Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Music: Moonlight in Vermont

From Wikipedia:

"Moonlight in Vermont" is a popular song about the U.S. state of Vermont, written by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf and published in 1944.

The lyrics are unusual in that they do not rhyme. John Blackburn, the lyricist, has been quoted as saying, "After completing the first 12 bars of the lyric, I realized there was no rhyme and then said to Karl, 'Let’s follow the pattern of no rhyme throughout the song. It seemed right.'" The lyrics are also unconventional in that each verse (not counting the bridge) is a haiku. 

*    *    *

Frank Sinatra and many others have recorded the song, but one of the most memorable and endearing versions is by Willie Nelson on his 1978 landmark album, Stardust. In the liner notes of the 1999 reissue CD, Nelson is quoted as saying, "'Moonlight in Vermont' is my favorite song of all time." 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday Haiku: Turning

      Sometimes silently
           the season turns, revealing
           joy in the new day.

                              ~ CK


Photo: Hay field on a farm near Montevallo, Alabama
Credit: Charles Kinnaird


Friday, September 27, 2013

Morten Lauridsen on How to Write a Song

Last month I shared a beautiful choral piece by Morten Lauridsen, "Sure on this Shining Night." Over a year ago I shared another magnificently beautiful choral work of his, "O Magnum Mysterium." The man obviously has a gift for composing inspiring choral music. If you wonder how he does it, here he is explaining the process behind composing a memorable song. The work he talks about,"Dirait-on" ("so they say"), is a choral setting for one of Rainer Maria Rilke's poems. Rilke usually wrote in German, but this is one (of nearly 400) that  he wrote in French. Enjoy this brief lesson from a master composer!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Recipes My Daughter Likes: Veggieducken

I first saw this recipe on the radio. NPR had a feature in which they talked about this “meatless dish with gravitas.” The topic was Thanksgiving, and ways that vegetarians can be just as festive for the holiday as anyone else.  The recipe at hand was something called "Veggieducken." (To view of the transcript or to hear the program, go here)

When I heard about the dish I had to go online to find out more. It looked like a truly impressive dish.  The primary ingredient was a banana squash “2 feet long or as big as will fit in your oven.” My problem was that I had never heard of banana squash and did not recall having seen one.  A little research revealed that it is a winter squash and a member of the Cucurbita maxima family.  I had been holding onto this recipe for a year, and even though the previous winter I had seen no banana squash, I was determined to try this dish before my daughter left home to begin her Fall semester in grad school. 

Admittedly, it was not quite the season for winter squash, but I made the rounds to specialty supermarkets, to no avail. I went to the farmers' market one weekend near the end of summer. I decided I would ask the farmers if they grew banana squash so I could get an idea of when to look for it. I found no farmers who even knew what a banana squash was. (Maybe it’s one of those Northeastern crops, I thought.) Not being able to procure a banana squash, I trolled the farmers market to find a substitute – a large butternut squash would have to suffice. I was able to find a large butternut squash that even had an unusually thick neck (it is the cylindrical shape of the banana squash that plays a key role in veggieducken).

I took my large butternut squash and procured all the other ingredients necessary for the veggieducken. Once back in my kitchen, I had to improvise. I sliced the butternut squash down the middle and scooped out the seeds and pulp, but I would need lots more space if I were to stuff that thing. I decided to carve out a cavity in the neck. After that, I proceeded with the recipe exactly as prescribed by Dan Pashman on the NPR program.  What I wound up with was a squash that would not quite close up all the way, so I wrapped the whole thing in aluminum foil to bake it. I also ended up with lots of unused stuffing, an extra yam, some stray leeks, and several pieces of squash that I had carved out of the neck of the butternut. I decided to combine all those ingredients and throw them into a casserole dish. All of this was put into the oven and then we waited for the outcome.

My version of veggieducken, though smaller than what was featured on NPR, was indeed a hit and still quite festive. Just like with a Thanksgiving meal, we had lots of leftovers for the next couple of days. As for the casserole, it was just as delicious but unfortunately was not a very attractive dish – not something I would want to display for company.

