Tag Archives: Martha Stewart

Cookbooks, Cookbooks, Everywhere!

As we approach the holiday weekend, most people are thinking about heading to the shore, or barbecues with friends, or maybe even some “getting ready for fall” shopping. But, for those who have a long list of projects to do at home, it’s a little different. There is a list…a dreaded list…of things that need to be accomplished this weekend, so I’ll be staying in. First up tomorrow is digging up the flagstone walkway and laying rocks and sand for drainage. Sounds like fun, I know, but it is great to continue to see improvements at the house.

One of the things we recently did was purchase new bookshelves for the living room. I love the way they look, and it was exciting to finally unpack the books that I stored away so long ago. The most exciting for me was going through the cookbooks.cookbooks

As I may have mentioned before, I’m a bit addicted to cookbooks. I love to read through, learn, and get new ideas. I flag pages, stick in post-it notes, and even write notes in some. As I’ve been reminiscing through my cookbooks, I thought I’d share some with you.

The first cookbook I ever used, my mom’s Betty Crocker Cookbook. I think I “borrowed” it many years ago, but it still somehow managed to survive the move! I still use this recipe for a fruit crisp topping.
Betty Crockerapple crisp

A few of my favorites appear on this shelf. I got the Gourmet Today cookbook a few years ago, and I love it. The recipes are so creative and different. Of course, no collection would be complete without Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Who doesn’t love Julia Childs? You can see all of my “notes” sticking out of the top. And, of course, Joy of Cooking. It was a must when I was starting out!Gourmet, Mastering, and Joy

I’m a huge Martha Stewart fan. Can you tell? They are some of my favorites, especially her The Martha Stewart Cookbook. It’s a great reference book.Martha Stewart

When we travel, my favorite souvenir is a cookbook, especially if we’re somewhere where the food is different from home. Last summer we were in Greece. It took some searching, but I found a great cookbook, that also happened to be in English. Two summers ago we were in Italy and lucky enough to attend a cooking class in Tuscany. I took copious notes at that one…it was phenomenal!Greek and ItalianMy Notes

My prized possessions, my Mommom Phil’s cookbook and recipe cards. I love that the cookbook is so battered and used, and that the recipes are in her handwriting. Sure, most of them don’t have quantities, and you have to guess at some ingredients, but it’s great to see what she loved. And, bonus, she wrote other recipes all over the cookbook!Mommom's RecipesInside Notes

Of course those were only the cookbooks you saw downstairs. I haven’t even unpacked all of the boxes of magazines filled with recipes! 🙂 I guess that’s why they call it labor day! Happy Labor Day everyone!

Baklava for Easter!

When I was younger, I can remember going to my Aunt Antoinette’s for Easter dinner. While I don’t remember most of what she served those days, I do remember what she had for dessert one year. She had a whole tray of delicious baklava. If you’re not familiar with baklava, it’s a delicious, sweet, sticky, nutty Greek dessert. From that first amazing bite, I was hooked!

A few years later, while perusing my latest Martha Stewart Living magazine, I was thrilled to see the recipe in April 1996. There was a story about a Greek Easter, and this was one of the desserts shown. I excitedly made the recipe and proudly brought it to my Aunt’s that year for Easter. Of course, it was a huge hit, and ever since then, this has been a go-to recipe for me. It’s not very difficult to make, but it’s so impressive to serve, not to mention delicious!recipeTo start, you’ll need 1 pound phyllo dough. Phyllo is a super thin pastry. It’s sold frozen, usually in 1 pound size boxes. It’s usually right next to the puffed pasties and other desserts. Allow the dough to defrost completely before using it, otherwise the paper-thin sheets will stick together. phylloYou’ll also need 3 cups finely chopped walnuts, almonds, or a mix of the two. I generally just purchase chopped nuts and throw them in the food processor for a few seconds. It easy, just be careful not to run the food processor too long or you’ll make nut butter. To the nut mixture, add 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon cloves.

