Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Nutcracker

Have you been watching Battle of the Nutcrackers on the Ovation network? They are showing 5 different ballet companies performing this traditional Christmas time ballet.  The music of the Nutcracker Ballet was composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

The Nutcracker Ballet is based on the story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" written by E.T.A. Hoffman. Although what is seen on the stage today is different in detail from the original story, the basic plot remains the same; The story of a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King with seven heads.
When Marius Petipa had the idea to choreograph the story into a ballet, it was actually based on a revision by Alexander Dumas, a well known French author. His version reflects more of what we have come to love as the Nutcracker Ballet.
The five companies performing on Ovation's competition are The Royal Opera Ballet of Great Britain, the Bolshoi ballet of Russia, the Berlin state Opera Ballet of Germany, Casse Noisette Circus of Monaco, and Maurice Bejart's Nutcracker from France. Tonight I've been watching the Bolshoi ballet, and it is wonderful, but honestly, so far my favorite is England's Royal Opera Ballet. It was so elegant! I have two more to watch before I vote. The winner will be announced on Christmas Eve.
If you have missed them, go to and click on the Nutcracker to find the schedule. The Nutcracker is perfect to have on while you are wrapping gifts or decorating cookies!
I must say, while watching the ballet, my mind has been on my friend and fellow painter, Audrey Benskin. Audrey has been painting ballerinas for the last several years and she just completed a very large oil on canvas of a group of ballerinas warming up for a performance of Swan Lake. It is one of my favorite paintings by Audrey. She really should do one of the Nutcracker!

How is your holiday baking coming along? Today I stayed home from the studio and baked Pumpkin Bread, and Sugar Cookies, then I made 2 batches of Caramel Corn. I have a party to go to tomorrow night! It is game night at the Davis house. We will party!

I am trying to arrange a brunch for my family....teenager's schedules, college finals, grade school basketball games and those things called jobs are slowing me down. When you are retired, you definitely have a more flexible schedule. Anyway, in thinking about a brunch menu, once again, baking becomes very important. I'm thinking Cheddar Scones would be pretty good on a winter morning with some crisp bacon, soft fluffy scrambled eggs and some wonderful flavored butters and homemade jams. I think Mimosas would be perfect for the adults; orange juice and hot chocolate for the young set.

Cheddar Scones
makes 12 to 14 scones

2 3/4 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
dash of salt
1 cup  grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 large egg
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Sift the flour into a medium bowl. Stir in the baking powder, mustard powder and salt. Stir in the cheddar cheese.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg and milk. Mix with the flour mixture and knead on floured board for 1 minute, until soft.
On a floured surface, pat out the dough to about a 1" thickness. With a round cutter, cut the scones, or with a knife, cut squares or triangle shapes. You should have 12 to 14 scones. Place them on a baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Do not open the oven while baking.
Serve warm with butter or I like both, of course!

1 serving

3 ounces freshly squeezed and chilled orange juice
5 ounces Champagne or sparkling wine

Pour the cold orange juice into a champagne flute. Fill the glass with the champagne.

I am remembering Sicily right now. Every morning for breakfast I had a flute of blood orange juice and Italian Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine). What a way to start the day! I was served a variety of cheeses including freshly made Ricotta with at least a dozen types of beautiful Italian pastries! Wow, I miss Sicily!

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