Veggie Lovers

Cooking is my safe haven.  I enjoy washing, dicing, cutting, pealing, sizzling, stirring, baking, and yes of course, eating.  I had a few friends over the other night and I prepared a new dish called Incredible Baked Cauliflower and Broccoli Cannelloni that I found off the cooking channel.  The ‘incredible’ preface is not deceiving.  This dish will make your mouth water and leave you wanting more.  Here’s what you do.

Total Time:                         1 hr 30 min

Prep:                                     20 min

Cook:                                     1 hr 10 min

Yield:                                     4 to 6 servings

Level:                                     Intermediate


Sea Salt

1 pound broccoli, washed, florets and stalks chopped

1 pound white cauliflower, washed

Olive oil

7 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced

1 small bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked

2 cups tomato sauce

2 cups crème fraiche (found at Trader Joe’s)

7 ounces Parmesan, finely grated

16 cannelloni tubes

7 ounces mozzarella cheese


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and drop in the chopped broccoli and cauliflower. Boil for 5 to 6 minutes, until cooked, then drain.

In a new saucepan dribble some olive oil and the garlic.  Stir around for a few minutes before adding the cooked broccoli and cauliflower.  Add a couple tablespoons of water.  Stir everything together and then cook slowly for 15-20 minuets.  Mash up the veggies with a potato masher and season with salt and pepper.

Find a baking sheet and coat the bottom layer with the tomato sauce.  Then to make the white sauce, add the crème fraiche with half the Parmesan, salt and pepper and a little bit of water and stir together.

Fill your cannelloni tubes with the mashed veggies.  Place them on top of the tomato sauce and then add the white sauce over them.  Season with salt and pepper, add the remaining Parmesan and place the mozzarella on top.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake in oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

There you have it!  Enjoy and happy cooking!

Superbowl Madness, Pt. 1

Last year, I waited until after the Superbowl to write my blog post, certain that the annually awaited football game would exhibit something worthy of mention, and doing the same this year ended in similar results.  The only problem is, now I have too much that I want to talk about.

I will first start with the commercial that emphasized a city neither near nor dear to many people’s hearts in Michigan: Detroit.  The Chrysler commercial featuring Eminem and our Motor City itself was a poignant message of solidarity and strength, as well as hope for the dying D.  Eminem rides around Detroit in a Chrysler sedan and, after getting out to listen to a church choir belt out a hymn, stares directly at the camera, saying, “This is the Motor City.  This is what we do”.

But, indeed, what do we do, Eminem?  Just this past Friday, I took to the streets of Detroit to enjoy a little Mexican dinner and delight myself in the artistic festivities offered by the Detroit Institute of the Arts (DIA).  I hadn’t been to Detroit in the past few years, and suffice it to say, had hardly ever driven around the city, save for the trips into and out of the DIA.  Memories of those trips coupled with the worn and torn down images of what used to be the thriving city (as seen in its abandoned train station and crumbling facades) led me to develop an image of Detroit that rendered my heart more sad than afraid.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered a whole new side to Detroit after driving down Woodward Avenue to the city’s new center.  Filled with new parks, new stadiums, new high rises, and new casinos, downtown Detroit was ablaze with fire and bustling with people even after ten at night.  Here, the people walked freely in the streets, seemingly unafraid of street violence, shops were filled with customers, and laughter filled the air.  Only minutes earlier had we passed by abandoned buildings covered with graffiti, shops with faded signs and few customers, and nary a person on the street that looked as carefree as those who walked in the security of the lights flashing from the nearby casinos, business buildings, and parking structures.  This was the New Detroit, where only the rich and fabulous can buy tasty baked goods from the thriving bakery and play Blackjack inside a plush casino.  Now, I know that every city has its segregation between the haves and have nots, but honestly, Detroit doesn’t seem to have any real “haves”; many people come from outside of Detroit and few actually live inside the city.

I understand that the commercial strives to present Detroit in a positive light: yes, Detroit is capable of so many things and can offer so many talents and abilities.  And while Detroit may have been to hell and back, I’m not sure if we’re out of hell yet.  There is still so much to be done in the city, so many people to partner with, so many businesses to help grow.  But who is doing the helping?

