Monday, June 29, 2015

Martha & Me - June

In June, I tried two new things from Martha Stewart Living magazine, a recipe and a craft project, as part of my Martha & Me challenge. Here's how it all went...



The recipe is Gemelli with Shrimp and Sugar Snap Peas, from the June issue of the magazine (online version can be found here). This recipe was one of four recipes printed on detachable cards; this is a monthly feature in the magazine, the recipes on the cards usually tied together thematically. These four were all one-pot recipes. This recipe called out to me because I love shrimp and the other ingredients were really interesting - sugar snap peas, feta and lots of lemon and dill. I decided to make it on a Saturday night, which is when the Bear and I have our standing weekly at-home date, consisting of dinner, dessert, beer and Netflix. I like to cook easy meals on these nights and this seemed like a good one to try out.


Most of the ingredients are pantry staples for me. I love feta and usually have some around for topping salads. I buy large bags of frozen peeled, de-veined shrimp at Costco periodically and can usually make three dinners for the two of us from a two-pound bag. The recipe called for fresh dill, which I do not usually keep on hand and the fresh dill in the store seemed a bit wizened when I shopped. I had plenty of dried dill in the spice rack, so I used that instead. I made my own chicken broth, as I usually do, from my favorite Knorr bouillon imported from Mexico (it's cheap and very good). I sliced the snap peas a bit more thinly than the recipe photo shows; I was concerned that they might not be able to cook enough in the allotted time.


Surprisingly, the only difficulty with this recipe was the pasta. I checked four different stores and could not find gemelli pasta in any of them. The recipe specified "gemelli or other short pasta," so I took the liberty of using fusilli, which is readily available in all of the same stores and is about the same size and volume as gemelli. I think it worked fine.




The recipe technique was interesting. You're cooking the pasta in a combination of water and broth, in much less volume than you'd normally use, and the water absorbs into the pasta as it cooks. Then the peas and shrimp go in, along with lemon juice and zest and some of the feta, making a sauce that clings nicely to all the solid ingredients. I'd never done this with feta before and I was honestly a little skeptical, but I've eaten feta pureed as a dip before and that was very creamy and smooth. The sauce came together really well, thin but silky and very flavorful.


I stirred in the dried dill at the very end. I probably could have used more of it, but I was afraid to overpower the other flavors, as sometimes can happen with dried herbs. We ate right away (we're always starving on Saturday nights because we wait until the children have gone to bed so as to enjoy a quiet meal together). It was delicious. The pasta was perfectly cooked, as were the shrimp. The peas were what I'd call just-cooked, and I didn't love that because they seemed a bit tough to me, but the flavor was nice and fresh. There was a definite Greek vibe about this dish, with the lemon, feta and dill. It was easy and very good and I'd make it again for sure.



I also tried a crafty project from the June issue, DIY Painted Scarves (you can find the directions online here). The idea behind these scarves is that you make a plain cotton scarf or stole unique by stenciling it with fabric paint.


For the past few months I've been sort of obsessed with pale aqua. I've been choosing it for everything lately. I bought a new phone case in this color, a couple of new shirts, a new journaling notebook, yarn! It's just catching my eye all the time. My scarf has a slight white-to-aqua ombre effect. I found it at Jo-Ann Fabrics, where they have a small selection of scarves. I used Tulip Soft Metallics fabric paint in Platinum. I wanted my scarf to be softly embellished, pale and breezy and just faintly blingy.


These were the rest of my supplies. I made my own stencil, in the interest of frugality. When I shopped for the type of small, all-over repeat stencils suggested in the tutorial, I found them to be very expensive. There weren't any in the local craft stores I checked, and if I'd ordered them online, the shipping rates were more than the stencil prices. I liked the look of one scarf in the magazine with a dotted design. I thought it would be interesting to have dots going up vertically from the bottom edge of the scarf, almost like bubbles in a glass of soda. I cut a strip of heavy cardboard and punched it full of holes in basically even rows using a standard metal hole-punch tool. I used an old paintbrush on its last legs because I knew I'd need to throw it away after using it for fabric paint. I used an index card to squirt out small drops of paint for dabbing onto the brush, and masking tape to hold the stencil on the fabric as I worked. I covered the kitchen counter, where I worked, with big sheets of white drawing paper taped together.


