Ina Garten’s Salted Caramel Brownies

My daughter has loved a book series about a girl named “Kylie Jean” since she starting reading them in first grade. In one of the books, Kylie Jean Fashion Queen, Kylie’s mom bakes caramel brownies. My daughter has been asking for them ever since. I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to comply! (She’s in 5th grade this year. :/ )

The recipe for these super rich, moist and delicious brownies was adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Foolproof via Food Network.com. I used large eggs, espresso powder, salted caramel sauce, and omitted the sprinkling of sea salt. We ate them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Decadent. Thanks, Kylie Jean! 🙂

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 14 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 T instant espresso or 1½ T instant coffee granules, such as Nescafé
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 T sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 to 6 ounces good caramel sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Sauce)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons flaked sea salt, such as Maldon (I omitted this because I used salted caramel sauce)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 x 1½-inch baking pan.
  2. Melt the butter, 8 ounces of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla, and sugar.
  4. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift together ½ cup of the flour, the baking powder, and salt and add to the chocolate mixture.
  6. Toss the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate chips and the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour in a medium bowl and add them to the chocolate mixture.
  7. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
  8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t overbake!
  9. As soon as the brownies are out of the oven, place the jar of caramel sauce without the lid in a microwave and heat just until it’s pourable. Stir until smooth. Drizzle the caramel evenly over the hot brownies and sprinkle with the sea salt.
  10. Cool completely and cut into bars.

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Salad-Topped Hummus Platter

The culmination of my daughter’s summer theatre camp involves days of dress rehearsals followed by matinée and evening performances. She absolutely loves it all and it is worth every second, but it was also difficult to prepare and eat dinner during this time. That’s show business, right? 😉

This genius quick, healthy, and filling appetizer turned dinner saved the day the evening of her final performance. The recipe was adapted from Ina Garten via Smitten Kitchen.com. I made my favorite hummus, added arugula, used a peeled CSA cucumber, and substituted red wine vinegar for lemon juice in the dressing. I could eat it all summer long!

  • 2 cups prepared hummus
  • 2 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces or 225 grams) grape tomatoes, quartered, plus more to taste
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, or multiple small cucumbers, unpeeled, chopped
  • 1/4 medium red onion, chopped small, optional
  • 1 T red wine vinegar or juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp sumac
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, or a mix of parsley, mint, and chives, plus more for garnish
  • 2 large handfuls baby arugula, to taste
  • warm naan or pita, for serving
  1. Prepare hummus in a food processor.
  2. Spread hummus on a large plate with the back of a spoon, creating swirls and cavities. Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, just to freshen it up.
  3. Mix tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, red wine vinegar/lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons olive oil, sumac, plus salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.
  4. Stir in herbs.
  5. Top hummus with arugula. Heap salad on top of the arugula. Finish with additional sumac and/or fresh herbs.
  6. Serve with warm naan or pita wedges.

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Chicken Stew with Biscuits

Chicken Stew with Biscuits or Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuits… whatever you want to call it- It’s classic comfort food. This version was the runner-up dish for our Valentine’s Day dinner this year. I suppose we had two Valentine’s day dinners (plus leftovers!). Lots of love in my house. ❤

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten, via Barefoot Contessa.com. We ate it with a green salad. I modified the recipe to use rotisserie chicken meat, reduced the butter, and incorporated homemade turkey stock. I also steamed the carrots and heated the stock in the microwave and used a food processor to make the biscuit dough.

I made the stew and biscuit dough a day ahead and refrigerated them separately. The day I was ready to serve the dish, I warmed the stew for 1 hour at room temperature, re-heated in the oven for 30+ minutes, and then topped with the pre-cut raw biscuit dough and continued to bake for approximately one half hour. Perfect.

