Cream of Broccoli Soup

July 20, 2009

broc soupBroccoli is one word I can never spell correctly! I always want to do one ‘c’ and two ‘l’s. Just because I can’t spell it doesn’t mean I don’t like to eat it though! It’s one of my favorite vegetables. I remember craving it when I was pregnant. And even when I was at a stage where I couldn’t eat cooked vegetables (they all had to be raw – my poor husband!) I still liked cooked broccoli.

I found myself with a nearly bare fridge one night and dinner rapidly approaching. I had just cleaned out the vegetable drawer which was in a distinctly non-Martha state – lots of rotten things hiding at the bottom.  There wasn’t much to choose from once the purge was over, so I turned to Martha for inspiration.  I got out Martha Stewart’s Cooking School cookbook and looked up every remaining vegetable I had left in the index, hoping for a brilliant idea. I hit the jackpot with broccoli.

I remember when the book came out and Martha did a segment on her show about cream soups that actually had no cream in them. Seemed a bit odd to me, but I never got around to trying it. The time was right.

Martha says to cook onions in butter then add flour and cook briefly. Add chicken broth and cook to a boil. This did make a very nicely thickened soup base that was very creamy looking. Next you add your broccoli to the soup and cook it in the soup, then use a hand blender to puree it.

This is totally different from how I’ve made broccoli soup in the past. I usually steam the broccoli then chop it up in the Cuisinart and add it to the soup. I like Martha’s method better for sure.

I did add some cream at the end (Martha said it was optional). I also felt the soup was a little bland, so I added some thyme and some grated white cheddar which livened it up a lot.

This soup had a smooth, creamy texture and a very nice fresh flavor to it. It was very easy and fast to make – you can get this done in half an hour or less. I was amazed that both kids ate it – and then asked for more! I almost fell off my chair. Broccoli is the one vegetable they will both eat, but even though they are 17 and 11, they normally insist on only nibbling at the tops of the florets and not eating any stem. This is a sneaky way to get them to eat more of it.  I’ll definitely make this soup again.

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Cedar Chest Mystery

July 19, 2009

chestOne of the items I inherited from my grandmother is an old cedar chest. We found it in her basement, covered in cobwebs.  It got my attention because it is on legs. As you can see, there is a piece broken off (but we have it, so it can be repaired).

When I got it home I opened it up to really investigate. I was completely stunned to see the original paperwork still attached to the inside of the lid. This is a Caswell-Runyan Treasure Chest made of red cedar. A little Googling led to me to discover this was a company founded by two women that was popular in the 1930s (my grandparents married in 1933 so this makes sense). The chest doesn’t have a patent number I can see (there may be one on the bottom, but I haven’t crawled under there yet).

I really like the design of this chest a lot and would like to have it refinished.  Martha would know how to do it herself, but this is so old and in need of so much work that I need to find a professional.

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Ripe Tomato Award Inspires Good Thing Award

July 18, 2009

ripetomatoaward1-292x300Thank you to Ron S. Doyle for picking MarthaAndMe for a Ripe Tomato Award! How cool is that?  Here is how Ron describes the award:

“Sharing Blog Awards was started by A Traveler’s Library as a way to acknowledge bloggers who have acknowledged your blog and then pay it forward to 15 other bloggers. And the magical number 15 is involved. Don’t ask why it’s magic—asking why is like asking a magician for his secrets—just trust in the mystery, be grateful, and pay it forward.”

I appreciate it very much Ron and I am definitely going to pay it forward. I’m going to award the MarthaAndMe Good Thing Blog Award to my 15 picks for martha awardblogs I love:

Ms. Bookish: Think you read a lot of books? Once you check out this site you’ll feel like a slacker. The sheer number of books that go through Belle Wong’s house is astounding. I like to hear what she’s reading, what she’s writing, and what she’s giving away.

Suddenly Frugal: Leah Ingram’s great blog with more money-saving ideas than you could ever imagine. There’s a book to follow it soon.

