Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Favorite Chef Series: Jamie Oliver





Over the summer we lived in Chicago for a few short months. While living there my husband would work very late nights so I would be up from 7pm till 11pm all by my self. We didn't have a T.V. and I did get some sewing done here and there but we didn't bring all our stuff with us so I only had limited supplies.
So what did I do? I turned to Netflix on our laptop. I watched a few old British BBC flicks like Wives and Daughters but mostly, I got HOOKED on Jamie Oliver's Oliver's Twist cooking show.

A few years ago, when I would frequent Barnes and Noble, I would see this "Naked Chef" cookbook but it sounded scandalous, so I never picked it up. Well much to my chagrin, a couple years down the road I happened to be perusing through a Better Homes and Gardens Magazine and I came upon an article featuring Mr. Oliver and his amazing efforts to healthify Britan's school lunches. The article also included some garden tips and delicious looking recipes. This planted the seed. I had never really heard of this Jamie Oliver and I wanted to see what all the hub-bub was about. Plus, he was British, isn't that like one of the worst food capitals in the world (or at least worst for you).

Being a big fan of the TED talks I saw that Jamie Oliver had won the 2010 TED talks award. I watched it and was blown away. The fact that we have made food the enemy when in reality we should be eating healthier, home cooked foods and save the treats for just that - a treat (not an every day occurrence). Well, come to find out I had some mis-information concerning Britan's food scene especially because of Jamie Oliver. So back to those late summer nights while I waited around for my husband to get home... I started watching Jamie Oliver's cooking show, this is not the one currently on the air, this is a loose, funny, more real life show that aired from 2002-2004 in England. Now, I enjoy a little British humor every once in a while and so this show was just the thing I needed to spark my cooking juices and give me a laugh at the same time.

I would find myself in the kitchen thinking, "Where did I put that 'tin' of tomat-o-es." (with a slight British accent.) It not only gave me an alter cooking ego but it opened this new avenue of cooking for me - not measuring things precisely but going off smell, look, and taste. I had previously dabbled in trying to create my own recipes using a few of these tactics (mostly smell, because that is how Remi from Ratataouille does it, right?!) By watching and absorbing some of Jamie Oliver's techniques it allowed me to begin experimentation on my own. My husband, Peter, was loving this new method of my cooking and he would get really excited when he would come home and ask what we were having. If I would respond with a slightly hesitant, "Well, I sort of just made things up," then he would get this gleam of excitement in his eye.

Jamie Oliver has not only transformed my way of cooking but he has set out to create better school lunches for both the children in his country and in ours. It was very impressive to see the changes he would make in the two cities he has worked in. Now I know he is putting on a reality T.V. show (and I am not a big fan of reality T.V.) but the information shared on his Food Revolution show was extremely informative. He would bring a live cow into his kitchen and draw on the cow where each cut of meat comes from and then go on to explain what happens to the rest of the cow (the inedible parts) and how it can get put into our ground beef. (GROSS!) He also showed an amazing demonstration of how much junk food a family eats in one week. He filled their house with all the pizza, soda pop, and crap food this family was eating on a weekly basis - it was disgusting! All of this was an effort to expose to people what is happening to our food (processing) and how much of that junk we end up eating.


Now that I have throughly grossed you out, his recipes are AMAZING! I love using his recipes. They are adventurous, flavorful, and usually end up looking killer! You can access some recipes on his website but he has authored 16 cookbooks of which I have only gotten my hands on two so far. The nice thing about his recipes is that they are easy to do at home. He has authored a few cookbooks that are 20-minute meals, which are life savers! I do have the Jamie Oliver App which has quite a few recipes and he continually updates it. The look of the app is so nice and I like a lot of the little features he has in it to make cooking easier too.

A few of the little tool he has introduced me to is the pestle and mortar. I love using spices instead of salt and fats to flavor a dish and so to have a pestle and mortar which I can use to grind my own spices, make salad dressings, hummus, and pesto! I also have been able to improve my knife care and skills from watching his shows and little you tube clips. I feel like he has done so much to reach out to the at home chef and make life easier for them, not try and make you cook like a posh restaurant chef.


