Archive for January, 2009

30th January
2009
written by Steph
Minty Pea Pasta... with Shrimp!

Minty Pea Pasta... with Shrimp!

If you’ve been following the recipes I’ve been posting here, you may have noticed that a few have them have called for (or suggested the use of) fresh mint.  Luckily there are a few good Asian markets here in town that let us by certain fresh herbs for mega cheap, and mint happens to be one of them.  Of course, for about $1.50, we wind up with way more mint than we can reasonably use, but it seems a shame to let it go to waste.  Ergo, this weekend, I concocted a pasta dish from scratch, inspired by the Brits’ love for buttery peas garnished with mint.  The mint flavor is very mild and subtle in this dish, so if you think this sounds like a weird combination, I urge you to give it a try.  This meal was so simple to make, and came together in about 15 minutes (max). Ingredients (makes two generous portions) •    1/3 cup frozen peas •    1/4 red onion, finely diced •    8 large shrimp, peeled & deveined & thawed •    olive oil •    2 tablespoons of butter •    2 servings worth of spaghetti, linguine, or another tangly pasta •    1/3 cup fresh mint leaves •    juice of 1/2 lemon •    thinly shaved romano or parmesan for garnish (more…)
29th January
2009
written by Steph

Finally we’re getting somewhere.  This was my third book read for the 2009 Tournament of Books, and it was by far the one I have enjoyed most to date.  If each subsequent book continues on this upward trend, I can totally deal with the few false starts I dealt with at the beginning. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (henceforth known as TDHoFLB), spans a period of about 6 months in the life of one Frankie Landau-Banks.  The story starts off just before she’s about to begin her sophomore year at the prestigious boarding school, Alabaster Academy.  Over the summer, she has emerged from her ugly duckling cocoon (way to mix metaphors!), and is now quite the attractive young lady (read: she has breasts!).  Due to this metamorphosis, she now catches the eye of fetching upperclassmen, namely a guy named Matthew, whom she’s been crushing on for quite some time.  And now he reciprocates those jelly-knee feelings!!!  So they start to date.  And then Frankie finds out he’s in a super secret society that her father was also a member of, only it’s so top secret that Matthew won’t even tell her about it (or acknowledge its existence).  She can also forget about joining it, because it’s a top secret society that is for BOYS ONLY.  This is unacceptable to Frankie, so she spends the rest of the novel trying to figure out a way to be a part of this illustrious Secret Order of the Basset Hounds. (more…)
28th January
2009
written by Tony
Scary! Grrrrrr?

Scary! Grrrrrr?

We subscribe to Gamefly, which, much like Netflix and movies, allows us to be a little more adventurous (perhaps less selective?) with our gaming choices. That’s why, despite the mountain of poor and neutral reviews that this game received, we decided to go for it anyway. The Battle for Assgrab (as Steph likes to call it) is essentially about a Viking who gets into Freya’s, the Goddess of fur coats (apparently), good graces and gets some nifty powers as her new pet. You fight the evil Horde of Hel, the Goddess of the underworld, and pretty much slash and burn like a good little Viking when and where Freya says so. Your biggest tasks are releasing Viking clans from the Horde’s grasp and summoning dragons to help you and the freed Vikings reclaim your old territory from the Horde. In a lot of (conceptual) ways this game reminds me of Assassin’s Creed, though is much less pretty, polished and engaging. The story is there, certainly, but there isn’t much to motivate you to put on your give-a-crap hat. Let me first say that this game is by no means the best, or really even close to the best, game we have played on the PS3, but it’s one of the few I’ve had the determination to finish in a while, so it gets a review. I’ll start with what the game does not do well and finish on a more positive note, because that makes me happiest right now. (more…)
28th January
2009
written by Steph
Ghost Town (2008)

"Your ghost hands is cold!"

What do you get if you cross the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol with the D-grade Jennifer Love Hewitt vehicle The Ghost Whisperer and The Sixth Sense?  Pretty much, you get Ghost Town, a movie starring Ricky Gervais as a dour, and misanthropic dentist living in Manhattan (for a guy who hates people, way to pick one of the most heavily populated ISLANDS…).  Through a twist of fate, Ricky (I can’t remember his name in the movie) winds up with the ability to see all of the ghosts of the city, and all of them have some bit of unfinished business they want for him to resolve.  Enter Greg Kinear’s character (although to be truthful, the movie starts off with him), who was two-timing his wife when he was alive and wants Ricky to break up her current relationship, because he’s convinced the guy is bad news.  So, naturally Ricky and Greg decide the best way to make this happen is for Ricky to offer himself up as a more suitable option!  Only, this is going to be tricky because of how he’s not a people person and has been unforgivably rude to the wife (played by Tea Leoni) in the past (who, as fate would have it, lives in the same building as him). I know I’m being all glib, but take that as a reflection of my writing style rather than one of the movie.  The premise might not be all that original, and certain elements of the plot are pretty predictable (do you think that cold-hearted Ricky will wind up ultimately having a change in perspective and helping the poor beleaguered ghosts find closure?), but overall it was a light and fun comedy, perfect for a chilly Sunday afternoon.  Tony & I both laughed aloud several times, which sometimes is all you can ask for in a movie.  I do think most of the film’s success rests upon Gervais, who is pretty much perfectly suited to the role (and therefore shines), and who very convincingly sells himself as a rude, uninterested jerk (must have been all that practice over on the British Office…).  Also, it must be said that Gervais has great comedic timing, and there were a lot of little moments that had us giggling, even though I think we wouldn’t have found them nearly as funny had another actor been playing the part.  I am not convinced that he wasn’t just playing David Brent as a dentist, but I guess, stick with what you know (and with what works).  This isn’t one of those comedies that’s edgy or brash, but overall I’d say it works.  I mean, it's billed as a comedy, and we laughed quite a bit.  That's a success, right?  Plus, I really enjoyed the soundtrack (although strangely it seems it was never officially released for purchase... at the very least, I can't find it on Amazon, which seems like enough proof for me!), so there's that to look forward to as well (as opposed to Dan in Real Life, where the soundtrack was pretty much the ONLY good thing about the movie.  Here it's just an added bonus.). Rating: 3.5 out of 5
27th January
2009
written by Tony
"Hold on tight, Spider Monkey." WTF? Who writes this stuff? Kill yourself!

