Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Small Is the New Big

Individual Berry Cookie Shortcakes. The cookies are made with muffin mix and toffee chips, serve with macerated strawberries and whipped cream for a light summer treat. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dessert

Small is the new big. 
Profound, I know.
I haven't spent the last year and 6 weeks (but who's counting?) just sitting on the couch eating cheetos and missing my life. I've actually learned a few things as well.
I've learned that I can find ways to fill my day, make the most of staying isolated, without losing my mind (well, without losing any more than about 30% of my mind, but I'm calling that a win).
I've learned that I can let go of control (this was a really hard one), and make the best of what's available. I hate, I mean hate, having someone else choose my meats and vegetables. But for a year I did, every week. I adjusted what I wanted to purchase to what I was willing to take a chance on, and I learned to make due with whatever I got. And actually be grateful for it.
In fact, as we ride the dizzying teeter totter of covid case counts, excess has taken a back seat to minimalism, prioritizing need.
I've learned that sacrifice can actually be reassuring. We have been safe, all of us, but I know people who did contract covid, am aware of how they suffered. I know that way too many have died, and those rising numbers are both terrifying and heartbreaking. But I am fully aware that a month with my son living in my home is the result of sacrifice. It took time (an 8 hour drive each way for him) and forfeiture (we all had to isolate more completely for 2 weeks before he was comfortable making that drive) but it happened. And it was nothing short of revitalizing.
And I've learned that bigger is not better. It's just bigger.

Take the sweet potato, for example.
Small Is the New Big | Picture taken by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com
Sweet potato? Or football? 
Small Is the New Big | Picture taken by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com

When I bake potatoes for dinner, if I'm not using reds, I buy a Russet for Hubs, who prefers white, and sweet potatoes for College Boy (when he's here) and I.
But what I got in my last order? Yikes. Maybe if I start roasting this today it'll be ready next Tuesday. Now all I need is a small country to help me eat it.
But I am finally free to choose my own groceries. FREE. Have been for 5 days now, when I reached optimal vaccination immunity. And now that I'm free, what am I doing? I'm going small. Decidedly, deliberately, and joyfully small. 
And not just in sweet potatoes.
I have also officially become a social minimalist. That may partially be covid PTSD, with a smattering of the knowledge that the vaccination status of anyone not in my immediate personal circle being unknown (and now, a new phenomenon, a percentage of people getting their first shot but skipping their second) sprinkled in. But isolation has taught me just how much I value individual, meaningful, eye to eye, in person conversation to my former preference of working a crowded group. 

And I'm embracing individual sized portions not just in my social gatherings, but in the dessert offerings there too. 
Individual Berry Cookie Shortcakes. The cookies are made with muffin mix and toffee chips, serve with macerated strawberries and whipped cream for a light summer treat. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dessert

Individual Berry Cookie Shortcakes

I recently published a post featuring my Vanilla Blueberry Tartlets. For today I've re-imagined the Strawberry Shortcake. I did it once before, an extremely successful post called Strawberry Shortcake, Nacho Style, but group dishes are a thing of the past, they'll be back, but not quite yet. For now, especially in groups, individual style desserts are my focus. And these Individual Berry Cookie Shortcakes are fun. 

And that sweet potato football? Still got it. For now it's sitting in my pantry, reminding me of just how far I've come, of perspective, and of priorities.

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Individual Berry Cookie Shortcakes

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (makes 12):
1 pint strawberries
3 TBSP sugar
2 pouches (7 oz each) mixed berry muffin mix
6 TBSP oil
2 TBSP milk
2 eggs
1 tsp strawberry extract
1/3 cup chocolate toffee baking chips

whipped cream for serving

*Rinse, hull, and slice the strawberries. Mix with the sugar and set aside.
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper.
*Mix together the muffin mix, oil, milk, egg, and raspberry extract. Once incorporated, mix in the chocolate toffee chips.
*Form into 24 balls of equal size and place on baking sheets.. Flatten slightly.
*Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Allow to set on baking sheet for 1 minute, then remove to cool completely.
*For each serving, place a cookie, flat side up, on a plate. Top with 1 - 2 TBSP of the strawberries, a dollop of whipped cream, then a second cookie, flat side down.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Guilty Favors

Guilt poetry | Graphic designed by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com | #poem #poetry


Last Friday of the month is for
Monthly Poetry Group to rhyme.
Guilt's the theme I chose today. 
Hope my poem's not the crime.
As usual, this time I'll try,
a poem to write . . . or fudge.
Whether I'm successful or not,
you get to be the judge.

