Baked Beans

July 31, 2009

My son loves baked beans. Usually I buy the store brand of baked beans and doctor it up with ketchup, mustard, Worchestershire, garlic salt, vinegar and brown sugar. But making my own would be very Martha. There is a Lucinda recipe for it in the August issue of Martha Stewart Living, so I gave it a try.

This is not for the faint of heart my friends. It was a two day extravaganza of beans and I am not recovered yet.

The instructions say to cover the dried beans with water and boil, then simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Ok. No problem. On another place on the page (not in the actual recipe) it says you can make the beans up to 2 days ahead by refrigerating them after this step. It does not say you HAVE to.

baked beansI went to the next step – cooking onions, bacon, and garlic, then adding beans and vinegar and BBQ sauce (which I made myself). Add water and boil. Simmer for 2 1/2 hours. After 5 hours of this, I still had pretty hard, nasty beans. I must have added at least 4 more cups of water than the recipe said. Finally, I gave up, added some more water and stuck it in the fridge for 24 hours. I took it out and heated it up the next day and they still were not soft enough. I cooked this another 3 hours, adding more water as I went until finally, finally, finally, it was edible. I still wasn’t happy with it. I thought some of the beans were still a bit tough to the tooth. And let me tell you, by the time we sat down to dinner with this, I didn’t want any because I had taste-tested it so many times along the way that I was sick of it!

My son liked it though. Mr. MarthaAndMe said they were “ok”. I wanted to put my head on the table and weep at that – 2 days of tending to these beans and all it got was an ok. My advice? Buy the canned beans and doctor them up yourself. This was ridiculous.

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Chicken Salad Pita

July 30, 2009

Chicken salad is a great summer meal – no oven, no big heavy piece of meat on your plate, plus you can tell yourself that you’re just having a salad. Martha has a recipe for Chicken Salad with Tomatoes and Cucumber in August Martha Stewart Living. It sounded like a nice light meal.

chick salad pita 2I poached my chicken – the recipe says to cook it in the oven, but I prefer poaching for this kind of salad. Then you mix it with tomato and cukes that have been salted and drained, yogurt which has been drained, and add lemon juice, garlic and mint and oregano. Serve it on a pita with lettuce.

I loved this. The yogurt is much lighter than traditional mayo in the salad and the fresh herbs give it some pop. I like the tomato and cuke in it as well. This chick salad pitais a great recipe, easy to pull together and very tasty. It also takes great just by itself without the pita.

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Buttermilk Potato Salad

July 29, 2009

buttermilk potatoWhenever I make something with buttermilk, I think that I need to use it more often. I made Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Buttermilk Potato Salad (August Martha Stewart Living). Obviously, if it’s Lucinda it will be a winner. And it was.

I was really intrigued by this recipe. You’re supposed to use baby red potatoes, but I used regular and just cut them up. You mix the cooked potatoes with creme fraiche (so different!), buttermilk, horseradish, dill, chives and salt. OMG it was fabulous. So much lighter tasting than a mayo based potato salad and the herbs give it a nice flavor. The buttermilk adds a hint of tangy-ness which is perfect. I went light on the horseradish (not to mention the jar I have is rather old) but it did add a nice flavor to it. This is a truly amazing recipe and I’ll definitely turn to it again.

When is Lucinda going to break free and write her own cookbook? Everything that woman cooks is gold.

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Seafood Bake

July 28, 2009

I got one of Martha’s daily emails about a Grilled New England Seafood “Bake.” There’s something about New England in the summer…. I had to make it.  I was imagining myself on a rocky coast in front of a fire with the tide going out and the smell of salt water and seaweed in the air. Well, if I couldn’t really be there, at least I could pretend my dinner was from there.

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

This fabulous little recipe is something you MUST make. I don’t say that very often, but I’m giving this one 100 stars.

You start with red potatoes. Martha says to use baby reds. I had regular reds, so I sliced them and parboiled them. The recipe does not say to parboil, but I just can’t see the potatoes getting done any other way, so definitely do that.