I dabbed the paint on sort of randomly, filling in the holes here and there, as opposed to doing each and every one. I wanted it light and airy, not planned-looking. My stencil worked okay. It got a bit soggy by the time I finished the first scarf-end. If I were doing it again, I'd use a different material for the stencil, probably acetate.


After I finished the first end, I hung the scarf on my laundry rack, letting it dry before starting to stencil the other end. The paint bottle says it needed 72 hours to dry, but I'd applied it very thinly and it's so dry here that the paint was quite dry after two or three hours. Dry enough to work with, anyway.


It's really hard to photograph. It didn't help that all the photos for this post were taken within a couple of days of receiving my new camera and I was pretty helpless with it at first. But hanging the scarf in the sun helped; backlighting made the stenciling stand out. I like it. I probably won't make any more of them, unless for a special gift, because I tend to buy my scarves in thrift stores (seriously, 25 cents is unbeatable, especially for an accessory that gets practically no wear), but I think this was nice for a special project just for me and I enjoyed making it.


Just for you, an awkward selfie in my bedroom mirror! I have a short, hobbit-like torso and I was trying to get a lot of scarf in the photo so I'm a little contorted. I wore the scarf with a white top, khaki capri pants and a light denim jacket. I think it made a nice summery outfit (the jacket wasn't needed for long). The scarf design is subtle, but I know it's there and it shimmers just a little bit, as much as this plain-jane really wants.

*****

I've finished half a year of this challenge! I started in January, hoping to enrich my skills. I'd just started my subscription to Martha Stewart Living and really liked what I saw. I'm happy to be doing this self-imposed challenge. I've learned some new things. My recipes and crafts have mostly been successful, but not uniformly so. I'm enjoying it anyway, there's always room in my life for something new, especially in the kitchen and in my crafting.

If you'd like to read previous posts about my Martha & Me challenge, please click here, or on the Martha & Me button in my sidebar. So far this year, I have tried:

Spaghetti with Collard Greens and Lemon (January)
Printable Valentine cards with Swedish Fish candies and Honey Blondie Bars (February)
Mango Upside-Down Cake (March)
Asparagus and Watercress Pizza and embroidery-embellished fabric made into a pillow cover (April)
Buttermilk Oat Waffles and Bruleed Ruby-red Grapefruit (May)
Gemelli with Shrimp and Sugar Snap Peas and DIY Painted Scarf (June)

I hope you'll stay tuned for further installments of my challenge. It's not too late to join me! Try something new from any resource (book, magazine, website, etc.) and blog about it at the end of the month. Just leave a link in my comments for us to check it out. I'd love to see the new things you're trying!

29 comments:

  1. Looks like a great recipe, and that scarf design looks really nice. Best wishes!

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  2. The scarf has come out beautifully - I love the colour aqua too. The recipe sounds yummy but I'd have to omit the shrimp! Feta, dill and lemon make a great combo though. xx

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  3. both came out great!!! I really need to do a self-imposed challenge, too....I have gazillion cookbooks, yet reach for allrecipes.com for new ideas; I have batrillion knitting books, and always go to ravelry. I'm missing out on some great stuff!!! :)

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  4. The recipe looks great and the scarf is lovely. The silver dots are just enough to lift the scarf without being too much. I can sympathzse with the short torso, I find it makes buying tops a challenge as so many tops come down way too low!! I haven't quite finished my challenge makes yet, got to get busy ;-)

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  5. I was impressed by the recipe and will be giving it a go, it certainly looked delicious. Beautiful looking scarf, always nice to have something for yourself. Most of my makes are for gifts or the Grandchildren.

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  6. Wonderful. The scarf is really lovely, just enough pattern there, and the recipe, wow, it looks just like the photo in the magazine. Well done.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your challenges Jennifer, the flavours in the shrimp sound interesting and I think your scarf is so pretty.
    I have a 5 minute shrimp and pasta recipe which I cook frequently. You and the Bear may like it. Put enough pasta for two to boil (I use 250 g fresh spaghetti, linguine or tagliatelle and it takes 3-4 minutes
    to cook al dente, if you use dried pasta start heating the oil for the chilli and garlic halfway through the
    pasta cooking time.) Meanwhile heat a tablespoon of olive oil in your biggest frying pan and sauté for
    less than a minute a finely sliced clove or two of garlic and one fresh red chilli (I always cut chilli with
    scissors). Take care not to let it colour or burn. Add 200g raw peeled shrimps and continue cooking on high heat until cooked through. Add a good splash (50-100ml) of white wine, it will sizzle and rapidly reduce. Add salt to taste. Meanwhile drain pasta and add to the pan of prawns together with a generous amount/couple of handfuls of fresh rocket. (I grow rocket and this is a great dish for using up
    the older leaves. Or here in the UK we can buy it in bags from the supermarket.) The rocket will wilt in
    the heat and you will be able to mix everything together. The resulting dish is so colourful and it is honestly the quickest and tastiest dish I make for two, we call it hot prawn rocket for short.

