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. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

April Use Your Words

Today’s post is a monthly writing challenge. If you’re new here, this is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s the fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

Baking In A Tornado - Use Your Words

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them. I’m using: Pixie Stix ~ Lucky Charms ~ Jagerbomb ~ dustpan ~ burlap sack ~ ball gag. They were submitted by: The Momisodes.

I try to provide my family with healthy foods. I know it may not seem that way since I mostly feature chocolate and cocktails on this blog. It’s difficult to do because even though they’re grown men, my boys are still pretty picky eaters. My younger son has a hyperactive gag reflex so it’s always been impossible to get him accustomed to new foods. TMI, I know.

Honestly, you can make great, healthy dinners but if no one eats them you aren’t really accomplishing anything.

I recently came up with a recipe for Taco Stuffed Potato Skins that went over well with the family. I made them with lean ground beef but they could be made with chicken or turkey as well. They’re chock full of (cleverly disguised) vegetables. Score.

 BakingInATornado.com - Taco Stuffed Potato Skins

 Baking In A Tornado - Taco Stuffed Potato Skins

 And yet, sometimes I try something new and even I have to admit that it just didn’t work. These are our “bowl of cereal” nights. Unfortunately on those nights my brilliant experiment feeds the trash compactor and everyone happily grabs a bowl of their favorite cereal. 

OR “bowl of cereal night” could be necessitated by a scenario similar to this:

My family likes meatballs. I had this great idea that I’d make us each an individual giant meatball, kind of a cross between a meatball and meatloaf. Brilliant dinner idea.

But an innocent misstep the night before put the kibosh on that idea.

Jagerbombs are deceiving. If you’re not familiar with Jagermeister, yes it’s alcohol but it’s made with 56 herbs, fruits and spices. Seriously, check their web site. Can you think of anything healthier than ingesting something made with 56 herbs fruits and spices? Jagerbombs are a shot of Jagermeister in a glass of Red Bull. Red Bull, pfffft, just glorified soda, right?

OK, I may have added some Pixie Stix, you know, just to sweeten it a bit but that has not been confirmed (or denied).

Truth is, Jagerbombs will put you right over the edge, or hanging off a ledge, as the case may be. Anyway, innocent misstep. Lesson learned.

Well needless to say the next day I felt like I was going to be removed from my home feet first on a gurney and wrapped in a burlap sack. Or a hazmat bag. The house was a disaster; bottles and cans all over the counter, pixie stix dust all over the floor.

As my family made their plans for the day, and I tried to figure out who was the most likely person to cooperate when I handed them the dustpan, they asked about dinner and the new recipe I had been talking about trying. It was all I could do to squeak out an answer: “don’t even talk to me about that meat ball, gag me. It’s “bowl of cereal night”, grab the Lucky Charms.”

PS: Before you go off planning my intervention, let me just say that this piece is a work of fiction. Well, mostly. I could still make that giant meatball some day. Stranger things have happened.

Links to the other Use Your Words posts:


Taco Stuffed Potato Skins
Printable Recipe
NOTE: After I scoop out the potatoes I mash them and use them to either pipe onto the top of the Taco Stuffed Potato Skins
OR to make Potato Crusted Meatloaf
OR Individual Taco Pies
1 lb lean ground beef, boneless skinless chicken strips or ground turkey 
Taco seasoning mix (one packet or 2 ½ TBSP if you make your own)
2 cups cooked, cooled, chopped mixed vegetables of your choice
3/4 cup salsa
4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
Large baking potatoes (approximately 4)
Vegetable oil
*Scrub your potatoes to remove any dirt from the skin, wipe them dry. Pierce the potatoes with a knife in the middle of the side (where you’ll later cut them in half). Lightly grease them with vegetable oil and bake until cooked through (depending on the size of the potato this should take about 50 minutes at 400 degrees).
*Cool at room temperature until you can handle them (about 20 minutes), slice in half lengthwise and scoop out most of the potato, leaving some potato in, you don’t want just skin.
*Cook the meat with the Taco seasoning until cooked through. Drain any fat, then add the vegetables and salsa until everything is just heated through.
*Using a pastry brush, lightly oil the skin of the potato halves. Place them on a baking pan. Scoop the meat and vegetable mixture into the potatoes, top with a half of a slice of sharp cheddar cheese.
*Bake for approximately 20 minutes until the potato and filling are hot.
*Serve with Homemade Pico de Gallo

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Double Chocolate Cheesecake Pie

Today’s post is April’s submission to our monthly theme posts.

If you aren't a regular visitor here, this is how it works; we are a group of bloggers participating in a monthly project. Every month one of us picks a theme and each of us post a recipe based on that month’s theme. All the recipes will be featured on my Facebook wall.

December was The 12 Cakes of December
January was Dippin' Through January
February was Love and Food
March was Celebrating Green and Welcoming Spring
April is Chocolate.
Today it’s my turn. I made a Double Chocolate Cheesecake Pie. If it sounds like a dessert that’s having an identity crisis, it probably is.

Baking In A Tornado - Double Chocolate Cheesecake Pie

The bottom features a dark chocolate crust and dark chocolate cheesecake. I used dark chocolate because it’s a little less sweet than the other options.

Double Chocolate Cheesecake Pie  - BakingInATornado.com

The topping is sweeter, it’s a whipped cookies-and-cream layer more reminiscent of a pie.

 Double Chocolate Cheesecake Pie - BakingInATornado.com 

I then decorated, chilled completely, and served. My chocolate lovers were pleased.

Baking In A Tornado - Double Chocolate Cheesecake Pie

As always, if you make one of my recipes, please feel free to take a picture of it and post it on my Facebook wall or my Google + page. And watch for my posts featuring the rest of the chocolate recipes on the dates below:

4/7 The Rowdy Baker's Chocolaty Croissant Puffs
4/8 my Double Chocolate Cheesecake Pie 
4/10  Tampa Cake Girl's Iced Mocha Latte Chocolate Cake
4/11  Cooking with a SAHM's Raspberry Candied Bacon Dark Chocolate Brownies
4/12 Hun. . . What's for Dinner? 's Chocolate Covered Strawberry Ladybugs
4/13  Crumbs in My Mustachio

Baking In A Tornado

Double Chocolate Cheesecake Pie 

Printable Recipe
24 Keebler Fudge Stripes Dark Chocolate cookies, finely crushed
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
¾ cup dark chocolate chips, melted and cooled for a couple of minutes
2 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened
¼ cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
4 Hershey’s Cookies ‘n Cream candy bars, melted and cooled for a couple of minutes
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 TBSP Powdered sugar
*Preheat oven to 325ºF.
*Mix together the cookie crumbs and butter.  Press onto bottom and about a half inch up the sides of 9-inch springform pan.
*Beat the cream cheese with the sour cream and sugar until smooth. Beat in the vanilla and eggs, then the melted dark chocolate.
*Spread this filling onto the crust and bake until the center is almost completely set, approximately 35 minutes.
*Remove from oven, allow to cool on the counter for 45 minutes. Put into refrigerator until cold, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
*Beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
*Remove 3/4 cup of the cream and reserve to use for decorating.
*Fold the slightly cooled melted candy into the remaining heavy cream. Spread evenly over the cooled pie.
*Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, approximately 2 hours.
*Remove the springform pan sides and decorate when ready to serve.