Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dinner with friends

This weekend we had dinner with good friends Amy and Patrick. I love going to eat at Chez A&P's: the food is delicious, plentiful, and served on fun plates. Plus, they always include Barley in the invitation.

Chef Amy was kind enough to let me take pictures of the pineapple cutting process. She asked how I cut my pineapples.

"Oh," I told her, "I just open a can."
Yes, it's true. Any pineapple served at my house has come out a can. There, I said it.
That appalled look you have on your face? That's the exact same one Amy had on hers when I dropped that bomb. It's times like these when I remember two things: 1. it will take me one million years to become a domestic diva at this rate, and 2. when people think I have the "Martha" thing down, I should really just keep my big mouth shut and not ruin the illusion.

Chef Amy serves her fruit course in fancy dishes shaped like fruit. Isn't that awesome? Amy has the domestic diva thing down--she can plan an event like no one's business.

The meal included grilled peaches. Yum!

And grilled veggies.

Chez A&P's is awesome. Thank for a great evening, Amy and Patrick!
Oh, and that thing about not knowing how to cut a pineapple? I was totally kidding about that. Like Martha, I am an authority on cutting exotic fruits. Really. Really!!!! I swear!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Martha Monday!

Remember the last edition of Martha Monday? I highlighted some of Martha's Red, White and Blue desserts that I was thinking of making for 4th of July. Her Summer Shortcake recipe really caught my eye. Here's Martha's Summer Shortcake:

When I mentioned this delight last Monday, I had every intention of making it for the 4th. As it turns out, I just couldn't wait that long!

I made my summer shortcake mostly according to the directions. Martha's recipe serves 12-15, and since I wasn't feeding that many people, I cut the recipe in half. Though I was worried a few times while I made the dough, everything turned out just fine.

Cutting the stars was difficult. The biscuit layer was hot, which heated up the cookie cutter, so I had to stop every two stars and wait for it to cool off. Here at TMI, this was an opportunity to busy ourselves by eating the stars that had been cut out. Delicious!

What a perfect little star.

The directions say to wait until just before serving to assemble the shortcake. This is good advice. I had to transport all of the components to our friends' house for dinner, so I put everything together there. First, the whipped cream goes on top of the bottom shortcake layer. And yes, this is really real whipped cream. Fancy!

Next, the strawberries go on.

Finally, I place the top shortcake layer on, and filled in the stars with the remaining strawberries. Of course, now you can't see my perfect little stars. Oh well.

This summer shortcake was so good! (Even without the blueberries.) I would definitely rate this recipe as a TMI favorite.

No need to wait until the 4th of July: make this dessert now and make it often. This kind of deliciousness needs to be enjoyed all summer long.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Indian Garden

I am extremely fortunate that near my work is the most amazing Indian restaurant ever. Indian Garden serves a delicious lunch buffet Monday-Friday, and it is a popular destination for staff lunches.

First, the waiters bring a steaming plate of tandoori chicken.

This is followed by a basket of naan. This is flat bread baked on the wall of the tandoori oven. I could eat the entire basket!

Indian Garden is a great choice for lunch because it has a lot of options for both herbivores and omnivores (shout out to my dinosaur readers!). My absolute favorite is murg tikka masala (chunks of chicken breast in a creamy tomato sauce) served over basmati rice. Yum!

My trip to Indian Garden is incomplete without the galub jamun. Galub jamun is balls of fried dough soaked in a honey sauce. I call them 'honeyballs,' but don't ask for it by that name. Trust me on this.

Quick story: since it is a buffet, they don't always have the honeyballs out. Once, my work crew went there for lunch and it was on a day without honeyballs! I was devastated and complained for a week. Now, though, if honeyballs aren't on the buffet, I just ask for them (using the proper term, gulab jamun, of course) and they bring those honeyballs right out. Hooray for honeyballs!