Guilty Favors

The party will be spectacular,
so much to celebrate.
We're now all vaccinated so,
no longer have to wait.
It took her more than just one day,
to make these treats, it's true. 
Nothing but the best for all,
her family (and some friends too).
First day prepped, second constructed,
and today was the big bake. 
Lined up in her kitchen were,
cookies, tartlets, and cake.
Vanilla Blueberry Tartlets by Baking In A Tornado
Vanilla Blueberry Tartlets
Vanilla Blueberry Tartlets by Baking In A Tornado

Satisfied (and also proud),
of the work that she had done.
Time to quickly shower then,
she'd happily greet everyone. 

Freshly dressed, back down she came,
to a shock! This cannot be.
A hole in everything she made,
Son holding a fork, with glee.
"You're guilty," she sputtered, eyes ablaze, 
So mad she could barely see.
"You're not a child, I raised you well.
How could you do this to me?" 

"You've made a mess and more than that,
you've ruined three days of work.
If you'd like to know what's good for you,
get rid of that guilty smirk."
"I know that when you look," he said
you see treats with a hole.
What you call guilt's a favor, though,
called quality control."

Before you go, more Guilt poetry:
Diane of On the Border shares Guilty

Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Vanilla Blueberry Tartlets

NOTE: These tartlets set best if made ahead and refrigerated overnight

2 refrigerated pie crusts, unbaked
3 TBSP cornstarch
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk (I used fat free)
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup powdered French vanilla creamer
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup frozen blueberries
OPT: whipped cream for serving

*Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place 24 tartlet liners onto a baking sheet.
*Roll out each pie crust to about 14 inches round. Using a 3 inch round cookie cutter, cut out 12 circles. If you don't get 12, roll out the remaining dough to make the rest.
*Press each crust round into and up the sides of the liners. Prick the bottoms with a fork. Bake for 8 minutes, cool completely.
*While the crusts are cooling, whisk together the 3 TBSP cold water and the cornstarch. Set aside.
*Whisk the evaporated milk, egg yolks, brown sugar, and salt in a pot over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Whisk in the powdered creamer and the vanilla.
*Reduce heat to medium low, then whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Continue whisking until the filling is thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
*Spread approximately 1/2 cup blueberries onto the bottom of the cooled tartlet crusts. Fill the crusts about 2/3 of the way full with the filling. Top with the remaining blueberries and press them gently into the filling.
*Refrigerate for at least 3 hours but sets best if refrigerated overnight. 
*OPT: serve topped with whipped cream.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Conflagration Consideration, Use It or Lose It

Everything Seasoning Bread Twists serve these crunchy flavorful twists with a salad, as a complement to any meal or just as a snack. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #bread
When the boys were little, they had this little game they'd play called Opposite Day. Bet your kids did too. It had multiple uses, none of which would ever work out well for me. Their favorite time to cite the dreaded (for me) opposite day would be to manipulate a negative (for them) situation into a positive. You know what I mean:

One of my sons (they're interchangeable in this instance), calling up from the basement: Mom, can we have soda?
Me: No, it's 10 minutes until dinner.
I notice both sons come up from the basement holding cans of soda.
Me: What are you doing? I just said "no."
Both of my sons: It's Opposite Day! 

Or they'd invoke it to trick me, in an every day is April Fools Day sort of way. Like when I'm cooking dinner and take a quick bathroom break.

