Archive for December, 2011

Recipe of the Week – Layered Mashed Potato & Mushroom Casserole

Fancy up regular mashed potatoes with a layer of mushroom duxelle–a sauté of finely chopped mushrooms and shallots. We omitted the traditional butter in the duxelle and added chard for a nutritional boost. Serve this hearty side in place of mashed potatoes at any holiday feast or enjoy it as a vegetarian main dish.

12 servings, about 3/4 cup each
Active Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours


3 1/2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds cremini or white mushrooms, halved
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups trimmed and finely chopped chard or spinach
1 cup mushroom broth or reduced-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided


Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a large pot. Place potatoes in a steamer basket, cover and steam over medium-low heat, replenishing the water as necessary, until the potatoes are fall-apart tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, working in two batches, place mushrooms in a food processor and pulse, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed, until the mushrooms are coarsely chopped.

Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Add butter and mash until chunky-smooth. Gradually stir in buttermilk, egg and egg white and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they release their liquid and the pan is almost dry, 10 to 12 minutes. Add chard (or spinach) and continue to cook, stirring, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Whisk broth and flour in a small bowl. Add to the pan along with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper and rosemary. Cook, stirring, until the mixture bubbles and thickens, about 1 minute.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

To assemble, spread half of the mashed potatoes in an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch (or similar 3-quart) baking dish. Sprinkle half the Parmesan over the potatoes. Spread the mushroom mixture on top and spread the remaining potatoes over the mushroom layer. Top with the remaining Parmesan.

Bake until hot throughout and the top is golden brown, about 35 minutes.


196 Calories; 5 g Fat; 2 g Sat; 2 g Mono; 26 mg Cholesterol; 32 g Carbohydrates; 8 g Protein; 3 g Fiber; 438 mg Sodium; 773 mg Potassium
2 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 2 starch, 1 fat
Nutrition Note: Potassium (22% daily value), Vitamin A & Vitamin C (20% dv).

From EatingWell: November/December 2009

Reader’s Forum – December 27, 2011

For your convenience, all Reader’s Forum submissions are separated by the ## symbol.

In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – Separating Work and the Family, Allison wrote:

I totally agree with Bob Branco on separating work from family. I’m involved with a group that has a regular monthly meeting, and one of the members brings his young son. The child is bored, naturally, and is quite a distraction during the meeting. His noise makes it difficult to concentrate, and those who have hearing impairments have a particularly difficult time.
In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – Separating Work and the Family, David wrote:

It’s different with kids today. Parents seem to arrange their lives around kids. Kids seem to have every night scheduled with an activity and parents spend all of their after-work time running them to practices of some kind. They seem to live on chicken nuggets and oven fries while spending hours on the Xbox or other gaming console. No play outside seems doable. Teachers want to be their friends. Zero-tolerance for bullying is expected. Some of these changes are good, but some amaze me. Teachers being your friend, for instance. We had teachers who liked being hard-nosed and you’d better hop in line. One teacher in high school hit the door lecturing and you better have Braille paper and be ready to go.
In response to Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Does Rudolph Promote Bullying? Keith wrote:

The story of Rudolph comes from a man who worked for a well known department store. He had lost his wife, and was struggling to support his young daughter. Down on his luck, having everything in their lives go wrong, he wrote a poem, with illustrations for his girl. It portrayed the bad stuff that life handed to them, and hope that somehow they might make it in the world.

When his employer caught wind of the poem, it soon became a storybook that they sold in their stores. The store bought the rights to the book, but later gave rights back to the family.

It was, of course Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The later fame, and income from the song, and the TV special goes to add that despite being handed a raw deal, bullies, losing a loved one, or being denied the career path of choice, you can’t lose hope. Success just might find its way into your life somehow. Life has no guarantees, and bad things happen, but they don’t have to be the final word.
In response to Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Does Rudolph Promote Bullying? Mel wrote:

I’m getting sick and tired of everything getting labeled “bullying!” First of all, I was bullied in high school. I was spat upon by other kids. I was pushed down and called all sorts of nasty names. My parents never dreamed of getting the school involved! They taught me to stand up for myself. I think we are doing our children a lot of harm by calling everything bullying! If we don’t teach our children to stand up for themselves while they are in school, what will happen in the “real world” when there is no school to “protect” them? I’m not advocating violence here when I say stand up for yourself. I just think we need to teach our children that life isn’t all sunshine and roses. There will be bullies. There will be hurts. That’s just life.

And, yes, I am a mother of an 11 year old girl. She gets teased a lot at school because of my disability. Children can be awful. I don’t think anything will change that.
In response to Shelley McMullen’s post in last week’s Reader’s Forum regarding Guide Dog training, Allison wrote:

I also agree with Shelley McMullen. I’ve had two guide dogs, one was obtained in 1965 and one in 1996. I noticed the differences she mentioned when I got my second dog, and frankly, I wasn’t pleased with the changes. I also think the dogs are softer than they used to be. That may be necessary, given the aging population, but I still see it as a problem.

