Posts Tagged martha stewart

When Life Gives You Cookie Dough, Make Lemon Cheesecake Cookies

Lemon Cheesecake Cookies

Lemon cheesecake cookies - the first of many sugar cookie experiments.

When life gives you lemons you’re supposed to make lemonade, but what about ten pounds of sugar cookie dough? The excess dough I had left over from last week’s TogoRun cookies presented me with quite a dilemma. As I’ve mentioned before, this dough failed to hold its shape, making it unsuitable for last week’s cookie project.

Since I rarely ever make sugar cookies – I usually find them too sweet for my taste – I turned to Twitter for ideas. The lovely Alejandra sent me this Real Simple article about creative uses for sugar cookie dough, which gave me the idea to make thumbprint cookies. I also had a lot of pre-zested lemons left over, and I already knew I wanted to use them for lemon curd. So I decided that, if life gave me lemon curd and cookie dough, I would make lemon cheesecake thumbprints.

I need to digress here for a moment, because you really need to know just how wonderful this lemon curd is. This is the third time that I’ve made this particular lemon curd using a recipe from The Cake Bible, and each time I make it I fall a little more in love. While some lemon curds can be cloying, this is tart and fresh, and really tastes of lemons. Mixed with cream cheese and a little sugar, it made a pungent, creamy, refreshing filling that was good enough to eat on its own.

My other little twist on these cookies is that I rolled each of the sugar cookies in orange scented sugar before baking them, which gave them a deeper citrus note and a nice sparkle. But in the end, the problem with these cookies was the dough – although I shaped them into little thumbprints and even froze them before hand, they still spread out like crazy and my perfect little indentations were lost. I ended up spooning the filling in circles on top of the cookies. Instead of perfect little thumbprints, they looked like a sugar cookie crossed with a lemon danish.

I can’t in good conscience call these thumbprint cookies, although that’s what they were intended to be. But they were still pretty tasty – I liked the tartness of the filling set against the sweet cookie base (which is still too sweet for my taste, but whatever). Were I to make these again I’d bake the cookies slightly less – the brown edges were crispier than I wanted them to be. And I’ll definitely be using the filling again – hopefully in proper thumbprints next time.

Only nine pounds of dough to go.

Lemon Cheesecake Cookies 2

Man, I'm going to be really sick of sugar cookies by the end of this.

Recipe: Lemon Cheesecake Cookies


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What Was Your Biggest Baking Disaster? And How Did You Fix It?

TogoRun 2

A crisis, averted.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter already know that I spent most of my weekend making sugar cookies for my friend Deb’s work for Valentine’s Day. They were rolled sugar cookies, each in the shape of a dog bone (the company is named after a famous canine), and each was piped with the company’s name – TogoRun.

There was a narrowly averted disaster in my kitchen with these cookies, however, and it’s all my own fault. See, while I’ve tried many recipes for cupcakes, shortbread cookies, and pound cake, rolled sugar cookies are one of those items that I’ve overlooked – I don’t have a “go-to” recipe (well, I didn’t. But boy I do now). Actually, most of my cookie recipes come from Martha Stewart’s Web site, and I’ve usually had good luck with them. So I didn’t think twice when I decided to use this Martha Stewart recipe for my sugar cookies. I was so (blindly) confident that I even made up a bunch of batches of the dough last week and never even tested the recipe. Hey, it’s Martha. Of course it has to work. Right?

Oh, no. No. That was not the case. When I put my first batch of cookies into the oven this Sunday the dough swelled and puffed up, making the dog bones look more like large misshapen oblongs. Even though I froze the cut-out pieces of dough beforehand, the dough refused to hold its shape.

I had a genuine baking crisis on my hands.

I ended up frantically searching online before I came across this recipe for roll-out sugar cookies from The Kitchn. I was immediately soothed because a.) the post said that she had used the recipe for years, with good and consistent results and b.) the dough uses a mixture of cream cheese and butter, which sounded much more stable than just butter alone. I ended up running all over Adams Morgan searching for flour (yes, the Safeway on Columbia Road was still out of flour from the snowstorm!) and other ingredients Sunday afternoon, before mixing up the replacement dough.

In the end, it all turned out fine – the new recipe worked like a dream, just as The Kitchn promised. In fact, I think my near cookie disaster could almost become an After School Special for aspiring pastry chefs about the value of recipe testing. I will never blindly trust The Martha again.

But it made me wonder – with all that baking during the snow storm, did anyone else have any baking crises? Any particularly memorable baking disasters? And were you able to save whatever it was you were working on? Please share your disaster, or near disaster, stories!

Also, I’d love any ideas on what to do with all this leftover cookie dough!


