Another Installment of the Grandmother Project

August 23, 2009

earringsSince my grandmother passed away in May, I’ve been sorting through the things I inherited and looking for ways to use and enjoy them in as Martha a way as possible.

I have a lot her costume jewelry, including clip on earrings. I took 7 pairs of earrings to the jeweler, including the 5 pairs of ivory she brought back from Africa (ivory is illegal to import now and the jeweler told me she wouldn’t even know how to value it) and 2 rhinestone pairs, and had them change them from clips to posts. In the back of the photo, you’ll see an ivory carving of three elephants. We think this was a brooch or a pin at some point, but the back must have come off. I had the jeweler make this into a tie clip for my son, so that he could have a piece too. I was surprised that all this work was relatively inexpensive – $77 for all of it.  I’m happy to have taken a box of pretty things that were unusable and turned them into things that I and my children will be able to use and enjoy. I think my grandmother would be pleased.

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Martha’s Pick: Dr. Hauschka

August 22, 2009

dr hauschkaIn my continuing effort to transform my life via Martha, I’m trying all of her “Martha’s Picks” that appear each month in Martha Stewart Living. In June, she recommended Dr. Hauschka’s Regenerating Serum. Martha says, “I like it because it hydrates my skin and leaves it firm and smooth.” She applies it before putting on makeup in the morning and before bed.

Martha recommended this once before, back in January when she had a recommendation a day on her show. So, off I went to Dr. Hauschka’s site to investigate this product. The description says it is for “mature skin” and that it minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. I am not sure what “mature skin” means. I’m 40, but Martha is in her late 60s. Am I mature enough? I don’t know.

I ordered a one ounce bottle and it cost me $99.98 with shipping. OUCH! I think this might have given me a few wrinkles, not to mention heartburn. I tried it for a week. The product is a clear liquid, not very thick at all. It has no real smell and you use only a drop for your whole face. I didn’t notice any change in the fine lines on my face. I have some, but not a lot. Maybe if I were older and had more, it would do something. I did notice that my face felt tighter throughout the day and maybe, just maybe, my skin looked smoother.  That’s a very small improvement for this price tag.  Perhaps if my skin were more “mature” I would see a bigger difference.  For me, this product isn’t worth the hefty price.

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Martha and Me…and Paula

August 21, 2009

A few summers ago we went to Hilton Head (a bit disastrous due to jellyfish stings and the seemingly unavailability of fresh local seafood in stores – unless you buy it out of the back of a pickup truck). While we were there, we spent some time in Savannah, which is a beautiful city filled with graceful homes and garden squares that take your breath away. It’s also home to Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons. This may not be Martha’s type of restaurant since it has a buffet and is filled with tourists, but it was a memorable meal for us and I think Martha would approve of the excellent authentic Southern food. Once a year or so, I make a Paula meal, based on the terrific food we enjoyed there. I usually come back from our vacations with a few signature dishes of the area we visited that I experiment with, trying to replicate them.  For Cape Cod, it was clam chowder. For Hawaii it was passion fruit sauces to go on fish. I have yet to attempt scones based on our trip to England, but that’s on my list.

lemonadeSo let’s get to the dinner. I started with Paula’s lemonade. The secret is to make a sugar syrup. Most people just dump water, sugar and lemon juice in a pitcher and stir. You need to mix all of the sugar with some hot water to dissolve it completely, then add the lemon juice and water. Here are the amounts: 3 c sugar, 2 c fresh squeezed lemon juice and water to fill a gallon jug – use about a cup or two of hot water to dissolve the sugar, then add cold water and ice. Paula’s lemonade is very sweet, but my family likes it that way. You can cut back the sugar if you like yours tarter.

Next up is the fried chicken – who can have a Southern meal without fried chicken? The summer we went to Paula’s restaurant, I made fried chicken over and over until I finally figured out how to do it. My recipe is based on Paula’s recipe, but is slightly different. I only use split chicken breasts since my family prefers white meat. I soak them in buttermilk, salt and pepper for 2-4 hours.

Next I mix three 3 eggs with 1/3 cup water. I mix 2 cups self-rising flour with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder.

paula chickenI use peanut oil in my fryer and get it to 360 degrees. I pat the chicken dry, dredge in egg, then flour, then egg, then flour again.  I found that once was not enough and it needed to be double dipped. I fry one breast at a time (that’s all that fits in my fryer) and it takes about 15-20 minutes for it to cook.  When done, I set the breasts on a rack and stick them in the oven on warm. I find the chicken tastes best if it is allowed to sit for a while after being fried. This chicken is also excellent cold for the next several days.

hoecakesThe last piece of our Southern meal is hoecakes.  We had them for the first time at Paula’s restaurant and loved them.  The key to these is self-rising flour and self-rising cornmeal. I use 1/2 cup of each, 1 egg, 1/2 tbsp sugar, 1/2 plus 1/8 cup buttermilk, 1/8 cup vegetable oil, and half of a 1/3 of a cup of water.  I fry them on a griddle with butter. The batch in the photo is not up to my standards – I find the griddle needs to get nice and hot and then the hoecakes turn a lovely golden brown and get crunchy around the edges. Our dinner was thrown together around a hastily arranged urgent care visit (everyone’s ok) so I wasn’t able to fry these myself and had some help.

