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.

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The Only Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe You’ll Ever Need

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This past weekend, my friend Sly celebrated a birthday, and in her honor, I baked Ina Garten’s impeccable Carrot and Pineapple Cake. It was actually the second time in three weeks that I’ve made the recipe for a birthday, which is significant only because the first time around, I couldn’t help but feel like Ina’s cream cheese frosting was a little… off.

Avid readers of this blog know that I think Ina Garten is basically flawless, but here’s the hardcore truth: the Barefoot Contessa cream cheese frosting veers way too closely into buttercream territory. In fact, it’s barely tangy at all. There, I SAID IT.

Nevertheless, as I prepared to bake Sly’s very own carrot cake, I wanted to learn from Ina’s missteps. I was determined to create a batch of cream cheese frosting that was tangy and amazing and decadent enough to be worthy of Sly.

I’m happy to report that I not only achieved this, but I actually knocked it out of the park. This was the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever made, and Sly herself even proclaimed it was the best she’d tasted. There’s no great science to it, but with a variety of cream cheese frosting recipes online, I think it’s important that someone drive a flag into the ground and declare that the Internet search is over: THIS is the only cream cheese frosting recipe you’ll ever need.

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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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BANTER WITH BEN AND LISA: Ep 38 – Magic Mike, Humidity, and Occupy LA

This week on Banter with Ben and Lisa, Ben and Lisa tackle some of the most important subjects of all time: Magic Mike, humidity, and Occupy LA. Yes, we’re keeping it REAL. Expect lots on Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and naturally, Rene Russo. Wait, what? Rene Russo? Just listen. Oh, and if you haven’t watched Thor yet, there may be a few spoilers (a year later).

Be sure to subscribe on iTunes here and listen on The Sideshow Network!

ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Entenmann’s Baking Challenge; Also, A Cookbook Giveaway!

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For years I’ve loved the Entenmann’s family of products, particularly the chocolate-frosted doughnuts (best when dunked in milk), the devil’s food cake doughnuts, the cupcakes, the chocolate chip cookies, and of course the chocolate fudge cake. I therefore was thrilled when Entenmann’s offered to send me a box of bakeware as well the company’s new cookbook, Entenmann’s Big Book of Baking, for free on the condition that I hold a baking party and document it on my blog. Done and DONE.

The timing could not have been more perfect. As it turned out, I was headed to the Hamptons this past weekend to celebrate a friend’s birthday (NEIL, to be specific — his name has been bandied about from time to time here). What better way to help ring in a new year in Neil’s life than by baking up a storm? With the help of my new friend Lynsley of Popcorn and M&Ms, I set up shop in Neil’s kitchen and churned out no less than five recipes from Entenmann’s Big Book of Baking.

Ah, but how did they turn out? Results after the jump…

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BANTER WITH BEN AND LISA: Episode 24 – Live From The Hamptons!

I may be in New York, but thanks to modern technology, Lisa and I were able to podcast from opposite ends of the country! On this latest episode, I talk about my weekend in The Hamptons, and Lisa weighs in on The Biggest Loser (I swear, that pun was not intended). We also discuss Young Adult and a general assortment of other random topics. Hope you enjoy!

And remember that you can “Like” Banter with Ben and Lisa on Facebook. Be a fan and suggest topics for us to discuss!

You can also listen at Sideshownetwork.tv and iTunes!

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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