One change I do like is the teaching of the follow command. That can be useful in a lot of situations.
In response to Shelley McMullen’s post in last week’s Reader’s Forum regarding Guide Dog training, David wrote:

No way am I going to give my dogs treats in public. What if a friend holds out a treat too and you are about to cross a street? I thought clicker training was the big thing now. I had a guide dog, too; and I liked it but never had the mystical connection some have with their dogs. I liked having Nader, hope he was happy, tried making sure he had organic, high-quality food and supplements, and took him for walks and such, but just didn’t have any mystical mind-reading like feelings.
In response to Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Five Non-traditional Ways to Give and Celebrate During the Holidays, Rick wrote:

Karen, your last idea about giving a book or CD was most meaningful. Last Christmas, after the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, my friend Donna gave me as a Christmas present–a DVD she got from Major League Baseball highlighting their season, and that meant more to me than any other present I got. Little did I know at the time it would be the last present she gave me before she passed away.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – A Reminder About Patriotism

This morning on a local radio station, people were saying that the national anthem has worn out its welcome, and shouldn’t be sung before every sporting event in this country. One of the reasons why they feel that way about the national anthem is because some of the people who sing it make mistakes or make the anthem into something that it’s not.

When I was six years old, I learned the words of many patriotic songs in Kindergarten, and as far as I’m concerned, no song is more difficult to learn than any other, especially if you hear it often enough. I’m not writing to complain that we sing the national anthem too much. No, I’m writing to complain that we don’t hear it enough. When I was growing up, radio stations would make sure you heard the anthem being performed before every baseball, basketball, hockey, or football game. Now, the anthem is preempted by a stream of commercials, so that we don’t hear it.

At a time when many people in this country believe that we’re losing our patriotism, I feel the anthem, as well as other patriotic and freedom songs, should be heard as often as possible, and should be sung whenever the opportunities present themselves.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Ringing in the New Year

This time of year always spurs memories of past New Year’s celebrations. For me, two years stick out from all of the others.

I remember one New Years’ Eve while Marshall and I lived on Marden Street in Fitchburg. As December 31, 1990 arrived, I was excited to show off our new house and host our first New Year’s Eve party. At eight o’clock that night, seven of us sat in our cozy comfortable living room. Our friends loved our home and the heat after coming in from a cold December night. We all listened to rock, Christmas, and folk music coming from our brand new CD player.

Marshall and I went around serving everyone dips and crackers and chips and delightful citrus beverages I had found in our supermarket. We had started a yearly tradition of exchanging gifts, and I had made sure to mark people’s names in Braille so there was no confusion. That evening flew by, and before we knew it, we were counting down the seconds until 1991 was finally upon us.

The following New Year’s Day was not without incident, as our heat conked out but was promptly fixed by our utility company. Our planned trip to a local restaurant was canceled, too, as Marshall was not feeling well. As a quick improvisation, we had fried chicken from a local restaurant, and everyone liked my French chocolate mousse and coffee. As everyone departed on January 2, we agreed it had been a great party.

Nearly ten years later, New Year’s Eve 1999 was filled with optimism about the upcoming century. Six of us spent part of December 31 at our favorite seafood restaurant in Leominster. We anticipated an extraordinary celebration as we were entering a new millennium. At home, we exchanged gifts–of which I still have the millennium pin and ice-cream scoop I was given. As the TV softly played, we were observing how other countries were ringing in the year 2000.

We had celebrated ten New Years at our home on Marden Street. I couldn’t help thinking to myself “What would this new year and century bring?” On New Year’s Day, the unusually mild weather complimented our mood, as we shared the traditional ham dinner I had prepared.

That would be the last New Year’s Eve we would celebrate together on Marden Street. A blizzard prevented us from celebrating on January 1, 2001 and illness would cancel celebration in 2002.

For me, New Years is always a time for optimism, to think about what will come in the next year and where we’ll be on the next December 31.

How are you readers celebrating New Years?

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – RockBand for the Blind

RockBand is one of the most popular games out there. I myself have played RockBand with my friends, but have been only able to be the vocalist because I’m unable to see the screen. I, and likely many blind people, would like the chance to play the other instruments and experience everything the game has to offer. This may become possible soon, thanks to a project called RockVibe.

To start, I’ll explain how the regular RockBand is played. Players pick an instrument, either guitar, bass guitar, or drums. They then hit keys on the guitar or hit the drums with the drum sticks based on colored bars that appear on the screen. The way RockVibe will work will be to have the player where an electronic device that sends vibrations that correspond to the colored bars on the screen. When the player feels a certain vibration, they hit the corresponding key on the guitar or piece of the drum kit.

