Friday, December 14, 2018

Not Cool Enough: Use Your Words

Today’s post is a monthly writing challenge. If you’re new here, this is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once. All of the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the recipient will take them. Until now.


Use Your Words, a multiblogger writing challenge | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.
I'm using: music ~ laughter ~ kids ~ online  ~ geek
They were submitted by Diane of On the Border.

                          
What are you when you're not even cool enough to be a geek?

Actually, these days it is cool to be a geek. Thank you, Big Bang Theory.

I'm not much one for calling people names, especially when it's meant to hurt or demean them in some way, which is why I'm happy that the designation "geek" has turned into a complement. For some, anyway. I know that many true geeks (and one who I know quite well) don't like Big Bang Theory, think it stereotypes geeks and shoves the multi-shaped pegs of all very intelligent people into a very uncomfortable and ill fitting hole. 

And although I spend a lot of time online (thank you, Baking In A Tornado blog and multiple monthly writing challenges), a geek I am not. In fact, if there were a word in the dictionary for the opposite of a geek, you'd find my picture there. Files on my laptop end up in different places from where I put them and I have actually had pictures post sideways and no matter what I did I could not change it. I wrote a whole blog post about it called It's a Conspiracy. So "geek" I am not.

So what am I? I need to know. Who are my tribe? And where can I find them? Or are they hiding from me too?

I'm not easily categorized, that's for sure. For me, it's a matter of music, or so the rationalization in my head goes. I dance to the beat of a different drummer. Actually, I more jerk around than dance and that drummer actually took one look at me and left town.

I like to cook and bake. Actually, that's a lie, I don't like to cook as much, but I like to develop recipes. Turn up the music (real, not imagined), sing at the top of my lungs (some  . . . ahem . . . mean people have been known to call it screeching), jerk around the kitchen and create something new. Dinner, dessert, doesn't matter, just something new, all my own.


Blue Razz Holiday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, a beautiful cake for any occasion | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #cake

Blue Razz Holiday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Blue Razz Holiday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, a beautiful cake for any occasion | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #cake

have a slice:
Blue Razz Holiday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, a beautiful cake for any occasion | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #cake


I was doing just that one Sunday afternoon when the boys walked in. And stupid me, you'd think I'd have learned by now that, much like a lawyer in a courtroom, anyone with kids (even grown ones) shouldn't ask a question you don't know the answer to. Call me a slow learner. Oooh, maybe that's my tribe. And this conversation on that Sunday afternoon is proof:


Me: What are you when you're not even cool enough to be a geek?
College Boy and PurDude (together): Old.

No laughter here. Well, not from me anyway, but they were mighty pleased with themselves. Remind me again why I had these kids.


Here are links to all the other Use Your Words posts:




Blue Razz Holiday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
                                               ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Ingredients:
2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups oil
2 eggs, room temperature
1 oz blue food coloring
1 tsp raspberry extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
15 Blue Raspberry Jolly Rancher hard candies, finely crushed

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 packet (.22 oz) unsweetened Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade Kool- Aid dry mix
up to 1/4 cup milk

a few drops of blue food coloring
blue and/or silver colored sugars
blue and/or white candy pearls

Directions:
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8 inch cake pans.
*Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
*In a separate large bowl beat the oil, eggs, food coloring and raspberry extract.
*Beat in half of the dry ingredients, then half of the buttermilk, the other half of the dry ingredients and finally the rest of the buttermilk followed by the crushed candies.
*Pour the batter evenly into the two pans.
*Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until the centers springs back to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and remove from the pan. Cool completely.
*Cream the cream cheese and butter together. Slowly and carefully beat in the powdered sugar and the Kool-Aid mix. Add the milk, 1 TBSP at a time until it is of frosting consistency. 
*Move 1/2 cup of frosting in a bowl and mix with a few drops of blue food coloring for decorating. Place in a piping bag and set aside.
*Place one layer of the cake on a serving platter. Frost with about 1/3 of the frosting. Place the second layer on top and use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides. 
*Pipe decorations with reserved frosting. Decorate with blue and/or silver colored sugars and white or blue candy pearls.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Cold Days Saga: December Poetry

Desperation has won out.
Frozen solid, there's no doubt,
what December's poetry theme would be,
(though this cold weather brings no glee). 

