Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Joey playing Lolly

Today, I'd like to introduce, or reintroduce you, to Joey Halvorson who is playing Lolly. She's been on this blog before.

Joey taking photos for the Walk to End Alzheimer's

Quote of the Day:  You've got Moxie...snazz and pizzaz. You have what Hollywood calls "it" to really be something. Lolly's line from Coffee Shop Confessions.

I met Joey at a coffee shop (how appropriate). I was showing a recent issue of Her Voice to a friend. I had a poem, of sorts, in there about winter. Meg, the editor, asked Joey to provide a photo. It was a perfect match. As I was pointing that out to my friend, a woman walked over and said something about the magazine. I said, "Well, I have a story in here." I showed it to her. She said, "That's my photo. I'm Joey Halvorson." And, the rest is history. We've been matching photos to words ever since.

For my article on Georgia Greeley, I brought Joey out to her cabin by the river. It is literally over the river and through the woods, a tricky, little hide-away. Georgia is a writer, an artist, and a poet. Joey snapped many fabulous photos, and when we were inside, she picked up Georgia's poetry book and read the introductory poem.


This river, named after a crow's wing,
makes me feel light.
Just sitting on the dock above,
or watching it move past the window from inside my cabin,
without even one finger tracing a tiny wake upon its surface,
these waters wash through me,
soak and ease the anxious cord around my heart,
repattern each thrum-hum pulse to match the current's
elemental rhythms and flow;
somehow this river stretches my heart,
until it can hold
all it is given to hold.

And, that's when I heard the character Lolly's voice. On our drive back out of the woods, I told Joey about my play. She showed interest. I told her I'd like to have it performed at the Coco Moon. She said something about "like we used to do." I don't know if she remembers that comment, but it made me wonder if she'd done acting. She hasn't, but she said YES to the table reading last February. She said YES to playing Lolly. She said YES, "because it's Mary," her words, and I'm so grateful.

Joey with camera, a natural look

Joey with one of her photos at the Q Gallery in Brainerd.
She went on a medical mission trip to Haiti after the earthquake.

Joey titled this one, "Soaking Feet."
It's my favorite from her Haiti collection.

Joey, you're the tops! Thanks for playing Lolly. Thanks for all your creative energy. If I described Joey with one word, it would be Fearless. I wish I was as fearless as Joey Halvorson.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Who has been on your creative team? How did they enhance your artistic experience?

Hearty Oatmeal Bread . . . with Walnuts & Sweet Dried Cherries

I bake really often, which I'm sure comes as no surprise. But the fact is, I only blog about a fraction of the stuff I bake. That's because not everything I bake at home is a brand new recipe for me (there are always the old favorites that my family requests over and over), and not every new recipe I try turns out to be pleasing enough to even bother sharing. On top of that, I do a lot of fiddling around and experimenting with recipes--often to their advantage and sometimes to their detriment--so what emerges from my oven can be unpredictable. I'm always happy as a clam when something turns out surprisingly well, and I'm positively on cloud nine if anyone expresses unbridled enthusiasm for what I've come up with.

It's not hard to please people with a gorgeous cake or a gooey cookie, but it's always a surprise to me when a wholesome loaf of bread elicits that same ardent fervor from my taste-testers. That's what happened with this yeast bread. Highlighting oats, a little flax meal, walnuts, and sweet dried cherries (from the orchards of northern Michigan, of course), this loaf has a buttery warmth that's hard to resist. This past weekend, the hubby actually said to me, "You have GOT to make this bread again. I love it." Those were pretty strong words, coming from him. He's always open to trying any new food but, ultimately, he's a man of fairly discriminating taste. Only time will tell, but I suspect I'll eventually be adding this recipe to our growing list of favorites. I think it's a keeper!

About this recipe . . . 

