Sunday Morning with Martha

May 31, 2009

Sunday morning pancakes are a veritable tradition around here. My favorite pancake recipe is adapted from my mom’s dirty, won,  old Betty Crocker cookbook. I make the basic buttermilk pancake recipe then add blueberries and cinnamon.

Dry ingredients

Dry ingredients

Today I decided to try out Martha’s Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes (Martha Stewart Living June, p. 24 – would someone PLEASE ask the folks at MSLO to get all the magazine recipes up on their site?? There’s no link for you on this one unfortunately, but if you need the recipe, email me).

The first crisis was that the daughter ate all the blueberries I had bought for this. So off the store went Mr. MarthaAndMe. The recipe calls for a pint. He came home with one of those little half pint containers. That was ok though, since the kids don’t like blueberries in their pancakes, so I made half with and half without.

My messThe recipe is straightforward – cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, egg, milk, buttermilk and melted butter. This batter is very wet. The first batch I made was without blueberries. The pancakes I am used to making firm up very nicely and flip easily. Not so much for Martha. I put the first batch on (sans blueberries) and when I went to flip them they were wet and heavy. One ended up on the floor. I managed to pick up the big pieces and the dogs happily cleaned up the rest.

Clean up crew

Clean up crew

The second batch had blueberries and they held together a bit better. These took a looongggg time to cook though, I think because there is so much liquid in the batter. We waited and waited and waited some more and finally they were done.

I forgot to mention that Martha says to serve these with Orange Maple Butter (butter, OJ, syrup, and orange zest) as well as syrup.  That was quick to whip up blue corn pan5while the pancakes were cooking (and cooking and cooking).

Ok, now for the taste test. These were great! I have to admit I was totally unsure about the cornmeal in the recipe but it was a really interesting flavor to add to it. They reminded me a bit of Paula Deen’s Hoe Cakes (which I adore). I thought I was going to miss cinnamon, since I always add cinnamon to my blueberry pancakes, but I didn’t even think about it. The orange maple butter added an interesting layer of citrus flavor that I really liked.

Thumbs up on this recipe!blue corn pan6

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Skin Cancer Wellness

May 30, 2009

We all know that Martha is very interested in wellness – she’s just created the Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mt. Sinai – a center devoted to aging. I applaud her for that. I recently heard a Dr on a talk show that aging is one of the last frontiers in medicine. We now know how to prolong life, but we don’t have a handle on improving quality of life for the elderly. I think Martha’s center will truly do good things.

Martha now has a monthly feature in Living about health and wellness. I love that she includes this now. What good is it to eat wonderful food or live in beautiful surroundings if you are essentially unwell when it comes to health.

In the June issue is a topic I am familiar with – skin cancer. As a fair-skinned, blue-eyed person who had several bad sunburns as a child, I am at high risk for skin cancer. Add to that the fact that my father has had a melanoma and my risk goes through the ceiling. Because of this, I see my dermatologist yearly and this year I had a basal cell carcinoma removed. Not fun (and no, sorry, no photos!).

In our house, I am the sunscreen Nazi. No one goes out into the sun without it on. Ever. I hope that you read and take to heart the advice in this column. Checking your skin and seeing your Dr with any abnormalities is a small “Martha” thing you can do for yourself every day.

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Soy Garlic Marinade

May 29, 2009

I love to grill. I even grill in the winter on the Jenn-Air grill inside. Mr. MarthaAndMe does the requisite grumbling about being sent out to grill, but usually does a good job. I love that there is very little clean up and it doesn’t make the house hot in the summer.

The June issue of Martha Stewart Living is all about grilling, which is a fun summer topic. My last attempt at one of these recipes was a flop however, since the Honey Brine grilled chicken I made was totally inedible. I was ready to give Martha a second chance on grilling however, and went with the Soy-Garlic Marinade for steak. Soy and garlic are flavors I love with steak and this recipe can be made and kept overnight, which worked out perfectly since I was taking it to the lake over Memorial Day weekend.  I bought my organic steaks (we eat beef rarely now and when we do, I only buy organic) and whipped up  the marinade, which is super simple. I marinated in a plastic zipper bag.

soy glaze steakThe steaks grilled up nicely and the marinade gave it a nice flavor. I think I would probably add some herbs to this next time – maybe some thyme.  I would also use more garlic and more lemon juice. It just needs a little something extra. It was good, but not fabulous.

