Monday, December 30, 2013

With a Bow

As the year winds down, I wanted to take the time to reflect back on the past year here at Baking In A Tornado. There have been some fun, some serious, some yummy and some memorable moments in my first full year blogging. I’ve gone back through the year and compiled a few lists; top ten posts by page views, my top five favorite humorous posts and my favorite more serious posts.

So let’s wrap this year up, with a bow!

With A Bow -
Top Ten Viewed Posts:

#10 was from back in June and was a Secret Subject Swap. This post happened to be on my one year blogoversary. It was about what I’d do if I were a man for 24 hours, and it featured a recipe for Broccoli Slaw.

I'm a man -                            Broccoli Slaw -

#9 was called Death of a Weekend, from last March. It was an obituary of sorts for parents. It featured a recipe for Pepperoni Puffs.

Death of weekend -              Pepperoni puffs -

#8 was a post called Fee Schedule, also from last March. It was a message to my kids about certain changes that would be imposed in the home. It also featured a recipe for Crockpot Chocolate Caramel Cake.

Fee Schedule -                      Crockpot Chocolate Caramel Cake -

The actual #7 by page views was a compilation of previously posted recipes, both mine and those of some contributing friends, called Happy Virtual Thanksgiving. Since it wasn’t an original piece, I’ll give another #7:

#7 as an original post was from last June. It’s called Antivite and is about an actual trend, sending people an official “DON’T save the date”. It included a recipe for Choc-Oat Chip Cheesecake Bars.

Antivite-                      Choc-Oat Chip Cheesecake Bars -

#6 was a recipe I developed for a group I was proud to be asked to join. The project was called the 12 Cakes of December. I worked really hard developing and perfecting my recipe for a White Chocolate Peppermint Cake. It’s alcohol infused, but also has an alcohol-free option.

 White Chocolate Peppermint Cake -                         White Chocolate Peppermint Cake -

#5 is a fairly recent post also from this past month. It’s another Secret Subject Swap called The Gift and this one is about a gift that changed so much about my life. It features a recipe for Strawberry Crinkles.

Secret Subject Swap -                        -Strawberry Crinkles -

#4 is from June. It’s a fun piece about a game and it’s called Addicted to Candy. It features a recipe for candy, of course, Homemade Peppermint Patties.

Addicted to Candy -                     Homemade Peppermint Patties - Baking In A Tornado

#3 is from last May when my oldest son graduated from high school and is called All I Got. Some of this piece is humorous but it’s heartfelt as well. It includes a recipe for Angel Food Trifle.

All I Got -                            Angel Food Trifle -

#2 is called Home Sweet Future Home and it’s from last February. It’s about my fantasy home, which has some interesting features. It includes a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cups.

Home Sweet Future Home -                     Chocolate Chip Cheesecake cups -

The #1 most popular post to my blog, with the highest page views by far is another Secret Subject Swap, this one from January, about a day when everything goes wrong. It features a recipe for Potato Crusted Meatloaf.

A Bad Day -         Potato crusted meatloaf -

On a personal note, I’d like to mention a few posts that were my favorite. They’re listed in no particular order.
My Top Five

The Ten Commandments, a mom’s version.

Making a Run For It, told from an unusual point of view.

Take That, Hot Flashes. Life is full of changes, I found a way to use them to my advantage.

A Sense of Balance is also my mom’s favorite. It’s a humorous look at the Zombie Apocalypse.

and the January Secret Subject Swap (#1 above) about a day when everything goes wrong has made my top five too.

More Serious Posts

I Apologize is the first serious post I ever wrote. It’s about bullying.

Lightning Strikes tells some of the story of my struggle to have children.

Every Day is about the little things we do that matter.

As always, I want to thank everyone who takes the time to read this blog, leave comments, and encourage me to continue writing. I take a lot of time with my posts, not only writing them but I make all of the graphics myself, as well as developing or adapting the recipes. If you have a favorite post, I’d love to hear about it.

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy new year.

Friday, December 27, 2013

More Junk

This is the second in my “junk drawer” series. It started with me looking for something in my own junk drawer and realizing that a few things in there were permanent residents and always would be. I started to wonder what normal other people kept in their junk drawers, not the stuff that moves in and out but what was there to stay. So I asked some friends and got quite a varied response; from sentimental items to silly to useful to absurd. See the first group here: Junk Drawer.

