Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Public Radio likes our play!

This is the first time a play I've been in has been reviewed on the radio. How very cool!

I copy the text of the review here, for fear that it may eventually disappear from the NHPR website.

Up in Enfield, the Shaker Bridge Theatre, is holding forth with Tom Dudzick’s home-for-the-holidays comedy Greetings!

It’s Christmas Eve in Pittsburgh, and young Andy Gorski has brought his fiancée home to meet the folks. The trouble is, Andy’s parents are staunch working-class Catholics, and his girlfriend is not only Jewish, but an actress! Worst of all, she’s an avowed atheist! All this plays rather badly, especially with Andy’s terminal sourpuss of a father. But after a little help from his mentally disabled brother Mickey – and some divine intervention – things turn out just fine.

Dudzick’s play has those peculiar properties that critics hate and audiences love, probably for the same reasons. The script is clichéd and shamelessly sentimental, crammed with loose ends and addicted to bad one-liners. Its characters and situations are almost entirely ripped off from All In The Family, It’s A Wonderful Life, and, yes, A Christmas Carol. Even so, Greetings!’ familiarity is part of its appeal, and Shaker Bridge has put together a sincere and relatively smooth production.

Founding Artistic Director Bill Coons does triple duty. He directed, designed the play’s comfortable, intelligent set, and plays Andy’s dyspeptic father, Phil.

Coons the actor could use more of Carroll O’Connor’s subversive zest. But he gets good support from Pat Langille as his heroically patient wife, Emily, and very fine, understated work from Lane Gibson as little brother Mickey. Mike Backman and Jocelyn Parrish are less successful as son Andy and his fiancée, Randi, mostly because both are fifteen to twenty years too old for these roles.

In spite of its flaws, however, Shaker Bridge’s Greetings! still has enough sweetness and pathos to make it an attractive family outing.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rest in peace, sweet Simba

Simba died Monday. He was 14, and had been in the final stages of renal failure for many months. We kept him fairly healthy and still quite happy by giving him twice-weekly trips to the vet to get subcutaneous fluids; by doing so his life was better and longer than it would have been otherwise.

I miss him so much. He was a good dog, even sweeter than most dogs, and as a dog lover I know whereof I speak.

We're going to have a burial service for him in a couple of weeks. Here's the eulogy I'm going to try to read for him.
I speak these words to Simba, who wouldn't have understood them when he was alive, but maybe he can hear them now.

Your mama loved you, Simba, but you knew that. I have no regrets. You had a better than average doggie life while you were in my care, but it's only what you deserved, because you were the sweetest dog I've ever had the pleasure of sharing my home with. You loved me generously, lavishly, and phooey on anyone who says dogs only love you because you feed them. You celebrated with energy and noise whenever I walked through a closed door, even if I'd just been in the bathroom too long. You celebrated being outside by doing "silly dog," running like a streak of blond lightning all around the yard, running so fast your tummy dragged on the ground, zooming toward me, daring me to catch you, and then zooming off at the last minute, your eyes sparkling, breathing hard. And then finally, one last dash straight to me to sit at my feet and pant while I stroked your heaving sides. You celebrated your mastery of your kingdom by chasing turkeys, deer, and even a bear that came into sight. You terrorized cats, squirrels, chipmunks, and any bird that walked on the ground. And they all fled from you because you were fierce far beyond your 11 pounds. You never caught anything, but each time hope sprang again in your heart. You were a mighty 11-pound predator.

