Sunday, January 31, 2010

After a slightly hellacious week, I took some Mom-time, and went and did errands by myself today. One of my stops was a lengthy trip to Michael's, where I was able to use a gift certificate I received for my birthday. I purchased a self-healing cutting mat, which I'm excited to use for more paper cutting projects. I also got two more punches from Martha's line (they were on sale, yay!), so look forward to some crafts with those.

What was disappointing though was their selection of scrapbooking paper. It's almost impossible to find simply patterned paper that you can buy by the piece (I have no use for a whole "stack" of paper, when I only really like one or two of the designs!). Does anyone know of any good online sources for paper?

Also, I was watching Martha the other day, and she mentioned a website, which I definitely plan to use in the future for crafting supplies: They have a lot of unfinished wood pieces, which you can do so much with!

# 013

John Legend's Macaroni & Cheese.

This is John Legend. Apparently he was a guest at one point on Martha's show, and brought along with him a recipe for Mac & Cheese.

John Legend is a fairly attractive looking guy. Unfortunately I can't say the same for his recipe.

Now, it wasn't horrible. It was just much different from what we're used to eating around here, M&C wise. I have a recipe that I've been tweaking for quite a while that starts with a roux. There is no roux in John's recipe, which came out more custard-y than anything else. Not disgusting, and I will definitely eat the leftovers, but probably not something I will make again.

Sorry John Legend. Maybe you'd like to try my recipe?

# 011 + 012

Red Cabbage and Onion Tarts with Pureed Butternut Squash Soup.

Gabe's mom is a vegetarian, and usually when she comes to visit, I make quiche. I wanted to take advantage of Martha this time though, and make something a little more exciting.

The tarts weren't too bad, though Gabe hated them. I really like cabbage, so they didn't offend me. They're not too attractive to look at by any means though... And not something I would make again; there are easier ways to get my cabbage.

The soup was decent, though I didn't really enjoy the addition of the orange juice... it made everything taste to much like warm orange juice to me. Without it though, it would've been a really tasty, and fairly simple soup, though it did make me realize that I could really benefit from an immersion blender!

And yes, that is a kazoo on the table. Music + dinner time = non-stop fun!

Tarts Recipe
Soup Recipe

# 010

Banana Bread!

This banana bread almost didn't make it into the oven, because the batter was so delicious, I wanted to eat the whole bowlful. Oh my.

The bread itself was pretty good, though I think I should've used bananas that were a bit more ripe, as I like my banana bread to taste a little more banana-y. Ben really liked it though, which was great. we ate it with breakfast for a few days - and no argument from him!

Project #4 & #5 Devil's Food Cupcakes and Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Man, I must really love you Kara!

Made for my co-worker Kara's birthday, these cupcakes were a pain in the ass. I don't mean to be negative, but I am kinda frustrated with the way the frosting turned out. Also, it was Martha's idea to pair these two recipes, but in my opinion, this was way too much chocolate for one experience. I think the cupcakes would have been better off with a butter cream frosting.

I guess I should start my saying that when it comes to frosting from scratch, I am NEVER successful. In theory, it seems like it should be fairly easy to make. There is usually little to no cooking involved, just a whole lotta mixing. Seems so straight forward. I just don't know what happens, but every SINGLE time, I am disappointed with the final product. I should probably stop trying and leave frosting to the pros.

All in all, the cupcakes turned out edible. I did bring tiny paper cups and milk with me to work though, so my co-workers didn't go into diabetic shock.

Project #3 Chicken Cutlets w/ Herb Butter

Picture this, it's Sunday nite, and i haven't been grocery shopping in more than 1 week. What is something that I always have in the freezer? Of course, b/s chicken breasts. Other than that, it's pretty slim pickings in the pantry. I had been doing Martha blog research that afternoon, so there are back issues of Everyday Food all over the place. Mark picks one up entitled "Chicken Tonight! All New Favorites". Sounds promising. We peruse through til we find a recipe that doesn't demand a trip to Shaw's for ingredients. Thank god for the guinea pigs...Emily had plenty of fresh parsley.

I made Chicken Cutlets w/ Herb Butter. Pretty tasty and very easy to throw together. Len man loved it, I think it had something to do with how tender the cutlets came out so it was super easy for him to scarf down. I would make this again, a nice change from baked chicken or BBQ chicken or baked chicken or BBQ get the idea.

# 009

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Salmon Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce.

Please excuse the unattractive looking schmear of sauce across the plate. I had a very hungry toddler waiting for his dinner, and for some reason he had no interest in being quiet long enough for mommy to take a nice picture of the food she had just made. So I got a little hasty with the sauce.

These cakes were not at all difficult to make, but they were time consuming, especially since I chose a recipe that called for fresh salmon (it just doesn't seem Martha-esque to me to use salmon out of a can! - though that would've made it go a lot quicker). But hey, I'm unemployed, so I've got nothing BUT time!

Definitely something I'll make again, especially since I try to make salmon once a week or so (gotta get those Omega 3's!), and this was a nice alternative to just broiling it with some type of marinade.

# 008

Pork Chops with Apples and Onions!

