after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Ina Garten

In Ina We Trust

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t says:  A while ago, g got me some bananas.  For some unknown reason, these bananas went un-eaten (very unlike me).  But I had no fear … because when bananas go bad, g shifts into banana bread mode … and life gets good.

This particular month, she let me choose the recipe – and choose I did.  You see, for me, the only thing banana bread is missing is chocolate, so when google revealed an Ina Garten recipe, it was a done deal.  Here’s the copy-pasted recipe.

For the bread:
– 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 3/4 cup granulated sugar
– 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (3 to 4 very ripe bananas)
– 1/4 cup sour cream
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the streusel topping:
– 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
– 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
– 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
– 3 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8x8x2-inch square baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, beat in the egg, vanilla, banana, and sour cream and mix until combined. Don’t worry—it may look curdled. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ones. Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

For the streusel, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a medium bowl and pinch the ingredients together with your fingers until the mixture makes crumbles. Add the chocolate and combine.

Distribute the streusel evenly over the batter, sprinkle the almonds on top, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan and serve warm or at room temperature.

How’d it turn out?  Take a look:

extreme close-up!

extreme close-up!

How’d it taste?  Heaven.  Seriously.  Pure heaven.  Even g agrees that it was “holy crap” good, not hesitating to mention this recipe to friends immediately.  Throw out anything you might have thought about banana bread, and instead replace it with something more like banana “cake” … with a crazy good topping.  Super-moist, flavorful, accented with just the right amount of chocolate (I went with 60% cacao – the bitterness with a nice foil to the sweet cake) – it was one of the first times that I didn’t wish for something else to add (we did use pecans instead of almonds in the topping, however – they were on sale).  Is it blog-worthy just to put up someone else’s recipe and rave how good it is?  I have no idea – I put it here just so I can find the recipe more easily when it comes time to make it again.  Speaking of which: have we made it again (it’s been about a a month since we made it last)? Hell no.  Why not?  Because I’d eat it all by myself … in a single sitting … sorry g.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

28 August 2016 at 1:45am

Bacon Bacon Bacon!

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t says: This past weekend, g said, “I want some mac and cheese.”  A quick trip to google led me to Ina Garten’s recipe.  I was psyched to use bacon – but the same ‘ol “problem” came up: the recipe called for far less bacon than one can purchase in a package at the supermarket.  So what should I do with the rest? I made it my mission to use the entirety of the bacon to complete the meal.  This is what I did …

Step 1 was to cook nearly all of the bacon (I’m saving some for some eggs this weekend) in the oven as per Ina’s recipe.

9 went into the oven - only 8 made it to the picture ...

3 of the strips of the bacon would serve as the 4-oz required by Ina’s recipe (which I also modified a little – upped the cheddar by an ounce and lowered the blue cheese by an ounce – a good thing, too cuz that blue cheese I got was kickin’ – g thinks it still has too much oomph!).

What next?  Well, I figured that I needed a side dish.  But what could I make that incorporates bacon?  As I sat there looking at the dirtied pan, something shiny caught my eye … I knew what I had to do …

The grease says: "Don't forget about me!"

Through some crafty aluminum foil bending, I reserved the liquid gold ...

Inspired by Tyler Florence’s “Bacon-Braised Brussels Sprouts” that I must have seen 57 times around the holidays, I used the bacon grease to coat some halved Brussels sprouts, which I then seasoned with salt, pepper, Cayenne powder, and garlic powder before roasting in the oven at 400 degrees (turning every 5-10 mins).  The end result was one appetizer and one side.

Main and Side ... both with bacon!

I didn’t originally intend to use bacon grease for the Brussels sprouts, but when I realized I used the last of the oil in the house for our eggplant parmigiana-lasagna, I had little choice.  I must admit that I was a little disappointed with the color of the Brussels sprouts – I got a bad bunch so I had to prune way a lot of the dark green outer leaves – so what I used looked a little pale.  They were also kind of small – so they were tender before their leaves got nice and brown – I guess a frying pan would have given me the char that I wanted, but I didn’t want to deal with high heat frying tonight – I was having a lazy day).

