Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Truth, Forgiveness, and Chocolate

Jackpot. 

I was looking through online listings of holidays and celebrations as I often do (hey, I'd been stuck in the house a long time, I'm sure there were worse ways to amuse myself). Sometimes I just end up laughing, but often I find inspiration. I've written about Cow Appreciation Day, Lost Sock Memorial Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day and even Clean Out Your Fridge Day.

But today, July 7th, today turned out to offer an abundance of celebrations. It is:

Tell the Truth Day
Global Forgiveness Day 
and
World Chocolate Day 

I can work with that.

As I often do, I ran the idea for today's post by some fellow bloggers, and some of them thought they might like to join in. Diane was first (as she so frequently is, you, Diane), she and I decided to take the day full on, we'd be addressing all three "holidays". Others may choose one of them, or even two. Either way, I'm looking forward to reading what they've written. Their links are at the end of my post, I hope you'll head over there too.


Truth, Forgiveness, and Chocolate | Graphic designed by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


How I view truth has changed a lot in the age of coronavirus. Truth, or the need to tell it, is not absolute, there are levels. The well used example of "do I look fat in this dress?" doesn't necessarily require the same level of truth as "did you eat the last cookie?" And the repercussions of an untruthful response to "did you eat the last cookie?" holds nowhere near the level of ramifications associated with a federal dishonest response to questions about the number of US cases of coronavirus, or whether it'll just go away on its own or that it's encouraged to take an anti-malaria drug for someone without malaria, or whether or not we should look into inject humans with lysol, or if the actual number of cases we have is tied to the amount of testing we do.

What did Kellyanne Conway say? There can be alternative facts? Not in situations of consequence, not in the case of life and death. No. Truth has no politics, and when we treat it like it does? Worst case scenario, people die. That's how far a country that was a stalwart defender of human rights has sunk.

Truth matters. Duh. I used to say to my boys "before you do anything, think about whether you'd be willing to admit to it. If not, that's a pretty good indication that you shouldn't do it." I thought that made a lot of sense. For kids being raised to have a conscience, yes. But our current batch of politicians have forced me to look at that advice differently. It's a whole new level of immorality to act in a harmful way comfortable knowing you can just lie about it. How did lying become a viable option? How is this our current culture? 

The only way I can see out of this division, the only path forward for us as a country, is forgiveness. 

Right and Wrong | Graphic designed by and property of www.BakingInATornado.con | #MyGraphics #Coronavirus


There was one clear vision for this country. We may have disagreed on a myriad of issues, but we had our freedom and our morals and our values to unite us. This is no longer true. There are now two visions for this country, resulting in what I now see as us being embroiled in a civil war. We're never going to agree, as I said, we never have, but can we build a future that we can all live with?

It's going to take forgiveness. 

Let's not sugar coat this (warning, cookie reference), forgiveness from a place of anger and hurt and distrust (and disgust) is laborious and grueling and exhausting in practice. 

Can we do it? As a country? I'm just not sure. It's a process, and I have to admit I'm not there myself. But I'm trying very hard to take steps. Just like with truth, I see levels in the ability to forgive as well. On a micro level, when friends post statuses to FB that I find selfish or uncaring or untrue, I unfollow them for a while, not unfriend, just unfollow. The respite from seeing these posts, for me, is the foundation of forgiveness. I reserve the right to like them again another day.

When I observe store mandates to wear a mask, go up some aisles and down others, and social distance, I am showing respect. When someone targets me, comes down the "up" aisle without a mask to stand shoulder to shoulder with me, well that's not just refusing to follow precautions, it's actively aggressive. Forgiveness of this level of behavior requires a more concerted effort.


