Martha Mondays: Picture Frame Ornaments

November 30, 2009

This week’s project was picture frame ornaments, chosen by MaryAnn at Stirrin It Up.

This is a really simple craft that would be great to do with kids. You print out the template, trace onto card stock and them glue and glitter them, after punching a hole at the top. Once the glitter dries, you make a cut out in one of them and glue a photo in it and then glue the back on. Very, very easy. Even I could do it.

In full disclosure I used Martha’s glitter glue and glitter that they sent me. I have to say I was quite pleased with the quality of both. The glitter glue has a brush attached inside the lid – just like rubber cement jars and I found that to be very convenient. Martha’s glitter was, as always, very nice.

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Heirloom Oatmeal Cookies, Updated

November 28, 2009

My cousin’s son got married in October and my gift to the bride and groom was a recipe book I created of my late grandmother’s recipes (very Martha of me!). I thought this was a great gift, but given the fact that I have not yet received a thank you note, 7 weeks later, I’m wondering if they didn’t think so. It took me at least 10 hours to assemble, type, organize and edit the book and then I took it to Kinko’s to have it bound, so as gifts go, a lot of time and thought went into it!

Before my grandmother passed away, I had many of her recipes and used them often. However, one of the things she left to me was her own personal recipe notebooks, in which her recipes are written out longhand and notes are made as to where they came from. I’ve mentioned before that she was quite a cook, but it wasn’t until I assembled the typed recipe book of 63 PAGES that it struck me how deeply she affected my cooking skills and tastes.

Lately I have been craving oatmeal cookies, so I decided to make her recipe (which, according to her notes, came from her mother). As often happens when I’m cooking, I did some tweaking and ended up with a modern twist on her classic. The cookies were fabulous – crunchy, sweet, satisfying and filling.

Ruth Thompson’s Heirloom Oatmeal Cookies, Updated

1 cup wheat flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

½ tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

¼ tsp vanilla

¾ cup  rolled oats

¼ cup finely chopped pecans

1/2 cup good quality chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients, oats, chocolate chips, and pecans. Form into balls and dip tops in white sugar. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the tops are slightly crackly and the bottoms begin to brown.

Do you have a favorite heirloom recipe? I’d love to hear about it. Have you ever made a family recipe book?

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My Turkey Tale

November 27, 2009

This year I bought one of Martha Stewart’s turkeys. Martha seems to be slowly making her way into the food market, so I was interested to try her turkeys. Martha’s turkeys are described as organic (although not certified), pasture fed and humanely treated – three things that are important to me. Last year I bought an organic turkey at my supermarket, but it was not pasture fed nor humanely treated, so I jumped at the chance to buy one of Martha’s. The cost made me choke a bit. I paid $85.51 (including shipping and AFTER a $15 discount) for a 12 lb turkey. That is quite steep.

The turkey arrived frozen on the day scheduled. I left it in the fridge to defrost. This took much longer than Martha said it would. I got the turkey exactly one week before Thanksgiving and it was not fully defrosted until the day before.

I did a wet brine this year (last year I tried Martha’s dry brine). I used 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup salt, 2 oranges quartered, 2 lemons quartered, fresh thyme and rosemary and about 6 peppercorns. I added this to 2 gallons of water and brought it to a boil and then cooled it before adding the turkey. I ended up adding about another gallon of water to get the turkey completely covered. I let it brine for about 16 hours.

When we took the turkey out of the brine to get it ready for the oven, we realized it was missing part of a wing! Martha would NOT approve of this.

I decided to attempt Martha’s cheesecloth method of turkey roasting (which was described in the instructions included with the turkey). You soak a piece of cheesecloth in butter (Martha says to use wine also but I didn’t use wine). You rub the turkey with butter and salt and pepper it (I also added some fresh sage, rosemary and thyme). Then you lay the cheesecloth over the turkey and bake at 425 for 30 minutes. Then brush it with the butter and reduce heat to 350, brushing with butter every 30 minutes for 2 hours.

After two hours, you remove the cheesecloth, baste with pan juices and continue to cook until the turkey reaches 165 (Martha says about 1 to 1 and a half hours). Ours was done in about an hour.

I did stuff my turkey- regular stuffing in one end and cornbread in the other end. We got a little excited after we took the turkey out and it rested – we didn’t remember to take a photo until after we scooped out the stuffing.

This was absolutely the BEST turkey we’ve ever had. It was moist, tender, flavorful, and it just about melted in your mouth. I am sure the quality of the turkey itself played a large part in that, but I also think the brining and the cheesecloth added to the taste and texture. I will definitely use this method again next year. I would love to buy Martha’s turkey again next year, but I hope I can find a local organic turkey that is pasture fed and humanely treated instead (not to mention less expensive – the shipping alone on this was $30). If not, I might end up with Martha’s again.

One other tidbit – I bought a potato masher – one of those handheld thingies you smush the potatoes with (highly recommended by Martha) and tried that for the mashed potatoes. I was surprised at how quickly they did smash up with it. However, I did not like the texture. It was too grainy. So I quickly got out the mixer and whizzed it with that – then it had the creamy texture we like. So the potato masher was a failure!