What I want to know is what is your favorite marinade? I plan to do a lot of grilling and would love some tips.

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The Tale of the Cream Puff

May 28, 2009

We were heading out to my parents’ lake house for Memorial Day weekend and I needed a dessert to bring. I like to get my cooking done ahead so I can spend the time there enjoying the water. Martha’s Cream Puffs with Lemon Mousse and Blueberry Sauce (June Martha Stewart Living) sounded very summery and light, so I decided to make that.

cream puff1So there I was on a Friday night, making cream puffs. I’ve never made cream puffs before. They were a little more complicated than I expected. First you cook sugar, water, butter and salt and then you add flour and cook it again. Once that’s done you beat in eggs. You know it’s ready when you can touch it and take your finger away and a string follows your finger. I was worried it wasn’t going to work, but it did. It was quite similar to Gougere, an hors d’oevres I’ve made often.

Next you bake your cream puffs.  Martha says to use a pastry bag to get them cream puff2on the baking sheet. Piffle. I just used a spoon. And really, that worked out quite well. The recipe says it makes 10 but I was able to get 12.

They bake a surprisingly long time, but when they were done, they looked great. Now, let me say candidly that these are probably best the same day you bake them, but I had to put them in a plastic container and save them for cream puff3the next day. They did get a tiny bit mushy I think, so eat them the same day if you can.

Next, I got to work on the lemon curd, which would become the lemon mousse. I’ve never made lemon curd before and it was quite easy. Eggs, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest get cooked, then butter gets mixed in. Pretty easy. I put that in a container to chill and bring along with us.

The next step was the blueberry sauce. Blueberries, water, sugar, salt and lemon zest get cooked down. At the end you add in more blueberries. No problem. I got that done and chilling.

The next morning I packed it all up, along with the heavy cream I needed to make the lemon mousse. It all went into a cooler and came along with us. That night, I served it.

First I cut the cream puffs in half. Next, I got to work on the lemon mousse and here is where things get out of control. I grabbed the heavy cream, dumped it into a bowl and started whipping. Nothing happened. It got foamy but not fluffy. Finally I looked at the carton and realized I had grabbed half and half, which comes in an identical carton (who’s the labeling genius in charge of that I’d like to know!). Down the drain that went and I started over, this time making sure I had the whipping cream I had brought with me. I got it whipped up and stuck my finger in it to check the texture and licked my finger off and immediately gagged. The cream was bad! And I had just bought it two days ago. The expiration date was not until the end of June. What the hell! Fortunately my mother had another carton of heavy cream, so I set to work whipping for the third time and this time it all worked out.

cream puff4I folded the whipped cream with the curd and voila! Lemon mousse. I filled the cream puffs with the mousse and was getting ready to put the blueberry sauce on them. My son asked me not to put sauce on his. My father overheard this and asked for me to do the same thing for his.

We sat down to eat and my dad took a bite and said, “Oh! It’s lemon! I thought they were regular profiteroles.” My mother then says to him, “It’s not French honey, it’s Martha,” and takes his plate and goes and puts the blueberry sauce on it. He thought they were regular cream puffs and didn’t like the idea of blueberry sauce on them. Once he realized they weren’t, then he was willing to try it.

These were quite good, despite all the effort it took to produce them! The lemon mousse was light and fluffy and just lemony enough. The blueberry sauce was a nice contrast. It all worked well together and was a nice summer dessert. I enjoyed it a lot. I have to admit I would probably rather have regular cream puffs with chocolate sauce though!

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Spinach Phyllo Pie

May 27, 2009

Spanokopita is one of my most favorite foods in the world. Probably because it has spinach and cheese in it – two things I could eat all day. I must confess that I have never made it though! So I was delighted to see the recipe for Spinach Phyllo Pie in June Martha Stewart Everyday Food. It looked so easy, that I could not believe I had never tried it before.

spin pie1The first step is to cook onions, garlic and spinach. I bought frozen spinach so I didn’t have to wilt my spinach. The recipe calls for a white onion, but I had some red onion hanging around so I used that up.