You put the potatoes on the foil. Then you add cod and shrimp and some sections of corn on the cob. Mix up some butter with garlic and dill (I melted the butter – Martha says to make it soft). Pour that on top. Put some lemon slices on top. Seal up your packets and stick them on the grill for 12-14 minutes.

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

Mine were perfectly done. Martha says to dump them out into a bowl. We just opened the packets up on our plates and ate right out of them. Oh, it was wonderful. I can see making this with other ingredients – throw in some clams or mussels or maybe a lobster tail that’s been halved.  Sigh. This is making me hungry all over again.  It was really, really good.

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Kale Slaw

July 27, 2009

kale slawI have not been a very big fan of kale in the past, but Lucinda has a recipe for Kale Slaw with Peanut Dressing in August Martha Stewart Living, so of course I had to try it since I trust Lucinda implicitly.

You slice the kale very, very thinly – and I think this is an important part of the recipe, so make sure you do it!

You cut up some red pepper and carrot and mix it with the kale and some peanuts.

The dressing is simple – oil, vinegar, peanuts, brown sugar and salt in the Cuisinart. It comes out pretty thick, like a thin peanut butter.

Toss it all up and somehow it becomes this amazing delicious salad. I could not get enough of this and had 2 helpings of it. The peanut dressing combined with the very thinly cut kale makes for a very tender and interesting salad.  I didn’t even know I was eating kale and I enjoyed this very much.

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BBQ Pork Chops

July 25, 2009

BBQ pork chopsThe August issue of Martha Stewart Living has a recipe for Barbecued Pork-Shoulder Chops (a Lucinda recipe). I could not find shoulder chops, so I used regular loin.

You start by rubbing the chops with garlic, sage and salt and letting it sit for 2 hours. Then you are supposed to pour lager over it. I substituted apple juice. Let that sit again, then grill with a barbecue sauce.

The chops were moist and very tasty. I’ve never actually put BBQ sauce on pork chops before and it was a good match. I didn’t feel as though I really tasted the garlic, sage or apple juice, but I think they all contributed to the depth of the flavor.

My mom (Big MarthaAndMe) likes to say that you can’t buy a good pork chop these days. They used to be juicier and more flavorful. I don’t remember chops any other way than they are today, but I do find that they always taste better if you do some kind of marinade with them before cooking. This was a pretty good one and one to keep in my bag of pork chop tricks.

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Hawaiian Quilts

July 24, 2009

H quilt2I love the piece in August Martha Stewart Living about Hawaiian quilt-inspired designs. We went to Hawaii last summer and I brought home a quilt and a quilted throw pillow cover. The quilt is the breadfruit pattern. It hangs on a quilt rack with a quilt from my grandmother.  I bought it at an amazing little artisan shop in a village outside of Akaka Falls. The throw pillow usually sits on a chair in my bedroom. I bought the pillow at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Fortunately, my bedroom is in a pastel floral style and these items work well there. I think that Hawaiian quilt patterns are beautiful, but they don’t work in every home.

The article suggests stenciling cushions for an outdoor chaise with this type of pattern and that would be gorgeous I think. Fitting these patterns into other decor is difficult I think. I love that I brought these pieces of the islands home with us and they remind me of our trip there.

H quilt1

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Grilled Trout with Oregano

July 23, 2009

troutI was in Mother Hubbard mode (bare pantry) just before vacation, but I ran out to the store to buy some things to eat in the day or two before we left. The trout in the fish department looked good, so I bought two.

I usually grill trout with some dill and lemon on it. I decided to give Martha a shot at cooking my trout and searched her site. I came up with Grilled Trout with Oregano.  Martha says to season the trout with salt and pepper (I must confess, I never put salt and pepper on fish when I make it, but I did try it this time) and place some lemon rings and oregano sprigs on the fish. I always grill fish on a little non-stick grill sheet that has round holes in it, so the fish doesn’t fall through the grill.