walnutschoppedspicesThe other component you’ll need is butter. Melt 2 1/2 sticks butter. I know it’s a lot of butter, but it’s worth it. The butter will be the glue to hold all of those layers of pastry, nuts, and spices together.buttermeltedBrush a 13×9 glass baking dish with the melted butter. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo flat in the buttered dish. Brush that sheet with butter, then add another sheet of phyllo, and brush that sheet with butter. Keep doing this until you have 7 layers of phyllo and butter.readybrushinglayers

On top of the 7th layer, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the nut and spice mixture. Then top with another sheet of phyllo covered in butter. Top with another sheet of phyllo, and sprinkle another 2 tablespoons nuts and spices. Continue with phyllo, butter, phyllo, nuts, phyllo, butter, phyllo, nuts, until all of the nuts are used. Make sure you save 7 sheets of phyllo for the top. When the nuts run out, top with the 7 sheets with butter in between, similar to what you did to the bottom. Top the last sheet with butter.nuts and spicesdonealmost readyOnce the baklava has been assembled, score the top into diamonds. You only need to go 1/4 inch down, not all the way through. Bake the baklava at 350 degrees for 40 minutes until golden brown.scoredgoldenWhen the baklava is cooked, combine 2 cups sugar with 1 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Pour the syrup over the baklava and allow to cool completely. The baklava soaks up the syrup making it sweet, sticky, moist, and wonderful!sugarboilingpouringready to eatIf you’ve never had baklava, you need to give it a try. And it makes the perfect dessert for Easter! It’s what we’ll be having on Sunday. Happy Easter everyone!

Valentine’s Day Cookies…Give Your Heart!

finished cookiesValentine’s Day is an interesting holiday. Sure it can be a wonderful day celebrating the love you have for your significant other. That’s usually how I like to celebrate it. However, if you watch any TV show in early February, you’ll see an incredibly stressful day full of forgotten gifts, mistaken dinner reservations, and horrible cards. Hopefully yours ends up being a wonderful day, and these cute cookies can help you celebrate. Not only are they great for the love of your life, but they’re perfect for kids too.

butterFor this recipe, you can really use any sugar cookie recipe you like. I used my go to sugar cookie recipe from The Martha Stewart Cookbook. It’s pretty straight forward and makes an easy to use dough. The dough cuts perfectly with a cookie cutter.

To start, cream 2 sticks butter, at room temperature, with 1 3/4 cups sugar, until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs, and beat until fully combined. Next, whisk 4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. In a measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup milk with 1 teaspoon vanilla. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until well combine, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.adding eggscreamedflour mixtureready to combinecombinedready for fridgeDivide the dough into quarters. Flour your work surface, and roll out until about 1/8 inch thick. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut the dough. Place them on a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes until golden.dividedrolled doughcuttingbaked

Now comes the hard part. One of the hardest things about making heart-shaped Valentine’s cowrong color chocolate icingokies is getting the royal icing red. Once again, I used Alton Brown’s recipe for royal icing that I wrote about in September. It’s easy to make, however, the hard part is getting a deep red color. I tried a few different versions. I tried adding cocoa powder, but it never became the right color, even though the chocolate tasted great. I also gave up and tried buying Wilton’s Red Cookie Icing which was a huge fail. It was way too runny and never solidified on the cookies. Finally, I tried Wilton’s Red Red gel icing coloring. It took a lot of gel to do it, but finally, I had red.

Add the icing to a pastry bag with a small round heartstip. Ice the outline first, then fill in with the icing. The consistency of this icing allows you to drag it to cover the cookie using the tip of the pastry bag. Allow them to dry for a few minutes. They also dry pretty smooth, which looks great.

I hope your Valentine’s Day is filled with chocolates, hearts, and most of all, love. Oh, and be careful with these cookies. If you drop one, you’ll have a broken heart! 🙂

Getting Your Vegetables with Carrot Cake Cookies

grated carrotsDoctors say it. Health enthusiasts say it. Even your mother says…and probably has been saying it since you were little. “You need to eat your vegetables!” Well, I’ve got the perfect way to do just that…in a dessert! There is just no better way to eat your vegetables. From zucchini bread to pumpkin pie, veggies can make excellent desserts. And the one vegetable that probably makes the best dessert is the carrot. It’s sweet and delicious and makes the most delicious cakes. But, take it one step further, make it portables, and keep that wonderful cream cheese frosting, and you’ve got carrot cake cookies!

butterI am a huge fan of the whoopie pie, and this cookie recipe essentially creates a whoopie pie made out of carrot cake. The cookies stay moist and richly spiced, and the cream cheese frosting is amazing sandwiched between! This recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Cookies book, and from the first time I saw it, let alone the first time I tasted it, I knew it was a keeper.

butter and sugarTo start, make the cookies. Cream 1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature with 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup granulated sugar. Let this cream for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Then add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and beat until combined.