Covid Lesson | Graphic designed by and property of www.BakingInATornado.con | #MyGraphics #Coronavirus


When someone refuses to take precautions, they are literally taking others' lives in their hands. If it were to turn out that they're right and we should believe politicians, not doctors, and didn't actually have to take precautions, by doing so we haven't harmed anyone. But if I'm right and we should believe the scientists and wear masks and social distance, they could be killing people. So when the man on a recent flight to Boston who sat directly behind my mother refused the airline's attempts to get him to wear a mask, I'm not quite able to forgive. Same with the airline, btw. I wonder how I will ever forgive people whose selfishness allows them to recklessly jeopardizing my mother's life.

And if forgiveness is difficult on a personal level, burdensome on a local level, and grueling on a federal level, what would global forgiveness take? 

If we want to save this planet, we need to start thinking along those lines.

In the meantime, at least there's chocolate. 

Or is there? 

I've mentioned many, many times lately that I've had to change my husband's diet. He needs to eat much lower in fat and I'm watching how much sugar I use too. Since I wouldn't (well, mostly) eat the foods he loves but can't have in front of him, how I cook, bake, and eat has changed as well.

But. But. Chocolate! {{sob}}. 

I've been doing a lot of baking with fruit, which we've been very happy with, but oh how we both miss chocolate. I now spend about an hour or two a day researching articles about gallbladder attacks, fat and sugar substitutes, and have even made a list of how many grams of saturated fats there are in 1 TBSP of all of my go-to cookie mix-ins. Turns out you can use cocoa in baking to satisfy that chocolate craving, and mini baking M&Ms have the lowest saturated fat content of my mix-ins. I've made some other fat and sugar substitutes in these Midnight M&M Cookies, which definitely change the consistency, but . . . chocolate . . .


Lower in fat than most cookies, Midnight M&M Cookies are still full of chocolate flavor. Mini M&Ms add a crunch in every bite. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #chocolate

Midnight M&M (lower fat) Cookies

Lower in fat than most cookies, Midnight M&M Cookies are still full of chocolate flavor. Mini M&Ms add a crunch in every bite. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #chocolate



Truth is, I would give up chocolate completely, would forgo almost anything, if it meant helping to keep others safe. 

And if more people could say that, there'd be so much less I'd have to try to forgive. 



Before you go, click on these links to read more posts using today's theme(s):

Diane of On the Border shares Truth, Forgiveness . . . and Chocolate
Jenn of Sparkly Poetic Weirdo shares Truth, Forgiveness and Chocolate.



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Midnight M&M Cookies       
                                                       ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (makes about 40):
2 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup baking cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup mini M&Ms

Directions:
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper.

*In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking cocoa, salt, baking soda, and coffee granules.
*In a smaller bowl, whisk together the canola oil, maple syrup, brown sugar and eggs. Mix into the larger bowl and once completely incorporated, mix in the mini M&Ms.
*Roll into 1 inch balls, flatten slightly and bake for 10 minutes.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Six Degrees of Crayons

You can buy a crayon box with 120 colors. I know 'cause I googled it.

There are few people who don't look around, especially this time of year, and wonder at the display of color Mother Nature presents to us. Beautiful blue skies, deep green leaves, brown soil, white clouds, flowers in every hue. And, when we're really lucky, we may catch a glimpse of a multicolored rainbow above it all. 


Rainbow | Picture taken by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com


Before I go on, let me just talk for a second about something else, completely off topic at this point, but I'll come back to it in the end, promise. 

Six degrees of separation. It's a thing. I've got a few interesting ones. In fact, I mentioned in my Flower Power post a couple of days ago, a cousin who created the saying "war is not healthy for children and other living things." Here's another one, my Woody Guthrie six degrees: Woody's son Arlo wrote a song called "Alice's Restaurant", it was made into a TV show starring Linda Lavin, who is a cousin of my step father's. We're interconnected in many ways, we have to just look for them.

Back to the crayons. I wonder, off on some tangent as I frequently go these days, what would happen if we put this whole crayon thing in a different context. What if the skin color of all the people of the world were divided evenly among those 120 colors. That's about 7,500,000,000 (7.5 billion) human beings, 62,500,000 (62.5 million) of whom would have skin the color of each of those crayons. 