An important step that I didn’t pay attention to is that you need to get your phyllo dough defrosted. On the package it says to let it sit in the fridge overnight. Eek! Didn’t do that, so I stuck it in the microwave on defrost and all was well.

spin pie2You lay out a sheet, brush it with butter, then put another sheet on top. It’s not hard to work with if you are careful when moving the sheets of phyllo since they can rip.

Once you get all ten sheets ready, you place the spinach mixture down the center, then fold each side of the phyllo in, so that you have a flat log.  This was not hard to do at all.

spin pie3Once you’ve got it sealed shut, you cut some diagonal slices on it to make it look pretty.

This takes longer to cook than it seems like it should – 45 to 50 minutes, although I cheated and put it on convection to get it done.

The result? It was very good. But you knew I was going to say that since it has spinach and cheese in it! I have to say I still prefer the traditional layered spanokopita, but this was a good alternative. It definitely looked gorgeous when it came out of the oven.

spin pie4

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Fishy Business

May 26, 2009

I am already a wild fan of fish prints. A few years ago we vacationed on Cape Cod and happened upon this fab little shop called Blue Water Fish Rubbings. They sell clothes, bags, and prints that are made by pressing real fish and sea creatures that have been inked onto fabric or paper. We bought a shirt while we were there and I love it.

Fast forward to June Martha Stewart Living, where Martha has several pages devoted to making fish prints, shell prints and other beach imprints. Martha uses a rubber fish for hers, but this weekend we visited my parents at their lake house, so I was determined to use a real fish.

fish print1I went to a craft store and bought ink and rice paper. I had a little brush already. I took it with us. We caught a lot of fish, but since bass season has not started yet, we couldn’t keep those big fish. We did catch a lot of little sunfish though and we kept some to eat for lunch. One of the fish we set aside for the print.

First I dried the fish off and let it sit in the sun to get really dry. I painted the fish print2ink on it and pressed the rough side of the rice paper onto it (hoping that was the right side!). The first one wasn’t great and I quickly learned to use a very light coating of ink. The next few turned out really well. I am definitely going to frame one and hang it up at the lake.

I ended up with ink all over my hands, but it all washed off. And don’t worry, we did eat the fish after we washed it, so this project was not wasteful.

fish print3I want to try this again with a really big fish once they are in season and we can keep them, so I left all the supplies at the lake. I’m going to buy some other colors of ink so that I can do a multi-colored print as well.

This project was really very easy. If I can do it, you can do it! I would love to try it with some shells and maybe some print4

fish print5

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Are You Checking Me Out?

May 26, 2009

This morning I had a blast chatting with Kim and Betsy on Martha Stewart Radio Morning Living Live on Sirius about this blog. They are so fun to talk with and they always have great tips for me. I’m going to be checking out Martha’s yoga videos online based on their recommendations.

I also did an interview with a great blog (Writers in Business) about the writing business and I talked a lot about this blog. Check it out here.

Memorial Day Triple Play

May 23, 2009

In honor of Memorial Day, I’m doing a big triple post, since I plan to be away from the computer most of the weekend.

What’s for Dinner in June you might ask? Or at least you might ask that if you are a Martha Stewart Living subscriber and are familiar with the monthly “What’s for Dinner” feature – “dinner for four in about an hour” it claims.

The June column includes Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Mustard, Heirloom Tomato Salad with Garlic Oil and Grilled Potato Slices with Salt and Vinegar.

The first thing I did was boil the potato slices in vinegar. That’s right, Martha says to boil your potatoes in 2 cups of white vinegar. Then let it cool for half an hour, still in the vinegar.

Next, I mixed up the marinade for the chicken which was very simple and got the chicken into that. I sliced the tomatoes and cooked the garlic for the salad.

Mr. MarthaAndMe was drafted to do the grilling. First he grilled the red onion slices for the sandwich. Then he grilled the chicken, and finally the potato slices. This took serious juggling since the racks on our grill are completely rusted. We’ve ordered new ones, but they have not come in yet, so we’re using a little fish or vegetable griller thing set on top of the racks.

grilled potatoOnce everything was cooked, I assembled the sandwich and the salad and we were ready to eat.

