Friday, June 28, 2013

Full of Bull

There are so many things an Easterner is not used to when transplanted to the Midwest. There’s the language (see Can You Hear Me Now), the restaurants that argue that the Langostinos they just served are the Maine Lobster tails that I ordered, and the trying to pawn off a snow covered garbage dump as a ski slope (don’t ask). But in June it becomes clear that I’ve not just been relocated to a place I cannot adjust to, I’ve clearly fallen down the “rabbit hole”.

Because June, my friends, is not just for garage sales (see For Sale). June is the month of the annual Testicle Festival.

I have to admit that the first time I saw a commercial for this culinary event I was impressed. A local restaurant put out a joke television advertisement just to give people a good laugh? What a great marketing tool, because any business with a sense of humor is worth checking out.

Full of Bull | Graphic designed by and property of | #MyGraphics

Open rabbit hole, insert me. ‘Cause folks, this thing is for real.

This year marked the 20th annual Testicle Festival. It’s on the web, it’s even on Facebook. It’s a 2 day affair with a band (to drown out the sound of gagging?) a cover charge (can’t eat those things without paying for the privilege?), an outdoor Beer Garden (gotta wash those suckers down and water just won’t do?)

And while checking it out I found out so many things. Like that its close friends call it by its nickname: the Testy Festy. And the dish itself is called many things from “grab some balls” to “bull fries come with pickles” to “gotta try these Rocky Mountain Oysters” (way to ruin seafood for me).

I found comments: “we had a ball”.
Compliments: “this place has the best nuts”.
Culinary info: “we batter and fry those suckers”.
Questions: “are you just offering beef nuts or are there others as well ?” 
And one lone voice of reason: “YUCK!”

Now I’ve come to accept the fact that although I’ll always be a Bostonian, my kids are Midwest born and raised. They’ve been to the East Coast many, many times, but this is their home. And I’ve had to learn to live with the fact that they “talk the talk”. But I am their mother and this is where I draw the line. In indelible ink. There will be no “walking the walk”. Right boys?

Chocolate Toast Crunch Cups | Recipe developed by | #recipe #dessert

Chocolate Toast Crunch Cups

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PS: no balls were used in the making of this recipe.

Chocolate Toast Crunch Cups

Printable Recipe

1 stick margarine
3 cups Frosted Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
1/3 cup toffee bits
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup dark or semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup caramel bits
1 can sweetened condensed milk

*Line a 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake papers. Spray inside the papers with non-stick spray or they will stick to the papers.
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Melt margarine in a microwave for approximately 30 seconds or until completely liquid.
*Finely crush cereal, either in a food processor or in a plastic bag with a food mallet.
*Add the cereal to the margarine and mix well. It’s the right consistency if you can pinch a little in your fingers and it stays together. Because measuring the cereal isn’t exact, you may need to add a little more cereal or a little more melted margarine to get the consistency right.
*Divide the cereal evenly into all of the cupcake papers. Press down firmly.
*Sprinkle the toffee bits onto the cereal crust, then the white chocolate chips, then the dark or semisweet chocolate chips, followed by the caramel bits.
*Evenly distribute the sweetened condensed milk over the caramel bits. Don’t fill too full or the milk will bubble out of the cups.
*Bake for 20 minutes.
*Immediately run a knife around the cups between the paper and the tin so nothing sticks to the tin, but do not remove from muffin tin.
*Allow to cool and set before removing from muffin tin.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Flunking Out 101

I’m not quite sure how this happened, but I’m fairly certain I flunked out of college last week. Or was expelled or something. Which is pretty hard to do since I graduated years ago. I have a diploma, but I can’t show you, it’s in a box in the storage room in the basement under about 6 feet of other keepsake debris and I’d need a Tetanus shot if I tried to find it. I once ventured in there to search for my old turntable for my son and I finally had to make my way out after three days as I was getting really hungry. Sorry you had to buy a turntable Son, but I did give it the old college try . . .

Flunking Out | Graphic designed by and property of | #MyGraphics

So knowing I had a diploma somewhere and therefore had nothing to lose, we headed out to my son’s college orientation. I knew it was going to be a day from hell; I had to get up at 5:30 am so we'd all be ready to leave around 6:30 am to be there by the start at 7:20 am. Yes, I read it 3 times and each time it still said that it started at 7:20 am. We wouldn’t start our hour ride home until it ended at almost 4:30 pm. With that kind of time investment I figured I should walk out of there with my Doctorate.

