A New Twist on Corn

July 11, 2009

corn zucchiniAlthough local corn is not yet available here, we do have a lot of decent corn in the stores that is brought in from God knows where. August is corn season here, so I was happy to see all the great ideas for corn in July/August Martha Stewart Everyday Food. I tend to just cook corn on the cob or grill it. I don’t usually do much else with it. I had a few ears of corn hanging around, so I decided to whip up Corn and Zucchini Saute with Basil.

This was a quick dish to make. You slice zucchini and saute with garlic briefly. Then you cut the corn off the cob and add that. Add in some basil and some vinegar at the end and you’re done. I enjoyed this. I think it would be a great thing to whip up with some leftover corn. I’m not sure I would rush out to buy the ingredients just to make this dish, but as a way to use leftovers, I highly recommend it.

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July 10, 2009

You know how some families have holiday meal favorites like green bean casserole or candied sweet potatoes? In my family we have gougere. My parents were galloping 70s gourmets, so it’s no surprise that a treasured family recipe would be a French pastry hors d’oevre.

Martha has a recipe for Gougeres with Parmesan and Black Pepper in July Martha Stewart Living. A new twist on an old family favorite? I was excited. In my family, gougere is served as an hors d’oevre, but I whipped this up one night to have instead of bread with dinner (and here I must comment on the overall Martha project – never in a million years would I have seen myself casually whipping up Gougere for a week night dinner. This is what Martha has done to me!)

Gougere might seem a little imposing to make if you’ve never done it, but actually it’s really easy. Martha has included this in the magazine as part of the French cooking lesson and the instructions involve a mixer. Bah. I do it by hand and it’s very fast. First you boil butter, water, sugar and salt. Stir in flour until it pulls away from the sides and makes a film on the bottom of the pan. Then you stir in eggs until it becomes glossy and smooth. This all happens very, very quickly.

gougere1Martha’s instructions say to use a pastry bag. Bah. I just use a spoon. My mom often makes a ring of gougere which is very pretty. Martha says to brush them with egg wash and sprinkle salt and pepper and parmesan cheese on them. Then you bake them. This is essentially a cream puff dough, so it puffs up when it bakes very nicely.

As for taste? This is not a winner in my book, simply because it cannot compete with the family recipe. If you make this, I suggest you put the cheese IN the puffs, not on top where you can’t taste it. I didn’t care for the pepper on it either. Other than that though, these puffed up nicely and were very pretty. gougere2

Because I believe it is far superior, I am going to share the family gougere recipe, which I think is head and shoulders over Martha’s:

Big MarthaAndMe’s Gougere

1 cup hot water

1/2 cup butter

1 cup flour

4 3ggs

1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dry mustard

Preheat the oven to 450. Combine water and butter and bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat. Add the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball. Add eggs one at a time and beat with spoon until smooth and shiny. Add the rest of the ingredients.  Form clumps on baking sheet into a ring, so they touch each other. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and bake until puffy and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

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Catch Me on Martha Stewart Morning Living

July 9, 2009

I’ll be on Martha Stewart Radio Morning Living Live (Sirius XM) on Monday morning at 7:40 a.m.  Please join me! I’ll be talking about a very exciting and life-changing result of my blog.

Asian Meal

July 9, 2009

Part of what I’m trying to do with this project is to channel Martha. It’s one thing to do recipes and projects created by MSLO, but another to find a way to live Martha in your own life with your own ideas. I feel as though the longer I work on this project, the more Martha I become.

bok choy saladLast night I decided to make the Bok Choy Salad from July Martha Stewart Living. This was super simple – chop up some bok choy, add cashews and mix up a very quick Asian dressing. But what to have with it?

I was in the mood for potstickers, so I sniffed around Martha’s site to look for a recipe. I didn’t see one that met my needs, so I made my own. I defrosted some ground turkey and mixed in chopped garlic and scallions and grated ginger and added tamari sauce. I had some wonton wrappers in the freezer so I did a quick defrost. They were apotstickers bit misshapen  – not round or oval, but a weird shape from being bounced around in the freezer, so I made do. Instead of your typical half moon potsticker, I smushed them up into little beggar’s purses and cooked them. I love making potstickers – sear the bottom, then add water and cover it so the steam cooks them. Very fun and quick.