Watching the advertisement, part of me wondered how or what Eminem or Chrysler had done for the D.  Just how much of the commercial reflects the involved parties’ true attitudes and actions toward the Motor City?  The Detroit represented in the 2-minute clip and the true Detroit that exists in reality seem to be from different worlds.  The commercial captures all the industrialization, urbanization, glitz and glamor of the New Detroit.  Viewed with pictures of the D in decline that portrays Detroit in its beauty and sadness, the ad pales in comparison.

I don’t mean to present the city as being helpless and certainly not hopeless; no, I firmly believe that it is changing and that further change is possible.  I just want to raise the question of what exactly it is that “we do”.  What do Eminem or Chrysler do for Detroit?  What do I do for Detroit?  What do you do for Detroit?

We spend so much time focusing on the orphans in Africa or the poor in Southeast Asia, but we have a city that needs us and is only forty minutes away.  It is my sincere hope that neither the rapper nor the car company will fail to act in this part– that the commercial wasn’t just for show and that they are taking advantage of a city that needs much more than an ad featuring them.  But I really do hope that this will motivate them to take a greater part in renewing the city– not by rebuilding it and making a New Detroit, fit for the high life, but by restructuring it so that those who have had a place in its history will also maintain a place in its future.

Dancing Americas

Last night I went to see Dancing Americas, a dance production performed by students and faculty from the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. This was my first time going to a show focusing solely on dance, and it was amazing.

The show consisted of four distinct dance segments – each unique and beautiful in its own way. The performance began with a MinEvent that showcased modern dance and eclectic music. The musicians sat in front of the stage, and their instruments included a drill, a candy wrapper, a saw, and a cat statue. The music mixed electronic sounds, fragments of melodies, and sound effects from the various household instruments. When the curtain opened, there were only two dancers dressed in leotards on the stage holding a pose.  As the dance progressed, the number of dancers ranged from just one to a large ensemble.  In the program it said that the choreographer, Merce Cunningham, believed that music and dance “may occur in the same time and space, but should be created independently of one another,” and you could see that philosophy in the dance. The music had no real structure or beat, and the dance had no apparent correlation to the music, but somehow they complemented each other.

The second dance is entitled Towards a Sudden Silence, and was greatly different from the first.  The curtain opened on a group of dancers dressed in bright colors: some sitting on a bench, some standing, and some sitting on the ground. The choreographer, Melissa Beck, was inspired by poems by Marge Piercy, according to the program, and the performance consisted of 4 movements entitled (I) “My worst enemy is encoded in my body,” (II) “Old punishments still smoulder like a tire dump,” (III) “Of the patience called forth by transition,” and (IV) “Core memory.” A song with lyrics about loneliness accompanied part of the dance, and you could feel the idea of loneliness permeating the performance. The movements of each dancer seemed to suggest ideas of longing and fighting the self. This dance was emotionally charged in a way that invited the audience into the performance.

Tango con la Vida was the third performance of the night. Most of the costumes were reminiscent of traditional Spanish dress, and the music had a strongly Latin feel. This performance included some ballroom dance, though most of the performance was more contemporary. One detail that I found particularly lovely was that, at the beginning of the performance, several of the dancers were wearing half masks made from what appeared to be rose petals. As the dance progressed, the dancers slowly removed one petal at a time and dropped them on the stage. In the program the choreographer, Sandra Torijano, said that “Tango con la Vida is a celebration of life,” and that celebration became greatly apparent at the end of the piece. The dance ended with a dancer running up a flight of steps, jumping in the air, and being caught by the rest of the dancers. The energy of that final move really expressed the idea of celebration and joy.

The final dance of the show is called The Summit, and according to the program, the choreographer, Dianne McIntyre, was inspired by a piece of music by Dizzy Gillespie called “Kush,” “in which he recalls that ancient African civilization also known as Nubia.” This dance was quite possibly my favorite of the evening. This performance was more story driven than the others, and it began with one female dancer on stage in a large cape-type costume. The first dancer seemed to serve as some sort of power-figure in the dance’s story. The dance progressed with two groups of dancers, one group dressed in blues the other in shades of brown and red, who were apparently at odds with each other.  The original dancer brought one person from the blue group and one person from the brown group together, and the two groups seemed to cooperate for a while, dancing together, but then the two groups separated again, and the dancing grew correspondingly more hectic, until the original dancer collapsed on the stage, and the two groups had to join together again to revive her. The music for this dance seemed to play a large part in the production.  The band was set up on-stage, and the music was an interesting mix of instrumental jazz, traditional African-inspired melodies, and at the end wordless vocals. The music really complimented the dance and highlighted the emotional complexities of the story.

