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Cooking with Myra: Music launches many moods, memories

April 6, 2010 at midnight
Updated April 6, 2010 at 11:07 p.m.

Chicken Strudel with Spinach

CHICKEN STRUDEL WITH SPINACH4 green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced

5 cups fresh spinach, chopped

3 Tbsp. of butter

4 cups shredded chicken (cooked)*

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

3 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups Swiss cheese

Tabasco sauce

16-18 sheets phyllo pastry**

1/2 cup butter, melted

Saute onions, mushrooms and butter in pan over medium heat. Add spinach and allow to wilt. Make sure most of the moisture has cooked off from spinach. In a bowl, combine the sauteed mushrooms, onions, and spinach with the cooked chicken, salt, pepper, parsley, eggs and cheese. Toss to mix.

Lay out one sheet of phyllo pastry and brush with melted butter. Place another sheet directly on top of this and brush with butter. Lay another sheet of dough down over the others and brush with butter. The remaining dough will not dry out. Spoon about 2/3 cup of chicken mixture over the phyllo along one end of the rectangle. Sprinkle with several drops of Tabasco sauce. Leave a margin along each side. Fold in each end and roll up the strudel. Brush with butter and place on a greased baking sheet. Repeat this process until all filling is used. Bake in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for 30-40 minutes. The crust will be golden. Garnish with rosemary. Each strudel will serve one person.

*You can use a purchased roasted chicken to save time.

**Phyllo dough tends to dry out quickly. Cover the unused dough with a damp towel while you are preparing recipe. More sheets of phyllo can be stacked up before placing filling on dough. The more sheets you use the "crunchier" the crust will be.

By Myra StarkeyI was sitting in my car, stopped at a stoplight on Navarro Street, when my CD player flipped to the next disc. I had been worrying about all I had to do before the end of the day, so my brain was getting overwhelmed.

My previous song selection had been a Nancy Griffith piece called "From a Distance." Although it provided some enhanced social awareness, it was not particularly uplifting.

The song is about how we can seem different close up, so we tend to have conflict, but from a distance, we all just appear as similar humanity, mostly alike, so we shouldn't be fighting.

I had just slowed to the red light when the soundtrack to the movie "Mama Mia" clicked on. I fast forwarded to "Dancing Queen" and began to sing along.

I was completely oblivious to the large white truck sitting next to me. I might have been pretending to hold my cell phone like a microphone as I sung as loudly as I could.

I didn't think anyone outside of my car could hear me. I was not like some youngster with blaring or bass-thumping, window-rattling speakers.

I had my windows all the way up. Mimicking dance moves in my car seat and rocking my shoulders in a middle-aged controlled way, I tossed my head in a deftly choreographed move to the left side and saw the elderly gentleman shaking his head.

His eyebrows were knitted together and his lips tightened in a slight scowl as he continued to shake his head.

I immediately dispensed with my dance fever but continued to sing, "You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life, Ooh see that girl, what that scene, diggin' the dancing queen."

Perhaps I am partial to the music of Abba, since that was a popular band during my high school days, or perhaps just loud music and me singing at the top of my lungs stimulates brain cells to release a "joy" chemical.

I cannot explain this phenomenon, but I instantly felt better. I ignored the man in the car and continued to sing as I headed toward my office.

As I arrived, a song came on and Meryl Streep was singing to her daughter who was getting ready to get married.

"Slipping Through My Fingers" tells the story of a mother who feels like her daughter is slipping through her fingers because she has grown up and is getting married.

So now, instead of feeling joy, tears are rolling down my cheeks as I sit quietly in my car outside my office.

Meryl and I have a lot more in common than I realized.

I find it interesting how music can affect my emotions so quickly. There are some songs that seem to reflect our inner feelings about a specific situation in such a way that they really touch us deeply.

These may be about personal loss or relationships.

Other songs remind us of more carefree times, such as those joyous, but emotionally-exaggerated teenage years.

A certain tune could have been the special one that we shared with our most awesome boyfriend or that we listened to over and over again late into the night at slumber parties with our best girlfriends.

Some music is just beyond good because of the dreamy guys who sang it, such as David Cassidy of the Partridge Family.

And who could not want to throw on their disco duds and spin under the mirrored ball like John Travolta, when they hear the music of "Saturday Night Fever?"

As Taylor and I discussed it, we agreed that the most impacting song of our tender youth in the 1970s had to be "Color My World" by Chicago.

This was always the final song that the DJ would play at the end of the junior high dance, and even though you were already sweaty, it would absolutely not keep you from tightly and fervently slow dancing with that most special person who you were so in love with for at least a week or two.

Later that day, I invited Taylor's parents to dinner. I had planned a quick dinner, since everyone wanted to watch the Baylor basketball game.

I stopped by and picked up a prepared chicken at the grocery store and made a chicken and spinach strudel.

The dish does not take long to prepare, especially when accompanied by some Latin music.

I turned on a spicy song by the Buena Vista Social Club and twirled around the kitchen as I made dinner. Music really does make life more fun.

Hey, and if you are the guy in the old white truck, buy the Mama Mia soundtrack, and I bet you will be belting out a song at stoplights, too.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail myra@vicad.com.

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