Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Banana Nut Bread

A blogger friend of mine whose job involves writing about food told me about the C & H Sugar website. I use C & H sugar all the time but had never checked out their site before. It contains all sorts of great recipes for yummy-sounding treats. I decided to try their recipe for banana bread, which uses brown sugar. I make banana bread all the time but have never seen a recipe using brown sugar. It was great--the brown sugar added a deeper flavor and I will definitely make this one again. I omitted the nuts, and, to my kids' dismay, decided not to add chocolate chips! The nice folks at C & H are sending me a $20 gift card to help out with the expenses. Thank you so much, C & H--I'll definitely be back to your lovely site!


2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup banana, mashed ripe (about 4 medium)
1 cup C & H Pure Cane Golden Brown or Dark Brown Sugar (I used Golden Brown)
1/2 cup butter, melted or vegetable oil
3/4 cup walnuts or pecan, coarsely chopped (I omitted)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Make a well in center and set aside. In another large bowl, combine eggs, bananas, sugar, and melted butter or oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened; batter will be lumpy. Fold in nuts. Spoon batter into pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and cool completely on rack.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Cheddar Corn Chowder and How I Stalked Ina On My Summer Vacation

Don't pay the ransom!!!! I've escaped!!! Not really--I HAVE been MIA for QUITE a while but am back. I spent the summer all over the place.....including the Hamptons, where I not only met and had dinner with Ina's decorator--and may I just say....he is FABULOUS.....but I also spent several days stalking Ina herself. No, I never found her, but I did go to many of her favorite Hamptons' spots! How bad can that be?? I spent several wonderful days at my very good friend's house in Southampton....or, actually, in South, as the lingo goes. Yes, that's right, we Hamptoners--Hamptonites--Hamptonians--well, we just say South for Southampton, East for East Hampton, Bridge for Bridgehampton, and so on. So my friend, we'll just call her "S," and she is also FABULOUS, or maybe I should say FABULOUSER, led a few of us on a several-day Ina-stalking tour. Armed with Barefoot at Home, where Ina details her favorite places in the Hamptons, we aimed to go to as many of them as possible. The first night I was there we had dinner at Robert's house. He is Ina's amazing decorator and he is a wonderful host. He is my friend S's decorator and friend. And now he is my friend. My new best friend, in fact. Yes, we are besties.... BFF' buds. He served great food, told great stories, and introduced me to "Hamptons' pool water" which to all you non-Hamptonians out there--is a very delicious and very pricey Rosé wine. The "All Ina All the Time Tour" started the next day. S took us to Loaves and Fishes and also to Cavaniola's Gourmet Cheese Shop for amazing cheese and even more amazing panini sandwiches--S's daughter claims they are life-changing and after eating one I had to agree with her. We went to Tate's Bake Shop for their famous chocolate chip cookies.

Every place was great--and I wouldn't expect anything less from Ina--but my favorite place, hands-down, was Round Swamp Farm, (see photo above) a shop located in a tiny little house which sells fabulous produce, baked goods, and prepared foods as well as seafood.

Cinnamon rolls to die for. I am still dreaming about them. We also went to H. Groome, Bloom, the Monogram Shop, and Turpan, which are some of Ina's faves for cookware and tableware. And yes, I tried to buy a little something everywhere--after all, if it's good enough for Ina, it's good enough for me. The stalking culminated in a visit to Ina's house. Well, maybe not a visit--maybe a viewing is more accurate. Yes, I saw the house, the barn, the garden.....I saw whatever I could see peering over her front gate. Here's a sneaky little shot of the barn. Yes, THE barn. Here it is:

Thank you, S (and family), for being a fantastic tour guide and host--I think even Ina could learn a few things from you! The food, the beach, the fun, the shopping, the talking, the walking, the was all great! Can't wait til next summer......:))

I also spent some time in Paris and our hotel was right around the corner from Ina's apartment. I don't know which one was hers, but I stumbled upon her favorite street market (the Boulevard Raspail Street Market) which, as she says in Barefoot in Paris, is right in front of her apartment. So, it was an exciting back to blogging.

