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.
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.
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.