Sunday, December 25, 2022

Ina Garten's Lemon Bars


Lemon desserts have been a part of Christmas all throughout my life. My Gramps loved lemon meringue pie something fierce, so mom would make two pies,  one for us to eat on Christmas and one for Gramps to take home.

I've now had more years without Gramps than I had with him, but some people have such a presence they never escape you. I can still picture him sitting at the head of the table taking that first bite of lemon meringue pie. He always had a rather mischievous twinkle in his eye and without fail, almost on cue, he would throw his head back and close his eyes savoring that first bite before exclaiming how good the pie was. It was a little slice of heaven to him and we all felt it.

So, in honor of Gramps, and everyone else who is no longer physically with us, may we all have our own slice of heaven as we give thanks and praise to all the special moments over the years, old and new, for those are theses are the very best moments. The ones we hold onto. 

Lemon Bars

Adapted from Food Network

by Ina Garten

Makes 20 squares or 40 triangles

For The Crust

1/2 pound butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 cups flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

For The Filling

6 extra large eggs at room temperature

3 cups granulated sugar

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup flour

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350F. 

For The Crust: Cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2" baking sheet, building up a 1/2" edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For The Filling: Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar. 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Ina's Giant Crinkled Chocolate Chip Cookies

The I Heart Cooking Clubs group started out as Tyler Florence Fridays way back about 12-14 years ago. Back then Tyler's Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe was all the rage. I think every group member made it, and for good reason. They are some award-winning cookies! In fact, to this day, after all the Tyler Florence recipes I've tried, his Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe is my fave!

Ina's Giant Crinkled Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from her Modern Comfort Food book reminded me of Tyler's recipe and I knew I needed to give them a try. The ingredients and size of the cookies are similar, but the difference is Ina takes turns baking and banging her cookies on the counter every 3 minutes to give them the crinkled appearance. Then she sprinkles them with sea salt.

Chocolate chip cookie recipes are a very personal preference kind of thing. I had to find out if Ina's recipe would trump Tyler's. Does the baking and banging and crinkling of the cookies make them better or worse? Do we prefer them with sea salt, or not? 

Well, it turns out both cookie recipe are very similar and both taste amazing. However, we all voted and said that we preferred Tyler's recipe better because we like thick chewy cookies and Ina's were thinner and cripser. Turns out the baking and banging does create crinkles in the cookies and the crinkles add a crisp texture to the cookie. Ina's cookies were also sprinkled with sea salt and were saltier. I am a huge fan of salt, but surprisingly I prefer the cookies without the salt. 

Again, it comes down to personal preference. If you prefer thick chewy cookies then Tyler's Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe would be the one for you. If you prefer thin crisp cookies, then Ina's Giant Crinkled Chocolate Chip Cookies would be the one for you. Either way you can't go wrong! 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all who are celebrating!

Giant Crinkled Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

by Ina Garten

Makes 12

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

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1 extra large egg, at room temp

1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, such as Lindt*

Fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling

Note: Ina calls for bittersweet chocolate and I never use that in my cookies. We prefer semisweet so I always opt for that. You should always make recipes to suit your own tastes! Also worth noting is that even though I froze the cookies for the required 15 minutes and set them wide apart on the cookie sheet, they spread and and ran together. I think they may need to bake 2-3 per cookie sheet to avoid them spreading.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Arrange three racks evenly spaced in the oven (see note). 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 3 minutes, until creamy. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the egg, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of warm water and mix on low speed just to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and kosher salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture, then the chocolate (including the fine chocolate dust) to the batter until combined. Mix well with a rubber spatula.

With a 2-1/4" standard ice cream scoop (or 1/3 cup measure), make 12 rounded scoops of dough and place them on a sheet pan. Freeze the dough for exactly 15 minutes, then arrange 4 balls of dough - spaced wide apart - on each of three sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes, until the cookies are slightly puffed in the center. Remove the pans from the oven and bang them on the stove top, until the center of the cookies deflate. Bake for 3 minutes, then bang the pans again, repeating baking and banging every 3 minutes, for 18 to 20 minutes total, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. (The centers will be lighter and not fully cooked.) Rotate the sheet pans in the oven so the cookies bake evenly. Sprinkle the cookies with fleur de sel and cool completely on the pans.

