Wednesday, August 15, 2018

If You Insist: National Relaxation Day Poetry

It's August, the dog days of summer, so to speak. If your weather is anything like mine, you're having a hot, humid, sticky, sweaty summer. Sorry for the visual there. But not to worry, I'll make it up to you. I'm here to help and I know just what you need. A nice cool refreshing poem. Did I call it or what?

Anyhoooo. This month, as our theme, The Monthly Poetry Group has chosen to celebrate National Relaxation Day. 


National Relaxation Day, poetry based on a theme, a multi-blogger monthly poetry challenge | https://BakingInATornado.com | #poetry #MyGraphics


If You Insist

Just when life seems to get you down,
Turn a smile up from that frown.
Soak in the bath, in the hammock sway.
I insist, its Relaxation Day.

Off your shoulders, lift those stresses.
Today no teeth can have abscesses.
Soak in the bath, in the hammock sway.
I insist, its Relaxation Day.

Bills are due and money's short?
Been called out to traffic court?
Soak in the bath, in the hammock sway.
I insist, its Relaxation Day.

Messy house, to your dismay?
Clean's overrated anyway.
Soak in the bath, in the hammock sway.
I insist, its Relaxation Day.

Laundry piled up to the sky.
Twitching just below that left eye.
Soak in the bath, in the hammock sway.
I insist, its Relaxation Day.

Have your cupcake, eat it too.
Look, I made some just for you. 
Soak in the bath, in the hammock sway.
I insist, its Relaxation Day.

Orange Cream Cupcakes are light and fluffy orange and French vanilla cream flavored cakes frosted with a creamy orange frosting. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dessert
Orange Cream Cupcakes
Orange Cream Cupcakes are light and fluffy orange and French vanilla cream flavored cakes frosted with a creamy orange frosting. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dessert

So. . . 

Sorry worries, fear, dismay,
I cannot come out and play.
In bath I'll soak, and hammock sway.
I'm obliged, it's Relaxation Day!

Before you go, click on these links to more poetry from some of my friends:

Dawn of Cognitive Script shares A Balm to my Soul.
Lydia of Cluttered Genius shares Relax, My Foot.
Diane of On the Border shares It's Official!


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





Orange Cream Cupcakes         
                                    ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 box orange cake mix (can substitute white or yellow cake mix)
1 1/4 cups orange soda
1/4 cup French vanilla creamer

1 stick butter, softened
3 TBSP orange juice
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 - 3 tsp French vanilla creamer

OPT: 18 mandarin orange slices

Directions:
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper cupcake cups in 18 cupcake tins. Very lightly spray the inside of each paper cup with non-stick spray.
*Beat the cake mix, the soda and 1/4 cup creamer for 2 minutes. Divide into the prepared cupcake cups. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes just until the center springs back to the touch. Cool completely.
*Cream the butter with the orange juice. Carefully blend in the powdered sugar. Then, 1 tsp at a time, add in as much of the remaining creamer as you need to bring the frosting to an easily spreadable consistency. Pipe onto cupcakes. Top with a mandarin orange slice if desired.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Skillet Cordon Bleu Dinner: Simplify Your Life Blog With Friends

Today’s post is the next in our series of Blog With Friends theme collaborations. Each month a group  of bloggers get together and each publish a project based on a theme. What I love about this partnership is that it’s not bloggers with similar interests or strengths but a diverse group coming up with a variety of posts. In any given month we may have a recipe, sewing tutorial, crafts projects, book review and/or a technology post all related to the theme of the month.


Blog With Friends, a monthly project based blogging collaboration | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


This month's theme is Simplify Your Life.

There will be individual project pictures and links to what everyone else has to offer at the end of my post, but here’s a peek at what we all came up with:


Blog With Friends, a multi-blogger project based post incorporating a theme, Simplify Your Life | Featured on www.BakingInATornado.com


I made Skillet Cordon Bleu Dinner.

Skillet Cordon Bleu Dinner: simplify your life by making a hearty, flavorful dinner in one skillet repurposing leftovers. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner

Skillet Cordon Bleu Dinner

Last month for our Anti-Boredom themed Blog With Friends post I made Layered Thai Shrimp Salad. I could have easily used that recipe for today's theme, as it meets all of my criteria. For me, when it comes to recipes, the best way to simplify my life is to come up with a satisfying meal that can be either made ahead or at least prepped ahead, and that uses leftover and/or pre-made ingredients.

