Thursday, December 31, 2020

Top Ten Favorite Recipes of 2020!


As a kid, the year 2020 was always in our social studies books. I can remember being 8, 9, and 10 and learning all about what the year 2020 would have in store for us: high-tech computers, houses and appliances that talked to you, and maybe....flying cars! Not to mention, the movie Back To The Future was HUGE and it also featured 2020. It was going to be THE YEAR!

My point is, we kids really looked forward to it. 2020 carried A LOT of hype. At the time, 2020 seemed SO FAR away! But, like I said, it was going to be THE YEAR!  Until it actually happened. 2020 was NOTHING like we thought it would be. It WAS NOT what we waited for all this time.

It was absolutely a mind-blowing year and one that we will NEVER forget! I mean, we have to hand it to 2020, it will definitely be a year that goes down in the history books.

I am not, however, going to start bashing 2020 and going on about how horrible it has been. It has definitely not been the best year, but I have to count my blessings. I am incredibly thankful for the health and safety of my family, friends, co-workers, and students. I am also beyond thankful for this blog and all of you, as well as the additional time I've had to indulge in my hobbies. I have read more books this year than I've ever read before and I have cooked some amazing food. I have played endless board games with the family and stayed in touch with family and friends more than I've ever been able to before. Since these are the things that matter most, I can honestly say that although 2020 was not what I expected, I truly had a great year.

As this year comes to a close, I am counting my blessings and hoping and praying that 2021 brings healing for all.

2020 was a delicious year! The ten recipes below are are my absolute favorites! They are in no particular order. As always, if you click on the recipe title you will be directed to the original post with the recipe.


Julia Child's Roast Chicken 

Before making Julia's Roast Chicken I was a HUGE fan of Ina Garten's Engagement Roast Chicken (it is a fabulous recipe), but after making Julia's Roast Chicken there is absolutely NO GOING BACK! Julia's recipe is fussy. You have to baste and flip and baste and flip, but it is the juiciest and the most delicious chicken you will ever make. It is definitely THE ROAST CHICKEN recipe!

At the very beginning of the pandemic, I had way too much bread on hand and I needed a plan. Never one to waste, I took my croissants and made this extremely indulgent Caramel Croissant Pudding from the one and only Nigella Lawson. OH MY....this is heavenly! Sticky, crispy, flaky, buttery, and a little salty from the pinch of salt I added, it is one heavenly dessert. You should definitely make this if you have leftover croissants! You should even consider buying croissants and making this, it is incredibly good.
 There are a couple of ingredients that I hoard. Pasta is one (I usually have at least 20 boxes). Granola and dried fruit is another. During the pandemic my habit worsened. I was not going to be found without granola, dried fruit and shelf stable coconut milk. Looking for a way to use some up, I stumbled across Bittman's Fruit and Cereal Bars and fell in love. They are SO GOOD and you can change them up according to what you have. I crave these and have made them several times since. I prefer them to ANY and EVERY fancy granola bar out there. Stop paying top dollar for fancy convenience bars and make these instead. They are far healthier and far more delicious!

My dad and I used to snack on green onions and radishes dipped in a little salt when I was a kid. Midway through the pandemic I was homesick for my Dad and I came across this dish. Ina's herby butter is a blend of dill, parsley, green onions, and a splash of lemon juice. When you pair the herby butter with the crusty bread, salt, and the radishes you have a sophisticated snack that anyone would love, me and Dad included! If you love radishes, do give this a try!
There is always at least one potato dish in my top ten favorites of the year and this year's amazing potato recipe belongs to the one and only Ottolenghi! Do you see those big chunks of shallow-fried garlic and potatoes? Holy cow. Do yourself a favor and make this one. Do yourself another favor and double the garlic. Wow, talk about a flavor bomb! Potatoes never had it so good!

We make a lot of chili and this recipe is my current favorite! If you're a chili lover then you definitely need to give this version a try. It is perfectly balanced, just the right mix of meat and veggies and beans (a very important requirement in chili) AND it is so flavorful. Plus, I love that she serves it over Quinoa and Pine Nut Pilaf. Easy, healthy, and yourself a favor and try this recipe during chili season!

