Lucinda’s Veggies

February 28, 2009

On the Feb 17 Martha Stewart Show, Lucinda Scala Quinn made two vegetable dishes from Everyday Food I was dying to try – Carmelized Green Beanswith Nuts and Buttery Broccoli with Parsley. Can I just say that I love Lucinda? When she comes on the show it is like a breath of fresh air. She is so calm and controlled and she is also beautiful. I like Sarah Carey, but Sarah always seems a little ill at ease with Martha. She’s always apologizing for making a mess or not doing it Martha’s way, but Lucinda and Martha act like they are equals and are very comfortable with each other and in tune. I also think Lucinda has very good taste, so I was excited to give these a try.

brocWe eat a lot of broccoli in this house. It’s one of the few vegetables everyone will eat. Also, Teen Martha’s boyfriend (Shorty) is mad about my broccoli. He just loves it, so whenever Shorty stays for dinner, I try to make it. Usually I boil or steam my broccoli, similar to the method Lucinda uses. This recipe then says to add butter, parsley and some white vinegar to the broccoli. I really did not feel the parsley did much at all. And I was not wild about the vinegar, and in fact didn’t feel you could really taste it very much. I’ll stick with my regular broccoli I think. When I want to dress up my broccoli, I add some toasted pecans and brown butter.

Now, the carmelized green beans are another story. This is a completely newcarmelized-gr-beans method for me. Lucinda says to heat some oil and then add your beans and cook on medium low, partly covered, for 30 min. At the end, you add some pine nuts. The beans become sliglty brown on the outside and very soft. The process really did make them sweeter and easier to eat. I loved it! Teen Martha even liked it and she normally does not like beans. This was a true hit and I will be making it again. Thanks Lucinda.


Teen Martha Bakes

February 27, 2009

My teenage daughter eagerly awaits the delivery of each issue of Martha Stewart Living. She goes through the magazine and makes a list of all the things she wants to make from it, then never has time. Yesterday, though, she wanted to make cookies, so I suggested she try the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk cookies in March Everyday Food.

pb-choc-chip1She mixed up the sugar, peanut butter, and butter then added eggs, vanilla and dry ingredients. The dough was very crumbly and did not come together at all. She stirred in the chocolate chips (we didn’t have any chocolate to chop) and then tried to use the little cookie scoop we have to make the cookies, but it would not form. Finally she ended up forming them by hand, but as you can see in the photo, they were very crumbly.

She made them larger than the recipe called for, because it was nearly impossible to get smaller ones to stay together. They took longer to bake than the recipe said because they were so large.

pb-choc-chip2As they baked, they did not spread at all, which we thought to be surprising. The end result was a very nice cookie. Since they didn’t spread, they remained nicely formed. The peanut butter flavor was very mild and you might not realize it was a peanut butter dough right away. They were just the right mix of crunch and softness. A good thing! Nice job Teen Martha!

Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

February 26, 2009

I’ve been through March Martha Stewart Living and this issue is primarily about gardening. I’m not a great gardener by any means, so I do want to learn from it, but it’s winter in Buffalo with snow on the ground. There isn’t going to be any gardening to be done around here for months yet, so Martha has left me with not much to do in this issue! Therefore, I have turned to Everyday Food and will be making several recipes from there this month.

The recipe for Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes looked good and it looked pretty easy. That is until I went to the pantry and discovered the box of penne I have is more than half empty, so I substituted rigatoni. A small cheat.

Now, can I just say that my definition of easy, everyday cooking does not involve three pots for one dish? In this recipe you’re supposed to cook the pasta in one, cook the chicken breast in another, and make the sauce in a third. That’s a lot of clean up in my opinion.

Despite that, this was a snap to make. I boiled the noodles and while they drained, I made the sauce in that pot (thus getting down to 2 pots which definitely made me happier!). The sauce was quite easy to make – cook garlic and flour in butter ( used half olive oil and half butter – trying to be heart healthy!). Then whisk in milk (I always use skim milk instead of the whole milk Martha uses in every recipe and never have a problem). Next you add mushrooms and sundried tomatoes, then cheese. Add the chicken and pasta, put it in a dish, sprinkle some cheese over it, and in it goes into the oven.