I also learned a lot about piping frosting with these, but that's another post.

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Weekly Roundup: Lost in the Fog Edition


Friday tulips.

It was a beautiful, foggy morning out here in Washington DC, made even more beautiful by the fact that it’s Friday.

Domestic Roundup

  • You can still pine about the loss of Domino over at Decor8.
  • DC Foodies announces a new feature: Foodie To Do Lists, a roundup of food-related events in DC.
  • In love with this idea on how to spruce up a damaged ceiling with billows of cloth. But I don’t think I’m quite artistic enough to make this work in the same way. Via Apartment Therapy DC.
  • Martha Stewart’s Cooking School has been nominated for a James Beard Award! Via, Martha Moments.

Happy Friday!

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Hanukkah Cupcakes!

hanukkah  cupcakes 3

Hanukkah Cupcakes!

Happy first day of Hanukkah to all my Jewish friends and readers! In honor of the holiday, I made Hanukkah cupcakes. Granted, these aren’t kosher, and I couldn’t figure out a good Hanukkah food tradition that I could transform into a cupcake (although I’m sure someone, somewhere, has made a latke cupcake). So I picked flavors that appear in Jewish baking, apples and honey, and used those as the basis for the cupcakes. If anyone has any better ideas for a Hanukkah cupcake that they’d like me to try, please let me know – we still have seven days left! I’m certainly not an expert on Jewish baking and would love suggestions.

The cake is an apple-cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart. Oddly enough, I had a hard time finding recipes for apple cupcakes, mostly because I think that people associate apples with muffins more than cupcakes (there are a billion recipes for applesauce muffins out there, let me tell you). But I was very happy with this recipe; the flavor of the apples really came through and the spices were well-balanced. I recommend grating the apples with a regular box grater, which is fast and efficient.

The frosting is honey cream-cheese, which I adapted from this Epicurious recipe. I’ve become such a fan of cream-cheese frostings lately; they marry well with a variety of cakes, and I love how the tangy flavor of the cream cheese compliments the sweetness of the sugar. If anything, I wish that I had been able to taste the honey a bit more in the frosting, but it’s difficult to incorporate honey into a frosting without it becoming too runny. I think my perfect honey frosting is still a work in progress.

Happy holidays everyone!

hanukkah cupcakes 1

Happy Hanukkah!

Apple Cupcakes
By Martha Stewart

Makes 2 Dozen
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups coarsely shredded apples, such as Macintosh (about 1 3/4 pounds)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; mix in apples. Add flour mixture; mix, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until just combined.

Divide batter among lined cups, filling halfway; bake until tops are springy to the touch, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove cupcakes from tins; transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Honey Cream-Cheese Frosting
Adapted from this Epicurious recipe.

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup honey

Beat cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla in large bowl until fluffy. Add honey and beat until smooth. If frosting is very soft, chill until firm enough to spread.

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Top Chef: They Almost Ruin Christmas


Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!! Eeeeeeeeeeeeee!!

Start of show, shots of NYC, shots of Chez Top Chef in Brooklyn, morning routines, blah blah blah. Does it matter what the chefs say about the last episode, when we know that the Martha is going to be on? I can’t wait. Besides, all we learn in the little episode recap is that Gene almost got kicked off and Ariane feels great about her last win. Next, please!

The chefs walk into the Top Chef kitchen for their Quickfire challenge, where lo and behold, the place is decked out in Christmas gear. I bet this feels really strange because they must have filmed this in, like, July (much like the Thanksgiving episode). Everyone’s wearing short sleeves and light fabrics and looks like they’ve been sweating profusely in the summer heat. Still, in Top Chef land it’s supposedly Christmas, because the Quickfire challenge is to make a one-pot holiday meal.

And then it happens!

There she is!

The Martha.

She’s actually there, in all her preppy yet eerily masculine glory!

I can hardly hear the TV over my shouts of fan-girl joy.

When advising the Chefs on the challenge, Martha quotes Einstein: “Make it simple, but not too simple.” Technically she paraphrases Einstein, because the real quote is: ” Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” But whatever, they’re off, with 45 minutes to make their dishes. During their frantic cooking, the camera shows a long close-up shot of the Glad logo, so I’m calling the producers out for Product Placement Number One.

How The Top Chefs Almost Ruin Christmas

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Thanksgiving Hotlines To The Rescue!

Phone courtesy of
tj scenes on flickr.

I’m sure that some of you have started preparing the great Thanksgiving meal today – either that, or you’re en route home to help someone else prepare it. Wonktheplank and I are already back in Oregon to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, and today my mother and I are going to be making pies; she’ll be making the apple, and I’ll be tackling the pumpkin.

