and I was ready to cook. I followed the recipe diligently and when it came time to add the tarragon (after more knife work), the kitchen almost immediately smelled wonderful and I felt like I had just walked into a fancy-smanzy restaurant.

Ina’s original recipe calls to make individual portions of the pie in two-cup bowls that are oven-safe. While cute, it isn’t very practical. So I poured the mixture into a 13-by-9 baking dish and rolled the biscuit dough over it. I still brushed it with an egg wash and some salt and pepper, and it looked amazing!

While it baked, the house filled with wonderful smells of chicken, leeks, carrots, tarragon — and yes, Pillsbury biscuits.

Finally, the time came to eat the pie. I let it sit for a few minutes after removing it from the oven and it was worth it!

Upon having my first bite I immediately thought, “All the prep work was worth it!”

We had leftovers and I think the pie even tasted better the following day. Overall, it wasn’t all that much work (if you get over the chopping) and totally worth the effort!!

Sadly, the only photo I have of it is while the contents of the mixture was simmering on my stove, but the picture wouldn’t do it justice anyway. I highly recommend you try to this one for dinner soon.

Trip to Williams-Sonoma

If you have been reading this blog since the beginning, you’ll know that I am in the process of making spreadsheets featuring all of Ina’s recipes. As I continue to go through each of the cookbooks, I am noticing some themes.

The first is that there is a lot more lamb recipes than I originally thought. But that topic will be discussed in a future post.

Another commonality I’ve noticed is that Ina loves to make tarts! There seems to be a handful of recipes that end up in a tart pan per cookbook. Most of these are desserts, but some are appetizers (Ina refers to them as “starters”). So, it quickly became clear to me that I needed yet another piece of cookware (bakeware?….).

I needed a tart pan!

And since it will be used quite often it seems, I decided I should just bite the bullet and purchase a good-quality one. So, I made the trip to Williams-Sonoma on Friday morning. It had been at least a year since I’ve walked into one and I’ve never been to the one I went to today before.

I found the staff very helpful and polite and with the global pandemic the store and employees were taking the necessary precautions set forth by my state’s governor. So, I was impressed.

Anyway…I digress.

I soon found the tart pan (11-inch with a false bottom) but then ended up purchasing two other things. One is a paddle for my stand mixer that had the scraper built into it.

I’ve been going back and forth on getting this item for a while and when I made the peanut butter and jelly bars earlier in the week, it suddenly became a necessity to have. Hopefully it’ll prove useful and helpful….or at least allow my batters to be better mixed.

I also purchased a candy thermometer which will probably have very minimal usage in my life, even as I cook my way through the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. But I still wanted one because I’ve always wanted on and now I have one.

So after spending more than $80, I left Williams-Sonoma ready to tackle what seems like a full 10% of Ina’s recipes. When one will actually be made? Hopefully sometime this weekend.

I’ve noticed that I really like making her dessert recipes for some reason. I’m not sure if it’s because they are sweet and “bad for you” or if it’s just because they are a bit easier than most of her recipes. Perhaps I should institute a rule for myself…maybe every fourth recipe will be a dessert one?

Lots of think about….

Cookbook Analysis

As I’ve been going through each one of Ina’s cookbooks to enter the recipes into my spreadsheets, I’ve come to the conclusion that I think I’m going to analyze each of them. I’d discuss the complexities of the recipes and how each one seems to have their own special “tone.”

So, I plan to do one each week starting next week for the next 12 weeks. I will probably go in order of publication. So next week I will discuss The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Another thing I’ve noticed as I’ve been inputting these recipes — there’s a lot!

Well….I knew that. After all the number appears in the heading of this site. But now it just seems so overwhelming.


But I’m up for the challenge! And I hope you’re ready for the journey.

Today, I am planning to make at least one other recipe. Not sure what or from which book, but the wheels are turning. Stay tuned!


Recipe #2 – Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

Ina’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars from Barefoot Contessa At Home

Last night, on a whim I felt that I was in the mood to bake. So, naturally, I chose an Ina recipe. I figured since it was late and a weeknight it would be best and easiest to bake something from the “Dessert” sections of the cookbooks. I thumbed through each of the 11 books I currently own, narrowed it down to three top choices then picked from those three.

And the Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars won….mainly due to the fact that I needed a limited number of ingredients from the grocery store.

After heading to the local Big Y, standing in line for almost 10 minutes while the elderly woman in front of me took her sweet time loading her groceries on the cashier’s conveyor belt, I started baking.

Everything was going well until I got to the part where I had to add the flour. Ina calls for 3 cups of flour for this recipe. I had the flour, but it was a new bag so the flour was more compact than usual and I think I added probably an extra tablespoon or two just because the flour was too packed in the cups.

This recipe looks easy, but peanut butter is hard to handle and I learned that cleaning up anything that had peanut butter in it can be challenging! Also, due to the my inclination that the mixture had too much flour, the dough itself was hard to spread.

It was more annoying than hard to make these. But after they baked and cool, I was impressed! They were so sweet and delicious and I doubt they will last very long in the house.

Disclaimer: I am not a photographer by any means. And I only have an iPhone 8 as a camera, so please bare with me on the sub-par photos.


Cooking and Food Thoughts

There are days when I love my job. And by “my job,” I mean my day job. I work with the public. But it’s not always bad. If I’m kept busy, it’s great and the time goes by quickly. If I’m not too busy, then the days begin to drag and my thoughts start to wander.

And that’s what’s been happening lately. My thoughts are beginning to wander throughout the day. Those wandering thoughts are often related to this project and to be honest, I couldn’t be happier with that. Some of the thoughts deal with “What am I going to make next?” “When can I buy [insert item?” “Should I spend enough money to fill my gas tank on vanilla extract or just use the one in the grocery store?

I end up having so many thoughts that I’m actually surprised when it’s time to go home.

Does anyone else wish their day job was food-blogging related? Sometimes I do.

Ina & Raspberries

In order to help me keep track of recipes and so that I can get a sense of what I would need to purchase equipment-wise, I have begun the process of making a list of off the recipes by book. One of the things that I have noticed, even after only completing three of her cookbooks, is that Ina must LOVE raspberries!

It seems like there are at least 10 different recipes calling for them among these three books. There may even be more than 10, I didn’t really count. I just noticed the word “raspberry” kept popping up in the titles.

I guess those recipes will have to wait till summer to be made.