I cut this recipe in half – Martha wants you to make two pans of it and freeze one. I love doing that, but I won’t do it with a new recipe because then you could end up with double the amount of inedible food!

chicken-penneI regretted that decision though because this was DELICIOUS! Really, truly fabulous. I was a little nervous when I scooped the first spoonful out (which is when I remembered to take the photo, so pardon the messy area), because at first it seemed like it might be a little runny, but it actually was not.

This was creamy, cheesy and just perfect. I usually do not like sundried tomatoes, but in this recipe they worked wonderfully. I think I might like a little more chicken than it contains. There is only one chicken breast in the whole pan, so increasing that would make this feel a little more like a main dish. I cannot wait to have leftovers for lunch today.

So now kids, this is what I’m wondering. This is one of my first forays into Everyday Food and it was a home run (truly a “good thing”). Do we think maybe those recipes are better in general? What are your thoughts?

Twitter With Me

February 25, 2009

MarthaandMe is now on Twitter – @MarthaAndMeBlog.

Are you on Twitter? If so, I’d love to follow you. Send me your username.

Fat Tuesday

February 25, 2009

In recent years, I’ve begun doing something special for Mardi Gras. It was never something we celebrated as a kid, but I find that by this time of year, everyone can use a little celebration to help them get through the winter doldrums.

paczkiLast year I made a king cake. This year, I bought paczkis.  Never heard of these? I’ll bet Martha has since they are a Polish tradition (a search of her site didn’t turn anything up – so I say Martha needs to do a show about these).

You used to have to go to a few specific bakeries in our area to find them, but now our grocery stores carry them for Fat Tuesday. Paczkis (pronounced “poonch-keys”) are similar to a jelly donut, but have a different texture. They are a bit heavier – like fried dough. They are filled with jelly or custard cream and are glazed, sugared, or powdered sugared. They are incredibly delicious!

I found this recipe online, although I haven’t tried it myself. If you’ve made them, let me know. Maybe next year I will make them myself.

Pantry Prep

February 24, 2009

On the Feb 17th Martha Stewart show, Martha talked about pantries – what should be in yours and how to make inexpensive meals using pantry items.

My messy pantry

My messy pantry

When we moved to this house I was so excited to actually have a real pantry. It’s a closet built over the basement stairs and it has lots of shelves and space to keep food. Almost all of my dried and canned goods are kept in this pantry.

Martha and guest Anna Last (Everyday Food Editor) talked about what should be in your pantry and I thought the list was good. I have every single item on the list!

– Canned tomatoes

– Tuna

– Black beans

– Chick peas

– Breadcrumbs

– Panko

– Pasta

– Rice

– Mustard

– Vinegar

– Olive oil

– Chicken stock

– Mustard

– Salt

– Pepper

– Capers

– Anchovies

There are a few other things that are always in my pantry. Martha might not agree with them though!

– Mac and cheese. I know. Martha would think it’s gross, but when you have kids, sometimes they really do want the orange box stuff.

– Beef stock

– Bouillon cubes. Sometimes I add these to soup when it is tasting a little weak.

– Tomato paste

– Spaghetti sauce. I like to make my own, but it is very labor intensive to peel 50 tomatoes and then end up with enough for only one or two meals.

– Dried herbs. Are we all pronouncing the ‘H’ in herbs? I have a pretty large collection of herbs and spices.

– Different salts. My family loves exotic salts from around the world and they are especially good on steak.

– Balsamic vinegar. Mini-Martha will only use this as a salad dressing and nothing else.

– Tamari sauce, hoisin, fish sauce, teriyaki sauce, and rice wine vinegar are my Asian must-haves in the pantry.

– Canned soup. I always have a can or two of soup around, organic if possible, because you never know when someone is going to get sick and really want a bowl of soup.