What would happen then?

Six Degrees of Crayons, a discussion about color | Graphic created by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


Would the blues only want to associate with other blues? Would they break down into tribes of specific hues within the blue family? What about aquas? Are they blues? Greens? Accepted by each? Outcasts to both?

Would yellows welcome their cousins the oranges? What about reds? Too much pigment for the yellows? But maybe accepted by their closer cousins the oranges? Would the oranges have to keep their relationship with the reds a secret from their yellow cousins? Or admit it right out there in the open?

How far would we take it? Will people be painting their houses? Trading in their cars? Buying a new wardrobe? Can a maroon play with a lime at recess? Would an indigo dare to marry a coral?

Oh, and food. Where do you stand on the whole tricolored rotini issue? A feast for the eyes? Or an inappropriate mix of colors? 

Grilled Scallops in Garlic Wine Sauce. Grilled (or pan seared) sea scallops are served over rotini tossed in a light sauce of wine and broth with garlic and green onions. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #grilling

Grilled Scallops in Garlic Wine Sauce
Grilled Scallops in Garlic Wine Sauce. Grilled (or pan seared) sea scallops are served over rotini tossed in a light sauce of wine and broth with garlic and green onions. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #grilling



If, just for one day, humanity were to be a living breathing embodiment of a box of crayons, how would you react?

Would you look around and see the world in terms of us and them?

Or would you look at the bigger picture and see the beauty in all of those spectacular colors?

And maybe, just maybe, in the spirit of six degrees of separation, would we all finally see just how closely related we are?


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




Grilled Scallops in Garlic Wine Sauce      
                                                       ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
2 TBSP butter
4 cloves minced garlic
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper
2/3 cup vegetable broth
3/4 cup white wine
1# garden rotini
1 1/2 - 2# sea scallops
salt and pepper to taste
fresh lemon wedges
grated parmesan

Directions:
*Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and green onions. Cook and stir for 2 minutes, then add 1/4 tsp black pepper, vegetable broth and white wine. Bring to the boiling point, then allow to simmer until the rest of the meal is ready.

*Cook the pasta to al dente, drain and keep warm.
*Preheat your grill to medium high. 
*Pat the scallops dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and allow to cook for 3 - 5 minutes, until the bottom is well browned. Flip over and cook another 3 - 5 minutes until they are fully cooked (they'll be opaque and the sides will flake with a fork).
*OPT: you can do this in a large saute pan, just add about 1 TBSP oil and do not crowd the pan.
*Add the sauce to the pasta and mix well. Top with the cooked scallops. Serve with lemon wedges and grated parmesan.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Flower Power 2.0

The hippies were right. 

In many ways, both consequential and insignificant. 

In the 60s there was a movement started by women, mostly mothers of boys btw (go, team!), of non violent resistance at the time to the Vietnam War. Ultimately it evolved into so much more than that, it became about civil rights, and passive resistance in general. It was about empowerment through peace and love. And it caught on, in a really big way.

I could write a whole blog post (and maybe I will) about the correlation between what they marched for back then, and the cause that's taken people to the streets in the present. I could also write a whole blog post (and maybe I will) about the power of a certain flower partaken of back then and the movement to legalize it now. But those are subjects for another day. 

True story: a cousin of mine (I think 3 times removed, but I may be wrong about that) created an iconic graphic back in the 60s. It was simple, a sunflower, with the words "War is not healthy for children and other living things". Perhaps you've heard of it? She later donated the rights to her design to a pacifist group, Another Mother for Peace.  

Flower Power, the ability to make you smile | Picture taken by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com



In the era of Flower Power, the flower was meant to symbolize hope.

In the era of the pandemic, I've been celebrating the power of the flower, just by virtue of their soothing beauty, to elicit a smile. A sort of present day "Flower Power 2.0", if you will.