If you happen to live south,
do me a favor, shut yo mouth,
I'm barely hanging on, you see,
and jealousy's not a good look for me.


Cold Days, poetry based on a theme | Graphic property of www.BakingInATornado.com | #poetry


 Cold Days Saga

December's here with its numbing freeze,
nose'll fall off if I dare to sneeze.
Just came in from getting the mail,
hands so frozen, typing cracked a nail.

Icicles don't belong on lashes,
eyebrows or even men's mustaches.
Indoors, yet still my toes are numb,
Wearing 2 pairs of socks with more to come.

Coats and gloves and boots and hat,
can barely move, I just hate that.
Sweaters, gloves and goggles on,
any thought of vanity gone.

And keep your salads, sandwiches too,
chips and dip, crackers with cheese blue.
Give me food that's hot and hearty,
at least my stomach can have a party.


Mushroom Chicken and Rice comes together in under 30 minutes, tastes like you’ve been cooking all day. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner

Mushroom Chicken and Rice


Errands to do and the car won't start,
with more money, we'll have to part.
Bumper cars once on the road,
another new bill, you just got towed.


Breaking our butt blowing driveway snow.
Damn plows'll just put it back, we know. 
Trash cans sliding down the street on ice,
I'll buy new ones, chase them? No dice.

Cold days, bold days,
how I hate thee, count the ways.
98 long days till Spring,
to this sliver of hope I'll cling.   


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

 Diane of On the Border shares Winter Depths.
Dawn of Cognitive Script shares Ccccold Days.
Lydia of Cluttered Genius shares Cold Days.

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





Mushroom Chicken and Rice
                                                                          ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Ingredients:
1 package dry cream of mushroom soup mix
2 1/4 cups brown rice
1 TBSP oil
1 TBSP butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
6 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp garlic powder 
1 TBSP dried parsley

Directions:
*In a large bowl, mix together the dried soup mix and the rice. Pour in 2 cups water. Microwave for 10 - 12 minutes until the rice is cooked and the water absorbed into the rice.
*While the rice is cooking, melt the butter in the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, red pepper, mushrooms and garlic. Cook and stir until the vegetables are soft.
*Slice the chicken breasts and add to the skillet. Sprinkle with the garlic powder. Cook and stir until the chicken is completely cooked through. Drain.
*Add the cooked rice to the skillet. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Sprinkle with the dried parsley.



Monday, December 10, 2018

Elf Snacks: Jolly 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 Jolly.

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, Jolly | Featured on www.BakingInATornado.com


I made Elf Snacks.

Elf Snacks, a fun project to make, a festive no-bake but fully edible addition to your holiday dessert table. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #Christmas

Elf Snacks

I decided on this recipe for three reasons. First, I think they're a good option for the theme. Second, these really are every bit as much a family craft as they are a recipe. And they are no-bake. I don't know about you but my ovens run on overtime through the months of November and December, I love having a treat to make that is no bake. The third reason is that they really are versatile, you can stick them on the counter for a casual after school snack or they can add some whimsy to your holiday dessert selections.
 
Although this is not a difficult project, there are a few steps. As always, prepare by having all of your ingredients handy. 

Elf Snacks, a fun project to make, a festive no-bake but fully edible addition to your holiday dessert table. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #Christmas


Start by making the hats. Yes, they look like Christmas trees at this point, but in the end they'll be elf hats.
Elf Snacks, a fun project to make, a festive no-bake but fully edible addition to your holiday dessert table. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #Christmas



The second place we'll use candy melts are for the marshmallows themselves. Prepare the marshmallows by pushing half of a pretzel stick into each of them, we'll put those hats on here later. Melt the white candy melts and dip the marshmallows.