I started the day with good intentions. I was determined to be no more than 10 minutes late. In retrospect, this may have been the first strike against me, but I put it in the “win” column; we got there, had averted all the long lines, jumped into the back of the group just as it was beginning and weren’t even the last to arrive. The Manager of the Bookstore started out a small group of us by talking about renting, buying or borrowing text books. Bla, bla, bla. But he was nice and treated us to a cup of coffee after his talk.

I won’t bore you with the details of all 9 hours of orientation. Truth be told I went into a coma after about the 3rd hour and suffice it to say the event was traumatic enough that I woke up the next morning with a little bit of amnesia. I’m sure it’s just my brain’s way of protecting itself from such an excruciating memory.

But I will say that we (the parents, the kids had been taken off separately) sat through lectures, skits, introductions. slide shows, rose to sing the school song (which I don’t know) were given instructions, and walked in lines through endless tables where we picked up enough reading material that I’ll still be reading all this crap when my son graduates.

The trouble really started at about the 4th hour when we were to go attend 3 different workshops of our choice. The first one I chose was about housing. And then I sort of took a left turn, and I mean that literally. It took some talking, cajoling and whining, but I finally convinced my follow-the-rules husband into skipping the next 2 sessions and joining me on a little shopping spree in the Bookstore. I rock at peer pressure, in case you were wondering.

And while in the Bookstore, guess who comes out of the back room, walks right up to us and, to my husband’s eternal mortification says “I caught you two skipping class”. Yup, the store manager from earlier in the day. I’m fairly sure it won’t bode well for my son that the guy specifically asked for our student’s name. I really need to get better at thinking on my feet. I should have said we were Lovey and Thurston Howell III and that our son was Gilligan. We were wearing name tags though, so there’s that. Anyway, we were nabbed. Strike two.

So we went through more of our day. A 17 mile walking tour (OK, maybe less but I was exhausted) that did not include the one thing I wanted to see, a dorm room. We had lunch in the school cafeteria (yippee), more introductions, some improv, more slides, questions specific to others that had nothing to do with us, more sitting and more listening and another forest’s worth of papers.

Beef Kabobs | Recipe developed by | #recipe #dinner

Beef Kabobs

Finally we find ourselves in the home stretch. We’re sitting with about 500 other parents in yet another lecture hall listening to the Dean of Who-Remembers-What telling us I-haven’t-a-clue-what when suddenly Steven Tyler starts screeching “same old song and dance” through the silent room. I have to admit that I would have enjoyed the moment much more if that screeching wasn’t coming from MY cell phone.

I’m pretty sure that this was my third strike and the point at which I officially flunked parent orientation. So much for setting a good example for my son . . . and for ever being welcome there again . . .  and I’m guessing I can kiss that Doctorate goodbye.

Earlier in the day, when I was still semi-coherent, I had told my husband that although this day could have been cut in half, maybe it was so long because of what they needed to get accomplished with the students.

Driving home our son told us what his student group had figured out; that although this day could have been cut in half, maybe it was so long because of what they needed to get accomplished with the parents.

And at the end of the day, what did I learn? That all the information imparted in those 9 hours is easily available on line.

 Baking In A Tornado signature | Graphic designed by and property of | #MyGraphics

Beef Kabobs

1 1/2 # beef (I buy Top Sirloin steaks), cut into cubes
1 onion, quartered and separate the layers
1 red pepper, cut into large cubes
cherry or grape tomatoes
mushrooms, cleaned and remove most of the stem
2 zucchini, cut into half inch slices
1 cup Wish Bone Russian Salad Dressing
1/4 cup Catalina Salad Dressing
2 TBSP Poppy Seed Salad Dressing

*Mix the salad dressings together.
*Put the cubed steak into a small bowl or a storage bag.
*Put the vegetables into a larger bowl or a storage bag.
*Pour 1/3 of the dressing mix onto the steak cubes. Mix well. Put the rest of the dressing mix onto the vegetables. Mix well.
*Put meat and vegetables into the fridge to marinate overnight or through the day. Mix them up at least 3 or 4 times to be sure all of the meat and vegetables are marinating in the dressing.
*When ready to cook, skewer (I like to keep the raw meat and the vegetables separate so I skewer them separately), and cook on the grill. I generally cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, turning the meat and vegetables a quarter turn every 5 minutes.

