Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Traveling The Poetry Road

How far would you drive for poetry? For me it was 244 miles round trip for the opportunity to hear Billy Collins, a former two-time U.S. Poet Laureate, do a poetry reading and present a writers' workshop. Collins held the reading at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Minnesota as part of Verse Like Water, the visiting poet program of CLL, in conjunction with The Crossing Arts Alliance on Tuesday April 29th.

Collins is an acclaimed author of 14 poetry books. Actually his books sell in record numbers which  

is unheard of in the poetry world.

Since the poetry reading was at a college many in attendance were students. Collins wisely selected poems that would resonate with the young people. Collins has an easy going manner that is casual and spontaneous. The diction in his poems is simple and the subject matter is relatable details of daily life. Often Collin's wry sense of humor comes across in the poems. He is a master at engaging his reader in the first stanza by starting small not making too many demands and setting up the scene. Then he makes the poem more complicated and a little more demanding as he moves it along to completion.

Some of his more memorable lines from the presentation;
  • Revision is not cleaning up after the party, it is the party.
  • It is hard to fake humor, but one can fake seriousness.
  • Most poets find a voice and stick with that. The better you get the less you revise.
  • Poems take turns and you as a poet have to be ready to take turns and keep an open mind.

I was happy they included a book signing.

Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into your poem
And watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of the poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They began beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
This poem was on the back cover of his newest book Aimless Love
by Billy Collins

Go, little book,
out of this house and into the world,

carriage made of paper rolling toward town
bearing a single passenger
beyond the reach of this jittery pen
and far from the desk and the nosy gooseneck lamp.

It is time to decamp,
put on a jacket and venture outside,
time to be regarded by other eyes,
bound to be held in foreign hands.

So off you go,infants of the brain,
with a wave and some bits of fathery advice:

stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can.

A side note:The trip was well worth it. I loved every minute!

check out this week's Seasonal Plate from the Walker Pilot Independent paper


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Chicken and Pasta with Parmesan Cream Sauce

all yee Cheerwine Fans!!
you need not drive all the way South to find this beverage for making Cheerwine Cake. See recipe posted April 10, 2014

I found Cheerwine at my local World Market store in the Twin Cities. What a find!
Chicken Pasta with Parmesan Cream Sauce
Cook's notes: I was inspired by a recipe I found online by Chelsea. With a few modifications the tasty dish made a flavorful dinner for 4.  The cream sauce is the same one I used making Baby Hot Kentucky Browns recipe posted April 27, 2014.
  • 1-3/4 cups penne pasta or shell pasta measured when dry
  • 3 cups cooked chicken
  • 8 oz. white button mushrooms, cleaned and diced
  • 2 cups torn leaves baby spinach (remove stems)
  • 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes and/or 1/2 cup sweet red peppers, diced
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. Italian herbs 
Parmesan Cream Sauce
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 1 TB. butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-1/2 TB. flour
  • 1 cup low sodium fat free chicken broth
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Cook pasta, drain, set aside to keep warm
  • In a large skillet heat olive oil and butter, saute onions, mushrooms and garlic
  • Add in flour coating onions, mushrooms and garlic, slowly add in broth and milk
  • Bring to a boil, whisk until mixture starts to thicken
  • Add in Parmesan cheese, peppers and/or tomatoes, cooked chicken, spinach leaves, Italian herbs and pasta  
  • Cook on low heat 15-20 minutes and serve immediately
As National Poetry month winds down I thought Lea Johnstone's poem titled "Poems Wander Shyly" was a fitting tribute to the joy of reading a poem and passing it along. This poem comes from her book Autumn Drew Its Bedtime Bath.
Check out Lea's website for more information about her book and gallery that features her paintings.

On August 18, 2013 I posted a blog Bringing The Arts to Life. Lea was featured with other authors at the Northwoods Book and Art Festival who were selling their books.

Poems Wander Shyly
Poems wander shyly, like a stream
Meandering here and there
Their journey, forever unfolding
Some know their place and tell their story
Others drift without a care

Words, aligned in fluid rhythm,
Make the rivers flow
But while sumac can only look with wonder
Go, be a sojourner along that stream
For poetry is the vessel that holds one's soul  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Decadent Desserts

by Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.
Kentucky Derby Desserts
These are good desserts to enjoy while watching the Kentucky Derby on TV Saturday  and wearing a fancy hat. 