Next, combine the dry ingredients. Add 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon ginger to a bowl. Mix together with a whisk. Gradually add this flour mixture to the butter mixture. Make sure your mixer is on low, otherwise you’ll be covered in flour (and so will your kitchen).flour mixtureNext, grate the carrots. You want 1 1/2 cups grated carrots, which for me took 4 pretty large carrots. Add the grated carrots, 2 cups rolled oats, and 1 cup raisins to the batter, and stir to combine. Chill the mixture for 1 hour, until firm.adding carrotsdoughAfter an hour, scoop out tablespoon size balls of dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until browned. And make sure you give them some space, they will spread (as you can see). If they do, just cut through with the spatula right away. If they cool, they’ll break when you try to cut them. Allow them to cool while you make the frosting.ready for the ovendonespatulaCombine 8 ounces cream cheese with 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, both at room temperature. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. I use the mixer for this, but feel free to just use some elbow grease and a spatula.butter and cream cheeseadding sugarTo frost, I first pair up similar sized cookies and lay them out next to each other. I then add frosting to one side. This helps me make sure I’ve evenly distributed the frosting and also use it all up. After your frosting bowl is empty, spread out the frosting, press the cookies together, take a bite, and enjoy!matcheddropspreadThese really are an excellent treat. And, while I’m sure it’s not what your mother had in mind when she said to eat your vegetables, I’m sure she’d approve of this delicious dessert!enjoy

A Great Holiday Gift…Homemade Butter!

readyAs the holiday approach, every year I try to think of homemade gifts I can make. I love to cook, and it just seems that sharing of yourself in that way is the perfect way to say you care. Years ago, I made pizzelles for several people who helped me throughout the year at work. They were a huge hit, and people were generally touched at the gesture, and the thought and time that went into the gift. However, I’m always trying to find something different, not your average cookies or candy. This year, I found an absolute gem, homemade butter.

I know, I know, you’re thinking you need tocream and buttermilk take out the butter churn, and travel back in time about 200 years. But it’s really very easy, and absolutely delicious. The recipe I found was in Martha Stewart Living a few years ago (May 2013), and it comes from Diane St. Clair, dairy farmer extraordinaire! Not only does she have a beautiful farm in Vermont, but she also supplies butter to Thomas Keller and the French Laundry! When I saw that, I knew I had to try this recipe.

The recipe takes some planning, because the cream and buttermilk mixture need to sit for spinup to 24 hours, but it’s worth it. And, those essentially are the only ingredients (ok, and a little salt). The butter is creamy, rich, and delicious, with a bit of a tang. Giving someone butter you made yourself…it’s perfect!

To start, pour 4 cups heavy cream into a medium saucepan. Warm on medium heat until it reaches 70 degrees. Make sure you stir while it’s warming so it doesn’t burn. Pour the cream into a bowl with a lid along with 1 cup buttermilk. Stir, then cover tightly. Leave out overnight or up to 24 hours, and make sure the temperature stays around 70 butterdegrees. That was the temperature in my kitchen, so it worked out really well. And I know this seems strange, but just leave the container right there on the counter. It will be fine.

The next day, stir the mixture. It should be thick. Pour the cream mixture into a food processor and process for 3 to 4 minutes, until small grains of butter form. I have a small food processor, so I had to do it in a few batches, but it still turned out great. You could probably use a blender as well, but again, you’ll need to use small batches. You’ll see the grains of butter and buttermilk separate, then you know it’s done.

removing liquidPour the mixture through a fine strainer. You can save the buttermilk that separates if you like. You’ll be left with delicious butter in the strainer. Put the butter on a clean surface and gather it together into a large ball. I did this in a bowl, just to make sure I didn’t lose any pieces. Rinse it under cold running water. You want to knead it and fold it to remove as much liquid as you can.