Of course, ordering take-out is a great way to simplify life too, and I'm certainly not averse to take-out as an option now and then, but I don't think you need me to tell you how to do that, so for today I'll share a recipe.

I have been deliberately making more food than we can eat. It's partly because I don't know if one or both of the boys might show up for dinner (and whether they'll have friends with them), it's partly because I find it hard to cook for just two, and it's mostly to have leftovers.

In the winter I tend to freeze leftover casseroles to serve another time. In the summer, when leftovers tend to not be in casserole form anyway, I'm looking for easy (but different) repurposing of the leftovers. Frequently it's cold dishes, but sometimes it's something hot. Quick and easy though, to simplify my life.

Although I made Skillet Cordon Bleu Dinner for today's post, you can change this up easily. Switch the flavor of the rice mix, change up the meats and vegetables based on what's leftover in your fridge, skip the sweet hot mustard and you've got another version.

To start, I opened the fridge to check out what leftovers I had. Last week I had made Roasted-style Grilled Chicken:

Roasted Style Grilled Chicken, the flavors of roasted chicken in a grilled chicken breast | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner


Marinated Grilled Ham Steaks:
Marinated Grilled Ham Steaks are breakfast ham steaks marinated and grilled for a quick and easy dinner | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner #ham


and Pralined Snap Peas and Carrots (for this recipe I pulled out the leftover snap peas from the dish).

Pralined Snap Peas and Carrots, a bright flavorful side dish | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #vegetables


Based on the chicken and ham I decided to make a take-off on a cordon bleu. I gathered the leftovers and added a few other ingredients:

Ingredients for Skillet Cordon Bleu Dinner: simplify your life by making a hearty, flavorful dinner in one skillet repurposing leftovers. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner


Grabbed a skillet, and in about 15 minutes I had a hearty, flavorful dinner on the table. 

Skillet Cordon Bleu Dinner: simplify your life by making a hearty, flavorful dinner in one skillet repurposing leftovers. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner

Now that is simplifying my life!
 
Skillet Cordon Bleu Dinner: simplify your life by making a hearty, flavorful dinner in one skillet repurposing leftovers. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner



Skillet Cordon Bleu Dinner: simplify your life by making a hearty, flavorful dinner in one skillet repurposing leftovers. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner


As always, any time you make one of my recipes, feel free to post a picture of it to my Baking In A Tornado Facebook Page. I'd love to see it!


Be sure to visit all of this month's other Blog With Friends projects:

Dawn of Spatulas on Parade shares her recipe for Parmesan Ranch Chicken
Blog With Friends, a multi-blogger project based post incorporating a theme, Simplify Your Life | Parmesan Ranch Chicken by Dawn of Spatulas on Parade | Featured on www.BakingInATornado.com

Lydia of Cluttered Genius shares Simple (On-A-Budget) Laundry Room Update.
Blog With Friends, a multi-blogger project based post incorporating a theme, Simplify Your Life | Simple (On-A-Budget) Laundry Room Update by Lydia of Cluttered Genius | Featured on www.BakingInATornado.com


Tamara of Part-Time Working Hockey Mom shares her Keep - Donate - Toss Buckets
Blog With Friends, a multi-blogger project based post incorporating a theme, Simplify Your Life | Keep - Donate - Toss Buckets by Tamara of Part-Time Working Hockey Mom | Featured on www.BakingInATornado.com



Rabia of The Lieber Family blog shares tips on how to Simplify Your School Year.

Blog With Friends, a multi-blogger project based post incorporating a theme, Simplify Your Life | Simplify Your School Year by Rabia of The Lieber Family Blog | Featured on www.BakingInATornado.com

Jules of The Bergham Chronicles shares Easy Ways to Keep Your Family Organized and On Track
Blog With Friends, a multi-blogger project based post incorporating a theme, Simplify Your Life | Easy Ways to Keep Your Family Organized and On Track by Jules of The Bergham Chronicles | Featured on www.BakingInATornado.com



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





Skillet Cordon Bleu Dinner
                                                                          ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Ingredients:
2 cups chicken stock
1 TBSP butter
1 clove minced garlic
1 TBSP sweet hot mustard
1 (about 5 oz) package of flavored dry rice mix (like Knorr)
1 cup leftover cooked chicken, room temperature, chopped
1/2 cup leftover cooked ham, room temperature, chopped
1 cup leftover cooked vegetables, room temperature
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, chopped

Directions:
*In a large skillet, bring the chicken stock, butter, garlic and mustard to a boil. Add the packaged rice mix, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
*Add the chicken, ham and vegetables. Cover and cook for 2 more minutes or until the rice is tender. 
*To serve, mix in the cheese or sprinkle it over the top.

