Sunday, November 29, 2020

Ina Garten's Pecan Sandies


I love to cook. I don't love to bake. Baking is precise and subject to things like weather, humidity, and  what color shirt you're wearing, or not wearing, that day. Baking is messy. Flour is finicky. Baking also results in dessert, which is my favorite thing to eat and I have zero willpower so, lots of reasons baking isn't my thing.

However, I've spent a good majority of my week off looking at all my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and there were SO MANY baking/dessert recipes that I want to try! I have to confess that I've been bit by the baking bug. I also have to admit that I thought I was only missing one or two Barefoot Contessa cookbooks in my collections, but upon closer review it was actually more like five! I must rectify this immediately because I need ALL of her cookbooks in my collection. I am obsessed with Ina Garten at the moment.

I was lucky enough to score two bags of fresh Georgia pecans, direct from the pecan farm and I was either making Ina's Maple Pecan Pie or these Pecan Sandies. I would've preferred the pie, but every once in awhile I consider my husband so I let him choose. To say he loves shortbread is an understatement and he also loves pecans so, the Pecan Sandies were his choice. I went with it because then maybe it'll be his pants not fitting instead of mine.

So Pecan Sandies it is and they go perfectly with any holiday table. Not everyone can commit to a slice of pie or cake, but everyone can commit to a cookie. These are delicious, come together with a few ingredients, and are easy to make. A couple things make them stand out from the rest: Ina has you toast the pecans before they are blitzed into the flour and eventually the dough which results in a toastier, more rounded flavor profile. She also uses turbinado sugar in place of white sugar - a delicious twist. And lastly, that beautiful pecan perched on top so that you know what you're eating. 

Now, Ina would tell you that quality matters and she is right. We do always want to use the best ingredients. I am more than happy to be using the freshest most delicious pecans directly from Georgia in this recipe, but if you can't then don't stress. I'm sure this recipe is equally delicious with pecans from the grocery store. We can't all be as fussy as Ina.

 Pecan Sandies

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof

by Ina Garten

Makes 20-24

1 cup pecan halves (4 ounces)

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temp

1/2 cup demerara or turbinado sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

24 whole pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the 1 cup of pecan halves on a sheet pan and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until toasted. Set aside to cool.

Place the cooled pecans plus 1/4 cup of the flour in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the nuts are finely ground. Place the mixture in a medium bowl and add the remaining 1-3/4 cups of flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla and the flour mixture, mixing just until the dough comes together.

Using a small ice cream scoop or your hands, form the batter into balls about 1 inch in diameter (1 ounce on a scale). Place the balls 1 inch apart on sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Press a pecan half into the center of each ball, pressing the pecan halfway down into the cookie. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cookies turn golden brown around the edges. Cool for 5 minutes. Place on a wire rack and cool completely.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

Ina's Shrimp & Linguine Fra Diavolo

Yes, this is my sixth recipe from Ina's latest cookbook, Modern Comfort Food

I don't feel bad about it. 

If there was ever a time for comfort food, this is it. I am pandemic-ed out!

Fra Diavolo means spicy, like the devil, and we love spicy in this household. If I'm at an Italian restaurant then I am most likely going to be having Shrimp Fra Diavolo. However, since we are in the RED for the coronavirus in Kentucky, our restaurants are currently closed for indoor dining and I wouldn't dare risk it anyway, so it is really fortunate that I can make this dish at home. 

Now, the good thing is that this dish can be made with ingredients that one would normally keep on hand. Linguine, shrimp (I always have some frozen in my freezer), Rao's tomato sauce, panko breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, onions, and Pinot Grigio. Look, we're in a pandemic, I hope you have some wine. If not, you need hit up a drive thru and stock up.

Ina says that you can make your own Arrabiatta Sauce and I normally would, but I wanted to try the Rao's Arrabiatta Sauce that she recommends in the book. It is about $8.99 a jar, which is absolutely ridiculous, but I'm over Ina and Jeffrey being the only ones good enough for it. The rest of us can enjoy that fancy sauce too. 

This dish was perfectly seasoned and had just the right amount of heat. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I would say that I enjoyed it even more because I had the leftover Pinot on the side.  

And, it was a good thing I had a few glasses of Pinot because my camera and my computer took a dive while I was trying to write the post so I had to put piece this post together with blown up pics from my phone and a different computer. Isn't that fun? How 2020 of my camera and my computer to take a dive at the same time. I tell ya...2020 can shove it. Now, pardon me while I get back to my Pinot.  

Shrimp & Linguine Fra Diavolo

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 6

3tablespoons butter, divided

1/3 cup panko

8 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided

salt and black pepper

1-1/4 pounds large (16-20 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups thinly sliced red onion 

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2/3 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

Arrabbiata Sauce, homemade or 1 (24-oz) jar Rao's

1 pound linguine, such as DeCecco

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium (10 to 11-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the panko and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons of the parsley, 1/4 teaspoons salt, and a pinch of black pepper and set aside. 

