Dance Ten, Looks Three

February 18, 2009

The cupcake issue is sending me to the breaking point. I may never want to see or eat another cupcake (ok, I can probably always eat cupcakes, I just may never want to make them again). I made the One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes from February Martha Stewart Living.  Wow, this sounded easy and I’m always up for anything chocolate. It was easy – you simply dump everything in one bowl (although you’re supposed to sift – you know there’s no way I was going to sift, right?) and mix. Easy. The batter tasted a little salty to me, but I went with it.

They baked up easily enough, although some of the cupcakes collapsed inward when they cooled.

I contemplated making the Basic Buttercream frosting, but I just could not bring myself to use 3 sticks of butter and one pound of powdered sugar. Instead, I made my own version, involving only one stick of butter, powdered sugar, cocoa, and a little milk.

The frosting process was a complete disaster. The cupcakes are far too soft and crumbly. You cannot spread anything on them (I suppose Martha intends for us to squirt frosting on with a pastry bag, but that’s just not in cards for me on a busy weeknight). So they were mighty ugly looking.

choc-cupcakeThe verdict? These are very good – moist and wonderful.  I do think it was a little too salty, so I would cut back the salt if I made it again.


Meat Loaf Sandwiches

February 17, 2009

Hold onto your hats guys, here’s a recipe that was a winner! I know, can you believe it? I made Meat Loaf Sandwiches with Tomato Relish on Garlic Bread from February Martha Stewart Living (page 158).  I was a little unenthusiastic going in, I admit. Another three part recipe, I sighed to myself.

First you make the meatloaf. It’s a pretty basic recipe, except instead of bread crumbs, Martha has you cut up some chunks of bread and soak them in milk. For meat, she directs you to use a mix of beef, pork and buffalo. Yes, buffalo.  My dirty little secret – I just used beef and nothing else. The meatloaf was easy to make, no problems there.

Then you make a tomato relish. God lord, I thought. How silly this sounds. You broil tomatoes (I cut the recipe in half, so I only broiled one) then cook up a mix of scallion, honey, balsamic vinegar, oil, sugar, and water. Once the tomatoes are broiled you chop them and add them to the mix. You cook it a little longer then strain it and discard the liquid. I was left with a very tiny amount (if you make this recipe you need to make much, much more of this – double or triple it).

Then you made garlic bread, but Martha directs you to use rye (off I ran to the store for that).

Ok, once you’ve got all that made, you assemble it into a sandwich. You’re supposed to add some mache to it, but I forgot (it would have been good though, so do add it if you make this).

meatloaf-sandWow. This was really good!! It was just the perfect combo of sweet, garlic, meat, and flavors. I loved it. If you’ve ever had Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jelly, it is sort of like that.

This one is a good thing for sure!


Organizing with Martha

February 15, 2009

I love to read Martha’s organizing ideas, so I have carefully read the Organizing Principles on page 80-81 of  February Martha Stewart Living.

– Martha suggests storing food in glass jars. This is something I do want to do. I currently store some things in plastic, but I have to say I am becoming paranoid about plastic. The recent news about BPA makes me question the safety of all plastic, so I would love to make the switch to glass. It’s an expensive proposition though to buy all the right sizes and shapes. I’m not wild about freezing in glass jars though.

reward-cards– I used to have the worst time finding my keys and cell phone in my purse. Martha suggests using a shower curtain ring to attach your keys to your purse handle. That doesn’t strike me as very attractive! My solution has been to only buy purses that have a cell phone pocket and a pocket for keys.  She also says to use a mini file folder in your purse for receipts.  I usually stuff receipts in and remove them when I get home. I do have  a separate little zippy wallet thing to keep coupons, reward certificates and punch cards in. I keep all of my store reward cards on a ring. Mr. MarthaAndMe punched a hole in each one and they are now on there in alphabetical order so I can find them!

– Martha suggests keeping a dish next to the sink to put your scrub brush on. We have a tip out little compartment on the front of our sink that I keep ours in. Out of sight, out of mind. I would rather not see my scrub brush.

– My spice collection is on a group of little wire shelves on the side of the pantry. Martha suggests a lazy Susan. I hate those things! Things always fall off behind them. They seem like such a 70’s thing to me. It doesn’t strike me as a new solution.

