Friday, October 30, 2009

pumpkins, cats, bats and ghosties

This is not a food blog, and yet...another recipe.

Perfect Sugar Cookies
a la Martha Stewart

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons brandy, or milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar; add dry ingredients, and mix until incorporated. With mixer running, add egg, brandy (use the brandy, people, don't wimp out and use the milk), and vanilla; mix until incorporated.

Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch in between. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes; do not allow to brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Makes 2 dozen.

White Chocolate Ganache Glaze
a la Kim

2/3 cup cream
1 tablespoon Karo syrup
6 ounces white chocolate
powdered sugar, for thickening

Coarsely chop white chocolate, place in a small bowl and set aside. Combine cream (don't wimp out; this is not the time to watch your diet) and Karo syrup in a small pan. Heat over low heat until steaming. Pour over chocolate and let sit until melted. Stir to combine. Let cool. If the glaze is still a bit thin, add powdered sugar one heaping tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. I think I used about four tablespoons. I colored the glaze orange with yellow and red gel food coloring, the kind used for cake decorating.
Makes more than you'll need.


To ice the cookies, place a wire rack on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat. Place cookies on rack. Spoon ganache over the cookies, allowing excess to drain onto cookie sheet. Let the cookies sit until the glaze is firm, dry and no longer sticky.

The glaze is much easier to use than traditional icing. I got the idea to use glaze on the cookies from the Magpie's lovely black forest cupcakes. I adapted the chocolate ganache recipe for white chocolate. The boys loved these. The husband, not so much, but he's not big on sweets. I adore them. Hence the blog post. Make them. They're worth it.
Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bob Dylan at the Brady

Set List:

Gonna Change My Way of Thinking
The Man in Me
Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
This Dream of You
Cold Irons Bound
Po' Boy
Honest With Me
I Feel A Change Comin' On
Highway 61 Revisted
Workingman Blues #2
Thunder on the Mountain
Ballad of a Thin Man


Like a Rolling Stone
All Along the Watchtower

A view of the "Old Lady on Brady" from Brady Street.

A view of the west side box office entrance from the car.

The marquee.

A single production bus on the west side, stage left. We watched the caterers load their vehicle here as we left after the concert.

Production buses on the east, about 5pm. By 7pm when the theater doors opened, they were gone.

We arrived early, parked the car in the Brady's small lot and walked to The Mexicali Border Cafe for a quick dinner before the concert. After eating, we walked the half block back to the Brady. The crowd had arrived, forming lines at both the east and west doors. To say the crowd was an eclectic mix of people is an understatement. The youngest fan, aged about eight, seemed just as excited as the oldest fan in the crowd. We saw another mother-daughter there. Just in front of us, a pair of sisters, we thought, and to our left a charming older couple who were seeing Dylan for a second time. We saw a tattooed, pierced, flamboyant couple aged around 25 in the center section enjoying the show just as much as the old-timers who were a little slow getting to their feet when the up-tempo tunes began. One young man with a head of curly hair and a pretty face clearly had his eye on our lovely daughter, though her mother's presence probably inhibited his approach.

The Brady Theater is a 1914 Western Classic Revival building with a spot on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979. It seats about 2,800 in an auditorium and balcony. The acoustics are magnificent, and there isn't a bad seat in the house. Our lovely daughter purchased tickets before sale to the general public began and our seats were quite good, one section from middle toward stage right about eight rows back and right on the aisle, just as the floor starts to rise. Whether we were standing or sitting, we had a great view of Dylan all evening.

We entered as soon as the doors opened, bought souvenirs (a sweatshirt, a t-shirt, a poster, and a keychain), and found our seats. For about 45 minutes, we watched the crowd and waited. As the auditorium filled, taped music played in the background. The stage was set and lit an ethereal blue. Right on time, the house lights went down, the stage lights darkened, and the announcer said, "...the poet laureate of rock-n-roll, the legendary Bob Dylan". As the music started, we stood, we clapped, and we yelled. The atmosphere was electric.

Dylan began strong, enthusiastic and energetic. During the set, the bulk of the audience stood, only sitting for perhaps two songs early on. Stage left on keyboards, he sang as only Dylan can, and if you weren't familiar with his lyrics, it might have been tough to identify the song. Every piece was restyled, almost unrecognizable, yet still somehow familiar. It is a testament to the man as a musician and a writer that regardless of the arrangement, the songs still impress.

The stage lights were cut between each song; the pauses were long enough to shift positions and instruments without time for anything else. Music rose, fell, and rose again in a satisfying, regular rhythm. Five musicians took the stage with Dylan, two on guitar, one on bass, one on percussion, and one on keyboards. Enough instruments for ten musicians graced the stage. Dylan sang, played keyboards and an electric harmonica (or perhaps just a miked harmonica) but never touched a guitar. The band was simply fantastic. And oh, did Dylan sing. Up front with just the harmonica and his famous throaty, scratchy voice, Dylan bobbed his head in that familiar way, smiled, danced and distinctly fed on the energy of the audience. I've often heard him described as a musician, not a performer, but I'd have to disagree. The man entranced the full-house audience without ever saying a word. When the lights when down after a spectacular Ballad of the Thin Man, I could have gone home happy.

