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Month: December 2011

Avocado Smash

Avocado Smash

This is my grandfather, the late Frank Lujan. This photo was taken when he was somewhere in his twenties, which seems so bizarre to me. How could he have ever be younger than I am now?

Without fail, I think of my grandfather every year on New Year’s Eve. We spent a handful of New Year’s Eves with my grandparents and we’d have the same jokes each year. He was the first to introduce my brothers and myself to the “I’m not changing my underwear until next year” NYE joke. About a thousand different jokes would follow, all about what we won’t be doing until next year (brushing our teeth, sleeping.)

For those who lost someone this year, I wonder if New Year’s Eve is a nice chance to let go of a hold on a loved one who has passed, or if it is something different. I am blessed enough to say that I have not had a loved one leave the world this year. Time marches on, relentlessly and without pause. I hope you take a couple of minutes tonight to reflect on all the blessings you have been given in 2011. I also hope you can keep those who have not had many blessings in your thoughts and prayers tonight. Let 2012 be a year of hope and peace for those who need it. Tonight, my prayers are for a blessed year for Mandi Lee-Han, who still waits for news about her father after his fishing boat was hit by a rogue wave this past summer. Go here to learn more.

Ready to talk food? I am loving hearing what all my Facebook friends are eating for dinner tonight. So many traditions and types of celebration food out there. What are you eating?

I had no plan for tonight’s dinner as I strolled through the grocery store this afternoon.  At the last minute I decided to give carnitas a go. Honestly, I couldn’t remember if carnitas was pork or beef. (It’s pork.) As I brought home the big chunk of pig, I realized that I probably didn’t have much in the way of taco fixings. So, I threw together all the Mexican spices I could think of and roasted the meat for about 4 (maybe more) hours at 325 degrees.

I can’t think of pork without thinking of the old commercials naming it, the other white meat. Once I think of the other white meat, I can’t help but think of a Saturday Night Live skit called, “The Other Boleyn Girls.” This is the only place online I can find the skit where Kristen Wiig plays the other…other Boleyn girl is on a fan site for Ellen Page and it’s worth the visit! 

Here’s my mix of chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper and onion powder. 

I drizzled a bit of olive oil over the meat and dumped what seemed like 1/3 cup of spice mixture over the pork. Most recipes suggest cutting carnitas into chunks before cooking. I didn’t do so this time, but I will ask the butcher to do it next time I buy such a large chunk of meat.

After a family trip to the soccer field across the street, we came home to a well spiced and settled meat. We piled the carnitas on top of black beans and sliced bell pepper, then scooped on plenty of avocado smash and cilantro. Total taqueria flavors, totally made in pajamas. And…I don’t know why I am saying we. I made the dinner, it was me.

Avocado Smash
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dips & Spreads
Ingredients
  • 2 avocados, smashed
  • 1 T. cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 lime
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Mix and smash together all the above and smother over meat, chips, tortillas or just your face. It’s just so good. To take avocado smash all the way to guacamole, add minced garlic, red onion, jalapeno pepper and diced tomatoes.
avocado dip

I picked up two blue cookies with 2012 frosted on top for Max and Dallas to enjoy tonight. Jy and I are going to give the chocolate gelato I found a whirl; it claims to be handmade in Italy and I’m hoping it tastes as expensive as it was. Not that $8 is a great loss, but that is a lot for what is essentially chocolate ice cream!

So, off to celebrate the last night routine of 2011. I hope Dallas doesn’t quite figure out what midnight really means! Thank you all for reading and making this year a fantastic one for me. Happy and safe New Years Eve to everyone and I’ll see you next year!

New Year’s Eve – Kid Style

New Year’s Eve – Kid Style

Tomorrow will end 2011, the year that Time Magazine awarded “The Protester” as Person of the Year. I think that if it was up to Jy, I would share that title as there has been much ousted from our pantry over the past 12 months, due to my fake food protests. When I told Jy that I would be making our next batch of laundry detergent out of my stock of soapnuts, he sorta-gently reminded me that not everything needs to be made from scratch.