I love all the recipes in this roundup equally, but if I had to pick a number one favorite, this recipe for Kielbasa with Mustard Dip is the hands down winner. I have made this recipe at least 10 times since I originally shared it. I tell everyone about it and they love it as well. It is EASY and simple. You just saute some kielbasa and whip up a batch of the mustard dip. The mustard dip has the zestiness from the horseradish and it is a wonderful dipper to have on hand. I find myself spreading it on sandwiches and dunking my fries in it. I keep the dip on hand because I absolutely crave it! Definitely make this for any party, (sometime in the future when covid isn't a threat) or safely at home for your family, and watch it disappear!

 Mark my words, "I have NEVER made a dessert that was better than this." I mean it. Never!  Apples and raisins and bourbon are not my favorite things, but this cake is absolutely incredible. It tastes like something you'd find at the finest bakery or the winning dessert at a fine dining establishment. I was just so impressed with it. Everything about it is total perfection and the bourbon just takes it over the top!

Everyone has their favorite chicken sandwich. Mine is the Fried Chicken Sandwich from Shake Shack, and thankfully for me, it is Jeffrey's favorite (Ina Garten's husband). Ina Garten bought the Shake Shack cookbook and I'm sure she tweaked it to write this magnificent recipe for a Fried Chicken Sandwich with Buttermilk Herb Mayo. She goes over all the basics, right down to the construction of the sandwich and which rolls to buy. This is an insanely delicious sandwich and one that would please the kids, as well as anyone else.

Another good thing about 2020, I tried my hand at making Baked Alaska and it is definitely delicious! Ina's version is made by placing vanilla ice cream (only the good stuff, Haagen Dazs), and Raspberry Sorbet on top of store-bought pound cake and topping it with a meringue. I need to work on my peaks, but this is such a treat! We all loved it!

I'm very partial to sausage with peppers and onions and this recipe, roasting it all in the oven, is THE WAY to go! I highly recommend making this FLAVOR BOMB of a recipe and cooking the entire batch because this makes for a perfect family dinner and the leftovers are incredible.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Ina Garten's Roasted Sausages, Peppers, and Onions {The Very Best Recipe for Sausages, Peppers, & Onions}!

This is, without a doubt, the very best recipe for making Sausages with Peppers and Onions! I can say this with absolutely certainty because sausage with peppers and onions is one of my all-time favorite meals and I have certainly made my fair share.

I've made sausage with peppers and onions on the stove top and on the grill, but never in the oven. All I can say is...WOW, this dish is THE recipe for sausage, peppers & onions. Throw out all other recipes. This is incredible and is going to be one of my favorite recipes of 2020!

Not only is this THE BEST way to make this dish, but it is also the easiest! Doesn't everyone love a sheet pan dinner?

All you need to do is buy a mix of sausages, 1 pound of sweet and 1 pound of hot. Cut up some bell peppers, poblano peppers, hot peppers (if you like), some onions and garlic, slice up some fennel if you like, coat it in some oil and Italian seasonings and roast it all, separately, for about 20 minutes, before mixing it all, splashing it all with a little white wine, and roasting it for another 20 minutes. 

Ina serves her sausages with polenta and I'm sure that's delicious. I served mine with pierogi (that's how we usually eat ours). You could serve this with mashed potatoes or pasta, even rice, I suppose. You could also serve it on a hoagie roll. The sky is the limit really!

There's one more thing about this recipe that makes it a winner...LEFTOVERS! DO NOT skimp on this recipe or cut it in half thinking that you can't eat 2 pounds of sausage with peppers and onions! Yes, you can, and you'll want to! One of the best parts about this recipe is that you'll have enough for dinner and then you'll have enough sausage and peppers and onions leftover to make a killer breakfast the next morning OR mix it with pasta the next night for dinner OR put it in a hoagie and eat it as a sandwich OR anything else your heart desires. It is extremely versatile AND it will only taste better the next day when the flavors have a chance to meld overnight!

So, this recipe gets the chef's kiss AND wins the award for one of my very best recipes of the year! I know that I will be cooking this time after time after time, and you should too! I VERY highly recommend it! Thanks, Ina!

I'm so happy to end this year of cooking with one of my favorite dishes of the year! Next week I will be doing a roundup of my Top Ten favorite recipes of the year!