There is so much more I could cover about this awesome chef but for your sake I will just give you some recipes and let you go check out his website, videos, and cookbooks on your own - and you really should.


Roasted Chicken Breast with Pancetta, Leeks and Thyme by Jamie Oliver
Serves 4
Make this recipe in a snug-fitting baking dish or to save on washing-up, a little tinfoil tray. 


Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts, skin removed
2 large leeks
Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
Olive Oil
Butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
White wine (or chicken broth)
12 slices of pancetta

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the chicken breast in a bowl. Trim and wash the leek, remove the outer leaves, then slice into 1/4 inch pieces. Add these to the bowl with the leaves of a few sprigs of fresh thyme, a good glug of olive oil, a knob of butter, a good pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and a good swig of the wine (or broth) and toss together.
Place your leeks and flavorings from the bowl into the tray, then wrap each chicken breast in 4 or 5 slices of pancetta. This will not only flavor the chicken but also protect it while it cooks. Try and bend the sides of the tin foil tray in towards the chicken so the leeks don't burn during cooking. Drizzle with olive oil, place a couple of whole thyme sprigs on top and cook in the middle of the oven for 25 to 35 minutes.

*This recipe is so good and even though it may scare you off because there aren't exact measurements just give it a try. I bet you can gauge what is a reasonable amount of a "good glug of olive oil".*


Awesome Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni by Jamie Oliver
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 knobs of butter
Olive Oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a large handful of fresh marjoram or oregano, roughly chopped
1/4 of a nutmeg, grated
9 large handfuls of spinach, throughly washed
a handful of fresh basil, stalks chopped, leaves ripped
two 14 oz cans of chopped tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of sugar
14 oz ricotta cheese
2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
16 cannelloni tubes (or 10 boiled lasagna noodles)
7 oz mozzarella, broken up

For the white sauce:
1 pint of creme fraiche
3 anchovies, finely chopped
2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

This is such wonderfully light and super-tasty cannelloni, and again I've avoided making the frustrating, painstaking béchamel sauce and given you a much tastier and simpler version. All you need to make sure of is that you fill the cannelloni well with the ricotta and spinach mix, so it's not all full of air. And the lovely thing about it is that it goes crispy and golden on top, but remains soft and moist at the bottom. You'll love it!

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Then find a metal baking pan or ovenproof dish that will fit the cannelloni in one layer so it's nice and snug. This way you'll get the right cover of sauce and the right amount of crispiness on top. When I cook this at home I just use one pan to cut down on lots of washing up! Take your metal pan or a saucepan, put it on a high heat and add your butter, a drizzle of olive oil, one of the sliced garlic cloves, a handful of marjoram or oregano and the grated nutmeg. By the time the pan is hot the garlic should be soft. Put as much spinach as will fit into the pan. Keep turning it over; it will wilt quickly so you will be able to keep adding more spinach until it's all in. Moisture will cook out of the spinach, which is fine. By cooking it this way you don't lose any of the nutrients that you would if boiling it in water. 

After 5 minutes, put the spinach into a large bowl and leave to cool. Place the pan back on the heat, add a little olive oil, the other clove of sliced garlic, your basil stalks and the tomatoes, then fill one of the empty tomato cans with cold water and add this too. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down, add a pinch of salt and pepper and the sugar, and simmer for about 10 minutes, until you get a loose tomato sauce consistency. Then take the pan off the heat and add the basil leaves. 

By now the spinach will have cooled down, so squeeze any excess liquid out of it and pour this back into the bowl. Finely chop the spinach and put it back into the bowl. Mix it with the liquid, add the ricotta and a handful of the Parmesan, and then use a piping bag to squeeze the mixture into the cannelloni. You can make your own piping bag by getting a plastic sandwich bag and putting the spinach mix into the corner of it. Then twist the bag up and cut the corner off. Carefully squeeze the filling into the cannelloni tubes so each one is filled right up – really easy. (Or if using the lasagna noodles, taking one noodle at a time, spread the spinach and ricotta mixture over 3/4 of the noodle then roll up like a jelly roll. Place in sauce and continue as directed.)

