Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Winding Down and Looking Forward

One can still appreciate the beauty of nature with this sunrise despite frigid temperatures.

The sun's early rays are reflected on the ice. It was a breathtaking sight with hues of blues and pinks.
 A New Year's meal from next week's Seasonal Plate food column.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice and to make an end is to make a beginning.” by T.S. Elliot
Everyone loves a quick, easy and tasty dish and this creamed Parmesan and sun dried tomato pasta dish fits the bill. One of the best parts is the meal comes together in under 30 minutes. Two sliced chicken breasts can be substituted for the sausage. The recipe serves 2-3 and can be easily doubled. Steamed broccoli and artisan bread are suggested sides. Keep dessert light by serving lemon or raspberry sorbet. Pair the meal with a Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Pinot Bianco or a Zinfandel.

Pasta with Sun Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

Pasta Ingredients:
  • 1-1/4 cups dried penne pasta
  • 1 cup cooked and crumbled Italian Sausage or Smoked Andouille Chicken Sausage, thinly sliced 
  • 1 TB. olive oil 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet onions
Cream Sauce Ingredients
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 2 TB. flour 
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil drained and patted dry with a paper towel. 
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. each dried oregano and basil
  • 1 TB parsley flakes
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, add in dried penne. Cook until al dente, drain and rinse.
  • In large skillet heat 1 TB. olive oil, sauté onion and garlic about 2 minutes on medium low heat. Stir frequently so it doesn't over brown. Add in 2 TB. butter. When butter is melted add in 2 TB. flour, whisk to blend and cook 1 minute.
  • Whisk in chicken broth and continue whisking until broth is incorporated into the flour mixture about 1-2 minutes. Stir in cream, meat, pasta, spices, sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan. Whisk to blend and cook until thickened about 2 minutes. Grate Parmesan over top of the dish and serve immediately. 
Arugula Salad with Honey-Clementine Vinaigrette
Cook’s notes: The toppings here work incredibly well together. Pomegranate seeds add a fruity burst to every bite, and the toasted sunflower or pepitas seeds create delicious notes of nuttiness. Pistachios add crunch, color, and an earthy tone, while Parmesan adds sharp, salty flavor. . Pomegranates and Clementines are seasonal fruits available now. Check produce section for Pom Poms (pomegranate fresh arils).
Maple Grove Farms of Vermont Fat Free Cranberry Balsamic available at stores can be substituted for the Honey-Clementine Vinaigrette. The recipe was adapted from and serves 4.
Salad Ingredients
  • 4- 1/2 cups arugula, spinach, kale or a combination of all three
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds 
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 3 clementines, peeled and segmented or use 2 navel oranges 
  • 4 TB. lightly salted pistachios (shells removed), roughly chopped
  • 3 TB. sunflower or pepitas seeds
  • 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings or crumbled goat cheese
Honey-Clementine Vinaigrette Ingredients:
  • Juice of three clementines to equal 1/3 cup or substitute with fresh orange juice 
  • 6 TB. extra-virgin olive oil or Blood Orange Olive Oil 
  • 2 TB. honey (add more to taste)
  • 3 tsp. white balsamic vinegar, Cranberry Pear White Balsamic or Pomegranate Quince Balsamic
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Divide the arugula evenly among four bowls. Place the sunflower seeds in a small dry skillet and toast over medium heat until golden brown. Meanwhile, sprinkle the chopped pistachios and the pomegranate seeds over the arugula. When the sunflower seeds are nice and toasty, add them to the salads. Add in clementine segments, cranberries and top each salad with Parmesan shavings.
  • To make the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl, use a blender or add to a small mason jar and shake to combine. Store leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Rudyard Kipling and Cranberry Orange Pound Cake

Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865, in Bombay, India. He was educated in England but returned to India in 1882. In 1892, Kipling married Caroline Balestier and settled in Brattleboro, Vermont where he wrote The Jungle Book (1894) and "Gunga Din." Eventually becoming the highest paid writer in the world, Kipling was recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. He died in 1936 in England.
There was a lot of drama in Kipling's life. I was captivated reading his biography.
The Just So Stories for children are a collection of short stories written by the British author Rudyard Kipling. The stories are highly fantasized origin stories, especially for differences among animals. They are among Kipling's best known works. The book itself was in part a tribute to his late daughter, for whom Kipling had originally crafted the stories for her as bedtime reading. The book's name had in fact come from Josephine, who told her father he had to repeat each tale as he always had, or "just so," as Josephine often said. My personal favorite story is the "Elephant's Child". The repetition and lyrical sounds make reading the story out loud fun.

