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Muffin Monday: Sauerkraut Chocolate Muffins

with sauce

Momma always said… when life gives you lemons make lemonade. But how about when life gives you sauerkraut? Well, when you marry a German the odds are good that he or she is going to like the pungent cabbage dish. Mine does. So when a certain local grocery chain had a sale on the stuff I was gifted several unsolicited cans for his sake. I’m gratified that my family loves my husband enough to think of him in the canned vegetable aisle, but I don’t even know how to make sauerkraut. So naturally… I looked up Sauerkraut Muffins on the internet to see if there was a base recipe I could borrow for this blog. AH-HA I’m obviously not the only person with the problem, because I found sever interesting recipes.

Basically my version uses the kraut instead of the grated zucchini that you can usually find in my muffins.

Here goes…



3/4 cups of chopped Sauerkraut

2 cups Flour

1/2 cup Cocoa

2 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Cardamom

2 Eggs

1/2 cup Olive Oil

2/3 cup Sugar

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

3/4 brewed Coffee (any kinds) room temperature



1/2 cup Almond Butter

1/2 cup Dark Chocolate Chips

2 Tbsp Maple Syrup

2 Tbsp Butter

ready to bake


1 Preheat oven to 350. Prep muffin cups.  (This recipe makes a dozen, but I doubled it so I could send some out to unsuspecting college students.)

2. RINSE the Sauerkraut several times to cut the vinegar taste. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl mix the Flour, Cocoa, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Salt, Cinnamon and Cardamom.

4. In a medium bowl mix the Eggs, Olive Oil, Sugar and Vanilla Extract.

5. Add the wet to the dry and mix until combined (it will be on the dry side.)

6. Alternate adding 1/4 of the Sauerkraut and 1/4 of the Coffee, gently folding with each addition.

7. Divide evenly into the muffin cups.

8. Bake for 30 minutes until the muffins pass the toothpick test.

9. Make the Sauce (yes, these muffins have a sauce, I don’t know why that doesn’t make them cup cakes, just roll with me here.) place the Almond Butter, Dark Chocolate Chips and Maple Syrup in a medium sauce pan. Cook over low heat until the Chocolate starts to melt. Add the butter. Stir continuously.

10. Pour a hefty tablespoon of the sauce over each of the muffins (divide evenly.) Let cool 5 minutes then enjoy.


I tried the muffins with and with out the sauce and they are definitely better WITH the sauce. I liked these muffins. I liked them MUCH better than I like actual Sauerkraut, but, really, just as muffins they were good… not too sweet and the present with interesting flavor profiles (the coffee, cardamom, cinnamon and almond butter help with that.)


Tuning Up: CLOUDS

For this, the second in the Tuning Up series here on ritaLOVEStoWRITE, I’m presenting CLOUDS by Zach Sobiech.



Sobiech was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, at the age of 14. After 10 surgeries and 20 rounds of chemo it became apparent that the end game was at hand. His mother, Laura, asked him to write farewell letters to the people who were important to him. He found that difficult, but he was able to write music. He penned CLOUDS.

The song was recorded and released on YouTube where it has been seen by 11.8 million viewers.

Here’s the original with Sobiech on vocals and acoustic guitar. The session was produced by Karl Demer and engineered by Merritt Benton. With John Lynn on piano, Zach Miller on drums, Sean O’Hea on bass and Matt Vannelli electric guitar

The song reached #1 on iTunes and charted on the Billboard Hot 100.

After his death a local radio station held a tribute concert with 5000 people — a mix of school choirs, church choirs, and fans — singing the song at the Mall of America.

Sobiech’s hope in releasing the song was to promote awareness of Osteosarcoma and help others with the disease. His family established The Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund at Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

The sheet music is available here for free. (click on the image at the bottom of the link for a pdf download). A request for a donation to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund is recommended.

I’ve done this song with several of my voice students. I love the message of the song and that it lets us, as performers, look beyond ourselves to a greater need.

Here is my Monday Night Trio, (Ellie, Meg and Emily) singing the song… (It is a little quiet)

Horatio — Secondary Character Saturday 11.24.12

[Welcome to Secondary Character Saturday! If you usually get the Thought of the Day birthday bioBlog, please note that I’ll be doing a special blog on Saturdays instead — Secondary Character Saturday! Isn’t that exciting? Why? Well, after 200 biographies for real people I really miss fictional people, and I want to get to know them a little bit better too. But not just any fictional people, but the people who stand just off-center. The supporting characters who make good literature so much fun to read — or in this case, watch.]


This Saturday’s Secondary Character? HORATIO

The "gravedigger scene" The Gravedig...

The “gravedigger scene” The Gravedigger Scene: Hamlet 5.1.1–205. (Artist: Eugène Delacroix 1839) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From: Hamlet

By: William Shakespeare

Written: 1603 (ish)

Why: Horatio is there at the beginning, he’s there at the end, and he’s there for Hamlet. So he acts as both witness (to the ghost, to Hamlet’s true state of mental health, to the bloody body count at the end of the play, etc) and as sounding board (and best mate) for the protagonist.