Adapted from a King Arthur Flour oatmeal bread recipe, I tweaked this loaf to include a small amount of chopped dried cherries, chopped walnuts, and flax, and I made a few measurement alterations to some of the other ingredients while customizing some of the steps. Both walnuts and cherries, if you ask me, are among the most flavorful ingredients you can add into yeast bread; walnuts lend that buttery aspect, while cherries pack a tangy gusto that other dried fruits just can't muster. It's a great combo.

This recipe is very simple, and not too time consuming. The bread is delicious even eaten plain, but it's at its absolute best when toasted and buttered. I hope you like it as much as we did.

Hearty Oatmeal Bread with Walnuts and Sweet Dried Cherries
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Makes one standard size loaf (about 9"x5").

3 and 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour (divided use)
1 cup old fashioned oats, pulsed (on and off) in a food processor for 30 seconds
2 Tbsp. flax meal (Easy to find in health food stores, and some grocery stores. If you don't have it, or prefer not to buy it, I think you could substitute an equal amount of whole wheat flour, ground oats, or bread flour.)
3 Tbsp. light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 and 1/4 tsp. coarse kosher salt
2 and 1/4 tsp. instant yeast (I use SAF brand instant yeast; they sell it in health food stores, from King Arthur Flour, and I've seen it at Whole Foods. You don't have to proof instant yeast and it's very reliable.) 
3/4 cup warm milk
1/2 cup warm water

3 Tbsp. soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup well-chopped walnuts
1/2 cup well-chopped dried cherries, loosely packed

1/4 cup melted unsalted butter, to brush on the top of the unbaked and just-baked loaf

In a large mixer bowl, by hand, whisk together 3 cups of the flour (reserving 3/4 cup), the ground oats, flax meal, sugar, salt, yeast, nuts, and cherries. Put the bowl on the mixer and, using the flat beater on the lowest speed, add in the milk, water, and butter. Mix for a minute or two to combine, until the dough looks shaggy.   

Turn the mixer off, clean the dough off of the flat beater, and switch to the dough hook. Mix on the lowest speed using the hook for 2 minutes. 

Dump the shaggy dough onto a well-floured surface (use your leftover 3/4 cup flour). It should be pretty moist; if it's not very moist, use less flour on your work surface. 

Knead the dough by hand for about 4 minutes, until it feels relatively smooth and elastic. 

Put the dough into a greased (or sprayed with vegetable spray) bowl. 

Cover it with a greased/sprayed piece of plastic wrap, then cover the top of that with a dish towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let it rise until almost doubled (as in the photo below); this may take about 60 to 75 minutes.

Meanwhile, grease one 9"x5" standard-size loaf pan. Take the risen dough from its bowl, and deflate it on your work surface by pressing on it with your palms/knuckles. Use as little flour as you can get away with at this point (just enough to keep it from sticking; excess flour added at this point does more harm than good). Pick the dough up and gently round it, tugging downward on the sides; you want to create a bit of tension on its surface. Cover the dough again with the greased plastic wrap, and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. 

Uncover it and form it into a loaf shape, being very careful to tightly pinch any seams closed. 

Put it in the greased pan, seam side down. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cover the pan with the greased plastic again, then cover that with the dishtowel, and let the dough proof (have its final rise) in a warm spot for about 45-60 minutes. The proofed dough should have risen above the sides of the pan, as in the photo below. 

Shallowly slash/score the top of the loaf with a baker's lame, a sharp razor blade, or an extremely sharp knife; don't slash deeply (doing this helps the loaf to expand neatly without bursting haphazardly in the oven). Brush the top of the loaf liberally with half of melted unsalted butter, and reserve the rest.

Just before you put the bread in the hot oven, spritz water into the middle of the  oven from a spray-mist bottle (a few good squirts), and/or while the oven is warming up put a shallow pan of very hot water on the bottom shelf of the oven (bread likes to bake in a slightly steamy atmosphere).

