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Baking in a Tornado by Karen Bakinginatornado - 2d ago
Today’s post is this month’s Funny Friday, a regular feature published on the last Friday of every month. Funny Friday is a collaborative project. Each month one of the participants submits a picture, then we all write 5 captions or thoughts inspired by that month’s picture. Links to the other bloggers’ posts are below, click on them and see what they’ve come up with. I hope we bring a smile to your face as you start your weekend.


 Here’s today’s picture. It was submitted by Dawn of Cognitive Script.



1. Little girl to her mom: Did you say this was snow? Or really cold quicksand?

2. Little girl to her mom: I think I've had enough fun for one day. Can I come inside now?
Mom: But you haven't moved from that one spot.
Little girl: If I have to try to move I'm going to need goggles and a dive tank.

3. Mom to little girl: Come on inside honey, I made you hot chocolate.
Little girl: I've been trying to come in since I came out. Can you through me a life preserver and pull me in?
Mom: We don't have a life preserver, let me go get the fishing pole.

4. Mom (indignantly) to her husband: Really, I don't see why they had to cancel school. So there's a little snow, so what?

5. Little girl (yelling to her mom in the house): Mom, we need to get a new dog. I lost ours.


 And now for something yummy, a quick and easy dinner recipe: 


One Skillet Parmesan Chicken

Click on the links below and let some other bloggers make you smile:

The Bergham Chronicles
Cognitive Script 
Bookworm in the Kitchen
Southern Belle Charm





One Skillet Parmesan Chicken
   ©www.BakingInATornado.com


Ingredients:
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 TBSP dried Ranch dressing mix
1/4 cup plus 1 TBSP vegetable oil, divided
2 TBSP Parmesan cheese
1 green onion, chopped
1 TBSP butter
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup milk
2 packages Knorr Pasta Sides Parmesan 
3/4 cup broccoli florets
3/4 cup cauliflower florets

OPT: Additional parmesan cheese, shredded carrot and/or green onion for serving

Directions:
*Place the chicken strips into a sealable plastic bag. Mix the dressing mix, 1/4 cup of the oil, the Parmesan cheese and chopped green onion together. Pour into the bag with the chicken and seal the bag. Manipulate the chicken so it is all coated and refrigerate for 2 to 8 hours.
*Place the remaining 1 TBSP vegetable oil and the butter into a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken. Cook and stir until the chicken is completely cooked. Remove to a plate and keep warm.
*To the same skillet, add the water, milk, broccoli and cauliflower. Raise heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Add the contents of the two pasta packets and lower heat to just below medium. 
*Boil, stirring now and then until the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan. Cook and stir another 2 minutes. 
*OPT: Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese, shredded carrot and/or chopped green onion.
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Baking in a Tornado by Karen Bakinginatornado - 5d ago
It started with a post I put up on my Facebook page. I said:

"All of these athletes, the ones who clap for their teammates despite their own disappointments, the ones who've finished the race but stand at the finish line to welcome those who came in last, the ones who hug athletes from other countries when they win, and also when they lose, the ones who understand that the Olympic village is a microcosm of our planet, the ones who give positive interviews in their most disappointed moments. These athletes who, on the world stage and under extraordinary pressure remember their manners and their sportsmanship, show kindness and compassion and hope, my wish is that they all go back to their countries and run for office.

I'm sad to say that it seems this generation has set a course to destroy morals and values and even the planet. 

But these athletes, these athletes give me hope. ❤"




From what I've witnessed over the years but has truly come to the forefront in this past year is that we need another political party in this country. Yes, I know there's the Independent party, the Green party, sadly all they have done is split one of the parties we already have, they're not a viable alternative. Bernie Sanders knew that, it's why he ran as a democrat.

I believe that both major parties in the United States are broken. Not just fractured, truly broken. Way more people hold their nose and vote for candidates from one of our two viable party options than truly support them.  

You know I believe that foods can provide comfort, leave us feeling satisfied. Exercising our right to vote should do the same, provide comfort, give us a sense of satisfaction. Not so. Not for most of us. Not with the party options currently on the table.



Crockpot French Onion Beef with Broccoli



In these recent days of watching the Olympics, both for the joy of a global representation in sports, but to take an emotional break from politics, I have come to a realization. What I want in a politician is what I see in these athletes. 

I know that any party, any candidate needs to (well, should) have a platform, a well thought out stance on a multitude of issues both domestically and internationally. And you know what, I'm not going to tell you that what specific positions these athletes might have is all that matters. There have been administrations, many in fact, whose politics did not gel with mine. And although I did not support their agenda, I trusted that it was one adopted after thought, research and discussion. It was one born of a vision for cementing our place in the world, nurturing our relationships with other countries and moving us all forward socially and economically. Not all athletes will have the same vision for our (or their) countries. and that's OK. It's not about wanting only candidates who reflect my views, it's about those who offer whatever their varied viewpoints may be with thought and compassion and respect.

