Farmers Market Fun and One Souped-Up Strawberry Shortcake

Few things get me out of the house before Noon on a Saturday morning, but fresh ingredients and a fantastic recipe was all I needed to get motivated over the weekend. I packed up my Shih Tzu, Ewok and off we went to the Statesboro Mainstreet Farmers Market for some locally grown strawberries. We returned home to make Ina Garten’s Strawberry Country Cake featured in the cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Parties. Watch the video below to get the highlights from our trip!


Continue reading “Farmers Market Fun and One Souped-Up Strawberry Shortcake”

Advertisements

Pretty Lemon Cake Loaves

For my birthday, I received an autographed copy of Barefoot Contessa Parties!, an early cookbook by one of my favorite Food Network stars, Ina Garten. This delightful Lemon Cake is the first dish I chose to make from it and it didn’t disappoint! Continue reading “Pretty Lemon Cake Loaves”

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere

image

Ina Garten makes a mean Pink Grapefruit Margarita. It’s not sweet, but very refreshing. With an old friend and a back porch, this tasty cocktail is a Friday night waiting to happen. I had fun with the garnish on this one…no beverage is complete without the proper garnish. Drink up!

Ingredients
1 lime, cut in wedges, optional
Kosher salt, optional
1 cup ruby red grapefruit juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
1 cup orange liqueur, such as Triple Sec
2 cups ice
1 cup white tequila

Directions
If you like a salt rim on the glasses, rub the lime around the edge of the glass and then dip the rim of each glass lightly in a plate of kosher salt. Set aside to dry. Combine the grapefruit juice, lime juice, orange liqueur, and ice in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a large pitcher and stir in the tequila. If you’re not serving the margaritas in salted glasses, stir 1/4 teaspoon of salt into the pitcher of margaritas. Serve ice cold.

A Frilly & Feminine Valentine’s Dessert Worth Every Calorie

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with a classy little delicacy like Red Velvet Cupcakes with Red Velvet Frosting?  I have always loved cupcakes and over the years, my reasons for loving them have changed. My favorite reason to love them today? They are perfectly portion controlled and simply satisfying.

Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unexpected places. I picked up this frilly cupcake set at checkout while shopping at TJ Maxx. Time I saw it, I knew just what to do. Valentine’s Day baking quest solved.

Sift together dry ingredients.

Combine wet ingredients right inside a glass measuring cup. I love the way the red food coloring splashes the pure white buttermilk.

Unsalted butter at room temperature. It’s easy to ignore these little details, but they make all the difference. Leave butter on the counter over night or for a few hours to bring it to room temperature. Of course, you can always soften it in the microwave. The batter will come together much smoother when your butter is the correct temperature. Also, using unsalted butter allows you to control the amount of salt in a recipe. I don’t know who invented butter, but whoever you are, THANK YOU!

Beat butter and sugar together, then add eggs one at a time until combined. Add dry and wet ingredients alternately.

Tip: Turn the blender speed down when adding the wet ingredients. I’ll be wiping my counter tops down for a while from red food coloring splashes!

Use an ice cream scoop to ensure all your cupcakes are the same size. This will prevent uneven baking. Tip: spray the ice cream scoop with cooking spray so that the batter releases easily.

I always drop my muffin tin on the counter top a few times to get the air out of the batter. It’s just one of those things I’ve always done because mama did it and her mama did it. I’m not sure how culinarilly-sound that is. Yes, I just made up a word: Culinarilly.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.

Let the little perfections cool.

Whip up the cream cheese based frosting. Warning: The frosting alone contains 3 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar. I had a lot of frosting left over.

Frost, decorate, put on a pretty platter and serve! My pink Willams-Sonoma cake plate was the absolute perfect dish for this Valentine presentation.

Sweet. Heavenly. Worth every calorie.

This blog post features Ina Garten’s Red Velvet Cupcakes with Red Velvet Frosting from her latest cookbook How Easy is That?  

Black Bananas Get A Second Chance

Ugly, black bananas transformed into beautiful, creamy banana cake. That is all.

I never purchase bananas at the grocery store with the intention of letting them rot on the counter top, but life happens. Good thing really ripe bananas are still usable.

It’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? After peeling the ugly, outer exterior off of these bananas, I tossed them in my Sunbeam mixer with sugar–and magic happened.

This is a cool trick, thanks Barefoot Contessa. Often, recipes call for room temperature eggs, but if you’re like me and forget to take your eggs out the night before, just place them in warm water for 5 minutes while your other ingredients come together.

Chopped walnuts and bananas were meant to be together.