– We keep our appliance manuals in a big box, alphabetized. Martha suggests keeping the ones you need for the tv, etc in that room. That’s a good idea. Or it would be if Mr. MarthaAndMe would ever consent to actually read an instruction book!

– Martha has a tip for storing your ironing board. Mine’s even easier. Don’t have one. Seriously. I do not iron. I know that is so not Martha, but I really have nothing that requires ironing. Mr. MarthaandMe’s dress shirts go to the cleaners.

– I do not keep magazine stacks around the house. I cut out recipes I want and toss the rest. This dovetails nicely with Martha’s advice, so I’m already on the bandwagon there. She says to cut them out and keep them in binders. I have 5 three ring binders that I keep all my recipes in, divided by category. I actually learned to do that from my mom, who has always kept hers that way.

– Martha says to have a laundry caddy for stain removal. I just keep all my stain removers above the washer. No caddy necessary. I don’t quite know why you would need a caddy for this – don’t you just work on stains in the laundry area?

– The bathroom makeover tips are interesting – I’ll be posting more about that in coming weeks. We are redoing a bathroom right now (a nightmare of workmen and dust).

– I generally write on leftover containers of food with a Sharpie. Martha says to use masking tape. I find that by the time I’ve written on the container and crossed it off and written on it several more times, it is ready to be thrown out anyhow.

– I had to laugh at the suggestion that we screw the lids of small glass jars to the undersides of cabinets, so you can just screw the jar of bolts or whatever right onto the lid. My father did this in the basement workshop area when I was a kid. He used baby food jars. I remember how impossible it was to screw the jar onto the lid – much harder than just putting a lid on a jar!


Herb Crusted Pork Roast and New Potatoes

February 14, 2009

As part of Martha’s whole ‘meat and potatoes’ section in February Martha Stewart Living (p. 155), she has a recipe for Herb (can we all say “herb” with the ‘h’ sound at the beginning please?) Crusted Pork Roast with New Potatoes. This sounded like a great weeknight meal to me, since it is all made in one pan.

The first problem – Martha calls for a bone-in pork roast (5-6 lbs), frenched. Five to six pounds is way too much for this family and my store does not sell bone-in pork roasts. Yes, I know I should go to the butcher shop or order it at the meat counter, but goodness, sometimes it’s just all too much. So I opted for a boneless pork roast of a much smaller size.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

First you create the herb crust -0 live oil, garlic, thyme, sage, and rosemary. You rub half on the roast and half on the potatoes.

I stuck this in the oven and ran to hockey practice. When I returned, the meat was done, but the potatoes were not as brown and crispy as I like them, so they went back in the oven on convection roast for a few minutes.

Potatoes

Potatoes

The potatoes were really good. I liked the herbs and garlic on them, but they needed some more seasoning I think.

The pork roast was moist and delicious, but the herb crust just does not do it for me.  Yes, it looks cute, but you end up with a slice of meat with a tiny bit of seasoning on one edge. I really want flavor all through my meat, which is why I usually stick

The roast

The roast

slivers of garlic and herbs down in the pork roast when I make it. The meat was just kind of flavorless in my opinion.

A sauce or gravy would have really helped this one. I’m really kind of disappointed with this meat and potatoes section – it’s kind of boring.

pork-roast4


Cote de Boeuf with Hash Browns

February 12, 2009

On page 156 of Martha Stewart Living (Feb issue) Martha has a recipe for Cote de Boeuf with Hash Browns. In case you’re wondering, this is a fancy name for a hunk of beef with some shredded potatoes.

The recipe calls for bone in rib eye. As if. I only buy organic meat. My grocery store currently is carrying 4 cuts and rib eye ain’t one of ’em. So there I am in the store asking myself do I sacrifice my principles and possibly my family’s health and buy the cut Martha requires or do I fool with the recipe. You can guess which won. I bought sirloin.

The real work in this recipe is the potatoes. Martha just wants you to sear the beef then stick it in the oven. Bah. I made mine on the Jenn-air grill and I also made a little Bernaise sauce because who wants just plain boring meat? Not I.