I added in a little bit of salt, maybe 1/8-1/4 teaspoon, to enhance the flavor. Now you can pack the butter in small glass jars, and you’re ready to give your gifts. This will make probably 4 small jars. Just be ready to explain the process, as many people will ask if you spent hours churning. I guess you could say you did! 🙂

Happy Christmas Gift Making/Buying!butter

Celebrate Halloween with a Caramel Apple Cake!

applesI may have mentioned this before, but I love the fall.  I love the leaves and pumpkins, the cool weather, and the holidays.  While Thanksgiving may be my favorite, Halloween is still up there for me!  It’s that magical time when pumpkins come to life, witches stop by your doorstep, and sweets run a-plenty!  And boy do those sweets run a-plenty for me.  From candy corn to cookies, from candy bars to cake, I love the sweets! So, when I found a recipe for Caramel Apple Cake, it just seemed to combine everything into one amazing dessert, and I had to try it!

sugar and corn syrupEvery year, as fall approaches, I pull out my old magazines and read through the October and November editions for inspiration.  That’s right, I said I save my old magazines.  Kind of crazy, I know, but I really do refer back quite a bit.  My Martha Stewart Living goes back to February 1996…but I digress.  This year, as I was perusing the old issues, I found this recipe from 2010 in the Food Network Magazine.  I meant to try it but never did.  So this year, I wasn’t going to miss out again!  It’s a delicious, completely fall cake, with a rich, apple-caramel topping.  It’s sweet and sticky, and just perfect!

caramelTo start, you need to make a caramel.  Combine 3 cups sugar with 5 tablespoons light corn syrup in a large saute pan.  Heat over medium high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring, until it’s a dark amber color.  The sugar will all melt, and it will bubble.  Be careful, it’s hot!

Once it’s the right color, add 1 cup heavy cream and 4 tablespoons butter.  You want to do this off the heat, and it will still splatter and bubble up when the cold cream hits the hot sugar.  Just stir it and let it settle down before returning to the heat.  Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes until it’s all combined and smooth.

caramel doneOnce the caramel looks good, pour 1 1/2 cup into a glass measuring cup.  The mixture is hot, so don’t use anything plastic.  Pour the rest into a buttered 9 inch cake pan that has 3 inch sides.  You need the sides because this is a high cake.  I didn’t have a cake pan that was that high, so I used a spring form pan that was the right dimensions.  Some of the caramel did leak in the oven, but I put it on a pan with parchment, so it really wasn’t bad.  Let the caramel cool for about 30 minutes while you prepare the batter.

In a small bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon until combined.  In a different small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/3 cup orange juice, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.  Set both of these aside, and take out your mixer.

batterBeat 1 cup butter, softened, with 1 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy.  This will take about 5 minutes.  Then add 3 eggs, one at a time, and beat after they are added until the mixture is smooth and pale yellow.  Probably another few minutes.  Next, add half the sour cream mixture and beat on low till combined.  Then add half the flour mixture and beat on low until combined.  Repeat both, and then use your spatula to scrape the sides and ensure everything is thoroughly mixed.

Now you can get your apples ready.  I didn’t want to do this too early, because I didn’t apples arrangedwant them to discolor.  Get 4 large Golden Delicious apples.  You don’t want to peel them.  Take 3 of them, and cut into quarters.  Cut in half first, then use a melon baller to remove the core, then cut in half again.  For the remaining apple, cut it in half crosswise so you end up with the top and bottom of the apple.  Use the melon baller again to remove the cores, and chop the bottom portion.

Arrange the apples over the caramel in a circular pattern, with the quarters going around the outside, and the top of the half going in the center, stem side down.  You may have tready for the ovenoo many quarters, don’t worry, just use what you can.  Next, pour the prepared batter over the apples, spread evenly, and top with the chopped apples.

Because I had a spring form pan, I wrapped it in foil, and I put it on a sheet pan, just in case it cooked over.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes.  You want the cake to be brown on top and spring back when pressed.