Trout cooks very quickly on the grill. When it was done, Martha directed me to sprinkle some olive oil on it. I would never do that on my own either.

The results? Very tasty, although I like it better with just dill and lemon. Seasoning with salt and pepper did give it some added flavor. I thought the olive oil was superfluous – this fish was already moist. It didn’t need extra oil. The oregano added no flavor since it just sat on top and was removed when we ate it. It did look very pretty though.

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Dark Chocolate Cookies

July 22, 2009

I held back as long as I could, but finally gave in and made the Dark Chocolate Cookies (Martha Stewart Living, July issue).  I have a thing about dark chocolate. A big thing. I don’t really like milk chocolate and I definitely don’t like white chocolate, but dark chocolate is the nectar of the gods. This recipe had been singing its siren song to me since the issue arrived.

dark choc cookiesI got down to business. First, I made the dough. This is a sandwich cookie. You mix up the dough then Martha says to freeze it for 15 minutes.  Here’s the first problem. It needs to freeze for much longer. My cookies came out misshapen and smushed because they would not hold their shape. I kept putting the dough back in the freezer and trying again. The dough stuck to the rolling pin, to the counter, to the cutter, and to me. Teen Martha was in the room as I was working on this and laughed as I had a few choice words to say about Martha and her recipes as I was struggling.

Once I had finished cutting out my cookie rounds (most of which looked likedark choc cookies1 footballs), they went into the freezer for another 15 minutes before baking.  It took one full hour from the time I started this recipe until I could put the cookies in the oven. And I must admit having the oven on for that hour on a hot July day simply added to my crankiness. Let me also say this – do not attempt to make Martha’s cookies unless you have a chest freezer.  Our fridge is a side by side, and cookie sheets do not fit in it. I had to trot down to the basement to the chest freezer with these cookie sheets.

dark choc cookies 2Once in the oven, the cookies baked pretty much on schedule. The instruction to bake until they are firm on the edges is a good and useful one.

Now for the filling. Several weeks ago, in anticipation of this recipe, I bought a bar of dark chocolate. I went to get it out only to find Teen Martha had used most of it to make brownies. Sigh. I had 2 ounces, but needed 4. I ended up using some good quality semi-sweet chocolate to make up the difference.

The filling is easy to make. You heat cream, sugar and salt and then pour it over the chocolate and let it sit. You stir it and then let it cool. Very easy.

Once the cookies and filling were cooled, I assembled the cookies. The recipe says it makes 30. I didn’t count, but I think I got about 20 maybe.  Make sure you stick these in the fridge right after you assemble them because the filling tends to run out and make a mess.

The taste test? Very yummy. The cookies are not very crisp (not like an Oreo), but that was ok. The filling is creamy and chocolatey (and would be better if I had used all dark chocolate!). I enjoyed these, but this was an awful lot of work for about 20 cookies.  It took most of an afternoon. Too much time, not a big enough pay off. Now, if someone were to serve these to me, I would eat them happily, but I don’t think I’ll be making them again.

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Risotto with Zucchini and Peas

July 21, 2009

zucchini risottoFaced with a zucchini in my vegetable drawer and no good ideas on how to use it, I turned to Martha’s site and ran a search for zucchini. I found a recipe for Risotto with Zucchini and Peas. I’ve made risotto with lots of different ingredients, but never zucchini. This was a basic risotto recipe, except you cook the zucchini in the pan first, then remove them before getting started with the onion, rice and then broth. You add the zucchini and peas in at the end.

I loved this recipe. I am on a quest to add more vegetables into our diet and sticking them in something fabulous like risotto is a great way to eat them without feeling cranky and deprived.  The risotto was creamy. The zucchini kind of melted into the background – you taste the peas more than it. I would use some water in place of some of the broth in this – it had a very strong chicken broth flavor. The kids weren’t around for this, but Mr. MarthaAndMe ate his happily. This has made me wonder what else I could add to risotto in the future.

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