Ana at Sweet Almond Tree chose Chicken and Dumplings for this week. I grew up eating chicken and biscuits. I’ve had chicken and dumplings at The Cracker Barrel, but those are rolled, flat dumplings. I actually have the recipe for those and have made it from time to time. I don’t think I’ve ever had drop dumplings before, so this was a new thing to try. This was essentially like making chicken soup, or the base for chicken and biscuits, except I normally don’t use turnips and parsnips. When I make chicken and biscuits, I thicken it with flour. This remains thin, like a soup. The dumplings were easy to make and puffed up so prettily in the pot. It was almost like eating matzoh ball soup in a way, but the dumplings are lighter than that. We really enjoyed this. I would definitely make this again as alternative to chicken soup or chicken and biscuits. It was better the second day, since the broth thickened a bit from the dumplings.
Tiny Skillet chose today’s project, pumpkin chocolate chip squares and it was a winner in my house! These are like a blond brownie with pumpkin in the batter. Very yummy, very moist and hard to stop eating. I made pumpkin swirl brownies once from a Martha recipe and did not care for them (so I was worried these were not going to be any good), but these were great, proving once again how fun Martha Mondays is, because sometimes you stumble upon something fantastic. I’m definitely going to make these again.
I recently made this as a spin on the recipe in October Everyday Food for Turkey with Balsamic Pears. Instead of the turkey, I used 4 small chicken breasts. This recipe seemed to take forever to make! I guess there were just a lot of steps and different combos to cook at different times. It turned out nicely though. If I made this again, I think I would cook the chicken only about halfway first, then I would add it back in when I added the pears, so that the flavors of the sauce could permeate the chicken more. I might even marinate the chicken in the broth/balsamic/mustard mix for a bit.
I really enjoyed having pears in a completely different way. It was a nice fall meal.
I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent engrossed in this huge volume: Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations. The first 300 or so pages are just photos, with brief explanations, of Martha’s parties (you’ll find recipes in the last 100 pages). You’ll see inside her various homes, and the grounds of those homes. The MSLO cast of characters is present at many parties, but so are some of Martha’s friends and families. There are parties for everything you can imagine: tea, July 4th, breakfast on the porch, dinner in the clerestory, celebrating a master gardener, Christmas, Easter, spring dinner, and even a picnic at sea. Martha likes to party apparently!
I enjoyed this because it was just so completely over the top. This isn’t a book you pick up and think, “Ok, I’ll do that for the party I’m having next weekend.” Certainly it’s inspirational, and you’ll find loads of great ideas for decorations and food (not to mention the china, silver, and crystal that all looks so lovely), but few people are going to be able to replicate most of this. That being said, it is just a fun book to read through, particularly if you want to catch a glimpse inside Martha’s life or if you just love good photos of food and decor. There are many ideas here that can be toned down to work for the average person. I loved the Peony Garden Party and would love to incorporate some of those ideas to a gathering at my home.
The recipes are mostly very high yield (30+ people) although there are some that are smaller. The recipes are delicious sounding, but honestly there aren’t too many I felt compelled to try. I probably won’t be making Mini Crab Papapadams, Terrine of Duck Breast and Leg Confit, or Orange Easter Cake with Tiny Meringue Nests any time soon. That doesn’t matter though because this is a book about fantasies – the parties you would give if you had a catering staff on hand and Kevin Sharkey on retainer.
I truly enjoyed this book (which I borrowed from the library), but won’t be plunking down $75 to own it. It’s definitely fun to poke around in and ooh and aah at the gorgeous photos, the decadent food, and Martha’s incredible lifestyle.
Pru at Perfecting Pru chose today’s project – potato gratin in a muffin tin. Did you try it? I made it and it worked but I thought it was a bit lacking in flavor. There’s no butter in this, other than the cooking spray on the tin (maybe I should have actually rubbed a stick of butter on it). Easy to make, but those muffin tins are a pain to clean if you don’t use liners, and this recipe didn’t. I can safely tell you, having cooked hundreds of muffin tin recipes, for my upcoming book The Muffin Tin Cookbook, that you want to use liners whenever possible!
I only made one of these onions (in November Living, not online yet) because I knew I wouldn’t like it (I don’t like Italian sausage or fennel) and the kids wouldn’t eat it. I had hopes that Mr. MarthaAndMe might eat it, but he did not care for the onion. He thought the stuffing was good. I don’t quite understand the concept of eating an onion, even if it is stuffed. Maybe the rest of you liked it and we’re just weird? It wasn’t hard to make – just took some time. It was also pretty with the red color. Sassy Suppers chose this one, by the way.
I want to let everyone know we have a new member – Ashley at Lady Tailor. She will join in starting next week. Welcome Ashley!