I also whipped up a lo mein dish. I had a chunk of leftover chicken and also some leftover broccoli from the composed salad from the day before. I boiled lo meinsome soba noodles and added those ingredients as well as some scallion and bean sprouts. I had a bottle of stir fry sauce (Martha would be horrified) and dumped that on.

This was a very quick meal. The bok choy salad was ok, but I’m giving it a thumbs up because it was nice to have some raw veggies in an Asian meal. The lo mein was good and very fast since everything was already pre-cooked. The potstickers were heaven. You would never guess they were made with turkey and they had a wonderful ginger and garlic flavor. The bottom were crunchy and the tops soft. Simply perfect!

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A Martha Composition

July 8, 2009

composed saladIn the July issue of Martha Stewart Living, Martha has a recipe for Composed Salad of Roasted Broccoli, Romaine, Chickpeas and Walnuts.

Sound complicated? It was. This salad had 6 components, all of which required separate work (2 baking sheets, one saute pan, three spatulas, a collander, a cutting board, a knife,  a Cuisinart, measuring spoons, and a jar for mixing up the dressing, not to mention 3 bowls for serving and a platter).

First I roasted the broccoli with oil. Next I cooked a shallot and the chickpeas. Then I candied the pecans (my substitution for walnuts). Then I made the goat cheese puree and the vinaigrette. Whew.  It was a lot of work. Next I washed the lettuce and tried to put it all together like Martha’s photo. By this time I felt like I had cooked an entire meal and all I had was a salad.

Now, the real question is how did it taste? The family’s reaction to this one was a lot of head scratching. We each took a big lettuce leaf and piled the other ingredients on, then cut it up and tried to mix it or toss it on our plates. Once you get that done, it does taste pretty good, but it wasn’t out of this world fantastic by any means. And it was messy because things fall of your plate as you’re trying to mix it. My teen’s assessment? “Dumb.”

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Wooden Crates

July 7, 2009
original condition

original condition

I inherited two old wooden dry 4 quart measuring crates (used for measuring things like apples) that were owned and used by my great grandfather, Washington Columbus Thompson (quite a name, right?).  Wash used to take these to market – and the story goes that he slept all the way there and the horse knew the way. I’ve been pondering what to do with them and looking to Martha for inspiration.

First, they needed to be cleaned since they had been sitting in a crawl space for about 40 years. A friend suggested I vacuum them, which sounded nuts, but actually was a great idea. I got all the loose dirt off this way. Next, I used some Murphy’s Oil

after cleaning

after cleaning

Soap diluted with some water and just wiped them down. Wow! Were they dirty! You can’t really tell in the photo, but they really cleaned up quite well. The sink was full of absolutely black water when I was done.

The next question was what would I do with them. I could use them to put a plant in (in a plastic pot), but for now I decided to put them under a table in



our family room. crates4 I might stick poinsettias in them during the holidays, but for now, they are visible and are an interesting item to display.

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Martha’s Barbecue Revenge

July 6, 2009

bbq chickenWe spent the 4th with my parents and did chicken on the grill. I made Martha’s classic barbecue sauce, from July/Aug Everyday Food. What’s funny is Martha had another classic BBQ sauce recipe in June Living but I never got around to it. This one was slightly simpler – requiring a 2 hour cook time as opposed to a 3 hour cook time, and fewer ingredients.

I always make my own barbecue sauce, but I always start with ketchup and usually add mustard, brown sugar, vinegar, garlic salt and Worchestershire. Simple and easy and my kids like it.

Martha’s recipe starts with canned tomato sauce and includes onion, garlic, ground mustard, molasses, Worchestershire, vinegar and salt and pepper. It was easy to make and had to simmer for 2 hours. I tasted it after it had cooked and was not happy. There is no sugar in this recipe at all and it really needed some. So I dumped in brown sugar and that helped a bit. It still tasted very spicy to me – I guess from the ground mustard.  I hoped it would mellow a bit as it sat for a few days until the 4th.

On the 4th my dad did the grilling. My parents had their own barbecue sauce and we had Martha’s on organic chicken breasts. The verdict? Thumbs down. The kids did not like it at all and said it tasted too tomato-y. I thought it was just not good in general and I agree it tasted very tomato-y yet somehow a bit bland at the same time. I’ve got a big container of this left and am not sure if I will freeze it or just dump it. It was a disappointment for sure.