RockVibe started as a project for Rupinder Dhillon in 2008 when she was a student at UC Santa Cruz. She had a lot of success in beta testing, and is now raising money through Kickstarter to make the game a reality.

If you like the idea of the game, consider donating to the project here:

To see a video that explains more about the game, visit this link:

What are some video games that you like to play, or would like to developers to modify so that they can be accessible to visually impaired gamers?

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Diving into a Good Book

What are you reading these days? Has your taste in books changed over time? Do you find yourself re-reading a beloved novel? No longer interested in torrid romance novels, I’m irresistibly drawn to adventure stories, legal and medical mysteries, biographies of singers and music in general. I primarily read for relaxation and entertainment. Have you noticed that readers of commercial audiobooks will announce, “Performed by”? As many narrators tend to be actors, this is often true as they bring the characters to vivid life. Conversely, a poor reader can absolutely kill a story for me and it will go unread.

Some series that have completely captured my imagination have been J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, L. A. Meyer’s Bloody jack, Susan Collins’ The Hunger Games, and Rick Riodan’s the 39 Clues. I realize that these are aimed mainly at young people but as so many of you will attest, it makes absolutely no difference when it comes to a well-read, fast-paced, riveting storyline. Just this holiday weekend I downloaded the first installment of Angie Sage’s Septemus Heap series and I’m gratified to know that Audible has the remaining titles, as waiting for the next book in a series can be most exasperating. This book sounds very familiar and I’m wondering if I once attempted to read it but could not get through it. Has this ever happened to you? You begin reading a book to determine whether you have or haven’t read it?

Faithful readers will know my passion for music and I have read and enjoyed at least a few books on the subject. Memorable biographies are those of opera singers Marion Anderson, Renee Fleming, and Jazz singer Dina Washington. An outstanding and detailed book that I read a few years ago that remains reasonably timely is Mark Coleman’s “Playback: From the Victrola to MP3, One Hundred Years of Music, Machines, and Money.” The Juggernaut reality/talent show American Idol absorbed almost ten years of my life so it is only appropriate that I very recently completed Richard Rushfield’s candid “American Idol: The Untold Story.” What an enlightening and infuriating account of a show that had us cheering and sneering, often during the same episode.

Reading is a life-long passion and I hope to pass on with a set of earbuds or headphones firmly in place as an exciting tale issues forth.

I would like to take this time to thank those who posted well-wishes and remedies for my cold. It turned into a stubborn sinus infection that became exacerbated by insidious acid reflux. My voice is finally returning to something close to normal. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to all those who comment on my articles.

Happy New Year!

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – Zoomtext Features: Part 2

I must say that over the years, I feel that Ai Squared has done a fine job adding features to Zoomtext that are useful and easy to understand and operate.

New in Zoomtext 10 is a feature called Background Reader. This feature makes it possible for users to have Zoomtext read selected text to you while you are working in another program. This is the first feature I’m aware of that lets you multi task with assistive technology. You could be writing an email and having specific text read to you as you work.

Another awesome feature of Zoomtext 10 is the Zoomtext Recorder. This feature allows users to have specific text recorded and then read back to them using their mobile or portable device. This is especially useful for those people who have long commutes each day that have lots of text they need to read to prepare for their work day. You can have the text read to you with Windows Media player right on your computer, or you can have the text read on your MP3 player, or Apple device. It all works quite easily and intuitively.

The AppReader feature has been part of Zoomtext now for several years and is a great way to have text read back to you. I like to use it to proofread my Microsoft Word and email documents before I submit or send these documents out. With Zoomtext 10, there is a new feature called Read from Pointer, which means you can have AppReader read from where ever you’ve positioned your mouse pointer. This can be especially useful in situations where a blinking curser does not exist, like on a web page. Instead of hearing all kinds of miscellaneous text, you can move the pointer to your desired starting point and have AppReader start in that location.

Another feature which has existed in Zoomtext for a while is called Focus Enhancement. I like this feature very much because when you enable it, Zoomtext places a shape around where the computer is focused. For example, if you are navigating menu items, each item will have a red outline drawn around it. As you move from item to item, the red outline moves with you. You can change the look of the enhancement to make it easier for you to see, but it really draws your eyes to the location.

If you are a proficient mouse user, then you will appreciate the Pointer Enhancement feature of Zoomtext, as well. This feature allows you to pick a mouse pointer size, color and other items to make the pointer easy to locate and follow as you work on your computer. After you install Zoomtext, if you enable the pointer enhancement, you will have a yellow pointer which is placed in the center of a red cross. As you move the pointer, the red cross and pointer move with you. If you prefer a different setting, you can go into the Zoomtext control panel and pick a different pointer scheme, or you can customize the pointer to fit your specific needs.