Ok, so you probably see where this is going …  I have several strips of cooked bacon … and a need for dessert … I had the perfect solution …

A while ago, a friend of mine and I attempted bacon-chocolate-chip cookies.  They were phenomenal – but quite annoying to make (you had to make the bacon ahead of time and incorporate it into the dough).  I wanted to do something similar, but all of my cookie dough was already made and sitting ready-to-go in the freezer; incorporating bacon pieces wouldn’t be easy.  The solution?  Well – one time at Talula’s Table, a component in the dish called “Asparagus, Asparagus, Asparagus” featured bacon “powder” (which was genius).  And there I had it – I’d dust the cookies with some bacon powder (or very tiny bits – I didn’t want to bring out a food processor to actually get a powder).

Bacon bits in a baggie - ready for cookies!

Pig and chocolate - before the oven ...

Savory and sweet, in one luscious package ...


So, I obviously still have bacon bits left over, but I’m going to rim the drink of a margarita glass like I saw on Iron Chef America recently.  Can’t wait to see how that’ll taste (I’m hoping for a melon-based mixed drink so it’s like prosciutto-wrapped melon).

And … there we go!  Three courses and a drink incorporating bacon!  I must confess that I didn’t make the cookies the same night as the sprouts and the mac-n-cheese – I was just too full!  But I could have!  And isn’t that what really matters?

Oh … and a complete freak coincidence … a day or so after I thought of dusting my cookies with bacon (and didn’t tell anyone!) – look what lc sent us in the mail:

Pig and chocolate ... in bar form!

Can’t wait to try it!

Eggplant Parmigiana-Lasagna

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t says: This weekend, like every weekend, I wanted to make something that would last us a few meals. I had a hankering for eggplant parmigiana, but I find that I get tired of eggplant parm really quickly. For me, there’s just too much eggplant flavor so that I’m usually eggplanted out by the end of my meal – who knows how I’d feel by the third time I’ve had it in the same week! Also, the texture of plain ol’ eggplant also gets boring when it’s reheated (you lose the crunch of the breading). But I got to thinking – what if I jazz it up with some meat? And use some different cheeses? And some pasta? It didn’t take me long to realize that I was no longer playing around with an eggplant parm recipe, rather, adding eggplant to a lasagna recipe! There we have it – a lasagna and eggplant parm hybrid! The recipe that follows is the love-child of Alton Brown’s eggplant parm recipe and Ina Garten’s turkey lasagna recipe.

When all the cooking was done, I think it was pretty good, and it’s definitely something I’ll make again. This is NOT a very gravy-full recipe – if you like tomato sauce, you can up the quantity. It’s also NOT a big puddle of oozy cheese. Everything is balanced (in my opinion), so I don’t think I’m going to make straight-up eggplant parm anymore (this way is just more fun). Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients or steps – it can be made easier by using oven-ready pastas or ready-made gravy (although the latter is sometimes a little yuck – but Barilla makes some decent sauces)! You could also omit the meat (but what’s the fun in that?), or swap out the veal for more turkey if you’re not a fan of red meat. g had the idea to add a layer or two of sauteed spinach … but I forgot … oops! In any case – you get the idea – it’s a pretty versatile recipe. You don’t even have to use this one – but try adding eggplant parm to your favorite lasagna recipe and see what happens!


for the eggplant …

1 eggplant

all-purpose flour, panko bread crumbs, Progresso “Italian style” bread crumbs, Parmesan/Romano grated cheese (the cheap kind)

4 eggs

canola oil and olive oil in a 50:50 mix – although if you only want to use one, go for canola – higher smoke point

2 baking sheets (optional)

for the pasta of the lasagna …

use whatever you want – oven ready is probably the easiest so you have less to think about or do …

for the cheeses of the lasagna …

1 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into slices

16 oz ricotta (we like part-skim)