Lay the cannelloni over the tomato sauce in the pan. Or you can pour the tomato sauce into your ovenproof dish and lay the cannelloni on top. To make the white sauce, mix together the crème fraîche, anchovies and the 2 handfuls of Parmesan with a little salt and pepper, then loosen with a little water until you can spoon it over the cannelloni. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and the mozzarella pieces, and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until golden and bubbling.


*Don't let the anchovies scare you. I was nervous and this was my first recipe using them. The cream sauce is AMAZING! There is no trace of the anchovies in the dish other than this amazingly rich flavor.*

Monday, January 30, 2012

E. and the Snowman

We haven't had much snow around these parts but during one of our few snows, I took these pics of E out building a snowman with her Rere (grandma) and Papa (grandpa).

The hat she is wearing is one I crocheted for her last summer while we were living in the Mid-West. I had a friend we met there that taught me how to crochet - she was an incredible teacher!


She will only wear dresses or skirts now-a-days so it is pretty difficult for me to get across to her that it is FREEZING outside and she needs to have something to cover her legs. Lets just say that she wears a lot of leggings because to her they aren't the despicable pants! Also, it was a miracle that she allowed those sweat pants to be put on her for something other than to go to bed.



A hug for the snowman. Hopefully you are enjoying your winter where ever you may live!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Baking with Ella - Cookies for the Neighbor Girls


One afternoon my mom was busy making cookies for a cookie exchange party she was going to and Ella saw how much fun my mom was having and wanted to join in the fun.

My mom was making these Spritz Cookies, a pressed cookie, and decided to dye some pink and have Ella help her decorate then help Ella deliver them to her two little neighbor friends. It was so adorable to watch how meticulous Ella was in decorating these cookies. She decorated the pink ones all by herself. She was so proud and excited to deliver them to her friends.

This could be a wonderful Valentine's Day present for you and your little ones to make for a few of their friends. If you have a cookie press it makes it all even easier because you don't have to roll the dough and you don't have little hands trying to "help".

Plus, they taste delicious! They are small and have a wonderful almond flavor. Yum!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Valentine's Salad Recipe

So remember this frozen cranberry delicisousness I was telling you about in my recent Thanksgiving post? Well I lied about one thing, the recipe isn't my Great Grandmas (although she has one like it with cherries in it - and well, I am not a huge cherry fan) but my Grandma Letty's recipe. (Not from the same family.)

I have some pretty amazing grandmas. I have two that are just flat out some of the best chef's I have ever met and another one is like the best bargain shopper in the world (she can work a Macy's clearance sale like nothing you have ever seen!)

My grandma Letty used to run a bed and breakfast up in Lake Arrowhead and would cook these incredible breakfasts for her guests. She loves Ina Garten's recipes too and even gives a HUGE binder full of recipes to all the relatives who get married. She is so sweet and even gave one to my mother-in-law (which she uses ALL the time!) Her recipes are so flavorful, I love it when she visits and cooks for me.

Anyways, this recipe is one that we have every year for Thanksgiving because it is just that good. But my mom and I were thinking the other day, this would be such a fun frozen salad side dish for Valentine's Day! It is pink and can be frozen into any shape (like a heart) plus, it is GOOD!


Here is the recipe and hopefully you try it out for your lover on Valentine's Day.

Pink Arctic Ice by Grandma Letty 
Ingredients:
One 8 oz. pkg cream cheese
2 tablespoons mayonaise
2 tablespoons sugar
1 pound can whole berry cranberry sauce
One 9 oz. can crushed pineapple
1/2 cup chopped pecans
One 8 oz. tub cool whip

Soften cream cheese, blend in mayo and sugar and mix well. Add cranberries, pineapple and nuts. Fold in Cool Whip. Pour into oiled mold, cover and freeze overnight.