Roasted Sausages, Peppers, & Onions

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 6

2 large yellow onions, cut in 1/2" wide wedges through the core 

2 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut in 1/2" strips

2 large orange bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut in 1/2" strips

2 large poblano peppers, seeded and cut into 1/4" strips

1 medium fennel bulb, halved, cored, and sliced crosswise 1/4" thick

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed in your hands or

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

salt and freshly ground black pepper

good olive oil

1 pound sweet Italian sausage

1 pound hot Italian sausage

1 pint red cherry tomatoes

1/3 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves

Freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese, for serving

Notes: I cut the amount of bell peppers in half and didn't use the fennel or the cherry tomatoes. I also added slices of serrano pepper for heat. I didn't have oregano so I used about 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. All of my changes worked perfectly and I think there is room for you to customize this recipe as you like. The one thing I will say is to take care with how you cut your vegetables. You do want them to be cut like she suggests in this recipe. If they are cut too big, they won't cook down as well and if they're cut too small they could burn.  

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange two racks evenly spaced in the oven.

Put the onions, bell peppers, poblano peppers, fennel, garlic, oregano (or Italian seasoning), 1 tablespoons of salt, and 1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper in a large (14 x 8-inch), shallow roasting pan. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and toss well. (Don't crowd everything in a smaller pan; the vegetables won't brown.) Separately, on a sheet pan, toss the sausages with 2 tablespoons olive oil and spread them out in one layer. Place both pans in the oven for 20 minutes.

Toss the vegetables and transfer the sausages to the roasting pan. Add the tomatoes. Pour in the wine and roast for another 25 to 30 minutes (I cooked mine only for 20 more minutes and they were perfect), turning the sausages to brown evenly. Off the heat, sprinkle on the basil (I didn't have any so I skipped this step), toss well, taste for seasonings, and serve hot with grated Parmesan on the side.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Ina's Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs

Some people might think a world like "glob" doesn't sound appetizing. But, if we say Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs it instantly changes things! Right? I mean there are very few things that chocolate and peanut butter don't improve.

When I see the words Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs I think of complete and utter indulgence. After all, if I'm hungry for chocolate and peanut butter I do want globs and globs of it! 

This cookie is packed with tons of goodness: melted chocolate, chocolate chips, whole pecans, whole walnuts, and peanut butter chips and it's all nestled in a chocolate brownie-esque type batter that bakes up into one delicious glob. 

Also, I couldn't resist. It is 2020 and when asked what kind of cookies I'm making for the holiday I couldn't resist to answer with a simple "globs." It does seem rather fitting, doesn't it?


Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof

by Ina Garten

Makes 20-22 cookies

6 tablespoons butter

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

2 extra-large eggs

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder, such as Medaglia d'Oro*

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole walnut halves 

1 cup whole pecan halves

2/3 cup peanut butter chips, such as Reese's

Note: I didn't add the espresso powder because we don't drink coffee and we don't care for the taste of it.

Preheat the oven to 324 degrees. Line a few sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a bowl set over simmering water, melt the butter, 6 ounces of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate, stirring occasionally, until just melted. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddles attachment, beat the eggs, espresso powder, and vanilla until combined. Add the sugar, raise the speed to medium-high, and beat for 2 minutes, until the batter is thick and falls back on itself in a ribbon. Set aside.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture. Combine the 1/3 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and fold it into the chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula.In another bowl, combine the walnuts, pecans, peanut butter chips, the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate chips, and the tablespoon of flour and fold it into the chocolate mixture. With 2 soup spoons, drop rounded mounds of batter 1 inch apart onto the prepared sheet pans. Bake for 15 minutes exactly. Cool on the baking sheets.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Ina's Fried Chicken Sandwiches with Buttermilk Herb Mayo {The Shake Shack Chick'n Shack Copy Cat}

 About once a month, my son and I take a ride over to Lexington and visit Shake Shack. My son is gluten free and Shake Shack has a great gluten free burger that he loves. I love their burgers, but I'm a much bigger fan of their Chick'n Shack Sandwich. I love the thick crispy coating on the chicken, the buttermilk herb mayo, with the crisp lettuce and salty pickles. As far as I'm concerned it is THE BEST CHICKEN SANDWICH EVER!