  Because I've witnessed that what athletes do have is an ability to follow rules, to get along, to be respectful both to and in other countries, to lose with grace, to win with grace, to fight for their own dreams but live good sportsmanship by support others on their team or just in their sport, to not give up, to get along with others, to be mindful that they are representing and to do so with positivity and pride, to comport themselves on the world stage with dignity. 

I have learned, over this past difficult year, that character does matter. It matters in sports, it matters in life and it matters in politics. No matter what your politics may be.







Crockpot French Onion Beef with Broccoli        
                                    ©www.BakingInATornado.com


Ingredients:
1/2 cup frozen chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz mushrooms, slices
1 can condensed French Onion soup
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup water
2# stir fry beef, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 TBSP cornstarch



1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups brown rice
1/4 cup pignolis



Directions:
*Place the chopped onion, garlic, mushrooms, soup, ketchup, white wine and water into the crockpot on low heat. Cook for one hour. Stir.
*Season the stir fry beef with salt and pepper. Place into a sealable bag. Sprinkle in the cornstarch, seal the bag and manipulate until all of the beef is coated. Stir into the crockpot. Cook on low for 4 hours.
*Add the broccoli florets and cook one more hour.
*Cook the rice according to package directions. Serve the beef over the rice, sprinkle with pignolis.
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Welcome to a monthly Fly on the Wall group post. Today 5 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. At the end of my post you’ll find links to this month’s other participants’ posts.



College Boy is a grown man, and he's certainly not a picky eater like he was growing up. But he still really does not like fruits or vegetables and he's not a fan of soups or stews. He was home the other day at dinner time (coincidence? I think not) and wanted to know what I was serving.

College Boy: What ya making for dinner tonight Mom?
Me: I'm trying out a new recipe.
College Boy: Well aren't you lucky, your favorite taste tester is here. What are you making?
College Boy: Vegetable?
Me: Yes.
College Boy: Soup?
Me: Yes.
College Boy: You hate me.





We were talking over dinner about alcohol (don't ask me why) and prohibition.

College Boy (to me): If you'd been around then you'd have been brewing your own moonshine.
Me: I'm sure I would have.
Hubs: Well, it runs in Mom's family.
College Boy: Oh yeah, your grandmother made moonshine.
Me: No, my Great Grandmother did.
Hubs: Yeah, she was a bootlicker.
Me: Excuse me?
Hubs: You know, she was a bootlicker. What do you call it?
Me: Bootlegger.
Hubs: Oh yeah, that. 





You've heard those jokes about how many (insert group of people here) does it take to change a light bulb, right?

Here's a new one: how many Blessings does it take to turn on a TV?

I was sitting on the couch with my laptop on my lap, typing. College Boy was standing at the kitchen counter in the room behind me.

College Boy: Can you turn on the TV?
Me (reaching towards but not touching the coffee table beside me): Can you get me the remote?
College Boy: You're closer.

Neither of us move. Just then Hubs comes up from the basement.

Me (to Hubs, just as he gets to the coffee table): Can you hand me the remote?

Hubs picks up the remote and holds it out towards me but just out of my reach.

Me (to College Boy): Can you get the remote from Dad?
College Boy: You're closer.

Hubs hands me the remote and I turn on the TV. So how many Blessings does it take to turn on a TV? Three. And it's a damn good thing the answer wasn't 4, because PurDude won't be here until May.





Contrary to popular belief, I don't bake every day. When there were gaggles of hungry teenagers hanging out here every day, I could have. Now, though, I bake once or twice a week. I try to have something home baked in the house most days for dessert or for when we have company, expected or not. But it's not a law or anything, having to have fresh baked goods at all times.

College Boy walked in the other day in the middle of the afternoon.

College Boy (looking around): What did you bake today?
Me: Nothing.
College Boy: Should I call an ambulance?






Second verse, same as the first . . .

Same day, after dinner:

Hubs: What did you bake today?
Me: Nothing.
Hubs (laughing, checking the counter): No, really.
Me: Nothing.
Hubs (looking in the pantry): OK, I'll find it.
Me: {{blink, blink}}
Hubs (opening the fridge): Is this, like, a game or something?
Me (spoken only in my head}}: He'll figure it out.
Hubs: Nothing? Really? Are you OK? Should I call the doctor?



Toffee S'more Refrigerator Bars


PurDude has always been a man of few words, but last month I couldn't blame him. He was sick. Really, really sick. I think he had the flu and I was terrified, that flu has killed many kids and he was too far away for me to really know what was going on with him. I told him what signs not to ignore, when to get immediately to a hospital. I did want to keep on top of what was happening but couldn't call him, not wanting to wake him and he really could not talk.

Each day I sent him a text "better, same or worse" and I would get a one word answer. At first, day after day it was "same". Finally, I started getting "better".

