Lemon Meringue Soup

August 31, 2009

lem mering1In retrospect, I should have just used my grandmother’s trusted family recipe for lemon meringue pie. It works, it’s delicious, and there’s no roll of the dice involved. Instead, I used Martha’s recipe from September Martha Stewart Everyday Food. For a dinner with my in-laws. Oh dear.

It started innocently enough. I bought refrigerated pie crust. I know, it’s not Martha, but I was under a time crunch as well as some health issues, so I needed to simplify.

This lemon meringue pie recipe is part of an entire section of recipes lem mering2predicated on a lemon curd recipe. I get the concept of this (three desserts based on one basic recipe), but it was really quite annoying to flip back and forth between two pages to make this (“follow the recipe on page XX up to step one, then add X, Y and Z and then continue with the recipe”).

This is basically egg yolks, lemon juice, zest, sugar and cornstarch. I think this recipe is written wrong however. You are referred to the lemon curd recipe which says to cook until it coats the back of a spoon. It needs to cook longer and become much thicker lem mering3in my opinion to become pie filling.

I poured the lemon into the pie crust and refrigerated. Then we packed it in a cooler the next day to take to the lake house. On the way there, it shifted and part of the lemon filling slopped out all over the cooler. This was the first sign I should have abandoned this and just served store bought cookies.

I made the meringue topping and popped it in the oven. It came out looking beautiful, with no hint of the disaster that lay beneath. I went to serve this pie and all the lemon ran out. It did not set up at all. It was a plate of crust, lem meringcovered in soup with a floating meringue top. It all tasted ok, but it looked awful. Everyone was very nice about it of course and we ate it with spoons, but it was truly an unmitigated disaster. Sigh. I only make dinner for my in-laws once or twice a year and I try to make lovely food they will enjoy. What a disappointment this was.

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Chicken Taco Diatribe

August 30, 2009

chicken tacoI’ve got a bone to pick, but it’s not with Martha. It’s with the grocery store.

Earlier in the week, I went grocery shopping and bought ingredients for a few Martha dishes. I specifically bought avocado so I could made Roasted Chicken Tacos (Martha Stewart Everyday Food, September). There was a nice selection of avocados and some were marked “ripe”. Now, from what I could tell, none seemed ripe to me, but the ones marked “ripe” were closer than some of the other cement footballs in the bin. I brought my avocado home and let it sit out in the fruit bowl with the bananas (known to help ripen fruit) for two days. Finally, I was desperate for something to make for dinner. I had to rule out a salmon dish with a corn/tomato/avocado relish since I didn’t have any corn. I ruled out a fontina and mushroom turkey meatloaf because I had no mushrooms. My choices were dwindling and so I went with the chicken tacos. The sticker on the avocado says “ripe,” I rationalized. It must be at least close to ripe. Wrong.

I had some leftover fried chicken so I used that in place of the roasted chicken. This recipe has very few ingredients – cilantro ( had to use dried which is no real substitute but I was desperate for a dish I could make), onion, salt and pepper, lime juice and salt and pepper, and tortillas.  And of course the cursed avocado. I tried to cut the avocado in half. It was so hard it would not separate in the center. I ended up peeling the skin off and cutting avocado off around the edges. It was just nasty. It was woody and pulpy and awful.  The entire dinner I muttered under my breath about the ridiculousness of labeling this as ripe! I find they do this with other things too – peaches, nectarines, plums, etc. There is usually a bin of regular ones, then one marked “ripe now,” but they never are actually ripe. Nor are they close to ripe.I understand ripe fruit has a short shelf life. I understand they have to pick things unripe to allow for transportation time. I do know the reasons. But it doesn’t change my frustration.

The whole thing made me cranky and grumbly. How far in advance must one buy avocados?

Anyway, we went ahead and ate these, but they were not great. Even if the avocado had been ripe I would have given this a thumb’s down. It just needed something – salsa, cheese, tomato, sour cream, lettuce. Anything at all really would have helped.  It was very blah and did not feel like anything close to a real meal.