[Image courtesy Hamlet Study Guide]

Pros: Loyal to his friends. Steady. Intelligent. Brave. Not politically motivated or ambitious. In a world where power and political position are everything…the unconnected, poor, fellow student of the Prince of Denmark navigates the court by being observant and unobtrusive. His loyalty to Hamlet is his sole commitment and he is willing to give everything for his friend, even his life. It is that friendship, steadfastness, and lack of deception in the den of sycophants and players at court that ground Hamlet and let him know that there are still good, true people in the world. He is also a voice of reason that tempers the storm of anger and emotion in his friend.

Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet and Nicholas Farrell as Horatio in the 1996 version of Hamlet [Image courtesy: Daily]

Cons: Compared to Hamlet, Horatio is a bit vanilla. He lacks flare and ambition. And as loyal as he is to Hamlet, perhaps he could have stood up to him a bit more and guided him to a safer path.

Sketch from Act 1: Scene 2 where Horatio tells Hamlet about his father’s ghost. [Image Courtesy: Hyperion to a satyr]

With out Horatio we (the audience) would only know what Hamlet was really thinking through his soliloquies. He can be staged as “the shadow of Elsinor”, appearing (some times in a crowd, sometimes half hidden) in scenes where he doesn’t have a line  and gaining information for both the audience and the Prince.

Here’s a clip from the BBC’s Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet with Derek Jacobi as Hamlet and Robert Swann as Horatio. I think it nicely shows Horatio’s patience…

And for you CSI hipsters here’s Horatio take on Hamlet (just for Maggie):

Harpo Marx 11.23.12 Thought of the Day

“He looked like something that had gotten loose from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
–Harpo Marx

English: Photograph of Harpo Marx playing the ...

Adolph Marx was born on this day in New York City, New York, USA in 1888. Today is the 124th anniversary of his birth.

The second  of five brothers in the Marx family, Adolph didn’t make it past second grade in school. He was small for his age and he was picked on by the bigger boys because he was Jewish. Two boys literally threw him out of the (first floor) classroom window on several occasions before he gave up and left school.  He joined his brother Chico in doing odd jobs to help the family.

His uncle Al Schoenberg (stage name Al Shean) was in a Vaudeville act. His older brother Chico played piano, and his younger bother Julius (Groucho) was a boy soprano. Adolph joined Julius and Milton (Gummo) to form “the Three Nightingales” in 1910. Lou Levy joined them to make the group “The Four Nightingales.” When their mother, Minnie, and Aunt Hannah joined the act they changed the name to “The Six Mascots.”

The five Marx brothers with their parents in N...

The five Marx brothers with their parents in New York City, 1915. From left to right; Groucho, Gummo, Minnie (mother), Zeppo, Frenchy (father), Chico, and Harpo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1911 he changed his name to Arthur because he didn’t like the sound of Adolph. He adopted the stage name of Harpo when his mother sent him a harp. He didn’t know how to tune it or play it. He didn’t even know how to hold it until he found an image of an angel holding a harp at the 5&10 store. He tuned it the best he could and taught himself to play.

At that point Harpo’s two-fold schtick — he “couldn’t talk” so he blew his horn  or whistled to communicate; and he played the harp — was in place. (He could, in fact, talk. And he did so — a lot — off stage/scene. His “speaking career” stopped after he received a bad review for a largely ad-libbed performance in the play Home Again.)

A critic in the local newspaper described the show by saying, in part, “Adolph Marx performed beautiful pantomime which was ruined whenever he spoke.” Harpo then decided he could do a better job of stealing focus by not speaking. [The Marx Brothers; Harpo Marx from an article in Theatre Arts Monthly, October 1939]


The four Marx Brothers stowing away on an ocea...

The four Marx Brothers stowing away on an ocean vessel by hiding in barrels in this promotional still for Monkey Business. Left to right: Harpo, Zeppo, Chico, Groucho. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Vaudeville stage the Marx Brothers moved on to Hollywood. They made the short, Humor Risk, in 1921. (The film has since been lost.)  Harpo was then in Too Many Kisses as the character “The Village Peter Pan.” He actually has a line in this movie, but, as it’s a silent film, you don’t actually hear him speak it. His brothers did not appear in the film.

In 1929 the brothers put out The Cocoanuts.The film was based on their Broadway play of the same name. In it…

the Marx Brothers run a hotel, auction off some land, thwart a jewel robbery, and generally act like themselves. [IMDB]

They shot during the day and performed in the stage show of Animal Crackers at night. It was an exhausting schedule and the Brothers were not happy with the result. They were “so appalled … that they offered to buy the negative from Paramount so that they could burn it.” [Ibid]

Marx Brothers, head-and-shoulders portrait, fa...

Marx Brothers, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. Top to bottom: Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Brothers made Animal Crackers, Horse Feathers , Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, Room Service, At the Circus, Go West, The Big Store, A Night in Casablanca, and Love Happy in quick succession.

