Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dinner theater

I stumbled across a delicious sounding recipe in the September issue of Better Homes and Gardens: Slow cooker Indian chicken stew. Doesn't it look delicious?

My thoughts upon seeing this recipe, in this order, were:
1. OMG I love Indian food!
2. I haven't seen my neighbor Yogita in a while. I should have her over for dinner.
3. Hey! Yogita is INDIAN. I'll make this dish and she will be so impressed that I have mastered a chicken stew recipe from her culture.
4. BONUS! This is a slow cooker recipe, which means kudos and accolades will soon be mine for very little effort on my part.
Those thoughts became the basis for my little dinner drama.
The setting: a weeknight. Yogita comes over. I prepare the recipe but leave out the spinach. I even use basmati rice instead of regular white rice. At this point, the kitchen smells great and I am convinced that I am awesome.

Scene One
Yogita takes her first bite.
Yogita: Why are you taking my picture?
Me: I just want to see your face when you taste how awesome this stew is!
Yogita: Is this for your blog thing?
Me: ...yes.
End scene.
Scene Two
Me: So....does this taste like authentic Indian food?
Yogita: No. But it tastes okay.
Me: So you'd never find this in India?
Yogita: No.
Me: What about at an Indian restaurant in the United States?
Me: What about at an Indian restaurant in the United States, where I am the owner and cook?
Yogita: .....yes. That's where you would find this dish.
End scene.

Overall, I think Yogita was very entertained by my attempt to cook real Indian food. And amused that this is what passes for Indian food in Better Homes and Gardens. I thought the recipe was okay. I give it five stars for the ease of preparation, but only one star for flavor. I expected, and wanted, something with a lot more kick. This had no kick at all, though it was tasty and seemed like a very healthy dish.
Twenty stars for the theater, though. I am a bit of a Drama Queen.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Martha Monday--Gearing up for cold weather

Last Friday, the mittens came out, as did fall jackets and all the hoodies one household can handle.  With temps in the 80-90 range last week and 60s forecasted for this week, I'd say that the autumn season has definitely arrived in the Midwest.   This year, I'd like to stay organized so our two entryways (one to the house, and the one from the house to the garage) do not become a jumble of outerwear, boots and mismatched mittens and gloves. 

Naturally, Martha has some ideas.  I like this for the front entryway:

I wouldn't put the hooks on the walls (it looks too informal to me) but I like the bench so that guests can sit comfortably while they take off and put on their shoes and boots.  I'd do only one or two bins for Barley items and umbrellas. 
And this is the solution I like for the mudroom:

I like the idea of everyone having their own separate bin for hats, gloves and scarves.  And wet mittens could be attached to the outside of the appropriate bin with clothespins for quicker drying time.  A few hooks along the wall for additional coat storage, even though the mudroom has a coat closet, probably wouldn't hurt.

That's my Martha Monday.  I need to institute a "Get It Done Tuesday." 

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy birthday to me!

Yes, it's that time of year again!  I mentioned a few weeks ago that what I wanted for my birthday was the rest of the perfume in the Calliope Crash line by Darling Clandestine.  Then, last week, a package arrived with Darling Clandestine marked as the return address. 

Naturally, I sneaked a peek:

Hooray!  The Big Guy heeded my call and ordered Step Right Up and Fire Eater

I didn't dare take the items out of the bags to even sniff the perfume...sneaking a peek at the gifts is bad enough, right?  I hope the Big Guy doesn't notice the loose flap on the package.

And it looks like Evonne threw in some bonus earrings!

Sigh.  I just love this time of year, don't you?
Thanks to the Big Guy and thanks to Evonne!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Double up

This is a quick public service announcement from The Martha Initiative...

Fall is rapidly approaching, major holidays will be here before we know it, the days are getting shorter and somehow, much busier.  Putting a quality dinner on the table for your family can be more than a challenge most this house, some nights it is damn near impossible. 

But, there is hope!  And here's my suggestion:

When you are making a meal (especially one that is labor-intensive), double it.  Triple it even.  Freeze the extra dish and you'll have a quick, and quality, meal even when you don't have time to cook.

For example, over the weekend I made macaroni and cheese.  Yum!

I consider this a labor-intensive meal because it takes me, from the time I begin to set out the ingredients to the time I'm pulling the dish out of the oven, approximately one hour.  That's a lot of time, and sometimes this dinner is not an option during the week because I need dinner on the table a lot faster than one hour.  Plus, I have two small kids...all the interruptions would lengthen the process to a full two hours, I'm sure.  And that's just too long to spend on a weeknight dinner. 


