After a lot of thought, I have decided to make a substantial change to this website and the project.
For almost a year and after completing over 50 Barefoot Contessa recipes, I’ve hit a wall. I have been an Ina Garten fan since my childhood and I started this project because of my interest in her and her cooking style. However, eventually, I realized something about Ina Garten’s recipes: they are not who I am.
Meaning, they’re a little upscale. Many of the recipes call for expensive, “good” ingredients, she has recipes for a lot of things that I do not eat (pork and lamb, I’m looking at you!), and her taste buds are a little more “refined” than mine. Basically, her cooking and eating style does not match my own.
The second baking recipe I made over the weekend comes from the early days of Ina. Her second cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Parties! takes on a menu-based theme. Recipes are organized not by type, but by party theme.
The recipe I chose to make from this book is one of three variations on the same base recipe. Combined, all three would make wonderful treats for friends or family. But the star recipe of the bake on Sunday was the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk cookies.
There were surprisingly so simple to make. At first I was hesitant because there isn’t a lot of peanut butter in the recipe and it makes a lot of cookies…like over three dozen! At least that’s how many I got out of it. However, upon biting into one, they tasted like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup! I was in heaven!
In the recipe, Ina states that these cookies should bake for 17 minutes. I did that for the first tray of 8 cookies. But when I removed them from the oven, I found them to be too browned and overdone. When tasted, they were much drier and didn’t really have a lot of flavor. They were overdone.
So, I adjusted for the remainder of the batch. I baked them for only 16 minutes and they were perfect! What a difference 60 seconds could make, huh? Who would have thought so much could happen in such a short amount of time?
These cookies are super simple but packed with flavor. Everyone loved them. I think they belong on the Favorites list!
This recipe can be found in Back to Basics, page 214.
This past weekend was filled with baking and cooking! After a long hiatus, I finally got the BC bug and dived head first back into the project. Over the course of three days I made a total of five Barefoot Contessa recipes. You can see the full list here, but the different review posts will be dropping over the next couple of weeks.
I had been anxiously waiting to start the sandwich category for a little while, but it just never came to be. Until this past weekend. It had been a while since I made my last BC recipe — especially a savory one. But this weekend was a little busy for me and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time standing over the stove, in line at the grocery store, or baking something in the oven.
The solution? A sandwich. After glancing through the list of 28 sandwiches, a few jumped out at me. Such as the Croque Monsieur, Lobster BLTs, and Soft-Shell Crab Sandwiches. While these all sounded very tasty, and my mouth did start to water when reading about them in the cookbooks, I quickly realized that all these choices would involve at least one of the things I didn’t want to be doing that day.
So, I skipped them and settled on something that seemed easy enough. And I had just about everything on hand already. It was a win-win!
This chicken salad was pretty easy. But, I did make some modifications to it. First, I didn’t roast the chicken in the oven. I cooked the two breasts on the stove (I didn’t want to turn my oven on that day…too warm!). I also only made enough for two sandwiches, not the four that the recipe yields, so I made the adjustments to ingredients accordingly.
I added the tarragon, salt, pepper, celery, and mayonnaise just like Ina said. I also decided to include some red grapes that we had left in the fridge. There was only a large handful left and only a few that were still “edible.” So, I just used them up.
However, after combining everything, things looked a little loose. So, I popped it in the fridge for about a half hour before making the sandwich, just to firm things up and allow the flavors to marry. When I was ready to make the sandwich, I toasted some bread, slathered a thin layer of mayo on one slice, and piled about half of the chicken salad on top.
When I bit into it, I was pleasantly surprised. The addition of tarragon adds a hint of licorice-like flavor that I wasn’t really expecting. But, I did like it. Tarragon and poultry go well together, it seems. Many chefs (including Ina) use it when making roast chickens or turkeys. It’s definitely an herb I’ll have to keep in mind.
This chicken salad is a great quick meal that can be made in no time any night of the week. It also seems like it can be scaled up easily to serve a large group of people. While it didn’t blow me away, it did hit the spot, and it taught me to add tarragon to my chicken salad to liven things up a bit!
Over the weekend, some members of my family got together for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. It was nice to see some of these people after many months of not being able to do so.
With my new interest in baking, it was requested that I make dessert. Of course, I obliged. In fact, I made not only one, but two different desserts for the soiree.
The first dessert is one that caught my eye immediately upon thumbing through Ina’s latest cookbook. I’m not sure if it was the stellar food photography, the head notes, or the dessert itself. But Ina’s Boston Cream Pie was one I knew I had to make — and soon!
In the cookbook, Ina states that it took her almost 9 years to develop and perfect this recipe! And let me tell you: it is amazing! It was also well-received by the party guests. Ina is famous for creating simple recipes and enhancing classic dishes. Her Boston Cream Pie is definitely unlike anything you have tasted before. The additions of brandy and Grand Mariner allow the orange flavors to come alive and throw your taste buds a dance party!
This recipe was a multi-step process, but nothing was too overwhelming. It also allowed me to work on many different skills such as making pastry cream, chocolate ganache, and a sponge cake.
Here’s some photos of the various parts in the whole
The finished cake! If you ask me, it looks like an over-sized Boston Cream Pie donut. But I guess that’s the point, right?
