Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Show Me The Money

March Madness is over. To me this means that the men-folk have emerged from the man-cave in the basement, squinted at the spring daylight and finally stopped eating every snack that wasn’t nailed down (who nails down snacks, anyways?).

And although the bracket bust is over for them, it’s just starting for me. You see, word trickled down the mountain that The Oracle is a betting man and was putting his money where his mouth is. Warren Buffett apparently had been willing to give a bajillion bucks to whoever could put together a perfect bracket. That’s a challenge many people took . . . and failed.

Now I’ve got a challenge for Warren. I’m not a college basketball fan, but I want a fair try at that bajillion bucks. So, Oracle, how about a bracket for us moms? Because I don’t know if you heard, but social media is a powerful thing and that whole discrimination thing I’m about to start a twitter campaign about is surely going to hurt your reputation.

Show me the Money - BakingInATornado.com

Rest assured, just like the basketball bracket, you probably have nothing to worry about. Personal history shows that brackets are definitely not my thing. I’m not exactly known for my construction skills. In fact, when the kids were little and we bought something that had to be put together, it would take the hubs and I locked in a room full of strange looking parts and directions written in hieroglyphics at least 3 days to put together a wobbly whatever. There would be at least 2 pieces permanently glued on backwards and at least 12 leftover parts that we’d chock up to having been put into the box by mistake.

So although not really equipped for putting together brackets, if that’s what it takes to win a bajillion bucks for my family, that’s what I’ll do. Call me a team player.

April Moms Madness - BakingInaTornado.com


BakingInATornado - Jolt of Java Coffee Cake
Jolt of Java Chocolate Cake

Baking In A Tornado

Jolt of Java Chocolate Cake                     
Printable Recipe
Ingredients, Cake:
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 cup baking cocoa plus more for flouring pans
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup coffee, cooled to room temperature
Ingredients, Filling:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 TBSP coffee, cooled
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp instant coffee powder
¼ cup heavy cream
Ingredients, Frosting:
1 1/2 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
½ -3/4 cup heavy cream
Directions, Cake:
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 9-inch round cake pans, then “flour” them with baking cocoa.
*Beat the softened butter with the sugar until smooth.
*Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
*Mix in the flour, baking cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt just until incorporated.
*Beat in the coffee.
*Put 1/3 of the mix into each of the baking pans.
*Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the center springs back to the touch. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely.
Directions, Filling:
*Beat cream cheese and prepared coffee until smooth. Carefully beat in the powdered sugar and instant coffee.
*In a separate bowl, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
*Fold heavy cream into the cream cheese mixture.
*Spread half of this mixture evenly over the top of the bottom layer and the top of the middle layer of the cooled cake.
Directions, Frosting:
*Melt butter and chocolate chips in microwave until smooth, mix in the vanilla.
*Carefully mix in the powdered sugar. You don’t need it to be completely incorporated, just enough so it won’t fly out when you beat the mixture.
*Beat in the heavy cream. You can adjust the consistency with more cream if too thick or more powdered sugar if too thin.
*Spread over the top and sides of the cake.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Fly on the Wall, April 2014

Welcome to a Fly on the Wall group post. Today 12 bloggers are inviting you to catch a glimpse of what you’d see if you were a fly on the wall in our homes. Come on in and buzz around my house.

Fly on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

I like candy, I admit it, but I don't eat a whole ton of it. But this month I bought Skittle eggs, unique flavors, and I really liked them.
Me: I really like those Skittle eggs, I swear between yesterday and today I'm going to finish them off. Then I'm totally going to blame you.
High School Senior: {{ blink . . . blink . . . blank surprised stare . . . blink }}
Wow, and I thought there couldn't be anything left that I could say that would surprise him.

Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

Talking with customer service at most companies is a lesson in futility lately, or so I find. Our coupon circular arrived ripped with one side gone, so I had to call the newspaper office and ask them to bring another.
Me: My paper arrived today and the coupon insert was ripped with half of it gone. Can someone bring me another one?
Representative: Which side is ripped?
Me: Ummm, is there a correct answer here? It’s the left side, which side does it have to be to get another one?
Representative: What’s the insert called?
Me: It’s the coupon insert.
Representative: What’s the name, though?
Me: I hadn’t really thought to name it, I’m not going to keep it.
Representative: Is it Kmart or Walgreens?
Me: It’s the coupons.
Representative: What’s the name on the front?
Me: Mr. Coupon Insert? If it’s that confusing I can email you a picture of what it is so you’re sure to send me the right thing.
Representative: No that’s not necessary, we just drop off another entire paper.
Me: Well then why don’t we just do that?
Representative: Yes, we’ll have one sent over.