Once he was well enough to go to class, I texted him:

Me: How are you feeling today?
PurDude: Better.Me: Most of the issues with this flu were when people started to get better and then relapse. If you start feeling worse again, get help.
PurDude: Alright.
Me: If you're better, you can stop answering in just one word.
PurDude: OK.
Me: Seriously?
PurDude: Yup.
Me: I'm getting less worried and more pissed off.
PurDude: Sorry.
Me: Is there a "middle finger" emoji? Asking for a friend.




When the boys are home they raid my pantry and food disappears. No problem, I expect it and there's plenty. Sometimes, though, they hit up some of my other supplies.

One morning I went to do a load of laundry but couldn't. Went to take a shower so I could go buy more detergent and couldn't do that either. Frustrated, I texted College Boy.

Me: Do you need any laundry detergent?
College Boy: No.
Me: Need any soap?
College Boy: No, are you going to the store?
Me: No. What I am going to do is change the locks and write you out of my will.





Hubs: There's no beer in the basement fridge, I see you have a few up here, OK if I drink them.
Me: I need them, they go into the Crockpot Beef Chili I'm making for dinner.
Hubs: Well, I'll just drink the beer, then you don't have to put it in the chili, it'll mix up in my stomach.

I don't say a work, walk over to the liquor cabinet and pour a shot of Patron.

Hubs: What are you doing?
Me: I think the chili needs some tequila to mix with in my stomach.


 

Along those same lines, a few weekends ago there were some pretty big sports events going on. Not only was it Super Bowl Sunday, but the day before Purdue basketball was going for a record 19th win in a row.

Often, for sports weekends I make a batch of my Caramel Corn for snacking. I had made a big batch that Friday. Saturday, at around lunch time, Hubs came into the kitchen and I was eating it out of the container.

Hubs: Leave some for me.
Me: I can't. I can't stop. It's addicting.
Hubs: I'm going to have to hide it.
Me (handing him the tin): Yes, please hide it.

Hubs sits down at the counter with the tin and starts eating.

Me: What are you doing?
Hubs: Hiding it. In my stomach.



We had to buy a new washing machine, ours was leaking. I had a load of laundry in the new machine and it was finishing just as College Boy walked into the house.

College Boy: Choco-Taco.
Me: Huh?
College Boy: What's that music?
Me: That's our new washing machine. It plays music when the laundry's done.
College Boy: Oh, I thought you'd bought an ice cream truck.

Now click on the links below for a peek into some other homes:

Menopausal Mother 
Never Ever Give Up Hope 
Bookworm in the Kitchen 
Spatulas on Parade 
Go Mama O









Toffee S'more Refrigerator Bars
                                                                       ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Ingredients:
1 box chocolate graham crackers
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow creme
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup toffee baking chips

OPT: whipped cream for serving

Directions:
*Beat the heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. Add the marshmallow creme and beat until stiff peaks hold. Mix in the mini chocolate chips.
*Heat the corn syrup, butter, brown sugar and vanilla in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir and microwave for another 2 minutes. Stir and set aside.
*Place a single layer of chocolate graham crackers into the bottom of a 9 X 13 baking dish. Break the cookies into whatever size pieces you need to cover the bottom of the dish.
*Spread 1/2 of the whipped cream mixture onto the graham crackers. Follow with another layer of chocolate graham crackers, the remaining whipped cream mixture, then a final layer of chocolate graham crackers.
*Pour the corn syrup mixture over the top. Sprinkle with the toffee chips. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
*OPT: top with whipped cream for serving.

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I don't think I have to tell you that customer service is a thing of the past. I bet each and every one of you reading this post has a story of your own. This is hardly my first, but it is to date the longest ongoing and most frustrating experience I've had.

This situation has been going on for weeks. And it just continually seems to get worse and worse. I don't like the word "hate", but I really think I hate Amazon. To put both me and my son through this much over their mistake is beyond absurd.

Let me set the stage for you. PurDude has Amazon Student Prime. It's the exact same services as "regular" Amazon Prime but, for students, at half the cost. He gets many things through Amazon, including his school books. Since I'm financing his education, he has used both his own credit card in his account, and mine for school related items.  He always lets me know when to expect a charge on my account.

In November his Student Prime was up for renewal. Amazon, without me or my son knowing, just took my credit card information from his account and charged me. I saw the charge for $51.70 on my credit card and thought it was either a mistake or fraud. I was going to stop the payment but contacted Amazon and was able to piece together what the charge was for. I wasn't happy that they had charged my card without my permission, but . . . whatever. Truth is, I have access to my son's debit account because I transfer money in there for his bills and would have ended up paying for it one way or another so I just let it go.

In January I saw in my son's bank account, a "recurring charge" from Amazon for $11.59, and questioned him about it. He says that he went to use his Student Prime and was told he didn't have it, that it hadn't been renewed, so he approved them charging his account in increments. I guess I hadn't told him I'd been charged and his Prime had been paid for. 

OK, no problem, it's just a mistake. 