I never understood this step. Why not just measure the ingredients and toss them in the mixer? Because something about sifting the dry ingredients gives you a nice, light and airy batter. It doesn’t take long, just do it.

Add sifted ingredients to the banana and sugar mixture…look how beautiful that is!! GOOD GOD A’MIGHTY!! It tastes amazing. Check out that swirl action.

Gently stir in walnuts.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan. I cannot emphasize preparing your pan enough. There is no worse feeling than pulling a warm, delicious looking and smelling cake out of the oven only to have it stick to the pan and come apart when transferring it to a wire rack to cool. Butter and flour that thing real good!!

Perfection.

Not quite finished. Next step: Make frosting. This frosting is to die for. I mean it. Room temperature butter and cream cheese meet pure vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar and a creamy, thick, bright white frosting is born. To bring butter and cream cheese to room temperature, leave them on the counter over night or just sit them on the stove top while the oven gets warm.

 Pile it high on top of the completely cooled cake. I love the contrasting colors here.

Decorate with whole walnuts. Simplicity at its finest.

And to think I almost threw those bananas away.

The entire recipe for Old Fashioned Banana Cake can be found in Ina Garten’s cookbook, Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? 

Ina Garten Takes French Toast to New Heights


Recipes that taste amazing but don’t require you to stand over the stove for hours rock my world! This one, Ina Garten’s French Toast Bread Pudding is one that’s hard to beat. Barefoot Contessa, you’re really onto something here! Thank you for coming up with this extremely inventive, awesome twist on classic french toast.

For this recipe, you’ll need a 9 x 13 x 2 in. baking dish and a large roasting pan. The recipe calls for a challah loaf, but my grocery store didn’t have one so I used what I could find—texas toast, a good thick white bread. If your bread is fresh, Ina Garten recommends toasting it in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. French Toast Bread Pudding requires a lot of time (it takes one and a half hours to cook) but when you sit down and take a bite, you’ll forget how long you waited.


I love using special ingredients like orange zest and extra-large eggs. However, the most special ingredient I used in this dish was that little jar of honey you see pictured above. I purchased it from a small shanty shack on the side of the road in the Tennessee mountains. It was just the right amount for this recipe.

The microplane is seriously one of my favorite kitchen tools. It’s perfect for zesting everything from lemons and limes to fresh ginger.

Kosher salt is often used in gourmet baking and it really makes a huge difference. Ina Garten has an amazing recipe for Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing and kosher salt is used in the icing. It intensifies all the flavors in a dish.

Order is important, especially in this step. Be sure to put your 9 x 13 x 2 in. baking dish into a larger roasting pan before layering the bread in the dish. Fill the roasting pan with warm water so that it comes about an inch up each side. This water bath will ensure the french toast stays moist during the long cooking process. Once the bread has toasted for 10 minutes, layer it in the casserole dish and pour the batter right down over the top. Let it soak for 10 additional minutes.

This is what the dish looks like after it’s been in the oven for 45 minutes, tented with aluminum foil. The egg mixture is just starting to set and the bread is beginning to brown. Remove the aluminum foil and finish cooking for 45 more minutes. I love how you can see the flecks of orange zest! While the dish baked, I poured myself another cup of coffee and watched my favorite shows on Food Network.

 You won’t believe how beautiful the egg mixture puffs up and how golden brown the bread gets. It really is a gorgeous dish. MAN ALIVE…bring on the syrup, butter and confectioner’s sugar!! I served the French Toast Bread Pudding with a side of thick-sliced, crispy bacon.

You can really taste the citrus flavor and the sweetness of the honey. I could hear the toast crunch with my fork when I cut into it. I will definitely make this dish again, only next time I’ll plan to bake it for brunch or get up at 6 a.m. to get started, but most likely for brunch. 🙂

The entire recipe can be found in Ina Garten’s cookbook Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?

Childhood Reward Becomes Favorite Pastime

It all started when I was kid. I would go to the grocery store with my mom and if I was well-behaved while she shopped, I would get to choose a 99 cent cupcake from the grocery store bakery. I would peer through the glass window and size up each one, carefully determining which little delicacy would be mine. Even then, that small treat brought me so much joy. I’ve never met a baked good I didn’t like and baking is one of my favorite things to do. If I’m not cooking or baking in my spare time, I’m either reading about it or watching a related show on the Food Network.

I’m a huge fan of Ina Garten or the Barefoot Contessa as some know her. These fabulous beauties are her Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing. I’ve baked them a few times, but most recently for my 10 Year High School Reunion tailgate party. Totally worth it.

Image