Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vegan Spinach Pesto

I know it's not summer yet, but the local Whole Foods had some gorgeous basil when I was there earlier this week, and I made pesto tonight.  Here is a cheese-less, nut-less recipe I've finally tweaked to my satisfaction that actually tastes good, is allergy- and kid-friendly (because my kids are among the pickiest in the 'Verse), and sneaks a little nutrition in there.  It's vegan not because I am one but because I avoid cheese most of the time.  Sigh.  I love cheese.

Vegan Spinach Pesto

5 oz. baby spinach, washed (I ♥ Olivia's Organics Baby Spinach), or use frozen spinach that has been thawed
3 cloves garlic (you can use less if you or your kids aren't used to raw garlic, but 3 is just right in our house)
1 bunch fresh basil, leaves picked off, soaked (if sandy), rinsed, and dried
3/4 t. salt
freshly-cracked pepper to taste
1/2 c. brewer's yeast

Combine the spinach and a splash of water in a microwave safe container.  Cover and nuke for two minutes or until spinach is soft.  (If using frozen spinach you really only need to defrost it.)  Drain.

With the motor running on its highest speed, drop garlic cloves, one at a time, into the chute of your food processor (keep those fingers OUT!).  If you can do it without making too much of a mess, I'd carefully add (I use tongs) the nuked spinach through the chute, as well (blade still a-whirring), but you can stop the machine, take off the cover, and add the spinach if you'd rather.

Add the mostly dried-off basil leaves through the chute with the motor running, though, and then add the remaining ingredients and process until to desired consistency.  Add more olive oil if you want a thinner pesto.  Serve with whatever kind of noodles you like, or use as a sauce for chicken or other meats.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Music Monday - Eric Whitacre (b. 1970), again

Whitacre creates such gorgeous, unexpected harmonies in his music.  One of the best examples I know and one of my favorites of his a cappella choral works is Sleep:

Performers in this recording include the Vocal Essence Chorus & Ensemble Singers, the St. Olaf Choir, and the Minnesota High School Honors Choir, directed by the composer, himself.

Interesting note: Whitacre originally wrote this song using Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods" as the text, but couldn't get the poet's estate to release the use of the poem.  So he asked his friend, poet Charles Anthony Silvestri to set words to the music he had already written.  The first few lines of the poem are as follows:

The evening hangs beneath the moon,
A silver thread on darkened dune.
With closing eyes and resting head
I know that sleep is coming soon.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

International Postcard Swap

Our family is participating in the International Postcard Swap for Families, organized by Playing by the Book.  Details are here, and the deadline to sign up is this coming Friday, April 30th.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Poetry Friday: Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Since WGBH's A Celtic Sojourn moved to a later time on Saturdays, I don't get to hear it as often as I'm not usually in the car at that time and forget to turn it on in the house (though I'm writing a sticky note right now and putting it on the computer so I'll remember this week).  Luckily for me, previously aired shows are available to listen to at the WGBH website, so I didn't miss this amazing string quartet's performance.

The West Ocean String Quartet is comprised of Seamus McGuire, Niamh Crowley, Kenneth Rice, and Neil Martin, and the group recently released a CD (December, 2009) titled Ae Fond Kiss, after the Robert Burns song of the same name:

Ae Fond Kiss (1791)

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
Who shall say that Fortune grieves him,
While the star of hope she leaves him?
Me, nae cheerful twinkle lights me;
Dark despair around benights me.

I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy,
Naething could resist my Nancy:
But to see her was to love her;
Love but her, and love for ever.
Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
Never met-or never parted,
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure!
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
Ae fareweeli alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.

by Robert Burns

Poetry Friday is hosted today at Picture Book of the Day.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Poetry Friday - Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Fern Hill, by Dylan Thomas

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
     The night above the dingle starry,
          Time let me hail and climb
     Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
          Trail with daisies and barley
     Down the rivers of the windfall light.
Read the rest here.

My favorite line from Fern Hill is from the third verse: "As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away. . ." 

Molly would approve.

John Corigliano (The Red Violin) has a setting of Fern Hill with some truly lovely harmonies and interesting rhythms that are fun to sing.  The clip below will give you a small, small taste of the eighteen minute work.  Visit to hear the piece in its entirety.

Poetry Friday is being hosted this week at 7-Imp.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Poetry Friday - George Meredith (1828-1909)

I'm continuing to enjoy links between music and poetry as Poetry Month advances.  Sad to say, when I played The Lark Ascending for my senior recital (cough, twenty years ago, cough), I never read the poem by which Vaughan Williams was inspired, but I'm very glad to have found it now.  It's definitely a poem to take in slowly.  The words seem to beat like the wings of the bird Meredith describes and I find I need to pause and rest in the midst of them.

The Lark Ascending

 HE rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,
All intervolv’d and spreading wide,        5
Like water-dimples down a tide
Where ripple ripple overcurls
And eddy into eddy whirls;
A press of hurried notes that run
So fleet they scarce are more than one,        10
Yet changingly the trills repeat
And linger ringing while they fleet,
Sweet to the quick o’ the ear, and dear
To her beyond the handmaid ear. . .

Read the rest here.

The piece for violin and orchestra, like much, if not most, of the music of Vaughan Williams, is evocative of the English countryside, and it has been recorded by many violinists of note.  A recent CD by Nicola Benedetti includes the piece, and it is one of my favorite recordings of the work that I've heard so far.  But an mp3 version is not available to date, and the CD is an import, hence the hefty price tag.  You can enjoy some of the piece in the soloist's official music video of the piece, here on YouTube (non-embeddable, or I'd include it here), or listen to part of it on her website.

Here, however, is part one of the piece as played by the equally talented Janine Jansen:

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is being held at Paper Tigers.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Poetry Month - Silverstein

To begin celebrating National Poetry Month, I gave DD (8) my old copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends in one of her workboxes this morning, and she enjoyed reading some of Silverstein's zany works.  The official Shel Silverstein site is very entertaining, with games and printables for kids among other things, but I also saw a link for a great iPhone app that features animated excerpts from Silverstein's poetry as well as a link to the ShelSilversteinBooks YouTube Channel.