...I doubled the recipe.  It doesn't take any longer to do this, nor does it make any extra messy dishes.  I made two batches of mac & cheese: one for immediate consumption, and one for the freezer to be eaten in a couple of weeks.

In fact, I'll actually be saving an hour of my time and several dirty dishes in the future.  How's that for planning?  If this isn't a current practice in your house, give it a try.  Good luck!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Martha Monday--Butternut squash

One thing I've noticed through and Everyday Food is the focus on one ingredient as a base for an entire meal.  They pick a vegetable, explain the different varieties and then present 12+ ways to prepare it in a dish.  In the September issue of Everyday Food, the "In Season" feature is tomatoes.  On, a current focus is butternut squash, pumpkins and apples.

I had gotten some yummy butternut squash from my uncle (shout out to Uncle Rich!) but I had no idea how to cook it or what to do with it.  I simply steamed the first squash and added butter, which was fine. But true to my Martha-in-training objectives, I really wanted to take this veggie out for a spin.  So I consulted Martha...her butternut squash gallery gave me to great possibilities:

#1 Butternut squash with sage

#2 Butternut squash with brown butter

In the end, I couldn't decide so I came up with a combination of both recipes.  I simmered/steamed the chunks in butter and a bit of water, and when they were almost fork-tender, I added brown sugar. Once it was done cooking, I topped it with a small amount of sage.

It was so good! I wish I had some more so I could try the mac&cheese and risotto recipes with butternut squash.  This veggie will definitely have a place in my garden, whenever I manage to get one started.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Oatmeal Cream Pies

Does anyone remember those Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies? In high school, I was addicted to those.  I forgot about them for several years until I went on a binge during my first pregnancy.  Halfway through the box, I realized that they were nowhere near as good as I had remembered them to be.  Had product quality declined?  I doubt it. Rather, they were probably never that good to begin with, and now that my palate had grown way beyond the manufactured delights of Little Debbie treats I was just now noticing. September issue of Everyday Food arrived in the mail, and what did I see on page 109?

Real Oatmeal Cream Pies! And just in time for a friend's 50th birthday party. 

The recipe makes only 13 pies, so naturally I doubled it.  The original recipe calls for regular oats and NOT the quick-cooking variety, but since that's all I had, I went with it.   It seemed to work out just fine.

Because these cookies must be made into sandwiches, it's important to get the cookie size quite uniform for easy cookie assembly later on.  Many of my cookies were different sizes, but because I had doubled the recipe, it was easy to find a match for each one. And easy to eat the odd one out.

The cream cheese frosting filling made me pause...cream cheese?  In an oatmeal cream pie?  I was a bit skeptical and almost made my regular buttercream icing instead.  But since I already had cream cheese frosting from another project, I gave it a try.

Nom nom nom nom nom.  Deeeeeeeeeeeelicious.
I think I ate a few cookies this way, then remembered that I needed to be making sandwiches, and the majority of the sandwiches needed to make it to a birthday party.  Without my teeth marks in them.

In the end, the oatmeal cream pies turned out beautifully, and there were plenty left for the party.

Now these, my dears, are true oatmeal cream pies.  As they should be.  Make some today.  Nom.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Martha (and Manda!) Monday

Here's the news with both of us...

Today, the Martha Stewart Show moved to the Hallmark Channel.  You can get the details, and see if your cable provider carries the Hallmark Channel, here.  While you're there, be sure to watch the one-minute video titled "Martha" Behind the Scenes, where Martha (gasp!) admits she's not perfect. 

I have to say, it's extremely weird to hear Martha say that, since you, I and the whole world knows that she IS perfect.  Of course, in the video you can hear her say that she isn't perfect, but she is not shown actually saying that statement.  Maybe that's not even Martha talking, just a Martha sound-alike!  Gasp! So Martha really is perfect, she knows it, she couldn't bring herself to say it, so to make her seem more "like the people" the Hallmark folks hired someone who sounds just like Martha to say that she (Martha) isn't perfect.  It's a conspiracy!  Actually, now that I think about it, that does make a lot more sense. 

After all, if Martha were not perfect, her bathtub would probably look like this:

Because that is the bathtub of someone who is most certainly not perfect.  Note to the Hallmark people: I like Martha because she is perfect.  If I wanted to watch someone talk about crafts, entertaining, decorating, cooking, baking, gardening, etc. who is not perfect...well, I just wouldn't.  So there.

In completely unrelated news, I have a few things coming up that I wanted to make you aware of:

I'll be teaching X-treme Couponing at Waubonsee Community College starting on September 28.  This is a two-week community education course aimed at teaching people ethical and efficient ways to use coupons to get the most bang for their buck.  Actually, since couponing is all about saving money, I'll be teaching folks how to get the most bang for their coupon. :)  This is my first time teaching this class, and I'm really excited about it.