Linking up this recipe to Foodie Friday, and Inspiration Friday

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Crafts with Kids - Discovery Box

Discovery boxes are a fun and tactile way for kids to express their creativity and individuality.
I found a box and put in pipe cleaners in all different colors and textures and feathers in all colors and shapes. I put a lid on the box and then presented it to the kids as though it were a gift. They were so excited to open it. And the greatest thing is it took me less than 2 minutes to put it all together!

After they opened the box and dumped all the contents out on the table I gave them each a colander with holes large enough to fit the pipe cleaners and the feathers. The whole idea on this is to let them use creative expression without guidance or restrictions. I just let them go to town. C-man had a little difficulty sticking things in the holes but once I showed him a couple of times he was doing it all on his own.

C-man has been really into trucks, trains, and airplanes so he sort of built a tunnel for his "Mater" truck to fit through.

E's was really a work of art. I was very impressed at how much she did this all on her own. She is always wanting me to do things for her these days. So it was nice to just watch her do something by herself.

Give discovery boxes a try with your kids and watch their little creative minds at work. Here is a great post about discovery boxes for different ages too!

Linked up to the following party:
Frugal Friday on Life as Mom

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Family's Thanksgiving 2011

I know I am totally behind the times here but I LOVE Thanksgiving and I finally pulled these images off my camera so I thought I would share them with you.

In my family Thanksgiving is a big deal. We don't usually all get together at Christmas or Easter but when Thanksgiving rolls around someone gets the "privilege" of hosting it at their house. Any given Thanksgiving we could be feeding 25+ people. This year was a slightly more lean year as one of my Aunt's and her kids celebrated with the other side of the family (there are 10 of them total). So it gets crazy but it is always fun! This year since my parents bought a new home within the year, everyone decided they should host Thanksgiving. We were living in their basement at the time and so I would have had to have taken my fair share of the prep work, however I fell ill the week of Thanksgiving so I was excused with the exception of the cranberry sauce and an apple pie.

If you have ever been to my Mom's blog you will know that table presentation is extremely important to her. She LOVES to set tables and do what she lovingly calls tablescapes. We had decorated a few parties/events during the earlier fall months so we had more than enough Thanksgiving related ideas in stock to whip out something fabulous!

Her napkin rings that she used to sell on her blog - always a nice touch!

Busy bees working in the kitchen to finalize the masterpiece!

Grandpa snitches a few bites of dark meat - he is our Turkey Master Chef so I guess it's O.K.

Everyone else - being lazy watching football - can you guess which team?

This is my Great-Grandma Billie's FAMOUS frozen cranberry deliciousness (I am sure it has a real name but I never remember it...) It is like having a little slice of dessert with your main course. It is basically a frozen salad and we make it EVERY year. Once my mom tried to change up the menu and we all freaked because there are certain things that you only get to have but once a year!

Ahhh... Orange Rolls. Another favorite.

Here is my dad doing what we affectionately refer to as his "Marty Stewart" moment.

I know it is late but hopefully you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

I have linked this on Tablescape Thursday on Between Naps on the Porch Blog.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Favorite Chef Series: Missy Chase Lapine


As I have mentioned previously I love to cook my family delicious, healthy food and today I am going to introduce you to the super-star of Sneaky Chef. Missy Chase Lapine has found a way to make things like brownies (my weakness) have a healthy alter-ego! She gets me excited when she covertly healthifies Mac  and Cheese. I get blown away when I make a quick and easy banana bread loaded with whole grains, fruits, veggies, and flax seed and my kids gobble it down!
Her recipes and concepts are life saving for me. I use them in everyday cooking. Missy knows her food. She was the former editor of Eating Well magazine and is also on the Culinary Arts faculty of The New School in New York City.