4 oz goat cheese (doesn’t have to be fancy goat cheese – we used the cheap President brand)

1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

1 egg

2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

0.5 tsp kosher salt

0.25 tsp black pepper

for the tomato sauce of the lasagna … (you can substitute the sauce-relevant ingredients for at least 28-oz of whatever pre-made tomato sauce you want – you’ll still want the meat)

0.5 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (we <3 Tuttorosso brand “with basil” – Wegman’s brand is ok – Hunt’s is awful)

basil (if your tomatoes don’t have some in it)

0.25 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp grated cheese

0.5 lb ground veal

0.5 lb ground turkey


-1) The point is to try and remove some of the excess liquid from the eggplant. Maybe this step is completely unnecessary – it might just be something Alton Brown does. Personally, I didn’t mind this step because it gave me the chance to take care of other prep work like making gravy, etc. Slice eggplant lengthwise (i.e. the cutting stroke starts from the top and goes to the bottom) into 10 super-long slices.  I use 10 slices because I like 2 layers of four slices in the lasagna, and the two outside-most slices have a lot of “skin” on them, which isn’t that pleasant to eat through, are thrown away.  Cut the green part off. Line baking sheet with foil. Line the sheet with paper towels. Lightly sprinkle the baking sheet with kosher salt. Arrange eggplant into a single layer (you may have to use two layers separated with paper towels). Sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover with paper towels. Do a second layer if you need to. Place a second baking sheet on top of the paper towel and eggplant layers. Put something heavy on top of the second baking sheet. Go do some other steps while the moisture gets pressed out.

0) Start a pot on the stovetop with ample salted water for preparing noodles (but don’t make it yet). If you have oven-ready sheets, then nevermind. Set aside the number of noodles you’ll need to make two single-sheet-thick layers (with a little overlap) in the baking dish of your choice (I used 9″ x 13″).

1) Make the ricotta cheese mixture … Combine the ricotta, goat cheese, parmigiano reggiano, egg, parsley, salt and black pepper (i.e. everything but the mozzarella). Set aside in fridge.

2) Make the meat gravy … In whatever pot you intend to make the gravy in, brown the two meats in a tablespoon of oil. You may have to do this in batches so you can get a nice color on the meat (otherwise, you’ll essentially boil or steam the meat, which isn’t as flavorful). Set meat aside (leave the fat in the pot). Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic. When fragrant, add tomatoes and return meat to pot. Add the grated cheese and baking soda. Let the pot cook down for a while under a very low heat.

3) Prep the eggplant … Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set some kind of frying vessel on medium heat (or just a smidge above medium – I used a setting of “6” on a scale of 1-10). You don’t want it to smoke when you add the oil (which you should add later, right before you start frying). As far as what kind of vessel – I like a 4 quart pot – the tall sides prevent too much splashing. Set up a 3-stage dredging system: 1 bowl of flour, 1 bowl of beaten eggs, 1 bowl of bread crumb mix. For the bread crumb mix, I like using panko (for the crunch), Italian-style bread crumbs (for the flavor), and cheapo grated cheese (also for the flavor) in a 2:1:1 ratio. Feel free to use whatever bread crumbs or ratio you want. Free the eggplant from the baking sheet sandwich you made. Wipe them with paper towels to remove excess salt and liquid. Dredge with flour, then egg, then breadcrumb mixture. Set slices aside until done dredging.

4) Fry the eggplant … Add oil to your heated frying vessel on the stovetop (I like a half-inch deep pool of oil). Fry the eggplant slices until they get to a pretty color (I go two at a time b/c that’s what fits in my pot) and set them aside on some paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

5) Make the pasta … Cook the noodles according to instructions on package. If you have oven-ready sheets, then double-check and make sure you don’t have to do anything to them except stick them in the oven (I’ve never used them, myself, so I leave that up to you).