Junk Drawer -

Here’s a peek into some other well-known bloggers’ drawers:

Super Mario Brothers HEAD
168 - VITA-Train for Life
The boys often break toys, as you can imagine, and when it first started happening I saved the pieces. I was sure I would fix them as soon as time allowed . . . but it never does. Yet, here lays Mario’s head. Why?
~Allie @ VITA - Train for Life

As a child, my brother and I always found my mother’s use of Salonpas really weird (perhaps it was the combined aroma of mint, menthol and camphor). Fast forward to my own adulthood, where rouge Salonpas patches can be found in many random drawers of my home, along with peppermint essential oils. I’ve definitely taken the weirdness factor up a level – when I feel migraines coming on, I wear my patch in public.
~Monica @ Marino Bambinos

old cellphones
I am embarrassed to say this. There is no sentimental reason for this. We refuse to buy the cell phone insurance! So we have always kept our previous cell phones! With two of us on the contract and a new cell phone every 18 – 24 months for the last 10 years we have quite a collection. I know we can and should donate them, but it is the fear that something might happen to our current phone that has us saving them. Most are stored in the attic now . . . but we always have our previous “extra” in a junk drawer.

stress relief
177 - Shay Trashy

Shhhh . . . it’s a secret. Because even though you guys know me as a trashy skank, I’m pretty sure my kid would be convinced that I’m the next June Cleaver . . . if they knew who she was. And besides, I only have one like once a week – in fact, I’ll bet this stale pack was purchased three months ago. But still, it’s a comfort knowing they’re there if necessary at the end of a stressful week. And look how sweetly they rest next to my daily devotionals. Just try not to notice that those are from 2011.
~Shay Trashy @Trashy Blog

Our little tool box
177 - The Momisodes
If not for this item, all my butter knives would be bent up, because that’s my go to when I can’t find a screw driver.
~Sarah @The Momisodes

Plastic Cockroaches
My ex bought then to play a nasty trick on my sister so I grabbed them and stashed them away in there so he couldn’t say I threw them away, but he also couldn’t find them to play the trick. They’ve been in there 2 years and I’ve actually used them here and there.

Tape Measure
177 - Evil Joy
Always ALWAYS in my junk drawer. Cause ya never know when you’re going to need to measure something.
There’s the length of cucumbers, the dimensions of a box, the size of the back of the trunk to see if a friend’s furniture will fit. And yes, the length of a cucumber is the first thing listed.
shells -

It’s no secret that I’m from New England and have been living in the Midwest. I have seashells everywhere to remind me of home; in drawers, in cars, in purses and in my junk drawer. Every time I open the drawer and see a shell I smile.

What’s in YOUR junk drawer?

PS: It seems fitting to end this post with a little Crockpot Chicken Soup; for the soul, for your stomach, for what ails you.

 Crockpot Chicken Soup -

Crockpot Chicken Soup

Baking In A Tornado signature |

Crockpot Chicken Soup
Printable Recipe
10 cups water
2 large bone in chicken breast halves (can use a whole cut up chicken if you prefer)
3 TBSP dry chicken broth base (more or less depending on your taste)
1 TBSP salt
1 parsnip
4 stalks celery
1 ½# carrots
2 onions
OPT: Matzo balls
*Put water, salt and chicken broth base into crock pot. Add chicken.
*Cut off ends of parshnip, cut into 3 chunks and add to pot.
*Wash celery, cut each into 3 chunks and add.
*Cut ends off of carrots. Peel 3 carrots, slice and add to pot. The rest of the carrots, cut off ends, cut into 3 chunks each and add to pot.
*Peel onions, leave the root end intact. Cut one in half, leave the other whole and add to pot.
*Cover crockpot and turn to high. Once it boils, turn it down to low and leave on low for an hour, skim the top, then continue to cook for another 4 to 5 hours.
OPT: While soup is cooking, if you’re making Matzo Balls, mix them up according to package directions and place in the fridge.
*Remove chicken to a plate. Remove all the vegetable chunks but leave the small sliced carrot pieces. Using a fork, pull the chicken meat from the bones, discard the skin and bones.
OPT: If making matzo balls, turn broth back on to high until boiling.  Add the matzo balls, cover and don’t open for 40 minutes, then add the chicken meat back in for 10 minutes.
*If not making matzo balls, return chicken to the pot, cook another 30 minutes on low.
NOTE: If making this for the next day or if you have leftovers, put in fridge overnight and skim the fat off the top before serving.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tagged and Jingled

I was nabbed in a couple of games of tag that often go around the blogosphere this time of year. Apparently we bloggers just don’t have enough to do in the end of December. Or perhaps we just love to play. Either way, my friend April at 100lb Countdown and my friend Cassandra at Dates 2 Diapers 2 caught me when I wasn’t looking and I’m honored they thought of me for these Holiday games.