The latest "Barefoot Bloggers" recipe is from Ina's Barefoot Contessa cookbook and is another keeper! Thanks to Jill of My Next Life for selecting this easy and delicious recipe! I halved the recipe and it still made a lot. It was really good!

from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

8 oz bacon, chopped (optional)
1/4 C good olive oil
6 C chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 C flour
2 t kosher salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t ground turmeric
12 C chicken stock
6 C medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
10 C corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (2 pounds)
2 C half-and-half
8 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

NOTES: I halved the recipe and used 1 1/2 half bags of frozen corn. I mixed yellow and white corn and it looked really nice. I think you could easily omit the bacon. Chives or green onions would make a nice garnish.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Curried Couscous

The latest "Barefoot Bloggers" recipe is from Ina's Barefoot Contessa cookbook and is another keeper! Thanks to Ellyn of Recipe Collector and Tester for selecting this easy and delicious recipe! It can easily be adapted to use anything you have in your refrigerator or pantry. (You could even substitute many different grains for the couscous!) I forgot to get both scallions and red onions at the store so I used the sweet onion I already had at home. I made the dressing as directed, using less salt, of course, and then made a little extra after I mixed it with the couscous. I think it needed it. This would be a great side dish for a summer picnic, BBQ, or just dinner at home.

from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Serves 6

1 1/2 C couscous (I used half whole wheat couscous and half regular)
1 T unsalted butter
1 1/2 C boiling water
1/4 C plain yogurt
1/4 C good olive oil
1 t white wine vinegar
1 t curry powder
1/4 t ground turmeric
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 C small-diced carrots
1/2 C minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 C dried currants or raisins
1/4 C blanched, sliced almonds
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1/4 C small-diced red onion


Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in the boiling water and pour over the couscous. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, curry powder, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork. Add the carrots, parsley, currants, almonds, scallions, and red onions, mix well, and season to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Outrageous Brownies

Ina, Ina, Ina--we've had such a good run so far. Until now. Call me crazy--but I just don't feel the brownie love that everyone else feels for this recipe. In fact, I found it to be kind of......meh. I know, I know, it's subversive to even THINK like that, much less put it in writing. Maybe it was the coffee, maybe I overbaked them--although they cooked for exactly 30 minutes, I don't know what the problem was, but all I know is I have two chocolate-loving boys at home--and a week after I made this "Barefoot Bloggers" recipe from Ina's Barefoot Contessa cookbook, I STILL had brownies left over. Yes, you heard that right. I rest my case. That NEVER happens with my old stand-by--my secret, never-fail, to-die-for brownie recipe. OK, OK, it's the Ghirardelli brownie mix (pack of five) that I buy at Costco. But if you tell anyone, I'll deny it. Get it??? Good. Glad we understand each other. This conversation NEVER happened.

from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook


1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 T instant coffee powder
2 T real vanilla extract
2 1/4 C sugar
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour, divided (1 C for batter and 1/4 C in the chips and nuts)
1 T baking powder
1 t kosher salt
3 C diced walnut pieces (I omitted)


Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1 C of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 C flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over-bake!! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Tuna Salad or This is Not Your Mother's Tuna Salad!

Put the mayo and the pickle relish away--this is a whole new kind of tuna salad. Ina Garten's Tuna Salad is made with fresh tuna and has sort of an Asian vibe going on. It's light, fresh, and delicious--a great summer lunch or dinner for people you really like--because fresh tuna steak is not cheap!! I walked out of the first store I went to when I saw that fresh tuna was $30.99 a pound. If I paid that much for the tuna I would have to put it in my safe deposit box!! I ended up getting it at Whole Foods for $20.99 a pound. As always, I didn't use as much salt as our girl Ina calls for. I sprinkled kosher salt on the tuna steaks before cooking and then added a little additional salt to the mixture after tasting. I would definitely make this one again! Probably a good dish to make when you see tuna on sale at your grocery store.


2 pounds very fresh tuna steak, cut 1-inch thick
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling (NOTE: taste dressing before adding salt)
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black, plus extra for sprinkling
2 limes, zest grated
1 teaspoon wasabi powder (available in the Asian food section of most grocery stores)
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (3 limes)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
10 dashes hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco) (NOTE: I used all 10 dashes)
1 to 2 ripe Hass avocados, medium diced
1/4 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
1/4 cup red onion, small diced


Brush the tuna steaks with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the tuna steaks in a very hot saute pan and cook for only 1 minute on each side. Set aside on a platter.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the olive oil, salt, pepper, lime zest, wasabi, lime juice, soy sauce and hot sauce. Add the avocados to the vinaigrette.