Basically the mission is to sneak healthy foods into our family members meals without them detecting it. For instance, she laces brownies with whole wheat, blueberries, SPINACH, and flax seed! I love these brownies, and I know brownies. It blows my mind every time I see the ingredients go in and then I take a bite of the finished product and think - "Wow! How can that combination taste so good?"

So what kind of healthy stuff are we sneaking, you ask? Only the best stuff. Things that are nutrient rich; you want to get the most bang for your buck here. So she uses purees and separates them into color because you wouldn't want your family finding out all your secrets because you used a green purée in pancakes, or you changes the texture or flavor of a dish. By making different color purees it allows you to add health to a variety of meals. She has recipes from breakfast to snack time to dinner to dessert. She also encourages that you gradually increas the amount of sneakiness each time you make a recipe so your family slowly becomes accustomed. She has five cookbooks out: The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals; The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue: 101 All-New Recipes and Sneaky Tricks for Creating Healthy Meals your Kids will Love; The Sneaky Chef: How to Cheat on your Man (in the Kitchen); Sneaky Fitness: Fun, Foolproof ways to Slip Fitness into your Child's Everyday Life; and The Speedy Sneaky Chef. I own two of those cookbooks and have looked through them all. They are wonderful! Go check one out from the library right now. It will change the entire way you think about cooking.

My youngest doesn't really eat meat so I divviesed a plan to purée chicken and put it in pasta sauce (which he typically loves). He doesn't see it, smell it, or taste it but eats the pasta sauce all the same and I am one happy momma!

Here are my top two favorite recipes from her cookbooks:


Brainy Brownies by Missy Chase Lapine from The Sneaky Chef: Simple strategies for hiding healthy foods in kids' favorite meals.
Nutrition Highlights: Whole Grains, Fruit, Vegetables, Rich in Vitamines A, C, E and K, potassium, manganese, folate, iron, fiber, antioxidants, and flavonoids.

Makes about 30 Kid-Sized Brownies

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Purple Puree (see recipe below)
2 Tablespoons all purpose, unbleached white flour
2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons wheat germ, unsweetened
1/4 cup rolled oats, ground in a food processor
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Butter or non-stick cooking spray
Optional extra boost: 1 cup chopped nuts


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter or spray only the bottom, not the sides, of a 13-by- 9-inch or 9-inch square baking pan.
Melt Butter and chocolate chips together in the microwave (checking every 15 seconds to prevent burning). Allow mixture to cool a bit. Meanwhile, in another bowl, stir together the eggs, vanilla, sugar, and Purple Puree. Combine this purple egg mixture with the cooled chocolate mixture.
In a mixing bowl, stir together flours, wheat germ, cocoa powder, oats, and salt. Add this to the chocolate mixture and blend thoroughly. Mix in the chipped nuts, if using, then pour the entire mixture into the baking pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in pan before cutting the brownies and use a plastic or butter knife. Dust with powdered sugar or sprinkles, if desired.
Keeps for a week in the refrigerator, covered tightly or in the freezer wrapped tightly in plastic wrap then aluminum foil for 3 months.

Purple Puree:
Makes about 1 cup puree.
3 cups raw baby spinach leaves (or 1 cup frozen chopped spinach)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (no syrup or sugar added)
1-2 tablespoons water

Raw baby spinach should be rinsed well, even if the package says "prewashed." If you're using frozen blueberries, give them a quick rinse under cold water to thaw a little, and then drain.
Place the spinach in the food processor first and pulse a few times. This will reduce the spinach significantly. Next add the blueberries and 1 tablespoon of water; puree on high until as smooth as possible. Stop occasionally to push the contents to the bottom. If necessary, use another tablespoon of water to create a smooth puree.
Will keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days, or you can freeze 1/4-cup portions in sealed plastic bags or small plastic containers.