 First game first, I'm supposed to answer 10 questions. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows I’m Jewish, so my answers may not be exactly what you expect. But really, when are they?

176 - Holiday Tag

1. What do you love the most about Christmas time?
What I love most about this time of year is that it’s a season that brings out the best in so many people. My husband is on the board of a local charity. They are referred families by school guidance counselors and, with the families’ permission, put together boxes of a ham, a turkey and ingredients for all the sides. On pick-up day there’s also a room of donated clothing the families can visit and even a “kids only” room where kids can pick out a gift for their parents. My husband is involved from start to finish. My sons always help out with the collections and sorting. I bake for the weekly board meetings and for pick-up day.

2. Do you celebrate the holiday in style or is it Bah-Humbug for you?
Bah Humbug is for birthdays. I even wrote a post about it, you can read it here, it’s called Bah Humbug.

3. Are you leaving anything out for Santa Claus this year so he remembers to leave your presents?
When the kids were little we used to leave cookies out for Santa. Now the kids are teenagers and it seems that whenever I bake, the cookies barely make it from the oven to the counter.

4. What is the one gift you are most looking forward to giving?
I love to give baked goods. You’re shocked, I know. I actually tried crafts and it was not pretty. I lovingly refer to it as “the year of the craft debacle”. I think anyone who ever got a craft project from me forever after receives my gifts by saying “thank you for not making a craft.” So baked goods it is.

5. What is your all-time favorite Christmas movie?
How the Grinch Stole Christmas. You never outgrow Dr. Seuss. I once had to write a post Dr. Seuss style for a Secret Subject Swap and let me tell you, writing in that style was not easy.

6. What is your all-time favorite Christmas song?
A friend of mine recently played me Band Aid’s Do They Know it’s Christmas Time At All and I have to admit that’s my current earworm, and I’m not unhappy about it.

7. If given the opportunity, would you participate in an “ugly sweater” party and what sweater would you wear?
Been there, done that. When I was in college I was invited to an ugly sweater party and I didn’t have one. I had this long green and black sweater that looked kind of like pine-needles so I wore that with black leggings, wrapped tinsel around myself and hung ornaments from the tinsel. Good news: It was quite a conversation starter. Bad news: it wasn’t exactly an outfit that worked well when I tried to sit down.

8. Have you started any Christmas traditions this year that you plan on carrying forward?
Something amazing happened this year. It won’t be an ongoing tradition, but I will remember it for the rest of my life. A friend who blogs at Confessions of a part-time working mom coordinated an Advent Calendar for me. She got 23 other friends each to take a day and present me with a blog post as a gift. I got compliments and stories and ornaments and recipes and songs. Each day I “open” a different gift to find kind words and extraordinary examples of friendship. I laugh, I cry, I’m so incredibly grateful.

9. It’s Christmas morning. . . what does it look like outside where you live?
My house backs up to the woods. I really hope that out my kitchen window it looks something like this:

First Snow -

10. You just found yourself standing under the mistletoe . . . who comes up to give you a first kiss?
I have a son who’s a freshman in college this year. I don’t see him as much as I’d like. So I hope the first kiss would be a big one, right on the cheek. And I hope it comes with a bear hug.

Now on to the second game. I've been jingled. 

Tagged and Jingled |

What I'm supposed to do is pick 5 bloggers and state 2 things I like about each and then state 4 things I like about myself. Well, you know I'm going to screw change that up. I've said enough about myself in this post, I'm tagging a bunch of bloggers, telling them what I like best about them and offering them a choice: you can pick one of the above games or play neither or both. I just want to mention, as I always do with tags, that this is a compliment but not an obligation. Play if you want:

Follow me home . . .
You are one of the funniest bloggers I know. And you don't write anywhere near often enough. I've told you before and I'll tell you again, I could read you every day.
Just  A Little Nutty
You are one of the most positive people I know, and whenever I'm down I look to your blog or FB page to lift me back up.
Stacy Sews and Schools
You are the best cheerleader blogging has. You're always out there promoting everyone else. I'm so glad I got to know you.
The Momisodes 
Every time I read something you write I'm in awe of your intelligence and personal growth. You're such a great example to the blogging community.
Juicebox Confession
I love your spirit. Anything I dream up, I know you'll jump on board. I can't tell you how great it feels to have someone believe in you like that.
Writer B is Me 
I'm not sure you know how amazing it feels when you make one of my recipes and post the picture to my FB page. Thank you for taking the time to make them and to share them.
Searching for Sanity
I have so much respect for the way you juggle your life, your family, your work and your blog. You're a reminder that the amount of effort you put into it all does matter.
The Black Sheep Mom
We've really been there for each other this past year, and I love knowing that your encouragement is just an email away.
The Bergham's Life Chronicles
You're just starting out and already I hear your blogging voice loud and clear. I can't wait to see what else you're going to share.
Confessions of a part-time working mom
The amount of work you put into initiating and coordinating my Advent Calendar, and just the fact that you thought to do it for me, all amazes me. I hope you know how much I appreciate it.
Evil Joy Speaks
I love the way you see yourself and your life. You show by example that something as simple as painting a child's room means so much more. I smile every time you share a little piece of what you're up to.
You taught me not to judge a book by it's cover, so to speak. I knew you were a food blogger, but you joined the Swap and the Fly and I've seen what a funny person and talented writer you are as well.

One final note: No matter what you celebrate, I wish you a joyous holiday season and a happy and healthy new year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

14th Fly on the Wall

Welcome to a Fly on the Wall group post. Today 15 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:

 This happens to everyone, right? I get into my car, open the storage compartment between the seats and find an entire day’s worth of mail in there. I’m frantically looking through it to see how long it’s been there and there’s a coupon that expired 2 months ago. And guess who left it in there? According to everyone in my family, “not me” did.

Flies on the Wall

Me: I need you to stop after school and talk to the guidance counselor about your ACT scores.
Son: I just talked to her last week.
Me (incredulously): You did? You didn’t tell me that.
Son: Yes, I needed my transcripts sent to the two colleges I applied to.
Me (incredulously): You did? You didn’t tell me that.
Son: Yes, I was taking responsibility for myself.
Me (still with bug-eyes): That’s great, I’m proud of you. But part of your responsibility is to  . . . I don’t know . . . let me know what’s going on.

So, apparently my son has already applied to (and been accepted to and been awarded scholarships to) two schools. Who knew? {{hint: not me}}.

Flies on the Wall

It’s taken me a long time to see the pattern, but I finally figured it out. My son always asks what’s for dinner before telling me whether or not he has plans. Quite a coincidence but if it’s a dinner he doesn’t like he always seems to have plans. But if it’s a dinner he does like, whether or not he has plans depends on . . . well . . . whether or not he actually already has plans.

Flies on the Wall

The discussion at dinner one night was about a toy car my son and his friend had built in one of his classes. We were talking about how it was powered and my husband was saying that it probably wouldn’t be by sonar because it would be hard to make a car turned based on sound.
I completely disagree. After all, every time we’re in the car coming up on a street we need to go down and it’s clear my husband’s going to miss it, I yell “TURN, TURN” and the car turns.

Flies on the Wall

Hubs: What’s for dinner?
Me: I’m not sure, I’m trying something new, I hope it comes out.
Hubs: It’s in the crockpot so it’ll be fine.
Me: You mean you think you can put absolutely any bunch of ingredients together and as long as it’s in the crockpot it’ll be good?
Hubs: Yeah, that’s how crockpots work, right?

 Crockpot Barbecue Pork Sandwich -
Crockpot Barbecue Pork Sandwiches

My son and I are on couches in the living room watching TV.
Me: I thought I’d try baking a new cookie, want to help me?
Son: Sure. You go ahead, I’ll stay here and hold down the fort.
Thanks, kid.

Flies on the Wall

Son: What are you doing?
Me: I’ll just be a minute, I’m typing that last conversation we had into my Fly on the Wall post.
Son: You know that makes you a tattle-tale, right?

Flies on the Wall

You all probably know by now that my oldest son is a freshman in college. And that he doesn’t exactly call daily as I’d like. In fact, weekly would be nice. Every now and then I send him a humorous text and he’ll answer and, of course, he’ll call when he needs something.

You probably also know that I got a new phone and I’m loving it. Twice the social media, twice the Candy Crush, what’s not to like, right?