Has anyone else tried out the new Zoomtext? Let us hear your impressions in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer John Christie – Staying on Track with New Year’s Resolutions

Many New Year’s Resolutions are made with good intent in January but forgotten in February. One of the reasons why these resolutions are forgotten so quickly is because they are not acted upon with a series of steps or an action plan. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight or quit smoking after the holidays, you can stay on track for meeting these goals by following a series of steps or an action plan.

First, choose the right resolution for the right reasons. For instance, why do you want to lose weight or quit smoking? Is the reason to quit smoking or loose weight to improve your health, to live longer, or to improve your appearance or to improve self-esteem? You have to know why you want to either lose weight or quit smoking etc.

Next, decide how difficult your resolution should be. In addition, make your goal reasonable and aim high. Aiming high will make you try harder. For instance, I want to lose 15 pounds or reduce the number of cigarettes smoked by February 15. The loss of 15 pounds by February 15 or the reduced amount of cigarettes smoked by this date assists you in making the resolution official. Once the goal is official, get support from family and friends to help you complete this goal. You can also investigate telephone hotlines in your area to assist in reaching your goal. You can also write your goal on paper or state it when you are looking into a mirror out loud.

Next, develop a plan. With a plan, you will make progress towards accomplishing your goal. Without a plan, you are very unlikely to succeed. The best way to develop a plan is to come up with a list of steps and the due dates of when you will accomplish these steps. If you’re having problems coming up with steps for your plan, either consult a Personal Trainer or go to a website that specializes in this topic.

Make sure you stay on track with your plan. A Daily Planner can be a great help for some people who like to check off items on their to-do lists. However, if you have trouble staying on top of details and staying motivated, you may want to obtain the help of a personal trainer or go on to a website that specializes in goal setting.

The next step is to keep on going and be flexible. This is true especially if the goals change in the middle of the plan. You also have to be flexible if circumstances beyond your control alter the plan.

By following these steps, you will have a better chance of keeping your New Year’s resolutions. Good luck to those of you who set goals for yourself in the coming year.

Let’s find out how you reached your New Year’s Resolutions in The Readers Forum.


Letter from the Editor – December 27, 2011

Hello Everyone,

I hope that for those of you who celebrated, you had a fun-filled holiday weekend. This time last year, I was telling you how wonderful it has been to spend a year writing and putting together the magazine for all of you. It’s amazing that another year has gone by so quickly.

It’s been two years since I’ve taken the helm here and I really feel like we’re in a groove, so to speak. Despite the spam issues we’ve experienced with our email editions, this year has gone smoothly and we’ve been able to reach more people than ever before. As I reported to our Board of Directors at our year end meeting recently, our magazine is now read in 141 countries and in 87 different languages. To me, that is the greatest statistic of all.

I hope you noticed that I said “our magazine” before, as well. This publication’s existence hinges on all of you. Not just as readers, but as interactive agents in its evolution. You are constantly helping to make this magazine better. Were it not for you all, as well as my incredible staff of writers for whom I am eternally grateful, what we have done in these past two years would simply not be possible. My vision for this magazine was always to offer something for the visually impaired, by the visually impaired, and I truly feel that together we have built something great.

So, with that said, I’d like to say thank you–to all of you. You have helped my vision become a wonderful reality, and I hope that you have enjoyed being a part of that as much as I have.

As I’ve said before, I’m going to start 2012 with a welcomed change that I hope will solve our email issues. Next week, there will not be a magazine released so that we can take the time to implement a new bulk email service. The first edition of the New Year will be released on January 9 with what I hope will be as few hiccups as possible.

I wish you all a happy, safe, and fun New Year. Take care, and as always, thank you for reading.

Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week – Winter Squash Risotto EatingWell: September/October 2007, EatingWell for a Healthy Heart Cookbook (2008)

Sweet winter squash and earthy shiitake mushrooms are delicious in this creamy risotto.

4 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each
Total Time: 1 hour

5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
3 cups chopped peeled butternut, hubbard, red kuri or kabocha squash (1/2-inch pieces)
2 cups shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads, (optional)
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine, or dry vermouth
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Place broth in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat so the broth remains steaming, but is not simmering.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in squash and mushrooms; cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms give off their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, salt, pepper and saffron (if using); cook for 30 seconds. Add rice; stir until translucent, about 1 minute. Add wine (or vermouth) and cook, stirring, until almost absorbed by the rice, about 1 minute.

Stir in 1/2 cup of the hot broth; reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until all the liquid has been absorbed, until the rice is tender and creamy, 30 to 40 minutes total. (You may have some broth left.) Remove from the heat and stir in cheese.

Per serving : 372 Calories; 11 g Fat; 3 g Sat; 6 g Mono; 15 mg Cholesterol; 54 g Carbohydrates; 14 g Protein; 6 g Fiber; 632 mg Sodium; 790 mg Potassium
3 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 2 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 2 fat