In the “Sound Recipes” series, I will review a cookbook from my collection and share the top, most “sound” recipes from the book that have become staples in my kitchen. You can expect to see a post in this series between 1-3 times a year.
Do you have a cookbook that’s like “home” to you – one that you go to over and over again? It may be the one you had the longest, the one your grandmother passed on, or the one with the most tried and true recipes.
For me, that book is Ina Garten’s 2006 cookbook Barefoot Contessa at Home.
After my husband and I married in 2002, I quickly learned that I needed to up-my-game from the recipes of my childhood. I wanted to learn to how to use more herbs as opposed to butter and sour cream for flavor and cook fresh vegetables rather than sprucing up canned.
With the help of the (new at the time) Americas Test Kitchen on Saturday morning PBS and Ina Garten in her Barefoot Contessa series on Food Network, I slowly began to experience food differently.
This was one of the first cookbooks I purchased and used outside of the church cookbooks from both of our childhoods and the Better Homes and Gardens one I got as a wedding present.
I swear everything Ina makes turns out perfect. Her recipes are truly “sound.”
Let me share with you why you would love this cookbook and some of my favorite recipes to tempt you.
Barefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday recipes you’ll make over and over again by Ina Garten contains six sections and 90 recipes.
- Soup and sandwich (16)
- Salads (12)
- Dinner (16)
- Vegetables (15)
- Dessert (17)
- Breakfast (14)
What I Like About this Book
- There’s a breakfast section and I love cooking special Saturday morning breakfast.
- There are a variety of food styles and ingredients within each section. For example, the dinner section in only 16 recipes includes beef burgers, Cornish hens, stuffed cabbage, chicken, lamb, loin of pork, vegetarian portobello mushroom lasagna, steak, salmon, vegetarian pasta’s, tuna, and lobster.
- Both simple comfort foods such as cornbread and coleslaw are represented as well as a few more unique or frivolous recipes like lobster paella and berry pavlova
- There are great little tips in the margin of most recipes
What I Don’t Like About This Book
There’s not much I don’t like, but there are a few recipes I’m not crazy about like “Herb-Roasted Onions.” Every cookbook is going to have a few that don’t pique our interest though so I don’t see that as a fault.
If I had state one downside to the book it’s this:
It is a well-known fact that cooking Ina recipes mean you’ll be using plenty of butter. The food is delicious but she’s not afraid to use butter, heavy cream, mayonnaise, and sugar.
That being said, it doesn’t mean all her recipes are unhealthy.
In this book, there’s “Grilled Tuna Salad,” Pesto Pea Salad” made with spinach, “Warm Duck Salad,” “Chicken with Goat Cheese & Basil,” and more that I would deem heart-healthy eating. Sometimes it just has to do with what your definition of “healthy” eating is.
Now the best part!
Here are the recipes in this book that are winners in my kitchen that will make you want to have a copy to help spruce your own home cooking.
Soup & Sandwich
:: California BLT’s. A traditional BLT spruced up with Avocado.
: Chicken Stock. The richest, most flavorful stock I’ve every made. We pressure cook it then pressure can the liquid in pint jars 2-3 times per year; beats the best store stock hands down.
:: Roasted Pepper & Goat Cheese Sandwiches. My husband laughs at me because I remember when and where I make certain recipes. I remember making this, along with the Peach Bellini recipe I mention below, the first time for our Australia Day Picnic with our German friends along the Yarra River in Melbourne.
:: Mexican Chicken Soup. I made this recipe for some of my students (photo below). We had a rehearsal at my house for a Christmas performance they were doing at a local Von Maur department store. They loved it!
:: Pesto Pea Salad. I suggest adding bacon crumbles to this salad!
:: Blue Cheese Coleslaw. An absolute favorite!
:: Guacamole Salad. Another absolute favorite. This is really good as a topping for tacos.
:: Maple Baked Beans. My husband went bonkers over this recipe!
:: Mustard-Roasted Potatoes. An absolute staple.
:: Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread. Incredibly moist and not too spicy. Don’t use pre-shredded cheese as it doesn’t melt as well on top like freshly grated cheddar does.
:: Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars. Good but sweet.
:: Mixed Berry Pavlova. “Oh my,” is all I can say. Want to make an impression? This is your recipe.
:: Ultimate Ginger Cookie. An absolute staple I make every fall. I don’t use quite as much crystalized ginger as she does though. I like only around 3 oz., half what the recipe calls for.
:: Maple-Roasted Bacon. All I can say is, if you’ve never baked bacon with maple syrup on top, you’re missing out on life!
:: Sunday Morning Oatmeal. I use half the amount of dried fruit as called for.
If you’re looking to spice up your recipe routine and have a variety of good solid comfort foods mixed with some nice dinner party menu specialties, this is your book. Making good food doesn’t have to be complicated and Ina is the queen in this arena.
You won’t be disappointed.
If you already own this book, let me know in the comments what recipes are your favorite.