Friday, June 21, 2013

June Fly on the Wall

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 |

When you’re done, click on the links below for a peek into some other homes:

Baking In A Tornado
Just a Little Nutty
Follow me home . . .
Stacy Sews and Schools
The Sadder But Wiser Girl
Menopausal Mother
Moore Organized Mayhem
The Insomniac's Dream
The Momisodes
Spatulas on Parade
The Rowdy Baker
Evil Joy Speaks 

Today’s Fly on the Wall post has a theme. It’s “concrete and literal”. I love my younger son. Truth be told, I love both my sons, but this post is about my younger one. This kid is fun, extremely intelligent and very interesting. But he is left brained, making him very concrete and literal. Over the years I’ve had to teach him to read cues, interpret facial expressions, extrapolate unspoken meaning . . .  It’s been very difficult for someone like me with a sarcastic sense of humor to have a child who is literal to a fault, but he gets me now, and I love it.

So here are some things a Fly on the Wall would have seen in my home, as we went through the process of trying to get these concepts understood:

Me: Do you want to run out and get the mail for me?
Son: No.
Me: Will you please go get the mail for me?
Son: Sure.

Fly on the Wall |

Me: Did you wash the counter after eating?
Son: Yes.
Me: Today?

Fly on the Wall |

Me: Can you help me?
Son: Help you do what?
Me: (sarcastically) well, I’m folding the laundry, so why don’t you help me put it back in the washing machine? I’ll rewash all these clean clothes.
In retrospect, that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to say to this particular son.

Fly on the Wall |

Me: How many times do I have to tell you to stop that?
Son: Seven

Fly on the Wall |

Me: Please go pick up your room.
I’m fairly certain he won’t be able to lift it, so that ought to keep him busy for a while . . .

Fly on the Wall | Pick up your room |

Me: How many cookies have you had? That package is half empty. Go ahead, eat a 12th one, I dare you . . .
Son reaches for a 12th cookie . . .

Fly on the Wall |

Me: Oh shoot, I missed the baseball game, I forgot it was on TV. Is it over?
Son: No.
Me: Yay, I can watch.
I turn on the TV. It’s 10 – 1 in the bottom of the 9th with 2 out. That’s as “over” as a game gets in my book.

Fly on the Wall |

Me: Is Dad in the basement?
Son: No.
Me: Do you know where he is?
Son: Yes.
Me: Can you help me out a little here?
Son: Sure Mom, what do you need help with?

Fly on the Wall |

Me: Don’t you have any socks?
Son: Yes.
Me: Then why aren’t you wearing any?
Son: They’re all in the wash.

Fly on the Wall |

Me: Will you watch this pot of water on the stove while I run upstairs for a minute.
Son: Sure.
You know how this ends, right?

Patriotic Cookies |

Patriotic Cookies

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Patriotic Cookies

1 stick butter, softened
1 stick margarine, softened
3/4 cups sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Red colored sugar
Blue colored sugar

*Cream butter, margarine and sugar.
*Beat in egg and vanilla.
*Mix in flour, baking soda and salt.
*Divide the dough in half. Wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
*Roll each half between sheets of wax paper to about a 10 X 8 inch rectangle.
*Sprinkle (it’s easiest just to put colored sugar into your hand and sprinkle by hand) a line of red colored sugar along one long edge of the cookie dough rectangle. Leave a 1/2 inch space, then sprinkle a blue line of colored sugar. Leave a 1/2 inch space, then red again. Repeat to the end of the dough.
*Roll up, starting with one long side and roll all the way to the other. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour.
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
*Slice cookies into approximately 1/4 inch rounds.
*Place on cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Watch them and don’t let them turn brown.
*Cool 2 to 3 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Addicted to Candy

I tried. I really did. So many of my Facebook friends had fallen, but I stood strong. There was peer pressure and I still didn’t flinch.

But one day it happened. It started out like any other normal day. I never suspected what was to come.

I think the culprit was curiosity, but it’s hard to say. Like with most addictions, some of the specifics become fuzzy. Maybe I thought I was stronger than I truly am. Maybe I thought I could try it just once and walk away.

But like for so many others, it just didn’t happen that way. By the end of the day I was deep into it and there was just no turning back.

Addicted to Candy |

How you know you’re addicted to Candy Crush Saga:

*You wake up in the middle of the night and sit bolt upright because you swear you heard that whistling song.