Our family deals too, with the occupy movement. Dallas and Max seem to occupy all of our space, all of our plans and all of our energy. As we try our best to keep up with the 1% on a 99% budget, our family is constantly reminded that a focus on what is really important, is the best way to feel 100%. Curious about our New Year’s Eve plans, Dallas can fill you in. This is usually what it sounds like around here by the way, lots of crazy voices…

So now you know about our rockin’ eve. Dick Clark (or, is it Ryan Seacrest) has got nothin’ on this family! So, bust out the milk and cookies, get some blankets and pillows and let’s party together (until 8 p.m. or so.)

Is anyone else a little sad they didn’t support Blockbuster a little more? If you don’t time your Netflix right, you are stuck in the dreaded in-between day of the movie world! There are some pretty funny movies out there that are meant for kids and aren’t too painful to watch as adults. Despicable Me, Ratatouille and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs are my current favorites. So are a few VeggieTales. What will be on your little screen tomorrow evening?

We did a popcorn practice run this afternoon and tried out a packet of Popcorn Drizzle that Santa had left in my stocking.

The back of the box instructs the powdered chocolate (we tried the chocolate cherry today) be mixed in with melted butter and corn syrup. As we try to avoid all high fructose corn syrup (an ingredient in corn syrup) I changed up the recipe.

If you ever find a recipe which calls for light corn syrup, you can substitute in 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Works perfectly.

Too our drizzle, Dallas decided we would need to add some mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips. I threw in the seriously delicious roasted almonds my Aunt Cindy sent home with me for Christmas. What we ended up with was popcorn so gooey, it needed to be eaten with a fork.

While fun for a blog, this was not the most ideal recipe for a night of NYE movie watching. I’m glad we gave it the practice run! I would stick to the slightly less messy options of mini M&M’s mixed with popcorn for a sweet and salty flavor. For those who like a little more crunch, mixing in a handful of roasted nuts with a sprinkle of sugar over everything is a great, grown up movie treat.

We have movies on the mind right now. I have seen more movies this week than I think I have seen all year! Last night I watched A Day in the Life with Jy. That is next week’s Movies & Munchies flick and it is so good! I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you liked (or even saw) the movie, Baraka, you’ll dig this flick too. Tonight is the penultimate Harry Potter, one left for next week!

How do you like your popcorn? What kind of munchies do you bring to the sofa for movie night? Happy New Year’s Eve, Eve!

Mandel Bread: Life Is Beatiful

Mandel Bread: Life Is Beatiful

I feel like I should apologize for not blogging yesterday, I was out couponing and catching up on chores. Today totally makes up for a funless Wednesday though! My mom came over to watch the boys while Jy and I hit a matinée showing of Mission Impossible 4. I had called it MI5 in a previous post, oops!

Crazy or not, no one can carry an action movie like Tom Cruise. Once again, he was amazing in this movie. Can you think of another action star as big as Tom Cruise? The only one Jy could think of was Matt Damon (a la Bourne Identity.) Damon just looks old and slow now (We Bought a Zoo). My palms were sweating the whole MI4 experience long, it was just so fun!

Now, on to today’s Movies & Munchies. I’ll let Mr. Movie Fuel do the talking here as we talk about Life Is Beautiful.

 Life is Beautiful (1997)

Starring: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi and Georgio Cantarini

Directed by Roberto Benigni

Life can be difficult, life can be spectacular. When life is good, we sometimes take much for granted.  Moreover, only the most optimistic of us can take the bad times and turn them into something positive.

Perspective and attitude are two of our greatest defense mechanisms when times get tough.  Movies for me, are a great source of perspective. During the winter holidays, we are reminded to pay attention to the fruits of life that aren’t materialistic with a film such as, A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life.

A positive attitude, especially when faced with adversity, is a great attribute and source of strength in life.  Jim Harbaugh, coach of the San Francisco 49ers, often tells the story about how growing up as a poor kid in a small town in Ohio, his father would always accentuate the positive.  During the rare occasion when they did have a family car, it was usually a beat up old hooptie on its last wheel, but when they drove it, they got to all be together as a family.  Jim’s father John always had a saying that he would yell out, “Who’s got it better than us!?!” and all of the Harbaugh kids would yell out in unison, “Nooobodddyyy….” Neither party said this with even a hint of cynicism, they truly believed that no one had it better than them, mostly because they were able to maintain an attitude of appreciation for what they did have. He’s used this as the mantra for the professional football team he now coaches, a team which was terrible the previous season before he became head coach, but is now being considered a possible super bowl contender after one year of Harbaugh’s contagious spirit and emphasis on being a team to the fullest extent possible.