Elf Snacks, a fun project to make, a festive no-bake but fully edible addition to your holiday dessert table. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #Christmas


Just before they set, roll them in the crushed candy canes:

Elf Snacks, a fun project to make, a festive no-bake but fully edible addition to your holiday dessert table. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #Christmas


and then use more candy melts to attach the facial features. Don't be surprised if you have to hold them on for a minute or two so they stick and start to set.

Elf Snacks, a fun project to make, a festive no-bake but fully edible addition to your holiday dessert table. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #Christmas


Add your hat to the top (you can spread a little of the white bark onto the bottom of the hat with a knife if you want it to stick to the top instead of just sitting there). Cute, aren't they?

Elf Snacks, a fun project to make, a festive no-bake but fully edible addition to your holiday dessert table. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #Christmas

And you can always stack them and make a snowman, too!

Elf Snacks and snowmen, a fun project to make, a festive no-bake but fully edible addition to your holiday dessert table. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #Christmas

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 No Bake Goodies, perfect for the holidays. 
Blog With Friends, a multi-blogger project based post incorporating a theme, Jolly | No Bake Cookie Balls by Dawn of Spatuals on Parade | Featured on www.BakingInATornado.com

Tamara of Part-time Working Hockey Mom shares her recipe for Magical Cupcakes
Blog With Friends, a multi-blogger project based post incorporating a theme, Jolly | Magical Cupcakes by Tamara of Part-time Working Hockey Mom | Featured on www.BakingInATornado.com

Lydia of Cluttered Genius shares Use What You Have, crafts and decor using stuff you already have.
Blog With Friends, a multi-blogger project based post incorporating a theme, Jolly | Use What You Have by Lydia of Cluttered Genius | Featured on www.BakingInATornado.com


Melissa of My Heartfelt Sentiments shares Make Christmas Jolly with Handmade Creations.
Blog With Friends, a multi-blogger project based post incorporating a theme, Jolly | Make Christmas Jolly with Handmade Creations by Melissa of My Heartfelt Sentiments | Featured on www.BakingInATornado.com


Jules of The Bergham Chronicles shares ten easy ways to Spread the Jolly.
Blog With Friends, a multi-blogger project based post incorporating a theme, Jolly | Ten Ways to Make Others Jolly During the Holidays by Jules of The Bergham Chronicles | Featured on www.BakingInATornado.com


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





Elf Snacks
                                                                          ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
6 candy canes
10 Bugle snacks
2 oz green candy melts
20 Red Hots candies
5 thin pretzel sticks
10 marshmallows
3 oz white baking bark or white candy melts
20 candy eyes

Directions:
*Completely crush the candy canes. Set aside on a small dish.
*Break a very small piece off of the point of each Bugle snack.
*Melt the green candy melts until completely smooth when stirred. Using a knife, "paint" each bugle green and place on a piece of parchment paper. Once set, dip 10 of the Red Hots into the green melted candy and stick to the top of each of the Bugles. You will have to hold them gently in place for a minute to be sure they start to set and stick.
*Break each pretzel stick in half and press a half down into the center of a flat side of each marshmallow. Some of the pretzel stick must still be above the marshmallow. This will be the top.
*Melt the white bark or white candy melts until smooth when stirred. Holding onto the piece of pretzel sticking up, dip each marshmallow into the melted white bark and place onto parchment paper.
*While still wet, before they set, roll the rounded sides of the marshmallows into the crushed candy canes and place back onto the parchment paper. Allow to set completely.
*Tip the marshmallows onto their side so one side that's dipped in crushed mints is facing up. Dip the back of the candy eyes in the remaining melted bark and attach to the crushed mints. You may need to gently hold them there for a minute to be sure they start to set and stick. Do the same with the remaining Red Hots, one onto each marshmallow below the eyes. Allow to set completely before standing back up with the pretzel sticking out of the top.
*Place the green Bugle hats onto the pretzels to complete your elf.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Drawing the Line on Giving: Secret Subject Swap

Welcome a Secret Subject Swap. This month 8 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: I joined several pay it forward groups in the last few months and donated to a few people. Have you (or would you) ever donated money to a stranger online? Why or why not? If you found out it was a scam, would it deter you in the future?
It was submitted by Jenniy of Climaxed.