Kentucky produces over 90% of the nation's bourbon. It is not surprising there are a plethora of dessert recipes that use bourbon as an ingredient.  
Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie
Adapted from Michele Stuart’s "Perfect Pies"
Cook's notes: Make your own pie crust or use a prepared refrigerated pie crust 
  • prepared pie crust or homemade
  • 3 large eggs room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 brown sugar
  • 1 cup  dark corn syrup
  • 1 TB. vanilla
  • 2 TB. bourbon
  • 5 TB. melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees 
  • Prepare pie shell and place in a 9-inch pie plate so the edges of the circle drop over the rim.
  • Using your thumb and index finger, crimp the edges of the pie shell.
  • Blind bake crust for 5 minutes (overlap 2 pieces of foil in center of pie shell-edges of foil will hang over the pan edge )
  • Remove foil and bake 2 minutes longer-set aside 
  • Reduce temperature to 325 degrees
  • For the filling: Use a mixer ans mix the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and bourbon. (Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl at least twice while mixing.)
  • Add in the warm melted butter and mix well.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the pecans and chocolate. Sprinkle the mixture over the bottom of the pie shell. Pour the filling over the nuts and chips.
  • Use strips of foil on outside edge of pie crust to prevent over browning 
  • Place the pie plate on a baking sheet, and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the pie is firm. (The middle will remain a little loose but firm up after the pie is removed from the oven.)
  • Transfer the pie to a wire cooling rack, and let it cool for 2 to 3 hours before serving.
  • Serve with a drizzle of Bourbon Sauce or ice cream.
Note: This pie is best served at room temperature or warmed at 325 degree F for about 10 minutes. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it for up to 2 weeks.

Chocolate Bourbon Sauce
  • 3 TBS flour
  • 2 TBS cocoa
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup half n half
  • 2 TBS bourbon
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Thoroughly mix together the flour, cocoa, and salt. Add to melted butter, stirring until well incorporated.
  • Stir in cream, half and half, bourbon and sugar, whisking until smooth.
  • Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened on medium low.
  • Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  • Serve sauce warm over bread pudding, pancakes, ice cream, fruit, or whatever else sounds good.

Dark Chocolate Bourbon Torte
Cook's notes: The best part of this dessert is that it tastes decadent  but is not loaded with a lot of calories.
recipe from Southern Living 2008
  • 1/2 cup Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate morsels
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1/4 cup fat-free milk 
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon 
  • 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 egg whites 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup thawed reduced-fat whipped topping
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • Preheat oven to 300°. Coat bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
  • Microwave chocolate morsels 50% power for 1 minute or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals.
  • Beat butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add vanilla and egg; beat 1 minute. Add milk and, if desired, bourbon; beat 1 minute. (Mixture will look curdled.) Add melted chocolate, beating just until blended. Gradually add cocoa and flour, beating at low speed just until blended.
  • Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold one-fourth of egg white mixture into batter; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
  • Bake at 300° for 45 minutes or until set. (A wooden pick inserted in center will come out with just a few crumbs on it.) Remove torte from oven; immediately run tip of a small knife around edge of torte. Let cool on wire rack 30 minutes. (Torte will rise to top of pan while baking but will sink while it cools.) Remove sides of springform pan.
  • Spoon whipped topping into a zip-top plastic freezer bag. (Do not seal.) Snip 1 corner of bag to make a small hole. Pipe dollops of whipped topping around base of torte. Sprinkle torte with powdered sugar and cocoa.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Kentucky Derby- Party Central

The Kentucky Derby race is considered by many the greatest two minutes in sports.  An invite to an upcoming Saturday party sent me on a hunt for some authentic recipes. A Kentucky Derby menu is steeped in tradition with a cuisine of southern flavors, bourbon and traditional mint juleps.

Cook's notes: The Mint Julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century.
Each year, almost 120,000 Mint Juleps are served over the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs Racetrack. That’s a feat that requires more than 10,000 bottles of Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail, 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 pounds of ice.
This recipe serves 2 and very easy to put together.

