Cookbooks for Christmas

December 29, 2010

I love to read cookbooks. So, I was happy to receive two for Christmas. Mr. MarthaAndMe bought me a wonderful local cookbook written by the recently retired food editor of the Buffalo News, Buffalo Cooks. I’ve only read a few pages, but am loving it. It contains recipes for local specialties (yes, that includes chicken wings, but also things you might not know about like chocolate covered sponge candy, kummelweck, fastnachts, and more) as well as recipes for many favorite Buffalo News recipes.

The other cookbook I received, from my mom, is Sarabeth’s Bakery, a famous restaurant/bakery in NYC, which has come out with their own cookbook. I haven’t looked through this one very much yet, but the pictures are great and I know I’m going to enjoy reading it and trying some things from it.

It wouldn’t be the day after Christmas if I didn’t do a little shopping for myself, picking up the things I wanted that no one bought, so I bought myself Cooking in the South with Johnnie Gabriel. I love Southern food and am looking forward to going through that book (it hasn’t arrived yet).

I gave only one cookbook as a gift this year. I bought Teen Martha Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. She wants to “learn” how to cook. I don’t think she realizes she already knows how to cook, but just needs to develop some favorites and some techniques. This book ought to help. It’s a really nice book, with lots of interesting things mixed with standards. I might have to try a few things from it myself!

Last year I made a family cookbook for Christmas and gave it to my aunt, cousin, and her new daughter-in-law. It was made up of my grandmother’s recipes (she passed away last year and left me all her handwritten cooking notebooks). That was a big hit. I’m planning at some point to make up a big cookbook for my kids that will have recipes from both of my grandmothers, as well all of my recipes and the few recipes I have from Mr. MarthaAndMe’s family.

Did you give or get any cookbooks for Christmas? I would love to hear about them if you did!


Yule Log

December 27, 2010

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrated. I thought I would share a photo from ours. My dad made this yule log for Christmas dinner. He says he made it once 30 years ago, but I don’t remember it. I think it looks gorgeous. The cake was very moist, but he used a prune filling that had some liqueur in it and I didn’t care for that. The mushrooms were light and yummy though.

Happy Holidays!

December 22, 2010

This is my tree collection, which I’ve been slowly adding to each year. I love the feather trees (and so do the dogs, which is why they’re in the back!). The little blue ones were my grandmother’s. This year I added the pink one and the gold one in the back right (it’s behind the white one and kind of hard to see). The big silver one is mercury glass.

Martha Mondays: Artichoke Dip

December 20, 2010

Thanks Ana at Sweet Almond Tree for choosing Artichoke Dip for today. I love dips so I was excited to make this one. Confession time. I did not follow this exactly. I made only 1/3 of the recipe which was enough for 4 people. There was no way I was cutting all the leaves off the hearts. I also used half Parmesan and half Fontina cheese. I have to say I was annoyed that this required two pans and a dish for the dip – seemed like a bit much. All that being said, it was good. I think I like artichoke spinach dip a little more, but this was good. Oh yeah, I also didn’t serve with crudites. We just smeared it on bread.

We’re going to take a hiatus from Martha Mondays for the holidays and start back up in January.

Cookie Decorating

December 17, 2010

I’ve been doing holiday cookies in stages. I’ll make the dough one day, cut it out and bake it another and then we had a big cookie decorating night to decorate the gingerbread and sugar cookies. This year I bought some little squeeze bottles, thinking we could emulate Martha and make the cookies look like the ones Dani decorates on Martha’s show. Silly me. First problem – my mixer broke as I was making frosting. Then the frosting was too stiff, so we had to add milk (by hand!). Finally we got it to work. The bottles were great for outlining and making lines and designs. “Flooding” the inside of the cookie (as Dani, the cookie decorating expert on Martha’s show calls it) was harder. Sure you could squeeze frosting into the center, but then trying to spread it evenly with a knife was very hard. Still, I think the cookies turned out pretty well. I’m not a fan of a lot of frosting, but kids will be kids! It took us about 2 hours to get them all decorated. It was exhausting but fun!

