If you know me, you know I’m a big Martha Stewart fan. I love that she’s a bit fussy and a perfectionist that doesn’t apologize for who she is or what she does. She’s a stickler for etiquette and tradition. She’s uncomfortably honest and, frankly, the woman works her tail off. She built an empire, went to prison, lost her empire, rebuilt her life and never seemed to skip a beat. I admire that strength. I respect that stubborn streak. I’m in awe of that self-perseverance.
I use to record her daily show. I would watch an episode after a long night of work in the ER when I came home in the morning just before I went to sleep. It got my mind off of work and I’d usually pick up a really helpful tip or two. She’s also overwhelmingly entertaining, though I’m still not 100% certain it was completely intentional. I could relax, giggle and learn a few things, but there was something about my connection that went a little deeper than the obvious.
I grew up in a subdivision on just under an acre of property. We had dogs, chickens and cats – but the 2 chickens belonged to my sister and other than dropping food scraps into their pen on occasion, I knew nothing about them. I grew up, moved into an apartment in town and lived within a mile of the hospital I worked. I practically shared a parking lot with Costco and a grocery store was at the end of my street. I wouldn’t necessarily say that daily living was easy – but it most certainly was convenient.
Then I got married and we built a home on a 160 acre farm in rural America. Life changed. I had cows and farm equipment and irrigation water. We raised hay. We had dial-up Internet that dropped the signal when a bird landed on the phone line. I went from being an independent, single woman; tucked away in a 720 sq ft apartment where everything I could possibly need was within a 10 minute drive – to being a new wife, in an empty oversized house, on a huge piece of land, almost 15 miles away from the nearest Starbuck’s.
It was a bit overwhelming to say the least. I was very fortunate and grateful but this new life was also very intimidating. It came with a long “To Do” list and most of it I had to teach myself. If you’ve ever had to do that before, you know it meant making mistakes until I got it right. I can’t tell you how many lessons I learned the hard way. I was young in my nursing career, too. Nothing was familiar and feelings of inadequacy crept into my world almost daily. I think I spent a solid 10 years second guessing myself about nearly everything.
That’s where watching Martha’s program came in.
Martha Stewart had a mystical way of making me feel a little less overwhelmed. She had a farm, an impeccable garden, cooked formal meals for long guest lists, ran her own businesses, did crafts, hosted events, filmed a daily show and still found time to show up at over the top events, shows and new restaurant openings. She reminded me that if one woman could manage all of those things at the same time, I could handle juggling the few things I had going on in comparison. She had teams of people helping her. I stopped feeling the need to “do it all on my own” and I got much more comfortable asking for help. It’s a bit silly that I could get all of that from a stranger on the TV, but it worked and when you’re in the trenches, you use what works.
Martha taught me how to raise chickens, cook chicken noodle soup from scratch, bake some of the best brownies I’ve ever made, roast a badass turkey, clarify butter, prepare my own yogurt and grow a garden that I could be proud of. She shared tips on creating an inviting home, making a pretty bed and how to keep those towels crisp and absorbent (for the love of cotton, do NOT use fabric softener on towels!).
I miss Martha but I still catch her on her blog from time to time. We’ve been on the farm nearly 15 years now, so I’ve figured out a few more things than I knew in the beginning. What was once foreign is now familiar and less overwhelming. I let Martha stick to perfectionism and I do the best I can but don’t get hung up on the details that fall apart at the last minute.
I was hoping to catch a glimpse of her during our New York visit but she was working on a project upstate. It’s just as well. I can almost imagine how the awkward introduction would go. I’d embarrass myself by professing my admiration and she would smile her appropriate smile and uncomfortably thank me for my support in a stiff Martha-esque manner. I’d feel like a freak and spend the plane ride home wondering why I couldn’t have said something more intelligent.
So that’s my Martha story. It came to mind today after I finally nailed a recipe for her Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting. Of course, I tweaked a few things – less jam, more egg whites — my hens’ eggs are medium sized – so I adjust recipes for them. I used the buttercream to frost my mom’s birthday cupcakes and it was probably a little too rich to top the cupcakes with as much as I used but it got decent reviews from some tough critics. My nephews said it tasted like a strawberry milkshake but was a bit too fluffy for their liking. I think it would be a perfect addition to a strawberry shortcake parfait cup.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream combines egg whites, sugar and butter. The strawberry comes from a scoop of strawberry jam.
You start by whisking the sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl heated over boiling water to heat the mixture to about 160 degrees – then remove it from heat and whisk it to form stiff peaks. Keep beating until mixture cools, then add tablespoon ny tablespoon of butter.
After about 6 minutes, the mixture comes together. Add the vanilla and strawberry jam and you’re done.
The perk to this frosting is that it’s not quite as sweet as tradition buttercream frosting, and it’s much lighter, so piping it is a quick and easy task. It holds it’s shape well, hardening when stored at cool temperatures, but it softens quickly at room temps.
6 medium egg whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 butter cubes
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 large scoop of strawberry jam
The link to Martha’s recipe with perfect pics and instructions is below: