Strawberry Muffins

June 30, 2009

straw muff1I haven’t cooked anything from Martha Stewart’s Body and Soul magazine to date, so it was time. The July/August issue has a recipe for strawberry muffins (no link on Martha’s site).

I often make blueberry muffins in the summer, usually with a streusel topping. I have tried to make strawberry muffins by substituting strawberries for blueberries, but somehow the muffins always turned out soggy and not so good. I was ready to see if Martha had a solution.

The recipe was a basic muffin recipe, but it uses some whole wheat flour, which got points from me. The key to this recipe is to cut up the strawberries, sprinkle the sugar on them and then mash them, before adding them to the batter. I never would have thought to do that. You don’t get big hunks of pulpy berry this way and it fills the muffin with the fruit flavor.

straw muff2As always, mine took longer to bake than they should have, but I was really pleased with the results.  The muffins were very moist and not dry at all. They were sweet but not too sweet. We ate them with salad for dinner and they didn’t need any butter. Overall, they were very good. I’m definitely going to make these again and remember the technique of mashing the berries.

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Berry Tasty Mess

June 29, 2009

Local strawberries are in and I’m looking for lots of ways to use them. I decided to make Martha’s Vacherin with Whipped Cream and Mixed Berries . (July Martha Stewart Living) I had never heard of vacherin, but the recipe is basically for meringue with whipped cream and berries. It sounded light and tasty and the photo in the magazine was pretty and appealing.

The first step is to whip the egg whites.  Let me be honest here – I have no idea if I whipped them long enough. Martha says to whip until they are very stiff and glossy. Mine were glossy but I have no idea how stiff they should be. I guessed.

vacherin1You draw a circle on parchment paper and heap the egg whites inside it, on two separate pans. Then you bake it at 200 for 2 hours and then turn the oven off and leave them inside for an hour and a half. I did all this precisely, however when I went to assemble this, neither of the meringues were cooked all the way through and stuck to the parchment paper. I was totally crushed. I’m really getting tired of following Martha’s instructions to the letter only to have it not work! The good thing about this recipe is that the mess was easily covered by whipped cream.

I assembled the dessert with the whipped cream and berries and it did look vacherin3very pretty. It actually cut pretty well, but didn’t look so great on the individual plates. It looked mushy.

As for taste, the part of the meringue that was cooked was delicious- crunchy and sweet and light. I loved it with the berries. I thought there was a bit much whipped cream for my taste.

The biggest problem with this dessert is that it is a use or lose it proposition. vacherin5You can’t save it since the meringue gets mushy. So you really need to be prepared to serve and eat the entire thing or waste it.

If the meringue had been cooked, this would have been a winner.

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Corn and Shrimp Chowder

June 28, 2009

shrimp corn chowThe in-laws were coming for dinner on a Friday night. When I invited them, I said I would make something simple, so Martha’s Corn and Shrimp Chowder with Bacon (July Martha Stewart Everyday Food) fit the bill. I’m a sucker for chowder and the surprising thing about clam or shrimp chowder is that it doesn’t have to cook long at all, unlike other soups.

To start, I cut the corn off the cobs. I am highly skilled at this, if I do say so myself. I used to freeze dozens and dozens of ears of corn every summer and developed a system. I used to use an old tube pan. I would put the ear of corn on the hole in the middle and it would hold it in place while I cut the corn off, then scraped the cobs with the back of the knife to get all the juice.

This soup was simple – cook some bacon, then cook your green onion whites in the grease. Add the potatoes and cook in a mix of milk and water. The recipe calls for thyme and seafood seasoning and it was the perfect mix. I did add more flour than this calls for because I like my chowder thick. And I added some heavy cream. You add your shrimp in at the end because it cooks quickly. I happened to have some lobster tail that was brought home by Teen Martha from a dinner she was at, so I threw that in too.

The soup was delicious. Very simple to make and very flavorful. Instead of water, I would use some seafood stock (I didn’t have any on hand).  The recipe says this makes 4 servings. I fed 6 people with this and had lots left over. This was the main part of our meal too – I served it with bread and salad.

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Following Martha’s Recommendations

June 27, 2009

kindleThis past season, Martha did a segment on what she carries with her when she travels. I always love seeing segments about Martha’s real life. One of Martha’s fave travel items is a Kindle. We’re taking a trip this summer and Martha convinced me to give Kindle a try.

I’ve had my Kindle several weeks now. First of all, I was surprised by how thin and small it really is.  It charges easily. It’s cute.

But how does it work? The first book I read on it was a travel guide.  Not so great. I think Kindle is nice for just plain reading, but with a book where I wanted to make a lot of bookmarks and notes, I found it tediously slow and not easy to use. My toggle button is not very loose and it’s a bit difficult to use.