  • 2 tablespoons simple syrup (see below)
  • 4 fresh mint sprigs
  • Shaved ice
  • 2/3 cup bourbon, divided among two glasses
  • Powdered sugar
  • Mint leaves
  • Pour 1 tablespoon Simple Syrup into 1 tall glass
  • Add 2 sprigs mint, crush slightly and add ice
  • Stir in 1/3 cup bourbon
  • Add more ice to fill glass and sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with mint. Repeat with remaining ingredients for second glass
Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Stir boiling water into sugar until sugar dissolves. Simple syrup will keep almost indefinitely refrigerated in covered container

Chef John's Deviled Shrimp Dip
Recipe adapted from

  • 1/2 cup chili sauce
  • 8 oz package softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon or 2 TB fresh tarragon
  • 1 TB. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, drained and minced 
  • 1 LB. frozen shrimp thawed, peeled and deveined
  • Beat chili sauce into cream cheese and mayonnaise
  • Add in tarragon, onions,lemon juice, peppers, paprika and mix well
  • Fold in chopped shrimp
  • Cover and chill several hours to meld flavors
  • Garnish top of dip with a few shrimp,parsley sprigs or chopped green onions

Baby Hot Kentucky Browns
Cook's notes: Typically, this open-faced Kentucky classic is made with a heavy cheese sauce, but I found a recipe that delivers the same richness without all the saturated fat.
Recipe adapted from Southern Living
  • 24 pumpernickel party rye bread slices
  • 1- 1/2 cups diced cooked turkey or deli turkey
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked, crumbled, and divided
  • 5 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced 
Parmesan Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup fat free chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese 
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

  • Arrange bread slices on a lightly greased baking sheet. Broil 6 inches from heat for 1 minute per side
  • To prepare the sauce, combine the olive oil, butter, and minced garlic in a medium sized pan over medium to low heat. Once the butter is completely melted, whisk in the flour until a thick mixture has been created
  • Slowly add in the chicken broth and then milk
  • Increase the heat and allow the mixture to get to a boiling point, reduce and allow to simmer until thickened stirring occasionally
  • Add in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste 
  • Stir in diced turkey
  • Top bread evenly with warm cheese-turkey mixture. Sprinkle evenly with a few extra tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and half of bacon
  • Bake at 500° for 2 minutes or until Parmesan is melted
  • Top with tomato slices, and sprinkle evenly with remaining bacon
To make ahead: Prepare the cheese-turkey mixture, cook the bacon, and grate the Parmesan the day before the party.
To reheat cheese mixture, place pan over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and warm. 
Assemble and proceed as directed

Check back tomorrow for several tried and true southern dessert recipes made with pecans , chocolate and bourbon.

The Derby is frequently referred to as "The Run for the Roses," because a lush blanket of 554 red roses is awarded to the Kentucky Derby winner each year. The tradition is as a result of New York socialite E. Berry Wall presenting roses to ladies at a post-Derby party in 1883 that was attended by Churchill Downs founder and president, Col. M. Lewis Clark. This gesture is believed to have eventually led Clark to the idea of making the rose the race's official flower. However, it was not until 1896 that any recorded account referred to roses being draped on the Derby winner. The Governor of Kentucky awards the garland and the trophy.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

John James Audubon

John James Audubon was an American ornithologist, artist and naturalist known for his studies, drawings and paintings of North American birds. 

John James Audubon was born on April 26, 1785, in Les Cayes, Santo Domingo, France (now Haiti). From his father's Pennsylvania estate, Audubon made the first American bird-banding experiments. After failing in business ventures, he concentrated on drawing and studying birds, which took him from Florida to Labrador. His extraordinary four-volume Birds of America was published in London in 1827.

Smash garlic cloves inside a resealable plastic bag with the back of a knife. That way, your cutting board and knife won't smell.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup

The following poem comes from A.A. Milne's book of poetry. It was written in 1924. You can just imagine Winnie the Pooh reciting these words as he walked through the woods on a very fine spring morning.
Spring Morning
by A. A. Milne