I went to Amazon's website and scoured it looking for a phone number for customer service but couldn't find one. There was a "contact us" email section so I explained my story. I included PurDude's name, account number, date I'd been charged, date he'd been charged and the amounts. Their response, in stilted English, was that it's not my Amazon account so they wouldn't discuss it with me. I responded that they had to talk to me because I have the right to question charges to my credit card.

A huge issue with Amazon customer service is that there is no continuity. When I respond to their email, it does not go to the person with whom I'd been talking, it goes to someone else. Ten days and multiple emails with a myriad of people with varying familiarity with English vacillated between some who wouldn't talk to me because it's not my account, others who needed me to repeat the story (but then didn't get my response) and still others who did not understand the issue. I asked multiple times to be contacted by a supervisor but each request was ignored.

Let's just say that if baking relieves stress for me, and it does, I have spent an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen these past few weeks. 
Peanut Butter Lover's Sandwich Cookies

I noticed that at the bottom of one of their useless emails, there was a survey to fill out about my experience. Oh hell yeah, I'll tell you about my experience. Apparently when you give them a poor rating, they respond with a request for your phone number so they can call you. I put in my phone number and the phone rang. 

Finally. I can talk to someone.

The first person wanted to know how she could help me with my Kindle. The second person deals with Amazon Prime but not Student Prime. The third person told me my son was charged because he's switched from Student Prime to regular Prime. No, of course he didn't, it makes no sense at all to pay double for the same service, but they weren't going to take that from me, falling back on the old "it's not your account".




During this time PurDude had the flu. I was really worried about him and it's one of the reasons I was trying to settle this myself. Frustrated and temporarily defeated, I let him know that when he felt better he needed to call Amazon and tell them that he had not switched to Prime from Student Prime and they needed to refund him the $11.59 as the full amount was paid by me in November.

He did call and checking his debit account a few days later I saw that there was a credit for $11.59. Success! 

Not so fast, Grasshopper. There was also a "recurring payment" charge for $51.70. So now we have BOTH paid for his Student Prime. Great.

I emailed them again. Once again I couldn't speak to the same person twice and once again they told me it wasn't my account. My stance was that it doesn't matter whose account it is, no one should have to tell them that you cannot double charge a customer. Another week of back and forth and incredible frustration and I FINALLY got someone to agree to credit PurDude's account for the $51.70. Success!

Not so fast, Grasshopper. Within minutes I got a private message from PurDude on FB. "Mom, I just got an email from Amazon that my Student Prime has been canceled." 

Seriously? So now I've paid for a Prime account that he doesn't even have. 

I went back to the email I received from the representative who'd agreed to refund PurDude's double payment and explained AGAIN, that the Prime was paid for in November and she was supposed to be refunding the double payment, not canceling his Prime.

Can you guess what happened next? Bet you can. An email from yet another representative telling me they won't discuss it with me, it's not my account. 

At this point PurDude had given up: "they're just not going to let me have Prime, Mom", he said to me on FB. "Well, I'm not throwing my $50 bucks out the window" was my answer. Meanwhile, despite the cancellation, there was no credit for $51.70 to his account. So we're right back to we've both paid for Prime and he doesn't have it. 

Grrrrr.

This is war. Any mama bear will not allow you to take advantage of her child. This mama bear isn't going to let you take advantage of her checkbook. Amazon has done both.

I called them again and got Jose. I was furious and I think you could hear my teeth clenching as I told Jose the story. I told him that it was my son's account, that he was very sick and that I felt I had the right to discuss the situation because my card was charged. Jose asked me for PurDude's Amazon account number, the email address and the home address associated with the account, ending digits of my card that was charged (same last name and address as my son). He had enough verifiable information to be willing to talk to me about the account. A-frikken-men.

I first asked him to confirm the November 15th charge to see that I'd paid for the year. He found it. I went through the 2 weeks of emails and phone calls, the $11.59 charge and credit, the $51.70 charge and promise of credit that did not materialize, and the cancellation. He got it. All of it. 

Here's what he's going to do. He's going to reinstate the account. He'll do that by charging PurDude another $51.70. Oh holy mother of all that is holy you have got to be kidding. No frikken way. Now you want us to pay for it THREE times. Hold on, I think my head just exploded.

He was patient with me, I'll give Jose that. He said that he had to charge for the Prime to reinstate it. Once it was active again and the charge went through he would return the fee.

Listen, fool me once, shame on you, fool me 50 times, shame on me. No way I was trusting him to do that. We haven't even gotten the $51.70 credit that resulted in the account being canceled. Jose assured me that he could see the credit on his end. I asked him over and over again, verifying that we would now get one charge and two credits and the account would remain active, that the second credit would not cancel the account again. He confirmed it all. I asked, based on all that had happened, how I could talk to him again when that didn't happen. You can't call a specific customer service rep, of course, but he said that he would call me back in 24 to 48 hours. Yeah, right. And I suppose pigs would fly too.

Guess what happened 24 hours later? 