Starting in 1952 Harpo started doing guest spots on Television, most notably on the I Love Lucy Show.

His last film was The Story of Mankind in 1957.  He played Sir Isaac Newton.

Off screen Harpo, the elementary school drop out, rubbed shoulders with some pretty high level literary types. In the 1920’s he held his own at the Algonquin Round Table with writers such as George S. Kaufman and Dorothy Parker. In 1928 he spent the summer on the French Riviera with George Bernard Shaw.

He attributes his welcome hanging out with the fast literary crowd at the Algonquin Round Table in New York in the 1920s to his ability to listen — in fact, to being the one real listener in that set. [Robert Wilfred Franson’s review of Harpo Speaks]

In 1933 Harpo did a 6-week goodwill mission in the Soviet Union. He was the “first American to perform in the Soviet Union after the United States government officially recognized it.” [Harpo’s Place] According to his autobiography, Harpo Speaks, the trip was part performance and part spy caper.  He smuggled papers out of the USSR by taping them to his leg.

Marx died while having open-heart surgery on September 28, 1964.

Here’s a clip of Harpo actually speaking (and honking):

Bonus Thanksgiving Thoughts…

Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.

He enjoys much who is thankful for little;
a grateful mind is both a great and happy mind.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
–Marcel Proust

Let us rise up and be thankful; for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.

I am grateful for what I am and have.
My thanksgiving is perpetual…
O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches.
No run on my bank can drain it
for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.
–Henry David Thoreau
Be grateful for whomever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
–Jalal ad-Din Rumi
Live your life so that the fear of death can never enter your heart. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light. Give thanks for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. And if perchance you see no reason for giving thanks, rest assured the fault is in yourself.
–Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Indian Chief

Who should be on tomorrow’s Birthday Blog ?

OK blog fans…


Here’s your chance to weigh in and vote on who you’d like to see profiled for tomorrow Thought of the Day birthday bioBlog.

You have until 1:00 tomorrow afternoon (Eastern Standard Time US) To decide between:


Johnny Mercer (who brought us Moon River, Skylark, and others)


Williams S. Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame)

Thought of the Day 11.13.14 Steve Zahn

“Film is a strange thing.”
Steve Zahn

English: U.S. actor Steve Zahn

English: U.S. actor Steve Zahn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Steven James Zahn was born on this day in Marshall, Minnesota in 1967. He is 45 years old.

He started acting in high school when he discovered improv. After a year at Gustavus-Adolphus College and two years at the American Repertory Theatre he moved to New Jersey. Based in Hoboken he acted in New York and did odd jobs to pay the rent. He did a national tour of Bye, Bye Birdie directed by Tommy Tune. The gig last 13 months and Zahn met his future wife Robyn Peterman.


Cover of "That Thing You Do! - Tom Hank's...

Cover via Amazon

Zahn co-starred with Ethan Hawke in the play Sophistry  and Hawke recommended him for a part in the 1994 film Reality Bites. It was a break out role for Zahn and he followed it up with Crimson Tide and That Thing You Do!

He has made “an art out of portraying dysfunctional losers and likable freaks,” [AMG All Movie Guide: Steve Zahn] and he always made it look fun. From his turn as Rosencrantz in Michael Almereyda’s 2000 version of Hamlet to Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr. in Happy Texas it is hard to take your eyes off him when he is on-screen.


Cover of "Rescue Dawn"

Cover of Rescue Dawn

There are some dramatic roles in his CV, to be sure. For his part as Duane in Rescue Dawn. Zahn lost 40lbs.

He currently plays Jazz loving Davis McAlary on HBO’s Treme. He taps into his musical side for the show and sings and plays on screen.

Zahn lives on a farm in Kentucky with his wife and kids.  He raises hay on the farm because it is easy, it allows him time away from the farm to work, and it is just funny to say.

Write What You Don’t Know

A little writing advice by my friend and author Lynn Reynolds…

Write What You Don’t Know.

I couldn’t agree more. So get out there and write!

Bonus Mini Blog 11.2.12 Warren G. Harding

English: Warren G. Harding

English: Warren G. Harding (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationally, but sustainment in triumphant nationality….”
— Warren G. Harding

Warren Harding, age 17

He soon joined the political ranks himself, serving as state senator then US Senator. In 1920 he became the Republican candidate for President because, as fellow Ohioan  Harry Daugherty later explained, “He looked like a President.” [] He won by a landslide.

Republicans in Congress easily got the President’s signature on their bills. They eliminated wartime controls and slashed taxes, established a Federal budget system, restored the high protective tariff, and imposed tight limitations upon immigration. [Ibid]

His administration was rife with cronyism and scandal and led him to say “My…friends…they’re the ones that keep me walking the floors nights!”

Harding died of a heart attack in 1923 while on a trip to San Francisco.

Warren G. Harding, seated at desk, wearing bow...

Warren G. Harding, seated at desk, wearing bow-tie, with newspaper in hand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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