I typed this post then went downstairs to get the camera so I could get the photo. I made breakfast while I was there. I opened the fridge to get the eggs, and the big container of Martha’s barbecue sauce fell out and exploded all over the kitchen. What a mess! So I guess that is payback for dissing the sauce!

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What Would Martha Do?

July 5, 2009

I’m working my way through the items I inherited from my grandmother and I have been asking myself, What Would Martha Do, to help me find creative display methods.

I’m puzzled by a few items. Maybe you can tell me what you think Martha would do with them.

tpwelFirst up is this tea towel. It’s made of a very nicely textured linen and it is hand stitched. It’s likely my grandmother stitched it (or maybe her mother). It is slightly yellowed, but is generally in very good condition. I would never use it for dishes. It’s rather large to frame. Any ideas?  The only thing I can come up with is to make it into a throw pillow, but I’m not sure where I would put it. What do you think Martha would do? I think it is beautiful and would like to find a way to use it.

picnic basketNext up is the picnic basket.  It is a regrettably bright yellow color, but it’s very old, with a hinged top. My mom remembers my grandmother using it when she was a kid for family picnics. It seems to me that stripping this would be a Herculean task because of the woven wood. I don’t think you could ever get in between the strips of wood to clean it all off. So what would Martha do? Paint it another color (white? blue?)? And what would she do with it? I can see Martha placing this in a guest bathroom and filling it with towels and toiletries. That sounds great, but it won’t work in my house since we have one bath, the kids have a bath and there is a small half bath downstairs.  Tell me what you think Martha would do!

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An Interesting Collection

July 4, 2009

knife holderSomething very cool that I inherited from my grandmother is a set of crystal butter knife rests. Unfortunately, there are only 3, so maybe someday I will run across some others to buy. I don’t know why I am so fascinated with these, but they strike me as charmingly old fashioned. It must have been uncouth to rest your knife on your plate. The idea was to keep the butter knife from touching the tablecloth and staining it (and after seeing the damask tableclothes my grandmother had that need serious ironing and care,  I understand).

shellsMy grandparents wintered in Florida for over 20 years, and they went to the beach every day. In the beginning, they loved to collect shells and I brought home a big bowl full of perfect shells from their house that they had found. I have no idea what to do with these though. We have lots of shells that we have collected ourselves, but these are in amazing condition. I already have some shells on display in a bathroom. Any suggestons of what to do with these?

I have to tell my favorite story about my grandfather. Because they went to the beach every day for many years, they soon had more shells than they knew what to do with.  My grandfather soon hit upon the idea of taking shells he found and sticking them partially in the sand near where he was sitting and then he would sit and wait for someone to find it. He used to love to see their excitement and joy at finding a perfect, beautiful shell and for him that was much more entertaining that taking yet another shell home.

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More on the Grandmother Project

July 2, 2009

Since my grandmother passed away, I’ve been sorting through the items I inherited and looking for ways to use them or display them. I have made some progress.

Yesterday I went to the jewelry store with a pile of old clip on earrings, many ivory which my grandmother bought in Africa, as well as some sparkly costume jewelry earrings. They are going to convert the earrings to posts so that my daughter and I can wear them. I also took a little ivory carving of a group of elephants. It had two little holes in the back of it and the jeweler said it must have been a pin. He’s going to attach it to a tie bar for my son, so that he can have a piece of jewelry as well. I’ll post photos once I get it all back. The jeweler did warn me that many of the earrings are made with lead, so they aren’t something you want to wear on a daily basis (yikes!).

doily stiffenI have a big box of doilies and dresser scarves (many of which my grandmother made) which I’ve been pondering. I decided to search Martha’s site for inspiration. I found this project which involves stiffening doilies and hanging them in a window. While that is a great idea for winter, it isn’t a year round display that works for me. I decided instead that I would frame a doily, but that project gave me the idea to stiffen the material first. So off I went to Michael’s where I bought some liquid fabric stiffener (which oddly enough they do not keep in the fabric/sewing area) and painted it on the doily, which I had placed on parchment.  It turned out very stiff. I can’t seem to find a frame though. I need a big square one. I guess I’ll need to do some online searching for that.  I think I’ll put a dark background behind it so that the doily pops.

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