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Holiday Cookie Baking

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…cookie baking time! I love baking for the holidays, it just gets me in the giving spirit. This year I invited a few friends (including my baking hero George Waldron) to come over and decorate cookies. We snacked on some appetizers from Ina Garten’s new cookbook and learned some simple, easy tips to decorate cookies like a pro! 

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Chocolate S'mores Cupcakes

Chocolate S'mores Cupcakes

I had such a good time baking and decorating with my friend George, that I decided to do a second installment of Baking with George! This time I'm sharing these amazing S’mores Cupcakes. They are so special and were so much fun to make. My family loves old fashioned s’mores and the cupcake version is just as good! 

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Cassandra's Year Of Birthday Cakes

Cassandra's Year Of Birthday Cakes

In 2017 I made a little deal with myself, I wanted to make all of my family’s birthday cakes (thanks, Ina Garten and Barefoot Contessa for the inspiration). I enjoy baking with my kids and thought that letting them help with their own cakes would create some great memories and foster their love for cooking and baking. The birthday cakes weren’t perfect works of art, but they were prepared with love - so they tasted even better!

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In The Kitchen - Ina's Flag Cake

In The Kitchen - Ina's Flag Cake



The famous Ina Garten Flag Cake. I would bet that if you’ve lived in America for any amount of time or even happened to visit in the summer months, you’ve seen some version of the Flag Cake. This time of year, the fruity stars and stripes are all over checkout aisle magazine covers and cooking shows. It’s so festive and fun - even Taylor Swift and her famous friends are fans of Ina’s Flag Cake.

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New Barefoot Contessa Website

New Barefoot Contessa Website

We’re so excited about the launch of Ina’s new Barefoot Contessa website. We knew it was in the works and we have been quietly anticipating the fresh new look, gorgeous photos and of course, her special shopping section featuring Cassandra’s Kitchen!!

 

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Memorial Day Sale - 20% Off Today

Memorial Day Sale - 20% Off Today

In honor of Memorial Day, enjoy 20% off your order today, Saturday, with code MEMORIAL20.
Sale will continue with 15% off Sunday and Monday using code MEMORIAL15.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend!

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Ina's Skillet Brownies

Ina's Skillet Brownies

Looking to add savoir-faire to your next dinner party? Or just want to make an at-home meal extra special? My tip, serve individual portions in mini cast iron skillets.

A single serving dish adds style to any meal and makes everyone feel like you went the extra mile. (Even though you didn’t, it’s just as easy as making family-size. A little more clean up, but totally worth it for the wow factor.)

Ina Garten uses them to bake her incredible Skillet Brownies (Make It Ahead). They are nothing less than amazing and will instantly elevate your status to 'dessert royalty.' Thankfully, they aren’t too complicated. I did use Ina’s trusted Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract because I wanted them to be 'Ina perfect.' Ina's recipe is below along with some photos of my own skillet brownies.

And the skillets…they’re not just for brownies. They’re a great option for breakfast frittatas or side dishes like potato cauliflower gratins. I even use them to prepare shareable appetizers and snacks like baked brie. It's a straight-forward dish, but the mini skillets add an element of polish and sophistication. I serve them as appetizers with sun dried tomatoes and chopped spinach. Always a big hit.

Cassandra-

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Baked Brie with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Spinach

Ingredients:
5 ounces brie cheese - rind removed and cut into medium-sized chucks
½ cup chopped spinach
4 sun dried tomatoes chopped into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the brie in a mini cast iron skillet. Scatter spinach and sun dried tomatoes on top of the cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring once to combine. Remove from heat and serve with crackers or French bread.

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Ina's Skillet Brownies

Ingredients:
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces plus ½ cup Hershey’s semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1½ ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder, such as Nescafe
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 pint vanilla ice cream, such as Haagen-Dazs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the butter, 4 ounces of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water just until the chocolate melts. Remove the bowl from the heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee powder, vanilla and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together ¼ cup of the flour, the baking powder, and salt and stir it into the chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining ½ cup of chocolate chips and one tablespoon of flour together in a medium bowl and add them to the chocolate mixture. Spoon the mixture into four individual cast iron skillets (the skillets I use measure 5 inches on the top, 3½ inches on the bottom) and place them on a sheet pan. Bake for 22 minutes exactly. Don’t overbake! A toothpick inserted in the center will not come out clean. Cool slightly and serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.