Here is Mr. Pashman’s original recipe. It is definitely worth the effort, and if I ever find a true banana squash, I’ll do the bone fide version!

Veggieducken (aka Squashleekotato Roast)
This is Pashman's version

Recipe courtesy Dan Pashman
Total Time: 1 hr 45 min
Prep: 30 min | Inactive Prep: 10 min | Cook: 1 hr 5 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 12 servings

  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 red bell pepper, stems and seeds removed, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley, loosely packed
  • 1 cup fresh sage, loosely packed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 yams, peeled and ends cut off to make it 6-inches long
  • 3 medium leeks, rinsed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 banana squash, about 2-feet long or as big as will fit in your oven 


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pulse the garlic and onions in a food processor 6 to 8 times. Push everything down from the sides of work bowl using a rubber spatula and pulse 6 to 8 more times. Scrape into a large bowl and set aside.

Pulse the bell pepper in the food processor until finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add to the bowl with the onion mixture.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion mixture (including any liquid in the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Add the parsley, sage and thyme to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl. (Can use the same large bowl as before, no cleaning necessary.)
Add the breadcrumbs, broth, onion mixture, salt, black pepper and remaining olive oil, stirring to combine.

Wrap the yams in several layers of damp paper towel and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Let set until cool enough to handle.

Trim the ends from the squash, and then slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and any loose fibers using a large metal spoon. Make a stable bottom by slicing about 1/2 inch from one of the halves.

Press about 2 cups of the onion stuffing into the cavity of the bottom squash, making a hollow space in the center.

Line the hollow with 3 leek halves, cut-side up, pressing firmly into the stuffing. Cover the leeks with a thin layer of stuffing, pressing to create a hollow for the yams. Lay the yams into the hollow and cover with a thin layer of stuffing. Arrange the remaining leeks, cut-side down, over the stuffing. Cover the leeks with another layer of stuffing, pressing into a mound about the size to fit into the remaining squash cavity.

Cover the stuffing with the remaining squash half, pressing firmly to set in place. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, covering loosely with foil if it browns too quickly. It's done when a wooden skewer slides easily into the center. Let sit for 10 minutes before transferring to a cutting board. Cut into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice in half into a semicircle and serve.

Cook's Note: The ends of the squash won't be very pretty when sliced since the stuffing doesn't go all the way to the end, so we didn't count the ends in the number of portions. Slice the ends off and discard.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Music: Hildegard of Bingen

Last Tuesday (September17) was St. Hildegard's Day. Hildegard of Bingen was a twelfth century abbess who was also a writer, composer, philosopher, and Christian mystic. One of only four women to have been named Doctor of the Church, she has gained much attention in recent years because of the music she wrote as well as the holistic spirituality that she advocated. Those interested in feminism, liturgical music, spirituality or holistic medicine may all find things if interest in the writings of St. Hildegard.

Last week, on St. Hildegard's Day, Penny Nash, who blogs at One Cannot Have Too Large A Party  shared this chant from Hildegard's Canticles of Ecstasy. I found it to be so beautiful I wanted to share it here.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saturday Haiku: Not Just Fundamentalists

They fouled the waters
     they earnestly sought to save.
     Free streams run clearly.

                                ~ CK


Photo: Little River Falls in the Little River National Preserve (near Fort Payne, Alabama)
Credit: J.S. Fouch
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Recipes My Daughter Likes: Hearty Vegetable Skillet

Or, How to have a festive meal any night of the week with little thought or measuring involved

I learned to make this dish by watching my daughter at work in the kitchen. My daughter has been a vegetarian since high school, but initially her diet was heavy on beans, rice, bread, pasta and cheese. I used to tell her that if she was going to be a vegetarian, she really needed to eat more vegetables. This year, after much research, she has decided to adopt a vegan diet. I was pleased to see when she came home to visit that she was indeed eating a healthy variety of vegetables.

Since we weren’t accustomed to vegan cooking, we told her she would need to do her own meal preparations while she was home. I was impressed to see how she could quickly prepare a healthy and filling meal in one skillet on the stove. She never uses oil to cook with, but instead uses a vegetable broth, usually miso.