He called. Yes, he did. He said that PurDude's debit card had been charged (it hadn't posted to the account yet so I wasn't able to see it) and asked me to hold while he put through the credit to PurDude's account. I think while he had me on hold I may have cried a little.

When Jose came back on I made it clear how skittish I was in believing this was actually handled. What if the two credits don't come through? Or they cancel his account again? I asked Jose if he could call me one more time at the end of this week to verify that everything went through. He agreed.

Within minutes PurDude forwarded me two emails, both from Jose. One said that the Amazon Student Prime account had been reactivated. The other said that he would be calling me on Friday to confirm receipt of a refund.

I hate you, Amazon. But Happy Valentine's Day, Jose, I just might love you.

Not so fast, Grasshopper. I'm withholding judgement. We'll see what this week brings . . .







Peanut Butter Lover's Sandwich Cookies         
                                    ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 stick margarine, softened
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
up to 3 TBSP milk 

Directions:
*Beat 1/2 stick butter, 1/2 stick margarine, 1/2 cuup sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda and salt.
*Roll into plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.
*Roll dough into 20 balls. Place onto prepared cookie sheets, gently flatten with the heel of your hand and bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Allow to cool for 2 minutes, remove and cool completely before filling.
*Beat the remaining butter and crunchy peanut butter. Staring on low speed, carefully beat in the powdered sugar. 1 TBSP at a time, beat in the milk until filling reaches piping consistency.
*Pipe the filling (you will need a wide piping tip as you are using crunchy peanut butter) onto the bottom of half of the cookies. Top each with another cookie to form a sandwich.
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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.




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: agreeable ~ executive ~ oxymoron ~ pushover
They were submitted by Rena of The Blogging 911.

                          
I suppose it's no great surprise to you that Valentine's Day is right around the corner. I know there's been a lot of controversy about the holiday in recent years. You know, the whole debate about us being monetarily manipulated through a holiday created by the greeting card and candy industry. I'm sure that's exactly how it started, but when it comes to Valentine's Day, bottom line is that I long ago made the executive decision to be a lover, not a hater. So to speak.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a pushover. In fact I'm more argumentative than agreeable in general. In fact, way more, it's just my nature. But I am no fool, and even I find it counterproductive to argue when a day is set aside each year for my family to bring me cards, flowers, Prosecco, chocolates, cake . . .



Sweet and Tart Cake



Spoiler Alert, my very next post, which I'll publish the day before Valentine's Day, btw, is not about love. It's actually sort of about hate. Hate isn't a word I like to use at this time of year, ever really, but I am beyond frustrated and I'm going to vent. Get it out of my system.

Because the next day is about love. It's about caring and friendship and taking the time to express it. Despite the fact that we don't need companies looking to separate us from our bank accounts to tell us to set aside a day to be sure we celebrate those we care about, you know what? There's nothing wrong with being reminded to do so either. On some random day in the middle of February, when nothing much is going on and a glass of bubbly and a box of chocolates may be just the thing to get you through another cold dark winter day.

So I'm wishing a very Happy Valentine's Day to my friends and readers. In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, here is my wish for you: may a portly flying naked guy load up his bow and shoot you in the ass with his sharp little arrow, resulting in your finding true love. There has to be an oxymoron in there somewhere, right? What was I going for here? Painfully blissful?

Or how about this one: Happy VD!
 
Here are links to all the other Use Your Words posts:




Sweet and Tart Cake
                                               ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Ingredients:
1 box French vanilla cake mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup water
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup oil
12 oz bag mini chewy sweet tarts, divided

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 - 6 TBSP French Vanilla creamer


Directions:
*Grease and flour a 9 X 13 pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Crush 1/2 cup of the chewy sweet tarts, set aside for the topping.
*Beat the cake mix, eggs, water, sour cream and oil for 2 minutes. Mix in the whole chewy sweet tarts. 
*Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until the center springs back to the touch. Cool completely.
*Beat the butter with the vanilla. Slowly until incorporated, beat in the powdered sugar and 2 TBSP creamer. Continue to add creamer, if needed, until the frosting is of spreading consistency. Mix in half of the crushed sweet tarts.
*Frost the cooled cake. Cut and sprinkle with the remaining crushed candies when serving.
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As we do each month, our monthly poetry group got together, suggested some themes, then voted to choose what we'd be writing about this month. It's February so many of the topics were based on this bone chilling cold weather. Others were suggested to represent Valentine's Day. In the end we chose Frosty as the theme.

When I wrote my poem for today, I decided to incorporate both subjects, writing about Frosty (not the weather but the snowman) and the upcoming holiday. So today I present to you A Valentine for Frosty and a recipe, by the way, perfect for serving to your Valentine. It's an easy bundt cake with a simple but flavorful glaze. Enjoy!





A Valentine for Frosty

Born on a windy winter day,
well, made by brothers, two,
rolling balls in January,
from snow fallen anew. 

There he stood in their front yard,
coal eyes and carrot nose,
branches from a tree for hands,
and . . . well . . . nothing for toes.