– Kidney beans. I use these in chili and other Mexican dishes.

– A jar of minced garlic. I know, Martha would yell, but fresh garlic doesn’t last forever and I like to have a jar of this just in case.

– A jar of pesto. Another item Martha would disparage, but I love the way it tastes and fresh basil is not easy to come by in the winter.

What are your must-have pantry items? Do you agree with Martha?

Didn’t you love how Martha was doing a show about affordable meals and yet mentioned how she goes into her grocery store and buys every single type of pasta (over 30 types) that they sell?! She can afford to do that, but most people watching her show can’t. And even if they could, who has the space to store over 30 types of pasta?Things like this make me wonder how in touch Martha is with the rest of us. Does she not realize not everyone can do this? Or is she aware, but simply doesn’t care how extravagant it makes her look?

I also loved how Martha told Margot Olshan how she has a rosemary tree and Margo said something snarky like “I’m not surprised”. I actually had a rosemary plant I kept in the house for a few years, but then eventually I killed it.

Vacationing with Martha

February 23, 2009
On the Beach

On the Beach

While I was away, I thought a bit about Martha. Now obviously, I can’t whisk myself away to a top notch spa or to a private island as Martha has recently, but I did try to approach my time off with some Martha attitude.

One big thing I did was exercise. Usually I see vacation as a time to just sit, but I’ve gotten to the point where I have trouble sleeping if I don’t exercise regularly. On this break, I swam every day for 30 to 45 minutes and it was wonderful. Usually I walk for exercise and it was a nice change. Unfortunately, I did not have a pool boy holding a towel and a cool drink for me when I got out of the pool, but it felt luxurious nonetheless.

Another thing I did that was very Martha was eat out a lot. It sounds like Martha eats in restaurants more than she eats at home, to hear her talk on the show. I love getting away from the kitchen and having someone else cook for me, but unfortunately, I suspect I am a lot like Martha in that I am very, very picky. I can’t stand wasting my time or money on bad food. We had some very good meals in restaurants and others that made me roll my eyes. I did cook a few nights, mostly because there are some things (particularly seafood) I want done absolutely perfectly right. My mother says that if you want to lose weight, eat out a lot and she’s right because you cannot count on getting delicious perfectly made food, even in the most expensive of restaurants.

I was thrilled to be able to shop at a Whole Foods while we were away, since we don’t have any in our area, but disappointed to find that the organic produce was really quite limited.

I did a little shopping and bought a few things for our almost done newly remodeled bathroom.

The March issue of Living was waiting for me when I got home, so I’m all set to dive in!

Stupid Me

February 20, 2009

Hi all. Yes I am alive. I left on vacation and had all these posts ready to go – put in dates for them to go up on, but then never actually published them! So I’ve just now gone in and got them all up. I guess you’ve got a lot of reading to do:) Thanks to those of you who emailed me to find out if the Martha project finally killed me! It’s back to business as usual on Monday — I hope my March issue will be waiting for me when I get home! Happy reading!

Saving Money in the Kitchen

February 20, 2009

There’s a two page spread in Feb Martha Stewart Living about how to save money in the kitchen. I read it eagerly hoping for some good tips.

– The first tip is to freeze leftover and overripe fruit for smoothies. This is a good idea, although the only time I seem to make smoothies is when we are in Florida and I’m in a tropical mood.

– The next tip is to save carrot peelings,  onion layers, bones, etc to use in making stock. I never throw out chicken bones and do usually use those. I also save leftover piece of steak and beef and use those to make a stroganoff. I don’t save the onion peels and carrots ends though. I will start a bag of these the in freezer. What I have been saving for years is leftover vegetables. Whenever I have leftover veggies from dinner, I dump them in a plastic container in the freezer, then I use it in soups.

– Another tip is a cast iron skillet. I don’t have one of these, but I remember my grandmother did. I don’t really like them and don’t see it as much of a money saver since I have other pans to use.

– Martha says to save leftover gravy, pesto, stock, etc and freeze it in ice cube trays. I really almost never have any of these leftover and I don’t have an ice cube tray, so I’m not sure this tip would work for me.