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Martha’s Pick: AmorePacific Cleansing Foam

August 29, 2009

amorepacificIn the September issue of Martha Stewart Living, Martha’s Pick (her personal recommendation) is AmorePacific Treatment Cleansing Foam. Martha enjoys its texture, according to the magazine. It’s meant to be a general cleanser which removes makeup and impurities (which I assume means dirt!). It’s supposed to reduce the appearance and severity of blemishes. Martha provides a link directly to the company, however they don’t have an online store, so I ended up ordering this from Sephora. It cost $54.38 including shipping, for 4.1 ounces.

This is a nice product. It does have a nice texture and it smells pleasant. It lathered nicely and my face felt clean, and not dry after using it. I used it for a week and didn’t notice any reduction in blemishes, although if that means acne, I don’t really have any to begin with.

I liked this, but I wouldn’t spend this much on a facial cleanser. I use an Oil of Olay cleanser that seems practically the same to me as this and costs under $10. I didn’t notice enough of a difference to pony up $40. If I was as rich as Martha, then yes, I guess I would.

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Flourless Double Chocolate Pecan Cookies

August 28, 2009

Anything that has “double chocolate” in the name is going to be a winner for me. Add the word “cookies” to that, and I am in tears of joy. Given this, clearly I had to make Martha’s Flourless Double Chocolate Pecan Cookies from September Martha Stewart Everyday Food.

This recipe is presented as one for special diets (i.e. gluten free), however there’s no reason anyone can’t make and enjoy this recipe. I was amazed at how easy this it was.

Whisking the dry ingredients

Whisking the dry ingredients

You whisk (to get the lumps out) together powdered sugar (3 c) and cocoa (3/4 c) and 1/2 tsp salt. Then stir in 4 oz of chopped bittersweet chocolate and 1 1/2 c chopped pecans. Stir in 4 egg whites and you’re done. Unbelievably simple and no creaming of butter and sugar. I found the egg whites a bit hard to mix in. It took a lot of work to combine, but I was doing it by hand.

Here’s my quibble with the recipe. Martha says to drop 1/4 cups of the dough onto a cookie sheet and bake at 325. Holy cow, that makes huge cookies. I would make these MUCH smaller. They would also take less time to bake then

The results

The results

(mine took 30 minutes even though Martha says 25).  They’re supposed to be done when the top crackles – mine crackled but were still mushy in the middle so I needed extra time. If you made them smaller they would bake faster and you could also eat one entire cookie without feeling like a giant pig.

These cookies were wonderful. If you bake them long enough, they are amazingly crispy and crunchy. They are very substantial though and do not feel like they are flourless. This is a recipe everyone can enjoy – and it is very simple to whip up!

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August 27, 2009

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Another Icebox Cake

August 27, 2009

pb icebox3I must admit, I’m really getting into the icebox cakes Martha has been having in her magazines. They’re easy to make and don’t require any baking. They’re perfect for summer.

This time I made  Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake from September Martha Stewart Everyday Food. This was another quick and simple dessert. You whip some heavy cream ( 1  1/2 c) with powdered sugar (1/3 c). Then you mix more cream (1/2 c) with smooth peanut butter (1/3 c) and fold the 2 cream mixtures together. You need a whole box of chocolate wafers. Create layers – lay down 6 cookies in a circle with one in the center and cover with 2/3 c of  the cream. Make another layer and so on. Reserve a few cookies to break in half and stand on the top of the cake and refrigerate. Wow! So easy but so good. This tasted like a decadent peanut butter pie. Mine may not have turned out as pb icebox2pretty as the one in the magazine, but it got high points from my taste-testers (as you can see, they got into it before I could take a photo of the cake as a whole). Everyone loved this – and I didn’t have to heat the kitchen up by using the oven.

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Homekeeping with Martha

August 26, 2009

I recently borrowed Martha’s Homekeeping Handbook from the library to investigate her complete homekeeping approach. I was trying to figure out who would buy this book. Maybe people buy it as a bridal shower gift? I don’t know. I found it interesting to page through, but it’s not something I would have looked at had I not been doing this Martha project.  There were some unexpected things in it – like how to buy a mattress – that would be very handy information to have. There were other things that had me scratching my head – like an entire illustrated section on different kinds of scrub brushes. Martha is always thorough though and this book certainly is.