Here is how you, too, can enjoy a healthy and festive meal:


Whatever vegetables you have on hand
Whatever spices you have in the cupboard
Any desired additions from the pantry
Vegetable Bouillon 


Wash and chop vegetables
Place into skillet with bouillon
Simmer for about ten to fifteen minutes

And here is how I did it:

On the last night she was home before driving back to grad school, our daughter was busy packing and instead of going out to eat on our last night together, I decided I would prepare a dish using her method of cooking.

These are the vegetables I had in the refrigerator:

One onion
Two small yellow squash
One small sweet potato
The remaining inner stalks of some bok choy
Half a head of napa cabbage
Four radishes
Half a stalk of broccoli
A handful of snow peas

For the broth I used vegetable bouillon and dry sherry (you can't go wrong with sherry!). You want to use just enough liquid to allow the vegetables to steam without sticking to the pan, but not so much that it becomes soupy.

I decided ahead of time that I would serve these vegetables over rice, so I began the rice preparation first. There are many varieties of rice available these days. Brown rice is always a healthy option. One of my favorites is basmati rice, available as either a white rice or a brown rice. White basmati rice is supposedly healthier than regular white rice, and it has a nice flavor. There are also many other varieties of whole grain rice, including Japanese black rice which is a very interesting and hearty addition to any vegetable cuisine. On this night, I chose a whole grain mixed variety by Lundberg called “Countrywild Rice” which contains long grain brown rice, whole grain Wehani rice, and whole grain black Japonica rice. Since it takes about 45 minutes to cook, I started it before I began the vegetable preparation.

In preparing the vegetables, after rinsing everything I diced the onion and then chopped the sweet potato into a variety of small shapes (cubes and slices) so that it would cook quickly. I then did the same with the squash and radishes. I chopped some broccoli florets, trimmed and snipped the snow peas and I was ready to go. I had some vegetable bouillon on hand, so I made a cup of vegetable broth, using about half a cup to heat in the skillet. I began with the onions and sweet potato, letting them cook for a few minutes, then added the squash and radishes. I then added some cooking sherry to the broth in the skillet and a couple of tablespoons of Herbs de Provence for the seasoning. I covered the skillet and let all of this simmer for a few more minutes and added the bok choy and napa cabbage last since they would not require as much cooking as the other vegetables.  I let all of this steam, covered in the skillet, for a few more minutes until the greens were tender.

The end result was a colorful and flavorful dish served over whole grain rice. My daughter liked it (for which I was thankful since this was my first attempt at using her own cooking method). She thought the bok choy, napa cabbage and rice gave it a Chinese cuisine appearance. Of course, the combination of ingredients is endless. You can use quartered new potatoes, Brussels sprouts, halved (chopping larger vegetables allows them to cook more quickly), or any vegetable you enjoy. You could even through in a few fresh field peas or green beans.Mushrooms would always be a nice addition as well. This is a dish you can really experiment with.

An Omnivore Alternative

For omnivores, I have made a French country dish a that follows a similar method of cooking. First you quarter a chicken and brown each piece on both sides in a large skillet using some olive oil. Remove the chicken to another plate, wipe excess oil from the skillet then take whatever vegetables you have on hand and place them in the skillet.  Return the chicken pieces to the skillet, add about a cup of red wine and whatever seasonings you prefer, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

So next time you wonder what's for dinner, just open up the fridge, see what's in  there (produce-wise, that is) and throw it in the skillet.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Music: I Believe in You (Alison Krauss)

Here  is a superb cover of Bob Dylan's "I Believe in You." The song first appeared on Dylan's Slow Train Coming album released in 1979. The album was the first of Dylan's "Christian albums" and it introduced him to a whole new audience. For many people, Slow Train Coming was the first Dylan album they had ever bought. At the time, Noel Paul Stookey (of  Peter, Paul & Mary fame) wrote a review of the album for Christianity Today in which he celebrated Dylan's ability to appeal to an audience that would not likely connect with the typical gospel album.

