'Barefoot Contessa' Ina Garten Speaks at Wilshire Ebell Nov. 15

I am so so so excited. The Barefoot Contessa HERSELF is coming to the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on Nov. 15. If you don't know who I'm talking about, you might as well stop reading now. But, if you do, I hope you have just as big a culinary crush on Ina Garten as I do. My love for Ina goes way back. My grandma and I used to sit and watch her cooking shows together, and one-by-one, we'd collect her cookbooks as they came out. 

Slowly but surely, recipes from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Family Style became my go-to's for dinner parties and last-minute meals. A few years later, during a period when I was slammed at work and looking for no-fuss meals, How Easy Is That? became my recipe bible. Pappa al Pomodoro — a Tuscan bread and tomato soup -- is comforting on a chilly winter night. Scallops Proven├žal helped me get over my fear of overcooking delicate (and expensive) scallops. And her Brownie Pudding had my chocolate-lover friends licking their plates. No joke.

All of this is why I can barely wait for an evening with Ina on Nov. 15, when Garten will chat with host Jennifer Garner about her new book, The Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust. Tickets are $42 plus tax and include an autographed copy of Foolproof. Make reservations via the event sponsor, Vroman's Bookstore, by visiting Vroman's will call department (695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena) or calling (626) 449-5320.


"Unavoidable Bacon Shortage?" Say It Ain't So!

Whoever said "Everything's better with bacon" may want to find a substitute next year. According to The Los Angeles Times, a British Trade Group is predicting that a "world shortage of pork and bacon is now unavoidable," as a result of this year's drought effects on corn and soybean crops. Better stock up now! Check out the full report below:


Kitchen Creativity 101: No Recipe Needed!

I interpret the word "recipe" very loosely. To make a great meal, many times there's no need for official ingredient lists or step-by-step instructions; I'll just grab a bunch of things I like and throw them together. Boom, there's dinner. That's exactly what I did for today's lunch, which happens to be leftovers from last night's mish-mash dinner.

I went to the grocery store and pretty much laid waste to the produce section. Mixed greens, asparagus, red bell pepper, kale, sweet onion, zucchini, yellow squash and garlic all ended up in my cart. As did 1/3 pound of freshly ground turkey. When I got home, I finely diced some onion, garlic and a bit of red bell pepper and threw it in a bowl with the ground turkey. A few grinds of salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil of and hot sauce and I had myself a delicious turkey burger patty. The rest was easy: grill the burger and veggies. Chop them up. Add a few mixed greens and toss in your favorite dressing. I happened to make two servings, so I brought the leftovers for lunch. It was even better today.

The point? Be spontaneous. Make what you like, even if there's no "official" recipe. :)


Spicy Pasta Bolognese...Ready in 30 Minutes!

Spicy Veal Bolognese
I'm in New Jersey for work and I'm inspired. I know, inspiration and New Jersey don't typically go hand-in-hand (relax, I'm mostly kidding), but after spending the day with an Italian colleague who talked about her mother's amazing homemade pasta, gravy (sauce), meatballs and cannoli, I'm hungry.

If I could make anything right now, it would be my best attempt at spicy bolognese... in other words, pasta shells tossed in a rich veal tomato sauce. It's made from a mix of ground sirloin and veal, San Marzano tomatoes, a hint of nutmeg, a touch of cream and topped with basil and freshly grated Parmesiano Reggiano. The recipe might not come from my
Italian Nona but it's still pretty delicious. Even better, it's ready in 30 minutes. Enjoy!

30-Minute Pasta Bolognese
Adapted from How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra to cook the pasta
  • 1/2 pound lean ground sirloin
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Sea salt, for seasoning
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
  • 3/4 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus extra as for serving
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Directions: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and veal and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of olive oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box. Al dente typically takes 8-10 minutes.

While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with basil and Parmesan on the side.


Tailgate Time! Loaded Baked Potato Dip & Homemade Chips

Loaded Baked Potato Dip
Photo courtesy: The Kitchn

It's football season! Whether you're at a tailgate, attending a football party or hosting a pigskin shindig of your own, good grub is mandatory. So what to make/bring/serve? If your football party is anything like Bryan's and mine, there's no shortage of beer or hungry fans. That's where this loaded baked potato dip comes in. It's hearty, tangy and savory all at the same time, filled with a mix of cheeses, chives and Worcestershire sauce. Not to mention, it's studded with bacon. Need I say more?

If you want to get fancy, dedicate an extra hour to homemade potato chips (recipe below). Unlike thin, store-bought chips, these baked beauties stand up to the dip. No broken chips here! Your guests will thank you and your tailgate contribution will be a hit. Now all you need is for your favorite team to win!

