When I look at the world of food overall in America, sometimes I get very sad. With the growing popularity of channels such as TFVN and the Cooking Channel, you would think a foodie would be very happy to see her country embracing cooking. But “cooking” has to come mean TV-bred chefs such as Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri, and the rise of shortcut, canned, and boxed foods in meals in an attempt to gather families around the table for a “quality” meal. Think Sandra Lee’s endorsement of McCormick’s Recipe Inspirations (shown below).
As a rule I try not to use pre-boxed dinners or mixes in favor of fresh ingredients, unless it’s something that there is absolutely no chance of me copycatting. The one thing that comes to mind is Chef Boyardee’s Pepperoni Pizza Box Kit – Scott’s great grandma used to make it with him and that’s a sentimental value I can’t replace. And Kraft Mac and Cheese – it’s a good standby.
That said, I’m trying REALLY hard to polish my baking skills, but a few weeks ago my husband stumbled upon a baking mix at his store that has become a staple in my pantry. I love Ina Garten, everything about the way she cooks and her philosophies ring true to me, so when Scott brought home a box of Barefoot Contessa Chocolate Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting mix, I gotta admit I was curious. Man, all I can say is Ina can box up her pastries really well. For the most part, the ingredients were portioned out individually (powdered sugar and peanut butter for the frosting come to mind) so I didn’t truly feel like I was making a boxed mix. I guess the big thing Ina did was the measuring for me. Which I like, because as a cook and not a baker, I had a very bad tendency to “eyeball it,” which is not a good thing in baking.
So here’s the final product – beautiful as any cupcake I’d get at Frost (a local cupcakery in The Bubble). 3 Boxes later (of which I may have had ONE cupcake), Ina has secured a place in my pantry. Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker…not so much.
(Ina Garten sells an entire line of dessert mixes at Sur la Table, our other favorite is the chocolate chunk cookie mix.)