*You’re in the kitchen baking and instead of concentrating on what you’re making, you’re trying to figure out a way to get all of the ingredients to the bottom.

*Your kids look at you like you’re crazy when they ask for a Peanut Butter Sandwich and you’re mumbling something like “must clear the jelly”.

*When stuck on a level forever and you run out of turns with just one jelly left to clear, you consider throwing your laptop into a wall.

*Every time you shut your eyes you see a brown truffle covered in colored nonpareils.

*Once you shut your eyes and see that truffle, you spend the rest of the night trying to figure out how to get it next to an individually wrapped hard candy in the hopes that you can blow them both up.

Homemade Peppermint Patties | featured on | #recipe #candy

Homemade Peppermint Patties

*You’ve lost all pride and have taken to begging everyone you know to help you get your next fix . . . I mean another life.

*You wake up every morning full of hope, knowing you can beat this thing. But the minute you get on Facebook that damn striped candy is sitting there taunting you. And once again you click.

*You’ve banned the words “sweet”, “tasty”, “delicious”  and “divine” in your home . . . and you bake.

*You panic your husband when he hears you sitting there glued to the laptop muttering “I need a new life”.

*Whenever you see something heart shaped, you wonder why it’s not crying.

*You offer your older son a million dollars to beat level 86 for you.

So if you’re ever looking for me, you’re sure to find me on level 125. Pretty much for the rest of my life.

Hello, my name is Karen, and I’m addicted to Candy . . .

Baking In A Tornado signature | Graphic designed by and property of | #MyGraphics

PS: It's a good thing  I you, Bonnie!

NOTE: Make these candies into Hidden Peppermint Patty Cookies! Click here for the recipe: Put It On The Calendar

Homemade Peppermint Patties
1 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 tsp peppermint extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
Approx. 5 cups powdered sugar
Chocolate candy melts (about 14 oumces)
Dark chocolate chips (about 1 cup)

*Stir together the Sweetened Condensed Milk and both extracts.
*Mix in 4 cups of powdered sugar and keep adding more sugar until you have a sticky dough.
*Cover a work surface with powdered sugar and knead the dough until it’s no longer sticky.
*Roll the dough, about a rounded tablespoon at a time, into balls. Flatten with the palm of your hand.
*Put into refrigerator for about an hour, so they firm up. Be sure to refrigerate them individually, not on top of each other.
*Melt the candy melts and the dark chocolate chips together according to package directions. Lay each patty individually onto a fork, dip into the melted chocolate and place onto parchment paper in the refrigerator to set.
*You may need to store these in the refrigerator.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Take 2 - June Secret Subject Swap

Welcome to another Secret Subject Swap. This week 12 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. 

Secret Subject Swap |

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:
Baking In A Tornado
Black Sheep Mom
Searching for Sanity
Outsmarted Mommy
Indian American Mom
Daily Dose of Damn
A Working Mom's "Whoas"
Dawn's Disaster
Akashic Aisles: The Basement View          
The Pursuit of Normal
Home on Deranged
Evil Joy Speaks
My subject is If you could be the opposite gender for 24 hours, what are the first 3 things you'd do, think or say?   It was submitted by: The Pursuit of Normal Here goes:

Take 2 - June Secret Subject Swap |

If I could be the opposite gender for 24 hours? I’d $h*t, shower and shave, right? Isn’t that how the saying goes? Well, that would be a pretty short post. And awful cliché as well.
So let me try again. If I were the opposite gender for 24 hours:
I’d accumulate, advise and accessorize (OK, maybe not)
I’d barbecue, bargain and bake (who am I kidding?)
I’d critique, correct and communicate (yeah, right)
I’d disagree, delay and drink
I’d earn, eat and embarrass (yes, on purpose)
I’d father, fight and fertilize (um . . . the lawn, I mean)
I’d grill, grin and grumble (but not admit it)
I’d hassle, hamper and hinder
I’d idealize, idolize and imbibe

Broccoli Slaw |
Broccoli Slaw
I’d judge, join and jeopardize
I’d kiss, keep and know (everything)
I’d labor, laugh and love (but not say it quite enough)
I’d minimize, misconstrue and mislead
I’d nap, negotiate and nullify
I’d obstruct, odorize and obey (well, I’d say it, anyway)
I’d parent, panic and patronize
I’d quarrel, question and quantify
I’d refuse, reject and regret
Which brings us back to $h*t, shower and shave . . .