It's not that I didn't know that flowers could make me smile, it's just how amplified that simple need became while I was stuck at home. 

I first realized it on the first weekend of May. I have 4 pots that I fill with flowers every year when we're pretty much guaranteed the threat of overnight frost is gone. For as long as I can remember, I've done it, and I've done it then. For me, it's a symbol that we've made it through winter. I look at those flower pots, in the front of the house and on the back deck and yes, I smile.


Flower Power, the ability to make you smile | Picture taken by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com


This year that ritual was threatened, and it made me sadder than I'd thought it could. 

I live in a state where there never was a stay at home order, where stores had to take it on themselves to limit shoppers, post signs saying masks are required, and labeling aisles either up or down. I also live in a state where people did not wear masks, ignored the aisle labels and seemed to go out of their way to approach those of us attempting to social distance. It was every woman for herself. On the first Friday of May, when I went to a few stores that carry flowers, I could see they were packed, people weren't wearing masks or social distancing, I would not go in. I went home, dejected.

On Monday it was pouring. I knew that most local stores that sell flowers present them primarily outside and even those inside are not under a substantial roof, but leaky tarp. Would I? Could I? I drove down to Lowe's with my gloves and mask and saw almost no one flower shopping. I'd get completely soaked, but I could do it. Sloshing, sopping wet, with rain literally dripping into my eyes I made my choices and filled my cart and felt exceedingly lucky (don't ask me about what happened when I checked out, though).

I filled those pots and I smiled.

Flower Power, the ability to make you smile | Picture taken by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com


A few weeks later on Mother's day, I was treated to the power of flowers again. Twice.

Flower Power, the ability to make you smile | Picture taken by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com

Completely different looks. Same smile.

Flower Power, the ability to make you smile | Picture taken by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com
I have lilacs in my yard, but because of their location they bloom late. In the meantime, one of my neighbors always brings me some of hers.

Flower Power, the ability to make you smile | Picture taken by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com


Then mine bloom.

Flower Power, the ability to make you smile | Picture taken by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com

Followed by my Azalias.

Flower Power, the ability to make you smile | Picture taken by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com

Anticipation is building for the upcoming bloom of my Day Lillies.

Flower Power, the ability to make you smile | Picture taken by and property of www.BakingInATornado.com




I see, I smell, I smile.

Of course, I have to mention that in my world there's another kind of flower flour that has power too. That same power, coincidentally, to bring a smile to your face.
Orange Blueberry Bundt Cake, full of fruit flavor, this cake is studded with blueberries and mandarin oranges, and is drizzled with an orange topping. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #bake #cake

Orange Blueberry Bundt Cake
Orange Blueberry Bundt Cake, full of fruit flavor, this cake is studded with blueberries and mandarin oranges, and is drizzled with an orange topping. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #bake #cake


Wishing you peace and love. And hope and flowers. Oh, and cake.


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




Orange Blueberry Bundt Cake 
                                                       ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
3 TBSP blueberry jam or sugar free blueberry jam
3 TBSP orange marmalade
2 TBSP water, divided
1 box white cake mix
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup canola oil
3 eggs
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup canned mandarin orange segments, drained and cut in half

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 TBSP orange juice
1 TBSP orange marmalade

Directions:
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

*Whisk together the blueberry jam, 3 TBSP orange marmalade and water. Set aside.
*Beat the cake mix, 1 cup of orange juice, canola oil and eggs for 2 minutes, then mix in the blueberries and mandarin orange segments.
*Spread about half of the batter into the prepared pan, drizzle with about 1/2 of the jam/marmalade and water mixture (staying away from the edges of the pan), swirl in with a toothpick and repeat with remaining batter and jam.
*Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the center springs back to the touch. Cool in bundt pan for 10 minutes, run a knife around the edges and remove to cool completely.
*Once the cake is completely cooled, mix together the remaining orange juice and the remaining orange marmalade. Whisk in the powdered sugar. Drizzle over the cooled cake.