Monday, July 6, 2009

Ina's Outrageous Brownies

Ina wasn't kidding. These really are OUTRAGEOUS! Wow. One bite of these brownies and you will be hopped up on enough chocolate to last 3 days. These brownies are seriously incredible. I've heard a lot about these brownies, and this recipe has been staring me in the face in one of Ina's cookbooks that I own. So, the Fourth of July BBQ I went to this weekend was the perfect opportunity to test out a recipe that would yield a LOT of servings. I'd say this makes far more than the 20 servings Ina's cookbook declares. These brownies are just so rich that the serving sizes really need to be smaller than what Ina cuts them to, and therefore will yield more than 20 brownies.

First, when you read the ingredient list you'll notice a pound of butter. Then, you'll notice that this recipe calls for OVER two pounds of chocolate. TWO POUNDS! But, man, it was fun having all that chocolate in my pantry. I have to admit, I was excited - really excited - to be trying this recipe. So excited that, when I started melting the butter and chocolate, I didn't approach it properly. I was so anxious to start that I just dumped the chocolate in the bowl, then just plopped the four sticks of butter right on top of the chocolate. If I did it again, I'd start by melting the butter a quarter of the way or so, THEN add the chocolate. My method this first go around made melting the butter/chocolate a little more tedious and long. At any rate, melting the chocolate is probably the trickiest part of the prep - you don't want to overheat the chocolate, and don't let any water/steam from the double boiler get into the chocolate. The rest of the recipe came together easily. And, the instant coffee nicely rounds out the flavors of the chocolate. It is essential.

I made this in a large 9x13 pyrex AND an 8x8 pyrex. They ended up being a little thicker than what would come out of the pan Ina recommended, so they took a little longer to bake. I was quite concerned about over cooking them, so I pulled them out probably a little earlier than I needed too. However I did notice that the brownies in the smaller pan were a little more done than the large pan, and as a result, were a bit more crumbly. Definitely do not overbake, and definitely refrigerate. GO MAKE THESE BROWNIES!

Here's Ina's recipe on Food Network, and can be seen in her cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

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Mandarin Chicken Salad

I went to lunch at the Great Dane several weeks ago and tried a salad I have been eyeballing forever. And wow, what took me so long?? The salad had grilled chicken, fried wonton noodles, tomatoes, mandarin oranges, sweet peas, and a healthy dose of salad greens. So, craving the salad just a day later, I decided to attempt to re-create it at home!

This salad was SO tasty, and hit the spot on a very hot day, and came together in a snap. Ingredients are easy to come by and pretty inexpensive too. Definitely add this as one of your weeknight meals this summer!

Ingredients for 2-3 entree sized salads:

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Iceberg lettuce or mixed greens
  • Snap peas (I had them from the farmers market)
  • 2-3 green onions, cut on an angle
  • 1/2 carrot, diced
  • Mandarin oranges (the small can), drained
  • 1/4 c. Chow mein noodles (I used La Choy because they were easy to find)
  • Handful of sliced almonds
  • Your favorite asian-inspired dressing. I used Makoto Ginger Dressing, and also like Kraft's Toasted Sesame dressing


  1. The night before, marinate chicken in Teriyaki sauce
  2. The day of, heat a grill or grill pan on medium high heat. Grill chicken until cooked through, cool, then slice chicken at an angle
  3. Toss lettuce, peas, onions, carrots, oranges, chow mein noodles, almonds
  4. Portion into plates, top each salad with with chicken, add dressing on salad - just enough to lightly coat the salad. Serve immediately!

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Basic Pasta Salad

I love pasta salad. I find it a good way to legitemately ingest carbs in the form of pasta, which is one of my favorite foods of all time. I decided to give this a whirl because I had most of the ingredients on hand, and needed a quick-prep side dish to bring to a Fourth of July BBQ. It's super simple if you like a basic, tasty pasta salad for a potluck. It won't offend many picky palates, and is so quick to pull together with ingredients you probably have.

However, I think that in general, pasta salad could become a very versatile side dish; switch up the dressing with pesto, use a different noodle shape, incorporate different veggies, meats, and cheeses. You could easily turn an italian pasta salad into a greek pasta salad by using greek dressing, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta & black olives, garnishing with pita bread!

1 bag of wacky mac pasta
1/2 cucumber, peeled & diced
1/4 red pepper, diced
1/4 green pepper, diced
1/2 green onion, small diced
1/3 carrot, shaved into coins with a veggie peeler
4-5 slices of Salami (I used Oscar Mayer Deli Shaved Beef Salami), sliced into 1/2 inch strips
8-10 small pepperoni slices (I used Oscar Mayer Pepperoni), quartered
2-4 ounces of fresh mozzarella, diced
Couple handfulls of parmesan cheese
1/2 - 1 cup italian dressing (I used Kraft Zesty Italian). I found I ended up using about a cup to get everything nicely covered.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain & let cool.
Add veggies, meats, cheeses and dressing to the cooled pasta. Toss to combine.
Chill in the refrigerator until needed - this is a great item to make the night before you need it!
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