I realize that this probably looks pretty unappetizing, but it was actually really good. My only regret is that the pork chops I used were quite thin, and I got distracted while they were cooking and they burned a bit. Not too bad, and still edible, but you could taste the burned flavor a bit in the apples & onions, since you cook them in the same pan, and then deglaze it (I used beer, yum!). The meal all came together very quickly, and had a small number of ingredients, which to me is always a plus.

Cookbooks for Sale

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In an effort to save my sanity (since these cookbooks are one of Ben's favorite things to throw around the kitchen), and to maybe make a little extra money to fund this project, I am selling off a bunch of my cookbooks. I went through a period where I loved them, but now, honestly, I feel like they're just taking up space. I'm asking $3/each, 4/$10, or take them all for $50... email me if you're interested: jilldoody at gmail dot com

Cookshelf Baking
A Baker's Field Guide to Holiday Candy & Confections
The New Basics Cookbook
The Fast & Simple Cookbook
Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Cooking
Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Cooking 2
Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen
How to Eat Like a Southerner and Live to Tell the Tale
Pat & Betty's No Fuss Cooking
Healthy Cooking for Two (Or Just You)
The Best American Recipes 2002 -2003
The Joy of Ice Cream
Good Old Grits Cookbook
Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Desserts
Party Food
McCall's Introduction to French Cooking
Bread Machine Magic
A Man, A Can, A Plan
Food Writer's Favorites: Grilling
Like Grandma Used to Make
Betty Crocker's Cookbook (4oth Anniversary Printing)
A Touch of Thailand
Tasty Timesaving Cooking
Cookies & Candies
Gourmet Everyday
The Cook's Companion
The Great American Cookbook

# 007

Ginger Pumpkin Bread - Not a bad quick bread, though different from how I normally like my pumpkin breads - not at all nutmeg-y, or cinnamon-y, like pumpkin pie - which is weird that I like my pumpkin bread like this, because I don't like pumpkin pie! I went a little light on the ginger, because I was hoping to get Ben to eat this too (he's a huge fan of banana bread for breakfast)... I also skipped the optional icing glaze for this reason. This bread definitely tasted better the second day, and Gabe said the loaf he brought to work with him was devoured.

# 006 + 006.5

- Whole Wheat pizza crust and homemade pizza sauce - Made for dinner the other night (notice the jalapenos on my side!). Was EHHH overall. While I really like whole wheat bread, I'm not on the whole wheat bandwagon for other foods, like pasta, cookies, crusts, etc. The crust wasn't horrible, and in fact I really liked the texture, but the flavor just didn't do it for me. I mean, pizza is SUPPOSED to be bad for you! The sauce came out ok, though Gabe didn't like it for some reason, and I'm not counting it because I used canned plum tomatoes, not the fresh ones Martha recommended. &

# 005 + 005.5

Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes with Strawberry Meringue Frosting. Both from Martha's Cupcakes book. The cupcakes themselves were delicious, but I'm only counting the frosting as a half since it sort of failed... Meringue is sort of a pain in the ass, and I knew that... I heated the sugar and egg whites, and then let them do their thing with the KitchenAid. 25 minutes later, I thought they were ready... I added the butter, and everything looked alright. But when I added the pureed strawberry, it all fell apart. Quite literally. It looked like cottage cheese with strawberries mixed it. I wound up adding copious amounts of powdered sugar to get everything to come together. It tasted good, but I'm not sure what I did wrong. I'll try again sometime.

Don't judge... I had already had more than a few drinks at this point. It was my birthday! Cupcakes were enjoyed by all, and the ones I left behind (since these were made at Ashley's apartment) were apparently enjoyed by her coworkers at a staff meeting.

# 004

Paper Cut Valentine Heart. This was not at all difficult to do, but it was sort of time consuming. A good craft to do while you're watching TV or something, though it did make me realize that a cutting mat would be really handy to have! I matted it on some red paper, put it in an 8x10 frame, and stuck it on the wall in our living room.

I actually really enjoyed this craft, and would love to do something like it again. Unfortunately I can't find anything else like it on Martha's website, so they won't be able to count towards the project, but that's ok.

# 003

A little gift I made for my friend Ashley! I'm counting it as a Martha project since the cupcakes were made with a punch from her line of craft supplies at Michael's. It's just a jar Mod Podged with some tissue paper, then I MP'd the cupcakes on, and added the ribbon. I actually love making these, and I made a bunch for Hallloween as well, with jack-o-lantern faces on them. They look really cute with candles inside!

# 002

Candied Citrus Peels! I'm not really sure what prompted me to start this project, other than maybe the overabundance of grapefruits in my basement. I like citrus fruit, don't get me wrong, but I can't eat a grapefruit for breakfast everyday. I needed something else to do with them!

The first step to this whole process (and believe me, it was a process) was to peel the grapefruits. The grapefruit on the left was actually done the Martha way; I scored the skin into sections, peeled the sections off with my fingers, then cut them into smaller pieces, and removed the majority of the pith with a knife. I did two grapefruit this way and it was a huge pain in the ass. So for the third one, I got out my trusty fruit & veggie peeler. The peels were much less uniform, but the step went so much quicker.