My Birthday Cake

December 16, 2010

My birthday was Monday and since we went out to dinner with parents over the weekend to celebrate, I cooked for my birthday. I made fettucine alfredo with broccoli and some marinated grilled chicken and a salad. For dessert, I decided to try something somewhat new. My go-to cake is my Gram’s chocolate Miracle Whip cake, so I made that, but then I made the frosting and filling from this Rachel Ray cake. I made 1/3 of the filling and frosting recipes and it was exactly the right amount. The filling (peanut butter with mini chocolate chips) is to DIE for. The chocolate fudge frosting was also amazing. Paired with the perfect chocolate cake, this was amazing! I will definitely be using this recipe again.

My Flock

December 15, 2010

I have a thing for sheep. Quirky, unusual, yet lovable sheep. They can’t be too big. They can’t have faces that are too human. And it’s most fun if I buy them on vacation. Here is my flock. Do you love it? It’s so big I’m going to have to expand to another shelf (the big blue on on the bottom left has already begun the migration). I have a silver money sheep from China (I did not bring that one back myself unfortunately!), a cranberry colored sheep I bought on Hilton Head, a cool one that looks like it’s made out of spaghetti that I bought in Montreal, the most amazing sheep with a face made out of a crossword puzzle from Vancouver, a great one with its head tipped from Maine, one with pink ears from Hawaii and many, many more. There are sheep made of lace, clay, cotton, paper mache, bristles, real wool and much more.

My latest addition is the fab pink sheep in the front right. My friend Melanie McMinn, felter extraordinaire made this for me in New Zealand. Check out her Etsy store. She makes all sorts of amazing, gorgeous felted creations, real works of art. I’m so happy to have one of her pieces in my collection!

I Am Not Martha

December 14, 2010

I try really hard to decorate beautifully, cook wonderful meals, and buy lovely gifts, but I don’t have a wrapping room (and how I wish I did!). The wrapping supplies live in the closet under the stairs. When I’m ready to tackle the holiday wrapping, it all comes out and takes over part of our bedroom. We set up a folding table and I sit on the edge of the bed and wrap on the table. When I’m actually wrapping, all the junk you see on the table is on the bed so I have the entire table for wrapping. It’s a horrible, ugly mess, but I live with it for a week or so while I work my way through the wrapping. I would love to have a room just for wrapping, but that’s not possible. So every year I live with this disaster, hating it. It’s so very un-Martha, yet I think I’m able to produce gifts that look lovely.

Do you have a very un-Martha area of your house this holiday season?

Martha Mondays: Snowflakes

December 13, 2010

Thanks to Lyndsey at Tiny Skillet to for choosing paper snowflakes for today’s project. I used to do this with my kids when they were little, but I didn’t know to do the part about folding it into thirds (that part was a little hard, but I managed!). I tried to do one exactly like the one in the picture. It was close, but not quite the same. This was really fun to do and I enjoyed it.

For several years, when we took down the Christmas decorations, I used to put up snowflake decorations. I had a collection of snowflake ornaments I hung on my all-season tree. I had a snowflake wreath, and some big snowflakes that went in the kitchen windows. I stopped doing it though because by the time we got to taking down the decorations, it made more sense just to move ahead and put up Valentine’s Day decorations.  Now I just hang the snowflake ornaments on the Christmas tree. I kind of miss just having some time to celebrate winter (before I start wishing I lived in Florida by the time February comes and I’m sick to death of it!).

The project for next week has been chosen by Ana at Sweet Almond tree and is an artichoke dip (great choice for holidays!).

Manicotti Two Ways

December 10, 2010

I’m a sucker for baked pasta. I decided to make Martha’s Spinach Manicotti from Dec Everyday Food, but try it two ways. I did it the traditional way, in a glass baking pan. AND I did it in parchment paper. Yep, that’s right. No baking dish. I didn’t even use a bowl. I had NO clean up from the second method.

Here’s the traditional recipe:

8 manicotti shells, cooked according to package instructions

1 tsp olive oil

1 container ricotta (I used cottage cheese)

1 cup Parmesan

1 tsp lemon zest

1 package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

2 cups marinara sauce

1/4 tsp oregano

2 tbsp cream

Preheat oven to 375. Combine ricotta, half the Parmesan, and lemon zest. Stir in spinach and season with salt and pepper. Fill the shells and place in 8 inch square glass baking dish. Mix sauce, oregano and cream and pour over the top. Top with the rest of the Parmesan. Bake about 30 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes.

It was good, but I have to say I am more excited about my parchment paper method which you can read about here.

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