Indian Garden is a great place for serious eating. If you are ever in the Streeterville section of Chicago, I urge you to stop in. Try the honeyballs!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sock it to me cake

It's confession time: many of my best cake recipes start with a box mix. There, I said it. And you know what? I'm not ashamed. Well, maybe a little. Box mixes aren't very Martha-like, but they are a huge time saver in the TMI household, so I'm sticking with them.

Now that I have that little admission out of the way, I'd like to introduce to you one of my very favorite desserts that is based around a box mix:

Readers, meet Sock It To Me Cake. Sock It To Me Cake, meet my readers. I know you are going to get along just fine.

The Duncan Hines yellow cake mix is the star of this show. Get the recipe here.

Make the batter according to the directions. Pour 1/2 the batter into a well-greased bundt pan.

Add the streusel filling.
(TMI Note: in the ingredients list on the Duncan Hines website, they incorrectly list the cake mix as a streusel ingredient. I know you folks are smart enough to figure it out, but I did send them an email all the same. It's what Martha would do!)

Top the filling with the rest of the batter, and bake according to directions. The good folks at Duncan Hines advise using their packaged frosting to glaze the cake, but we all know better: just mix powdered sugar with a tiny bit of vanilla extract and milk, and pour it on the finished cake.

I think their recipe makes a lot of streusel filling, so I made two layers of it. You could always just decrease the streusel ingredients by 1/3 if you want, but why? More streusel = more delicious!

Do you have plans for after dinner tonight? No? Then I suggest you give Sock It To Me a call and invite it over for company. You won't be sorry!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Orange Fluff

Orange fluff. Creamy orange goodness. Delicious orange whip. Heavenly dreamsicle gelatinous substance.

Whatever you want to call it, this stuff is the perfect sidedish for summer. Thanks to Jess for sharing the recipe!

It all starts with:

  • 3oz. package of orange gelatin
  • 3oz. (or so) box of cook-and-serve tapioca pudding
  • 3oz. (or so) box of vanilla pudding
  • 15oz. can of mandarin oranges
  • 8oz. container of whipped topping
  • 3 cups water

Step 1: Combine the boxes of gelatin and pudding with 3 cups water. Mix them all in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes or so (stirring occasionally) until the mixture thickens. Let the orange goo cool completely.

Step 2: Drain the mandarin oranges. Combine oranges with whipped topping. Try not to eat it all.

Step 3: When the orange goo has cooled completely, stir it into the orange/whipped topping mixture. Let it all sit in the fridge for a few hours before diving headfirst into the bowl.

Orange fluff (as I like to call it) is very solid. I think it's suitable for a jello mold, but I haven't tried it yet. Because I'm too busy eating it straight out of the mixing bowl. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blues on the Fox

Over the weekend, we met some friends in downtown Aurora for Blues on the Fox. BotF is part of Aurora's Downtown Alive summer series: they schedule two nights of band performances (blues, rock, etc.) and offer them for free to area residents. The weather was great, our seats were good and the atmosphere was festive--exactly what the TMI household needed on a summer weekend.

Above is the stage from our seats across the river, and below is the view of all the festival-goers on the bridge over the Fox River. The area is a great setting for an outdoor concert.

While the music was playing, Little Guy found a nice water scape and proceeded to fall into it. I stripped him down to his diaper, and let him play in the water (there were about 20 other kids all doing the same thing).

He was content to wade and splash for quite a while.

The Big Guy and I let him saunter around in his diaper while he dried off. During this time, he decided to visit some nearby kids. The Little Guy is quite the ladies' man.

The next event in the Downtown Alive series is the Summer Jam on July 10 and 11. If you're there, and see a ridiculously cute and soaking wet toddler chasing little girls while wearing nothing but a diaper, don't worry: you're in the right place. And the very harried woman chasing behind him muttering "What would Martha do?" That would be me.

Welcome to summer--TMI style!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Martha Monday!

Independence Day is 12 days away, and we'll be watching fireworks on the 3rd with friends and family. This is the first time for fireworks in our new house/suburb, so I want to go all out with an extra special dessert for the festivities.