My other community education course at WCC is Online Social Networking for Beginners.  I've taught this twice before at WCC, and the class is a total blast.  We cover facebook, LinkedIn, twitter and blogging.  A lot of time is spent on facebook security.  That class starts on October 12 and runs for four weeks. 

So Martha is moving her show to a new channel, and I'm teaching a new gig out at Waubonsee.  Whew!  That's a lot for a Monday.  Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ferns for the bathroom

In the September issue of Whole Living, there's a little snippet on how Boston Ferns are THE plant to have in your bathroom for two reasons:

1. It's one of the top air-purifying plants, making it a great addition to your house, and
2. The high-moisture and low-light conditions of the bathroom are ideal for a fern.

This sounded great to me. I've long wanted plants in both the master bath and the kids' bath, and ferns seemed to fit the bill. I headed out to Lowe's and got two varieties:  Kimberly Queen and Japanese Bird's Nest.

In order to test the hardiness of the plants, I left them in the bags on my kitchen island for two weeks.  Actually, things have just been really busy lately.  I meant to repot them right away, but it just didn't happen. In fact, you might notice that my son is in his pajamas at 2 in the afternoon, and the massive piles of random crap on the dining room buffet.  Like I said, it's been really, really busy here the past few weeks. 

I finally got around to it, and things seemed to work out just fine. The ferns were quite forgiving.
Here's the large Kimberly Queen fern in the kids' bathroom.

And here are the two Japanese Bird's Nest ferns in the master bathroom:

I think they really add something to the space...just like the kids' kitchen set does.

Yeah, that's right...I have a kids' kitchen set in my bathtub.  Sometimes, that's just how we roll here at TMI.  We're all about the classy.

For more ways to green up your bathroom, check out Whole Living

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Martha and Jo-ann

Finally, a Martha Stewart retail pairing I can get excited about!  Martha Stewart and Jo-ann Fabric and Craft Stores have teamed up to host the monthly giveaway contest.  September is National Sewing Month, and all of the prizes revolve around sewing and crafting.  Woohoo!

Click here to see all the prizes. As is the case with all of Martha's monthly contests and giveaways, the entry page includes automatically signing up to receive Martha Stewart Living.  If you do not want to subscribe, there are two link sat the top of the form with the following choices:

No purchase necessary to enter. Already a subscriber? Click here to enter.

Prefer to enter the sweeps without a free trial subscription? Click here.

So, dear reader, enter the contest without fear. Good luck!
And hooray for MSLO finally teaming up with the awesome Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores!  I hope they do more than just a giveaway with this partnership. :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Delicious and easy zucchini pizza

Today, we have a guest post from my BFF Laura.  You might remember Laura from past posts such as "My best friend Laura convinced me to redo the kids' bathroom only weeks after having a c-section, and then skipped town" and "I try to be just like Martha Stewart, but my best friend Laura totally kicks my ass in the crafting department."  Good times. 


As Martha-in-training has pointed out, this is the time of year when the abundance of zucchini seems less like a splendid bounty and more like a horticultural coup. Most gardeners know that summer squash, cucumbers, and zucchini are most flavorful and tender when they are small, but who hasn’t discovered a gargantuan fruit hiding under the foliage and wondered what to do with such a behemoth?

Today, as guest blogger, I bring you a delicious, nutritious solution to zucchini largesse- the zucchini pizza! By replacing dough with with slices of zucchini, you increase vegetable consumption (a good thing!), decrease carbohydrates, and use up the Godforsaken garden mammoths.

This really is as simple as it looks, and no rise time is needed for this dough-less delight. I found the leftovers to reheat well, maybe even better than the day they were made.


Large zucchini

Garlic olive oil

Prepared pizza sauce

Selection of cheeses (I used fresh mozzarella, Monterey jack, and grated parmesean)

Sliced turkey pepperoni (optional)

1. Slice zucchini widthwise into ¼ -inch rounds. Brush both sides with olive oil and broil (or grill) until barely softened (5 min in my broiler). Flip and broil the other side until barely softened.(another 4-5 minutes)

2. Remove from oven or grill. Spoon pizza sauce over zucchini rounds and then top with small amounts of the cheeses and pepperoni.

3. Return to broiler for a few minutes until cheese is melted and slightly browned.

4. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday weekend.  So sorry for the lack of posting this past week...things have been super-busy here in TMI land. To appease the masses (hi moms and dads!), here's a quick video of two products of my labor. 

Enjoy!  And I'll be back to regularly scheduled programming as soon as possible.