Bake the bread for about 30-35 minutes, or until its interior registers 190-195 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (if you want to test it, tip the baked loaf out of the pan and insert the thermometer into the bottom). Don't peek in the oven until the bread's been baking for at least 15-20 minutes. If the bread seems to be browning too fast, cover it loosely with foil. When the bread is done, remove it from the pan to a cooling rack. Brush the top once more, while the bread is still hot, with the remaining melted butter.

 (If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below.)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Laura playing Laura

I'd like to take this week to introduce you to the cast of Coffee Shop Confessions. I'll start with Laura Oldham who said yes before I'd written even one word of the script.

Laura at my house during the table reading of
Coffee Shop Confessions

Quote of the Day: Did I ever tell you about the time I squirted a man in the back of the head with breast milk? - Laura Oldham, the person and the character in Coffee Shop Confessions

I've known Laura since my first or second year living in the Brainerd lakes area. I think we might have arrived here about the same time and crossed paths when her son Oliver was in a Kids Skits program that I was directing. All five of her kids have been a piano student of mine at some point over the years. They are all delightful in their own unique way.

One morning, Laura stopped over to talk about her kids and piano and other things, so I took the opportunity to tell her that I was writing a play set in a coffee shop about five women who gather there to plan their song list for their shows. Of course, real life stories come up, some funny, some sad, relationship problems, and breast cancer, to name a few. Laura said, "Breastfeeding stories alone could fill a show." She proceded to tell me the story mentioned in the above quote.

Some of the stories that the character Laura tells are Laura's real stories, some are mine, some come from other women.  All of them are real and are brought to life by one of the best story-tellers I've ever met. I told Laura that she could do stand-up or improv. In fact, if you hang out with her for about five minutes, you'll get an outstanding performance. She is a gifted and talented performer.

She also plays a great nun for being a non-Catholic. And, in my show, this non-coffee drinker plays an over-caffeinated mother of five, a bit overwhelmed, but over-all contented with life.

So, what does she do in real life, besides raise five children? She's a math teacher. I imagine she makes math rather entertaining.

Thank you, Laura, for inspiring my writing, for supporting me from the start of this project, and lending your talents and stories to our play, Coffee Shop Confessions. You're the tops!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What are some of your interesting parenting stories? Do you know someone who can spontaneously get a crowd going?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lemon-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

My kids thought I was nuts when I told them we were having cake for breakfast.  There is something about eating cake for breakfast that makes the meal feel special.  Similar to a muffin batter, this cake is spread into a cake pan, topped with sugar, and then baked to delightful yumminess.  It isn't too sweet and has a wonderful lemon aroma that fills your mouth and blends perfectly with the blueberries dotted throughout pair it up with breakfast sausage or bacon for an  easy and tasty breakfast.
The original cake called for 2 cups of berries, but I thought that was too much for such a small pan and cut it down to 1 cup instead.  Please feel free to add as many as you like though, there is nothing wrong with a lot of berries! ENJOY!

Lemon-Blueberry Breakfast Cake
Recipe Source: Modified Slightly from Alexandra's Kitchen

Serves 6-8
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
zest from 1 large lemon
7/8 cup sugar (3/4 cup+2 tablespoons) plus additional sugar for the top (about 1 Tbl.)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup blueberries
½ cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter with lemon zest and 7/8 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. 

Prepare a 9-inch square baking pan with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Spread 1/2 the batter into the pan and sprinkle with 1/2 the blueberries.  Spread the remaining batter in the pan and top with the remaining blueberries pushing them down into the batter gently.  Sprinkle batter with additional sugar. 