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  8. What lovely makes, the scarf is so pretty, and the pasta dish looks brilliant. You're doing really well with your challenge, the new things you've made are really mounting up, it's a great way to try different things. I shall look forward to seeing what you make next. CJ xx

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  9. I love the subtle spots on the scarf and the shrimp dish does look very tasty. :o)

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  10. Thanks for sharing both your projects, Jennifer. The recipe looks delicious, and I am imagining how I might tweak it to avoid dairy and gluten while enjoying the basic combination. I especially like to munch on raw freshly washed sugar snap peas, and really have never cooked them! While I may have painted fabric before I can not remember doing so at the moment. Your handmade stencil is very clever and I like the pattern you created with it. Wishing you a happy week! xx

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  11. That pasta dish look terrific, and I think your picture looks much more appetizing than the one in the magazine! Your scarf turned out so cute! Love that blue.

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  12. I love your Martha posts. I remember the first year I had a subscription to Mollie Makes I tried to make one thing from each issue, and it was a lot of fun. That pasta dish looks really, really good, just my kind of food. I've never heard of gemelli pasta or seen it anywhere on sale here, I'll have to look out for it. Your scarf is really pretty, I like the floaty bubble effect and how delicate and simple it is.

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  13. Both projects turned out great. Well done!

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  14. We don't care for shrimp, so that recipe wouldn't be a hit here, but it was interesting to read that cooking technique. I love how your scarf turned out!

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  15. That shrimp dish really looks delicious and I *love* the idea of cooking everything in the same pot. I might have to print that up for my DIL! The scarf turned out neat.. I have several plain ones that would benefit from some embellishment. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  16. love your pretty scarf, and the dinner sounds delicious, but what really stands out to me is your Saturday night date night. How wonderful x

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  17. I really enjoy your Martha and Me posts. I had great plans to make something out of my Good Food magazine but that's fallen by the wayside so far....I should really get going with it again. I love your scarf. I wear a scarf everyday - what a great idea!! xx

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  18. Martha's recipe looks delicious Jennifer...I think my daughters would especially love this ;-) ....and how pretty your scarf looks...I love the colour and your delicate print x
    Hope you're having a happy week x
    Susan x

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  19. I've been buying the Martha Stewart magazines ever since you started your challenge, Jennifer. You have definitely inspired me! There must be some kind of "aqua bug" going around. I just bought some aqua fabric last week to sew a top for myself. :-)

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  20. Jennifer, you look absolutely adorable in your scarf. It turned out so lovely. Your pasta dish looks very delicious.--Yum!

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  21. Love that scarf, I'm a big fan of that colour too, the pasta looks really yummy, perfect for summer.
    Clare xx

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  22. I like your Martha & Me posts very much. I am often stuck for ideas what to cook and look forward to reading your regular posts with delicious recipes. x

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  23. That pasta dish looks yummy Jennifer I would definitely make that but replacing the sugar snap peas because I don't like them. Your scarf is lovely such a pretty colour. :) xx

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  24. What a great meal idea, thanks Jennifer :o)

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  25. I love that you gave yourself this challenge and are sticking to it! I also like how you and your husband have your at-home date night after the kids have gone to bed. Great idea for parents with young kids at home. You are right - gemelli pasta is hard to find. Sometimes my local Meijer has it; other times, not. Fusilli is a good substitute. Love how your scarf turned out!

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  26. I always enjoy your Martha and Me posts Jennifer. The prawn and feta recipe looks absolutely delicious. I can assure you you do NOT look like a hobbit, you look very sweet and pretty, and your scarf is gorgeous, the little champagne coloured 'bubbles' lift it beyond the ordinary. X

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  27. I think that is a great little project and you look fabulous in it. I have never done that before. Jo x

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  28. What a fab idea, the scarf looks fab, think I will have to give it a try!

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  29. the recipe looks amazing :) Love shrimp so I would have to try it out :)

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