Sunday, May 31, 2009

What I bought

As much as I tried to stick to my list at the sale, a bunch of stuff caught my eye and I just had to have it.

Of all that, here are the items that were actually on my list to begin with:
And here's all of the Martha Stewart stuff I bought:

And I bought a 12-pack icing color set to replace my old ones.

My old 25 colors are going to my friend Teryn. She uses the food colors to dye yarn for crocheting. Check out her awesome step-by-step tutorial of that process here.
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

At the tent sale

I arrived a little late (8:05 instead of 7:45am like I had hoped) and my goodness, Wilton fans were out in full force.

It drizzled a bit while I was in line, but no torrential downpour. And very few people were dismayed by the rain.

What did dismay me was the severe lack of shopping carts. Only 1 in 4 people was lucky enough to get a cart. The rest of us had to use hand baskets or pack horses, and wouldn't you know it, I forgot my pack horse. I was surprised by all the families in line--lots of strollers and carry-able children, parents and grandparents.

The tent sale featured a lot of items with different brand names but fall under the Wilton industries umbrella. Lots of Mario Batali cookware, Copco tea kettles, EK Success and Jolee (scrapbooking) items. Some of the items from the Martha Stewart Everyday line at KMart, but not much.

What really surprised me about this year's sale was the amount of Martha Stewart Crafts (sold at Michael's and a cheaper version sold at Wal-Mart). Holy paper punchers! I was just not prepared for that amount of craft supplies: punches, scrapbook materials, craft kits and more. At this point, I realized it was a good thing I did not have a cart or pack horse, because I would have gone cuckoo for cocoa puffs and bought two of everything.

The Wilton Tent Sale lasts until June 16.
Tomorrow, my purchases...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wilton tent sale

The Wilton Tent Sale starts today. I'll be there when they open at 8am tomorrow, and tweeting as much as possible.

The tent sale is pretty much just like it sounds. Everything is under a huge tent, each aisle is exactly two shopping carts wide, and merchandise is neatly organized in bins and boxes on both sides of the aisle. The aisles are set up as a snaking corridor rather than the typical aisles in a supermarket, so once you pass something it can be very difficult to get back to it. It helps to get organized before you get there and become overwhelmed by all the awesome stuff you just have to have.

I've found that it's best to go prepared with a list:

  • 2009 Wilton yearbook
  • 2008 Wilton yearbook
  • ABC/123 cookie cutter set
  • candy melts
  • ABC candy mold
  • 123 candy mold
  • stars mold
  • peanut butter candy cups mold
  • 12 icing color set
  • cute cupcake liners

And, I'm on the lookout for anything Elmo and Sesame Street. Little Guy's birthday is in the fall, and I want to be ready with the Sesame Street theme. For example:

This would be a perfect cake topper.

I'll post all about my trip to the Wilton tent sale and my purchases this weekend. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Turtle brownies

Whoever invented the brownie is of superior intellect. Whoever invented the Turtle is downright brilliant. And the person who put them together to make a Turtle Brownie is a diabolical genius. Who is this culinary daredevil/deviant, you ask?

It's Betty Crocker. You didn't see that coming, did you?

This recipe for Turtle Brownies arrived in my inbox via a weekly Betty Crocker enewsletter--you can sign up for your enewsletter by clicking on the "Dinner Made Easy" banner to the right or at the bottom of the page.
The directions are fairly simple, though I would make a few changes the next time I bake them.
For example, the recipe says to pour 1/2 the brownie batter into the pan and bake for 15 minutes before adding the caramel, pecans, chocolate bits and the rest of the batter. TMI recommends that you put in 2/3 of the batter, let it bake for 20 minutes, then add the toppings with the rest of the batter.
My experience with the recipe as-is was that some of the caramel sank through the unbaked batter to settle too close to the bottom of the pan for easy removal. Not that I minded plowing through the entire pan of Turtle Brownies with a fork in hand, but in the event that you plan to share this tasty goodness, you'll want the caramel to stay towards the top of the brownie for easier serving.
And TMI wholeheartedly recommends sharing these Turtle Brownies. That is, after you've made a secret second batch that's all for you and currently hiding in the storage drawer under your oven. (No one ever looks there!) That one is all for you. TMI recommends plowing through it with a fork. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A tale of two cakes

My cousin Jeff had two big occasions recently: high school graduation and his 18th birthday. I volunteered to make the cake. Two cakes, actually, for the two special occasions. The chocolate graduation cake turned out deliciously, so delicious that I wish I had a huge piece right now so I could shove it in my mouth.

