I’d like to keep today short and sweet since earlier posts this week were bordering on novel like length! Once again I just want to thank you all for your tremendous support on the Ina feature, welcome all you new wonderful readers, and give a shout out to all of you who have been with me since the beginning and keep coming back to read and comment. I love you guys!

Now- the pics above. Remember back in November when I overhauled my entire closet? Well, inspired by all the clothing I rediscovered, I decided to a do a little “November outfit challenge,” to motivate myself to implement those beloved pieces into my wardrobe and not constantly revert to black leggings and an oversized sweatshirt. Oh and I was going to take photos everyday. Weeelll everyday was a stretch, but I did snap some pics and it definitely impacted my outfit choices. So I’m gonna keep going with it- might not be everyday, but I’ll definitely keep at it for you guys! And if you want to join in too just leave your instagram name in the comments. You can follow along with me here.

Oh and one more thing! You guys actually have the opportunity to hang with Ina, too! Ladies’ Home Journal and All Recipes are running a virtual cookie swap on Pinterest and if you win you get a trip to NYC and lunch with Ina Garten. OMG. Learn more here.

Ok that’s enough out of me. Have a wonderful weekend! xx

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Have you started holiday shopping yet? Dare I ask if anyone is already done? I think finding the perfect gift can definitely be on the challenging side. It’s hard to find the right balance between something slightly luxurious, yet still practical. For my picks this week, I’ve tried to include a mix of things that I would use or admire, and that are beautifully designed. On the practical side, I know the Plenty cookbook is something that would get a lot of use, and the teakettle is something I would look forward to using each day. That adorable frenchie actually has a hidden practicality- it’s a stamp! I couldn’t resist adding in two pieces (13 & 14) by a new to me artist- Piero Fornasetti. Which items are your favorites?

Thank you all SO much for all your warm support yesterday! And hello to all you newbies that just found CC through the feature- I’m thrilled to have you!

As promised, today I want to take you guys behind the scenes of the cookie swap with Ina. In between shots with the photographer (the esteemed Quentin Bacon), we were pretty much given free rein of the barn space. The space is stunning and feels like you’re living within a Restoration Hardware catalogue, but about a million times better. I went to town snapping shots of her kitchen and pantry!

The kitchen space is her own test kitchen- not just a set. The pantry is filled with actual items and equipment she uses everyday. The fridge has all her homemade stocks and ingredients she actually cooks with. It’s all real! I totally snooped.

The kitchen itself is amazing. She’s got the most beautiful gas range I’ve ever scene, and each side of the stove is flanked with matching refridgerators, Cuisinarts, and Kitchen Aid Mixers. A dream! The ceilings are quite high and with an entire wall of floor to ceiling windows, the entire space is bathed in light.

We also got to explore her beautifully manicured gardens. I couldn’t get over the amount of lavender! From here we caught a glimpse of her actual house and more of the rolling landscape. It’s crazy to think back to all those afternoons growing up, sitting on the couch doing my homework, and staring at this house in the credits of her show. And to now be viewing face to face- what!?!?

The day was best summed up when Joy kept repeating, “Yep this is real. This is happening. No big deal- typical Thursday.” I really did have to keep pinching myself throughout the whole thing to remind myself this was actually happening. Then there was the point at which I used her bathroom- that made things feel pretty darn real.

Lastly, here is the recipe for the ginger cookies (you can get all the cookie recipes online here). This is a great dough to make ahead and then freeze into logs during the holidays. Then when you’re ready to bake the cookies, just pull the dough out 10 or so minutes early to let it soften before slicing and baking.

Apple Cider Ginger Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup apple butter
  • 1 large egg
  • red sanding sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and dried ginger. Set aside.

Place butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg, vanilla extract and apple butter, and beat on medium speed until just combined.

Add the dry ingredients, to the butter and sugar mixture. Beat on low speed until the dough begins to come together and the flour disappears. Stop the mixer and finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula. Once all the flour is thoroughly mixed in, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour (or up to overnight).