– Freezing foods in smaller portions is a great idea. My MIL told me once she freezes bacon in small packages.

– Buying olive oil in bulk is another suggestions. I do this. I have a big plastic bottle in the pantry and a small glass olive oil container by the stove that  I refill.

– She suggests having paper in the kitchen to make shopping lists. I have a magnetic notepad on the side of the fridge where I make my lists. And to be truly Martha-ish, I have different notepads for different seasons and holidays.

– Making your own nut butter is another tip. The only nut butter used in this house is peanut butter and I buy the organic store brand. I’m not wild about the idea of making my own since it’s not something used very often.

– I like the idea of making more of what you’re cooking. I do this a lot so that I can freeze half and have another meal. It’s not really a money saving tip though.

Packing with Martha

February 20, 2009

The section in February Martha Stewart Living on packing is classic Martha. Four pages of how to pack a suitcase. Now, I must confess I am not so good at packing. Mr. MarthaandMe usually is the one who gets it all to fit nicely in the suitcase, but I am definitely involved in what we take and how it is packaged.

Martha says to pack outfits together on one hanger. When I travel, I don’t usually have complete outfits. I usually have several things that mix and match, so there is no need to put them on a hanger together.

The next tip is to fold sweaters with tissue paper. I just don’t understand how tissue paper is going to help the situation. When your luggage has 20 other bags piled on top of it, a piece of tissue paper isn’t going to do squat.

She also says to tuck shoes around the perimeter of the suitcase. That’s what we do and it works out well, although we do not have special little bags for our shoes like Martha does.

Martha says to pack accessories in little bags. My suitcase has some big zippered compartments that store lingerie, socks, etc. in. This works out well, particularly if we are moving from place to place. I can always find them easily.

charger-travelMartha says to pack chargers in ziploc bags. We have a cute little charger bag that comes with a power strip (since there are never enough outlets in a hotel room). We love this little thing and highly recommend it.

chrager-travel-21When we went to Hawaii last summer, instead of a purse, I used a big bag, which allowed me to then carry on a second item since that bag counted as my ‘purse’. Martha recommends a messenger bag instead of a purse- same concept and it’s a good tip and a great way to get around that one carry-on rule.

I always put bathroom toiletry items in double ziploc bags. We’ve had things leak with just one bag, so we always double bag them now.

jewelry-travel2I keep my jewelry in this cute jewelry organizer and I always put it in my carry-on. My carry-on also always contains the camera, cell phone, sunglasses, my glasses to wear when I take my contacts out, a contact lens case, prescription meds (because if they’re lost it takes a while to replace them), a small pack of wet hand wipes, Advil, Tylenol, Rolaids, gum, Kleenex, my own headset to use for the airplane tv, a small bottle of lotion because I do find the plane dehydrating, maps we need upon arrival, the GPS if we are bringing it, books and magazines, and some snacks. When my kids were smaller, I always carried paper toilet seat covers with me when we

The biggest problem we have with packing is the airline weight restrictions.  You can’t really fill a full-size suitcase and have it come in under the weight limit. We bought this cute little scale to use. Now we don’t have to try to get a suitcase on the bathroom scale or play the guessing game when we pack to come travel-scalehome. It was a great investment.

luggage-tagMy other packing tip is to buy the TSA approved locks. Martha suggests twine, but I like the TSA locks. Martha says to tie a bright ribbon your luggage. Mr. MarthaandMe put a big piece of blue painter’s tape on each of our suitcases and we also have bright pink name tags on them which makes them easy to spot.

When we went to Hawaii, I packed a neck pillow in each carry-on, as well as a lightweight blanket, and they were absolute godsends. On all trips, I always make sure to dress in layers, with some kind of warm zip up as the last layer since I am always cold on airplanes. We always wear comfortable clothes and sneakers and always, always wear socks to go through security with.

I always pack sandwiches to bring along. They taste better than the stuff you buy at airports and are cheaper too.

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