Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Martha & Me - February


I'm determined to keep trying something new from each issue of Martha Stewart Living over the course of this year. During the month of February, I tried two new ideas. I helped the small Bears make valentines for their school friends, using a printable template found on Martha's website here (there was also a pictorial included in the magazine), and I made a batch of Honey Blondies. The recipe can be found here.



Martha's valentines appealed to us because they were simple and funny. I have to admit that I love kids' crafts a lot but I'm not into fancy valentines. Some of the ideas seem so complicated. I like to let my kids make things themselves, as opposed to making everything for them. But I do enjoy a homemade touch and it's always nice when you can give a unique creation, so Martha's printable valentine cards really appealed to me. We chose the "You're a Catch!" design, on page 5 of the PDF in the above link. We actually modified it a bit, copying it to a graphic art program and erasing the colored "waves" on the original design. We don't have a color printer and anyway, we thought it would be more fun to decorate them ourselves. We could have just drawn waves but the Bear wanted to try making a stencil on his new toy, the 3-D printer. So much for not making complicated valentines! Ha.


What did we catch with these valentines? Swedish Fish! I ordered a box of individually-wrapped fish here. For each valentine, I helped the kids assemble four wrapped fish and stapled them onto each card near the fish hook illustration to look like the fish had been "caught" on the hook.


I think they were well-received. They were among the simplest, least expensive valentines given that day, from what I saw when I attended their parties. But I don't think kids' valentines should be fancy or extravagant. In fact, I sort of chafe at the idea, so this was a great approach for us. I liked spending the money on candy instead of licensed-character valentines, for one thing. I also liked the play on words, it was cute and silly. These valentines worked great for us and I would definitely use them again in the future.


I also tried a recipe from the February issue, Honey Blondies. These are bar cookies made with honey, brown sugar and bittersweet chocolate. I had some trouble with my camera around the time I made them, so I don't have my own photo of a sliced bar. To be honest, I felt a little disappointed with them, though the rest of the family liked them a lot. They were easy to make, though, and I liked the technique.


Generally, I don't eat much dark chocolate. I greatly prefer the sweeter milk chocolate or even white chocolate over the darker varieties. I don't know much about dark chocolate either, such as the percentage designations and so forth. In fact, I needed help from a clerk in Trader Joe's to pick a suitable chocolate for this recipe; I just didn't know where to begin. She suggested this one and it seemed okay to me. I enjoyed chopping the bar with my chef's knife; it was very tender and flaky and I had zero temptation to nibble any while I chopped.


Blondies usually require some stove-top cooking in addition to the baking stage. You have to melt the butter with the sweeteners in the recipe - in this case, both honey and brown sugar. I used basic clover honey to make my blondies, but Martha suggests trying different types of honey. I thought the honey flavor was fairly mild in these bars so I can see using a honey with bolder flavors, if that's what you're into.



Once the butter and sweeteners were ready, it was a simple matter of stirring in egg, flour, vanilla and salt, as well as the chopped chocolate. I liked the swirled effect of the chocolate through the batter. That may have been a sign of chopping it too much, but I thought it looked pretty. They baked quite quickly, though I did need to add five minutes to the recipe's suggested baking time.

 

When cooled, I removed the whole thing from the pan and cut it into sixteen squares. They were very moist and thick, and they had browned nicely. I thought they were just okay-tasting, though. They were a bit too sweet and the chocolate didn't really come through at all. I would just use semi-sweet chocolate chips if I made these again; it would be cheaper and I always have them in the pantry. All in all, this recipe was good but not great. I will probably try it again with modifications, namely a little less sugar.

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Thanks for following along with my challenge! If you want to join in, please leave a link to your blog post so we can see what you tried this month, or tell us about it in a comment (it can be from anywhere, you don't have to use this magazine!). I'm already starting to think about March, having received the latest magazine last week; both a recipe and a sewing project have been catching my eye.

33 comments:

  1. Those are the cutest Valentine's cards ever! Having the "catch" of Swedish fish was the perfect touch! And you blondies look delicious. I'm a lover of dark chocolate. :-)

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  2. I think Martha Stewart magazines are quite expensive over here (and difficult to find locally) but I do like looking at the website - tons of ideas.
    I've also seen photos of the prop stores where they keep everything for styling the photos. Amazing!
    S

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  3. I agree - cutest Valentine's cards!!! Very clever.

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  4. That is something new to me - do kids also "do" Valentine over there ?? And there are even Valentine parties ?? Here in Belgium, Valentine only "starts" when you're a teenager an when you have a girl/boyfriend...
    Those blondies look delicious... Also something I have never heard of :-) ! I'm trying to figure out what they are called here, but nothing familiar... (also maybe because I don't bake much myself...)
    Your blog is always so much fun for me, to learn about differences between our continents !

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  5. They are very cute valentines! I'm glad that whole class valentines are a crazy idea (and bound to end in tears) but I'm not a big valentine person!

