Wannabe Martha

Still trying to figure out which Martha

Some Fun Things to Celebrate in March

One doesn’t normally think of March as a holiday month—but take a look at all of these reasons to celebrate – of course I’m showcasing the ones I care about. Head over to The Nibble and check out the complete list of March Food Holidays.

Of significant Note –Chocolate Chip Cookie Week is the second week of the month (01 March – 08 March) – thought I’d help you out there. I’m seriously thinking about baking 7 different kinds of Chocolate Chip Cookies, or variant; HOWEVER, as Lent will be upon us, will need to figure out how to unload them all.

International Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday –this year it’s March 4th – OK – check out Big Red Kitchen for their Pancake Squares – it’s so incredible I may never flip another pancake again.

March 1: National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day (It should have its own month, or at least a week)
March 4: National Pound Cake Day (Ahhh – Cream Cheese Pound cake)
March 5: National Absinthe Day (Note to Self – rent “Moulin Rouge” – the 1952 version)
March 7: National Crown Roast of Pork Day (on Friday? Really?)
March 7: National Cereal Day (Honey Bunches of Oats™, please)
March 9: National Crabmeat Day
March 14: National Potato Chip Day (can you eat just one?)
March 14: Pi Day in Math Circles (Pi is (3.141414); Bake A Pie In Solidarity
March 17: Corned Beef And Cabbage Day (Git Yer Blarney On)
March 18: Oatmeal Cookie Day (To Raisin or Not To Raisin?)
March 21: National French Bread Day (some brie, some pears, some walnuts…)
March 23: National Chip and Dip Day (I don’t actually like dip for the most part)
March 25: National Pecan Day
March 26: Make Up Your Own Holiday Day (I choose Baklava Muffin Day)
March 26: Spinach Day (Bacon, Blood Orange, Walnut & Spinach Salad)
March 27: National Spanish Paella Day (when it’s good, it’s divine; when it’s bad its disgusting)
March 28: Something on a Stick Day (so very many possibilities here)
March 31: Tater Day (at first I thought it was Tater Tot ™ day)

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To Bean or Not To Bean?

Happy National Chili Day!!

I don’t “Bean”, but it’s fine if you do (because I’m feeling magnanimous and non-judgmental today -probably because it’s also Friday).

I’m not going to even try and pretend that I’m an expert, but this is my go-to recipe for chili, and it’s a pretty lowbrow version. I don’t chop the onions or the garlic or the tomatoes or the chilies. Everything comes from a can or the freezer. I don’t use a special grind of meat. As I said – lowbrow, and yet I get lots of demands for the recipe. The chili is thick, not too spicy (although you can certainly heat it up) and is great on it’s own or slathered over a hotdog or burger or French fries; also you can make corn chip (you know what I’m talking about) pie and win extra prizes.

I know a lot people make their chili in a slow cooker, but I don’t. It always comes out too liquidy instead of thick and then I get annoyed at having to brown the meat and cook the onions in one pot and then transfer it all to the crockpot (blah, blah, blah…). Instead, I use an incredibly awesome “everything pot” (it’s really a Presto Multi Cooker). This was given to me many years ago as a Christmas present from the H’s grandmother and I have used it for more things! It’s electric, so doesn’t throw off too much heat (a plus in the summer down here in Chucktown); you can control the temp and can even deep fry (I don’t actually do much of that).

So, without further ado, I present “Maeve’s Sorta Like A Certain Fast Food Restaurant Which Shall Remain Nameless’ Chili but Without the Beans and Much Tastier

2 lb. ground beef (and not the really expensive kind either)
1 bag frozen diced onion (or about 2 cups chopped onion if you’re trying to improve your knife skills)
2 cans fire-roasted diced chilies (um, I suppose you could roast your own and then peel and chop a couple Anaheim chilies, but really….)
2 15oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes (see note about the chilies)
1 29oz can tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
3 Tbsp. Chili powder
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. salt

Brown the ground beef in a large dutch oven (if you’ve bought very lean meat, then you may need to add some olive oil); drain all the fat (I dump it into a large colander and let it rest there for a minute or two. Return the meat to the dutch oven and add the onion, chilies and diced tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine all the spices in a small bowl.

Add the tomato sauce to the meat mixture, then add the spices and stir well. Finally add the water.

Cover and cook over low heat at least 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I generally cook this for a lot longer – say 3-4 hours. My “everything pot” allows me to regulate the temperature so I can sort of approximate the slow cooker. If you do want to cook yours all day long but can’t be there to occasionally stir and adjust the temperature to avoid burning, then definitely use the slow cooker.