Friday, August 10, 2018

That's a Wrap: Secret Subject Swap

Welcome a Secret Subject Swap. This month 9 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. Read through mine and at the bottom you’ll find links to all of today’s other Secret Subject participants.

Secret Subject Swap, a multi-blogger writing challenge | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics




My subject is: You're being interviewed by the local news. Why?
It was submitted by: Rena of The Blogging 911.

Not that I've lead a . . . ahem . . . interesting life, but my first thought was that it could be one of about 20 things. And that's right off the top of my head. Imagine if I thought about it for a while. Or maybe you better not.

My second thought was just "jeez, what the hell have I gotten myself into now?" Because I'd like to say that it's for something good, but you all know me better than that by now.

I'm actually relieved that this is local news. I mean at least I'm not on the national news, got that going for me. And possibly whatever I've done won't get back to my mom on the east coast. 

Perhaps it's for my baking? Naaaa.


Peaches and Cream Cake and Sundae: a light fluffy cake made with ripe juicy peaches and creamy white chocolate chips, topped with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and chopped pecans.| Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #cake

Peaches and Cream cake and Sundae



I know! I'm running for office. 

No, not that either. I'm afraid politics in this country has become a blood sport, and I don't like blood. Especially when it's mine.

Here's what actually happened:

In answer to the bell, I opened my door to find a well dressed woman and a man with a large video camera. Behind them, in my driveway was a white car with a big blue "News 8" on the door. 

Me: Can I help you?
Woman: We'd like to interview you for a community story we're doing.
Me: Community story? What story?
Woman: Have you seen our Friday segments featuring people in our viewing area?
Me: The one where people call in to nominate neighbors who have made a difference?
Woman: Yes. You were nominated and will be featured on tonight's newscast.
Me: You don't let people know in advance? I . . . um . . . would have worn something nicer, straightened my hair.
Woman: Someone was supposed to call you, tell you to expect us. Did that not happen?
Me (looking down at my clothes): No.
Woman: Can we come in? I'd like to sit and chat a bit.

I showed them to the den and offered them a drink all while wondering whether, in my ratty old clothes and Rosannadanna hair, I could hope that nobody seeing me would recognize me.

The woman situated herself on the couch while I took the chair opposite her. The camera man found a place to stand off to the side between us where, obviously, he could pan the camera between us.

Woman: I'm Charlotte, the reporter assigned to this series of segments and this (waving her hand to the left) is my camera man, Paul.
Me: Hello. Welcome. 
Charlotte: As I said, you were nominated for your volunteer work at the school.
Me: Me? I can't imagine who would have nominated me. And my boys haven't been in school in years.
Charlotte: Really? That's odd. Was there anything that was noteworthy when they were there? 
Me: Well there was that one time a teacher asked me to cook a turkey for a Thanksgiving celebration. And the time the kids made single cell shaped cookies for science that I was asked to pick up, bake at my house then return to them.
Charlotte: I guess that must be it. Tell me those stories.

We spent a good hour talking about my volunteer work at the school. I was in the middle of another story when my cell phone rang.

Me: I'm sorry Charlotte, can you excuse me for just one minute, it's Kathryn Brandon, my neighbor, she had some minor surgery to her leg, let me just be sure she's OK.
Charlotte (eyes wide): Wait! You're not Kathryn Brandon? 
Me: No, as I said, she's my neighbor.
Charlotte: Isn't this 6243 Grand St?
Me: No, it's 6234.
Charlotte (making a cutting motion across her neck to her cameraman and racing towards the door faster than I thought one could move in heels): Wrong house? I spent an hour listening to stories at the wrong house? We better find the right house NOW or we'll miss our deadline.

And that's it. My five minutes of (redacted) fame. 
Bad news: I'm doomed to end up on the cutting room floor.
Good news: I won't be showing up on TV in my ratty clothes and Rosanne Rosannadanna hair.