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Merry Martha HANDMADE Gift Guide

November 25, 2009

If your holiday budget is small this year, you might be wondering if there are any handmade gifts you could make, even if you aren’t a gifted crafter. Martha to the rescue! I’ve collected my 10 favorite handmade gift projects that even the most craft-impaired person can make. So while the rest of the world is out fighting the crowds on Black Friday, why not enjoy a quiet day at home and work on some low-cost DIY gifts with Martha?

1. Decal Candles. This craft is ridiculously easy and Martha even provides the templates.

2. Bath Fizzies. Cute and easy to make. What woman wouldn’t enjoy receiving these?

3. Velvet Ribbon Belts. Who wouldn’t love a fab new belt?

4. Map Coasters. I made these and they were actually quite easy. Perfect for a man or a woman, and easy to personalize with maps from their favorite vacation spot, cabin, or even where they honeymooned.

5. Photograph jewelry. Any gift that involves buying something and sticking a photo in it is doable for even the most craft-impaired. You know you can make any mom or grandma misty eyed with this kind of gift.

6. Stenciled Stool. Stenciling is a quick way to dress up a child’s stool, and a stool is a gift a young child will use every day at the bathroom sink.

7. Holiday Drink Mixers. Just mix and give – no crafting required! This is a gift that says “invite me to your next party.”

8. Pecan Clusters. You can’t go wrong with candy and these are classier than homemade fudge any day. Sneak a couple for yourself.

9. Popcorn tins. This all-purpose gift is even less expensive when you make your own at home. There are many yummy options available.

10. Organza Sachets. This is a great project for kids to work on with you or do on their own with a little guidance.

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Martha Mondays 11/30 and Pick List

November 25, 2009

The assignment for 11/30 is picture frame ornaments, chosen by Mary Ann at StirrinItUp.

Here are the dates for everyone’s next round of picks. Let me know if you can no longer participate. As always, if you can get your pick to me by Monday night (the week before your assigned date) so I can post it on Tuesday and everyone can do it in time for the date assigned to your name, that would be great. If you would like to join, just post a comment or send me an email- new members welcome. Thanks!

12/7 Robyn’s Nest

12/14 MegansCooking

12/21 SassySuppers

12/28 My Life Pru Singer

1/4 Abby Sweets

1/11 Homemade Iowa Life

1/18 Sweet Lorraine Bakeshop

1/25 MarthaAndMe

2/1 StirrinItUp

Roast Vegetable Lasagna

November 24, 2009

Martha has a recipe for Roasted Vegetable Lasagna in December Everyday Food. In keeping with my new approach to Martha (see the About page, year 2), I used the recipe as a starting point, but made it to my tastes. Martha wants you to roast tomatoes then stick them in the blender to make a tomato sauce. Sorry Martha. Jarred tomato sauce worked perfectly. I did roast my butternut squash. I used some frozen spinach (Martha calls for fresh) and I substituted broccoli for half of it (still trying to keep my oxalates low). I did use some ricotta cheese, but I substituted sour cream for some of it. And I added some sliced, sauteed mushrooms to beef up the dish a little. And I put cheese in every layer, not just on top.

I loved this. LOVED it. Mr. MarthaAndMe did not. He said he doesn’t like some of the “earthy” things I like. I didn’t find it earthy. It was just delicious. So now I’ve got several containers of one-serving lasagna in the freezer to eat this winter on nights he works late or if I want a big lunch.

Here is my adapted take on Martha’s recipe

half a jar of tomato sauce

3 garlic cloves, chopped

salt and pepper

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced into 2 inch chunks

1/4 of a square frozen block of chopped spinach, thawed and drained

3/4 cup chopped cooked broccoli (frozen is fine if you thaw it)

half a package of white button or Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced

1/2 container ricotta cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

12 lasagna noodles, cooked till al dente

1/2 lb grated mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash on rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tbsp olive oil. Roast until tender, about 40 minutes.

Saute mushrooms and garlic until soft. Mix mushrooms, garlic, spinach, broccoli, ricotta, salt, pepper, sour cream, and nutmeg.

Lightly cover the bottom of a square baking pan with tomato sauce. Top with 3 noodles, then 1/2 spinach mix, 1/2 of squash, 1/3 of remaining tomato sauce, 1/3 of Parmesan and 1/3 of mozzarella. Repeat. Top that with noodles and remaining cheese. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown.

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Martha Mondays: Suet Birdfeeders

November 23, 2009

This week’s Martha Mondays was my pick – suet birdfeeders from November Living. Let me say I am so, so, sorry. If you made this and it stunk up your house as badly as it did mine, I apologize. I think this is truly the nastiest Martha thing I’ve ever made. My grocery store did not have suet so I ended up at a butcher. Mr. MarthaAndMe chopped it up for me since I was grossed out by it. The directions say to render this until it liquifies. It seemed to me like that would be pretty simple but it wasn’t. It took FOREVER, it smelled horrible, and I was not sure when it was actually done. There were lots of chunks of stuff still floating around in the liquid fat, but it was starting to burn. I pulled the plug and strained it.