Bake for 35-45 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving

**The original recipe said that it may be necessary to bake the cake as long as 10 additional minutes depending on  your oven. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dare to Start

Quote of the Day:  Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary. ~ Cecil Beaton

Introducing the cast of Coffee Shop Confessions, my first full-length play. We will be performing it at the Coco Moon in downtown Brainerd on March 2 & 3, at 6:30 p.m. These adorable people all said Yes to my script and Yes to my request to be in the show. We started rehearsals this week. And, YES, I was giddy. I have a terrible head cold, which kept me from bouncing off the ceiling, but I was still extremely excited. And, they're all wonderful.  Here's the List:

                CAST OF CHARACTERS
SAM                      David Allan Pundt
LOLLY                    Joey Halvorson
LAURA                  Laura Oldham
AUBREY               Mary Aalgaard
ROXY                     Katie Maine
JEWELL                 Abbey Olmsted
MICKI                    Kate Hauble
NICK                      Guy Kelm

Yep, that's my name as one of the characters. I asked several people who would have been great in the role of Aubrey. They considered it, but the timing wasn't right for any of them. So, I guess it's meant to be that I take a role. Aubrey is the best choice for me. She's a hair-stylist, single, looking for Mr. Wonderful, online and otherwise. She's a bit outspoken and cares deeply for her friends. I played a beauty shop owner once before in a community theatre production of Steel Magnolias. I was Truvy. It's my biggest role so far, and I loved it. Now, I get to act again.

My hair-stylist, Aubrey, inspired the role, so I told her to make me look like a trendy stylist. Aren't the purple highlights fun?

So, we're off and running. We rehearsed the songs tonight, and I had a blast. Each step of the process is a thrill for me. My dream is becoming a reality. Thank you to the cast for bringing these characters to life.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What is your vision to bring your art form and dreams to life?

Nonna's Classic Chicken soup

  I was so surprised last night that our son, requested this soup.  I just had to make it.  My mother saids it cures the common cold.  It cured my hunger for sure. My guess is Massimiliano misses his Nonna.

Here are the ingredients to a simple soup that will always make you feel a little better.
Serves 4-6.
4 chicken breasts / skin removed / boneless or bone in
1 large Spanish onion
4 celery stalks
4 medium carrots
4 red potatoes or 2 medium Yukon gold
one teaspoon of salt
Parsley for garnish or celery leaves
8 quarts of water
one large pasta pot (for your soup)
one smaller pot to cook your pasta
6 oz of pasta or Pastina  any one you like
One 2 inch piece of Parmigiano Reggianno.  The end, back piece, cleaned and trimmed.  The back piece is harder (closest to the rind),  and is just in the soup pot for added flavor.

Tonight I made Version number 1 with chicken breasts.  A very small percentage of fat still remains on your chicken breast even if they are cleaned.  It was what I had on hand.  It still has wonderful flavor.

Bring your cleaned vegetables to a boil.  Add salt to the pot.  Once the vegetables are boiling, add your chicken pieces and your piece of Parmigiano.   Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 hours.  Your chicken will cook, come apart in your soup.  Discard any bones you see.   I like to strain my soup in a separate pot reserving as many chicken pieces in a separate plate. Set the chicken aside and shred.   Break 6 oz of spaghetti in tiny pieces.  Bring 4 cups of your broth to a boil and cook your pasta in your broth.  Cook till just under al dente as your pasta will continue to cook in your hot soup.   Shred some chicken over the top of your soup.    Serve hot in large soup bowls.  You may add a sprinkle of grated Parmgiano Reggianno if you like.

Version 2:
I learned this trick from a fabulous cook years ago on Public Television here in the States.   We have had great debates over it with my mother who insists there is only one way to make this soup.  I must admit, it works very well as it intensifies the color and flavor of your broth.
One roasting pan
Place an 8qt pasta pot filled with water on the stove to boil.
Follow the above recipe ingredients
Place your vegetable under the oven broiler  for 5 minutes.  Be careful your vegetables and chicken does not burn.  You just want a golden color.
Place your vegetables, chicken and all the juices from your roasting pan into your pot.  Bring to a simmer.  Add your 2 inch piece of Parmigiano and let simmer for 3 hours. Try either method and see which one you like.    Follow the above directions and serve.
Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pollo alla Valdostana (chicken breast rolls, from the region of Valle D'Aosta), Eggplant and zucchini trifolati (sauteed with garlic and parsley)