If your oven has only two racks or you have only two sheet pans, or less, bake these in batches but don't freeze any batch of dough for more than 15 minutes.

Spirit of Giving @ IHCC

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Ina Garten's Parmesan Chipotle Popcorn {The Perfect Holiday Snack}!


I know what you're thinking...did she really post popcorn on her blog? Well, yes. Yes, I sure did, and let me tell you something, and I'll say it in bold so you don't miss it. DO NOT SLEEP ON THIS POPCORN! 

This popcorn is rated 5 stars of the Food Network and for good reason! It is simply coated in flavor: cheesy and buttery with a slight kick of chile. It is simply addictive and just plain impossible to stop eating. We inhaled it!

Right now we are in the thick of the holiday season and everyone is dithering about and shelling out money in a herculean effort to beat the clock and be ready for the big day. This popcorn takes all of 5 minutes to make and only cost a few dollars, if that, so I've declared it THE PERFECT HOLIDAY SNACK!

What are you waiting for? Get poppin'!


Parmesan & Chipotle Popcorn

Adapted from Food Network

by Ina Garten

Serves 3-4

1 bag microwave popcorn, such as Newman's Own Natural 

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

1/2 cup finely grated Italian Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

2 teaspoons fleur de sel

Microwave the popcorn for 3 to 5 minutes, according to the directions on the package, until the popcorn stops popping. Carefully pour the hot popcorn into a large bowl and immediately pour on the butter, then the Parmesan, chile powder, and salt. Toss well and serve hot.

Tree Trimming Party @ IHCC

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Ina's Hasselback Kielbasa

I seldom see chefs use kielbasa in their recipes, but I am thrilled to see Ina Garten use it in several of her latest cookbooks. 

We loved Ina's Kielbasa with Mustard Dip from her last book, Modern Comfort Food, and also her Split Pea Soup topped with Kielbasa. It stands to reason that we would love her Hasselback Kielbasa! 

This method of cooking kielbasa is new to me, but I am beyond eager to give it a go! The kielbasa is cut every 1/4" to create crusty golden tops, as well as texture and flavor. Ina calls for the kielbasa to be brushed with a homemade honey mustard that adds a nice subtle flavor.

The hasselback kielbasa roasts atop a bed of sliced onions, fennel, peppers, garlic, thyme and fennel seeds. The vegetables serve as a nice accompaniment to the kielbasa. We really loved this dish and think it would be wonderful served alongside some pierogies or potatoes, but in the interest of trying to "healthify" the meal we served ours with some steamed broccoli.

I can definitely see making this again and adding it to the rotation as a comforting dish this winter!

Hasselback Kielbasa

Adapted from Go-To Dinners

by Ina Garten

Serves 6

3/4 pound yellow onions (2 to 3 onions)

1 (1-pound fennel bulb, stalks removed)

1 each red, yellow, and orange bell pepper

good olive oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs

1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, chopped

salt and black pepper

2 pounds fully cooked, smoked kielbasa

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup liquid honey

Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the onions in half, slice them crosswise in 1/2 inch thick half rounds, and place them in a large bowl. Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise, cut the halves in 1-inch thick wedges through the core (to keep the wedges intact) and add to the bowl. Cut the peppers in 1-inch wide strips, discarding the stems and seeds, and add to the bowl. Toss with 4 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic, thyme, fennel seeds, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Transfer the vegetables to a very large (14 x 18") roasting pan or two sheet pans, spread them evenly in a single layer, and roast for 20 minutes, tossing once with a large metal spatula.

Meanwhile, cut the kielbasa crosswise in 1/4" thick slices, being careful to cut only two thirds of the way through. When the vegetables are ready, toss them again, discard the thyme branches, and place the kielbasa on top. Combine the mustard and honey and brush the top and sides of the kielbasa. Roast for 30 minutes, brushing the kielbasa with the honey mustard every 10 minutes, until it is crispy and browned (Reserve extra honey mustard for serving.) Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and serve hot with the reserved honey mustard on the side.