For the Stew:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes (I used Trader Joe’s liquid concentrate chicken broth.)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 carrots, medium-diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley, optional

For the Biscuits:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.
  3. Steam the diced carrots with 2 tablespoons of water in the microwave for 2 minutes.
  4. In a microwave safe bowl, preferably with a spout, heat the chicken stock in the microwave until hot. Remove and incorporate the concentrated stock. (Alternatively, the stock can be warmed in a separate pot on the stove.)
  5. In a large pot or Dutch oven (I used enameled cast iron), melt the butter and sauté the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent.
  6. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
  7. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick.
  8. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream.
  9. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions, and parsley, if using. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, as needed.
  10. Place the stew in a 10 x 13 x 2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes.
  12. Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor or an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  13. Add the butter and pulse (or mix on low-speed) until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and pulse (or combine on low-speed) until the dough just comes together. Mix in the parsley, if using.
  14. Dump the dough out on a well-floured piece of parchment-paper. Using your hands, pat out to 3/8 inch thick. Cut out twelve circles with a 2-1/2 inch round cutter. Only re-form the dough once.
  15. Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling.
  16. Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven.
  17. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.

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Crème Brûlée

My son wanted a dessert that he could “light on fire” to celebrate his 12th birthday. I hope that this is age appropriate. 😉

After rejecting my suggestion of Bananas Foster, he chose a classic crème brûlée. andyes, with close supervision, he torched his dessert!

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten, via Food Network.com. I used large eggs, Cointreau instead of Grand Marnier, slightly adapted the method and increased the baking time. Special and delicious.

Yield: Makes 6 ramekins/servings

  • 1 large egg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for each serving
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together on low-speed until just combined.
  3. Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until it’s very hot to the touch but not boiled.
  4. With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add the cream to the eggs. (I transferred the hot cream to a liquid measuring cup to ease adding it into the mixer bowl.)
  5. Add the vanilla and liqueur and pour into 6 to 8-ounce ramekins until almost full.
  6. Place the ramekins in a 9×13 pyrex baking pan (I placed a square silicone pot holder underneath the ramekins so that they didn’t shift in the pan.)
  7. Glide the oven rack out of the oven cavity and place the pan on the rack. Carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (I used a tea kettle.)
  8. Slowly glide rack into the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the custards are set when gently shaken.
  9. Remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until firm. (I refrigerated them overnight.)
  10. To serve, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly on the top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar caramelizes evenly.
  11. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minute until the caramelized sugar hardens.

and…

Of course, it wouldn’t be a birthday in our house without also having Number Cookies. 🙂 I had to make a couple of numeric “12’s” to go along with my son’s Roman Numeral “XII’s”. 🙂 They were swimming pool blue for my swimmer this year. ❤

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Cauliflower Gratin

My husband refused to let me simply roast the special heads of cauliflower we received in our CSA share. When he agreed to eat this indulgent cheesy cauliflower celebration as a main dish, we struck a deal. I added a little bit of pasta to make it more substantial.

We enjoyed this dish with roasted potatoes, roasted carrots, as well as Toscano kale and watermelon radish greens sautéed with garlic, onions and leeks on the side. It truly was a CSA box feast. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home by Ina Garten. I used one and a half heads of my small CSA cauliflower, about two pounds total. The original recipe called for three pounds, so I added pasta to the gratin. I also drizzled olive oil over the top of the dish instead of butter.

Cheesy deliciousness. 🙂

  • 1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets (I used 2 pounds of cauliflower supplemented with 1 cup orecchiette pasta)
  • coarse salt
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 3 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyère, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • 1/4 cup panko or fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 to 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.
  3. Cook the pasta, if using, about 2 minutes less than the package directions for al dente.
  4. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened.
  6. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyère, and the Parmesan.
  7. Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish or another equivalently sized baking dish.
  8. Place the drained cauliflower on top (and the pasta, if using) and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top.
  9. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyère and sprinkle on top.
  10. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the gratin.
  11. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Ina Garten’s Apple Pie Bars with Browned Butter Glaze

I have to interrupt my Thanksgiving side dish posts (I know you’re upset! 😉 ) to share this indulgent, crowd-pleasing dessert. (A request by my dear friend who plans to make it for her Christmas Eve feast.)