One of my sons (they're interchangeable in this instance too), yelling from the kitchen: Mom, mom, the breadsticks are burning.

I yank up my pants and run into the kitchen to find nothing burning.
Boys (laughing in the way only little boys can do when they've successfully punked their mom): Ha, ha, it's Opposite Day!
Everything Seasoning Bread Twists serve these crunchy flavorful twists with a salad, as a complement to any meal or just as a snack. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #bread
 Everything Seasoning Bread Twists
Opposite Day is actually a thing, btw. I know 'cause I asked my friend Google. And contrary to popular (or at least my kids' popular) belief, it's on January 25th, as opposed to any (and every) day you feel like invoking it.
So why am I writing about conflagration today? Apparently because it's opposite day. In April. Which may be the opposite of January but that's a rabbit hole I'm just not venturing down.
Is there a point to all of this rambling? Yes, and it's my most recent conundrum
As I age, I'm disappointed to find that my vocabulary just isn't what it was. It's especially discouraging because writing is the way I've chosen to amuse myself (and, ironically, work that muscle in my head formerly known as my brain). More often than I'd like to admit, I can't quite grasp a word I'm reaching for. I know what it is, how it fits, what it means, but I can't capture it. Sometimes I can google a description of what I'm trying to say and find the word. Other times I can find a similar one to get my meaning across, but that's almost equally as frustrating. 

Today, though, was unusual. I kept thinking of the word "conflagration." It popped into my head, and more than a few times. I wasn't looking for the word, I wasn't looking for any word, it wasn't one of those instances. It was just sort of out of nowhere. And it was persistent.
The opposite of losing a word, I'd actually found one. Or maybe it found me.
I have to admit I've never had this earworm thoughtworm thing before so I'm not sure of what happens next, but if I were to guess, it's some kind of use it or lose it word conspiracy. Like "I'm here now, use me while you can 'cause if and when you need me there's no guarantee . . ."

You and I both know that if I ever do need that word, or even want it, there's a good chance it'll pick that moment to go into hiding. So if you happen to find me with smoke coming out of my ears, frantically grinding those gears in my head searching for a word, you know what to say to me, right?
But why this word, and why today? 

Conflagration Consideration, Use It or Lose It | Graphic designed by, featured on, and property of www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Conflagration isn't a word I'd use often, actually most likely never, and to be honest I only had a loose understanding of its meaning. Something to do with war, I thought.
I've done a little research and now know I was sort of right. It's often used in reference to a large, destructive fire. OK, thankfully there's no reason I'd be thinking about that right now. But it's also used to describe a catastrophic, violent, or devastating event (including war). And that may be the reason why conflagration keeps making its entrance into my thoughts today. 
As I sit here bombarded by stories about police shootings and trials, mass shootings that have become so frequent that they don't even break into television programming to cover them, people still dying of covid and many continuing to refuse the vaccination, the senate at a standstill, politicians credibly accused of sexual relationships with minors  . . . 
Maybe, just maybe, conflagration is a word I should be thinking about. Because there actually is a large and destructive fire. And it is us.
But what is the opposite of conflagration? It's peace. 

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Everything Seasoning Bread Twists        


Printable Recipe

1/2 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp poppy seeds
3/4 tsp dried minced onion
1/4 tsp garlic salt
a pinch of kosher salt
1 tube refrigerated crescent sheet
1 TBSP butter
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced onion, garlic salt, and kosher salt. Set aside.
*Melt the butter, set aside.
*Unroll the crescent sheet onto the parchment paper on the baking sheet to about 14 inches long and 9 inches high. Spread the melted butter onto the crescent sheet with a pastry brush. Sprinkle with the seasoning mix.
*Cut the crescent sheet into 14 strips, each about an inch wide. A pizza cutter works well for this.
*Separate the strips slightly from each other on the parchment paper. Leave the top of each strip on the parchment paper, then gently, loosely twist the strips 4 - 5 times into a loose spiral.
*Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes or until they start to brown.