Place the shrimp on a plate and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the olive oil in a large (11-12-inch) pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 4 minutes, until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for one minute. Add the shrimp in one layer and saute for one minute on each side, until they start to turn pink but are not cooked through. Add the wine and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to reduce the liquid. Stir in the arrabbiata sauce and heat until it simmers. Stir in the remaining 6 tablespoons of parsley with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, fill a very large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons salt, bring to a boil. Add the linguine and cook according to the directions on the package for al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta, and add it to the sauce. Toss the pasta, sauce, and shrimp together with tongs or big spoons and allow it to simmer for one minute for the pasta to absorb the sauce, adding enough pasta water to make a nice sauce and coat the pasta. Transfer to a large, shallow serving bowl, sprinkle with the toasted panko, and serve hot.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Ina's Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle Orange Butter

If you're looking for easy, delicious, make-ahead recipes for Thanksgiving then look no further! You can make the compound butter beforehand and then simply bake the sweet potatoes on the day of. It's easy peasy lemon squeezy dang delicious.

Yes, I am cooking from Ina's latest Modern Comfort Food again and yes, I am obsessed with it. FOR GOOD REASON! Each and every time I make a new dish it completely blows me away.

These sweet potatoes are just delectable. They are smoky from the chipotle pepper and adobo and sweet from the maple syrup, the flavors are perfectly balanced. I found myself eating one and then another, but that was perfectly okay because I found baby sweet potatoes at Trader Joe's so they were bite-sized morsels of heaven! I literally couldn't stop with them and decided I was going to eat 4 baby sweet potatoes for dinner. Forget the rest. I'm not kidding. These look really simple and a little lackluster, but don't let that fool ya. They are amazing!

So, forget that ooey gooey marshmallow sweet potato mess and try these babies. They are way more healthy and delicious. You can make this with any size sweet potato, just make sure all your potatoes are relatively the same size so they bake evenly, but I really am fond of the baby sweet potatoes.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle Orange Butter

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 6

6 small sweet potatoes*

1 stick butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle pepper (in adobo sauce)

1tablespoon adobo sauce (from the can) 

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

salt and freshly ground black pepper

*Note: Chose potatoes that are about the same size so they cook in the same amount of time. Prepare the chipotle butter and refrigerate for up to a week. Bake the potatoes before serving.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Pierce the potatoes in several places with a sharp knife to prevent them from exploding in the oven. Place the potatoes on the prepared sheet pan and roast for one hour, until they are very tender when pierced with a knife.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, maple syrup, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, orange zest, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper on medium speed until well mixed. Cut a 12 x 8 " piece of parchment paper and place it on a board with the 12" edge near you. With a rubber spatula, transfer the butter to the parchment paper, roll the butter up and away from you to form a log. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Cut a slit in the top of each potato and squeeze the ends together to open the potatoes. Sprinkle them with salt and black pepper. Cut the chipotle butter in 12 pieces and place 2 pieces in the opening of each potato. Serve hot.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Ina Garten's Applesauce Cake with Bourbon Raisins {Perfect for your Holiday Table}!


Dear Ina,

I am obsessed with your latest cookbook, Modern Comfort Food. In my opinion, it is your greatest work. Your best cookbook. I have bookmarked almost every single recipe in it. A few weeks ago I tried your Kielbasa with Mustard Dip and I have made it four times since then. It has become an all-time favorite. I tell everyone I know about it.

Last week I tried your Seared Salmon with Red Pepper Aioli and Emily's English Roasted Potatoes which were also a hit. If I could get quality salmon easily I would've made that one again as well. 

Today I made your Applesauce Cake with Bourbon Raisins and Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting. All of your desserts in the book look delicious, but this one was calling my name the most! I am crazy about cream cheese frosting and your picture in the cookbook made this look so irresistible.

Ina, I don't have the words to tell you how very delicious this cake is. It's absolutely MINDBLOWING. I knew it before I even took a bite. When I saw the luscious bourbon cream cheese frosting dripping over the moist flavorful apple cake I just knew. I took a bite and it was total perfection. It was a good thing I was alone with my slice of cake because I snarfed it down with wild abandon. It was not lady-like whatsoever. 

The cake was still slightly warm, with the perfect balance of flavors and incredibly moist. The bourbon was spot on, just a hint of flavor really. The Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting was luscious and dreamy. I think this was, hands down, the best cake I've ever made. I immediately took half to a friend and her family so they could share in the joy.

If there was a mountaintop here in Kentucky, you would find me at the top screaming about how wonderful this cake is. I think EVERYONE should make it a part of the holiday dessert table, from now until the end of time.

Yours Truly, 



Applesauce Cake with Bourbon Raisins

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 8

3/4 cup golden raisins

2 tablespoons good bourbon, such as Maker's Mark

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the pan

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for the pan

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg*

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves*

1 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

12 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows*

Whole pecan halves, for decorating


Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Frosts One 9-Inch Round Cake

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon good bourbon, such as Maker's Mark

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted

*Note: 1/2 pound confectioners' sugar is equal to 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons 

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9x2 inch round cake pan, line with parchment paper,then butter and flour the pan. Tap out the excess flour.