Recently, my kids and their friends performed in a holiday concert at our house. This was our third annual concert! Everyone brings an appetizer and we eat while the kids rehearse. This year, the concert was upgraded to incorporate a microphone and some stand-up comedy. The parents were asked to perform as well. Special and fun. 🙂

Along with the appetizers, I always feel the need to include a dessert (as I love any excuse to bake). These pie bars had caught my eye and were perfect to serve at a large gathering. The recipe was adapted from Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten, via Barefoot Contessa.com. I baked them in a parchment-lined pyrex dish, used pecans instead of walnuts, (predominantly) Fuji apples instead of golden delicious, and topped it with a brown butter glaze inspired by Joy the Baker. Delicious!

Yield: Makes 18 to 24 bars

For the Crust:

  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

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For the Apple Filling:

  • 3 pounds mixed apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/8 inch thick (I used predominantly Fuji apples with 1-2 Granny Smith and 1 Red Delicious)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

For the Browned Butter Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • milk, as necessary, to achieve desired consistency
  • pinch of coarse salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Line a 9×13-inch pyrex baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Make the Crust: Place the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and creamy.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour and salt together.
  4. With the mixer on low, slowly add to the butter-sugar mixture, beating until combined.
  5. Scatter two-thirds of the dough in clumps in the prepared pan and press it lightly with floured hands on the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides.
  6. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  7. Par-Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, and set aside to cool. (While the crust is still warm, I use a spoon to gently push the edge of the crust back up the side.)
  8. Meanwhile, Make the Topping: Put the mixing bowl with the remaining dough back on the mixer, add the nuts and cinnamon, and mix on low-speed to combine. Set aside.
  9. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  10. Make the Filling: Combine the apples and lemon juice in a very large bowl.
  11. Add the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well.
  12. Melt the butter in a large (10-inch-diameter) pot, add the apples, and simmer over medium to medium-low heat, stirring often, for 12 to 15 minutes, until the apples are tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated.
  13. Spread the apples evenly over the crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
  14. Pinch medium pieces of the remaining dough with your fingers and drop them evenly on top of the apples (they will not be covered).
  15. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is browned. Cool completely.
  16. Make the Glaze: In a small pot, melt butter. Continue to cook until browned and fragrant.
  17. In a small bowl, whisk together browned butter, powdered sugar, a splash of milk, and a pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth. Add milk as needed until drizzling consistency is achieved.
  18. Spoon into a ziplock bag and cut a tiny tip off one corner of the bag.
  19. Drizzle glaze over cooled bars before slicing.
  20. Cut into bars of desired size.
  21. Store, wrapped individually or covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (Without the glaze, the bars can be kept at room temperature.)

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Ina Garten’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Most people make carrot cake in the springtime… I make it in the fall to celebrate my mom’s birthday. 🙂 It’s one of her absolute favorites. I have made this yummy version several times- they are special and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! Ideas and Recipes for Easy Parties that are Really Fun by Ina Garten. I cut the recipe in half to make 12 cupcakes, adjusted the baking times for a convection oven, and used the orange cream-cheese frosting from my favorite (springtime) orange chiffon bunny cake.

Fabulous! A true gold standard. Happy Birthday, Mom. ❤ ❤

Yield: Makes 12 cupcakes

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg plus 2 T beaten egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots (less than 1/2 pound)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

For the Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 stick, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (I used light cream cheese)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated orange zest, from about 1/3 of a large orange, about 3/4 tsp
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

To Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Beat the sugar, oil, and vanilla together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  3. Add the egg, mix to combine. Repeat with the additional 2 T of beaten egg.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  5. With the mixer on low-speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
  6. Add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts to the remaining flour, mix well, and add to the batter. Mix until just combined.
  7. Line muffin pan with paper liners.
  8. Using a cookie scoop,  scoop the batter into 12 muffin cups until each is 3/4 full.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  10. Cook an additional 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. Cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  2. Add the zest and salt, beat to combine.
  3. Add the sugar and beat until smooth.
  4. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: If the recipe is doubled, 3 large eggs can be used to make 22 to 24 cupcakes.

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