Monday, April 26, 2010

broken hearts.

I really hate to say it, but this is the second time I’ve been pretty unimpressed with Martha.  (I mean, don’t take it personally, or anything, Martha.  You win some, you lose some, right?)  When I expressed my disappointment to my family during dinner, my dad was quick to point out that Martha is not the end all and be all of food.  I implied that I may have to switch my allegiance to Julia after all (but if any of you have some ideas, let me know)!  My family was also very quick to disagree with me.  They all really liked Monday food fest tonight - which consisted of Chicken with Artichokes and Angel Hair, Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella salad, garlic breadsticks, and Jam Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting, all from Martha’s Everyday Food.  Oh, except the breadsticks, which were of the canned pilsbury variety.
I’ll bet you can guess which part was my favorite.  I don’t think I really need to keep saying it, as I’m sure you’re all expecting it, but yes.  Just to reiterate, I am a dessert girl.  The cupcakes are definitely something I’ll make again.  I started them first, and surprisingly, had no issues with them at all!  (So this should show you how easy they are to make!  And they aren't even from a cake mix!)  The only problem occurred when I realized the recipe called for whole milk, which I don’t generally keep on hand.  I did, however, have some cream I was saving to make some kuchen this past weekend but my ambition wore off before I could.  So I substituted the milk for cream.  I could probably just have used bug’s 2%, but I couldn’t let the cream go bad, could I?  So, crisis averted.  Oh, and I don’t own a paring knife.  I don’t even really know what that is.  So when my mom helped me out with the cupcakes she just used a steak knife and it worked just as well.  I really love the chocolate frosting on these.  It was very easy to make, very creamy and just chocolatey enough.  (as if there is such a thing as too chocolatey - please.)  I will use this frosting on future cake-type items.  I think what I like most about them, though is how versatile they seem to be.  You could probably put just about any kind of jam inside and they would be phenomenal.  Think of how you could change them up with the season!  Lemon or strawberry for summer, black cherry for fall, plum for winter, apricot for spring... well, you get the idea.  One sad part was that my grocery store had no raspberries right now, so I couldn’t “garnish with a raspberry” as suggested.  I know, right?  What grocery store doesn’t have raspberries?  And how cute, the inside looks like a little heart!

And sticking with the heart theme... the pasta of the night called for canned artichoke hearts.  Are you as shocked as I am that Martha would use canned artichoke hearts?  The idea made me gag a little, even though I’ve never had canned artichoke hearts.  It made me think of canned asparagus, which we all know is the most vile thing on earth.  But fresh asparagus?  Yum!  I figured the same was true for artichokes, too, although I have only ever eaten artichokes in spinach artichoke dip and have never cooked with them in any form.  I bought three artichokes (I mean, they look huge, right?) and I steamed them in a steamer bag in the microwave.  I had called my mom to ask what an artichoke heart was and how to get to it.  She had to look it up too, so I didn’t feel quite so inadequate.  The answer?  Peel all the leaves off, cut off the stem, scrape off the fuzziness, and anything left after that is the heart.  Pretty easy.  I had no idea that the artichoke would go from huge: 

to miniscule:  

I just figured the heart would be bigger.  So I probably should have bought about 10 of these to equal the amount that would have come in a can.  And here’s the brilliant move of the night:  I threw away everything inedible.  Or, more correctly, everything I THOUGHT was inedible.  I mean, every recipe you see calls for hearts, right?  So I thought that’s all people ate... anyway, I was pretty dismayed that when my dad asked for the leaves and found out I threw them all away he proceeded to enlighten me as to how to properly eat an artichoke.  Who knew you could eat all the leaves... my first clue should have been the simple fact that no one in their right mind would go to all the trouble to purchase a vegetable that large only to take out a minute portion of it and chuck the rest in the garbage after cooking it all.  Live and learn, right?  You all probably knew that already and are shaking your head at me.
The chicken and pasta cooked up well.  It was a very light sauce, which I think is good for summer.  I didn’t use capers because mr hates them with a passion.  I did, however, add a bit of lemon and garlic salt.  The pasta was a bit dry, but I think if I had ended up with more artichoke hearts, the sauce would have extended farther.  It was pretty yummy, though.
The eggplant and tomato salad was disgusting.  There’s no two ways around it.  Gross, with a capital G.  Which is super disappointing because I love all the parts of this salad individually, and probably together, too, but not in this particular execution.  The eggplants came out of the oven all mushy.  And, yes, I know this is my fault, but I accidentally knocked over the balsamic vinaigrette, spilling much more than two tablespoons into the salad.  So, that may have played a part in the uckiness.  Also, I grabbed the wrong mozzarella, it came in a sheet instead of in little balls and I thought it was much too tough... but no one else seemed to know what I was talking about.  Even in sheet form, the mozzarella was the best part of the salad.  (Mmmmm, mozzarella.  Even if you don’t know me personally, you can probably tell what state I’m from...)  Anyway, IF I make this again I will peel the eggplant first, use less olive oil to brush on and put it under the broiler instead of baking it.  So, maybe try that, if you’re so inclined.  And the good thing is that it looks gorgeous.  Delectable, right?  Good enough to eat?  I didn't even save the leftovers.  It's better as a decoration.

And the breadsticks, well, they’re pilsbury.  You pull them apart at the perforation, twist them up and bake them.  Even I can’t do that wrong.  
So, the dinner wasn’t my best ever.  I think I may be breaking up with Martha.  It’s not me, Martha, it’s you.  I just don’t think your heart’s in it anymore.

(bug called it a fuffin, AKA muffin, until he bit into it.  Then he thought it was a donut.)

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