To read the entire short story  of the "Elephant's Child" follow this link below or to hear it read outloud go to youtube
Celebrate Kipling's birthday with Cranberry Orange Pound Cake
Cook's notes: Cranberry Orange Pound Cake is so moist and perfect for the winter and holiday season! Buttermilk is the secret ingredient. Dried cranberries work the best if using mini loaf pans. 
  • 1 cup butter. softened 
  • 1¾ cups sugar 
  • 2 TB. orange zest 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • ½ tsp. vanilla 
  • ¾ cup buttermilk 
  • 2½ cups fresh cranberries or 1-1/2 cups dried cranberries
  • 2½ cups flour 
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
Orange Glaze:
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar 
  • 2 TB. orange juice 
  • 2 TB. orange zest 
  • 1 TB. milk 
  • 1/2 tsp.vanilla 
Cake Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
  • Grease and flour either 2 large bread pans or 3 small bread pans. 
  • In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and orange zest together for 3 to 5 minutes. 
  • Add eggs one at a time and beat an additional minute per egg. 
  • In a separate large bowl, mix and combine dry ingredients together. 
  • Add dry ingredients alternatively with the buttermilk to the butter/sugar/orange zest/egg mixture. Fold in cranberries. 
  • Divide batter among pans and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until center comes clean using a toothpick. 
  • Let loaves cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove loaves and place on a wire cooling rack. After 30 minutes place a sheet of wax paper underneath rack and pour glaze over bread loaves.  
Orange Glaze Directions:
  • Whisk glaze ingredients together until smooth. 
WAIT! There's more...I saved the best to last. Who would have guessed you'd see this at the end of 2014. We are going out on a high note.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The World According to Bella and an Herbed Shrimp Antipasto Appetizer

Wrapping Up Christmas
My stocking was quite full on Christmas day. Santa must have gotten my letter and knew right where to find me.  Food gifts are always a hit. Now Mrs. S can now start baking for me with this package of dog biscuit dough, chicken flavor.  
I did get a Chuckit-the deluxe model called the Ultra Grip Ball Launcher Model. I can't wait to try it out at the dog park this week. It will be lots of fun.  
I still wished I had gotten the camouflage back pack Sadie has-maybe next year. This is what I dreamed I'd look like wearing it. 
It's Day 5 and I'm doing pretty good on that very large rawhide bone I got before Christmas.  Only one end is left but my jaws are getting pretty sore.  
Love, Bella
PS. Mrs. S and I really had fun on Christmas Eve keeping track of Santa's journey around the world with NORAD (The North American Aerospace Defense Command). We also checked the live tweets during the evening so we would know when he was getting close to our house. I hope you had a fun Christmas. I'm really looking forward to another road trip in the new year. 
Herbed Shrimp Antipasto
Cook's notes:  Serve an appetizer with a Mediterranean flair by marinating shrimp, olives, provolone, cheese, mushrooms  in an herbed vinaigrette. The recipe is easy and comes from

  • 1 pound shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined
  • 8 ounces provolone or mozzarella cheese, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) vegetables, such as small whole mushrooms and fresh cauliflower florets
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 can (6 ounces) pitted large ripe olives, drained
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons basil leaves or 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp.thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp. thyme 
  • 1 tsp. oregano leaves or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 2 tsp.sugar

  • Place shrimp, cheese, vegetables and olives in large resealable plastic bag or glass dish. 
  • Mix remaining ingredients in small bowl. Pour over shrimp and vegetables; toss to coat well.
  • Refrigerate 2 hours or up to 12 hours, stirring vegetables or turning bag occasionally. 
  • Drain and serve on individual plates or a platter.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reflections and Eating Healthy

When the Year Grows Old

I cannot but remember
When the year grows old—
How she disliked the cold!