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 signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics






Peaches and Cream Cake and Sundae      
                                    ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 stick butter, softened
1 stick margarine, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup ripe peaches, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

vanilla ice cream
caramel sauce, warmed
chopped pecans

Directions:
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 X 11 baking pan.
*Cream the butter, margarine, sugars and egg. Carefully beat in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
*Gently mix in the chopped peaches and white chocolate chips.
*Pat evenly into the baking pan and bake for 25 - 28 minutes or until the center is completely set and the bars are browned.
*Cool until just barely warm before cutting. 
*To serve, top each bar with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, warm caramel sauce and chopped pecans.
*Store leftover bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

In the Process of Losing

Loss is a subject often discussed. Losing is not.

Loss is a permanent state of depletion. Losing is a prolonged torture. 

I've written about loss before. I don't make any attempt to define it because words are just not enough. Especially when it's new, but even many years later thoughts still have the ability to rip our hearts. Grief, at some level, is never-ending.

There are many kinds of loss. Sudden, no matter when it happens is always too soon. Expected. no less painful. I don't claim that one is better than the other. It all sucks, leaves us changed, in some ways diminished.

When we have had a loss, friends, neighbors, even acquaintances cocoon us. There are social and religious conventions that kick in, they come to our homes, bring meals, join in religious rites, call, text, email, send cards. Our community place their hearts with our as we take those first steps into grief.


Jamaican- Style Grilled Chicken, chicken breasts infused with a bold smoky Jamaican jerk flavored marinade then grilled for an easy family dinner. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #chicken #dinner

Jamaican-Style Grilled Chicken
Jamaican- Style Grilled Chicken, chicken breasts infused with a bold smoky Jamaican jerk flavored marinade then grilled for an easy family dinner. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #chicken #dinner



Going through the process of losing is altogether different: the cancer that took my brother and the Alzheimer's that stole my father were traumatic. On a daily basis. Having to watch someone slip away is nothing short of torture. 

Because when you are in the process of losing, you are actively moving towards loss. You know how this story ends, that agony is ahead. Your brain and your heart scream at you "turn back, don't go there" but the thrust forward is completely out of your control. You cannot turn back. You cannot even stop and catch your breath. 

And during these long, drawn out, devastating times we are not cocooned, we are book-ended. When that prognosis is first delivered we hear words of compassion and encouragement from friends, neighbors, acquaintances. Then, when the journey ends in the eventual loss, we are supported by all of the societal and/or religious rituals of mourning. But in between we frequently walk alone. By alone I mean as a family, of course, but they are as emotionally and physically diminished by the unremitting assault as we are. 

I have a friend, one I've never met, whose young daughter recently went through a year long cancer regime. Let me just say now that this is not a story of losing (well, a lot actually was lost, but not a life), her daughter is currently back home and in remission. But there is a correlation to be made through this example, and it's what got me thinking on these terms to begin with. 

When her daughter was first diagnosed, her family was surrounded with warmth and good wishes, hopes and prayers. And through that lifetime-long year, whenever she posted pictures or updates on social media they were met with an outpouring of love. I am many miles away, but I checked in with her privately on a regular basis, not only to see how her daughter was doing but ask about how she herself was coping. You know what she told me at one point? She said that she appreciated my checking in on a personal level, that I was one of very few who still did. 

I was shocked.

In the Process of Losing. Loss garners support, losing requires more | Graphic property of www.BakingInATornado.com | #loss #grief


I do understand that when those around us are going through a long term crisis it is hard to reach out to them for a multitude of reasons. First of all, we fear we don't know the right thing to say, or what it's OK to ask. We are afraid of bothering them, that it's not the right time, or that they don't want to be forced to talk about their pain. Second, it brings us absolute terror. We put ourselves in their place and for even that one minute we just cannot deal, even hypothetically.

In many cases it's much simpler. It's that our lives go on, they are hectic and complicated. It's not that we forget what they're going through, we just don't focus on how quickly time flies by for us. But minutes, for them, move at once both excruciatingly slowly and with unbearable speed.

I'm not saying that those suffering through a prolonged period of losing don't have any support outside the family at all, of course they do. But between the diagnosis and the loss, it's not constant and consistent, it's spotty at best. And during this time it is not some level of compassion that's needed, it's all of it.

I have a few other friends, also ones I've never met, who are currently in the process of losing. I am committed to making sure that they are not just book-ended.

Because I now realize that if we have enough of a connection with a family to reach out at the beginning, and we know them well enough to support them in the end, then we should consider making the ongoing effort to be there to help fill the middle.