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough into your hand, roll into a ball, then roll the ball around in granulated sugar to coat. If you like thicker cookies, place the ball of dough directly on the baking sheet. If you like thinner, but still chewy, cookies, flatten the balls into a small disc in your hand. Bake cookies for 8-9 minutes, just until lightly browned around the edges. Cool on the pan for 7 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Well… something (clearly!) amazing happened this summer! Two things in fact- I met the Barefoot Contessa, and participated in a cookie swap in her home!! Let’s back up, shall we?

Back in June, the lovely ladies at Ladies Home Journal asked me to participate in a cookie swap with a “famous chef” in the NYC area. I immediately said yes and began pondering what restaurant chefs or bakers they’d have participate in a blogger cookie swap. Minutes after saying yes, I received an email back saying that the cookie swap would be with INA GARTEN at her house in Hamptons! First I about fell out of my chair, then I screamed, and then I called my mom and we screamed together. I couldn’t believe it! The rest of that day is just a blur.

The shoot took place in July. One Thursday morning I left my apartment at the crack of dawn and headed to midtown to meet Deb, Joy, Zoe, Lisa, and Julie and hop on a motor home to East Hampton (let’s be clear- I was just as excited to meet these amazing ladies, too!). The day of schedule was as follows: first breakfast with Ina at the 1770 House, and then a cookie swap at her house. The swap took place in her recently built “barn,” the incredible kitchen space where she now does all her recipe testing and films all her television segments. After getting all dolled up we spent the afternoon chatting, sipping sparkling wine, and nibbling on cookies around her gorgeous rustic dining table.

For the swap, each blogger had to provide an original cookie recipe. I came up with a super chewy ginger cookie flavored with apple butter and rolled in red sugar - a twist on your traditional holiday ginger cookie. Other cookies included Ina’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs, Joy’s Black & White Red Velvet Cookies, and Zoe’s Chocolate Caramel Matzo. You can get all the recipes in this month’s issue of LHJ.

All of us were pretty intimidated to meet Ina, but she immediately put everyone at ease. She’s truly one of the most genuine and down to earth people that I’ve ever met- and I assure you, I’m not just saying that. Really. Yes, I love her recipes, but the source of my admiration really comes back to her poise and business sense. She also has an incredible sense of humor and can be pretty witty and sassy! That was cool to experience.

At the end of the day she kept thanking us all for coming. I wanted to be like “Are you kidding? I would have walked here!” Sadly my solo photo with her will probably go down as the most awkward picture of me in history, but oh well! It was such an incredible day and I’m still reeling from the experience.

A HUGE thank you to Ladies Home Journal for making the whole experience possible, and including me. Be sure to check out all the other ladies’ sites this week to see their pics, recaps, and recipes. I’ll share my cookie recipe with you guys tomorrow along with some behind the scenes pics and other little tid bits about the day. I have been dying to tell you all about this for the last four months- I’m so thrilled the day is finally here!

All photos by Quentin Bacon

It’s been ages since I’ve done a “Weeknight Simplicity” recipe. But with the holidays and December gearing up to be one crazy month, I am very much in need of simple meals. Diced tomatoes and chicken broth are items I always like to have in my pantry as they make pulling together weeknight meals, like this soup, so much easier (learn more about my pantry staples). The recipe for this soup comes from Ina’s latest cookbook, Foolproof. The ingredient list is wonderfully short, and the saffron gives the soup a really deep flavor, despite the fact that it only simmers for 30 minutes. The recipe calls for heavy cream, but you could easily swap that out for Greek yogurt. I’ve been doing that a lot in soups lately and it works beautifully. Hope your week is off to a great start!

Ps: Other grilled cheese sandwiches:

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons adapted from Ina Garten’s Foolproof
Serves 4-6

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 cups chicken broth (could use vegetable)
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • large pinch real saffron
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (or 1 cup Greek yogurt)

Set a large heavy bottomed pot to medium heat. Add in the olive and onion and sautée for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes until fragrant.

Add in the broth, tomatoes, salt, saffron, and pepper. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 30 minutes until thickened. Turn off heat, purée soup with an immersion blender, and add in cream or yogurt. Taste for seasonings (may need more salt), and serve.

Get my tips for making the perfect grilled cheese here!   After making the grilled cheeses, let the sandwiches rest for a minute or two before cutting into squares to make the croutons.