Martha says you have to strain it with cheesecloth – I just used a sieve. Then you have to let it harden, then melt it and strain it again. Can I just say, this seems like a LOT of work for birds. Seriously, can you see Martha taking an entire afternoon to make these birdfeeders? I think not. I’m sure she buys them from someone who makes organic artisan suet birdfeeders or something.

So I did let it harden and liquify it again, but I confess I did not strain it the second time – there was nothing in it to strain out. I just did not care enough. I mixed in the sunflower seeds, peanuts and cranberries and we smushed it into plastic containers with string in it and froze it. I actually halved this recipe, but somehow it made 4 containers full. I was a little concerned when about 3 hours after I put it in the freezer it wasn’t sticking together.

I left it in overnight. This morning we checked them and they all seemed loose, but we hoped for the best. We took the most solid one outside and tried to get it out of the container. You can see from the photo that it completely fell apart.

What a mess and what a disappointment. I’m wondering if maybe the butcher didn’t give me enough suet? Maybe I should have kept on cooking it down even though it was on low and was burning? I don’t know what to think, but it sure would be a lot easier to just BUY one of these suet things in the store for $2 than to spend this much time horsing around and ending up with such a mess!

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Roasted Cauliflower with Herbed Breadcrumbs

November 21, 2009

On the hunt for a different veggie to make for dinner one night, I came across the recipe in November Everyday Food for Roasted Cauliflower with Herbed Breadcrumbs and gave it a try. You roast your cauliflower pieces at 450 after tossing with olive oil, salt and pepper. I found 450 to be a bit too hot – it was browning but not cooking through, so I reduced the temp to 400 and that worked better.

While that’s roasting, put 2 pieces of bread and 1 garlic clove in the Cuisinart with salt and pepper and chop it up into breadcrumbs. Then toast them in a skillet with some olive oil, adding thyme and parsley (I used dry and added about a tsp of each).  Martha says to add the zest of a lemon. I was too lazy!

When the cauliflower is ready, squeeze half a lemon over it and toss the breadcrumbs with it. I liked this, but I have to admit I would rather have cheese on my cauliflower any day of the week. The garlic gave it a nice flavor and the breadcrumbs really were good, but the whole thing just felt dry to me.

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Rice Fritters

November 20, 2009

I remembered seeing a recipe for rice fritters in the November issue of Rachel Ray Magazine, but that has long been recycled. With a container of leftover brown rice in the fridge, I decided to take my inspiration from what I could remember of the recipe and put together some rice fritters.

I started with 2 cups of cooked brown rice. To that I added 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 egg, 1 egg white, 1/4 cup ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese, salt and pepper, 1 tsp Italian seasoning and 1/2 tsp garlic powder. I mixed it up and made it into about 12 little patties and cooked them on my griddle in a few tbsps of olive oil until they were nicely browned on each side.

Yum! This was really delicious. The fritters were crunchy on the outside and cheesy on the inside. The nice thing about this recipe is you could change it up to work with whatever you have on hand – different cheeses, different seasonings and you could even add in some bacon or chopped ham or leftover chicken. We just ate them plain, but I could see serving these with a chicken dish that has a sauce that could go over it. (sorry about the photo – just when I thought I knew how to use the new camera…)

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Midnight Delights

November 19, 2009

midnight delightsMy in-laws just celebrated their 50th anniversary with a party at a restaurant. My mother-in-law asked all 3 daughters-in-law if they would each make a “pastry” for dessert – something hand held (no forks). She gave us each a gold (plastic) tray to use.

What to make? I decided to go with a tried and true recipe rather than take a risk on a new Martha recipe, so I went with Midnight Delights. I have no idea where the original recipe for this came from, but I started making it as a teen. In fact, a batch of these was my first ever Christmas gift to my now father-in-law when Mr. MarthaAndMe and I were dating.midnight delights2

This dessert has a chocolate mocha crust which is filled with a chocolate pecan filling. The crust gets nice and crunchy and filling stays soft and sort of gooey. They are evil if you are on a diet.

So I made about 40 (there were to be 35 guests I was told). Only about 6 were left over, so I think they were a hit.

Here’s the recipe:

Using a food processor, combine:

1 1/2 cups butter (small pieces)

3 1/2 cups flour

2/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

Once it is like coarse meal, gradually add 1 cup strong coffee (cooled). It will form a ball. Refrigerate for several hours.

While that is chilling, combine:

24 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small piece and melted

1 1/3 cups sugar

4 tbsp melted butter

5 tbsp milk

Mix until combined and smooth. Then beat in 4 eggs.

Stir in 1 cup chopped pecans.

Take the crust out of freezer and preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray muffin tins with cooking spray (I use silicone muffin tins). Press about 3 tbsp of dough into each muffin tin, to form a bottom and side crust that comes about halfway to 3/4 of the way up the sides of each tin.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop one scoop of batter into each tin, so that it comes up to the top of the crust you’ve pressed in.

Bake for about 30 minutes until the filling sets and the tops looked crackly. Let it cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, then remove. Makes about 40.

Note: You can also make this recipe in  mini-muffin tins. Cut the recipe in half and reduce the baking time to about 20 minutes.

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