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  6. I like those Valentines card very much. I've never heard of a Valentines party for children. Does it promote friendship? I like the idea of trying something from your subscription every month. The blondies look yummy. Shame they didn't taste as expected.
    Leanne xx

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  7. The valentines are great and I I feel that for school friends they should be more of a sentiment than a competition for the most expensive!! We haven't had it crop up at school here in the UK. There may be some schools that do it but generally it's more of a boyfriend, girlfriend thing! I've been busy with my take on your one item a month. I've been struggling a bit more to complete this month, it's been a busy one!! I'm still not sure if I'll manage it. My one thing for me is done but the ones for the children's stockings still need quite a bit of input! The challenge is really helping though as it keeps me more accountable! Take care. Sharon x

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  8. The valentines are great and I I feel that for school friends they should be more of a sentiment than a competition for the most expensive!! We haven't had it crop up at school here in the UK. There may be some schools that do it but generally it's more of a boyfriend, girlfriend thing! I've been busy with my take on your one item a month. I've been struggling a bit more to complete this month, it's been a busy one!! I'm still not sure if I'll manage it. My one thing for me is done but the ones for the children's stockings still need quite a bit of input! The challenge is really helping though as it keeps me more accountable! Take care. Sharon x

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  9. These are such lovely valentines and just the sort of thing that children should be exchanging I think. We don't exchange valentines in that way in England, it is an adult thing so I don't have any experience of what sorts of other things might be given though! xx

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  10. Awe I love the valentines such a clever little idea!!!!! Blondies look good too, I agree with you though, milk choc is best!
    V x

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  11. What fun Valentines! They look great. I love dark chocolate.....

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  12. Lovely Valentines cards. We don't do that here, which I'm a bit grateful for, although no doubt the shops will try and steer us in that direction before too long. Well done for trying two new things, I'm sure you'll have found some wonderful recipes before the year is out. CJ xx

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  13. Love the valentines, very sweet and the blondies look good. I'm a milk choc girl too Jxx

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  14. Love the valentines, very sweet and the blondies look good. I'm a milk choc girl too Jxx

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  15. I think it's WONDERFUL that you and the kids made the Valentines! I bet they were the very favorite of all the ones the other kids received. My 2 grandsons came home with big envelopes of Valentines and I was really disappointed because they did not take any for the other kids. My dil said that the oldest said he didn't want to. Well, to me that should have been a teachable moment about reciprocation. I hope they do it next year! Good job, Mom. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  16. I'm afraid I don't do Valentine's Day, but I do love chocolate, above all dark chocolate. :)

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  17. The valentine cards look great, Jennifer. Well done to the small bears! :o)

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  18. Love the Valentine's... such a sweet idea! I absolutely love swedish fish! And the blondies look really yummy, too.

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  19. I let all my magazines go, down to my last issues of Southern Living, but enjoy Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple and a few others at the library. Great selection for free! Unless you want to use the copier for a recipe or something at 10 cents a page, lol.

    Nice valentine idea for the kids. Sure they loved the candy extra touch.

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  20. Your valentine items were cute and such a great easy idea and yes not costly ☺ I made some muffins on the weekend I was not happy with as they STUCK to the papercup, never had that happen before lol Going to knock up some m&m/smarty cookies over this weekend ☺

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  21. Good for you, Jennifer! The Valentines looked like they were fun to make and receive, and the fish and blond brownies looked like they were yummy. Homemade can often be especially an expression of heartfelt to me...a giving of oneself. Your February projects were so good, I am looking forward to seeing what you will do for March :-) xx

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  22. I love the valentines! I think the other kids liked them because you included candy, and I think they are just cute!

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  23. The valentines are adorable Jennifer!!!! This year we bought some from Target instead of making them and never again will I do that...they were flimsy and just not fun to put together. So trying these! And your baking goodness up there looks amazing!!! I am sooooo going to try to jump in for this fun for March! Do I have to try something from the March issue or can it be from any??? So fun!!! Happy making you! Nicole xoxo

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  24. The valentine cards are a brilliant idea. Our kids don't do that over here, yet. I'm sure it'll soon catch on like most other things which have found their way here. Celebrations are so commercialised these days but we don't want our kids to miss out on celebrating with their friends so I love your take on the idea, going for a simple approach, well done. I love dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, I think you get the idea, any sort of chocolate. I'd have loved your blondies.

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  25. I love those Valentines; what a great idea for the kids. My grandsons would love those candy fish!
    Blondies look delish - I love dark chocolate, so I would go in hard with that :)

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  26. I love the fact that your kids made their cards this year. Such a great way to share yourself with others. That Swedish fish idea was hilarious. Perfect! The brownies look delicious. Today will be a baking day with Piper since it's snowing here, AGAIN!
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  27. I'm guessing blondies are paler brownies? I've had good brownies when visiting the US, but have never made them at home! Must look for a good recipe. Great idea for the valentines - we don't have that here in NI - just for older teens etc, but it's probably a lovely way to get past the agonising crush thing if you grow up with a fun, sweet sentiment thing.

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  28. Those Valentines are absolutely precious! Love how you encourage your kids to be so creative. From following a ton of recipes over the years, I have found that Martha recipes - in general (not always) - aren't the greatest. Sorry your blondies didn't turn out well. I love a good blondie and I also like dark chocolate (it's good for you!), but I don't think the two go together. A blondie needs milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate.

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  29. Love the Valentine cards. We don't send them to friends here (UK), just to lovers/partners, so to me the play on words and sweeties make them perfect xx

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  30. Lovely things to make from your magazine. Those blondies look delicious! x

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  31. The primary schools here don't really acknowledge Valentines day much to my relief, but I think your gift solution is neat and tasteful. I would've gobbled up those blondies, I love them! Xx

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