Fly on the Wall, ripped circular - Baking In A Tornado
Mr. Coupon Insert 

It’s becoming very real that High School Senior is going to college in about 4 months. I told him I’d like to take a few pictures of him before he goes. So far this is how I’ll be remembering him:

fly on the Wall, don't take my picture - Baking In A Tornado

We have a window in our master bath and I keep the blinds open in there, even when I shower. It’s on the top floor and the windows of no other house face it so really, someone would need to be driving a hovercraft to see in.

Last week I came out of the shower, dried off, got dressed and started brushing my hair. I turned to look out the window and I could see a ladder up to the roof of the house next door.

I don’t know and I don’t want to know.

Lesson learned: driving a hovercraft OR working on the roof next door.  unsure face - BakingInATornado.com

Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

I’m a trend setter, I know, but I’ve come up with a new 5 second rule for old ladies like me who don’t see as well as we used to. It’s called the “take as long as you need to find the damn thing on the floor, THEN you have five seconds to pick it up” rule.

Spicy Cajun Grilled Chicken

April Fools Fail:
On April Fools Day I decide I'm going to punk High School Senior. No such luck.
Me {{trying not to laugh, playing it cool, getting him caught in the trap before giving it away}}: You know what, you've only got a few months of school left and you know how sad I am about you probably going far away to college next year. If you want to spend the day together, just you and me, I'll call the school and say you're sick.

High School Senior:  I'd love to, Mom, but I have a test in Zoology and  I don't want to miss Physics either, there's a test coming up on Friday.
Damn kid and his sense of responsibility.

Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

The word “competition” has a whole different meaning in our house. Here’s a conversation that took place during March Madness at our house:
Hubs (to High School Senior): There’s a really great basketball match-up on at 6:45pm if you want to watch it with me.
Me: He can’t, the Red Sox are on at 7:00pm.
Hubs: This is March Madness, the Red Sox are just playing a pre-season game.
Me: He’ll watch the Red Sox with me.
Hubs: How do you know what he’ll want to watch?
Me: I made cupcakes. What did you make?
Hubs: Wow, you fight dirty.

Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

College Freshman was home for Spring Break. This kid now has in his dorm room an oven, a microwave, a fridge (came with the room), a mini oven and one of those Panini type indoor grills. This is a kid who won’t make a grilled cheese or an egg for himself in my home.

I do have sympathy for him though, after the horrendous week-long bout with food poisoning that resulted in my bringing him home to keep him out of the hospital, it’s hard to blame him for eating in the cafeteria as infrequently as he can.

While he was here I asked him if there was anything special he’d like to take back to school with him. He tells me he’d like me to make up a batch of his favorite cookie dough. Just the dough. Apparently the kid who doesn’t know where I keep my pots and pans is entertaining his friends in his dorm room and would like to make them hot cookies.

As I’m making the dough I find myself wondering: am I standing here doing a lot of extra work making this cookie dough, or am I getting off easy since I don’t have to bake them?

Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

High School Senior is in his last semester and after much cajoling and discussion we finally let him drop one class, sleep in and go in to school late. We were reticent because college acceptances are provisional and we don’t want them to see him slacking off in his last semester. It will also result in his class ranking taking a hit.

They only take 4 classes a semester and I’m not sure it was the best idea that the class he dropped was a computer class since that’s his expected field of study in college, but he’s still in AP Physics and Zoology so he’s still got some challenging classes. He dropped the class and started the semester.

And then I looked at the last class he’s taking. It’s a “learn to swim” class. He’s a trained Life Guard, has worked year round at an indoor pool for almost a year now. This is on his college applications, of course. So a Life Guard who wants to major in computer science dropped a computer class and is taking a beginning swim class. Nope, no slacking off here.

Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

Lately I’ve started to tear up as I drive by the high school. It’s just a half mile up the road from my house and on my way back from doing errands for the past 2 years I’ve watched for my son’s little red BMW as I drive home. It’s starting to dawn on me that next year when he’s away at college I’ll drive by that school, look for that car and not find it. sad face - BakingInATornado.com

Now click on the links below for a peek into some other homes:

Baking In A Tornado

Spicy Cajun Grilled Chicken
Printable Recipe

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1 1/4 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts halves cut in thirds
*Place chicken pieces into a gallon sized resealable bag.
*Mix together the seasonings and the oil. Pour into the bag with the chicken and massage to be sure that all of the pieces of chicken are completely coated. Refrigerate from 4 hours to all day.
*Prepare the grill by spraying the grates with nonstick cooking spray. NOTE: only spray the grill when it is cold and not turned on.
*Heat the grill to medium and place the chicken pieces on. Cook, turning once, until the chicken is fully cooked and the juices run clear.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Treasure Box

When I was growing up, whenever I went into my grandmother’s (Alava Shalom) kitchen, there on the window sill was a pushke. It was just a tin box with a picture on the front and a slot in the top.

A pushke is a collection box. Coins were put in and when full the money would be donated to a worthy cause and the collection would start again.

Although I think pushkes were a Jewish thing, giving in some form or another is part of most peoples’ lives and certainly not specific to any religion. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t try to teach their kids about compassion and charity. I think, though, that the times that we give are sometimes specific to us and the way we were raised. Sometimes adding coins to the tin box felt like a superstitious ritual. In times of good luck, Nana would be sure to drop a coin into the pushke. In retrospect I think this served a moral purpose as well; to ground us and add perspective to good times. A “there but for the grace of G-d” type thing.

Although not through a tin box, giving was always tied to memorable occasions as well. When there’s a bar mitzvah, wedding, birth, even funeral, it’s traditional to give to a favorite charity in the name of the person you’re honoring.

I don’t know when the pushke became extinct but as far as I know it is. I haven’t seen one in many years. The value of giving, of course, lives on, but mostly in check form these days. And we also give our time and energy, even our blood and platelets. Tzedakah, the act of giving is seen as an obligation in Judaism and in many other faiths as well. And now, in place of the pushke, I do sometimes see tzedakah boxes.

I believe that the values we want our children to incorporate into their lives; honesty, sharing, healthy eating, giving, they all have the capacity to become a habit if introduced early enough. But how do you explain some of these concepts to young ones?

Baking In A Tornado - Fudgy Pie

Fudgy Pie
Baking In A Tornado - Fudgy Pie

When the boys were almost 3 and 4, I took them to one of those pottery places where you purchase the pottery, paint it there (ha, genius, leave your mess for someone else) and they glaze and fire it for you. We bought tzedakah boxes, lots of them. There would be one for each of the boys, one for my husband and I, and holiday gifts for all the grandparents and even for my Nana, their great-grandmother.

The boys sat down with a line of pottery and paints and paint brushes and went at it. I made sure each “box” was worked on by both of the boys. I then painted the word Tzedakah on the front and put their names and the date on the bottom. They came out exactly as you’d expect them to, having been painted by two toddlers I don’t need to tell you that I loved them.

Holiday time came and the boys got to give a gift representative of the philosophy of giving.

 Tzedakah Boxes - BakingInATornado.com
our tzedakah boxes

If you know my boys at all, it won’t surprise you to learn that one of them has his box full to the brim and will most likely get around to emptying it when I tell him to. The other’s box is somewhere in his room under all the debris, I’m sure.

And mine, I know exactly where mine is. Because this box is not just a means to giving and it’s not just a reminder that tzedakah should start early, but it is a valued piece of art; a true treasure box in every sense of the word.

Baking In A Tornado

Fudgy Pie
Printable Recipe
Ingredients, Crust (can be replaced with any graham cracker or chocolate pie crust:
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup pecan pieces
1/4 cup matzo meal
2 TBSP matzo cake meal
1 tsp instant coffee granules
Ingredients, Pie:
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar 
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup matzo cake meal (can be replaced with 3/4 cup flour)

*In a food processor, pulse all crust ingredients until it starts to form a ball. Place into a 10 inch pie plate and evenly pat into the bottom and up the sides. Refrigerate while making pie.
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Melt the chocolate chips and stir until completely smooth.
*Beat the butter, sugar and eggs until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate chips. Mix in the matzo cake meal (or flour if using).
*Pour into the pie crust and even the filling out. Bake for 45 minutes. Top will crack and inside will be fudgy.
*Cool completely. Store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature for serving.