She used to watch the swallows
Go down across the sky,
And turn from the window
With a little sharp sigh.

And often when the brown leaves
Were brittle on the ground,
And the wind in the chimney
Made a melancholy sound,

She had a look about her
That I wish I could forget—
The look of a scared thing
Sitting in a net!

Oh, beautiful at nightfall
The soft spitting snow!
And beautiful the bare boughs
Rubbing to and fro!

But the roaring of the fire,
And the warmth of fur,
And the boiling of the kettle
Were beautiful to her!

I cannot but remember
When the year grows old—
How she disliked the cold!

by Edna St. Vincent Millay


Arugula Salad with Honey-Clementine Vinaigrette 
Cook's notes: About this time of the year everyone is feeling stuffed from holiday binge eating and looking forward to healthier choices for 2015. This salad should fit the bill. 
The toppings here work incredibly well together. The pomegranate seeds add a fruity burst to every bite, and the toasted sunflower seeds create delicious notes of nuttiness (pumpkin seeds would work great as well!) Pistachios add crunch, color, and an earthy tone, while Parmesan adds sharp, salty flavor. Adding quinoa makes eating even healthier.
The real star here, though, is the vinaigrette. The main ingredient is fresh clementine juice, while honey is added for a touch of sweetness. Pomegranates and Clementines are seasonal fruits so there is small window of opportunity to buy them.  
 Maple Grove Farms of Vermont Fat Free Cranberry Balsamic can be substituted for the vinaigrette.
This recipe is adapted from and serves 4
Salad Ingredients

  • 5 cups arugula/spinach or kale or a combination of all three 
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate, seeds only 
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries 
  • 3 clementines, peeled and segmented or substitute 2 navel oranges 
  • 4 TB. lightly salted pistachios (shells removed), roughly chopped 
  • 3 TB. sunflower seeds 
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings, crumbled goat or feta cheese 
  • optional 1-1/2 cups cooked quinoa and/or avocado slices
Honey-Clementine Vinaigrette

  • Juice of three clementines to equal 1/3 cup or fresh orange juice 
  • 6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive-oil 
  • 2 TB. honey (add more to taste) 
  • 3 tsp. white balsamic vinegar, Cranberry Pear White Balsamic or Pomegranate Quince 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Divide the arugula evenly among four salad plates. Place the sunflower seeds in a small dry skillet and toast over medium heat until golden brown. 
  • Meanwhile, sprinkle the chopped pistachios and the pomegranate seeds over the arugula. When the sunflower seeds are nice and toasty, add them to the salads. 
  • Add clementine segments and top each salad with Parmesan shavings or crumbled goat/feta cheese, top with avocado slices.  
  • To make the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl, use a blender or add to a small mason jar and shake to combine. If you use a mason jar, you can keep the leftover vinaigrette in the jar and store in the refrigerator. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

"A loving heart is the truest wisdom"
Charles Dickens
Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo
Makes 6 to 8 servings