First let’s talk about those potatoes. I’m sorry Martha, but they were horrible. Inedible. It was just a mouth full of vinegar. There was nothing subtle about this. Nasty. Skip this recipe.

Next, the sandwich. I know my photo doesn’t look too gorgeous (I should grilled chick sandhave taken it once we cut it into sections. I am not usually a fan of onion and pickle on sandwiches, but I went with it. This sandwich was good. However, I think the chicken needs to marinate in the mustard mix longer than half an hour. I didn’t really taste mustard at all. I liked the onion and pickles on the sandwich. Martha has you spread creme fraiche on the bread instead of mayo. There was not much noticeable difference, I didn’t think. And in fact no one noticed it was not mayo. I do have to say, I don’t care for sandwiches on big hard pieces of bread like this. It’s just too hard to bite into. I would enjoy this much more on a roll.

heirtomsaladAnd finally, the tomato salad. This was good. Nothing wild or exciting, but good. I often make simple tomato salads like this in the summer. I expected the garlic pieces to be more flavorful, so that was a little disappointing.

Martha says this dinner can be made in less than hour. I say maybe, but only if you are cooking furiously, nonstop for that hour.

Happy Memorial Day! I’ll be back on Tuesday with more posts (it’s going to be a full weekend of Martha here). I’ll be on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Morning Living Live on Sirius Tuesday morning at 8 am if you want to tune in. If you’re listening, call in! I’d love to talk to you.

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Chicken and Vegetable Hash

May 22, 2009

I am a lover of good corned beef hash, which I make every year after St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve never had chicken hash, but was willing to try it, so I made Summer Vegetable and Chicken Hash from June Martha Stewart Living (no link on Martha’s site for this).

chick hash1First I boiled the potatoes, then I started creating the hash. First step was to saute the chicken, then the potatoes. Take those out and cook scallion, jalapeno, and then corn kernels. I liked cooking the corn – watching the kernels get brown and listening to some of them pop. Next you add cherry tomatoes, then stock, seasoning and chicken. Add the potatoes back in at the end. It seems like a quick dish but in reality it took quite a while to cook all the separate parts. My corn took much longer to cook than the recipe said.chick hash2

The end result was actually quite good. It tasted nothing like what I think of as hash – I guess I like my potatoes brown and crunchy. However, it was tasty. The jalapeno gave it just enough heat and the corn was sweet and crunchy. It was a really nice flavor.

chick hash3It was also good reheated the next day. I wasn’t thrilled with how it looked – like a pile of food on your plate, but it had nice flavors.

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Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

May 21, 2009

Today my daughter, known as Teen Martha, is guest blogging. She needed cookies to take to a party at school (apparently they are still having parties in 11th grade) and she agreed to go with Martha’s Strawberry Shortcake Cookies (June Martha Stewart Living). Here are her thoughts.
strawshortcookie1I made Martha’s strawberry shortcake cookies.  This involved cutting up lots of strawberries into tiny little pieces which wasn’t too enjoyable but I dealt with it all right.  Some of Martha’s descriptions of what the dough should look like at certain stages was a little misleading and she had me a little nervous when she told me I was supposed to have coarse crumbs and I really didn’t.  I kept going though and everything turned out fine.  They took a really long time to bake – almost half an strawshortcook2hour – but I didn’t really mind that.  They tasted more like a biscuit than a cookie.  Maybe a little more sugar could have solved that problem?  Overall they weren’t terrible and I would probably make them again.
MarthaAndMe here again. I tasted the cookies and they really do taste like strawberry shortcake. They aren’t overly sweet because shortcake is not too sweet. Mr. MarthaAndMe strawshortcook3said they needed whipped cream. They were really an interesting cookie that did not taste at all like a cookie.
Now it is time for me to tell the story behind the post. Teen Martha baked these up and took photos. The next morning, after she left for school, she called me in a panic because she left the cookies at home. So I turned my car around and went and got them for her. As I was walking into the school it occurred to me that I had not seen her take a photo of the finished cookies. I called her and asked her and no strawshortcook4she had not. So I took one cookie out and left it the car and photographed it when I got home!

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