"Hold on tight, Spider Monkey." WTF? Who writes this stuff? Kill yourself!

Oh. My. God. So, apparently, Steph watched this movie one day when she was cloistered in the apartment with some sort of (clearly) mind-altering illness. She confessed it all to me, and also said she felt embarrassed to be watching the movie, even though it was on her laptop, behind closed doors and she was alone. I think that’s about right. How she cajoled me into watching this movie is still a bit of a mystery. Perhaps it was with the promise that I would get to flay it in a review, which I intend to do. Perhaps it was simply so I could know for myself. I’m not sure if I regret it yet or not. Let me warn you dear reader, there are a lot of spoilers in this review, so if you haven’t seen Twilight yet and plan to watch the movie, don’t. Read this review instead. I would have said that this was the worst movie of 2008 (and possibly ever) if it weren’t for Love Guru. I do not need to see Love Guru to know I hate it and, by extension, Mike Myers. Love Guru is like salt in a paper-cut (from one of those nasty manila folders) in the web between your thumb and index finger after you have been run over by a garbage truck full of used diapers. It’s like the aunt you don’t like who always wants a kiss and always has coffee/offal breath and will never let you go for the cheek. Nope, full on the lips buddy. Anyway, Love Guru aside, Twilight is one hell of a bad movie, and I can only assume that if it bears any resemblance to the book, the book must be one of the worst pieces of tripe ever written. And I’m not sorry that this is going to destroy any street-cred I may have had in the 12 year-old girl department either. If they like this crap, I don’t want to talk to them anyway. (more…)
27th January
2009
written by Steph
Thin Crust Tortilla Pizza

Thin Crust Tortilla Pizza

When it comes to pizza, in my mind, the thinner the crust the better.  When Tony & I went to Chicago, we steered clear of their pies and instead focused on dim sum, since deep-dish really isn’t our thing.  But, I’m also not a baker, and we don’t even own a rolling pin, so making homemade dough is out of the question (also, would I be able to get it acceptably thin?).  Enter tortilla pizzas.  If you don’t mind a pizza that has a wafer thin crust, then this is just the thing for you.  These pizzas are quick to make, cheap, super easy, and can be completely customized to suit your pizza topping needs.  Below is a list of what we used to make our pizzas this weekend, but clearly you can add or remove things based on your personal preferences. Ingredients (for 1 pizza)
  • 1 burrito sized flour tortilla
  • pesto
  • sliced fresh mushrooms
  • thinly sliced red onion
  • fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • balsamic vinegar
Notice the total lack of quantities for this recipe?  That’s because this is one I’m winging! (more…)
26th January
2009
written by Steph
Will the real Tara please stand up?

Will the real Tara please stand up?