Cook's notes:Try a taste of the South with Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. It is worthy of a special occasion like New Years Eve. For easier prep dice celery, garlic, peppers and onion the day before and refrigerate. 
Anyone who is from the South knows that Gumbo is cooked with instinct and heart. It is a dish you are taught not something you need to follow with a recipe. But since I am from the Midwest I needed a recipe. I found one that is the perfect blend of savory meat in a Cajun- spiced broth. The success of the dish is the gumbo base a.k.a. as roux made with oil and flour cooked to a dark brown color. I added some cooked shrimp to the broth the last 10 minutes of cooking time. 
  • 1 lb. smoked sausage (pre-cooked) such as andouille or kielbasa, cut in half horizontally, then crosswise 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • chicken thighs or 4 large chicken breasts, skin removed
  • 1 TB. Creole or Cajun seasoning
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil+2 TB. oil
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped bell peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 can (14.5) chunky tomatoes with garlic, basil and oregano 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika 
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 8-9 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth, heated
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions, topping
  • Hot brown or white rice for serving
  • optional hot sauce and cooked shrimp
  • In a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven or large pot, heat 1 TB. of oil on the stove. Cook sausage over medium-high heat until well browned, about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove sausage and drain on paper towels.
  • In a bag add 1 TB. Cajun seasoning and chicken. Shake to coat pieces. 
  • In Dutch oven place add 1 TB, oil and seasoned chicken. Sear meat on medium high heat 4 minutes a side, drain chicken on paper towels, set aside. (Do not attempt to remove drippings or clean pan at this point.)  
  • Combine 1/2 cup oil and the flour in the same Dutch oven over medium heat. If the roux looks too loose, add 1 tablespoon flour.
  • Stirring constantly with a whisk over medium-high heat, make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate, 10 minutes. The time will depend on the thickness of the pot and the heat under it. Cooking it more slowly over medium heat will take 20-30 minutes.
  • Add the onions, celery, minced garlic, bell peppers and cook, stirring, until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the reserved sausage, chicken, salt, cayenne, smoked paprika, and bay leaves. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. While stirring, slowly add the warmed chicken stock, and cook, stirring, until well combined. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. 
  • Add in chunky tomatoes, simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  • With tongs or a slotted spoon, remove chicken from the gumbo and place on a cutting board to cool slightly. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Pull the chicken meat from the bones and shred, discarding the bones, skin and any fatty bits. Return the meat to the gumbo. Heat 15 minutes. Stir in the green onions and parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  • Spoon rice into the bottom of deep bowls and ladle the gumbo on top. Pass hot sauce.

The holy trinity, Cajun holy trinity, or holy trinity of Cajun or Louisiana Creole cooking is the use of onions, celery, bell peppers in roughly equal quantities. This mirepoix is the base for much of the cooking in the regional cuisines of Louisiana.

Some variations include the use of garlic, parsley or shallots for onions. The preparation of Cajun/Creole dishes such as gumbo and jambalaya all start from this base.
FYI: Mirepoix means a mixture of chopped celery, onions, and carrots. There are many variants, which may include just one of these ingredients, or include additional aromatics

Friday, December 26, 2014

Yule Log Video, Christmas Trees and The World According to Bella

Any chance you had some time yesterday or on Christmas Eve to listen to holiday music in front of a crackling fire? The Yule Log Video on TV makes it possible for anyone to have this experience. Each Christmas Eve, running 24 hours straight with Christmas music and no commercials, TV screens become blazing fireplaces, thanks to an idea ignited almost 50 years ago. Digital advances now enable computer screens to flicker with flames. A video crackling on a smartphone makes even the loneliest place seem like a cozy retreat. 

A yule log is a large wooden log which is burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or modern Christmas celebration in several European cultures. The custom of burning the yule log goes back to, and before, medieval times. Originally a Nordic tradition, the concept of burning a log was an integral part of Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe, including Germany.

The first “The Yule Log” film was created in 1966 when the president of WPIX-TV in New York City thought residents in fireplace-deprived apartments would appreciate the commercial-free visual. Airing the three-hour program also would let his employees spend Christmas Eve with their families. With musical accompaniment by the likes of Percy Faith, Nat King Cole and the Ray Conniff Singers, the “show” was an immediate success and was rebroadcast for 23 years until 1989, when times were changing and ad revenue was needed. The log was extinguished.

After four years, the original 16 mm film had become worn, and WPIX decided to reshoot the footage on 35 mm film — but the mayor’s office wouldn’t let them return to Gracie Mansion, where the original film was shot because the crew had previously damaged an antique rug. An identical fireplace was found in California, where the current seven-minute loop was filmed.