This fabulous recipe comes from a tiny region  that borders France on the North western corner of Italy. This chicken breast is served sometimes layered in proscuitto and cheese.  This version is my favorite way to make it. 
Ingredients for 4 servings
6 boneless chicken breasts pounded thin
6 sage leaves or 6 parsley leaves
6 slices of Prosciutto ham
6 slices of fontina cheese (any mild cheese will be fine)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of flour more or less in a plate  for dredging rolls before cooking

for the sauce
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter

Pound your chicken breasts out until nice and thin.  Keep you chicken breasts flat on a work surface.  Working one at a time, layer a piece of cheese, sage and prosciutto over each piece.  Carefully roll your chicken breast as tightly as possible. To ensure that its tight and stays that way, cut a piece of plastic wrap about twice the size of your roll.  Then, carefully and very tightly roll your plastic wrap around your newly formed chicken breast rolls.  Wrap and close the ends tightly.  Place in the refrigerator to firm up before cooking. These should be refrigerated at least 3 hours or overnight.  If you do not have time, you can always insert toothpicks to hold the roll together.  Be sure and remove your toothpicks before serving.

Preheat your oven to 350 bake
Heat your olive oil in a pan.  Carefully unwrap your plastic wrap from your chicken rolls.  You will notice that your rolls are staying together.  Carefully dredge your rolls in flour, shaking off excess.
Insert your chicken rolls into your pan.  Do not worry if your chicken rolls look crowded.  You will only need to turn them once while cooking.
Let cook approximately 5 minutes.  You will notice they will begin to turn golden as you turn them to cook.  Leave them in the pan for approximately 5 more minutes and place your pan in a preheated 350 degree oven.  Cook 45  minutes on bake depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts.  They should be about 3 inches in diameter.

Remove your chicken rolls from the pan and let rest 10 minutes before serving.
In the meantime, place your pan on medium heat on the stove, add your white wine, broth, butter, and let reduce for 5 minutes.  You will notice your sauce will thicken some.  Spoon it over your chicken breast rolls and serve with your side of Vegetables trifolati!

I served these today with sauteed (trifolati) vegetables from this mornings garden.  Vegetables that are trifolati are quickly sliced or diced, then sauteed in olive oil, garlic and parsley.  Fast, easy and flavorful! The perfect side item.
2 Japanese eggplants sliced thinly
2 medium zucchini sliced thinly
one clove of garlic
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley for garnish and to taste
3 tablespoons of Olive oil

In a colander place your sliced vegetables and salt them with one tablespoon of salt.  Let sit for 45 minutes.  Dry your vegetables with paper towels and set aside.  In a skillet, enough to accommodate your cut up vegetables heat 3 tablespoons olive oil to medium.  Carefully insert your cut up clove of garlic until fragrant (about 20 seconds), then insert your vegetables and cook for 5-6 minutes tossing lightly.  Do not worry if your vegetables begin to fall apart and get soft.  They are supposed to look that way.  Remove from heat, add crushed black pepper to taste and serve.  Salt is not necessary since some salt will remain on your vegetables prior to cooking. 
*** Special note:  If you do not like garlic you can substitute a shallot.  Use it in the same manner you would garlic.***

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Vanilla Velvet Bundt Cake with White Rum Glaze . . .

What a good cake. Velvety texture, nicely balanced flavor. And so pretty. I don't wax rhapsodic about baking pans at the drop of a hat, but in this case, you'll have to excuse me while I do just that. I'll try to make it short and simply say, "Bless you Nordicware, for making such a swirly, whirly, incredibly high-quality, seemingly indestructible, unbelievably nonstick, bundt pan. (And thanks to you, too, Williams Sonoma, for selling it!)"