There are two parts to my answer to this question. First let me just explain my situation. My husband is a Financial Advisor. It's a highly regulated field, as it should be. Protecting our money, and by extension our future, requires strict guidelines for those entrusted with it in terms of integrity, reputation, and actions.

I am acutely aware that anything that I do online could reflect on him, especially if it turns out to be a scam. Not just that, but there could be ramifications if it is well meaning but breaks (even innocently), for instance, tax laws. I'm just not going to put myself or my family in that kind of jeopardy. And I err on the side of caution so I not only do I never donate to people I don't know online, but I try to do absolutely nothing involving payment with people I don't know.

I'm not, of course, talking about dealing with reputable companies. But I've even taken it so far as, when joining (free) raffles in support of friends, instructing them to donate anything I win. 

That's not to say that I never give, but I do it in person or through established charities. I have favorite charitable causes to which I donate. They are ones whose causes have meaning to me in a personal way. Including but not limited to purchasing gifts for orphans at holiday time, donating blood and platelets, donating clothes and household appliances, paying it forward in coffee shops, cooking dinners for people in need and I frequently bake for charities.


Beautiful for the holidays or any time of the year, Red Velvet Candy Cane Cake will be a new family favorite. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #cake #Christmas

Red Velvet Candy Cane Cake
Beautiful for the holidays or any time of the year, Red Velvet Candy Cane Cake will be a new family favorite. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #cake #Christmas


The second part of my answer is that, in the circumstances delineated in this question, I would not participate even if I felt I could. I am a skeptical person by nature. I don't trust easily those who I just don't know, can't look in the face, have a conversation with or see in a situation that I trust.  

My son's Amazon account was recently hacked. Due to past purchases he had a credit card associated with that account as well as his debit card, his brother's debit card and my Master Card. It was a nightmare. Both my son and my bank caught it immediately so the hacker actually got nothing from us, but we all spent the day dealing with it. We had to call and email banks and retailers and credit card companies, cancel cards and close accounts, change passwords and email addresses. Fortunately we got everything canceled before any of the fraudulent purchases shipped.

The lengths that these scammers go to was surprising to me. They ordered items to be shipped to empty lots so they could then pick up the items from the shippers. They bombarded PurDude's email with newsletters. Apparently they sign up their target for thousands of free newsletters so any email confirming what turns out to be a fraudulent purchase gets lost in the hordes of mail. 

There are people out there who spend their time stealing from others. Can we identify them from an email? A website? An online call for help? Sometimes (no, I don't send my financial information to an "attorney" in {{insert any foreign country here}} so they ca send me millions of dollars. But often there is just no way of knowing who we're dealing with online. And my guess is that, like any other endeavor, those who are most successful at defrauding are very good at subterfuge. 

I don't blame people like Jenniy for believing, for wanting to see the good in people, for even being willing to take a loss or two along the way. I witnessed an online friend help another online friend (none of us have met) in a way that made a huge difference in the life of the recipient. In my own way I envy them, people who can take that kind of chance. After all, skepticism requires being constantly on alert in a way that being able to trust does not. But in the end, for a number of reasons, making monetary donations to strangers online is just not for me.  

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






Red Velvet Candy Cane Cake
                                                              ©www.BakingInATornado.com



Printable Recipe


Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sat 
1 TBSP baking cocoa
1 1/2 cups oil
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 oz red food coloring
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
12 candy canes, finely crushed (can substitute starlight mint hard candies)

1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
up to 1/4 cup milk

Directions:
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
*Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and baking cocoa.
*In a separate large bowl beat the oil, eggs, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.
*Beat in half of the dry ingredients, then half of the buttermilk, the other half of the dry ingredients and finally the rest of the buttermilk followed by 1 cup of the crushed candy canes. Set the remaining crushed candy canes aside for later.
*Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan.
*Bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until the center springs back to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and remove from the pan. Cool completely.
*Cream together the butter and peppermint extract. Carefully blend in the powdered sugar. Then, 1 TBSP at a time, add in as much of the milk as you need to bring the frosting to a thick drizzle consistency. Drizzle over the cooled cake. Sprinkle with the remaining crushed candy canes. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Chocolate Mint Slice and Bake Cookies for National Cookie Day