Of course I had to read Whateverland, by Alexis Stewart (Martha’s daughter) and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt (who costarred with her on the Whatever radio and TV shows). This is being billed as some kind of self-help guide – their rules for living or some such nonsense. Let’s be honest here. The only reason to read this is to snoop inside their lives, specifically Alexis’s world with her mother. Each chapter is made up of vignettes from each of them (Alexis seems to have the most though) and ends with a bullet pointed list that offers tips for living – just skip those. The lists are pointless. The vignettes are what is interesting.
Both women are not normal. At all. Jennifer is at least likeable despite her phobias and anxiety. Raised in a sheltered, wealthy life as a child of a music industry mogul (she celebrated Xmas with Barbra Streisand and had the Beastie Boys perform at her sweet 16 party) she’s very open about her issues and how they developed. I loved her honesty and thoughtfulness about her life. She recently lost a lot of weight and is very open about her life before and after the weight loss. She comes across as a person you would enjoy chatting with and definitely has that girlfriend vibe.
Alexis, on the other hand, is unlikeable, cold, entitled, and just awful in so many ways and it comes out loudly and clearly in this book. She spends a lot of time blaming her parents for making her the way she is but there isn’t a lot of reflection on her own persona in any thoughtful way. She’s very rigid. She’s also just really weird – she hates having breasts, she is very open that she likes to sleep with a lot of men, she loves to bake but will not eat a single thing she makes, she hates hugging or touching people, and she makes it clear she just does not like people at all. She’s honest about the fact that she has seemingly no drive or interest in a career and that Martha owns her giant apartment.
If you are interested in what Martha was like as a mother, you’ll want to read this. You’ve probably heard the media frenzy when this book came out about how Alexis had “a glue gun to her head,” had to wrap her own Xmas gifts, and how Martha always went to the bathroom with the door open. There’s lots more in here though, as well as plenty of photos of Alexis as a child. There are plenty of contradictions – Martha was a cold, uninterested, neglectful, unloving mother (Alexis had to shorten her own school uniforms – there is a photo of her with a horrible looking hem – her parents never played games with her, they bought her nothing, she had to do lots of hard manual labor), yet there are stories about Alexis waking up to a giant Easter basket of her favorite candy and how Martha held little “chef” classes for Alexis and friends. She also makes it clear that despite the horrible things she says about Martha, that they are very close. She does not speak at all about her new daughter, Jude (Jennifer talks about her children and being a mom frequently), which I find quite strange.
One of the weirdest things about the book is the final chapter in which the women say they are no longer co-workers (Jennifer does the Whatever radio show alone now) and no longer friends. No explanation is given. I saw them appear on the Today show together to discuss the book and it was clear to me that Alexis decided she was done with Jennifer (she said something about how it’s like a divorce where you wake up one day and decide you no longer like this person). That comes as no surprise after the way she talks about how she enjoys seeking revenge on people and how she kicks people to the curb in her life frequently with no regrets.
If you’re hoping for a self-help book, look elsewhere. If you are just nosy and want to get the inside scoop on Martha, pick this up for a quick read.
We can all blame SteakandPotatoKindaGurl for ruining our post-Halloween I-ate-too-much-candy diets (just kidding!). These easy peanut butter cups were incredibly easy. And really good too. You melt chocolate. You melt white chocolate with peanut butter. You layer these two in the cups. I only had one problem with them. They stuck to the mini cupcake liners and were impossible to get off. I would buy actual candy cups if I made these again. I think I would try these with dark chocolate because that would be absolute heaven. The name does not lie – they are very easy. And they were very good!
This week’s project was chosen by yours truly: Chocolate Beet Cake (from November Living, not online yet). Wow! The gold standard for chocolate cake in my house is my grandmother’s Miracle Whip cake and this was just as good. It was incredibly moist and you would never know there were beets in it. It just tasted like a delicious, very moist chocolate cake – it looked just like a chocolate cake too.
I don’t know how often I would make this though, because beets are just a pain to work with! You have to peel them, then cut into pieces then boil then puree. I have an off-white Corian sink and was totally paranoid about it getting stained. I was able to find a pair of medical gloves to wear so I didn’t stain my hands. I peeled the beets on top of newspaper. I drained them out in the yard to avoid the sink issue entirely.
Other than the beets, the cake was easy to make and had an easy chocolate glaze, only one layer which I appreciated. It was so good I sent it away with Mr. MarthaAndMe this morning – can’t have that in the house AND the Halloween candy!
As you can see, I took it out of the oven a smidge too early – the very center didn’t quite cook all the way. I took it out with5 minutes remaining because it seemed done. I should have tested it with a cake tester.
I’m wondering if this would work with roasted beets (where you roast them whole, then just rub the skin off with a paper towel), or even canned beets so you wouldn’t have to cook them yourself at all.