I know what you're thinking, and the answer is no, I did not get the pan for free, nor am I being compensated to gush over it. I bought it myself. Really. I just happen to love it. Completely. Yeah okay, but why, you ask? Pull up a chair and I'll tell you.

I've been around the block a few times with various and sundry bundt pans, as you may know, with mixed and sometimes sad results--light ones, dark ones, flimsy, not so flimsy, nonstick, everythingstick--you name it. I've made coconut bundts, lemon bundts, sweet potato bunds, chocolate zucchini bundts, mocha bundts, banana bundts, ad infinitum bundts, and I've rarely had an entirely problem-free experience.

But the Nordicware Heritage bundt did not let me down in any respect. As pans designed for home bakers go, it's heavy duty, to be sure. You'd probably have to drop this bad boy from a highway overpass to dent it (but I'd advise against that unless you're overly curious about the inner-workings of the justice system). And, if you grease and flour with the utmost care, you will be rewarded a hundred fold when you unmold your cake. Prepare to gasp in stunned delight when you see how perfectly it emerges. No blemishes, and no forlorn cake chunks left clinging to the pan. I had to holler for my husband and son, who were entrenched on the couch watching an old western, to come and look at it with me. They, too, kind of gasped and I think one of them even remarked, "Wow!" Then they returned to the couch. I remained in the kitchen and just stood there, gazing in rapt amazement, drinking in the sight of that perfectly shaped cake, astonished that it had actually entered the world so unscathed. Apparently, bundtastrophes can be avoided, and my cake faith has been restored.

About this recipe . . . 

For my maiden voyage with this pan, I used the basic recipe that came with it, making a couple minor tweaks here and there, including the addition of a very modest amount of white rum in the batter. I also added a quick glaze, which I flavored as well with a dash of white rum, to the semi-cooled cake and I reworded the instructions to reflect exactly what I did. It's an easy cake with a beautiful crumb. I can't wait to concoct further variations on this one.

Vanilla Velvet Bundt Cake with White Rum Glaze

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a shelf in the lower third of the oven.

Carefully grease your bundt pan, taking care to get the grease in every nook and cranny; don't skimp, but don't leave visible globs either. Flour the pan generously, then tap out the excess. (I highly recommend greasing a bundt pan with a professional pastry brush; I use a round, natural-bristle brush. It fits well into corners and doesn't become easily misshapen the way flat pastry brushes do.)

For the cake:
2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 level tsp. coarse kosher salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened and at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 tsp. white rum
3/4 cup milk, room temperature
1/4 cup half & half, room temperature

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar (sifted, or be sure to use 10x)

1and 1/2 to 3 Tbsp. white rum (depending upon how thick you want the glaze to be, and how much rum flavoring you prefer)

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Stir the milk and half & half together in one container.

In the large bowl of your mixer, on medium speed, beat the butter for about 30 seconds, just until smooth and creamy. Gradually add in the granulated sugar, still on medium speed; beat for approximately 5 minutes, until fluffy; stop to scrape as needed.

Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one, scraping periodically. Pour in the vanilla and white rum, and beat for about 1 minute, until combined.

On your mixer's lowest speed, add in the flour alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour (3 equal portions of flour and 2 equal portions of milk). Don't worry if the batter looks sort of curdled at the start of this process. Mix each addition only until incorporated, pausing between additions to scrape the bowl and beaters.

Carefully spoon the batter into the pan; don't pour it from the bowl. Using the back of your spoon, urge the batter up the inner and outer sides of the pan (you'll be creating what looks like a shallow trough).

Bake the cake on the rack set in the lower third of the oven, for about 50 - 60 minutes (mine took 55 minutes), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake looks like it's beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. (Try to resist opening the oven at all until the cake's been in there at least 45 minutes. That's my advice.)

Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake cool for 15 minutes only. Now pick up the pan by its edges and, still holding it upright, tap it firmly against a hard surface. Hold the cooling rack over the pan and invert the two. Carefully lift the pan off of your cake, and let it finish cooling on the rack.