Cut the tuna in chunks and place it in a large bowl. Add the scallions and red onion and mix well. Pour the vinaigrette mixture over the tuna and carefully mix.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cathy's Famous Vietnamese Spring Rolls

My fabulous manicurist (and so much more!) Cathy surprised me the other day when I went to get my nails spruced up. She told me she had bought me all the ingredients I needed to make her Vietnamese spring rolls. Not only had she bought me the ingredients, she also wrote up the recipe, took these photos, and made up a batch of the dipping sauce!! She bought me an extra bottle of hoisin sauce, a bottle of Sriracha hot sauce, mint, cucumbers, bean sprouts, rice paper, and some nameless Asian greens to try, too. You'd think at that point that she could have offered to come over to my house and just make them, but I don't want to seem TOO demanding. Oh, and she also did a fantastic job as usual on my nails. She's amazing! Cathy even rolled up a sample roll for me right there at the salon so I could see how much of each ingredient was used. She did everything but type up this post!



2 cups of water
1 1/2 cups of Hoisin Sauce
1/2 cup of peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar
Sriracha hot sauce to add on when eating (optional)


In a small saucepan add water, Hoisin sauce and peanut butter all at once. Over low heat, stir with a spoon until the peanut butter is nicely blended, then add the white vinegar. Turn off heat and set aside.


1/2 pound of boneless chicken thigh or 1/2 pound of Sirloin pork end
1/2 pound of bean sprouts (open the bag and drain and rinse well)
1 cucumber (cut both ends off of cucumber, clean & cut in half and then into 1/4" thin slices-- about 3" length)
1 bunch of green leaf lettuce
1 bunch of fresh mint leaves
1 package of Rice papers
(Other ideas include--noodles--Asian rice noodles, cilantro, carrots, and as mentioned below, shrimp)


NOTE: Cathy usually uses pork, but for those who don't like pork chicken works well too. I think shrimp would be good as well.

For pork: In a slow cooker add water and 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt, 3 gloves of garlic and maybe 8-10 peppercorns. Slow cook for 20-30 minutes. When meat gets tender, remove from slow cooker and rinse with cold water, then set aside for 5-10 minutes to keep the moisture inside meat. Then slice thinly and set on a plate. You can also bake this in an oven til done.

For chicken: Marinate chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt, bit of fresh ground pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder for about 15-30 minutes. You can grill your chicken or pan-fry your chicken. Cathy says "I like to pan-fry the chicken because this dish has a very clean taste so I don't mind pan-frying the chicken to keep the moisture and juice from the meat-- also when you pan-fry you can add on some fresh chopped garlic." Make sure the chicken is cooked well but not over-cooked, wait about 5-10 minutes after cooking for the meat to cool down, then slice 1/2" thick and set aside.


In a big mixing bowl add warm water from the faucet to dip rice paper. Dip rice paper in water and then set on a big plate. On rice paper about 2" away from the edge of the rice paper--put 1/2 of a lettuce leaf or a little less, a few bean sprouts, a cucumber slice, 2 pieces of thin-sliced pork (or chicken or shrimp) and 2-3 leaves of fresh mint, (place all ingredients on top of each other and about 2" away from the edge of rice paper).

Now fold both sides of rice paper toward the center and try to cover the food, then start to roll as tightly as possible. Try not to have the rice paper dry out, it will stick to the plate. To help your work go faster use 2 plates for the rice paper while working on one and the other one has time to get soft and dry. Do not put your Spring Rolls on top or too close to each other, because rolls will be sticky and break when pull apart. Cathy usually uses clear plastic wrap to keep the rolls from drying out and sticking to each other.

Serve with dipping sauce and hot sauce on the side.

Cathy says "Have Fun Making Your Spring Rolls......!"

UPDATE: We made these spring rolls tonight using bean sprouts, lettuce, mint, cellophane noodles, cucumber, and shrimp. They were great! I mixed a LITTLE bit of the Sriracha sauce into the dipping sauce and it really cleaned out my sinuses--that stuff is HOT! Thank you Cathy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Croque Monsieur

You don't need your passport to get a taste of France--Ina Garten's come up with another winner and it's the classic French ham and cheese sandwich known as Croque Monsieur. A simple sandwich that the French have transformed into heaven on a plate, the Croque Monsieur is surprisingly easy to make. This "Barefoot Bloggers" recipe from Ina's Barefoot in Paris cookbook took me no more than half an hour start to finish. Thanks to Kathy of All Food Considered for a great choice! This would be great with a simple salad for lunch or dinner--and it would be a big hit as lunch for your girlfriends. Bon appetit!

from Barefoot in Paris


2 T unsalted butter
3 T all-purpose flour
2 C hot milk (I used skim)
1 t kosher salt (I used less, knowing Ina's a bit of a salt freak)
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed (Ina prefers Pepperidge Farm white bread--I used supermarket brand no-
name white bread and it was fine)
Dijon mustard
8 ounces--or more (at least 8 slices) baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin (I think I used French ham from the deli


Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.