MarthaStewart.com has plenty of red, white and blue--and yummy--suggestions. I especially like this Summer Shortcake:

Here's another take on the shortcake:

Of course, I could always go with a classic cheesecake:

What would Martha do?

She'd probably make all three. I'd better get cracking.

What are your dessert plans for the 4th of July?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Martha on the cheap

Yesterday, I spent all morning hitting the local garage sales with My Big Martha and sister. I got a stack of three books at one sale.

"How much for these three books?" I asked.
"Oh, fifty cents," was the reply.

I gave that woman two quarters and ran....you'll see why in a second.

The first book is Grover's I Can Dress Myself. Fitting, since the Little Guy is in his ME/MINE phase now, and is working on dressing himself. And by dressing myself, I mean he tries to put on shoes and ends up wearing them on his hands. Just so I'm clear on that.

The second book is Richard Scarry's Naughty Bunny. Seriously, that bunny looks a little deranged. He's holding a saw! What kind of child/bunny wields a saw? I should have investigated more before I bought it.

But I didn't do enough recon, and it's all because of the third book:

I got Martha's Handmade Christmas (1995).
What a find! It's Martha...



...for the low, low price of $0.166. What a deal! I ran from that sale because had the woman realized what she had done--given away a vintage Martha book for only sixteen cents--she would be chasing me down to get it back.
Bonus! There's a picture of me and Martha canning brandied pears to give as gifts for our friends and neighbors. It's on page 89.

Just kidding. That's not me with Martha. But wouldn't it be awesome if it was?

Sigh. I just love a good garage sale.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chicken DIVINE

Okay, so the recipe title is Chicken Divan, but it might as well be Chicken DIVINE, because this recipe is that good. Shout out to Aunt Jean and Cousin Julia for the recipe--it's quite popular in the TMI dinner rotation.

  • 8 halves chicken breast (boneless/skinless, cooked and diced)
  • 2 packages frozen broccoli (TMI note: fresh broccoli works, too)
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tsp. curry powder

  • Put chopped broccoli in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish
  • Cover with diced chicken
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the soup, mayo, lemon juice and curry
  • Spread the sauce mixture over the chicken/broccoli layers
  • Top with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese
  • Bake 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees

For our small family of three, this recipe makes one lovely meal and 3-4 servings of leftovers. However, if that's too much for you, simply halve the recipe.

I like to serve Chicken Divan with rice.

The Little Guy loves Chicken Divan for two reasons: he likes broccoli, and there's plenty of sauce for him to smear all over his face.

See, I told you it was divine. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

No more flashing the neighbors

For so many reasons, we put up curtains in the living room:

1. We have company coming this weekend, and since the love seat is actually a hide-a-bed, the living room has to double as an extra guest room.

2. As mentioned during our energy audit, curtains can help cut heating and cooling costs.

3. Via an anonymous note, one of our neighbors indicated that they were tired of seeing me walk around the house in my underpants, so could we please put up some curtains already?!?

That last one isn't really true, but it could be. I do occasionally walk around in my underpants, and the neighbors across the street have been avoiding me. Coincidence? Hmmmm.

Here's the living room before curtains:

The living room doubles as the Little Guy's playroom. Why yes, that IS a covered wagon in our living room. Why do you ask?

The Big Guy hangs the hardware. The curtain rod is Umbra Serif from Bed Bath & Beyond. Why yes, my husband IS wearing his pajamas even though bedtime is hours away. Why do you ask?

The sheers go up first. In theory, this will blur the view of me walking about in my underpants.

The curtains are Linden Street Back-Tab Thermal Drapes from JC Penny. They have substantial lining on the back, and according to the advertising, they can cut energy costs up to 30%.

The curtains are up, which means that our living room can now officially serve as a second guest bedroom.

I'll keep you posted on whether or not this helps my relationship with neighbors.