To make the glaze:

In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners' sugar and the rum, adding the liquid in slowly until the glaze is the texture you prefer; add more sugar if needed to thicken it. Stir until no lumps at all remain. Set the cake on its rack atop a sheet pan, and drizzle the glaze over the almost-cooled cake. Let the glaze set before slicing and serving the cake.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below.)

Review of Harold and the Purple Crayon at The Children's Theatre in Minneapolis

Quote of the Day:  exerpts from Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.

And he set off on his walk, taking his big purple crayon with him.

The sandy beach reminded Harold of picnics. And the thought of picnics made him hungry. So he laid out a nice simple picnic lunch...But there were all nine kinds of pie that Harold liked best.
Harold left a hungry moose and a deserving procupine to finish it up.

Harold kept his wits and his purple crayon.

He remembered where his bedroom window was, when there was a moon. It was always right around the moon. And then Harold made his bed. He got in it and he drew up the covers.

Don Darryl Rivera wrote and stars in this musical version of Harold and the Purple Crayon. I was thrilled to be invited to attend and review this show. This is one of my favorite children's books. I read it over and over as a child. Well, I suppose my mom had to read it over and over. Then, I did. And, I shared it with my own kids. I loved that purple crayon. I wanted to take my big box of crayons and have as many grand adventures as Harold.

The Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis partners with the Seattle Children's Theatre to bring their shows to a wide range of audiences. Harold and the Purple Crayon comes to us from Seattle and the creative team; lyrics by Rob Burgess, music by Auston James, text by Don Darryl Rivera, and directed by Rita Giomi. Also in the cast are Khanh Doan and Caety Sagoian as the Storytellers, or crayons. Zach thought they were Harold's crayons. They help bring the story to life.

I was amazed at the brilliant and colorful set. The purple in the lines is just like the colors on the original book. They used light and ribbon to represent the lines that Harold draws.

The moon really does grow and follow Harold.

He has adventures in space and under the sea.

The use of puppetry was remarkable. Harold would draw his lines which would turn into projected or light images. They'd move around, then start to come off the "screen" and become real objects, like the tree, the moon, a butterfly, and stars.

During this scene, I heard a kid exclaim, "Ooo. That's his shadow." There were many exclamations of delight and wonder, and so many adorable giggles.

I was so glad to see they made puppets of the hungry moose and the deserving porcupine. Plus, they gave them a giant pie, and while they were eating it, they sang about love. I was pretty sure they were singing about their love for pie. I know I would.

Harold and the Purple Crayon is a delightful, colorful, musical adaptation of the beloved children's book. There's a tenderness in this story that brings tears to my eyes. Maybe it's because I'm reminded of myself as a little girl, dreaming of creating magical things. Maybe it's because my boys are growing up. One is heading off to college next year, and Zach, who accompanied me to this show, is already 14, and was probably the only teenagers at this performance. And, my babies are in 6th grade. (I'm going to read them Harold tonight anyway.)

Zach and I both enjoyed the interaction with the actors after the show. They came out on stage and talked to us. They invited us to help them tell a story. I'll underline the details that were provided by the audience.

Once upon a time in New York, there lived a monster named Dorothy. Everyday, Dorothy would play until one day, someone wouldn't share. So, she ate him. And, then, she got eaten. Until, she spit him back out. And, now, they're friends.

It was a little like playing Mad Libs!

Go to The Children's Theatre Company for showtimes and tickets, and to see what's coming up. I saw a poster of Pippi Longstocking. Won't that be fun!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Fill in the blanks from the above prompts and create your own story. Ask a kid to help if you get stuck.

Photos used by permission from The Children's Theatre Company. Taken by Dan Norman.