To Make The Cake: Combine the raisins and bourbon in a small bowl, cover, and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Place the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on medium, add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, and mix until smooth.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the batter, mixing just until combined. Stir in the applesauce. Fold in the raisins (including the liquid) and chopped pecans with a rubber spatula and mix well. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

To Bake The Cake: Bake for 40 to 45minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 30 minutes, turn out onto a cooling rack, rounded side up, and cool completely. Spread the Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting on just the top of the cake (not the sides!) and artfully place the pecan halves on top. Serve at room temperature.

To Make The Frosting: Place the cream cheese, butter, bourbon, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth. With the mixer on low, slowly add the sugar and mix well. Scrape down the sides and stir well with a rubber spatula.

Barrel of Apples @ IHCC

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Ina's Seared Salmon with Spicy Red Pepper Aioli and Emily's English Roasted Potatoes

Inspired by my latest cookbook, Ina Garten's Modern Comfort Food, I'm cooking up a meal that I have been dying to try, Ina's Seared Salmon with Spicy Red Pepper Aioli alongside her rather fussy Emily's English Roasted Potatoes, which is heaven sent.

If you don't own a copy of Modern Comfort Food yet, what are you waiting for? It is hands down my Cookbook of the Year! It may very well be my favorite cookbook in a couple years. To prove that, I am making four recipes from it this week, which you will see soon,  AND I haven't quit making the Kielbasa with Mustard Dip from last week. I made it Sunday for my blog, then I made it again yesterday as a hearty treat before trick-or-treating. Then I ordered some more kielbasa for more grocery pick up today. We are obsessed.

Anyway, back to seared salmon gone all crispy on the outside and tender and flaky on the inside with a garlicky, spicy, creamy and brilliantly hued red pepper aioli that pairs so wonderfully with the salmon and potatoes you'll be swooning. Why haven't I thought of this before? I mean what else can you dip into this magical concoction?

While the salmon is as easy as 1-2-3, Emily's English Roasted Potatoes are as fussy as a colicky baby. Peel the potatoes, cut the potatoes, boil the potatoes, bash the potatoes, dry the potatoes, and finally bake the potatoes on a smoking hot baking sheet sizzling with hot oil before sprinkling them generously with sea salt and parsley. I mean they are super fussy, but they are also super delicious. Flavorful and crispy on the outside but oh so creamy and dreamy on the inside, they are easily worth the fuss.

Dip the salmon and the crispy, creamy potatoes into the spicy red pepper aioli and prepare to be swept off your feet!

Seared Salmon with Spicy Red Pepper Aioli

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food 

by Ina Garten

Serves 4

2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)

1 tablespoon (canned)chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers,seeded and chopped

1 cup good mayonnaise, such as Hellman's

salt and black pepper,totaste

4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless, center-cut salmon fillets

olive oil

1 lime, quartered, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400F. 

For the aioli: Chop the garlic and chipotle pepper together on a cutting board to make a coarse paste. Place the paste in a food processor, add the lime juice and roasted red peppers, and puree. Add the mayonnaise,1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and process until smooth. Set aside. 

For the salmon: Place a large (12-inch), dry cast-iron skillet over high heat for 5 minutes. Place the salmon fillets on a board, pat dry with paper towels, and rub all over with olive oil. With the fillets  rounded side up, sprinkle them with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper.

To cook salmon: Place the salmon in the skillet rounded side down and cook over medium-high heat for exactly 2 minutes without moving! Using a large metal spatula,turn the fillets rounded side up and place the skillet in the oven. Roast for3to 4 minutes, until the centers are rare. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and allow the salmon to rest for 3 to4 minutes for medium-rare or 5 minutes for medium. Serve the salmon hot with the aioli and a wedge of lime for squeezing.

Emily's English Roasted Potatoes

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 6 to 8


3 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and 1-1/2" to 2" diced

1/2 cup vegetable oil

sea salt or fleur de sel

minced fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 425F. Bring a large pot of water with 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Add the potatoes, return to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 8 minutes. Drain the potatoes, place them back in the pot with the lid on, and shake the pot roughly for 5 seconds to rough up the edges.Carefully transfer the potatoes in one layer to a baking rack set over a sheet pan. Set aside to dry for at least 15 minutes. (They an sit uncovered at room temperature for several hours or in the fridge for up to 6 hours).

Pour the oil onto another sheet pan, tilt the pan to distribute the oil, and place the pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the oil is smoking hot. Transfer the potatoes carefully into the oil (I use a large metal spatula) and toss them lightly to coat each potato with the hot oil. Evenly spread out the potatoes and lower the oven temperature to 350F. Roast for 45 minutes to one hour, turning the potatoes occasionally with tongs, until very browned and crisp on the outside and tender and creamy on the inside.

Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle generously with 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt and parsley and serve hot.