If you’re at all nervous about the task ahead of you, you’re in luck – corporate America has come to the rescue! Big companies have set up a series of Thanksgiving hotlines that offer advice to panicked cooks about everything from turkey to soggy pie crusts. Below is my compilation of hotlines that you can reach out to in the midst of a cooking crisis.

Thanksgiving Hotlines:

Butterball Turkey Talk-Line®
Tips on all things turkey.
Phone: 1-800-Butterball.

The Martha Stewart Thanksgiving Hotline
Martha Stewart is here to answer all your Thanksgiving questions.
Phone: 866-675-6675 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET.

King Arther Flour Baker’s Hotline
King Arther Flour produces excellent, high quality flour, and I expect that this hotline will offer similarly high-quality baking advice.
Phone: (802) 649-3717.

Crisco® Pie Hotline
This one is kind of cool, even though I would never make a pie crust with all Crisco (but a couple tablespoons mixed in with the butter are excellent for creating a crisp, flaky texture). Call the Crisco® Pie Hotline with all your pie questions.
Phone: (877) FOR-PIE-TIPS.

OceanSpray Consumer Hotline
Is making cranberry sauce all that hard? You just put your cranberries, sugar and other seasonings into a pot and let them all cook away. Still, if you encounter any cranberry conundrums, the OceanSpray Consumer Hotline is here to help.
Phone: (800) 662-3263 (toll free). Weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST.

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Pumpkin Cupcakes for Your Thanksgiving Feast

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting. A new Thanksgiving tradition?

Every October magazines start piling up at my door, with their predictable, if entertaining, stories about how to put a new “spin” on Thanksgiving dinner. These publications have countless suggestions, from new ways to cook your turkey (newsflash—brining is out!), hundreds of interpretations of the traditional sides, and, of course, endless variations on pumpkin-themed desserts.

So, in this time-honored Thanksgiving tradition of food writing, I have my own spin on the Thanksgiving dessert. For those of you who don’t like pumpkin pie, yes, they do exist—what about pumpkin cupcakes?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of pumpkin pie. But for those of you who want to incorporate the cupcake trend into your Thanksgiving tradition, or are just in the mood for a nice fall cupcake recipe, then these cupcakes take the cake.

I used this Martha Stewart recipe (which follows) for the cake itself, because it was one of the few pumpkin cupcake recipes I could find that used butter, rather than oil, for the fat. I was worried that the butter would make these turn out too dense, but no worries—these beauties have a perfect cake-like, tender crumb, and the pumpkin flavor and spices are really wonderful.

My coworker suggested making a maple frosting to go with the pumpkin cake, since she had had the same pairing at Georgetown Cupcake and said it was to die for. I had a hard time finding a maple frosting recipe that didn’t call for maple extract (I try to avoid artificial flavorings when possible, especially when I know they’ll set me back $5 for one recipe), and finally settled on this one (this recipe also follows). I liked the frosting—the cream cheese cuts down on the sweetness. But I now understand why all those other recipes called for maple extract—the maple flavor was definitely faint.

Still, even if these beauties were imperfect, these were still one of my most successful cupcake attempts. I really can’t say enough how much I loved the pumpkin cake—how it was moist without being too heavy, fragrant without being too sweet. I guess that Eddie is right, Martha really does only hire the best.

Recipes galore!

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Top Design: Bedrooms on Acid, Martha Stewart Showroom Frenzy, and Product Placements Galore!

The winning room. Could it possibly be a (gasp) hotel lobby?

I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you. I actually found last night’s Top Design pretty entertaining (gasp of astonishment). I mean, it wasn’t Project Runway or The Real (crazy) Housewives of New York City entertaining, but it was on par with a mediocre episode of Top Chef. And for Top Design, that’s saying a lot.

Yes, there was bitching, but there was also design! The designers designed rooms that didn’t look like crap! There was an Eddie smackdown! The Pop Design was actually interesting! This is not the Top Design I’ve come to know and . . . kind of like.

In week’s challenge (“Light It Up”), the contestants had to design rooms around chandeliers. Really, really fancy, Swarovski crystal chandeliers, which no one would ever actually own because high-end stuff like this looks ridiculous anywhere other than a fancy hotel bar. I think chandeliers like these masquerade as high-end design objects, but in reality they’ve been created to subconsciously make you buy a whole lot of overpriced cocktails.

The episode started off with more of Andrea’s whining— yes, was more whining than last week. Part of me feels bad for her, because the competition has killed her confidence and I know what that feels like. But the other, meaner, part of me wants her to either stop whining and get her act together, or go home. I mean, it’s reality TV. Hasn’t she seen an episode of Top Chef? Reality TV shows judges aren’t chosen because they hand out tea and cookies to contestants.