Neighbors smiled as they drove by,
pointing to where he stood,
The boys visited him with pride,
the sentry of his "hood".

No other snowfall came that month,
interest in him did wane.
Frosty became lonely there,
who'd thought he could feel pain?

February now was here,
his hope did start to narrow,
wishing for a visit soon.
from Cupid's bow and arrow.
 
Champagne, candy, cake or cards,
of these he wanted none.
His wish was simple and unchanged,
A female snow someone.


Strawberry Cream Cheese Cake

Then in February, mid month,
the day broke cold . . . and white!
There stood Frosty in the yard,
still wishing with all his might.

"Mom, can we go out and play?"
inside the house two voices.
"Bundle up, it snowed last night,
but yes, if that's your choices." 

Rolling snow into big balls,
the boys started to play.
Carrot, coal and scarf, but wait
could that be lingerie? 

Seems on this special Valentine's Day,
it wasn't Cupid's bow.
Two little boys had changed his fate, 
and made young Frosty glow.


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

Dawn of Cognitive Script shares Her Frosty Heart
Lydia of Cluttered Genius shares Feelin' Frosty
Jules of The Bergham Chronicles shares Frosty Toes.






Strawberry Cream Cheese Cake
                                                                          ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 box strawberry cake mix
1 cup strawberry yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup seedless strawberry jam
1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped

1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 TBSP seedless strawberry jam
1 TBSP Chambord (can substitute water)

Directions:
*Grease and flour a bundt pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Beat the cake mix, yogurt, oil and eggs for 3 minutes. Spread evenly into prepared cake pan.
*Beat the cream cheese with 1/4 cup of powdered sugar and 1/3 cup jam. Mix in the chopped strawberries. Carefully spread on top of the batter.
*Bake for 35 - 45 minutes, until the center springs back to the touch. Cool for 20 minutes, remove to serving plate, cool completely.
*Whisk together the remaining powdered sugar, remaining jam and the Chambord or water. Drizzle over the cooled cake.
*Store, covered, in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature for serving.
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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.




This month's theme is Winter Activities.

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:



I made Creamy Vegetable Rice Soup.




Creamy Vegetable Rice Soup


It probably doesn't surprise you that a cold winter day finds me in the kitchen. When we have days like today, ice on the streets, wind whipping, snow falling, I tend to "nest". I think it's the desire to feel cocooned in my home. First up is always a fire in the fireplace. Clothes are always warm, loose and comfortable. And dinner is more than likely a soup or stew. 

It's sort of a game with me, on these days, to work out a new recipe. I have to go with whatever ingredients are in the house as I'm certainly not going shopping. The win is when the result is one of those hearty meals that warm you from the inside out. I always have ciabatta rolls or a french loaf on hand, crusty bread is the perfect side to a bowl of hot soup.

Using what I had on hand, I made this soup with frozen chopped onions, broccoli florets, carrots, and a package of cauliflower florets.



Cook the vegetables in the broth until tender. I made brown rice and set it aside while the vegetables were softening.



I wish I could say that I have an immersion blender but I don't so I had to use the standing blender. 




Return the blended vegetables to the pot, add the evaporated milk and rice, heat and serve. 



I like to add a little extra shredded sharp cheddar as a garnish.




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:

Jules of The Bergham Chronicles shares Inside Activities for Winter Days


Dawn of Spatulas on Parade shares the recipe for her Chocolate Walnut Gooey Snowflake Cake.

Lydia of Cluttered Genius shares how to make a DIY (under $20) Window Garden.

Melissa of My Heartfelt Sentiments shares Papercrafting, a Great Excuse to Stay Indoors


Rabia of The Lieber Family Blog shares her Quilted Tied Fleece Blanket DIY.

Be sure to stop by again next month for more theme based projects.






Creamy Vegetable Rice Soup
                                                                          ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Ingredients:
1/2 stick butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup flour
3 cups vegetable stock
2 TBSP cooking sherry
1 1/2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
1 cup cauliflower florets, chopped 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp caribbean jerk seasoning
1/4 tsp dried tarragon
dash of cayenne pepper
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
OPT: additional cheese for garnish

Directions:
*In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft. Whisk in the flour and continue whisking for 1 minute. 
*Add the vegetable broth, sherry, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, salt, pepper and seasonings to the pot. Raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
*Carefully pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. Return to the pot. Add the evaporated milk, cream, 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese and rice. Cook over medium heat until hot. 
*OPT: garnish with additional cheese for serving.

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Welcome a Secret Subject Swap. This month 10 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.



My subject is: WWYD? You are in the grocery line and the customer in front of you is throwing a fit. The soda he wants is no longer on sale and he INSISTS on speaking with a manager. The man is clearly over 65. What would you do? Anything? Nothing? Why?

It was submitted by: Dawn of Cognitive Script.

The more I thought about this prompt, the more I realized something interesting. The answer that was forming in my mind, answers actually, were more a reflection of me, of who I've been and who I am, than of the hissy fit of a grown man acting like a juvenile. A progression of perspectives, really.