The other day I was at home and my cell rang. Caller ID showed it was College Boy. Yay. So I pressed the green “answer” button. And I pressed it. And I held it down. And I tapped it. And I banged it. And College Boy hung up. It appears that I can do everything with this phone except answer a call.

Flies on the Wall

My younger son ordered a TV and a wall bracket for his bedroom. I’ve never allowed my kids to have TVs in their rooms but it’s the end of his senior year in high school, he has over a 4.0 GPA, is the head of a club, has a job, does volunteer work and has already gotten scholarships to 2 colleges so I gave in (yes, I’m aware that all of that rationalization came off as bragging. I’m proud of him, sue me).

Everything arrived and I told him he could not put the bracket on his wall without his dad. When they were together, I told them both to measure and measure and measure again because they would not be drilling and re-drilling holes in the wall.

So they measure and they measure and they drilled and the TV is up.

And one side is a good 4 inches higher than the other.
Son: “It’s fine with me, Mom, it’s you that it’ll drive crazy.”
Shoot me now.

Crockpot Barbecue Pork Sandwiches
Printable Recipe
Italian Loaf
3 – 4# Pork Roast
1 cup frozen chopped onion (or ½ fresh onion, chopped)
2 apples (I use Braeburn), chopped
1 cup barbecue sauce
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup water
2 TBSP lemon juice
3 TBSP brown sugar
3 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
NOTE: I have made this with a frozen Pork Roast, just allow to cook a few hours longer.
*Place the roast in the crockpot. Cover with the onion and apples.
*Mix the rest of the ingredients together, pour over the roast and cook on high for 1 hour.
*Turn meat over and cook another hour.
*Turn crockpot down to low and allow to continue cooking for 5 hours.
*Remove meat, slice, return to crockpot and cook for one more hour.
*Slice bread and serve pork and sauce on the bread.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Crockpot Chocolate Bread Pudding

I have to admit that I’ve rarely made bread pudding. I don’t know why I don’t think of it more often, but I don’t.

Recently I was preparing a special dinner for the family and wanted a dessert I don’t make often. I also wanted something that could be done in the crockpot, would be easy to prep ahead of time and was something I hadn’t made in a while.

I looked in my fridge and saw a loaf of Italian bread. And then it hit me: Bread Pudding. I’d never done it in the crockpot before but I’ve heard of it being done I could prep ahead of time and if I did a Chocolate Bread Pudding, the house would smell divine while it was cooking.

Crockpot Chocolate Bread Pudding -
The day before I needed the dessert, I chopped up the bread, melted the chocolate with heavy cream in the microwave, and whisked in my other ingredients.

Crockpot Chocolate Bread Pudding -

I gently coated all of the bread with the chocolate mixture, making sure to allow some of the bread to remain in chunks.

Crockpot Chocolate Bread Pudding -

Once I had the bread all coated, I put the entire mixture into the refrigerator overnight.

Crockpot Chocolate Bread Pudding -
The next day, 3 hours before I wanted to serve dessert, I sprayed the crockpot with non-stick spray, put the bread pudding mixture inside, added a paper towel under the lid and let it cook.

My son chose ice cream on his. Would you choose ice cream or whipped cream?

Crockpot Chocolate Bread Pudding -

Crockpot Chocolate Bread Pudding
Printable Recipe
1# bread (I used a 1 # Italian loaf)
1 cup heavy cream
1 12oz package dark chocolate chips
2 cups milk
3 eggs
1/8 tsp salt
6 TBSP sugar
½ tsp vanilla
*Chop bread up into approximately one inch chunks.
*In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips with the heavy cream until smooth. Microwave on high for 1 minute, stir, then continue to microwave in 10 second intervals until all the chocolate is melted.
*Allow to cool slightly.
*Whisk the eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and milk into the chocolate mixture. Mix in the bread cubes until all the bread is coated with the chocolate mixture.
*Refrigerate for an hour, or up to a day.
*Spray crockpot with non-stick spray.
*Put bread pudding mix into crock pot. Manipulate the mix so it’s thicker along the edges of the pot with less in the center, as the edges cook faster.
*Put a paper towel over the crockpot so that the cover holds the towel up under the cover. It shouldn’t be anywhere near the cake. This is to keep the condensation from the top from falling into the cake. Check and replace the paper towel every now and then.
*Cook on low for approximately 3 hours.
*NOTE: times vary depending on size of crockpot and differences in heat levels. Keep an eye on it the first time to know how long it will take for you. Serve warm.