I decided to take on two assignments from the book – Six Things to Do Everyday and Weekly Homekeeping. I decided to surrender myself to them for a week – do the daily tasks each day and work through the weekly list as well.

I found the daily list to be not too difficult. The first item is make the bed. I never make my bed, but for one week, I did. We have a wonderful woman who cleans our house once a week and she always makes the bed that day and it’s always been a luxurious feeling to me to climb into bed the night she was here. My bedmaking skills are limited, so it doesn’t look perfect when I make the bed, but I have to say it was nice to climb into it each night and not have to straighten the covers or fix the pillows. It doesn’t take that long to do either – maybe three minutes at the most.

Next on the list is manage clutter. Martha says that whenever you go out of a room, look around and see if anything needs to be picked up. This is a great tip, but it’s really hard to do. Usually I am speeding from one thing to the next and I just don’t have time to stop and pick up the cards spread out all over the coffee table, take the new bulk pack of tissues up to the linen closet or deal with the pile of junk my kids leave in the front hall. It does cut down on the time you have to spend picking things up if you can do it. If you’re leaving the kitchen and there is a pile of receipts to go to the office where you’re going, you just grab them and take them with you. You do have to have an ongoing awareness of your surroundings at all times to really do this and that’s hard to maintain. I didn’t do this all the time, but when I did, I found it helpful.

Next up, Martha says to sort the mail. I already did that every day, so that was no change. Then she says to clean as you cook. That was a hard one for me. I tend to be in a whirlwind when I am making dinner and it all gets cleaned up afterwards. I tried to take opportunities when there was a pause in cooking (like when I was waiting for something to boil) to stuff things in the dishwasher. It’s much nicer to come to the kitchen after dinner to do dishes when you don’t have stacks of pots and pans everywhere. Again though, I find this hard to maintain since I generally am focused on the cooking, not the cleaning up when I am in the heat of it all.

The last two tasks are to wipe up spills when they happen, which I did already, so no biggie. Lastly, sweep the kitchen floor each night. Eek. I never do this. It’s kind of a nightmare with all the dog fur, so it’s actually easier to quickly vacuum. At our last house, I had a little electric broom I used to use in the kitchen all the time and I loved it. It broke years ago. I’m thinking of getting another if it means I’ll be more likely to do this. Having a dirty floor makes the whole kitchen look awful.

Now let’s look at Martha’s weekly plan. I’ve admitted I have help cleaning the house, but so does Martha! Most of the things on Martha’s list are things that get done weekly here, but there are a few that are new, so I’ll talk about those.

Martha says to pour boiling water down the drains in the kitchen. I did this but am not sure what impact it had. I generally dump out boiling water from cooking pots into the sink, so this felt redundant to me.

Also in the kitchen, Martha says to wipe inside and outside of trash and recycling bins. Eek. This was gross and it needed to be done. I’m not sure I would do it every week, but it definitely needs to get into the rotation.

In the living room, Martha says to vacuum the upholstery weekly. I did it, but I don’t think I would do it every week.  It does need to be done more frequently, so I’ll thank Martha for the reminder  – and Dude Martha was happy to scarf up all the coins I came across.  It’s just gross to find food in the couch though.

In the library (which is in my office) Martha says to dust the tops and spines of books. Egad, I’ve never done this. It wasn’t as dirty as I expected, but it definitely needs to be dusted more than once a millenium.

Martha says to dust banisters and lights in the hallways. I think these are dusted occasionally here, but definitely not every week. I cleaned them and they weren’t too awfully dirty.

In the bathroom Martha says to clean the trash bins – again, something that needs to be done more often around here, so that was a good tip.

Lastly, she has a category called “throughout” in which she says to vacuum vents. We don’t have vents since we have forced water heat, but this was a good reminder to take the covers off the baseboard radiators and vacuum out the little spines in there. These were filled with dog fur, so this was a really good tip.

All in all, I found Martha’s lists to be useful and thorough. I might not do the tasks with the frequency she suggests, but they are handy reminders to have.

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