6) Layer the lasagna … Place 1/3 of the gravy on the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Layer as follows: 1 layer of lasagna noodles, nearly half of the mozzarella slices, 4 slices of eggplant, half of the ricotta mixture, 1/3 of the gravy, 1 layer of lasagna noodles, nearly half of the mozzarella slices, 4 slices of eggplant, half of the ricotta mixture, the remaining gravy, and the remaining mozzarella (broken apart into small chunks and scattered on top).

7) Cook the lasagna … Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, until you see bubbling throughout the baking dish (the egg in the cheese mixture is the only raw ingredient in the lasagna), and a nice browning of the mozzarella on top. Cool and enjoy!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 March 2010 at 10:53pm

Butternut Squash Risotto

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t says: I never order risotto at restaurants.  Why?  Well, I guess it’s because when I was growing up, rice was always white and plain (just how I like it).  I have come to find there is actually a lot of flavor in plain white rice if cooked correctly, but that’s for another post another time.  The thought of “Italian rice” made with wine and broths, featuring other flavors like squashes, mushrooms, or meats always struck me as peculiar.  And, to be quite honest, whenever I tasted someone else’s at a restaurant, it had always failed to taste more-than-good.  I then watched an episode of Hell’s Kitchen (which is rare as it’s far from my favorite food-related show) where Gordon kept screaming about the poor quality of a cheftestant’s seafood risotto.  I figured, “well, if he’s that upset, then it should be easy to make, right?”.

For my first ever attempt, I opted for a butternut squash risotto, as I had seen several renditions of this recipe throughout foodnetwork.  The following was adapted from Ina’s and Giada’s recipes.  The end result was pretty good; g and I would happily eat it again.  I’d normally be more critical of my (or any) dishes, but I don’t have a decent measuring stick – I guess I should try out more risottos in restaurants now!


__ 1 butternut squash (~2 lbs)
__ 2 Tbs olive oil
__ Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
__ 6 c chicken stock (we used Kitchen Basics “Unsalted”)
__ 5 Tbs unsalted butter (<0.75 stick) + more if needed
__ 2-3 links of Italian sausage, casing removed
__ 0.5 c minced shallots (2 large) (we forgot to buy these, so we used an onion)
__ 1.5 c Arborio rice (~10 oz)
__ 0.5 c dry white wine (we used Sauvignon Blanc)
__ 1 tsp saffron threads (saffron’s pricey, so we omitted it – but it would be an interesting addition!)
__ 1 c freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
__ 1 vanilla bean (or 2 drops extract)
__ 2 Tbs chopped fresh chives


0)  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1)  Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 0.75-inch cubes.  Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and 0.5 tsp pepper.  Roast for 25-30 minutes (tossing once, halfway through).  Squash should be very tender.  Set aside.

2)  Combine chicken broth and vanilla in saucepan.  Heat to a very low simmer.

3)  In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven (we lack one of these, so we used a standard 4 quart pot – worked fine) over medium heat, melt the butter and cook the sausage (it’ll crumble) and shallots/onions on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots/onions are translucent but not browned.

4)  Add the rice to the onions/meat, and stir to coat the grains with butter.  Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.  Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 0.75 tsp salt, and 0.5 tsp pepper.  Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes.  You may have to lower the heat – you don’t want a vigorous boil for this or the following steps, rather, a playful simmer.

5)  Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time and cooking/stirring until the mixture seems a little dry before adding more stock.  Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente (as the whole point of using Arborio rice is to retain some bitey texture), about 30 minutes total

6)  Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and the Parm-Reg.  Add more butter, cheese, or salt/pepper if needed (I think I added a little pepper).  Mix well.  Sprinkle with chives.  Serve immediately.  Leftovers aren’t as good in terms of texture, as the rice gets a little mushier in the microwave, but the flavors are still quite tasty (we ate it)!

g says: The leftovers of this risotto are delicious — don’t let t scare you!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

16 February 2010 at 12:21am