I will take it with us on our trip because instead of having to pack 5 books to read, I can just bring the Kindle, which is definitely convenient. I was hoping I could load all my travel guides on it and just pull it out of my purse when I need to know where something is, but it’s just not convenient enough for that, not to mention most travel books are not yet available on Kindle.

And by the way, this little baby cost me $359. A lot for me, maybe not so much for Martha. I appreciated Martha’s recommendation, but I’m not wild about this yet. I’ll report back after the trip.


French Potato Salad

June 26, 2009

I love potato salad. My grandmother was the queen of potato salad makers and I learned how to make an awesome one from her. I’m very, very fond of the family recipe and generally will not eat potato salad in restaurants or delis because it does not measure up. Martha had big shoes to fill with her French Potato Salad (July Martha Stewart Everyday Food – not up on the site).

Fr Pot saladThis potato salad was not difficult and it didn’t require any peeling, which gave it bonus points as far as I’m concerned. You use new or fingerling potatoes. Boil them then chop up some red onion. Mix up the dressing – oil, Dijon mustard, vinegar, shallot and herbs. Toss it and you’re done. I let mine sit in the fridge for a few hours which helped the flavors meld.

I liked this, but it’s not as good as my grandmother’s. It is, however, totally different. It’s a nice change and is a great thing to serve on a summer evening. It tastes light and feels very refreshing.

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Martha’s Steak Sandwich

June 25, 2009

When some people think of steak sandwiches, they think of Philly steaks. When I think of steak sandwiches, I think of dinner with my dad. When I was little, my mom used to teach on Tuesday nights and Dad made dinner for the two us – steak sandwiches. We would eat them in front of the tv and watch the Muppet Show. He used those thin frozen steaks that are meant for steak sandwiches. I don’t even know what they are called or if they sell them anymore. In retrospect, they were pretty gross, but at the time I thought they were good. The memories aren’t all happy ones however. One night I choked on it and I don’t think my dad knew the Heimlich. I remember him turning me upside down and shaking me to get it out. Obviously it worked since I’m still here.

beef tend sandSo with that trauma in mind, I made Martha’s (Martha Stewart Living, July) Beef Tenderloin Sandwich with Herb Mayonnaise. The first step is to  roast some garlic. Oh, I love roasted garlic. The rest of the sandwich is a breeze. You mix the garlic with mayo and herbs. You grill the tenderloin and then assemble it on a piece of bread with some greens and the mayo. It was simple to make.  It was a little hard to eat. The meat kept sliding off and we ended up with mayo all over our hands. But it was good.  Not my favorite way to eat beef tenderloin by any stretch of the imagination, but it was something different at least. This won’t go in my favorites file. No one choked though, so that at least was a victory.

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Pound Cake Party

June 24, 2009

My experience with pound cake has mostly been with the Sara Lee kind you buy from the freezer section of the grocery store. Martha would be horrified. I’ve never made my own. I buy pound cake once a year – to dip in our New Year’s Eve fondue.

The Martha Stewart Living July issue has a huge spread on pound cakes – more than 10 kinds. My son was graduating from 5th grade, so I decided to whip up a few different kinds as a dessert.

I started with the basic pound cake recipe. Since I was rushing around, I failed to read it carefully and notice that it actually makes two loaves.  Once I realized I was going to have two, I decided to make one chocolate chip and one poppy seed. This just meant I needed to add those ingredients last, so I split the batter in half.

Poppy Seed

Poppy Seed

Let me just say here that this batter was so good that I could have just eaten it plain. I was like a little kid – constantly sneaking taste after taste of it. It was out of this world.

At the same time, I also made a batch of blueberry pound cake, which uses the basic recipe, but has you substitute 1/2 cup of sour cream for one stick of butter and add 2 cups of blueberries that have been tossed with 2 tbsp flour. I ended up with two loaves of this, but am

Blueberry

Blueberry

planning to foist one off on my in-laws. This batter tasted good, but not as good as the original batter.

Into the oven my 4 loaf pans went.  The recipe says to bake for 65 minutes. My poppy seed loaf was done in that time, but the others took about 10 minutes longer.

They all came out of the pans easily, which was a relief. The bad news is that the cake did not taste anywhere as good as the batter and I don’t know why. It wasn’t too dry. It just

Chocolate Chip

Chocolate Chip

tasted bland and boring, even with the poppy seeds, chips, or berries.  Now, it wasn’t horrible by any stretch of the imagination and maybe the batter just inflated my expectations.

The blueberry loaf was the most moist and the blueberries really looked beautiful. The chocolate chip loaf was sweet and good, but I would rather eat a chocolate chip cookie. I felt the poppy seed load needed lemon to give it some flavor.

The family thought the cakes were good, but honestly you would be hard pressed to put cake in front of them and get complaints.

I don’t think I would make these recipes again. Sorry Martha.

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