The audience whooped, hollered, clapped and stomped to an empty, dark stage for a good five minutes. Grown men could be heard yelling "Bobby!" Someone beat the arm of a chair or a wooden column, producing a hollow, regular thump. When the band re-took the stage, the applause was deafening. Dylan introduced his band, thanked his friends in the audience, and tore into a completely unfamiliar, absolutely fabulous rendition of Like a Rolling Stone, moving seamlessly into Jolene, then racing into a fantastic All Along the Watchtower surely influenced by the Jimi Hendrix cover. The lights went down briefly, and when they came back up, Dylan stood center stage, all in black, flanked by his band in taupe suits and black shirts. After a moment, the house lights came up and the crowd went wild. Including our lovely daughter and me.

Picture notes: All of the shots here are by me except for the poster, which was lifted from the Brady Theater website. We have a shot of Dylan on stage, but it is in our lovely daughter's camera which remains, at this time, in Tulsa. Will share it later if it is any good. Cameras were not allowed inside the theater. Somehow, our little one made it inside concealed in a high-heeled cowboy boot. I'm not saying whose.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy, Happy Birthday Baby

Today my youngest child turns eleven. He is in his last year of elementary school. Sam is a voracious reader, a good student, and an expert at video games of all kinds. He is a sweet, good-natured boy and quite sensitive. This is a hard age for kids in many ways, and one of the hardest for me to deal with as a parent. The little boy is still there, but he is beginning to grow up. Sometimes I baby him too much, and he lets me know. Other times, he needs that little bit of extra attention from his Mom. He is pulling away and coming back, advancing and retreating, in that familiar childhood dance. This is not the first time I've been a partner, but the long promenade changes with every child. I wouldn't miss a beat.

Happy birthday, sweet Samuel.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Simple Weekend Brunch

Last weekend all of my children were home for a Sunday morning meal. I wanted to whip up something a bit special without leaving home, and I hadn't planned anything at all. I opened the freezer to a box of puff pastry I'd purchased for I-don't-know-what and my menu was set. Everything else in these recipes are pantry and refrigerator staples in my house.

These recipes are simple and nearly foolproof. I've made them half a dozen times each. With no more than twenty minutes of effort and the addition of a green salad, you have the makings of a home cooked brunch that appeals to everyone.

Ham and Cheese Stromboli
(adapted from Pepperidge Farm website)


1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/2 pound sliced cooked deli ham
1/2 pound sliced cooked deli turkey breast
1 cup shredded Vermont White Cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 tsp herbs de provence


Heat the oven to 400°F. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork or whisk.Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 16x12-inch rectangle. With the short side facing you, layer the ham and turkey on the bottom half of the pastry to within 1 inch of the edge. Sprinkle with the cheese. Season to taste with herbs, salt and pepper. Starting at the short side, roll up like a jelly roll. Place seam-side down onto a baking sheet. Tuck the ends under to seal. Brush with the egg mixture.Bake for 25 minutes or until the stromboli is golden brown. Remove the stromboli from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Apple Pecan Pastries
(adapted from Pepperidge Farm website)


1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups peeled, diced Jonagold apples
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into pieces
Confectioners' sugar


Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.Stir the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Add the apples, pecans and butter and toss to coat.Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 15 x 10-inch rectangle. Brush the pastry sheet with water. With the long side facing you, spoon the apple mixture on the pastry to within 2 inches of the long sides and to the edge of the short sides. Starting at a long side, roll up like a jelly roll. Tuck ends under to seal. Place seam-side down on baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Slice into serving portions. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Tip: You can substitute chopped walnuts for the pecans if you like.

Pictures from Pepperidge Farm website. These were devoured before it occurred to me to snap a photo.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

the art of surrender

I have been thinking about relinquishing control. A favorite blog sparked my contemplation this morning, with a post exploring the natural ebbs and flows of life and the ways one can interrupt the organic progression of life by clutching and grasping at a place in time.

I have been struggling. Life fools us into believing we are settled by falling into distinct patterns but life is simply change incarnate. The departure of our lovely daughter dramatically altered my daily ebb and flow. I talk with her, I communicate with her in writing, and I see her somewhat frequently. I know if my heart aches at her absence, I can be at her side in under an hour. Mother and daughter relationships embody complexity; her physical and emotional absence is not my struggle. I miss the challenges she added to my daily existence, the very challenges I thought would be last on my list of cherished moments.

