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.

Fried Mozzarella

December 8, 2010

I’m loving the section of Dec Everyday Food with all the cute little party food. Who doesn’t love fried mozzarella? It’s incredibly evil, but oh so good. Of course I had to try it:

Preheat oven to 250. Put 1 cup flour in a bowl. In another, beat 2 eggs. In another, mix 1 cup panko with 1 tsp thyme. Season each with salt and pepper. Buy 1 lb of bocconcini balls (fresh mozzarella balls  – I actually thought the bocconcini were too big, so I bought whatever the smaller size was called). Dry them off and dip in flour, egg, then panko. Heat 2 cups veg oil until a breadcrumb thrown in sizzles. Fry them, 4 at a time until golden, about 2 min per batch. Keep warm in the oven on paper towels on a baking sheet. Serve with a marinara sauce for dipping.

These were crazy good. I have to make sure that it if I ever make these again that there are a LOT of people around to snatch them up because I could just keep eating them.

Iced Thumprint Cookies

December 6, 2010

Thanks to Pru at Perfecting Pru for choosing Iced Thumbprint Cookies for today’s project. Pru, I was thinking of you while I was making this because you said you chose this because you tried to make some other thumbprint cookies and they ended up in the trash. I was hoping that would not happen with mine or yours this time!

Mine did not go spectacularly well, I have to admit! First of all, the dough was just crumbs. I tried to make it into a disk and it just wouldn’t. I refrigerated it and tried again. I gave up on that and then tried to make the balls. I had some success. But when I pushed in the middle with my thumb, some of them just fell apart. Yikes. I put them in the oven and then pushed the spoon handle in them and that went ok.

These are iced with just milk and powdered sugar (and food coloring). I’ve never had thumbprints that didn’t have jelly/jam or a cherry in the middle, so this was sort of weird. Everyone agreed they were pretty, but we missed the center filling we’re used to. I liked the taste of the cookie itself, so if I made these again, I would put jelly in the middle – probably strawberry.

Thank you Pru for getting me started on my holiday baking. I have so much to do and only 2 weekends left before Christmas. Yikes! I will be baking chocolate chip, sugar cookie cut-outs, gingerbread men, Russian teacakes (which most people call Mexican wedding cakes), fruitcake (there is a secret family recipe for this and I make one to give to my in-laws and one for us), and I need to make and freeze our Christmas morning donuts. I’ve got a giant index to get done before Christmas and I haven’t wrapped a thing. The shopping is mostly done though at least! How are you doing with your holiday baking and preparations?

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Final Giveaway

December 5, 2010

This is my final Martha giveaway of the year. 10 lucky winners will get a Martha Stewart Holidays double-edged snowflake trim punch (this creates a strip of die-cut paper to use as a decorative strip) AND a set of Martha Stewart Holidays treat bags (each package includes 8 bags, 8 paper boxes/trays that go at the bottom, 8 tags, 8 pieces of ribbon, and 16 adhesive strips). The paper cutter is super fun to use and makes such pretty strips of snowflakes. It’s perfect for scrapbooking, crafts or making cards. The treat bags are a great way to package candy or small cookies. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the bags have tiny white dots on them which are really cute.  The prizes are courtesy of MSLO and they will mail them out. Previous winners of my other contests have written to tell me how much they liked the punches and treat boxes they received, so I know you’ll love them!

Here’s how to win. Follow me on Twitter. Then leave a comment here with your Twitter handle, so I can match you up. If you are already following me on Twitter, just leave a comment here with your Twitter handle. You must enter by midnight ET on Friday December 10, 2010. I’ll randomly and blindly select ten winners by random number drawing (numbers assigned in order of comments here). Sorry, offer limited to U.S. addresses only and entrants age 18 and up only. One entry per person. Winners notified by email given when entering, not responsible for email transmission problems. You are responsible for notifying me of your correct  address if you are selected as a winner. Contest closes at midnight Eastern time on 12/10/10. Prize is nontransferable and may not be redeemed for cash. MarthaAndMe reserves the right to announce the name of the winners on the blog. Prizes will be sent by MSLO to winners and MarthaAndMe is not liable for any failure of MSLO to deliver.

Roasted Chickpeas

December 3, 2010

The holidays are coming and I appreciated all the ideas for party snacks in December Everyday Food. Fried chickpeas are a hot item currently and Martha has a recipe for making them in the oven. This was quite easy. Preheat the oven to 450. Pour 1/4 cup of veg oil on a baking sheet and heat up in the oven. Drain, rinse and dry two cans of chickpeas then dump onto the hot baking sheet and bake 10-12 min.

As you can see, some of mine got too brown. Some did not cook enough. And some were just right. They need to become dark and crunchy to be any good and it was really hard to know when that was. But it’s definitely easier than pan frying them. You’re supposed to sprinkle them with cayenne. I just salted them. The ones that were cooked perfectly were absolutely delicious.

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