Veal Milanese (Cotolette alla Milanese)

I am not sure why there is such a need in this country to alter classic recipes.  What are we looking for?  Why are we trying to disguise our food?  All these sauces, creams covering up a great piece of meat.  At the cost of veal these days,  we should only be looking for one thing, taste. This is a simple dish and translates "in the style of Milan."   My mother would sprinkle a little Parmigiano Reggiano into the eggs instead of milk.  The Breadcrumbs would have such a wonderful flavor.  I actually do not.  A simple,  plain breadcrumb mixed with salt and pepper is all your need. Some fresh eggs, a sprinkling of salt and a short pan fry. The veal, with bone in, is sliced thin by my butcher,  so it cooks quickly and evenly. I don't like using scalloppine as it lacks flavor once its is cut away from the bone.  You don't want your veal submerged in oil while its cooking as it only takes minutes to cook. The veal should only have a good coating of breadcrumbs sticking to it.   A little lemon is all you need to finish this dish.  I served it with a simple salad and it was quite satisfying.  Buon Appetito.
Ingredients for 4 people
4 rib chops sliced thin, bone in.  (You might have to convince your butcher some that you need them thin.  No pounding out here.  they should look like thin steaks with rib attached).
2 eggs mixed with a tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon of salt in pepper in egg mixture
2 cups of fresh bread crumbs salted to taste
1/2 cup of vegetable oil (This veal cooks at a high temperature. Olive oil is not recommended).
Method:   Place your oil in a pan to medium high. Lightly salt and pepper your veal.  Sqeeze lemon juice over your veal and pat dry.   Dip your veal steaks into your egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs.  Shake off excess.  Dip in hot oil.

  Cook for one minute on the first side and just under a minute on the flip side.  Remember the veal is very thin, and your bread crumbs will turn golden quickly.  Remove and drain on paper towels.  Serve warm with sliced lemon.  Buon Appetito

Pasta e Broccoli (2nd version)

This is a fine example on how minimal ingredients can yield a great result.  This dish, typical of the Puglia region of Italy is very familiar to so many of you here in the United States.  The "Andy Boy" variety out of California, is the variety of choice.  
Don't be intimidated by the anchovy.  You may use anchovy paste if you like however you will not get the best result as the paste breaks down a little two quickly.  Buy some good anchovies from Portugal.  They are inexpensive and last once they are opened.  The anchovy adds great flavor and disintegrates into the hot olive oil.  
I came across this special pasta (little Harmonica shapes),  from Puglia in a speciality food store here locally on sale.  For under $15 for the entire dish, a little goes a long way. 
12 oz of dry pasta of your choice. (Spaghetti, Penne, etc)
1lb plus 1/2 lb of Andy Boy Broccoli (Broccoli rabe)
4 anchovy fillets (small) under oil
4 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic chopped
I tablespoon of salt for your water
1 pasta pot filled with 6 quarts of water.
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Put a 6 quarts of water in a pasta pot to boil.  Add 1 tablespoon of sea salt. 
Clean your Broccoli and drain.
Add your baking soda (addition of baking soda in your greens will help them remain bright green after they are cooked).
Boil for 10-12 minutes from the time your water comes back to a boil. 

Remove your Broccoli from the water.  Reserve your water in the pot.  You will be using this water to cook your pasta later. Add more water if necessary right to the pot.
In a large skillet,  heat your olive oil.  Add your garlic and after 10 seconds add your anchovy fillets.

 Your heat should be turned down some since the anchovy will sizzle when it hits the pan.  Slowly turn your heat up to medium and your anchovy will disintegrate into the oil, creating a lovely, fragrant aroma.  At this point add your drained Broccoli.  Be careful as it hits the pan.  Saute until all of your liquid has evaporated and your Broccoli has not quite stuck to the pan.  Set aside. 
Bring your water from which you cooked your Broccoli back to a boil.  There is no need to add anything. Cook your pasta until al dente.  Drain your pasta.  Toss and serve. Add more salt if you wish.   Buon Appetito