Grab 'n' Go Crispy Granola Bars by Missy Chase Lapine  from The Sneaky Chef: Simple strategies for hiding healthy foods in kids' favorite meals.
Nutrition Highlights: Calcium, whole grains and nuts (optional), Rich in vitamins B2 (riboflavin), D, and E, iron, potassium, maganese, selenium, folic acid, tryptophan, calcium, protein, and fiber

Makes about 18 bars

2/3 cup rolled oats, ground in a food processor to about 1/2 cup (you can also leave these whole if you kids don't mind the look and texture of oats - in that case, just add 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds, ground in a food processor to about 1/3 cup (omit if allergic, and add another 1/3 cup of ground oats instead)
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup crispy brown rice cereal (or Rice Krispies)
1 cup nonfat dry milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional - in my opinion ESSENTIAL!)
Optional extra boost: 1/4 cup raisins, craisins, or dried blueberries


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a 9-inch square or 13-by- 9-inch baking pan completely with foil and butter the foil (or spray with oil).
In a medium bowl, combine oats, almonds (if using), wheat germ, cereal, dry milk, cinnamon, and salt. Mix in the canola oil, honey, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips (and/or dried fruit, optional). Mix well, then pour into the prepared baking pan. Press down with palm of hand, evenly distributing the mixture into the corners of the dish and bake for 15-18 minutes. Check occasionally to prevent burning.
Remove from the oven and using the foil to help you, lift the giant bar out of the pan. Place on a flat surface and while still warm, cut into small bars.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze in plastic bags.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Halloween - a little late...


I know I am a little behind the times on this post but for Halloween I made E. a princess dress that I designed and created. It was fun and you can tell by the looks on her face she LOVED it! It is so rewarding to see a face like that when it is in direct result of something you made for them.


So the inspiration came from one of the first scenes from Disney's Princess and the Frog, when Tiana's friend has all those princess dresses specially made for her. I drew up sketches including various details from a few of these dresses and then went to work. I used the $5 for a bolt fabric from Wal-Mart for both the pink portion and the white lining. The white tulle I just had on hand.

I wanted this dress to be something that she could continue to wear for dress up. So I made the neckline elastic for easy entry and exit. For the skirt I used 1 (doubled) layer or lining for anti-itch and to give it a solid color underneath, then added 3 doubled layers of tulle {I did the doubling because I was lazy and didn't want to hem... hehe, plus it added more pouf.} then the top pink layer which I doubled and scrunched up at the bottom and merely saftey pinned to give it that classic princess look. The top I did use this tutorial for a guide on the bodice but mostly made things up as I when along. I tried to line everything perfectly so as to not cause itchy-ness but I overlooked the elastic neck part. That was a little itchy but she loved the dress so much that she didn't care. For Halloween she wore a white shirt underneath the dress for warmth and comfort.



Oh I LOVE these faces! It makes my heart happy that she loves her princess dress so much.

E. is kissing her "prince." She loves her daddy!

For the C-man, I crocheted him a frog hat so the pair made the Princess and the Frog. They were adorable together! E. would talk for weeks before Halloween about how C-man was her "little frog prince." C-man didn't wear his hat for very long periods at a time because he didn't like the ear flaps but oh well...
You can find the link here for how I made the eyes. (I don't think I used stiff enough yarn for the eyes because they started to look more like ears - I am fairly new to crocheting.)

OOOO, He is so strong!

Daddy trying to show C-man how much fun it is to wear the froggie hat.

"Hey, is that my prince over there?"

Hopefully you enjoyed these fairy tale pictures - I know my kiddos loved their costumes.

I linked this post to the following parties:
It's So Very Cheri
Keeping it Simple

Monday, January 16, 2012

Favorite Chef Series: Ina Garten

A friend of mine who authors a food blog and I were talking the other day about which cookbooks we like to cook from the most and we both agreed that Ina Garten's recipes are amazing. They always work, they always taste perfect, and they are usually pretty easy with fairly common ingredients (with the exception of her obsession with truffle butter and all things truffle).

Now, Ina's recipes usually start off with 2 sticks of butter so in no way am I claiming that she is a healthy chef, but, nonetheless, I do cook from her often.