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow-
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.
Where am I going? The clouds sail by,
Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.
Where am I going? The shadows pass,
Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.
If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,
You’d sail on water as blue as air,
And you’d see me here in the fields and say:
“Doesn’t the sky look green today?”
Where am I going? The high rooks call:
“It’s awful fun to be born at all.”
Where am I going? The ring-doves coo:
“We do have beautiful things to do.”
If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You’d lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You’d say to the wind when it took you away:
“That’s where I wanted to go today!”
Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.
Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup 
Cook's notes: Despite the fact the calendar says spring there are still many chilly nights. Hearty Chicken Parmesan  soup has all the flavors of decadent chicken Parmesan and its perfect for those nights when you need a warm-up. Its an easy no fuss meal when using the slow cooker.  
Suggested pastas for soup include: medium shells, bowties, farfalline 
recipe adapted from
  • 1 TB. oil
  • 3/4 cup diced sweet onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
  • 3/4 cup diced green pepper or celery
  • 1 cup diced zucchini 
  • 6 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1 LB. boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 can (14.5) chunky tomatoes (basil, garlic and oregano)
  • 2 TB. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 8 oz. small pasta ( I used farfalline) 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Heat oil in skillet and cook onion till tender about 5 minutes
  • Add in garlic, red pepper flakes and fennel, cook about 1 minute
  • In slow cooker add garlic/onion mixture, broth or stock, chicken, chunky tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, basil, zucchini and green pepper 
  • Cook on high 3 hours. Add in dried pasta and Parmesan cheese and cook 15 minutes more or until pasta is cooked al dente
  • Remove chicken, shred it with 2 forks and return back to soup mixture, Blend well 
  • Serve with croutons and grated cheese

Erika Scheurer may have a higher tolerance for poetry than most. Even most English professors.

On Friday April 25th , she’s hosting a marathon reading of Emily Dickinson’s poems — all 1,789 of them — at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN.

While visitors are welcome to come and go as they please, Scheurer, a Dickinson scholar and associate professor, plans to stick it out the entire time. An estimated 13 or 14 hours.

“I can’t get enough of her,” admitted Scheurer, who wrote her dissertation on the 19th-century poet. “It’s like a rich cheesecake.”

Speaking of cheesecake, she’s even baking Dickinson’s trademark confection — a black cake with brandy and molasses — for the occasion.

This is the second time in six years that Scheurer has hosted the marathon, which was inspired by similar ones around the country. Last time, she said, more than 100 people showed up.

To her, Dickinson’s poems are tailor-made for an event like this. “They’re short,” she said. “You can kind of breathe them in and breathe them out and move on to the next one.”

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cone Collection- Henri Matisse

Self-portrait 1923
“Matisse: Masterworks From the Baltimore Museum of Art,” which runs through May 18 at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, comes from an unlikely source: two wealthy sisters from Baltimore who amassed the world’s largest collection of the French master’s work.   

Among Matisse’s first patrons, the Cone sisters collected throughout his entire career 42 oil paintings, 18 sculptures, 36 drawings, 155 prints, and seven illustrated books, as well as 250 drawings, prints, and copper plates from the artist’s first illustrated book, Poésies de Stéphane Mallarmé. The sisters also acquired 114 works by Picasso, including an important group of prints and drawings from the artist’s early years in Barcelona to his Rose period in Paris (1905–1906.)

The Cone collection spans his whole career, from the first still lifes of his student days up to his death in 1954. The exhibit concentrates on a time between the world wars when Matisse was known internationally but still wrangling with color, design and composition.

A guided tour of this exhibit certainly was inspiring and impressive seeing so many original works of art by Henri Matisse.
As you entered the exhibit I thought this was a creative way to think about inspiration.  A table was set up with drawing and collage materials. Participants were encouraged to decorate a postcard and send to someone who inspires them or send to MIA and tell how you found inspiration in your visit. They thought of everything by setting up a mailbox. I took a few cards home with some people in mind that inspire  me.

Matisse began his painting career with still lives and landscapes. He appreciated texture, designs and bold use of color. He left behind a legacy of paintings, lithographs, sculptures and drawings. In the last 14 years of his life  he focused much of his energies on cut paper collages which he called "painting with scissors." Much of Matisse's life was spent in Nice, France. 
Matisse was a man who loved routine and found art inspiration starting his day with poetry. He was fond of prose that was intimate, sensual and personal much like his art. Midday he found solace in playing the violin before he resumed his work.  
Still Life Peaches 1895
Painter in the Olive Garden 1922

Interior, Flowers and Parakeet 1924
Large Reclining Nude 1935

Purple Robe and Anemones 1937
Matisse at work on a paper cut out 1952
Throughout his working life Matisse never lost his desire for learning, creation or experimentation. 