Ok, so moving on to the potatoes. You cook some bacon, then cook onion in the grease. You peel and shred potatoes, rinse and drain them so they are very dry. You mix them with the onion and bacon then smush it into the skillet and press down on it.  You let it cook 15 min then flip it (I was so proud of myself for using a pizza pan to flip it – I doubled this recipe and used a big ass skillet and there was no way I was flipping it with a spatula).

Hash browns

Hash browns

Once it’s flipped, it cooks another 15 min then you’re supposed to stick your skillet in the oven. Boys and girls, I have no idea if my skillets are oven safe (not sure about the handles), so I dumped it into a Corningware round dish instead and cooked it another half hour in the oven.

Results? Loved the hash browns! Crispy on the outside, perfectly cooked on the inside. Yum. You need a little sour cream to go on this one though. The meat was ok. Not sure why this is so exciting it needs its own recipe.  The hash browns are fab, so give those a try.cote2


Shrimp Bisque in My Sock

February 11, 2009

Just to give you a little preview of where this is heading, other titles I considered for this blog were: Trail of Shrimp Bisque Tears, Shrimp Bisque Down the Drain, and Shrimp Bisque Gruel.

It all started out innocently enough. Shrimp bisque sounded like a lovely dinner and it is listed in Martha Stewart Living February in the index under “main dishes”.

Veggies and Shells

Veggies and Shells

So I peeled my shrimp and roasted the shells. That sounded like it would give some nice flavor. I cooked the shrimp, then cooked my vegetables (fennel, carrots and shallot). No problems. I added the shells to the mix, then added tomato paste, then cognac, water, salt, pepper, bay leaf and parsley. By this time I was getting tired of this dish, but I brought it to a boil and let it simmer the required 25 minutes, then cooled it. By this time, half the day has gone by.

Adding Liquid

Adding Liquid

The next step is to puree it in a blender and then strain it. Here’s where things got a little wild. I decided to use the Cuisinart to puree. So there I am, emptying the pot into it, when I realize all the soup is running out the bottom of the Cuisinart bowl!!!! I have no idea why. We just bought a brand new bowl for that Cuisinart and it’s never leaked before. I quickly rip the bowl off and dump most of it back in the pot.  Then I have this

The Mess

The Mess

giant mess all over the counter to clean up – which is when I realized it had dripped down onto my feet. I did have the presence of mind to stop and take a photo partway through the clean up, just because it was oh so much fun.

It was right about at this moment that the dog chose to throw up. Please can someone explain to me why dogs MUST throw up on carpet? We’re in the kitchen with a big open floor with just a couple rugs around and the dog has to throw up on the carpet.

So I clean up both messes and decide to dig the blender out to give the pureeing another try. Of course the blender is too full, and the soup starts to run out the top. This is where I start to think this recipe is just cursed. So I quickly dump some out and try again. I strain it, and puree the

Straining the Puree

Straining the Puree

rest and strain that.

Now what I am left with is a pot full of very, very thin broth. In my book, shrimp bisque is a thick, creamy soup with actual pieces of shrimp. I didn’t understand why the recipe says to strain it – all the good stuff got strained out. But I decided to have patience because I wasn’t done yet.

Martha then says to heat it up, but don’t let it boil. Then add the evaporated milk.  Once that is heated, you ladle the soup into bowls and put some pieces of cooked shrimp in the bowl (they promptly sank right to the bottom so you can’t see them in the photo).

The Final Product

The Final Product

By this point I am tired of this damn soup and am very, very hungry. I even broke out my nice cobalt soup bowls and matching plate set for this. We sit down to eat it and it is like dishwater. No flavor, no consistency, just nasty, tasteless dishwater.

I think this may be the absolute worst Martha recipe I have ever made. The entire thing was dumped down the drain and we had cereal for dinner.

This soup has so many things wrong with it. It needs to be much, much thicker. It needs pieces of shrimp. It needs some actual flavor.  It needs a complete extreme makeover to even be worthy of putting in a bowl. Just writing about it is making me mad, mad, mad. Excuse me while I go change my socks.