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Broccoli Slaw
Printable Recipe
1 bag of Broccoli Slaw
3 green onions, sliced
1 Tbsp butter
¼ cup oil
¼ cup water
3 TBSP red wine vinegar
2 TBSP sugar
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 (1 oz size) sesame seeds
2 tsp sugar
½ cup sunflower seeds
1 package of Ramen Soup, noodle portion only (don’t use flavor packet)
*In a medium bowl, mix the broccoli slaw and the green onions.
*In a small bowl, mix together the oil, water, red wine vinegar, 2 TBSP sugar and soy sauce. Pour over the broccoli slaw, cover and refrigerate.
*Break up the noodles from a packet of Ramen soup.
*In a pan, melt butter. Add the sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and Ramen noodles. Stir together, then stir in the 2 tsp sugar. Cook on fairly low heat and watch carefully, stirring until the seeds just start to brown. Immediately remove from pan and allow to cool.
*Just before serving, mix the noodle mixture into the slaw mixture.

*NOTE: This recipe was adapted from the recipe for Crunchy Chinese Cabbage Salad by Ellie Deaner

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

One Day at a Time

This Friday’s post will be a Secret Subject Swap. But it’s also a special occasion for me. One year ago, on June 14th, 2012, in my very first blog post I asked the question: Can I Blog? My older son answered with: “I think you can do anything you set your heart to”. My younger son gave this blog it’s name. Reisa gave me a nudge. Julie, Kathy and Melinda then gave me that final push off of this particular cliff. I told them then: “it’s yet to be seen whether I thank you or curse you on the way down!”

So it’s been a year of thanks and of curses. And I still ask that same question: Can I Blog?

One Day at a Time |

I set a few goals for myself. Lofty at best, but if you’re aiming, why not aim for the moon? The first goal was to have 3,000 people like Baking In A Tornado's Facebook page by the time that page is a year old (August 13th). The page hit 3,000 “likes” 3 months early, on May 15th. I was, and still am, astounded.

The second goal was for 100,000 blog page views by my blogoversary. Page views are impacted by a number of things. One important factor is how often you blog. Fresh content brings more eyes. I know people who post daily. I’m in awe of them, but I’m just not that prolific. I only post twice a week, lowering by quite a bit my ability to reach my goal. But I do offer recipes, meant to entice (so much nicer word than bribe, don’t you think) people to return.

Did I reach this goal? Just barely, with only a little over week to spare. But here's the truth; it doesn’t matter. Because I ended up with something far more valuable to a blogger than page views. I have a voice. I have an outlet. And I have a community. People read this blog and then actually come back (of their own free will).

My biggest accomplishment is not the 5 writing features, 6 recipe features, 35 online publication features, 9 guest posts and website features, 39 awards bestowed by fellow bloggers or even my having been published in a book. It’s this:

There are people who interact regularly on this blog's Facebook page. They save me from feeling like I’m talking to no one. I recognize their names when they pop up and I love their comments. ★

There are also bloggers I’ve come to rely on along the way. There’s Michele, my first blogger friend and my steadfast supporter. And Stacy, Meg, Bonnie, Sarah, Sarah, MarciaMary and far too many more to mention.

There are family members and longtime friends who read from the beginning and continue to follow. They are my blogging back bone. ❤

To all who’ve read, commented, encouraged and supported me this past year, whether I know you or will never meet you, I extend my gratitude. Because, although my son told me "just do it for yourself, Mom", the truth is that if no one reads, I don’t want to write.

Catie Cocktail |

 Catie Cocktail

Catie Cocktail |

Catie Cocktail, slushy

My long time friend Laurie (who I've known since High School) has 4 beautiful children. Her oldest daughter, now married, happens to share her birthday with my blogoversary. So in honor of both women, today's recipe is a (Happy Birthday) Catie Cocktail.

With love,

Baking In A Tornado signature | Graphic designed by and property of | #MyGraphics

(Happy Birthday) Catie Cocktail

Printable Recipe                                                                                           

3 cups lemonade (I used pink lemonade)
8 oz vodka
6 oz orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec, Patron Citronge)
2 oz Amaretto
a splash of orange juice
a splash of lemon juice

*Mix all ingredients in a pitcher.
*Serve cold (upper picture) or freeze till it gets a little slushy (lower picture).