Jumping into the Wayback (WABAC) machine (yes, I know I just aged myself) to when I was a child, chances are I wouldn't have batted an eye. I mean, that candy display strategically placed in the checkout aisle to torture parents would be doing its job, demanding my full attention. That and figuring out all the ways I might possibly convince my mom that I needed, NEEDED a candy bar. If she bought me a candy bar, I'd whine, she wouldn't have to make me a treat when we got home. Well, convince her or wear her down. Either way, that guy wouldn't have been a blip on my radar.



Valentine Bark





As a teenager I'm going to have to admit that my response would have been quite different. I've never been known for my patience and back then, well, I did say I was a teenager then, right? Passive aggressive would have been a good way to describe what I would have done. I'm sure I would have rolled my eyes a few times, followed by shuffling from one foot to the other. If he didn't get the hint by then I'm guessing the next step would be loud sighs, followed by comments (under my breath, of course) like "jeez buddy, grow up" and "if it'll take 12 cents to get you to move along, I'll give it to you".

As a young mom I would have shown patience. I wouldn't have felt it, knowing that the longer I stood in line the closer I'd get to a kid having a temper tantrum, or having to pee, or demanding (at the top of his lungs) one of those damn check out line candy bars, but I would have shown it. Being a role model to my boys in terms of showing respect to our elders would have taken precedence over saying or doing anything. Dammit. Having kids is stifling.

It's possible that when my kids were teens I actually was that guy. No, I don't blame the store when something isn't on sale any more, but I do watch my items as they're scanned and often have had to argue a price that didn't ring up correctly. At times I've even resorted to asking for a manager. And then I've had to spend the rest of the day apologizing to my embarrassed-to-death sons while begging them to consider being willing to be seen with me in public again at some point in this lifetime.

I'm not a child any more. Nor do I have kids shopping with me so I have no one to consider. If this were to happen now I would do three things. First, I'd scope out the situation in the other open checkout lines. If they were all long, I'd wait a few minutes to see if the situation would resolve quickly. If not, I'd probably leave my cart and walk out the door. Life is short, I'm not spending it in line at the grocery store.

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:








Valentine Bark
                                                              ©www.BakingInATornado.com


Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
18 oz white chocolate chips
1/3 cup seedless strawberry jam
2 tsp Chambord (can substitute water)
7 Keebler Strawberry Cheesecake Fudge Stripe Cookies
1 oz vanilla bark

Directions:
*Whisk together the strawberry jam and Chambord. Set aside.
*Coarsely chop or crush the cookies to large crumbs. Set aside.
*Line a cookie sheet (with edges) with parchment paper.
*Melt the white chocolate chips in microwave for 45 seconds. Stir. Continue at 15 second intervals until they are completely smooth. Pour into the cookie sheet and spread evenly.
*Drizzle the jam over the white chocolate. Use the tip of a knife or toothpick to swirl the jam into the white chocolate. Top with the cookie crumbs and press down gently.
*Melt the vanilla bark in the microwave for about 40 seconds or until completely smooth. Drizzle over the cookie crumbs.
*Refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes. Remove from refrigerator and break into pieces.
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Baking in a Tornado by Karen Bakinginatornado - 3w ago
She didn't speak English. By the end of the conversation, neither was I.

I was in the grocery store last week and the check-out line was rather long. It's unusual, really, they're generally pretty quick there but I suspect that between colds and the flu they may have been short a few employees. I'm an impatient person by nature but I really wasn't in any rush so I settled into my spot for the long run. There was one person checking out, two others, then me. I could go take a look at the only other check-out line open but even if it were shorter I knew damn well that if I moved to it, that line would somehow take longer. 

Not much to look at standing there. I was not, by a long shot, new to this grocery shopping thing I was immune to the diversions in the form of candy, nail clippers and other cutely packaged but unnecessary items surrounding me. Just as I'd finished snooping into the cart of the woman ahead of me, I noticed movement behind me. I turned and saw that someone had joined the line. I smiled. She smiled. A social convention, nothing more. But as I was turning back, I noticed a few items in her cart that I'd never seen before. I faced forward for a while, checked my cell phone for messages, noted the progress of the checker, took my coat off. A bit of boredom tinged with a heaping dose of curiosity got the best of me. I like to try new recipes. Maybe you know that about me by now. FYI, you can rationalize nosiness by thinking of it as "new ingredient recipe development research". 


Noodle and Vegetable Strata


I turned to the woman behind me and asked about an item at the top of her cart that was unfamiliar. She said something in Spanish. I know a tiny bit of Spanish, enough to recognize the language and pick out a few words, hold my own in a superficial social situation but that's it.

About a year ago I'd gotten a private message on my blog Facebook page. It was in a language I didn't know. Puzzled, at first I ignored it. It bothered me though and it later dawned on me that in this day and age I have the world at my fingertips. I popped onto a translation website, copied and pasted her message and found out that she was asking me a question in (I think it was) Danish. I typed in my response, copied the Danish translation and pasted it into the private message.