That’s all there is. You “can” add some beans if beanless chili offends you, but otherwise, it’s ready for some diced onion and shredded cheese and those darn corn chips (and French fries – oh yum!).

(NOTE – I have noticed in recent times that 15oz cans are rather hard to come by.  Instead you can buy 14.5oz cans for slightly more than the 15oz cans were.  I think food people have some idea that we’re idiots and can’t do simple math or something and therefore wouldn’t notice (seriously, have you seen what the Breyer’s Ice Cream people have been doing?  You used to buy a half-gallon but now they keep raising the price and reducing the content – pissed irritated me off so much I don’t buy it any more – and why should I when I can make my own damn ice cream?).  But I digress – the 14.5oz cans will work fine.)  Rant over.

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Happy National Strawberry Day!

20140227-142746.jpgThe fields won’t be open for a few more months, but that’s OK.  Just thinking about strawberry season makes me happy.  I want you to be happy too, so here are a couple recipes to help nudge you in that direction.

Strawberry Muffins (Adapted from Granny’s Muffin House by Susan Ashby)

I have been making these muffins for 20 years -the H loved these; couldn’t even wait a couple minutes for them to cool.  Can’t tell you how many times he burnt the skin off the roof of his mouth.  The original recipe didn’t call for a crumb topping, but I found that it raises these from fantastic to superb.  It’s also a good way to deal with berries that are looking a little sad – with all the sugar and butter and cinnamon, no one will ever notice that you have slight-less-than-perfect fruit (this is my own way of not wasting fruit that’s past it’s prime – throw it into a muffin)

For the Topping:

¼ cup cold butter
¼ cup sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. cinnamon

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Cut in the butter to make crumbs and set aside.

For the Muffins

1 ½ cups chopped strawberries
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
¾ tsp. cinnamon
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
 ½ cup whole milk
½ cup sour cream
1/3 cup butter, melted (I used salted)
½ cup light brown sugar, packed

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper cups.

Toss the strawberries with the cinnamon & sugar and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add the remaining ingredients and still gently until just moistened.

Fold in the strawberries.

Fill the muffin tins with the batter and add the crumb topping.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes (check after 15 minutes).

Makes 12 muffins

 

Eaton Mess (from Nigella Lawson’s  “Nigella Express”

I don’t know why it’s call Eaton Mess and I’ve had several versions, but this one is my favorite.  I love this stuff – OK – I could eat this day after day after day after…you get the picture.  I’ve also made it with blackberries and raspberries – I don’t mind the seeds.  Seriously, this is so freakin delicious I’m drooling just typing this.

  4 cups strawberries –rinsed and very well drained
2 tsp. vanilla sugar or granulated sugar
2 tsp. pomegranate juice (actually you can use orange juice and it’s lovely)
2 cups whipping cream
4 small packaged meringue nests (or one container vanilla meringue cookies)

Hull and chop the strawberries. Add to a large bowl and then add the sugar and juice (if you don’t have any vanilla sugar, add ¼ tsp vanilla extract at this time).  Let the berries sit while you whip the cream.

Whip the cream in a large bowl until it’s thick, but still soft and fluffy.  Crumble two of the meringue nests (or about 8 cookies) into the whipped cream and fold gently.

Remove about ½ cup of the strawberries and fold the meringue-cream mixture into the remaining fruit.

Spoon the creamy mixture into serving glasses and top with the remaining strawberries.

 

Strawberry Mousse – adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook

So here’s the thing – the egg yolks may not get completely cooked, so if you’re nervous about undercooked eggs, then this is not the recipe for you.  I don’t care because I like living on the edge that way. 

 2 ½ pint baskets strawberries, stemmed, washed and well drained.
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (really, you can’t get away with the bottled stuff here)
1 Tbsp. Unflavored gelatin
6 Tbsp. Boiling water
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. Cointreau (or orange juice)
2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
Additional whole strawberries for garnish

You’re going to need a double boiler, so get it set up and bring the water to a simmer.

Combine the strawberries, lemon juice and gelatin in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth (I don’t know if you could make this in a blender or not – maybe if you have one of those fancy-schmancy ones).  Pour in the boiling water and process again, briefly.  Let the  mixture cool to room temperature.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale yellow and thick.  Stir in the Cointreau or orange juice and beat for another minute.  Pour the egg mixture into the top of the double boiler; stir until slightly thickened and hot to the touch.  Cool to room temperature.

Combine the strawberry and egg mixtures and chill until just beginning to set.

Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold gently into the chilled strawberry mixture.  Spoon into dessert glasses and garnish with a fresh strawberry.