"In the end, there is only Matisse."
Pablo Picasso

Pocket Poem-Pass It Along Today

Keep A Poem In Your Pocket event is celebrated today April 24, 2014. The event was created by the City of New York in 2002, and became a nationwide festivity in 2009.

In the past, librarians have distributed poems to local hospitals in Charlottesville, Virginia, and winesellers in San Fransisco, California handed out books of short poems to shoppers.

According to NPR,people across the country are celebrating in unique ways this year. A sandwich vendor in Charlottesville, Virginia is putting poems in the sack lunches, rather than the customary chocolate chip cookie. A third-grade teacher in Pennsylvania had her students sew pockets on their shirts since many have no easily accessible pockets. recommends handwriting "some lines on the back of your business cards" or distributing "bookmarks with your favorite immortal lines."

If you're at a loss for which lines you'd like to share, printable poems can be found at

Ted Kooser is an American poet. He served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 to 2006. Hailed by Dana Gioia as a writer "who has written more perfect poems than any poet of his generation," Kooser is widely praised for his plainspoken style, his gift for metaphor, and his quiet discoveries of beauty in ordinary things. In announcing his appointment as Poet Laureate, Librarian of Congress James Billington said, "Ted Kooser is a major poetic voice for rural and small town America and the first Poet Laureate chosen from the Great Plains. His verse reaches beyond his native region to touch on universal themes in accessible ways." 

Pocket Poem
If this comes creased and creased again and soiled
as if I’d opened it a thousand times
to see if what I’d written here was right,
it’s all because I looked too long for you
to put in your pocket. Midnight says
the little gifts of loneliness come wrapped
by nervous fingers. What I wanted this
to say was that I want to be so close
that when you find it, it is warm from me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"
According to historians' best guess, William Shakespeare's 450th birthday would be today, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Stratford-Upon-Avon is a town synonymous with William Shakespeare where he was born and grew up there.

Love Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
by  William Shakespeare
Ree Drummond a.k.a. The Pioneer Women
Check out her blog and follow her tales of life with Marlborough Man and four children. She is a wonder woman who has a cooking show, authors cookbooks and home schools her children. The family lives on a ranch in Oklahoma. 

Chicken Taco Salad
Cook's notes: A easy dinner that will please all ages. It has color, crunch and bursts with flavor.  
adapted from Ree Drummond

  • 3/4 cups prepared Ranch Dressing 
  • 1/4 cup salsa (as spicy as you like)
  • 3 TB. finely minced cilantro
  • 2 TB. dry taco seasoning mix
  • 2 whole boneless, skinless cooked chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 head green leaf lettuce or two regular heads, shredded thin
  • 3 whole Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup grated Pepper Jack Cheese
  • 1 cup of corn
  • 2 whole avocados, diced
  • 3 whole green onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • Tortilla chips, crushed slightly

  • Cook chicken breasts sprinkled with 2 TB. dry taco seasoning mix
  • Combine ranch dressing and salsa cover and refrigerate at least one hour
  • Assemble the salad by layering shredded lettuce, chicken, tomatoes, cheese, corn, avocado, green onion, cilantro, and crushed chips on a big platter. Drizzle the dressing all over the top
When you’re going to sauté garlic, slice it rather than mincing it — it's less likely to burn that way.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Keep A Poem In Your Pocket

On April 24, 2014 Keep A Poem In Your Pocket will be celebrated for April Poetry month. 
Join in the fun by selecting a poem from your favorite poet or write your own. Just make sure to carry a poem/poems in your pocket to share with your friends, family, classmates, and colleagues. 
I Happened To Be Standing by Mary Oliver

A Divine Revelation 
I am revisiting Key Lime Mousse Tartlets. The recipe was posted yesterday. 
Today I figured out a new use for my newly purchased deviled egg platter from my trip down south.
This platter was perfect for the tartlets. When thinking more about the recipe I thought lemons could be swapped out for limes. And the plastic tray the mini phyllos come in are perfect for storing tartlets in the refrigerator. 


