Friday, January 22, 2010

Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches and Outrageous Brownies

Last night was my last official Barefoot Contessa evening in the kitchen…well for a while. I made smoked salmon tea sandwiches and the outrageous brownies. The tea sandwiches were by far the easiest recipe in the entire book. I used apple-wood smoked salmon and toasted 100% whole wheat bread. I didn’t serve it cold because I was too anxious to try it, but I think I will next time.
Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches with Herb Butter, page 56

Everyone had been raving about the outrageous brownies and being a chocoholic, I knew that was one recipe I wanted to try before moving on. Since I didn’t have the gi-normous pan size that Ina recommended, my plan was to half the recipe. Well about half-way in I forgot that I was doing half of the recipe and used the full amount of eggs (6!), so I just decided to go back and do the full recipe; more chocolate always sounds better to me. But I forgot about the size of my pan until I put it in the oven…..In order for the middle to cook, I had to leave it in longer. When the edges looked like they were done, I put foil over them to keep them from burning. The edges came out a little crispier that I would have liked, but the inside was decadent and rich. I had never cooked with coffee grounds so I was nervous that the brownies would be a little crunchy, but they weren’t at all. I will probably try this dish out again but with a bigger pan.

Outrageous Brownies, page 172

Alright Ina, thanks for all the recipes and culinary tricks, but I'm putting you on the bookshelf for a while so I can learn some different cuisines (but don't worry, I’ll be back).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lemon Pasta minus the Caviar

This is my last Barefoot Contessa recipe to blog...I have loved trying some new ingredients, and even loved having the permission to splurge on butter! :) Thanks Ina!
I didn't have the money or nerve to try the caviar, but the pasta sure looked easy. I used fettuchini. It seemed a bit naked without caviar, so I chopped up some cooked shrimp and mixed that in. I couldn't stomach a 1/2 pound of butter, so I did only one stick, then added a little of the starchy pasta water and a splash of white wine. It turned out really well! I loved the strong lemon flavor. All my tasters gave it a thumbs up! I will definitely make it again.


Parmesan Crips

These "crips" were yummy! We had them with tomato soup, I know I should have made Ina's but I didn't have time. They would also be good as a base for bruschetta I think. It is a great way to use some some stale bread!

Banana Crunch Muffins

Considering that school started this week in our house, I wanted to make sure we had something quick to grab for breakfast as we were rushing out the door. I halved the recipe and got 10 muffins, which was the perfect number to get us through the week. I couldn’t find just plan granola at the grocery store and didn’t have time to make some, so I just bought a box of Nature Valley granola bars, and ground up one of the packages (2 bars/package). I ground the walnuts and granola pretty small for a subtle crunch. These muffins were simply the most scrumptious and fascinating, combination of moist and crunchy. I will definitely be making these again, and next time I might consider adding oatmeal or berries to the batter.
Banana Crunch Muffins, page 212

Friday, January 15, 2010

Indonesian Ginger Chicken and Curried Couscous

I was nervous that we wouldn’t like the chicken because we aren’t big fans of ginger, but as it turns out this was a pretty tasty recipe. It was so good that I got the okay to make it again! As with most of Ina’s recipes, I only made half of the marinade and it seemed to be enough. Because I didn’t read ahead to see how long it should set, my chicken only marinated for about 45 minutes. I had made the couscous before and it was so easy, so I decided to make that while the chicken was in the oven. Great weeknight meal!
Indonesian Ginger Chicken (page 125) & Curried Couscous (page 94)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Last Recipe--Roasted-potato fennel soup without the fennel

Well, I decided I needed one last recipe to post, but didn't want to go to the grocery I shuffled through what I had and decided I could do the roasted potato fennel soup, but I would have to make some substitutions. I did have some leeks, so those stood in for the missing fennel. I also had a box of baby portabella mushrooms that needed to be used, so I decided to add those also. By the way, you have to read the intro to this recipe--it sounds so desperate, the pioneer woman could have written it: "I love to make this soup in the dead of winter when just about all you can find are potatoes and fennel..." (Good grief, just go to the grocery store Ina!)