I recently joined a Barefoot Contessa group on Facebook and I noticed they were sharing Ina Garten's Fried Chicken Sandwiches left and right. When I started looking into it I realized that Ina bought the Shake Shack cookbook and recreated the sandwich, sharing the recipe in her Cook Like A Pro cookbook. It turns out that this chicken sandwich is also Jeffrey's favorite chicken sandwich as well. 

I'm glad Jeffrey and I have similar tastes. This totally worked out in my favor.

I have been beyond excited to try my hand at this recipe at home. I read the recipe. I watched the video.


Also worth noting: People may chose to alter the way they assemble their sandwich. That is up to them, however, the way you assemble a sandwich affects the taste, so pay attention to the directions below when it comes to assembling. Ina refers to this as flavor build. If you don't assemble your sandwich the same, it will make a difference. Also, buy the very best potato buns you can find!

Now, I don't fry often at home for a lot of reasons, but mainly because you have to fry in batches and it is a chore to keep all the food warm so everyone can eat together at the same time, BUT....Ina keeps her fried chicken pieces warm in the oven and serves them all together, so this can totally be a meal that everyone enjoys at the same time! I found the process worked very well for me!

I find that most people love a good chicken sandwich. My family really enjoyed these sandwiches for brunch right before we decorated the tree (I like to cook. I don't like to decorate, so I've procrastinated). The potato roll is the perfect vessel for the double breaded, and very well-seasoned, extremely juicy and tender fried chicken. The buttermilk herb mayo hits all the right notes and adds so much flavor. Some crisp Bibb lettuce and some salty tangy pickles. This sandwich will have you swooning. The best part is, I don't have to leave the house for my favorite Shake Shack sandwich because this one is even better! Thanks Ina!



Fried Chicken Sandwiches with Buttermilk Herb Mayo

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 6

For The Sandwiches

2 cups buttermilk, shaken

1 shallot, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced crosswise

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 jalapeno pepper (with seeds), halved lengthwise

salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 small skinless, boneless chicken breasts (6 ounces each)

3-1/2 cups all purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

2-1/2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon celery salt

2 (48 ounce) bottles canola oil

6 potato hamburger buns, toasted for serving (buy the best you can find!)*

Buttermilk Herb Mayo (see recipe below)

6 Bibb lettuce leaves

Kosher dill pickles, such as Claussen, thinly sliced, for serving

Buttermilk Herb Mayo

1 cup good mayonnaise, such as Hellman's

2 tablespoons buttermilk, shaken

1 teaspoon good white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoons minced fresh chives

1/8 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Make The Buttermilk Herb Mayo: Whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk,vinegar, scallions, parsley, chives, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. TIP: Sauces are generally best made at least a few hours in advance. It helps the flavors blend and marry.

To Marinate The Chicken: (This Requires At Least 8 Hours): In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, shallot, garlic,jalapeno, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Place the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of parchment paper and with a rolling pin or a meat mallet, pound them until they are evenly 1/2 inch thick. Slice each piece of chicken in half crosswise so you have 2 pieces approximately the same size. Place the chicken in the marinade, making sure each piece is well coated, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to (but not more than) 24 hours.

When Ready To Cook The Chicken: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Set a wire rack on a sheet pan and place them in the oven. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, celery salt, 1 tablespoon salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper and set aside.

Pour oil into a medium (9-inch round x 4-1/2" high) Dutch oven such as Le Creuset, until it is 2inches deep.Clip on a candy thermometer and heat the oil over high heat tuntil it reaches 350 degrees. Meanwhile, lift the chicken from the marinade, dredge it in the flour mixture, submerge it again in the marinade, then again in the flour mixture, lightly shaking off the excess. Transfer the chicken to a plate or sheet pan until ready to fry.

When the oil is 350 degrees, carefully lower 3 pieces only into the oil with tongs and adjust the heat to keep the oil at 350 degrees. Don't crowd the chicken! Cook for 5 minutes, turning once to brown evenly. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the sheet pan in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Sprinkle all the chicken with salt and keep warm for up to 15 minutes, until ready to serve.