WPIX canceled “The Yule Log” in 1990, citing the cost of airing the broadcast without commercial interruption. It was revived in 2001 thanks to a fan campaign started by Lawrence F. “Chip” Arcuri and Joe Malzone. The original film was found at the station’s New Jersey archives — mistakenly filed in a “Honeymooners” canister — and digitally remastered (it was converted to HD in 2003). A fourth hour was added to the program in 2009, adding 23 classic holiday songs including Mantovani’s “Adeste Fidelis” and other tunes by Bert Kaempfert, Mitch Miller, Bing Crosby, Vic Damone and Johnny Mathis.

The Yule Log” has adapted to the social media age, with its own Facebook and Twitter  accounts — it even has its own merchandise line of T-shirts, boxers, hats and more.
A number of yule log videos are available on YouTube. One video includes a tasteful greenery-bedecked mantel, another has 
the yule log fireplace with bacon sizzling in the pan and yet another a lego yule log burning. Last year’s hit variation was “Lil BUB’s Magical Yule Log Video”, featuring the famous dwarf cat, or perma-kitten, whose tongue always hangs out because of her condition. Check out youtube for several different Yule Log Videos.

Even though you will now have to wait another year for the return of Yule Log Video there's still plenty of time to sit back and savor the words of Robert Frost in a poem written in 1916 called "Christmas Tree."  An offer from a city man to buy the trees on his land awakens in a country fellow a keener awareness of the value of both his trees and his friends at Christmas.

Christmas Trees 
by Robert Frost

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.
He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees! —at what apiece? ”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece) ,
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

The World According to Bella
Check out my latest story for WWN "On High Alert"
Love, Bella

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Seasons Greetings

My gift to you is one of words
This is the poem inside the book... Merry Christmas

“Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
by Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth's tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal's, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Toys of the 50's, 60's and 70's

The Minnesota History Center features a stroll down memory lane with their special exhibit: Toys of the 50's, 60's and 70's. It is a nostalgic look at toys that capture the joys of childhood. The exhibit also looks at how the toys we play with reflect the times in which we live. It delves into the culture and history of the times.

The three decades that the exhibit covers encompass a unique era in the development of toys and society. The toy business boomed like it never had before after World War II. It was fueled by the vast baby boomer market of toy-hungry kids, the development of faster and cheaper manufacturing technologies (such as plastic injection molding) and the emergence of TV and its powerful advertising.

A highlight for me was remembering the toys my children happily played with. My son loved his Big Wheel and spent many, many hours going up and down the sidewalk.
And then there was the Star Wars Craze. Not only did we have the spaceship and I might add still have it along with all the action figures.
   Our daughter had an extensive Barbie Doll collection 
and one of her prize possessions was Barbie's Friendship Ship. And it was well after her college years it finally went to Ebay as we began to purge ourselves of 'stuff'.
The following photos show toys starting in 50's moving to 60's and into 70's. See what you remember.


Tonka trucks made in Minnetonka, MN

Trolls Everywhere
Remember the matchbox car craze?

Nerf Balls
and I saved one of the best nostalgic toys for last. Have you ever heard of the Winky Dink Super Kit?  My husband got real excited when he spied this.
He owned an Official Super Winky Dink Television Game Kit!
FYI:Winky Dink and You was a CBS children's television show that aired from 1953 to 1957, on Saturday mornings at 10:30 a.m. It was hosted by Jack Barry and featured the exploits of a cartoon character named Winky Dink and his dog Woofer.
The show's central gimmick was the use of a "magic drawing screen", which was a large piece of vinyl plastic that stuck to the television screen via static electricity. A kit containing the screen and various Winky Dink crayons could be purchased for 50 cents. At a climactic scene in every Winky Dink short, Winky would arrive upon a scene that contained a connect the dots picture. He would then prompt the children at home to complete the picture, and the finished result would help him continue the story. Examples include drawing a bridge to cross a river, an axe to chop down a tree, or a cage to trap a dangerous lion.

So if you just happen to live in the area the exhibit runs through January 4, 2015.  

Monday, December 22, 2014

More Holiday Appetizers

Chipping Sparrow
Christmas Sparrow
by Billy Collins

The first thing I heard this morning
was a rapid flapping sound, soft, insistent—

wings against glass as it turned out
downstairs when I saw the small bird
rioting in the frame of a high window,
trying to hurl itself through
the enigma of glass into the spacious light.