Halfway through roasting my potatoes, I added the sliced mushrooms to roast along with them, then added the whole pan of roasted veggies to my sauteed onions and leeks and the broth. I did not find it needed to be simmered an hour as Ina said--within 30 min. it all was soft enough that I smashed it with a potato masher. This is when I realized the mushrooms were a very good idea. When mashing the potatoes, the skins came off and kind of floated separately in the soup. I don't think I would have liked a whole bite of just "skins," except that the mushrooms did not mash, so they were chewy along with the skins. And that made the skins easier and less noticeable to eat.

This soup was very nice. My husband, who does not like potatoes (weird, I know) even sort of liked it. Next time, I think I would only mash up half the potatoes--I kind of liked the potato chunks (although hubby will probably like it even less, if he can actually discern a potato in it...).

Homemade Granola with a Twist

I was all set to make Ina's granola--had all sorts of ingredients collected for it, then on the day I decided to make it, I just happened to run across another granola recipe. Sorry, Ina--I switched courses--actually, I kind of wound up combining my two recipes. Here is the one that intrigued me-- It is a sweet/salty granola made with olive oil, maple syrup and kosher salt.

I used Ina's fruits and nuts suggestion--and especially liked the chopped figs idea (but I am a fig-lover). I did find that it is better to go by "cooking fragrance" rather than time in a granola recipe. There was a period that my granola smelled heavenly--then suddenly, maybe 10 minutes before the set time, I noticed the smell was getting on the "toasty" side of heavenly. I wish I had taken the granola out of the oven a bit earlier than I did. But, even with the dark golden brown it became---I LOVED it! The combination of olive oil, salt, and maple syrup were amazing! Now I know that was not the Ina part, but I like this granola so much, I think I will never go back. I eat this every morning now with plain yogurt and a banana or berries, and heavy granola on top.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lemon Caviar Cappelini

This is my last recipe from this cookbook...I have REALLY enjoyed cooking new recipes and trying new foods and techniques...We all can't wait for the next cookbook!

This was yummy, but we would skip the caviar next time. The pasta was delicious!
I found the caviar at HEB for $6.99 (so maybe buying cheap caviar wasn't the best thing, but I had a feeling neither of us would like it).
From other posts, I learned this needed a protein with it, so I grilled chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and drizzled fresh lemon juice over them when they were done cooking- yummy!
Even Brayden liked it!

Monday, January 11, 2010

BBQ Chicken, Fingerling Potatoes, & Croissant Bread Pudding

For dinner last night I made the BBQ chicken, fingerling potatoes and the croissant bread pudding. All together this was a super fast meal to make. I was nervous to make my own BBQ sauce because I had never done that before but it really wasn’t hard. I will say, when Ina says there are a lot of ingredients, take her word for it! The upside to the many ingredients was that they were all generally things that I already had (with the exception of hoisin sauce, which was totally new to me). I think in the future I will use a little less vinegar so the sauce is less tangy. I had never heard of fingerling potatoes before, but I think I have a new favorite potato! This was my kind of recipe: put it on the stove and leave it! This required very few ingredients and little of my time. I used organic ruby crescent fingerling potatoes and they were delicious and creamy.
BBQ Chicken (page 120) & Fingerling Potatoes (page 159)
Following dinner I served the croissant bread pudding. To be honest I have never liked bread pudding in my life until I tried some at the first Barefoot Contessa Cookbook meeting. Someone made it and it was delicious. Not being the biggest raisin fans, I omitted those but I agree with whoever recommended substituting them with chocolate chips (or even butterscotch chips) and will try that next time. I sprinkled a little bit of powdered sugar on top and it was delicious- even better this morning for breakfast ;-)
Croissant Bread Pudding page 192

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lentil Vegetable Soup was perfect!

I have never cooked with lentils, although I was particular interested in this recipe because of the fiber content of lentils--12 grams/ 1/4 cup...oh my goodness, that is a fiber lover's paradise!! I did not care to try to locate Ina's French green lentils that she says you can get by mail or specialty store, so I just bought the orange lentils from Walmart, cause they are available, cheap, and pretty.