Alison Krauss's beautiful rendition is yet another example of the timelessness of Dylan's songwriting skills.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday Haiku: For Those that Remain


  Some grieved, some waged war
       when many lives were taken.
       Some souls still wander.

                                     ~ CK


Photo: Twin Towers of Light
            by Louis Jawitz
            (Getty Images)


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Recipes My Daughter Likes: Oven-Roasted Tofu with Veggie Pasta

I found myself a real winner in this recipe. It appeared in our local newspaper, and I thought it looked good. Since my daughter is a vegetarian, and she was visiting for the summer, I was eager to try it. One great discovery that came form this was napa cabbage (Chinese cabbage). I had never used it or cooked with it before, but I was very pleased with its light crispy texture and mild flavor. 

In selecting the tofu, be sure to buy the extra firm tofu (you can usually find it in silken, firm, and extra firm - get the extra firm).  Also make sure you thoroughly pat it dry with a paper towel before cooking it -- this allows the outside to bake to a crisper texture. 

This is a very satisfying dish: great taste, a superb sauce, and a quite pleasing blend of textures. Although the recipe allows for the addition of meat, I stuck with the vegetarian version (which is also vegan friendly).

For the pasta, I used whole wheat thin spaghetti. As for time, it took me somewhat longer than the 40 minutes allotted in the recipe. I was probably measuring, chopping and organizing for an hour. Maybe next time I'll be more efficient.  

When I served it, instead of tossing the tofu in with the pasta salad, I placed the roasted tofu in a separate dish and let people put it on top of their salad. I think this made for better leftover serving as well. 

This recipe was such a hit that the leftovers were fought over the next day (usually I am the only one who goes for leftovers). Even though this is a pasta salad, we found that it does very well heated in the microwave when serving the leftovers.

Oven-Roasted Tofu with Veggie Pasta

You can substitute cooked and cubed chicken or turkey for the tofu.
Serves: 6 (as a main dish or more as side dish salad) / Preparation time: 40 minutes /
Total time: 40 minutes


  • ¼ cup lime juice 
  • 6 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce 
  • 2 teaspoons chile garlic paste or to taste, divided 
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil 
  • 1 package extra-firm tofu 
  • 12 ounces veggie thin spaghetti or 12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti 
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter 
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons water 
  • 1½ teaspoons minced fresh ginger 
  • 6 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage 
  • 1 bell pepper, washed, thinly sliced 
  • 1 cup trimmed and thinly sliced snow peas 
  • ½ cup thinly sliced green onion 
  • ½ bunch cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped


Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees. In a pie plate, combine the lime juice, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon chile garlic paste and oil. Pat the tofu with paper towel and cut the block of tofu in half horizontally. Place the two halves in the soy sauce mixture, turning to coat. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Coat a sided baking sheet with cooking spray or brush with a bit of canola oil.

Transfer the tofu to the baking sheet. Reserve the marinade. Roast the tofu, turning once halfway through, until golden brown on both sides, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool a few minutes and cut into bite-size cubes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Drain and rinse slightly.

In a food processor or blender, place the reserved marinade, peanut butter, rice vinegar, remaining 1 teaspoon chile garlic paste, water and ginger. Blend until smooth and the mixture coats the back of a spoon. If the mixture is too thick, add more water to thin. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
In a serving bowl, place the pasta, cabbage, bell pepper and snow peas. Drizzle in the sauce and toss to coat. Add the tofu cubes and toss again. Garnish with green onion and cilantro leaves just before serving.

From and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

313 calories (48% from fat), 18 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 29 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 287 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 6 grams fiber.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Music: America (David Bowie)

David Bowie at The Concert for New York City gave the finest rendition of "America" that I have ever heard. The song was written by Paul Simon and recorded by Simon & Garfunkel in 1968. The Concert for New York City, held on October 20, 2001, was a benefit concert in response to the September 11 attack. Organized by Paul McCartney, the concert raised money for charity and honored the first responders from the NYC Fire Department and the NYC Police Department.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Saturday Haiku: Mountain View

  Clouds on the mountain
       speak to the layers of life:
       drifting, dispersing.