The famous food quote, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” comes from Benjamin Franklin, who would ask his wife to send him barrels of apples while living abroad.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Stories to Tell

Naturalist, writer and advocate of U.S. forest conservation, John Muir was born April 21, 1838, in Dunbar, Scotland. As early as 1876, he urged the federal government to adopt a forest conservation policy through articles published in popular periodicals. In 1892 he founded the Sierra Club. He served as its first president, a position he held until his death in 1914. He was largely responsible for the establishment of Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks.
Happy Birthday

We"ll Be The Last One To Let You Down is one of the most unique and mesmerizing memoir stories I have read. Rachael Handel, a Minnesota journalist, presents a unique, moving perspective of a gravedigger’s daughter and her lifelong relationship with death and grief. But it is also a reflective commentary on the living elements of our cemeteries: our neighbors, friends, and families—the very histories of our towns and cities—and how these things come together in the eyes of a young girl whose childhood is suffused with both death and grief.

Rachael Hanel’s name was inscribed on a gravestone when she was eleven years old. Yet this wasn’t at all unusual in her world: her father was a gravedigger in the small Minnesota town of Waseca, and death was her family’s business. Her parents were forty-two years old and in good health when they erected their gravestone—Rachael’s name was simply a branch on the sprawling family tree etched on the back of the stone. As she puts it: I grew up in cemeteries.

But when Rachael’s father—Digger O’Dell—passes away suddenly when she is fifteen, she and her family are abruptly and harshly transformed from bystanders to participants. And for the first time, Rachael realizes that death and grief are very different.

I thought her writing was honest, insightful and even sometimes a bit quirky. I have always been fascinated by cemeteries and the stories behind the tombstones. Handel does not disappoint . The images she creates are vivid and eloquently captured and her stories within the stories are entertaining.
Cook's notes: This dessert is light, laced with a splash of fresh tart key limes and can be assembled in under 15 minutes. Lemons  can be swapped for limes. Makes 30 tartlets.

Key Lime Mousse or Lemon Mousse Tartlets 

  • 4 oz. softened cream cheese at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk 
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice or lemon juice 
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream whipped 
  • 2 TB. lime zest or lemon zest
  • raspberries for garnish  
  • 2 packages of frozen mini phyllo tarts at room temperature 
  • Beat together cream cheese, milk, juice, zest until smooth   
  • Fold in whipped cream 
  • Spoon mousse into tartlet shells 
  • Garnish with raspberries 
  • Refrigerate uncovered at least one hour before serving

Sunday, April 20, 2014

And The Winners Are...

Easter and Spring Greetings
It was just 11 years ago the St. Paul Pioneer Press started the Peeps Diorama contest. 
Each year the bar seems to get higher on the quality of imaginative entries that feature the sugar coated Peeps. Some have even created Twitter accounts, websites or short stories to showcase their creations. Over 200 dioramas and two dozen videos were submitted this year. Many of the dioramas are inspired by pop culture, film and television. Some went a bit 'highbrow' with dioramas inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Matisse and Vermeer. One diorama illustrated a Robert Frost poem, and some made social commentaries on our long brutal winter, gay marriages, New Jersey bridge traffic jam and even the Ukraine.

The first place winner "The Adventures of the Speckled Candy" was influenced by the one minute mysteries with a homage to the locked rooms Sherlock Holmes stories. There was an extra twist to this diorama as it came with an original Sherlock Holmes short story.

To view all the winners follow the link.
Balsamic Strawberry Crostini with Goat Cheese
Cook's notes: This appetizer is quick to assemble. The basil chiffonade and pepper that are added to the macerated strawberries add just a touch of savoriness to the dish. It was festive looking and perfect for an Easter brunch. Although strawberries aren’t at their prime season right now, the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar facilitate in bringing out the juiciness of each strawberry, so much so, that they almost become even juicier and sweeter than at the height of summer. 
The recipe comes from Nicole at Cooking for Keeps
  • 2 cups strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons basil, cut into a chiffonade (plus more for garnish)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • ½ baguette, cut into ½ inch slices
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Combine strawberries, vinegar, sugar, basil, salt, and black pepper together in a small bowl. Let set for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • In the meantime, place crostini slices on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until slightly crisp about 8 minutes. Let cool.
  • Spread goat cheese on toast and then layer balsamic strawberries over. Sprinkle with more basil.

Definition: Chiffonade is a knife technique used for cutting herbs and leaf vegetables such as lettuce into thin strips or ribbons.

To chiffonade leaves of basil for instance, you would stack the basil leaves and roll them into a tube, and then carefully cut across the ends of the tube with your knife to produce fine strips.

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...