I cut the recipe in half, but leftovers were so good, I would not have minded the whole recipe for several days of lentil soup. I am afraid I did not measure very much, but it did not seem to matter. My soup was brothier than Ina's picture, but I liked it like that. I debated a good deal over the last ingredient of either red wine or red wine vinegar--seemed to me there is a big difference! I chose the red wine, since I had some, and I only had white wine vinegar. However, in retrospect, I actually think the vinegar might be the better choice. I can see how that little punch of tang would be a nice bright taste in the soup. The Parmesan cheese added more flavor to this soup than it does to most things. I often think Parmesan is more for looks than anything, but on this soup it does seem to take the lowly lentils to a fancy level of taste.

So...this lentil vegetable soup gets a 10 from me, and will become a winter regular (pun intended) for me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Crab cakes

Here are all the veggies in Ina's crab cakes...4 stalks of celery! I think next time I make these I will cut out a little of the veggies so I can taste more of the precious $8 worth of crab meat.
Above is the crab I found at wasn't "lump" meat like Ina called for, but you can't get too picky when you are shopping for crab meat at Walmart!

I followed Shannon's advice and drained my veggies before adding them. Good thing too...they were so soft, I would recommend cutting the mayo in half for anyone else making these, that will make them stick together a bit better I bet.

I used an ice cream scoop to make even patties....

Then I did the other thing Shannon did...breaded them in more breadcrumbs...they were still VERY soft and delicate. They firmed up a little once I stuck them back in the fridge for 30 minutes once they were formed.

And here is the result...very pretty and yummy! The one big thing both Adam and I agreed on was that it needed a little "kick"...we dipped them in hot sauce as we ate them to add more heat. Next time I would add a little red pepper, or more Tabasco to the raw mixture.
Now, my 2 and 4 year old both spit them out and said "yucky"! I told them mommy wasn't cooking another dinner for them, and that they could just go to bed without dinner if they didn't like it...they took me up on that! I'm hoping I don't hear them at the crack of dawn begging for breakfast with rumbling tummys.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

pecan squares

I can't find a picture of these, but I'll post anyway. I made half the recipe in a 13 x 9" glass pan, and while the filling did not overflow, as had been the problem someone had mentioned, I had a lot of trouble extracting the squares from the pan. I was supposed to bring them to the Thanksgiving feast at my husband's office, and I had just about given up carving any squares out in time to bring. I was using a knife and two types of spatulas and had hardly made a dent. Finally, one square was not only cut apart but also released from the hold the pan had on it. Once I got one square out, the others followed, slowly, but surely.

With all that work in getting the squares out of the pan, I was worried that they might be inedible. They were, in fact, delicious, and not too chewy. Perhaps I cooked them a little too long; that seems to be a theme in my baking (burnt pecan shortbread). I liked the hint of lemon/orange that the zest added. Even with only half the recipe, there were plenty.

pecan and plain shortbread

While usually I half Ina's recipes, I doubled this recipe in order to only have to make one thing for three events I had in one week - a cookie exchange, a baby shower, and a brunch. It was a good thing, too, because I burnt the first dozen while I was cutting and setting up the next set of cookie sheets. I think maybe I rolled my cookies thinner than suggested, since the 20-25 minutes time was far too long. I cooked my next set for about 10 minutes and they were perfect.

I had fun cutting these with my Texas, heart and star shaped cookie cutters. I think when I split the dough up to add the pecans I didn't quite distribute the flour equally, so my pecan cookies were more buttery than my plain cookies. The plain ones held together better, though everyone liked the pecan ones better.


"What is this? Is it from that book?"

Anytime something unusual appears for dinner, the usual suspect is that book.

"It's couscous. It's a grain, and it's good."

I didn't have carrots and I left out the onion, but I thought it was good, anyway. James opted for rice that evening, but he said that if I hadn't given him the option he would have eaten more of the foreign substance. I brought the leftovers to the Thanksgiving feast at his work and received praise from those more familiar with couscous.

french onion soup (failure)

While it was fun cooking with wine for the first time, this picture makes the soup look a lot better than it tasted.

I halved the recipe, but instead of Cognac or brandy I just used more stock. Also, as I started making it I realized my beef stock was crusty... evidently it expired in 2007. This was a couple of months ago, but I think I ended up using all chicken broth instead of the beef/veal mix that Ina says. So maybe those are some reasons why more of the soup ended up getting thrown out than eaten. The consensus was that it was far too salty. The wine was good, however. ;)