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Egg in the Hole

August 20, 2009

The September Martha Stewart Living “What’s for Dinner” section includes Egg-in-the-Hole Toasts with Ricotta and Bacon with Citrus Glaze. I’ve never had egg-in-the-hole, but I’ve always thought it was a cute presentation. I wanted to try this, but I was scared. Of ricotta. Seriously, it is one of those foods that makes me shudder.  It is because of ricotta that I never order ravioli or lasagna in a restaurant.

Part of my Martha project is opening myself up to new foods, or in this case, old foods that give me nightmares. Because of Martha, I have given in and eaten capers (not so horrible) and anchovies (still really gross). I even put brandy in a dessert and that was a big step for me. I have learned that I like Swiss chard, arugula and escarole. Ricotta is one of the final frontiers. I contemplated making this dish and leaving mine without ricotta, but that would be cheating. So I sucked it up. First battle – where do you find ricotta? I looked with the cheese. Wrong. It’s with the cottage cheese and sour cream in dairy.

egghole1I got down to business and made holes in my bread and brushed it with olive oil. I got it in the oven to brown.

I worked on the bacon next, cooking down some OJ and honey to make the citrus glaze. I’ve never made bacon in the oven before. We usually make it in the microwave, using this cute little bacon cooker that lets you hang the bacon over some rods, so the grease drips down into a dish. I have, from time to time, made it on the stove, where I’ve learned you have to turn the heat down before it starts to burn.  I got the bacon into the oven.

When the bread was brown I dumped the ricotta on top (seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme) and added the eggs. I kept checking both dishes. One minute the bacon was not cooked at all and the next thing I knew, it was burnt to a crisp. I was so mad at myself. A whole package of bacon, burned. I didn’t have time to start over, so I went on the table burnt and we picked at it and ate the unburnt pieces. In the oven you don’t have the luxury of turning the heat down to control how quickly the bacon cooks. I think you have to be right there, watching it like a hawk, ready to pull it out the second it starts to look almost done, because it will continue to cook once you take it out.

egg hole3The eggs firmed up and I was ready to serve. I add some shavings of parmesan cheese to the top. The family gave this two thumbs up. I think they liked the novelty of it.  As for me, I ate the ricotta and it did not even make me shiver. In fact, it was pretty tasteless and I didn’t notice the grainy texture that usually makes me want to throw it across the room.  The bacon, had it not been black, would have been very good with the orange glaze on it. This dinner was reminiscent of the breakfast dinners I used to make sometimes when the kids were little and I was tired of trying to come up with dinner food we would all eat. Pancakes, bacon and fruit salad was my go-to meal if I was desperate. This was a fun and different dish to make. I think it would be great for a brunch.

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Warm Summer Squash Salad

August 19, 2009

warm squash saladSquash have taken over my kitchen. Although I did not grow any squash, my father grows enough to feed a third world country. So I have mounds of yellow squash, zucchini, and patty pan squash. He also grows a squash called kousa, which I don’t care for.

What to do with the squash? I like squash, but it gets old and boring fast. And I feel guilty if I throw it out. Quite a dilemma. Martha to the rescue. There’s a nice little recipe in September Martha Stewart Living for Warm Summer Squash Salad. I’m not exactly sure why it’s called a salad, but that’s a minor point I won’t quibble with. The recipe feeds 12 so I reduced it drastically to feed Mr. MarthaAndMe and myself.

First you saute some garlic then you add your thinly sliced squash. Once that’s done, you add some balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and oregano. And suddenly you have a squash dish that is not plain and boring. I enjoyed this a lot. The garlic and balsamic give it some real flavor, since squash can be quite dull on its own. This was very quick and easy to throw together and it helped reduce my mountain of squash. Points for Martha.

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Martha Mondays 8/24

August 18, 2009

mondaysFor the next Martha Mondays, let’s make Roasted Chicken and Plums, which is on page 162 of September Martha Stewart Living. If you don’t have the recipe, post or email me and I’ll send it to you. I’m looking forward to trying it since it’s not something I would ever come up with on my own.

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Martha Mondays: Map Coasters

August 18, 2009

mondaysMartha Mondays is here again. This time, the scheduled Martha project was map coasters. If you made this project (or if you haven’t yet, post when you do), post a link to your blog or just leave a comment saying how it went for you.

For this project, I splurged and purchased a Martha Stewart craft knife. This project was very inexpensive I thought. I already had ModPodge and so in addition to the $10 craft knife, I just had to buy some round cork coasters, which were about $1.60.