Let the cake cool in the pan, then fill a large skillet with 1 inch of water and heat until simmering.  Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake, then set the pan inside the bakedskillet.  This will soften the caramel after a few minutes.  And, this works best if you have a cake pan, not my improvised spring form pan.  Remove the pan from the water, and make sure it’s dry. Place a plate on top of the cake and flip. Remove the pan, then soften the remaining caramel you saved in the microwave and drizzle over the cake.

This cake really is delicious, and trust me, you won’t be able to contain yourself.  It’s the perfect cake for fall, especially for Halloween!

Happy Halloween…I need to get my costume on!  What are you being for Halloween this year???

Party Favors for a Wedding…Gingerbread Cookies of Course!

CuttingI feel like I’ve been MIA recently.  I haven’t posted, haven’t commented, nothing for a few weeks.  It wasn’t because I wasn’t thinking of all of you…I was.  But I’ve been crazy busy.  On top of work and the normal craziness, I had the pleasure of making favors for a friend’s wedding.  And, since it was a fall theme, I had to incorporate gingerbread, cut into falling leaves, covered in orange royal icing!

BakingI got the call back in May.  A friend was getting married in September, and she needed help with her favors.  She wanted to give something people could eat, and wanted it to tie to fall.  And, to top it all off, red was her color.  We went back and forth on what to do, looking at different treats and snacks, settling on cookies, but looking at large cutters, small cutters, different shapes and sizes, you name it.  We finally settled on the gingerbread leaves, but adding a single sugar cookie heart with red royal icing.  I think they turned out pretty well, and she was very pleased.  Here’s how I made the leaves.

IngredientsI searched and searched for the gingerbread cookie recipe, and I had several tries with different recipes.  Ultimately, I turned to my master, Martha Stewart, and used her “Melissa’s Gingerbread Cookies” recipe from The Martha Stewart Cookbook. The cookbook came out in 1995, and I remember my mom getting it back then.  Thankfully, I found a copy at a library sale a few months ago for $2! 🙂  The recipe makes a great dough, very easy to roll.

To start, combine 1 cup molasses, 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 4 teaspoons ground ginger, and 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon in a bowl you can use as a double boiler.  I just use a metal bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water.  Heat this mixture until the sugar melts.  Because of the amount of sugar, I was never able to get it completely melted, but I kept it on the heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, until it was dark and smooth. Baking Soda Then, while still on the heat, add 3/4 tablespoon baking soda.  Stir, and the mixture will bubble up and lighten in color.  Remove from the heat, and add it to a large bowl with 2 sticks butter, at room temperature.  Give this a good stir, combining and melting the butter with the sugar mixture, then let it sit to cool to 90 degrees (or warm to the touch).  Once it’s cooled a bit, add 2 eggs, lightly beaten, and mix well.  I used the mixer for this.

DoughOnce the eggs are mixed in, start to add the flour.  Add 6 cups all-purpose flour, one cup at a time.  You’ll want to let the mixer run before you add more.  As Martha says, you don’t need to use a mixer, but it does make it easier.  I did it by hand for the first batch I made, and the mixer was easier, but by hand really wasn’t bad.

Once the flour is incorporated, turn the dough onto a floured surface.  Shape into a rectangle, and start rolling.  I divided it into 4 before rolling, but you could do the whole thing if you want.  You’ll need a good bit of flour to be sure it doesn’t stick at first.  Roll to 1/4 inch thickness, then start cutting out shapes.  I used 2 different leaf shapes, one maple and one oak.  And keep rolling up your scraps and reusing.  Bake the cookies at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until firm to the touch.  Mine took about 18 minutes.

IcingOnce cooled, I iced with royal icing.  I used Alton Brown’s recipe.  Just whip 3 oz egg whites until frothy, then add 4 cups powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Whip this for about 7 minutes until thick and white.  Then, just add your coloring.  I used Wilton’s orange gel coloring.  I used a piping bag with a small round tip, and I piped the outline, then swirled the icing around the center to cover.  As it dried, it because smooth and hard.

For my cookie project, I needed 110 bags, so I needed 550 leaves.  I made 6 batches, with each batch making just under 100.  I’m sure one batch will be enough for you! 🙂CookiesAll Done