If you’re curious about the show, you can see pictures from the performance on the School of Music, Theatre and Dance’s website here, or, better yet, go see one of the two remaining performances for yourself at the Power Center this Saturday at 8:00 pm or Sunday at 2:00 pm. Ticket information is also listed on the SMTD’s website here.

Winter Kiss

She steps outside and the air feels refreshing.

She takes a deep breath and holds the coldness in her lungs until it burns.

She feels alive.

She walks down the sidewalk loosing her footing with every step.

She finds it hard to walk in, but is not annoyed by the difficulty.

The snow packed sidewalk makes her slip in a drunken manner that makes her smile.

Nature is playing with her.

The wind is howling in her ears and slipping inside her coat sending a shiver through her body.

A shiver that she does not welcome, but understands.

Her hood falls with the push of the wind, exposing her naked ears.

At this point her cheeks have rouged and her lips are dry.

She puts her hood back up but to no avail. The wind is stubborn.

It wants to play and it won’t allow her to hide.

She eventually gives in but still tilts her head shying away from the wind.

She is not in the mood to play.

The wind dies for a moment allowing her to peer into the sky.

She stops walking and stares in front of her for a moment squinting in the sunlight.

Just then a snowflake falls on her lips and surprises her by its delicate presence.

She’s been kissed by winter.

Speaking in Tongues

t is commonly accepted that language is an essential part of life. The benefits of knowing more than one language, however, provides more than it takes. Languages open the boundaries between different peoples, cultures, nations. It is not unimpressive how much knowing more than one language can do. In our native tongues, we are comfortable; we are confident of our competence and skill in the familiar.

To those who know or learn another, however, there is more to the world. The comprehension of multiple languages is, to borrow a cliché, greater than the sum of its parts. Knowing more than one language helps each one to be seen not only more clearly, but also in a different light. Connections will be drawn, realizations made. There is nothing so uplifting as the process of gaining insight, of making sudden discoveries in addition to simple understanding. Every language is a branch or form or relative of another, alive or extinct. There are similarities to be sought, changes to be uncovered. You will understand why your own language functions the way it does.

Even brief encounters with other, unfamiliar languages are like looking through windows you never knew were there.

Sometimes, one hears of, or even encounters, extraordinary individuals who have mastered half a dozen (or more) languages. This induces a certain amount of envy, to be sure, but mostly a sense of awe. But, more commonplace an occurence, are the ordinary people all over the world who speak two. Sometimes one wonders: how many people speak English in addition to their own language, as opposed to native English speakers, many of whom speak only English?

Learning languages may not be the center of everyone’s focus or foremost of priorities, but ultimately, it really is or will be one of the most enriching and valuable experiences one might experience- not to mention the merits of learning in itself. Discussing such matters is in this University setting is rather redundant, I realize (most need no encouragement), but the message is for everyone. Learn another language; one can never know too many.
Drop cap credit to Jessica Hische; visit for inventive and impressive illustrations.

Lego– Medium of the 21st century

I never actually possessed my own Legos when I was a kid; I only played with the ones my cousins had whenever I went to visit them for the summer.  Even then, though, I thought it was a difficult medium to work with,  I had such elaborate designs of houses and castles in my head… and not enough

time or Lego bricks to make them.  It was frustrating.  On the one hand, I did make do with the limited resources I had but on the other, I knew that my dreams of building a house with two wings or a building of five stories always lurked in the back of my head, waiting to be realized.

Imagine how crazy I would have gone if I had nearly a million or more Legos!  I could have built sculptures!  And indeed, someone has.  Nathan Sawaya has become a Lego artist, building breathtaking and museum worthy creations from a childhood favorite medium.  While the designs are relatively simple-seeming, resembling enlarged and more sophisticated versions of childhood creations, they are also reminiscent of past sculptures from old masters.  Should Sawaya’s national tour be taken in by an art museum, would Rodin and others would be rolling in their graves, complaining about the nonsensical route classical art has taken in the new century?  Or would they applaud the innovative efforts of Sawaya to make Legos into more than just child’s play?

Then again, innovative use of everyday objects wasn’t readily accepted when it first debuted with Marcel Duchamp’s satiric sculpture, “Fountain“, in which he turned over a urinal and submitted it to an art competition as a work of art.  I wonder what contemporary artists would have to say about Sawaya’s work as an artist.