Loaded Baked Potato Dip with Homemade Chips
Makes: 2 cups dip, chips for 4 to 6
Adapted from The Kitchn

For the chips:

1 pound small white or gold potatoes

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

For the dip:

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) sour cream (light is fine)

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) grated sharp cheddar cheese

  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

  • 1/4 cup snipped chives, plus additional for garnish
1 tablespoon powdered ranch seasoning mix

  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

For the chips: Preheat oven to 450°F, and prepare a large bowl of iced water. Slice the potatoes 1/4" thick. Submerge the slices in the cold water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain, rinse, and thoroughly pat dry. Toss the potatoes with canola oil, salt, pepper and cumin. If you want a kick, add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Arrange slices in single layers on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, flip potatoes. Cook for another 10 minutes and flip again. Continue baking until chips are very crisp and light golden brown, approximately 8 minutes, watching carefully to make sure they don't burn. (Note: The chips can be baked up to 2 hours in advance and set aside at room temperature. Reheat at 425°F just before serving. If serving a crowd, double this recipe, cooking in two separate batches.)

For the dip: Combine the sour cream, cream cheese, and cheddar and stir until thoroughly mixed. Fold in the bacon, chives, ranch dressing, and Worcestershire sauce. Chill for a minimum of two hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving. Serve with homemade chips or the thickest-cut store bought potato chips you can find.


Eggy-licious: Artichoke, Kale & Ricotta Pie

Artichoke, Kale & Ricotta Pie
Photo courtesy: The Kitchn

Has kale jumped the shark? It's been hailed as a superfood and can be found, well, everywhere. Sure, kale makes sense in its natural culinary environment: Salads, slaws, braised as a side dish and wilted in pastas. But the notoriously chewy leafy green is breaking all the rules, showing up in frittatas, stews, gratins and even dipped in chocolate as a potato chip alternative (which, for the record, I can't bring myself to try).

All that said, it only makes sense that kale has made its way into a pie recipe. Yes, pie. Granted, it's a savory pie filled with eggs, artichokes, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. You can't go wrong with any of those ingredients, while kale adds a welcome level of texture. It's good for breakfast, great for lunch, and even better for dinner. Just think twice before serving it with a kale salad. That's bordering on over-kale. :)

Artichoke, Kale & Ricotta Pie
Adapted from TheKitchn
Serves 4 to 6

  • Olive oil
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces Parmesan, grated
  • 1 cup canned artichokes, chopped
  • 1 bunch (3 to 4 large stalks) nero cavola kale, rib removed and leaves roughly chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 avocado, sliced (optional garnish)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan lightly with olive oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ricotta cheese, and Parmesan. Roughly chop the artichokes and thinly slice the kale leaves and add to the cheese and egg mixture. Season lightly with salt and generously with black pepper Stir until combined.

Pour contents of bowl into the greased cake pan and drizzle with olive oil. Cook until custard is set, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool on a wire wrack for 5 to 10 minutes and serve.


Homemade Mallowbars = S'mores Version 2.0

Homemade Mallowbars ... Yes, You Can Do It!
What's your favorite summer dessert? Fresh strawberry pie? Lemon bars? Peach ice cream? Mine, hands-down, is the S'more. You simply can't go wrong with S'mores; they're the perfect combo of snappy graham cracker, fluffy marshmallow, and ooey-gooey chocolate. For the record, ooey-gooey is an official term (to me, anyway).

Summer may be ending but that doesn't mean that S'mores have to go. Keep them going through the rest of the year in the form of a Mallowbar: A light, airy cake with sturdy graham cracker crust, delicate marshmallow center and chocolate glaze. But wait... why not get crazy and MAKE the graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate glaze from scratch? I'm serious. I did it and you can do it, too. The graham cracker crust couldn't be easier, the chocolate glaze makes it look (almost) professional, and once you make homemade marshmallows, you'll never go for store-bought again. They're beyond easy, not-at-all sticky and make me think of a great Winnie The Pooh quote, "Bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!"

Homemade Mallowbars 
(with Honey Marshmallow and Chocolate Glaze)
Adapted from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark
Makes about 18 (2-inch) squares

Graham Cracker Base:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Honey Marshmallow:
  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Glaze:
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
Step #1: Make the Graham Cracker Base:
Make the Graham Cracker Base
 In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugars, and honey until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, salt, and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and beat until the dough just comes together. Wrap the dough in plastic and pat into a disc. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, or in between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out the dough into a rectangle that just fits the prepared pan. Carefully transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Squish it to fit if it starts to tear (the dough is soft). Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake the graham cracker base until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely before topping with the marshmallow. (The graham cracker base can be made a few days ahead; store, covered in foil, at room temperature.)

