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Great Gifts for the Host & Hostess



The holidays are upon us and it’s one my favorite times of the year. Yes, it’s busy - shopping, baking, school events, holiday concerts, dinner with friends, weekends with family. There is so much happening, but no matter where we’re going, I never like to show up empty handed. Hence the theme of this post – Host/Hostess Gifts. We know the length of your to-do list is already overwhelming - we’ve put together some quick and easy gifts so you can show your appreciation and spread some holiday cheer.

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Entertaining with @StoreBoughtIsFine

There are lots of things I love about summer in NYC: long days of sunlight, fresh peaches, playing "identify that smell" on the streets...but the thing I don't love is my inability to entertain in my apartment. I can't imagine torturing my friends by using the oven or stovetop, creating a sauna in our sixth-floor apartment. So when the weather cools, I immediately plan the meals I've been thinking about for months... 

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Thanksgiving Menu



Thanksgiving is here and we’re busy prepping for our feast. My mom, Barbara is coming into town to help with all of the meal preparation. I’m hosting 16 people and I could not (and would not) do it without her. Here’s a sneak peak of what’s on the menu.SaveSave

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Introducing Farmhouse Pottery

Last summer, while on vacation in East Hampton, I was lucky enough to visit with Ina Garten in her home. I noticed a beautiful piece of pottery sitting out (everything in Ina’s home is beautiful!). I immediately grabbed it, turned it upside down, and saw the Farmhouse Pottery seal. I did some quick research on the company and knew right away that these pieces (and this company) were perfect for Cassandra’s Kitchen.

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Ina Garten - Get The Look

Ina Garten - Get The Look

We love all the buzz about the release of Cooking for Jeffrey! Have you seen People Magazine's exclusive peek into Ina and Jeffrey's 48-year marriage? It's such a lovely story (you can read it here). And, we're so excited to bring you French Wines Glasses similar to the ones Ina and Jeffrey are using in the exclusive photo (courtesy of People/Christopher Testani).
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Ina's Skillet Brownies

Ina's Skillet Brownie in our Mini Cast Iron Skillets

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 straightforward 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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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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Baked Brie with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Spinach

Ingredients: 
5 ounces brie cheese - rind removed and cut into medium-sized chunks
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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Leftovers

Leftovers

Thanksgiving in our house means turkey for days (in a good way). There’s always so much food and it’s all so good. I look forward to the leftovers and eating a turkey feast for lunch, in my kitchen, with much less pomp and circumstance.

The Plan B Containers are an easy way to divvy up leftovers for all of your guests. They're perfect for transport and you don't have to worry about tracking down your containers post holiday. I put portions of turkey, potatoes, and veggies all in one. For gravy and cranberry sauce I use the small Clear Plastic Containers – since everyone likes to add their own. I think I may put together a ‘leftover mash-up’ by layering turkey, potatoes, stuffing, corn, and gravy (so good!).

I love to use the Wrap‘n Snap to help store leftovers. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like it. It looked like there was a lot to it, and off-the-roll plastic wrap seemed simpler. NO WAY! Now I use it nearly every day and on occasions like Thanksgiving, it’s a lifesaver. No more frustration or time spent trying to keep the plastic from bunching up and then unbunching it. Just pull out the plastic film (I use Stretch-Tite, it's Ina's favorite), close the lid, and release. I use it to wrap leftovers right in the bowl and keep food fresh while in the fridge or waiting to be served. The cutting blade isn’t exposed so I let me kids use it to wrap up avocados or fruit. It’s easy, and even kind of fun. And when I don't need it, I store it in a drawer under my counter for easy access.

We took a few photos to show how simple it is.

--Cassandra

 

 

 

 

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Table Setting with White Dinnerware

October seems to be flying by and I'm starting to get excited (and slightly overwhelmed) that Thanksgiving is almost here (33 days!). I love having my family together and of course, I love cooking up a feast (at least part of it). This year, I'm happy to say that I will be setting my table with our white dinnerware. And I love it.

We searched far and wide to find a simple, beautiful product line that would hold up to daily wear while maintaining its simple charm. We decided on Pillivuyt Porcelain, made in France. FRANCE! So they may look delicate, but they're sturdy. I use them in my microwave and my oven. They're freezer safe as well (I haven't yet had a need to put a dish in the freezer). Yes, they are more expensive than some of the popular lines from home good or department stores but let me tell you, they are worth every penny. Unlike my previous dinnerware, no chips. And the look is timeless and classic - they're both my formal dinnerware and my everyday settings - and they coordinate with other patterned pieces for any look or occasion.

For special occasions, I've been adding different pieces from the Hotel Silver Collection. So far I've used the pitcher for flowers and serving spoons, and I've used the footed bowls for nuts and dried fruit as well as decorative elements (to add color).

While I was visiting Cassandra a few weeks ago, I took these quick photos to show how the dinnerware looks paired with just a few items (and a couple stems of gorgeous hydrangea). Simple, beautiful, and elegant without being uninviting or stark.

 -Cindy

 

 

 

 

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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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Container Sale - 20% Off, September 25th-28th

Autumn is here which means cold-weather meals and holiday cooking are just around the corner…it also means it’s time for the Annual Container Sale.

Our Clear Plastic Containers are Ina’s favorite for storing and freezing her delicious chicken stock (featured in Family Style). They are dishwasher/microwave safe and BPA free. Simple and sturdy, I use them for everything from storing leftovers and baking ingredients (and candy!) to organizing my office supplies.

Next up…Plan B Aluminum Containers. These containers live up to their name as they have saved me, and my dinner table, on multiple occasions. For the most part, I use these for make-ahead dinners, but I’ve also had the opportunity to share meals with friends – these are great for transporting, the lids stay put and I don’t have to worry about tracking down my bakeware afterward! For the winter, I’m going to take inspiration from Make It Ahead and stock my freezer with deliciousness.

And of course, the Chinese Takeout Containers. They make even leftovers special (Thanksgiving anyone?). I love to use these for kids’ treats and desserts - cookies and brownies work well. They’d also be fun containers for an easy fall picnic in the park.

All three of our containers are featured on Ina’s Easy Tips and with 20% Off, you don’t want to miss out on these kitchen staples. Use code CONTAINER20.

 - Cassandra

 

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