As if Andrea’s wet-dishrag act wasn’t enough, we also have to listen to Eddie bitching about how Preston doesn’t know how to do the dishes. Um, I don’t get it. Apparently Preston’s big offense is that he put soap in the dishwasher and then turned it on. Huh? Maybe Eddie could come to DC and do my dishes for me, since apparently I too do not know the “real” way to run my dishwasher.

An actually interesting challenge! Who knew it could happen on Top Design?

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Happy Birthday Martha Stewart!


A birthday grilled cheese, courtesy of wonktheplank

When you find out you share a birthday with someone famous, you inevitably feel as if you have some kind of mystical connection to them. Even if the celebrity in question is a former extreme cage fighter who made a second career hosting in vacuum infomercials, deep down you think that maybe, just maybe, you share something special with them.

So, while I know that it’s a bit ridiculous, I’ve always been rather proud of the fact that I share a birthday with one and only Martha Stewart.

Yes, that’s right, it’s her birthday (and mine) today.

Much has been made of this connection between me and Martha in my family. My mother has always held that this was the reason for my love of all things domestic, and the theory nicely explained why I poured over Martha Stewart Living as a child with the obsessiveness that my peers reserved for memorizing episodes of Saved By The Bell.

So Martha, here’s a virtual toast to you. Without your inspiration, I doubt I would have attempted half the domestic feats that I have. Including this one:


The completed Lavender Lemon Honey Cake. Details of its successes and failings will be expounded upon in another post. Too many things went wrong-and right-for one meager entry to detail.

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The Dirty Secret of Homemaker Guilt

I love homemaking. I just love it. I love cooking, I love decorating, I love making my home more functional, I even love cleaning (well, sometimes. And even if I don’t love cleaning, I sure do love having cleaned).

And yet, even though I am an absolutely enthusiastic homemaker, I more and more find myself succumbing to an ugly side of modern homemaking: guilt.

Let’s face it: even the best of us have homemaker guilt these days. I admit that I am a huge, unwavering Martha-Stewart fan, but — in all honesty — she also stresses me out. When I flip through her magazine and look at those perfect cupcakes, perfectly wrapped presents, gorgeous table arrangements, I am torn between excitement (hey! I want to do that too!) and stress (how the hell can I find time to do that?).

And I think a big part of our guilt comes from the fact that we live in a world where homemaking has been professionalized. We’re bombarded with images of perfect houses on HGTV, perfect dinners on the Food Network, perfect parties in magazines. And while many of these publications and shows profess that what they’re doing is “easy” and geared towards the average homemaker, the sheer amount of “easy fixes” or “easy dinners” or “easy table arrangements” that they suggest we try out some weekend is completely overwhelming.

“Hey, I can do that,” I think, when I see some neat feature in a homemaking magazine, like a suggested center piece arrangement, or feature on how to organize your closets in five easy steps. But then I really think about the time and effort it would take to purchase the items for some table arrangement, or craft project, or easy four-course French dinner, and I get completely overwhelmed. I could do it. Theoretically. But in reality, I really I don’t have the time, or the money, or even, on some days, the energy.

It helps when I get in these slumps to realize that these “easy home meals” have been created by people whose job it is to come up with dinners you can supposedly make in less than 30 minutes. Those “easy fixes for the home” that my beloved Martha features in her magazine, are actually projects that they spent days photographing to make them appear utterly perfect.

Part of me loves these publications; I love the ideas that they give me, I love the way they spark my imagination and inspire me to do more things around the home. And part of me hates them, because I never actually have the time to make the 30-minute meal that will actually take me an hour to make, and for which I have to purchase $20 in extra ingredients that I wouldn’t normally buy.

Let’s face it: in this day and age, you have to work to make a living. Even if homemaking is our calling, we have to fit it in between our jobs, activities, and social lives. We can prioritize it, we can love it, we can even be one of those professional people who do formerly domestic tasks for a living, but for most of us the home is something we have to work on in our spare time.

This blog is meant to be about modern homemaking—for those of us who have a passion for cooking and baking and decorating and making our house a home, but who also have to face the realities that it’s something that we do in our spare time. And, in the interest of truly full disclosure, I want this blog to be a way for me to motivate myself to find the time to spend on my home projects, which so easily get pushed out of the way because of work, social activities, travel, and even the allure of watching crappy TV with my boyfriend after a long day at work.

So here’s to homemaking—but homemaking without the guilt, pressure, and stress.After all, those things really shouldn’t be a part of something you love, and I don’t think they have to be.

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