ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Of Cakes, Carrot and Red Velvet Edition

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For some reason, I found myself baking a lot of birthday cakes this summer. Specifically, I made two carrot cakes and two red velvet cakes. Based on this staggeringly high output, I now consider myself an expert on the subject, which means nothing really, but any chance I get to call myself an expert on something is celebration enough (for me). This all is my way of saying that in my EXPERT opinion, you all should make these cakes.

First, we have a carrot cake. Technically, it’s Ina Garten’s carrot and pineapple cake. Here’s what you need to know: this will be the very best carrot cake you will ever make. I’ve made it twice now (and once another time), and it has been stupendous. Seasoned carrot cake fans such as my dear friend Sly will attest that it is the best carrot they’ve ever eaten. This is no joke, people While Ina Garten may be known for her Beatty’s Chocolate Cake recipe, it’s this wonderful carrot masterpiece that should be the crown jewel in her dessert empire (I’ve made both, and I say it with authority — although, the chocolate cake is delicious too).

And then we have the red velvet cake. This beloved cake is a bit of a tricky beast to master — I think we’ve all taken bites of our fare share of dry, crumbly versions. But I’m happy to report that the recipe I’ve found online delivers a moist, flavorful cake that will please even the snobbiest of red velvet fans.

Pics of the cakes after the jump…

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BANTER BLENDER #98: Forty-Five Minutes of “Barefoot Contessa” Chat

Calling all “Barefoot Contessa” fans. This week’s “Banter Blender” is devoted 100% to Ina Garten — from her recipes to her friends and everything in between. Ben Mandelker (bsideblog.com) and Andrea Nawalanic hash it all out as they share their favorite meals, their fondest memories, and some of their most honest criticisms about the Food Network superstar.

Along the way, there’s also stern criticism of Food Network’s current direction and also talk of Sandra Lee and The Pioneer Woman.

If you watch Food Network or simply have a passing interest in Ina Garten, this episode is for you. Be sure to use GOOD headphones. How fun is that?

And remember to use the promo code 199banter at checkout with GoDaddy.com to get a new .com for just $1.99! Some limitations apply. See website for details.

Please like us! facebook.com/banterblender

ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Chickpea Mash Edition

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My friend Guy recently turned the big 4-0, and in honor of his birthday, we all threw him quite the fête. This involved cocktails and nibbles, two of my favorite things. So what to make? The answer was pretty easy: Ina Garten’s Tuscan Mashed Chickpeas. This dip, which my friend Andrea initially made for me a month prior, won me over within the first half-bite. But like I said, Andrea had made it for me, and she has a way with cooking (she does it GOOD). Would I be able to replicate her success? And would the party-goers enjoy it?

Results after the jump…

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Seven Things That Are Annoying Me Today

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I didn’t really know what to write about this afternoon; so I thought I’d maybe whine for a little bit since I seem to do that well, and it’s been a while since I’d bitched about anything in particular. Back in the early days of this blog when I was under a non-compete with TVgasm, I wasn’t allowed to write about TV; so I spent a good amount of blog real estate telling tales of gross people at the gym or embarrassing gaffes whilst attempting to exit a parking garage.

I don’t really have any good stories on that front, but I did realize at some point this afternoon that I have a few things that have been annoying me today, and why not air them out in public? It is the blogger way, after all. Continue reading

How To Fix ‘The Barefoot Contessa’

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for the past few years knows that I absolutely love Ina Garten and her show, Barefoot Contessa. Back in the day, the series, which airs on Food Network, focused on Ina assembling some sort of casually sophisticated meal for her friends, many of whom tended to be gays with fixations on things like flowers, the color orange, or old windmills. It was a perfect mix of good food and light narrative. How bad can that be?

Over the years, Barefoot Contessa has developed a quiver of buddies that have become utterly endearing to us viewers. There’s Ina’s adorable husband Jeffrey, there’s best bud Frank, the wily TR, dapper Miguel, sweetly fussy Michael, ornery Barbara Lieberman, choreographer Susan Stroman (affectionately known as Stro), the ladies of Calypso, lovable assistant Barbara, and of course the one and only Anna Pump. These are just a few of the many faces in Ina’s Hamptons universe, and one of the main appeals of Barefoot Contessa is watching Ina interact with this Simpsons-esque stable of characters — all while teaching us great recipes.

Somewhere along the way though, things began to change. Her theme song went jazzy, the term “Back to Basics” was appended to the show, and guest stars (not guest characters) became the norm. The show slowly moved away from endearing vignettes and instead refocused on a regrettable new feature, “Ask Ina.”