Boiling the peels in water, two times... to get rid of some of the bitterness, I suppose?

Martha, was your daughter neglected as a child? Some of this stuff you do takes massive amounts of time... I had to let my son completely empty the contents of my pantry and strew everything around the kitchen floor to get this done!

Then we boil the peels in a simple syrup for an hour. I used this time to put everything back in my pantry, minus one jar of grape jelly, which was Ben's friend for the rest of the day (and miraculously didn't get broken!).

After they have enjoyed their sugary hot tub for long enough, they get laid out on racks to dry. Or in my case, just one rack. I have plently of these things, but didn't want to have to try to scrub hardened sugar off of more than one of them. Martha would probably be pissed at me... I'm sure that she has a room of racks that are devoted only to drying her candied citrus peels... and minions to come in and wash them afterwards. Not me though, I just crammed them all on to one rack (with some butcher's paper underneath, to protect my counter).

Once they're dry, shake them up with some sugar... and then try to figure out what you're going to do with them. Martha nicely provides some gift packaging ideas on her website, but I wouldn't give these to anyone unless you were positive that they would really like them. They're too much of a pain in the butt to risk someone just throwing them away. I actually wound up eating most of mine... they got better after a couple days in the fridge (where they will keep for up to 2 weeks).


My cousin Lauren has decided to blog along with me, so hopefully you will all be treated to 200 Martha things in total (that's her brownie post below this one!). If anyone else wants to join in, please let me know. :)

- Jill

Project #2 Cookies & Cream Cheesecakes

My second project came from my beloved Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook. These delicious mini cheesecakes even include a mini crust in the form of a Oreo cookie on the bottom of each cupcake liner. Although I had to make 2 trips to the grocery store because I misread the recipe (calls for 2 POUNDS of cream cheese, not 2 packages, which at first glance, is what I saw) I would make these again. My co-workers loved them. Also pretty easy to make, I just hate waiting for ingredients to come to room temp...

Project #1 Mint Chocolate Brownies

My first Martha project is Mint Chocolate Brownies. Delicious brownies made from scratch with a layer of mini York Peppermint Patties in the middle. I used mini heart shaped peppermint patties with pink filling to be festive and because they were adorable (and also that's what the grocery store had b/c Valentine's Day is the next holiday). The peppermint patty is a delicious treat sandwiched b/t these rich brownies! Mark, my husband, loved them.

# 001

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cut scrapbook paper landscape. I made this and framed it for my mom for her birthday (and have yet to mail it to her - oops!). Martha provides a total of 4 patterns on her website for crafts like this, and I combined elements from 2 of them to get this result. It was actually a very satisfying craft to do, and not at all difficult. You print out the patterns, and glue them on the backside of the paper you want to use. Then once the glue us dry, you just use your trusty scissors to cut around the outlines, then assemble! I took it one step further and used some Martha glitter to jazz things up a bit. I think she would be proud of me (or perhaps quite angry for not doing things the way she said to), and I also think my mom will really like it!

I love papercrafts, so definitely expect more stuff like this.

# 000

Cinnamon Vanilla Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream, a homemade apple chip, and a caramel drizzle.

Oh wow were these cupcakes yummy. I'm not counting them because techinically I made them on New Year's Eve. They were to bring to the party that we went to, and they were definitely enjoyed.

These aren't something I would make too often though, as they are quite the process. First you have to make the caramel sauce, then the apple chips, then the cupcakes, and finally the frosting. It's a lot of work, especially when you have a little one at your heels all the time.

Cupcakes were from Martha's website, caramel sauce and buttercream from Everyday Food magazine, and the apple chip was my own addition.

And in the beginning there was Martha

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Welcome to my Martha Project, where I plan to complete 100 Martha things in 2010.

Why Martha, you ask? I like that she does a lot of different things. If I feel like crafting, she can help me. If I need an idea for dinner, or dessert, she can help me there too! I am often ADD with my crafting and such, so trying to do 100 of virtually the same thing (like knitting 100 hats, or baking 100 different kinds of cupcakes) would get boring to me pretty quickly (and in the case of the cupcakes, I would get pretty fat). And this way it will also be much easier to incorporate things into my everyday life.

Why did I choose to do 100 things? It seemed like a nice round number. My original thought was to do one thing everyday, but that would be almost impossible, and I like to set goals for myself that are actually achievable. It's fewer than 10 things a month actually, so I'll probably go over. :)

The only rule for myself is that I have to do everything exactly how Martha says. If she wants me to hike to the top of a mountain and pick apples that are just touched by the fresh morning dew, and instead I buy them at the grocery store, it doesn't count. I've actually already had a couple of instances like this, and I will share them, but they will not count towards my final number.

And while I do truly enjoy Martha, I also think she's a little insane sometimes, and to keep things light, I am not opposed to commenting when I think she's off her rocker, or when I think she would've punched me in the face for doing something the way I decided to do it. :)

I hope you enjoy the journey with me! I am always open to suggestions and comments.

May Martha be with you,