Showtime has just started airing a new show starring Toni Colette called The United States of Tara.  Penned by Diablo Cody, the scribe behind last year's indie hit Juno, the show revolves around a woman named Tara, who has multiple personality disorder, and examines the way it wreaks havoc on the family dynamic.  Tara is (seemingly) happily married, and has two children, both teenagers.  In the first episode, two stressful incidents involving her teenage daughter cause her to transition into two of her “alters”: one a 15-year-old girl named T, and the other a redneck, beer-guzzling man named Buck.  The ads for the show suggest there is at least one other alternate personality hiding in there, one who looks like she might be more at home on AMC’s Mad Men. Netflix is allowing subscribers to watch the first episode through their “Watch It Now” program (the pilot is also available to all individuals with an American IP address on the Showtime website directly... also at the show's page on IMDB, though I'm not sure what the restrictions are on that... see all the ways I'm trying to hook you up?), and I’d highly recommend you do.  I was really impressed with the acting (especially Collette… it’s quite amazing how authentically she embodies each of the wildly disparate personalities, which I think is kind of crucial for the show to work.  She is over the top, but not campy, and it's all very authentic.  You need to believe that Tara is legitimately inhabiting her alters (or rather, that they’re inhabiting her), and not that she’s simply acting and that “Tara” is ultimately aware and in control.), and it looks like it’s setting itself up for some interesting stories and dynamics.  I thought the show took an interesting route with Tara’s children, as I didn’t expect them to be so accepting and understanding of her problem (even if they have ostensibly been exposed to it since birth), and her husband (played by John Corbett) is also incredibly supportive of his wife.  Juxtapose this with her sister, who thinks it’s all an act.  I’ll be interested to see how much the show focuses on Tara, versus fleshing out and developing additional storylines as well as making sure all of the characters are fully nuanced.  Also, I’m still unclear as to whether the show ants to set itself up as a drama or more of a comedy (it’s only a half hour in length, which tends to bias one towards a comedy billing, but it’s certainly not sitcom-y in nature).  Whatever the case, I’m willing to give it time to further develop (since you don’t necessarily expect answers to all of these things in a pilot), because the pilot was remarkably good.  I generally find that pilots tend to be the weakest episode for any show, as they by necessity have to be very expositional and can feel rushed.  That being said, if the pilot for The United States of Tara is anything to go on, it’s highly suggestive that this will be a good show and one worth watching.  Also, who doesn't love Toni Collette? The United Sates of Tara airs Sundays at 10 pm ET/PT on Showtime.
26th January
2009
written by Steph

Sigh.  My first book read for this year’s Tournament of Books, was fairly atrocious, so despite the rocky start, I was at least optimistic that the next book would have to be better.  It’s the law of averages!  So I picked up Fae Myenne Ng’s Steer Toward Rock, and dove in hoping I was going to land in a somewhat deeper pool. Steer Toward Rock is largely about a Chinese man name Jack Moon Szeto who, during his youth, is sold into another family so that they can have a son.  When he is older, he is sent to San Francisco so that he can work off his debt to his non-blood father, and also act as a decoy husband for the second wife said father wants to also bring into America (hoping to get a true blood son out of her).  This is around the time of the Chinese Confession Program, when the INS were trying to weed out individuals who had lied to bring other Chinese immigrants into the country, and when Chinese immigrants were treated extremely poorly.  The novel examines the trials and tribulation of Jack, primarily focusing on his relationships with three pivotal women in his life: Joice, his first love; Ilin, his fake wife; and Veda, his daughter by Joice.  It examines what an individual is willing to undergo for love, as well as the role of family (both in terms of one that is formed versus one that we are tied to through blood), and of course the immigration experience and the struggles to habituate as well as the struggle for later generations to understand their heritage.  Through this exploration, Steer Toward Rock also addresses the issue of self-identity. (more…)
24th January
2009
written by Steph
Voting for the Zombie Round entrants for the annual Tournament of Books is open. If you're better informed about this year's books that are up for the rooster prize (or even if you're not but just like to vote for things), you can click on this link and cast your vote for whichever book you thought was best. Voting closes on Jan 26th (I think), so if you do plan to cast your vote, time is running out!  I'm not sure why the folks over at The Morning News have decided to have voting finish so far before the tournament, but them's the breaks. I don't think I'll vote because I haven't read anything off of the list so far that I would like to see win.  However, I'll point out that voting entails you filling out a brief questionnaire, during which you can offer ideas about what you'd like to see incorporated into future ToBs.  So perhaps for that reason, it would be worthwhile to randomly select a book and hope that I wind up liking it.  All I ask is this: Please don't vote for A Partisan's Daughter. That is all.
24th January
2009
written by Steph

Albondigas Soup

Albondigas Soup

One thing that I've been making a lot of lately has been soups.  Nashville has been going through a bit of a cold snap, so soups make a great evening meal that is warming and soothing.  Generally I try to make hearty soups that have lots of "fixins" so that they can really serve as an entire meal in their own right.  Additionally, I've been trying to make soups that are "heart healthy", meaning I've been staying away from broths that involve a lot of cream.  I've also steered clear of soups that are too starchy, as the idea is to make a soup that is filling but doesn’t make you feel heavy afterwards.  Another great thing about soups is that they’re relatively simple to put together (even if they generally need about an hour to simmer and steep), and not all that labor intensive.  For the relatively nominal amount of effort and ingredients, we often wind up with enough food for several lunches (2 to 3 days) in addition to our supper.  All told, I’ve been trying to do one soup dinner per week. This week, I chose another recipe from Elise’s Simply Recipes site, this time for Albondigas Soup, which is essentially a Mexican meatball soup.  I chose this recipe for several reasons: 1) Elise notes on her site that this is a soup that’s meant to be eaten as a main course; 2) It’s really easy to put together; 3)All of the ingredients are ones that you should readily have on hand (with the exception of perhaps one); and finally 4) It comes together really quickly (only needs about 40 minutes)!  Once more, I encourage you to check out Elise’s original recipe, although I’ll note that I really didn’t stray too far from her guidelines this time (shocking, I know!).  Here’s what you’ll need: (more…)
Previous