This stuff makes like 8 – 10 servings.  I tried cutting it in half, but somehow it never came our right – not sure if it was the gelatin or what.  Anyway, make it for a crowd or just decide to serve really large portions.

Strawberry Butter – Adapted from the Frog Commissary Cookbook

This stuff just screams for a biscuit or scone or whatever.  So sublime…

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
½ tsp. vanilla
½ cup powdered sugar
½ lb. (2 sticks) very soft butter

Puree the berries and vanilla in a food processor.  Add the sugar process again.  With the processor running, add the butter in very small bits, then whiz again until well blended (about 30 seconds or so).

This stuff is going to look really curdled at first, but don’t panic.  It will come together.  Pack your lovely butter in a nice crock, or even small wide-mouth canning jar.  Or, you can shape into a log wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

 

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I’m in Reader Purgatory

Why Purgatory?  Well, you see, patience is a virtue and I’m not all that patient, so the time spent waiting seems so infinitely long.  In short, purgatory (at least for me).

I hate waiting for new releases.  I get all twitchy and anxious.   I keep checking to see if my Nook somehow downloaded a new release just a few seconds early , which never happens (why yes, this does strike me like the behavior of girl who has just met new guy… always checking the cell phone – will he call?  Won’t he?  Why doesn’t he?  You get the picture).

One way I manage to cope is by rereading the entire backlist of each series, so that I finish right about the time the new release hits (at the moment, I’m all over the Mercy Thompson series to that I can dive right into Night Broken).  Not sure how I’m going to manage with Dresden, and actually have time to, you know, work, that is.  And I’m going to need to get started on Katherine Kurtz’s stuff no later than October.

One pet peeve though…why do they have to release on Tuesday?  Why can’t they release at 1201 Saturday ?  That way I can just stay up all night and read until I’m done.  None of this having to go to bed because work the next day nonsense.  What am I supposed to do, really?  Get the new release and WAIT until the weekend?  Read only in bit and pieces for four whole days?  Rubbish! 

Anyway, here’s what’s on my preorder list at the moment:

Patricia Briggs                    Night Broken                     11 March 14
Jim Butcher                        Skin Game                          27 May 14
Kevin Hearne                     Shattered                            17 June 14
Ilona Andrews                   Magic Breaks                     29 July 14
Hannah Jayne                    Under the Final Moon     05 August 14
Kat Richardson                  Revenant                            05 August 14
Brian Herbert                     Hellhole Inferno               12 August 14
Katherine Kurtz                  The King’s Deryni             02 December 14

 

So, what latest books are you anxiously waiting for? 

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Damn! I should have made popcorn!

Over at the Huffington Post, author Lynn Shepherd thinks that JK Rowling needs to stop writing because lots of people have bought her books.

Author Larry Correia has some thoughts about that.

Who knew Monday could be so much fun…

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Sunday Sillies

I haven’t been in a particularly good mood lately and things that would ordinarily strike me as funny have just fallen flat.

However…. this just was too good to pass up.

Just what you want popping out of your meatballs….zombies

FOOD ZOMBIES - PARTY PICKS

Photo Credit – Perpetual kid

(I actually know people [at least one lives with me] who would not be at all disturbed by this)

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Happy National Cherry Pie Day!!!

Here it is, baking up nicely….,

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Also it looks crooked because I was trying to not fall into the oven. I’ll post the fait accompli a little later.

STUPID CONCALL!!!

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It’s Valentines Day and I’ll love it if I want to

I love Valentine’s Day.  Really, I do.  I love the goofy cheesiness.  I love the hoopla.  It’s fun and silly and it comes at the right time.   We’ve been dealing with nasty, dreary weather forever it seems.  Aren’t you ready for a little pick-me up already?  

But Maeve, it’s just a commercial trap to get us to buy things!

Yes, so what?  What’s wrong with something being commercial?  Do you like your local florist?  How about the local chocolate shop or lingerie shop or restaurants or bakery?  What’s wrong with frequenting their establishments and helping to keep a local economy running.  Lots of businesses like these, particularly the small businesses, owned by your neighbors, depend on “commercialized holidays” like Valentine’s Day to keep them open.  So frequent a local business; spread the love.

But Maeve, that may be all fine and good, but I don’t have anyone to share it with.

Oh really?  So it’s just a “for couples” sort of day?  You can’t use the day as an excuse to leave a note of appreciation to your postman?  How about the barista who makes your latte every day?  What about the janitor in your office or apartment building?  How about the newsstand guy?  There are lots of folks in our lives we interact with on a daily basis; I’ll bet you can think of a dozen more.  So what’s wrong with a card or a friendly “Happy Valentine’s Day” to any of the folks you encounter in your daily life?  Or maybe you have an elderly neighbor who doesn’t get many visitors.  Again, spread the love.