I'm just going to start with an admission. I had no plans to develop another cookie recipe this year. I just, one week ago, posted a cookie round up for the holidays called Cookies, Cookies, Cookies: 30 Recipes for the Holidays. I had chosen which cookies I'd be making this year for all of the occasions where I'd be providing them based on long time family favorites and new recipes that had been a hit over this past year.

And then I saw that today is National Cookie Day.

National Cookie Day | Graphic property of www.BakingInATornado.com | #cookies


I certainly couldn't let that go by without celebrating. The truth is that cookies are amazingly versatile. I think that's because they're so easy to eat. It's not like a piece of cake where you need a plate, a knife, a difficult internal dispute as to what size to cut, a fork, and, when you're done, a visit to the dishwasher. No, with cookies it's just grab and go, a little nugget of yum. I have use cookies to make crusts, and used them in cakes and in pies. I even have been known to put cookies in cookie recipes. They're the treat of choice at all of those holiday cookie exchanges, we've taken them door to door in the neighborhood for the holidays and, of course, they can be either a snack or an addition to any dessert table.

But cookies also represent so many things in my life (I can see you now, rolling your eyes and thinking "get a life", but bear with me). When I dropped PurDude off at college hundreds of miles away, I brought 9 dozen cookies. They served (pun intended) as a "hello". When the boys were growing up they had tons of friends over pretty much on a daily basis, and I always had fresh baked cookies around. They served as a "you're welcome here". When a local group culminates their food drive in an all day distribution event, I send the volunteers 9 - 12 dozen cookies. They serve as a "thank you." And when we went up to Purdue for graduation, I again brought 9 dozen cookies as he said "good-bye" to his college friends.
 

Chocolate Mint Slice and Bake Cookies are filled with melted crème de menthe baking chips and rolled up. Slice and bake or make ahead and bake up to 2 days later. Perfect for the holidays. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #bake #cookies

Chocolate Mint Slice and Bake Cookies


So yes, I'm celebrating National Cookie Day with a new recipe. It just so happens that College Boy was around when I went to work in the kitchen so he was the inspiration. His favorite pairing in chocolate and mint and he absolutely loves Andes creme de menthe candies so I went with a mint cookie studded with melted Andes baking chips. These slice and bake cookies are easy to prepare ahead, refrigerate and then bake when needed. This time of year especially, those are the kinds of recipes that work best for me. I hope they do for you too.

Before you go, check out some National Cookie Day posts by some of my blog friends:
Dawn of Spatulas on Parade shares Lemon Meringue Cookies for National Cookie Day.
Lydia of Cluttered Genius shares Let it Go
Diane of On the Border shares Cook-eeee!




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





Chocolate Mint Slice and Bake Cookies
                                                                                   ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Ingredients:
1 stick butter, softened
1 stick margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 tsp mint extract
OPT: green food coloring
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups creme de menthe baking chips

Directions:
*Cream butter, margarine and sugars. Beat in the eggs and the mint extract (and food coloring if using). Finally beat in the flour, baking powder and salt.
*Divide dough into 2 fairly equal size pieces, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate an hour.
*Melt the mint baking chips in the microwave until smooth when stirred.
*Roll out each dough segment (separately) between 2 pieces of wax paper each to about 9 X 11 inches. Remove top wax paper and, working very quickly, spread the melted mint baking chips over the dough and, using the wax paper to help you, start with the long side and roll up into logs.
*NOTE: These will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days if you want to make ahead and then bake later.
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put parchment paper onto baking sheets.
*Slice logs into approximately 1/4 inch slices. Bake for about 13 - 15 minutes, until they just barely start to brown. Let sit on baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes before removing to cool completely.