You hugged my knees, kissed my hand and my chin, rolled over for tummy pats, leaned against me for comfort, and saved all your sweetest faces for me. You followed me from room to room, except when it meant climbing the stairs because you long ago figured out there's a 50-50 chance I forgot something and was coming right back. You were gracious and accepting to those who wanted to pat you (after first making enough noise to let them know you weren't a pushover) but you loved me the best. You were the softest doggie in the world. You loved me to hold you in your meerkat pose and scratch your neck and your tummy and I so loved doing that. The best feeling ever was to have you fall asleep in my arms while I was petting you. But you weren't a demanding doggie, until the last year of your life when you needed more from me and I gave it gladly because you so deserved it. You trusted me so much, you let me take you to the vet where they stuck you with needles to draw out blood or run in fluids, and even though you shivered with anxiety you didn't try to run away. You let me take food away from you. You let me give you baths and brush you. You traveled hours in the car, shivering the whole time, to be with me in Connecticut for Christmas. You were my best boy, and as I write this I look at you and the tears stream down my cheeks because I know you won't be here much longer. God says there will be no tears in heaven, and that tells me that you will be there, because if you aren't there will be an empty place in my heart that only tears could express. I love you, Simba. I will miss you every time I come in the door, every time I come up the stairs or out of the bathroom, every morning when I wake up and you're not there at my feet, every time I see a squirrel or a bear in our yard. There may be other dogs in my life, but there will never be another you.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Scones with FRESH blueberries ... yum!

I may be the last person in the world to discover Cooks Illustrated's fresh blueberry scones. When I googled the recipe I found lots of posts reproducing it. I have a little recipe website that I use for sharing my recipes with folks who've attended events I've cooked for, separate from this blog, so I won't reproduce the recipe here. But I will tell you that these scones are breathtakingly almost perfect ... perfected, IMHO, by the additon of a teensy amount of extra sugar. After you bite through the crisp crust, they just melt in your mouth. And then to put big delicious fresh blueberries in them ... it's just the most perfect combination ever. Honest. Try 'em. I dare you to eat just one.

Cooks Illustrated's Fresh Blueberry Scones as adapted by yours truly.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Splendid Table's Ginger Scallion Shrimp

If you haven't already done so, visit The Splendid Table's website and sign up for their weekly email. I've gotten pretty selective about adding recipes to my "to try" pile but about 2 out of 3 recipes from this email make it onto the pile. Lynn Rosette Kasper is one of those people who seem so generous, fun, and gracious that you'd just love to sit down with her for a cup of coffee and laugh and gossip for hours.

I've searched their website to see if they've posted this recipe online so I could give them some link love directly to the recipe, but I can't find it there, so I'll reproduce the entire recipe right here.

You may already know that there are health and environmental concerns about farmed and imported shrimp, which is what is generally sold cheaply in chain supermarkets and elsewhere. The source of the shrimp is now required to be listed on the label in the US, so look for wild shrimp or at least shrimp that is farmed in the US. Of particular concern are shrimp farmed in southeast Asia. There may be some healthily farmed shrimp from there, but it's impossible to disinguish them from the unhealthy ones, so I avoid those. I'd rather eat shrimp less frequently and buy them healthy than ingest heavy metals, etc.

Anyway, getting off my soapbox now, this recipe is one that has made us very happy more than once. It's a rare recipe that I don't tinker with at least a little, but I haven't found a need to change this one bit. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Ginger-Scallion Shrimp

Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Serves 4 generously
This recipe has a favorite brining technique, which is worth filing away. Keep it for other seafood, and for poultry and meats. Spoon the shrimp over rice noodles and scatter with fresh basil and mint leaves.


  • 1/2 cup salt (kosher or sea salt, not iodized)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup medium hot pure chile powder
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 1 1/2 pounds large raw shrimp, in or out of their shells


  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, thin sliced
  • 3-inch piece new ginger root, peeled and cut into long, thin strips
  • 3 whole scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste

  1. Brine the shrimp 20 minutes by blending in a medium stainless or glass bowl the salt, sugar and chile in the water. Drop in the shrimp and let stand at room temperature 20 minutes, no more. Drain, shell if necessary, and pat dry.
  2. Have everything cut and ready to cook. Drain the shrimp, peel off shells if necessary, and pat them dry. Heat a wok or 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan over high. Once the pan is hot, swirl in the oil.
  3. Immediately stir in the garlic, ginger, and scallion. Cook until fragrant (a few seconds), stirring all the time. Add the shrimp, sprinkling them with the sugar and black pepper. Stir-fry 2 minutes, or until they are turning pink and are barely firm. Turn them into a serving bowl. Season to taste, and serve with rice or rice noodles.
  • Shrimp are sold by count — the number of shrimp in a pound. The larger the shrimp, the lower the count, and the higher the price. Large shrimp are those labeled 20-30 per pound.
  • Choose fresh ginger root that is firm with a thin shiny skin. Those that look dry or shriveled are past their prime.
  • To store fresh ginger root, blot away any surface moisture, wrap airtight and refrigerate for up to 10 days. For longer storage, peel the root, slice, wrap airtight and freeze. No need to thaw before using — just break off what you need and return the rest to the freezer.
  • Sprinkle coarsely chopped fresh coriander leaves over each serving as a garnish.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A new favorite cookie recipe: chocolate peanut butter mini sandwich cookies

Each Christmas, my contribution to the festivities (outside of my sparkling smile and sardonic wit) is a platter of assorted home-baked treats. Last year, I brought dark chocolate buttercrunch (see most recent post for recipe), a triple layered tea cookie with peppermint icing and chocolate drizzle, something else I can't remember, and chocolate PB mini sandwich cookies.

I was betting on the peppermint cookies for favoritude, so imagine my surprise when everyone, including yours truly, decided the Choco PBs were the best! They're peanut butter cookies with a peanut buttery filling, drizzled with dark chocolate and sprinkled with chopped dry roasted peanuts. The recipe is courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens, and you can find it on their site here. But I don't ever trust public sites to keep those recipes around, and in fact if you just go to and search for it, you won't find the recipe. So I always take favorites and write them up either here or on my recipe website. This time I decided to put it on my site, which you can find here.

By the way, those of you who used to pay attention to this blog have probably mostly disappeared, and who can blame you, for who pays attention to one who pays no attention back? I've not been adding much to the blog for a couple of years now, since life got busy work and acting-wise. But work has slowed down, and acting isn't all-consuming, so I do hope to pick back up a bit. If you're still out there listening, will you leave me a comment for encouragement? That's a good soul. Thanks.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Dark Chocolate Buttercrunch

dark chocolate buttercrunchIf you like Heath Bar candy bars, you'll love this homemade candy. Don't be intimidated by all the steps. If you follow them fairly carefully, you'll be surprised how easily this comes together. (A hit for our family Christmas '08. Great for holiday gifts.)

Dark Chocolate Buttercrunch

1 c (2 sticks, 1 lb) salted butter
1 ½ c (12 oz) sugar
1 T corn syrup
3 T water
2 c (8 oz) diced pecans or slivered almonds, toasted
1 lb semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • In a large, deep saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar, water and corn syrup, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Boil gently, over medium heat, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer), about 20 minutes. The syrup will seem to take a long time to come to the hard-crack stage, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken, and at that point you need to take its temperature and see if it's ready. (If you don’t have a thermometer, test a dollop in ice water; it should immediately harden to a brittleness sufficient that you'll be able to snap it in two, without any bending or softness). If you stop too soon, you'll have candy that sticks vehemently to your teeth. Too long, and the syrup will burn and you'll need to start over.
  • While the sugar mixture is gently bubbling, spread half of the toasted nuts, in a fairly closely packed, even, single layer, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Don't crowd the nuts too closely, just spread them thinly but evenly. Too closely = small platform for buttercrunch = too thick buttercrunch.
  • Top the layer of nuts with half the chocolate. Just drizzle it over; no need to spread it.
  • When the syrup is ready, pour it quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate. Immediately top with the remaining chocolate, then the remaining nuts.
  • Wait several minutes, then gently, using the back of a spatula, press down on the chocolate-nut layer to spread the chocolate around evenly.
  • While the candy is still slightly warm,use a spatula to loosen it from the baking sheet.
  • When cool, break it into uneven chunks. Catch any slivers and powdery bits & use as ice cream topping.
Print the recipe from here