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Ina's Coconut Macaroons

Ina's Coconut Macaroons

I wanted to make a sweet treat this week and my mom suggested Ina’s Coconut Macaroons (Family Style). They’re easy and delicious – especially if you are a coconut lover like me.

I made a batch and put together a few bags to give out to friends – I even gave one to our super appreciative delivery guy. Lucky for him, he arrived just as I was bagging them up!

Here are a couple of my tips: 

I used the 1.6" stainless steel scoop to the get the macaroons just right on the baking sheet. I tried not to let too much of the coconut mixture spread outside of the scoop, so they stayed in mounds without a lot of excess spreading on the baking sheet.

Use an oven thermometer to get the correct oven temperature. Don’t rely on your oven sensors - ovens can run 25-50 degrees off. (I have two ovens and neither of them keep the temperature I set. One reads 350, but rarely ever gets there and my other is usually 50 degrees cooler than the oven reading.) Baking at the correct temperature will allow the macaroons to brown without burning. 

Here’s the recipe:

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or two teaspoons. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve (or place in glassine bags for your friends!).

Sweetened coconut is sometimes called "flaked coconut."

These cookies will stay fresh for a few days if they are wrapped and left at room temperature.

- Cassandra

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5-Piece Baking Package

When I think of baking, my mind automatically jumps to Ina’s Outrageous Brownie recipe. It’s one of my favorites and it works so well with my half sheet pan (the perfectly precut parchment baking sheet is a MUST have for this recipe). The half sheet pan and cooling rack are great for baking cookies (Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk, anyone?) and evenly roasting all types of veggies. But honestly, the thing I bake most often is bacon.

I’ve been using my cooling rack and half sheet pans to prepare bacon for a while now. It’s simple, less messy, and a great time-saver for when I have guests for breakfast (like during a 3-day holiday weekend). I preheat my oven to 400 degrees, line the half sheet pan with foil, set the cooling rack on top, and put the strips of bacon directly on the rack. I bake it for about 20 minutes - until crispy. After removing the pan from the oven, I usually dab each piece of bacon with a paper towel to soak up any excess grease (most of the mess drips below the cooling rack). Voila, crispy bacon. And I get to sit and drink coffee instead of standing over my stove avoiding grease.

In honor of the Columbus Day weekend (and breakfast guests), we're offering the 5-Piece Professional Baking Package for 20% Off. Package includes: Half Sheet Pan, Quarter Sheet Pan, Cross Wire Cooling Rack, Pan Cover, and Parchment Baking Sheets. Available October 10th - 12th. 

-Cassandra

 

 

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Fresh Juice and Homemade Applesauce

Over the summer I found myself using our All-Citrus Juicer over and over again. (I just couldn’t get enough of these fresh margaritas.) And the juicer is so fun to use and easy to clean that I found myself adding fresh juice to everything!

So…I decided to search out some seasonal recipes that included fresh citrus, and I came across this one for Ina’s Homemade Applesauce. It’s perfect for this time of year, when apples are the most delicious.  Enjoy!

Cassandra-

 

Ingredients:

Zest and juice of 2 large navel oranges

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

3 pounds Granny Smith apples (6 to 8 apples)

3 pounds sweet red apples, such as Macoun, McIntosh, or Winesap (6 to 8 apples)

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 pound unsalted butter

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the zest and juice of the oranges and lemon in a large bowl. Peel, quarter, and core the apples and toss them in the juice. Pour the apples and juice into a non-reactive Dutch oven or enameled iron pot. Add the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and allspice and cover the pot. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until all the apples are soft. Mix with a whisk until smooth. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Copyright 1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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