I love to read her cookbooks cover to cover (which I can't say that for some chefs.) She has wonderful insights from her years spent as a caterer for Barefoot Contessa, the specialty food store in the Hamptons she owned. Her frank and simple style is refreshing! She loves France and has a wonderful cookbook dedicated to her food experiences there.

A really nice thing about her is that she is one of those Food Network Super Star Chefs so pretty much all her recipes from her cookbooks are free online - a bonus for me since I only own 3.

Her personal website Barefoot Contessa has a tips section where she goes through and reveals all the secrets of her trade and the things she uses on a day-to-day basis that make her cooking life easier. She put most of these tips in her most recent cookbook, How Easy was That? But here they are online with where she buys them.

I will leave you with a few of my favorite of her recipes that I make OVER AND OVER!


First the most amazing summer side salad, Panzanella Salad. It's an Italian dish utilizing all the delicious veggies of summer featuring homemade croutons (which are AMAZING! I recommend doubling the batch because they just disappear while being cooked). Another recommendation that isn't suggested in the actual recipe is if you plan on eating this over the course of a few days, keep the croutons separate as they will go soggy if kept with the rest of the salad - of course I have eaten it this way MANY times and it is still as delicious as ever but I just love the olive oil infused crunch that those freshly sauteed croutons bring!

Here is the recipe, now can't you just wait for summer to get here so you can whip it up?

Panzanella Recipe by Ina Garten in Barefoot Contessa Parties!

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
  • 20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

Another of her recipes that is Peter's favorite dish is the amazing Tuscan Lemon Chicken the flavor of this chicken is so bold and very lemon-y, which we LOVE. I often add about a tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar because it tastes soooo good! You can cook this over the grill (which is the best option) but during the winter months you can also roast it in the oven at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes then flip and check for doneness around 5 minutes then flip it again and broil it for like 2-4 minutes (be sure to watch it at this point!) to give it that slightly charred look of being grilled.  The chicken should register 160 degrees then let it rest as directed in the recipe below. 


Tuscan Lemon Chicken by Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics


Ingredients

  • 1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken, flattened
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, halved

Directions

Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt on each side. Combine the olive oillemon zestlemon juice,garlicrosemary, and 2 teaspoons pepper in a small measuring cup. Place the chicken in a ceramic or glass dish just large enough to hold it flat. Pour the lemon marinade over the chicken, turning it in the dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Turn the chicken 2 or 3 times while marinating.
When ready to grill, prepare a hot charcoal fire on 1 side of a grill (or turn a gas grill on low heat). Spread 1/4 of the coals across the other side of the grill. Place the chicken on the cooler side, skin side up, and weigh it down with the dish you used for marinating. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the underside is golden brown. Turn the chicken skin side down, weight again with the dish, and cook for another 12 to 15 minutes, until the skin is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through. Place the lemon halves on the cool side of the grill, cut side down for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Remove the chicken to a plate or cutting board, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Cut in quarters, sprinkle with salt, and serve with the grilled lemon halves.

Hopefully these recipes have revealed the amazing-ness of Ina Garten. She has so many more just flat-out good recipes in all of her cookbooks and wonderful advice for entertaining. If you haven't tried her recipes yet, search for her online or go to your local library and check out her books - you won't regret it! 

- Madeline

Friday, January 13, 2012

Wonderful World of Paper Mache

I have been loving all things paper lately. Paper Mache, cool art pieces made of paper,

Back in an old Martha Stewart Kids Magazine they did an article all about reusing items from your recycle bin and having your kids help you make them into fun toys - I LOVE all the ideas from the following pictures. Sadly, I have searched her site many times over and can't find the directions for how to make any of these. I am sure you can piece together the concept in your head but I can also search for my copy and see if I kept the directions and scan them in for you. Enjoy some paper mache eye candy.



How adorable would any of these be as decorations in a boys room or play space. I love how they left some of the newspaper/book pages exposed.