Then a noise in the throat of the cat
who was hunkered on the rug
told me how the bird had gotten inside,
carried in the cold night
through the flap of a basement door,
and later released from the soft grip of teeth.

On a chair, I trapped its pulsations
in a shirt and got it to the door,
so weightless it seemed
to have vanished into the nest of cloth.

But outside, when I uncupped my hands,
it burst into its element,
dipping over the dormant garden
in a spasm of wingbeats
then disappeared over a row of tall hemlocks.

For the rest of the day,
I could feel its wild thrumming
against my palms as I wondered about
the hours it must have spent
pent in the shadows of that room,
hidden in the spiky branches
of our decorated tree, breathing there
among the metallic angels, ceramic apples, stars of yarn,
its eyes open, like mine as I lie in bed tonight
picturing this rare, lucky sparrow
tucked into a holly bush now,
a light snow tumbling through the windless dark.

"Christmas Sparrow" by Billy Collins, from Aimless Love. © Random House 2013.
Just in case you need some more quick, easy last minute party ideas for holiday entertaining.

Cranberry Feta Pinwheels makes about 45 pinwheels


  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3-1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 tsp. herbes de provence
  • 4/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 pkg dried sweetened cranberries
  • 2-3 TB. half and half
  • 4 spinach tortillas (I used Mission brand garden spinach and herbs)
  • In a food processor pulse feta cheese 3 times.
  • In a medium sized bowl add feta cheese, cream cheese, herbes de provence and half and half.
  • Beat and stir in cranberries and walnuts by hand. 
  • Divide and spread cream cheese mixture evenly between four spinach tortillas.
  • Roll tightly, wrap in clear plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.
  • To serve, cut into approximately 12 slices.

Mini-Phyllo Cups with Goat Cheese, Red Grapes and Thyme
makes 30 appetizers recipe from Athens Co.

  • 2 boxes Athens Mini Fillo Shells (3o shells total) 
  • 6 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature 
  • 2 T. half and half 
  • 15 large red seedless grapes, quartered 
  • 2 T. honey 
  • 1 T. chopped fresh thyme 
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • Remove Athens Mini- Fillo Shells from boxes, leave shells still in their protective tray. 
  • With an electric mixer, whip goat cheese and cream cheese in a medium bowl on high speed. Once incorporated, add the half and half, and then whip for a minute or two, until smooth and fluffy. 
  • Place a dollop of the mixture into the bottom of each fillo shell. Gently press two pieces of grape into the top of each whipped goat cheese dollop. 
  • If serving immediately, drizzle the grapes with a bit of honey. Then sprinkle a little thyme and black pepper over the top. 
  • If serving later in the day, place trays of fillo shells, with whipped goat cheese and grapes only back into the refrigerator. When ready to serve, drizzle on the honey and then add the thyme and black pepper.

Raspberry Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail 
Cook's added comment: Put this recipe top of your list. It is festive looking and quite tasty!
recipe from
  • 8 tablespoons pomegranate juice 
  • 1 pint raspberry sorbet 
  • 4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds 
  • chilled champagne 
  • Freeze your glasses until frosty. 
  • Add 2 tablespoons of pomegranate juice to the bottom of each glass. 
  • Add a few small scoops of the raspberry sorbet and 1 tablespoon of pomegranate seeds to each glass. 
  • Top with chilled champagne. 
Spinach Spirals

  • 1 package large spinach or red flour tortilla 
  • 2 containers (tubs) of Philadelphia Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Cream Cheese Spread or Chipotle Peppers Cream Cheese Spread at room temperature 
  • black olives, diced
  • 1-2 cups shredded white or yellow cheddar cheese
  • Spread cream cheese mixture on the tortilla shell, sprinkle with diced olives and shredded cheese. 
  • Roll up the tortilla and make sure the tortilla is rolled tightly otherwise it will be difficult to cut. 
  • Repeat process with other tortillas. Use plastic wrap to cover each rolled tortillas and place in the refrigerator overnight. This allows the mixture to firmly set up. 

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 ...