Don’t get me wrong: I still love Ina with all my heart, but it’s time for an intervention with the producers. We need to get Barefoot Contessa back on track. After the jump, a few humble suggestions for Food Network…

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Ina Garten’s Chocolate Cake Edition

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Last week, I was both craving chocolate and feeling the need to procrastinate on an epic scale. What better excuse to bake a chocolate cake? But which recipe should I use? The last time I tried to make chocolate cake, I made an epic disaster by fusing a Mark Bittman recipe with an Aida Mollenkamp pudding frosting. It was all sorts of wrong (although the pudding frosting was quite delicious). Nevertheless, when it comes to these sort of First World problems, I always head to my favorite TV cook: Ina Garten! One of Ina’s top recipes is her famous “Beatty’s Chocolate Cake,” which currently has a five-star rating on Foodnetwork.com with 1,250 reviews. Yes, this is probably Ina’s most popular offering, but I’ve never attempted it before because quite frankly I was scared.

You see, about two years ago, my friend jash attempted Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, and the result was a smoky, messy cake wreck. The batter overflowed in his pans, spilling out all over the oven and wreaking general havoc on his kitchen. This was notable because a) Ina recipes rarely go this wrong, and b) jash is a very accomplished home cook in his own right. He NEVER encounters such catastrophe. Surely if jash couldn’t succeed, what chance did I have? I mean, earlier this summer I left the FLOUR out of a cookie recipe. I made cookies with NO FLOUR. I shouldn’t even say that I made cookies. I made a crumbly MESS. Beatty’s Chocolate Cake would certainly be a risky endeavor.

Pictures of my valiant attempt after the jump…

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Ina Garten’s Tuna and Hummus Sandwich

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Earlier this week, I made a batch of Ina Garten’s wonderful tuna salad in anticipation of assembling her Tuna and Hummus Sandwiches — one of her few healthy recipes. Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve since made some hummus (partially Ina’s recipe, partially my own), and today, I was able to finally move forward with my lofty ambitious sandwich plans.

Photos of this momentous occasion after the jump…

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Revisiting Tuna Salad, Courtesy of Ina Garten

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I had a downward spiral at the supermarket today. No, I wasn’t depressed or anything, but it was one of those trips where I walked into Fresh & Easy starving and emerged with much more than I had anticipated to buy. I just wanted a few basics, but then I got to thinking that it might be a good idea to make some hummus. And then once I’d gathered some hummus fixings, I decided I’d try Ina Garten’s funky tuna salad and hummus sandwich. Next thing I knew, my basket was bubbling over with cornichons and celery, and my formerly brief and thrifty trip had turned into a $35 dollar affair.

I wanted to think this was money well spent, but as I stared at my $5 jar of gherkins, I couldn’t help but think I was going to use two or three and the rest of the pickles would go to waste. Had I just overindulged?

Well, I haven’t made the tuna and hummus sandwiches yet, but I have made the tuna salad. Results after the jump (the sandwiches will appear in a separate Adventure in Domesticity)…

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ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Ina Garten’s Roasted Shrimp Salad Edition

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A friend of mine celebrated his birthday yesterday, and he requested that I write less about the Real Housewives and more about cooking. I can’t promise that I’ll reduce the Housewives coverage (there’s a new episode on every NIGHT it seems), but it did occur to me that I haven’t cooked anything for the blog in quite some time (garlic contest holdouts — I will be attacking those recipes this week). Anyway, I decided this afternoon would be the perfect time to take on a recipe for lunch, and who better to offer up a wonderful noontime option that my favorite Food Network personality: Ina Garten.

I immediately leafed through Ina’s new cookbook, How Easy Is That? and decided upon a delicious looking roasted shrimp salad. This was exciting to me because not only was I trying a new Ina dish, but I was actually hoping to conquer a demon from my past. You see, back in 2004 or so, one of the very first recipes I attempted to make was a shrimp salad. I was a naive lad back then, and I just plucked whatever recipe I had found off of the Food Network site. Just my luck that it was a Paula Deen dish. I didn’t know who Paula was or what her reputation was. Needless to say, the combination of her excess and my ineptitude made for a very sad, very mayo-intensive disaster.

Taking on Ina’s shrimp recipe would be my first stab at such a dish since the 2004 disaster. Would I triumph at last or drown in a pool of mayonnaise yet again. Pics after the jump… Continue reading