Family time has never been orchestrated. We have always preferred a spontaneous togetherness. I began searching for reasons to draw the entire family together, whether it is a weekend meal or some type of event. Before this school year, if I prepared a simple meal, set the table, and called to everyone in the evening, family fellowship happened instantaneously. Now I find myself purchasing tickets to see Bob Dylan at the Brady as much for the 90 minute drive as for the concert.

This morning my thoughts ambled along until they lit on Countee Cullen (pictured).

If You Should Go

Love, leave me like the light,
The gently passing day,
We would not know but for the night
When it has slipped away.
Go quietly; a dream
When done should leave no trace
That it has lived, except a gleam
Across the dreamer's face.

Learning to let go, to release that emotional grip, comes naturally through parenting, sometimes leaping, sometimes retreating, sometimes limping along. Slowly, oh so slowly, I am clutching less and yielding more, aiming to walk rather than crawl toward finding peace.

Friday, October 2, 2009

October in Oklahoma

Yesterday dawned bright and beautiful, with mostly clear skies and a light, cool breeze. It was the perfect day for a drive. On Old Route 66 driving from Edmond to Arcadia, you can escape from suburbia into the rural countryside of Oklahoma County. Ten minutes after leaving the city limits, there is scant evidence of the urban center mere miles away. The public perception of the land here tends toward flat, but the truth is that the hills in central Oklahoma roll and undulate over the landscape in quite a lovely, respectable manner.

Wildflowers are still blooming in the pastures and alongside the roads. The wild sunflowers, standing six or seven feet tall with flowers the size of softballs, are just beginning to go to seed.

The cedar trees you see here aren't native to Oklahoma, they are invasive due to the favorable climate and considered a nuisance. The large yellow splashes of prairie goldentop and the prairie grasses (I think the one pictured is little bluestem) grow wild. When they grow in fields like this, farmers and ranchers sometimes bale them into prairie hay.

Rural roads, even the blacktops, are lined with little shrubby sumac trees. The grasses, the larger trees, and the flowers still look like summer, but those little crooked sumac trees are beginning to blush red.

Coffee Creek runs through Arcadia under State Highway 66 (old Route 66) in a northwest direction up toward the old state capital of Guthrie. Coffee Creek doesn't make it quite to Guthrie, ending about two miles south of the Oklahoma/Logan county division, which happens to be a couple of blocks from where our house sits.

Baled, dried prairie hay sits in the sun next to a little pond in someone's pasture. Because the large, round bales were used, the hay can sit in the elements unharmed for months, no hay barn required. Barbed wire fences are quite common in rural Oklahoma. I grew up with them and can't count the number of times the back of my shirt got hooked by a barb as I scrambled through a fence.

Below you can just get a glimpse of the largest attraction of the town of Arcadia through the trees. Arcadia is an old town for Oklahoma. The post office predates statehood, and although a large fire took out a good portion of the town in the late 1920s, many lovely historical buildings still remain. Nowadays, there are about 250 residents.

Arcadia Lake is quite beautiful, located near gentle, rolling hills and the Deep Fork River. Hiking, boating, swimming, fishing and camping are all offered in the Arcadia Lake parks. The lake itself is over 1,800 acres with about 25 miles of shoreline. The lake, like most (if not all) of the state lakes, is man-made. The lake opened in 1987 and in addition to the recreational aspect, it is a part of the water supply system for the city of Edmond.

round barn in Arcadia dates to about 1898. It housed livestock, hay and supplies and was a meeting place for townspeople. In the 1980s the roof of the barn collapsed. Since that time, a group of retirees worked to restore it to its original condition. Upkeep is ongoing; you can see a man working on the roof in the picture I took yesterday. Today the loft of the barn can be rented for special events. It's such a popular tourist attraction among travelers on old Route 66 that the town constructed a little area beside the road to pull onto for picture taking. When Paul McCartney drove The Mother Road to celebrate his birthday in 2008, it's said he took pictures there.

The area around Arcadia still boasts acres of pasture land, but there are recent additions, too. A local businessman recently built a roadside store just up a piece from the round barn that sells 500 varieties of bottled soda pop and boasts a retro diner serving old fashioned milkshakes, burgers, sandwiches, and chicken fried steak. Outside the front of the establishment, he erected a 66-foot pop bottle just so you won't miss the turn. In between the round barn and the store, you'll find a large tree farm owned by that same businessman (who happens to own the company that provides my husband's livelihood). You might have heard of this guy. His name is Aubrey McClendon and he had a hand in Oklahoma City's new NBA franchise team.

Just turn your head the other way, and you'll see we Okies haven't gotten far from our roots.

This part of the state is still a bit unfamiliar to me, but I am exploring and learning the area around my new house. I may never get used to the red dirt, but this place is starting to feel like home. If you ever visit, October is a beautiful time to see all the beauty central Oklahoma offers.