First, the bad: the yellow birthday cake was awful. Had I known it would turn out so bad, I would have just thrown it away. Seriously. The recipe was not that spectacular to begin with (it was from the Cake Mix Doctor book), I overbaked it, and the frosting was totally corrupted with crumbs. Thank goodness for true buttercream icing, because that is the only thing that saved it.

Second, the good: the chocolate cake was delicious. The recipe was also from the Cake Mix Doctor book: 1 box mix devil's food cake, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/3 cups buttermilk, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3 large eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix all ingredients, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I used a 13x9 baking pan.

I covered the cake with a milk chocolate frosting. I most certainly made it myself and did not use that canister of ready-made frosting shown on the counter. In fact, I don't even know what that canister is doing in my house. Crazy!

After I covered the chocolate cake with my special homemade frosting (again, ignore the lid of that now-empty frosting canister), I got busy making the chocolate ganache.

Now, ganache sounds complicated but it is really easy. Melt some chocolate--here I used some leftover chocolate bunnies from Easter*--with some whipping cream. I put it in the microwave for one minute, stirred it, microwaved it for another minute, stirred some more and then dumped it right over the cake.

I may have licked the bowl clean. Maybe. I was in a chocolate stupor by this point, so I really don't remember. Also, the ganache makes for a very shiny cake. Shiny and delicious!

Once the ganache hardened a bit, I wrote the oh-so-original message. Because nothing says 'Congratulations!' like 'Congrats,' right?

Lessons learned:
1. Don't overbake cakes.
2. Buttercream frosting cake save just about any bad cake. It's true.
3. Ganache is incredibly easy to make.
4. Ganache is incredibly easy to eat straight out of the bowl.
5. I should probably work on my self-control before I make ganache again.
6. Stick with the chocolate cake recipe from the Cake Mix Doctor book.
7. Tear out the page with the yellow cake recipe, and throw it away.
*No bunnies were harmed in the making of this cake.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My big Martha's potato salad

Are you sitting down? I sure hope so, because I am about to share with you the best recipe for potato salad. Ever. And with summer season in full swing (no matter what the Midwest weather might otherwise imply), you'll need this go-to potato salad recipe.

This potato salad could change your life. It's that good.

It's my big Martha's recipe, and it has never failed me or steered me wrong. The recipe is quite simple--only four ingredients--and super easy to make. MBM's potato salad is perfect with BBQ, hamburgers, or just eaten by itself.

I usually make this recipe in 3-5 pound batches, so just make whatever amount works for you. Peel the potatoes. Cut them into large chunks (just halve them if they are small) and boil until just tender.

In another pot, hard boil some eggs. If I'm using huge potatoes, I boil 2 eggs for every potato. If I'm using smaller potatoes, then I only use 1 egg per potato. It's flexible--use your best judgement.

Let the potatoes and eggs cool. TMI note: put the eggs in the fridge--it makes for easier peeling later.

While the eggs and potatoes are cooling, go to the park. Swing, chase your toddler around, and maybe fly a kite. It's important to be happy and in a good mood when you return home to finish your potato salad. Trust me, the mood you are in when you make this recipe is reflected onto the food itself. And a happy potato salad is the best potato salad of all.

Dice the potatoes. Throw them in a big mixing bowl. Cut up the hard boiled eggs. Throw them in the bowl.

Next, and this is where more of your good judgement comes in, mix in some Miracle Whip and sweet relish. Not too much, though. Taste the potato salad as you go along. Remember, you can always add more Miracle Whip and relish, but once it's in there, you can't take it out.

I suppose regular old mayonnaise would do the same job, but at TMI we just go for that tangy zip.
Mix until blended, and stick it in the fridge. Enjoy it for cook-outs, enjoy it for picnics, and enjoy it for breakfast. Yes, you'll want to eat this potato salad for breakfast--it's that good.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Martha Monday!