I used a plastic cutting board to cut on and I printed my maps online. I had mapcoaster2some trouble cutting the maps out. Martha says to use the knife to trace around the edge of the coaster. Mine didn’t come out perfectly even and in some places it was still attached to the paper, so I used scissors to cut it and trim it. They weren’t perfectly round. And once I even sliced away some of the cork! I am a menace with craft knife in hand.

mapcoaster3Dude Martha assisted on this project. We painted ModPodge on the coaster, placed the map on top and smoothed it out. Then we applied more ModPodge and also did the edges. We left them to dry.

I was really pleased with my results. One coaster has a stray hair from the brush stuck on it, but that’s because I did not buy top of the line Martha brushes.  You can’t really tell my maps were not cut out perfectly. The coasters bowed just a little bit. If I had thicker coasters, that would not have been an issue.  I’m taking these coastersmapcoaster1 to the family lake house (since I used a map of the lake) and I think they will be a fun thing to have there. This project was easy (if *I* can get good results, it must be easy) and fun. You could do lots of other things other than maps with this. Photos, patterned paper, print outs of famous paintings, all sorts of neat things.

How did this work for you? Did anyone use something other than maps? Can’t mapcoasterwait to see your results!!

I’m putting together a Martha Mondays blogroll that I will post. If you want to be on it, please let me know the name of the blog to list. Once I have the list, we’ll start going through it so everyone can have a turn picking the projects. Look for another post today with the next Martha Mondays project!

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Plum Tartes Tatin

August 17, 2009
In the ramekin with sour cream

In the ramekin with sour cream

I’ve been making Martha desserts for family dinners with my parents lately, so I decided to continue that trend and make Plum Tartes Tatin, from September Martha Stewart Living.

First stop, the grocery store, where I bought plums marked “ripe now” on the sign. They decidedly were NOT ripe and I put them in a paper bag for two days, hoping they would ripen. No change. They were still hard as rocks. Bravely, I forged ahead with this though since the plums have to be cooked and would (hopefully!) soften as I cooked them.

Second stop, another grocery store. My store did not have puff pastry – apparently there was a run on it. Who knew mid-August was prime puff pastry

On the plate with ice cream

On the plate with ice cream

baking time?

Happily, dear friends, I can tell you this is a super, super easy recipe! You cut up your plums and cook them on the stove with brown sugar and butter for about 10 minutes until they soften. My unripe plums did soften. You add a little salt and some brandy. Since I was cooking at chez Big MarthaAndMe, there was brandy available, so I added a little (not as much as Martha directs, but some). The alcohol cooks out.

Then you place your nicely smushed plums into ramekins and cover with circles of puff pastry. You’re supposed to thaw your puff pastry in the fridge overnight. I can never remember to do this. I found another excellent method though. On the day in question,  the thermometer registered 97 degrees on the deck, so I set it on the table out there for about 5-10 minutes and it was perfectly thawed.

You bake this for 40 minutes at 400. Mine was done in about 30 minutes though.

Martha says to serve with sour cream. Can I just say? Ick. I did try it with the sour cream (which I think was meant to be a cheap and quick substitute for creme fraiche) but let me tell you – ice cream is the way to go with this. This dessert was delicious. So good in fact, that every member of the family liked it  – from Big MarthaAndMe (who prefers tart tasting fruit desserts) to me (who prefers chocolate any time) to Dude Martha who likes anything sweet. Everyone agreed it was good. And I liked it because it was very simple to prepare. It was also very cute in the ramekins and looked like it was more work than it was. Big MarthaAndMe even asked for the recipe.

If I made this again, I think I might add some cinnamon to it. That’s my only comment though. Give it a try!

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Grilled Veggies with Martha

August 16, 2009

grilled vegI’m all for grilled veggies. I’ve never grilled radicchio though, so I had to try Grilled Radicchio, Summer Squashes, and Scallions from page 140 of Martha Stewart Living, August issue.

The squash and zucchini were good. The scallions were ok. The radicchio was really hard to grill since it kept falling through the slats.  I would skip the radicchio if I made this again. It didn’t really add to the flavor and it was just difficult. The rest of the veggies were good though, and it’s such a nice solution on a hot summer night to not have to turn on the stove!

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Garden Update

August 15, 2009
What I planted

What I planted

I committed to planting a garden this year in my quest for a Martha life. You might remember it didn’t start out so perfectly when I planted my seedlings (which I grew myself) and we got a late frost which wiped them all out. I replaced them with store bought plants. My tomatoes and peppers are continuing to grow, but aren’t ready for picking yet (no tomato blight in sight at this point). I’ll update everyone when we have some things ready for harvest.

I did add one interesting thing to the garden. I had an onion in my pantry that

What we got

What we got

was sprouting some green. Instead of throwing it out, we stuck it in the ground. It grew! And a few days ago, Dude Martha went out and dug a clump up for me (there’s one more clump out there still) when I ran out of onions and needed them for dinner. The clump had three small onions in it. I used one and have saved the others.  It was pretty exciting to use onions we grew ourselves. I didn’t notice any difference in taste, although this was a dish where the onions were only background.  It was quite fun to pull onions out of the ground after sticking some in on a whim. In fact, I’m amazed it grew since I don’t have much luck with gardens in general.

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