To Assemble and Serve: Place the bottom of each bun on a plate, spread with some of the buttermilk herb mayo, then a lettuce leaf, 4 pickle slices, then a piece of chicken. Spread the underside of the top bun generously with more of the mayo and place on top of the chicken, mayo side down. Serve while the chicken is still warm.



Sunday, December 6, 2020

Ina's Raspberry Baked Alaska


Back in the 70's Baked Alaska was all the rage. It must have been THE dessert because I'm pretty sure I remember seeing it on TV and in magazines. I can definitely remember Baked Alaska getting my attention as a kid. The funny name, the glorious mound of meringue with different types of ice cream inside. It looked heavenly to me as a kid and it looks heavenly to me now! However, I never ate Baked Alaska or made Baked Alaska until today, 45 years too late in my opinion!

I'm not afraid to say that I'm a little miffed at myself for waiting so long, too long to try this glorious and heavenly dessert!

There are endless versions of Baked Alaska. I think the version of my youth was made with chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream, classic Neapolitan flavors. Ina's version is made with raspberry sorbet and vanilla ice cream. 

I will warn you...this recipe took up most of my Sunday. It is time consuming and makes A LOT of very messy and rather sticky dishes, but it is extremely special and we definitely need to treat ourselves right now! Totally worth it!

What you see above and below is my very first attempt at Baked Alaska. Ideally, I'd like my meringue to get a little more color and have some crispy tips, but I noticed that ice cream was melting on the sheet pan so I pulled it out. Once I cut into it I noticed that the ice cream was still perfectly solid inside SO, I'm going to go a little longer the next time. Trust me, I will be making this recipe over and over again until I get it just right! 

In summary, I don't know what you see when you picture heaven, but I'm pretty sure I see a combo of raspberry sorbet with vanilla ice cream, sitting atop a piece of pound cake, then topped with a fluffy marshmallowy Swiss meringue that goes crisp and golden on the outside while still being a little fluffy and cloud-like on the inside, all sitting atop a fresh homemade raspberry sauce.


Raspberry Baked Alaska

Adapted from Cook Like A Pro

by Ina Garten

Makes 6

For the Ice Cream and Cake

1 (1-pound) store-bought pound cake

1 pint good raspberry sorbet, such as Ciao Bella

1 pint good vanilla ice cream, such as Haagen-Dazs

For the Swiss Meringue

8 extra large egg whites

1-1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fresh Raspberry Sauce

1 (6-ounce) package fresh raspberries

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup (12 ounces) seedless raspberry jam, such as Tiptree

1 tablespoon framboise liqueur

For the Cake and Ice Cream: Slice the cake into six 1/2" thick slices. Cut six (2-1/2") circles - one from each slice - with an unfluted round cookie cutter, discarding the scraps. (You can also use a small knife.) Place the cake rounds 2inches apart on a flat dish that will fit in your freezer.

Soften the sorbet and the ice cream just enough to be able to scoop them with a standard 2-1/4" diameter icecream scoop (15 to 30 seconds in the microwave works). Fill half the scoop with raspberry sorbet and the rest of the scoop with vanilla ice cream and place an ice cream ball, flat side down, in the middle of each cake round. Freeze for at least30 minutes, until the ice cream is very hard.

For the Meringue: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. To make the Swiss meringue, place the egg whites and sugar in a heat proof glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture almost constantly, until it reaches 120 degrees on a candy thermometer and the sugar has dissolved (see tip). Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt and beat on medium speed for one minute, then on high speed for 5 minutes, until the egg whites form stiff, glossy peaks.

Transfer the cake rounds and ice cream to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Working quickly, spread the meringue with a spoon or small spatula, making lots of peaks all over with the back of the spoon. (You can also use a pastry bag fitted with a large fluted tip and pipe the meringue thickly around each ball of ice cream and cake.) Be sure all of the ice cream is covered with meringue. Bake for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes, until the edges of the meringues are browned, turning the pan once to brown evenly. Transfer to dessert plates, drizzle fresh raspberry sauce around each baked Alaska, and serve immediately.

For the Fresh Raspberry Sauce: Place the raspberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and the framboise into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth. Pour into a container and chill. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to one week.