For Memorial Day festivities, and to use up some of my homemade applesauce, I made Martha's Iced Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies. Martha's cookies look like this:

And here is the TMI version:

I did a few things differently: I omitted the golden raisins because there were none to be found in my pantry, and instead of using pure maple syrup in the frosting, I used maple extract. That might explain why my icing is so much darker than Martha's.

You might notice that each of my giant cookies is really two of the size cookie Martha had intended. But at TMI, we like our cookies big. It's how we roll.

This is a very tasty recipe and a welcome change from the standard Oatmeal Raisin Cookie. My wonderful husband (who took the action shots, by the way!) prefers them without icing, but I think the maple flavor is a nice touch to the cookie.

To get the nice icing drizzle, pour the icing into a plastic baggie. I use disposable decorator bags from Wilton, but a plain old sandwich baggie will do. Snip off a tiny bit of the corner, and let the frosting run all over the cookies.
Enjoy, and happy Memorial Day from all of us at TMI!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wilton tent sale

The 2009 Wilton Tent Sale starts Friday, May 29. For those who are not obsessed with all things cake/cookie/candy, let me explain: Wilton is my go-to brand for everything related to cake and cookie decorating and candy making. Every year*, they have a huge tent sale where they unload nearly every product they make. This includes cake decorating supplies, cookie sheets, cookie cutters, kitchen utensils, cake stands, cupcake lines, etc. And everything is at least 50% off.

*Note: except last year, when they didn't have the tent sale and it nearly broke my heart.

And you can find more than just Wilton stuff there. Their partner companies make tons of kitchen ware, photo frames, scrapbooking supplies, and ....HANG ON TO YOUR HATS....

...items from the Martha Stewart Everyday line sold at KMart. Be still my beating heart!

I'm working on my shopping list now, lest my spending and excitement get totally out of control. That usually happens when I get to the candy making supplies, just so you know.

I'll be at the tent sale bright and early on Saturday, and tweeting the whole way through. If you are planning to get to the tent sale Saturday morning, give me a holler.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Busy in the kitchen

With all the Memorial Day festivities scheduled for Sunday and Monday, I had a lot of baking and cooking to do today. Well, mostly baking.

I did this....

And this....

Not sure how this will turn out....

Looking forward to this....

But not this...

If you don't hear from me for the next few days, it's because I'm trapped under this mountain of dirty dishes. But don't worry--most of the dishes were used for cakes and frosting, so I'll lick my way out soon enough. Recipes are coming!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Martha's quiche, TMI style

The Little Guy and I had a night to ourselves recently, which is a perfect time at the TMI house to try a new recipe. Long story short: my husband's major food groups are steak/potato, cheese pizza, hamburger and Double-stuff Oreos. I'm down with the Oreos, but it's nice to branch out from the other three food groups, you know?

I made Martha's Crustless Broccoli-Cheddar Quiche. But in true TMI fashion, I did just a few things differently:

1. I put it in a pie shell. I used Martha's basic pie dough recipe.

2. I added way more cheese than the recipe called for.

3. I overbaked it. By about 15 minutes.

But no worries! It turned out great.

Little Guy even had seconds.

Not bad for a child who gets half of his DNA from a man who resists any kind of flavor. Hopefully my "TMI food adventure" genes are dominant.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chipmunk rescue

We have three window wells around our house. They are deep, they are filled with trash and they need to be cleaned and covered. Getting safety covers for the wells was on our to-do list for the summer. Then, we found something that skyrocketed that little item to the very top of the list:

There was a chipmunk trapped in our window well. I don't know how long he had been there, but he seemed to have plenty of energy and no injuries, so I was hopeful it hadn't been long.

Obviously, I couldn't leave Mr. Chipmunk in the well to die. My husband is not big on wildlife rescue, and Little Guy is too little to do the job, so it was up to me to get him out. I headed to the basement to see what could be done from there. No dice. I couldn't get the screen open, and besides, the one thing worse than having Mr. Chipmunk trapped on your window well is having Mr. Chipmunk running around your basement.

After that realization, I climbed down into the window well with a step stool. After a lot of tries and shuffling around, I finally got the creature out using my punch bowl--he climbed the screen and fell right into it. I softly dumped him onto the ground, and he hightailed it to our neighbor's.

And as for that summer to-do list, we can cross one item off:

We should celebrate. Punch, anyone?