Standing in the grocery store looking at this woman, both of us now a little uncomfortable, I remembered the Danish conversation and realized that I had a hand-held translator in, well, the palm of my hand. 

I got onto the translate site, typed in my question and read her the translation. She took out her cell phone and answered me. Yes, it was a little stilted, and we certainly butchered (grocery store pun intended) each others' languages a bit. A few times we had to look at each others' cell phones because verbalizing in other languages, (English especially) is hard. If you don't speak English, you can see the word "laugh" and try your hardest to sound it out phonetically, but I'd take the Vegas odds that there is no way you're going to say anything that resembles "laugh." 




But by the 3rd or 4th interaction I realized what was happening. I was, at this point, speaking solely in her language. And she was exclusively speaking mine.

Ultimately I did learn a bit about achiote paste and before I even realized it, I was at the head of the check-out line. As I was leaving, I turned to her one last time, said "adios y gracias", waved and left the store smiling.

I don't know what this woman's story is. I don't know if she's here visiting, has moved here or has always lived here. I don't know if she is learning English or not. None of it is my business.

What I do know is that it doesn't matter what you speak. Words, language, they're about communicating, connecting. And on that day, in a grocery store check-0ut line, with a little help from technology, that's exactly what we did.







Noodle and Vegetable Strata      
                                    ©www.BakingInATornado.com

Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 stick butter, divided
12 oz wide noodles
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/2 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp pepper 
2 eggs 

2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz bag uncooked spinach
3 slices provolone, cut in half

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red pepper, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 cup shredded mozarella

Directions:
*Grease a bundt pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Melt 6 TBSP butter. Cook the noodles until al dente. Drain. Mix in the parmesan, salt and pepper. Refrigerate to cool a bit.
*In a saute pan, over medium heat, melt 1 TBSP butter. Add the garlic. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the spinach and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook and stir until the spinach starts to wilt. Remove from heat.
*Mix the eggs into the noodles. Place about 1/3 of the noodles into the bundt pan. Top with the spinach, then a layer of the provolone cheese, followed by another 1/3 of the noodle mixture.
*Return the saute pan to the stove and melt the last 1 TBSP butter. Add the mushrooms, red pepper, green onion, salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until soft. Drain. Spread over the noodles in the bundt pan. Top with the mozarella, followed by the remaining noodles.
*Bake for 45 minutes.
*Remove from oven. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before running a knife around the sides and center of the pan to loosen. Place a plate over the top, flip over onto the plate and remove from the bundt pan.

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Today’s post is this month’s Funny Friday, a regular feature published on the last Friday of every month. Funny Friday is a collaborative project. Each month one of the participants submits a picture, then we all write 5 captions or thoughts inspired by that month’s picture. Links to the other bloggers’ posts are below, click on them and see what they’ve come up with. I hope we bring a smile to your face as you start your weekend.


 Here’s today’s picture. It was submitted by Jules of The Bergham Chronicles.


1. Elf to the mom and dad: It's January, it was a tough holiday season. When I said I need a drink, water wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

2. Elf to family: Thanks for the aspirin, and for the water. One minor problem . . . you do know I don't have opposable thumbs, right?

3. Elf to the mom and dad: I kept your kids in line for a month and all I get is a bottle of water? Where are my holiday gifts? I could use a new pair of pajamas.

4. Elf to the family: Phew, feels good not to be hanging from chandeliers and sitting on the edge of the potty for a change. Ahhhh, to stretch my legs again. Wait, you're not going to try to shove me back in that box in the attic, are you? Nooooooo . . . this is the thanks I get?

5. Elf to himself: Another holiday season in the books. Feels like I just spent a month playing The Amazing Race, Homebound Edition. And I'm pretty sure I won. Wonder what the prize will be. Bet it's 10 months of hibernation. I could use it.


For today's recipe I'm sharing a spiced, spiked coffee. Perfect for an Elf on the Shelf after a hectic holiday season or for mom and dad on any cold winter day: 


Spiced Coffee



Click on the links below and let some other bloggers make you smile:

Bookworm in the Kitchen
Southern Belle Charm
The Bergham Chronicles
Cognitive Script 





Spiced Coffee
   ©www.BakingInATornado.com


Ingredients (makes 3):
4 cups brewed coffee
3 ounces Cinnamon Roll Vodka
2 ounces Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey
1 ounce Amaretto
whipped cream
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1/4 tsp ground cloves 

OPT: milk, half and half or creamer to taste

Directions:
*Mix the vodka, whiskey and Amaretto into the brewed coffee. Pour into 3 mugs. Top with whipped cream.
*Mix the cinnamon and ground cloves.  Sprinkle over the whipped cream.
*OPT: I mix the whipped cream into the coffee when drinking, which lightens the coffee. If you prefer a lighter coffee, mix in your choice of milk, half and half or creamer.

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