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






Jamaican-Style Grilled Chicken
                                                              ©www.BakingInATornado.com


Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
4 bone in chicken breasts
3 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP Jamaican jerk marinade
2 cloves garlic
1 TBSP brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Directions:
*Rinse chicken and pat dry. Place chicken pieces into a gallon sized resealable bag.
*Mix together all of the remaining ingredients. Pour into the bag with the chicken and massage to be sure that all of the pieces of chicken are completely coated. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight, turning the bag now and then.
*Heat the grill to medium and grill the chicken, turning once, until the chicken is fully cooked and the juices run clear.





Friday, August 3, 2018

The Answer to Evolution is Cake Balls

When it comes to the question of evolution, the answer is cake balls. Always.

I have to tell you that the perpetual question of what came first, the chicken or the egg, has always been a fascination. Much time and energy has been spent trying to figure this one out. Like a Rubik's Cube it was part fun, part challenge, all interspersed with exasperation. I mean, how can there be a chicken without the egg, but how can there be the egg without the chicken? One of them had to have come first, but how can that be? Often I hear a one word answer "G-d". But that is not enough of an explanation for those of us dominated by our logical side.

I recently read that there is an actual scientific answer to the whole chicken and egg puzzle and honestly, it was a let down. I always thought I wanted to know, that perpetual curiosity is frustrating. Turns out I was wrong. The answer ruined the question.

But for me, it's not what came first anyway, it's where it went from there. The reconfiguration from good to better to best. Ask not where it began, ask just how very far it can go.


Mocha Cinnamon Cake Balls are little bites of heaven. Coffee and Cinnamon Cake Squares are mixed with chocolate syrup, dipped in dark chocolate and topped with sprinkles. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dessert
Mocha Cinnamon Cake Balls

When it comes to my Mocha Cinnamon Cake Balls I can easily tell you what came first, the cake. Actually I can follow the blood line even further back than that. It's genesis was the drink. In the beginning I created the Chata Iced Coffee. One taste and I saw that it was good.

Next came the cake. Yes, I could have left it at that (not really), but how to have more of it without walking around all day with a drink in my hand? After all, what would the neighbors think? 

It took a day for the idea to fully form, and another to bring it to fruition. If the drink is good, Coffee and Cinnamon Cake Squares are even better (if I do say so myself, and I do). And the evening and the morning were the third day.

And on the fourth, and fifth day we ate cake.

Here's the thing about cake, though. It requires a plate and a fork. When we had demolished about half of it, I realized how much easier my life would be if this cake were more portable. Think less dishes, less crumbs on the floor, more "pop in your mouth".

On the sixth day I created balls.

And I saw what I had made and behold, it was very good. 

As much as the family loved the cake, the cake balls were . . . well . . . the balls. I mean take a drink, interpret it into a cake, then roll it into a ball and cover it in chocolate? Just when you thought it couldn't get any better and whoomp, there it is.  

And on the seventh day, I rested. 


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





Mocha Cinnamon Cake Balls
                                               ©www.BakingInATornado.com 

Printable Recipe

NOTE: This recipe calls for 1/2 of the recipe for my Coffee and Cinnamon Cake Squares. To make ahead, make the cake squares recipe and serve half of them as cake squares. With the other half of the recipe, follow directions below. When the balls are frozen, put them into a sealable bag in the freezer and leave there up to a month or until ready to make these cake balls.

Ingredients (makes about 30):
1/2 recipe of my Coffee and Cinnamon Cake Squares (including frosting) click HERE for recipe
1/4 cup chocolate syrup

12 oz dark chocolate chips 
3/4 cup chocolate jimmies (sprinkles) 

Directions:
*Place the cake squares (half of the full recipe), including the frosting, into a large bowl. Drizzle the chocolate syrup over the top and mix well.
*Roll into 3/4 inch balls. Place on a pan in the freezer and leave for about 2 hours or until hard. NOTE: To make these later, place the balls into a sealable plastic bag and leave in the freezer for up to a month.
*Place the sprinkles onto a small plate. Melt the dark chocolate chips in the microwave, at 15 second intervals, until they are completely smooth when stirred.
*One at a time, press a toothpick into each of the cake balls, dip in the melted chocolate, press the top into the sprinkles, place on parchment paper, gently remove the toothpick and allow to set before serving.