                                  ~ CK


Photo: Mountain Clouds by ForestWander at
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Recipes My Daughter Likes: Raise the Roof Sweet Potato Lasagna

This recipe is one my daughter found online at the Engine 2 Diet website.  I have made versions of vegetable lasagna and have tasted many other versions, but this one is by far the best that I have ever had. 

My daughter prepared this for us one night, and I must say that it was absolutely fabulous! It is a vegan recipe, so there is no cheese (silken tofu instead). The flavors all blend together superbly.  The dish stacks up very tall, but since there is no cheese, it is wonderfully light.

You can see the original recipe here, and can find many other recipes at the Engine 2 Diet website.


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small head of garlic, all cloves chopped or pressed
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 package Silken Lite tofu
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 2 jars Engine 2 approved pasta sauce
  • 2 boxes whole grain lasagna noodles
  • 16 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
  • 6 roma tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 cup raw cashews, ground


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Sauté the onion and garlic on high heat for 3 minutes in a wok or nonstick pan.
Add the mushrooms and cook until the onions are limp and the mushrooms give up their liquid.
Remove them to a large bowl with a slotted spoon.
Reserve the mushroom liquid in the pan.
Sauté the broccoli and carrots for 5 minutes and add to the mushroom bowl.
Sauté the peppers and corn until just beginning to soften. Add them to the vegetable bowl.
Drain the silken tofu by wrapping in paper towels. Break it up directly in the towel and mix into the
vegetable bowl.
Add spices to the vegetable bowl and combine.

To assemble the vegetable lasagna :

Cover the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch casserole with a layer of sauce.
Add a layer of noodles.
Cover the noodles with sauce. This way the noodles cook in the oven, saving time and energy.
Spread the vegetable mixture over the sauced noodles.
Cover with a layer of noodles and another dressing of sauce.
Add the spinach to the second layer of sauced noodles.
Cover the spinach with the mashed sweet potatoes.
Add another layer of sauce, the final layer of noodles, and a last topping of sauce. Cover the lasagna
with thinly sliced roma tomatoes.
Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
Remove the foil, sprinkle with the cashews, and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Let lasagna sit for
15 minutes before serving.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Monday Music: Bach's Crab Canon Visualized

A most fascinating musical offering!

Colin Marshall states in “The Genius of J.S. Bach’s ‘Crab Canon’ Visualized on a Möbius Strip” states:

"If you process things more visually than you do aurally, pay attention to the video above, a visualization of the piece by mathematical image-maker Jos Leys. You can follow the score, note for note, and then watch as the piece reverses itself, running back across the staff in the other direction. So far, so easy, but another layer appears: Bach wrote the piece to then be played simultaneously backwards as well as forwards. But prepare yourself for the mind-blowing coup de grâce when Leys shows us at a stroke just what the impossible shape of the Möbius strip has to do with the form of this “crab canon,” meaning a canon made of two complementary, reversed musical lines. Hofstadter had a great deal of fun with that term in Gödel, Escher, Bach, but then, he has one of those brains — you’ll notice many Bach enthusiasts do — that explodes with connections, transpositions, and permutations, even in its unaltered state."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Remembering Seamus Heaney

On Friday we lost Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, who died in a Dublin hospital at the age of 74. He was considered to be the greatest Irish poet since W.B. Yeats.  The first time I recall hearing about him was in 1981. I was living in Hong Kong and teaching English at Hong Kong Baptist College. One evening I was listening to a fascinating program on BBC radio featuring Seamus Heaney (BBC Radio is one of the best things about the UK). The next day at work I was talking about it. “Oh yes!” a Chinese colleague told me, “He is a well known poet from Ireland.”  From that day onward, I always paid attention when I heard Seamus Heaney mentioned.  I read his poetry, and bought his translation of Beowulf.  Listening to an interview on NPR’s Here and Now, I heard Robert Pensky, former, U.S. poet laureate, remembering his friend and saying that not only was he a good poet, he was a good and generous man as well. (you can catch that interview here)

Here is a poem by Seamus Heaney that was featured in America magazine a few years back:

by Seamus Heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.


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