The Cookie Blog: A cookie a day keeps the Dr away. At least that’s what this blog’s message might be. Every day there is a new cookie. It’s heaven.

My Baking Addiction: I gain weight just looking at the delicious things on this blog.

La Dolce Vita: Fabulous recipes and gorgeous photos

The Perfect Pantry: Sneak peeks into other people’s pantries (love this!) as well great recipes.

Jeff and Martha: Jeff is cooking his way through Martha Stewart’s Cooking School book in one year.

House Blend: The scoop on Martha’s latest doings as well as recipes and great decorating.

Martha Moments: Scoops about Martha, but also a very thoughtful and beautiful analysis of her magazines, homes, etc.

Make and Takes: Cool craft projects made easy

Cooking with Amy: Great recipes and food writing

The Brown Eyed Baker: This one always makes me hungry with it’s amazing recipes and photos

Geezer Sisters: Ruminations by a woman of a certain age – sometimes funny, sometimes thought-provoking, always worth reading.

J the Travel Authority: She goes to all the places I want to visit. If only she would take me with her!

Martha Stewart Living Radio Blog: Truly awesome blog with great recipes and ideas. It’s beyond a blog – almost a magazine.

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Quick Summer Pasta

July 17, 2009

summer pastaLucinda Scala Quinn, you are a genius. Lucinda is a host of Everyday Food and a bigwig at MSLO. Whenever I see something from her, I know it’s going to be good.

In the July/Aug issue of Everyday Food, Lucinda appears on page 124 “Everyday Food on TV” with an idea for a quick summer pasta. It’s not even a recipe, just instructions for to throw together. Basically she says to cook angel hair pasta and then toss it with fresh herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice, cream and salt and pepper. This was SO incredibly easy to make and it was delicious – fresh and light tasting. I love ideas like this that are simple and quick but have amazing taste. You can use any herbs you have. I added a little Parmesan cheese (pasta requires cheese!) but not much at all. Give this one a try – you’ll love it!

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So Proud of Myself

July 16, 2009

bathroom artWe recently redid our bathroom, which was a nightmare to live through, but I love the end result. I went with a blue and green color scheme – beachy colors.

I bought this piece of art at an art show in FL – it’s a beach scene painting with a tiny starfish, tiny sand dollar (which you can’t really see in this photo due to the flash- sorry), and two tiny shells.  I loved it when I saw it because of the color scheme, the watercolor style and the real shells glued on. I got it home and knew I wanted it to go in the bathroom, but wasn’t sure what to do with it. Eventually I realized I had larger versions of three of the shells that are glued to the painting. So I bought a shadow box, put the painting in it and then stood my three corresponding shells up on the bottom. I’m actually quite proud of this and I love how it turned out. I felt very Martha coming up with and executing this.

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Perfect Roast Chicken

July 15, 2009

perfect chick1I love roast chicken. The way it smells when it cooks, the way the skin gets crispy, the white meat, and then picking at the remains at the end of dinner. The thing about roast chicken is that you put it on the table and you feel as though you’ve made a real MEAL. Martha has a recipe for what she called Perfect Roast Chicken, in Martha Stewart’s Cooking School cookbook.

You fill the cavity with some lemon slices, garlic and rosemary. You’re supposed to truss the chicken, but I had no twine!! Egad. Martha never runs out of twine.

The interesting thing about this recipe is the oven temp. Martha says to roast

Pan sauce

Pan sauce

a 4 lb chicken at 450 degrees for 50-55 minutes. Usually I roast chickens at 350. It seemed really hot, but I have to say that it did work. The chicken got a bit dark on the top, however. It was very crisp and it did cook all the way through. The chicken was really, really moist, so I’m going to use this technique again. I’ve made chickens with lemon and garlic in them before, and as always, it doesn’t seem to flavor the meat at all as far as I can tell. That part is frustrating.