But Maeve, I hate the expectations my girlfriend/wife/whomever puts on me.  I never seem to get it right.  What if I mess up?

OK, you got me here – but it seems to me that this isn’t so much YOUR problem as the other person’s.  And quite frankly, if the “quality” or “quantity” of the Valentine’s expression is such a deal-breaker, then I’d suggest that what’s really needed is a Heart-to-Heart about what’s really important in life.  The thing about a gift is that one ought not to expect it, but rather be delighted when one is bestowed upon us.

But Maeve, I really have heartburn with this idea of calling out one day to “prove” your love.  What about all the other days of the year?  Don’t I show my love in all the things I do throughout the year?  Doesn’t that count?

Why take such a grim, dour attitude?  Aren’t there enough reasons to be all serious and sober and sensible, etc. all year long?  Can’t take one day to be lighthearted and sentimental?  Would it kill you?  Why take the attitude that embracing the silliness of Valentines’ day is akin to selling out?  It’s not selling out.  It’s just taking an opportunity for a little lightheartedness.  All too often we are consumed with the rigors of daily life – we have responsibilities to shoulder.  Maybe we’re naturally reticent or somewhat restrained in our displays of affection.  Use this ridiculous holiday to let down your guard and have a little fun.  The world will continue to rotate on its axis and the sun will rise tomorrow.  Nobody will think less of you (and if somebody does, well, screw ‘em!) – Maeve has spoken!

 

Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite “holidays” because it is so ludicrous.  We buy elaborate boxes of chocolates and huge bunches of flowers.  We go out to fancy schamacy restaurants (we may even use this as an excuse to get all gussied up with a manicure, pedicure, hair style and outfit with shoes to show it all off).  The point is, Valentine’s Day does not have to be that Day When It’s Painfully Thrown Into Relief That I Don’t Have A Sweetheart.   I don’t have one either, but it’s not going to stop me from enjoying this holiday.  I’m leaving a card for my mailman (because I forgot at Christmas and I feel really badly about it) and I’m going to make a point of calling one of the elderly ladies at my church to wish her a happy day and check on her to make sure all is well.  If I get to move away from the desk, I may just run some flowers over to her (ordinarily I’d bake her something, but I happen to know that she loves getting flowers, and it’s not supposed to be about me).

So go ahead and enjoy Valentine’s Day.  If you have someone special, get him, or her, a little treat that YOU want to give.  If it’s just you, pick up the phone and call a dear friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.  Bake yourself a pan of brownies and bear in mind that calories consumed this day do not count.

Happy Valentine’s Day

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Fallout

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They don’t smile like this anymore. I can forgive a lot, but not this.

[Ed. 12 Feb – my dear friends – thank you all for your prayers and kind words of support.  I can’t begin to express my appreciation and thankfulness.  Let me also convey my apologies for causing any undue worry or concern.  Things all of a sudden came to a head and the only smart thing I could do was just stand down.  When you’re finally forced to accept things you just denied and denied and denied, well, it’s just about the most overwhelming feeling out there.  I don’t think I handled it all that well and I certainly needed some space to get myself under control.

Maybe now that this red haze is starting to clear from my vision, I can get back to productive things, like blogging about Blue Velvet Birthday Cake; and how it’s not enough that we have tights with holes in them, but also now the dog is eating the feet off them; and  how some people in my family don’t understand that every day missed during the regular school year needs to be made up at the end of the year; and it’s nearly impossible to get exploded marshmallows off the inside of the microwave; and how one of my CCD students seemed to think that one of the 10 Commandments was “thou shalt not plagiarize” (because all he could remember was that I used plagiarism as an example of taking something which does not belong to you, ie, “Miss Maeve, which one is the plagiarism one?”).  And maybe this stupid headache will take a hike already!  -Maeve]

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Distractions

A couple weeks ago I was perusing The Kitchn (quel surprise…) and came across this article and now I can’t stop thinking about that paint color and how badly I want it in my kitchen!

A very ho-hum kitchen

Ho-hum….

See my blah, humdrum kitchen…haven’t done a thing to it since I moved in.  Doesn’t it look just about as boring as can be?

 

Can you just imagine it with this paint color?  “Avocado Peel” by Martha Stewart.  Think I may go looking for it this weekend.

I love this paint

Photo Credit – The Kitchn

 

 

 

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