Make the Honey Marshmallow
Step #2: Make the Honey Marshmallow: While the graham cracker base cools, prepare the honey marshmallow. Place the gelatin in the cold water to bloom. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the sugar, honey, and 1/2 cup water, stirring until the sugar dissolves, until the mixture reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. When the sugar mixture has come up to temperature, carefully pour it into the egg whites while whisking. Continue whisking until the mixture has cooled slightly, about 1 minute, and add the gelatin and water mixture and the vanilla. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken and quadruples in volume, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the marshmallow onto the graham cracker base and smooth the top with a spatula. Allow the marshmallow to set for 4 hours or overnight at room temperature.

Make the Chocolate Glaze
Step #3: Make the Chocolate Glaze: place the chocolate pieces in a bowl. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate has melted and the glaze is smooth and shiny. Pour the glaze onto the set marshmallow and smooth with a spatula. Allow the glaze to set, about 30 minutes, before cutting into squares.


Double Banana Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

Double Banana Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
Photo: BonAppetit.com
If you love warm banana bread and rich buttercream icing, this banana cake is your dessert dream come true. Just like everything is said to be “better with bacon,” I’d argue that the same rule applies to frosting. Especially when that frosting is a homemade vanilla buttercream. Think sweet (but not sugary) and decadent (but not dense), this icing is a creamy finish to an already dreamy cake.

Speaking of cake, the addition of ripened, mashed bananas make it perfectly moist while giving the cake a beautiful flecked appearance. Just add some sliced fresh banana to the top and you’ll have yourself a stunning dessert centerpiece. Unfortunately, you won’t have much time to admire it because after one bite, you’ll be hooked. Which is good, because the cake is meant to serve 16 of your nearest and dearest friends, family, or simply banana-cake crazed acquaintances.

Double Banana Cake with Buttercream Icing

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine

Makes: 16 servings


  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter plus more for pans, room temperature
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups coarsely mashed very ripe bananas (about 6 large)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 ripe but not mushy bananas, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices
Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 325°. Butter two 8-inch diameter cake pans with sides 2 inches high. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper rounds. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat 1 1/2 cups butter and sugar in another large bowl until light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. With mixer on low, gradually beat in flour mixture, scraping sides of bowl. Mix in bananas, then sour cream.

Divide batter between pans. Bake cakes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–55 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes in pans on wire racks. Invert cakes onto wire racks; let cool completely. Remove parchment. Using a serrated knife, trim off rounded tops.

Make the Frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat first 5 ingredients in a large bowl until light and fluffy, 6–7 minutes.
 Place 1 cake on a plate. Spread 1 cup frosting over. Arrange banana slices on top. Top with second cake. Spread a thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake; chill for 30 minutes. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cakes.


Pardon My Absence... But It's Great To Be Back. :)

Turns out whoever said, "Something's gotta give" knew what they were talking about. It's no surprise that over the past two months, my posts to Pardon My Crumbs have been sporadic (at best). The best explanation I have is a vulnerable one: The misery of my (thankfully previous) job knew no bounds. I felt unappreciated, unfulfilled, and unable to do what I had been hired to do. My misery took its toll at home, too. Not only was I not cooking, trying new restaurants or blogging (a few of my favorite things), I could barely lift my head off the pillow in the morning. Evenings became time to sit alone while Bryan was at work; staring blankly at the wall, dreading the next workday and wondering how I could get out of a job situation tactfully described as unbearable. Perhaps more importantly, I wondered how I could get back to feeling like myself again: a (mostly) happy, (delightfully) sarcastic and take-life-by-the-horns kind of girl?

Long story short, I took matters into my own hands. I refused to settle, refused to let someone else make me miserable, and refused to lose my competitive edge at work. I dragged my depressed ass out of an emotional (Sarlacc) pit, networked like hell and landed myself a new gig. But in that two month's time, something had to give. Unfortunately, it was regular posting to my blog. But the hiatus is over. :) 

Here is just a hint of what's the come: fool-proof recipes like Mallow Bars, Israeli couscous, Asian slaw, barbecued salmon and a to-die-for banana cake with vanilla buttercream. That's in addition to time-saving, crowd-pleasing menus just in time for college football season (go Trojans!). Bottom line is there's so much to get caught back up on... so let's get to it.

On behalf of Pardon My Crumbs, thank you for Pardoning My Absence. It's good to be back!
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