The family approved of this, although we had the usual squabbling about who was getting what type of meat. My son used to be a drumstick guy, but now he and his sister both  insist on white meat, as do I . Mr. MarthaAndMe is the only one who will eat the rest, so I either need to start making two chickens or make an additional chicken breast to go along with it.

Chicken and sauce

Chicken and sauce

Next Martha says to make a pan sauce. You cook the pan drippings with white wine until reduced then add some butter. It was a quick sauce to whip up, but it was so thin and very greasy. I would much rather have gravy. No one was wild about this sauce.

Was this a perfect roast chicken? I wouldn’t call it perfect, but I would say it was darn good.

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The Basket Project

July 14, 2009

I’m continuing to work through what I call the Grandmother Project, as I seek out ways to use, preserve, and enjoy the special items I inherited when my 99 year old grandmother passed.



Two items that came home with me were baskets. The first is a very old two-handled, hinged picnic basket. My mom remembers my grandmother using this for family picnics years ago. It was a really hideous yellow (and I discovered there was a layer of green paint underneath that!). This basket seemed to me like something Martha would have great ideas about using. I posted about this a few weeks ago, asking for suggestions. So many of you sent me great ideas – thank you so much for inspiring me! The first thing I did was clean it. I took a damp cloth and thoroughly wiped it all over. It was dirty!



Next, I spray painted it white. It took an entire can of white spray paint and honestly, I probably should have ran out and bought another can to give it one more coat, but I didn’t have a chance.  I put the basket on my front porch, next to my white wicker furniture, with flowers in it. Next year I’m going to buy a nice oblong planter that will completely fill the basket and fill it with flowers that will grow and drape over the side, but for now this geranium brings it to life.

plant basketNext up is another picnic basket. This one is from my childhood. This is the basket my grandmother used to take on picnics with me. We often went to the park to have lunch. This is also what I think of as The Kitten Basket. My grandfather and his brother ran a greenhouse. Every spring the mama kitty that lived in the greenhouse had kittens. My grandmother would bring this basket with a towel in it and walk me over to the greenhouse. My grandfather would have already scoped out where the mama kitty was hiding her babies (often it was behind the boiler) and he would climb into wherever it was and get them out for me. We would put them in the basket and carry it back to my grandmother’s house where I would put the kittens out on a blanket in her sunroom and play with them. I can only imagine what the poor mama kitty thought about this!

So, as you can see, this basket has great sentimental value to me. I wanted to find a way to make it a part of my house. I decided to use it as a plant basket. I layered the bottom with plastic to protect it, then I set a plant pot in it. I’m going to carefully water it so that the basket does not get damaged.  It makes me happy every time I look at it.

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The Martha Diet

July 13, 2009

As I announced this morning on Martha Stewart Radio Morning Living Live (Sirius XM), I’ve lost 13 pounds on what I’m calling The Martha Diet (and if you heard me on the radio, would you email them and say you enjoyed it? Here’s the link– in the middle of the page over to the right, it says “send email). I’ve tried lots of diets in my life and this is really the easiest weight loss I’ve ever experienced. There’s no gimmick, no crazy restrictions and I’m not even counting calories. I’m not paying anyone (nor is anyone paying me!) and I’m not buying bad food or going to support groups. I’m making delicious, wonderful food and I’m also making and eating desserts. How is this possible?

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I committed to giving my life a Martha Stewart makeover. I entered into a one year commitment wherein I would do at least one Martha project or Martha-ish project per day – cooking, crafting, decorating, organizing, etc.

The weight loss started without me even really noticing. A few pounds just fell off because I was cooking and eating Martha food. I finally noticed what was up and thought about it. I’m giving my life a Martha makeover, but what about my body? Maybe I should include that in my plan. Martha takes very good care of herself – she makes it a priority to eat well, exercise, and stay healthy. It’s a priority for her and maybe it should be for me too, I thought.