This recipe can be found in Barefoot Contessa At Home
Last week, dinner was a simple chicken dish. And I have to say, I think I like Ina’s recipe for Chicken Piccata better than any I’ve had at a restaurant before! The simplicity of this recipe makes it a stellar recipe for weeknights. But it’s also elegant enough to serve for a special occasion.
Chicken Piccata, in Ina’s version, is simply breaded chicken cutlets in a lemon sauce. I did make a few changes so the recipe would be healthier (and less messy) but I think the general idea still comes through.
In addition to the Herb-Marinated Pork that I made last week, I was in the mood to bake. But I wanted a simple recipe that wouldn’t have me spending hours in the kitchen measuring, mixing, baking, and cleaning. After a few minutes of flipping through the Barefoot Contessa Index, I stumbled upon the Chocolate Dipped Brown Sugar Shortbread recipe from Comfort Food.
This seemed to be a somewhat straight-forward shortbread recipe. But it was the first time I made short bread before. In the head notes to this recipe, Ina said that these cookies taste just like Milanos. I mean, anything that tastes or resembles a Milano cookie has to be good, right?
While this recipe is easy and doesn’t cause an over abundance of dishes (which seems to be common with many baking recipes), this recipe does require you to get a little messy. But as Gesine Prado says, “…you have to get messy to get delicious.” After combining the dough, you need to shape pieces of the dough into logs.
I got about halfway through the shaping process when I realized that my logs probably had too much dough and would puff up a bit more than they should have during baking. It also meant I would get less cookies, but I think that was actually better for my family since it would help with controlling the amount we eat.
After baking, my prediction came true. The cookies ended up being a bit fatter than the ones in the photo. But since it wouldn’t impact the taste, I didn’t mind so much. I used a cookie scoop to ensure even sized cookies. I just used the wrong one. I should have used the smaller one, not the medium one. Oh, well. Now I know for next time!
The cookies looked and smelled so good after removing them from the oven that I had to try one even before I was able to dip them in chocolate! But as you can see in the picture above, some of the cookies lost their shape as well. Again, I think this has to do with the amount of dough used or how tightly I shaped them. Some may have been shaped a little more loosely than others, causing them to spread out more.
Once the cookies were cooled, I melted the chocolate and mixed in the melted butter. The addition of melted butter seemed odd to be at first but I did it anyway! It caused the chocolate to become a little thicker and helped it not to spread out too much.
After dipping them all in the chocolate, as directed in the recipe: only the top of the front of the cookies, I let them sit for about 45 minutes before eating one. I opted not to add the chopped nuts as called for in the original BC recipe.
These cookies actually taste better cool! At least for me. Allowing the cookie to cool gives all the flavors time to marry together and taste better. There is a LOT of sugar in these cookies, so if you eat one while still warm you won’t get the right effect since the sugar is still hot from baking.
While the cookies I made came out looking far from perfect, everyone liked them. In fact, some people recommended that they be made around the holiday season. And I think with them dipped in white chocolate and then decorated with chopped up peppermint pieces, they would look festive and taste great!
This recipe can be found in Back to Basics, page 126.
For dinner last week, I decided to tackle my first of what will eventually be many Barefoot Contessa pork recipes. To be honest, pork has never been my favorite meat. The texture, to me, is in between chicken and steak and since I’m not a big fan of steak (or beef in general), pork has always hard to swallow.
This recipe can be found in Modern Comfort Food, page 58.
Wow! What a week it’s been.
As things are beginning to open up in my home state and more people are getting vaccinated, my free time is slowly beginning to return to a pre-pandemic state. While this is great overall, it means that before I know it, it’s Friday. Then I realize I didn’t post all week long. Oops.
Anyway, last week we had a few colder days combined with some rainy weather. Even though it’s April, the weather had me thinking, “Soup for dinner, soup for dinner…” late in the week. So, that’s exactly what I did. I made a soup and it was the perfect choice!
Soup for Dinner…in April?
Ina’s Chicken Pot Pie Soup comes from her most recent cookbook, Modern Comfort Food. While I have only made a few recipes from this book so far, none of them have been short of amazing.
However, I will admit that I was a bit underwhelmed by this one. I liked the idea of taking puff pastry cut-outs to act as the “crust,” the soup itself didn’t taste much different to me than her regular chicken noodle soup recipes. I have found that when I make chicken pot pie, the mixture is a little thicker and has more body to it. For me, that makes pot pie heartier and more comforting. This soup, despite its name, still tasted and looked like soup. Perhaps it just wasn’t thick enough or maybe some of the flavors are off.
The world may never know!
This Week’s Cooking
Last weekend I had big dreams in the kitchen. My original post mentioned something like I would make three recipes all in one day. Well, that was a little optimistic. I only ended up making one (the soup).
But, the cookies I had planned to make are still calling my name, so they will be made today and I can’t wait to try them! According to the headnote, Ina says her Chocolate-Dipped Brown Sugar Shortbread cookies taste just like a Milano!
That’s reason enough for me to try them, right?
Dinner tonight will be of the pork variety. This will mark the first recipe I tackle under the Pork & Lamb heading in the recipe index. I am not a big fan of pork, but I’ve never had lamb. So I’m continuing to put those recipes off for as long as I can!