Trying to Have a Heart

February 10, 2009

If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve tried in the past to do some Martha crafts. You also know that I am basically hopeless.  That was proven yet again for those of us who weren’t positive. I decided to make the “Have a Heart” Good Things heart doily table decorations on page 51 of Martha Stewart Living (Feb). How hard could it be, right? This is a simple craft that just requires folding and cutting. Ha!

heart-doily1Basically you take a paper square dinner napkin (I even bought pink for this!) and fold it into a triangle. Then you fold the pointy side of the triangle back over. I did it! No problem! It helped that there were written directions and a photo in the mag to go by!

Ok, so next you cut from the left side and cut the top of one half of a heart. Then you cut the bottom of one half of a heart, leaving it all attached by at least 1/4 of inch on the right hand side. That sounded pretty simple. Silly me. You unfold it and voila, you should have a beautiful heart doily.

Attempt #1

Attempt #1

Attempt #2

Attempt #2

So lame, right? They sort of look like hearts, but all I can really see is the star shape in the center. As I am sitting there banging my head on the table, Mr. MarthaandMe comes along, picks up a napkin and scissors and snip, snip, snip in seconds has created the most perfect, magazine ready example.

Mr. MarthaandMe's perfection

Mr. MarthaandMe's perfection

Do we hate him? Oh yes we do. It’s not easy to be craft-impaired.


Martha is Sabotaging My Diet

February 9, 2009

Martha was all about the Whole Living Challenge in January, then in February she sends out an issue filled with cupcakes. Intentional sabotage, I tell you. Not fair!

Batter Up

Batter Up

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I can tell you about the Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream from February Martha Stewart Living. So the cupcake part was not hard at all – basically whip up cupcake batter then add some chopped strawberries. Mini-Martha assisted. As usual, these took a little longer to cook in my oven than specified.

Mini-Martha scoops

Mini-Martha scoops

Next I started the buttercream frosting. You whisk egg whites with sugar over hot water until it reaches 160 degrees. No problem there. Then, apparently, you put then under the mixer and whisk it until your motor runs out. Seriously. The recipe says 5 minutes at

Frosting Flop

Frosting Flop

medium and 6 minutes at medium high until you get stiff glossy peaks. Well, folks, I am sorry to say, I never peaked. I went a good 15 minutes and nada.  It was worse than a bad date.  It looked like a bowl of marshmallow fluff. I gave up and added the butter, then the pureed strawberries. Now, up until the strawberry puree went in, I was sitting pretty. It seemed fine. The puree, though, turned it into slop. Far too wet to frost anything with. I am sure this is because I never got those darned stiff peaks. So, I popped it in the fridge, hoping it would solidify a bit.

It did a little bit, but it was still really runny. I put the cupcakes back in the fridge after frosting them and this helped, but they’ve got to stay in there or you’re in trouble. Also, this frosting recipe makes WAY too much. If I had cut it in half, I would have still had plenty.

The verdict? So-so in my opinion. These cupcakes are moist and the frosting is a pretty pink color. The flavor? Well, have you ever tried to make strawberry muffins? Kind of the same deal – you can see the strawberries and sort of taste them, but for the most part, they don’t taste super-strawberry at all.  I wouldn’t make this one again. Besides, really, when you get right down to it, I would much rather just have chocolate cupcake and be done with it!


Oatmeal

February 8, 2009

oatmeal1

On page 33 of January Martha Stewart Living, Martha has a page about making oatmeal.  The piece was actually about using aromatics in your oatmeal. I’m not so wild about that, but I do love to make oatmeal myself. I buy steel cut oats and follow the ratio on the package for oats to liquid. I usually use half water and half milk. The key is to bring your liquid to a boil first, then add the oats. Cook it over low heat until it’s almost to where you want it (because I make it ahead and it will cook more when I heat it up). I like the oats to be sliglty al dente. I add brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and butter. I keep a container of it in the refrigerator all week and it’s simple to just pop it in the microwave for a wonderful breakfast.


Have a Heart

February 7, 2009

On page 41 of the Feb issue of Martha Stewart Living, Martha has a Valentine breakfast – a piece of toast cut out in a heart shape with an egg cooked in it. I thought I would give it a try.

heart-egg2Well, ok, but not fab is what I think. First it was hard to find a cookie cutter the right size. I have 4 heart shaped cutters and only one worked, and then I had to angle it to get it to fit on the toast.

As I cooked the egg, it kind of ran out from under the toast.

This is cute though and is a fun thing to make for kids.


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