Now if you are a Martha follower, you know that each January she promotes a Body and Soul diet. Frankly, I never quite understood it. I didn’t feel as though I could really find the program anywhere in one concise place (she talked about in Body and Soul Magazine, on her show, and on her site, but it never felt cohesive to me). This is not the Body and Soul diet. In fact, it’s not really a diet at all. I’ve changed how I buy, make, eat and think about food because of Martha.

Here are some of the basic tenets of what I’ve been doing:

– I always ask myself “Would Martha eat this?” if the answer is no, then I don’t either. That means no soda, junk food, prepared foods, etc.

– I shop like Martha. I buy fresh ingredients and usually they are for Martha recipes I plan to make.

– I still make dessert! But I think about it like Martha does. Desserts are for sharing. I love to make them and taste them, but Martha does not make a pan of brownies and let it sit on her kitchen counter all week so she can slowly eat her way though it. She makes things, enjoys them, and shares them. So I give away the desserts I make, after I have had a piece to enjoy.

– Throughout the day, I try to think about food like Martha does. She loves fruits and vegetables, fish, chicken, whole grains and other healthy things, prepared in ways that are beautiful, elegant and delicious. I find that because I am cooking wonderful food, I no longer crave junky things. I feel fulfilled and satisfied because the food I am eating fills my emotional and physical needs.

– I eat a real breakfast. For years, I had Cheerios for breakfast. Now I eat eggs, fruit or yogurt for breakfast and I feel full longer. One day on her show, Martha showed the audience and viewers a tray containing her breakfast. That really inspired me.

– I eat a fruit and a vegetable with lunch. I also used to eat a lot of leftovers for lunch, but because the foods I make for dinner are so healthy, my leftovers are good for me. On the show, Martha has often exclaimed while cooking that she would be saving a piece or a serving of whatever it was to have for her lunch that day. So now I eat salads, fish, fruit, cheese, and a small amount of carbs for lunch.

– I drink a lot of water throughout the day. If I snack, I do so on fruits, nuts or cheese. I find that they satisfy every craving I have – sweet, salty, or filling.

I feel wonderful and healthy. And of course I am exercising. I’ve been walking 3 miles a day for years, but I’m trying to mix it up with swimming, kayaking, badminton, and other fun things so that I sneak in more exercise while I am having fun.

I’ll keep everyone posted about my progress and share more insights and secrets as I go along! This feels like a big life change for me and I want to share it with you as I move forward.

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Martha Stewart Morning Living Live Monday

July 12, 2009

Join me Monday (July 13) on Martha Stewart radio on Sirius XM for Morning Living Live at 7:30 a.m. The gals who host this show are terrific so if you’ve never listened, I know you will enjoy them. Also, I’ll be sharing some exciting news about my Martha project with them.  I hope you can listen!

Sundaes and Spoon Cookies

July 12, 2009

The dessert of the month in July Martha Stewart Living is Vanilla-Raspberry Sundaes with Spoon-Shaped Cookies. I must admit, I ignored this recipe for weeks. There’s not much baking involved – just some cookies. The rest is assembling a sundae. And I have to confess, I thought the spoon cookies were stupid. So I ignored, but finally I gave in and made it.

cookiesspoon2The cookie dough was easy to make. After chilling, I rolled it out and tried to cut out the cookies. I cut out the template, but the middle part where it curves in felt like it was too thin, so I wanted to make them a bit bigger. As you can tell, I’m not very talented at cutting things out of dough without a template!

I baked the cookies and then once they were cool, assembled the sundaes. I used strawberry sorbet instead of raspberry. Make sure you let your ice cream and sorbet soften a bit before you scoop it so you can get it to smush together.

cookiespoon3The sundaes were really pretty when assembled. I didn’t think I would like this, but I did. I thought the cookie spoons would break and get mushy. They actually did work and I liked the taste of the sundae with the cookie. This was yummy and really a very easy dessert to make.  Nice one, Martha!

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