Attitude is also the title of my favorite poem by Charles Swindoll. The author emphasizes the fact that we can’t always control everything in life that happens to us, but we can control how we react to what happens. Swindoll states, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

One film that personifies that statement and somehow elegantly blends perspective and attitude into what would otherwise be considered a horrific situation is the Italian picture Life is Beautiful.  Part love story, part historical film, part comedy, part family film, part tear-jerking drama, Life is Beautiful has just about everything. 

Set in Italy during the 1930’s and 40’s, what begins as a sweet tale of a relationship between a man and a woman is quickly contrasted to a story about survival in a Nazi concentration camp.  In an attempt to save his young son from their harsh reality, the same man creates the illusion that the holocaust is all part of a grand game created just for him and the prize for winning that game a real life tank to keep!  The first line of the film sets the tone adequately, “This is a simple story… but not an easy one to tell.”

Roberto Benigni, the star, director and writer of Life is Beautiful has often been described as the Italian Charlie Chaplin and he certainly fits the bill.  Gifted with both the art of physical comedy and the ability to do something completely unexpected at any moment, Benigni makes you forget you are watching a movie about  atrocities in history and envelops your imagination for nearly two hours, while tears roll over your smiling face.

This is not to say that Benigni makes a farce of the holocaust, rather he takes on a daring subject matter and tells it in a way that hasn’t been done before.  He manages to demonstrate how hope can exist during the harshest of situations. We also watch as Benigni shows love through self-sacrifice, the ultimate “hats off” to parental love.  Through one of the most extreme situations possible, Benigni uses a loving lense to see through the story of horror and  find life’s most precious gift, hope.

In the new year, as we find ourselves in challenging situations, we can either try harder to make a bad thing better or when things become too hard, try not to control the situation and focus more on how we can have a healthy reaction to that which is out of our control.  Just maybe, when things are good we can fully appreciate that life is beautiful.

Back to the food…

Have you seen this movie? It’s so wonderful and hard to watch, especially as a parent. Here lies the challenge. How do you pick a food to pair with such a movie? There is no special recipe to go along with a movie like Schindler’s List or The Pianist. I wouldn’t want to disrespect the whole story telling experience of these fwilms by likening them to any other drama you’d want to munch popcorn along with. They are entertaining, but these movies were not made with the sole purpose of entertainment.

Instead, I have pulled my “family” cookbook off the shelf. It is a cookbook that my Aunt Debi put together for Jy and I when we got married. It holds family stories and recipes collected from my Nana (as in banana) and my great grandma, Grandma Ann. They are my Jewish side of the family and the source of homemade and heartfelt, Hebrew recipes.

One of the recipes that has seen much light lately is the Mondelbroit card. My dad has been honing his Mandel Bread (what we call it) skills. Mandel Bread is similar to biscotti. I’d love to share Grandma Ann’s recipes here. While I have not made it yet, I hope you will join me in trying it out soon. According to my dad, it’s not too hard at all. According to me, it’s yummy.

Mandel Bread
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Ingredients
  1. Mondel Bread
  2. Author: Food It Forward
  3. Prep time: 25 mins
  4. Cook time: 60 mins
  5. Total time: 1 hour 25 mins
  6. Serves: 6-8
  7. Ingredients
  8. Mondelbroit
  9. 3 eggs
  10. 1 cup sugar
  11. 6 T. oil
  12. 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
  13. 1/2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
  14. 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  15. 2 3/4 cups flour
  16. cinnamon sugar
Instructions
  1. Beat eggs and sugar until light. Mix in remaining ingredients. Add sifted flour with baking powder last. Dough should be very soft. Shape two long loaves (with floured hands) directly onto a greased cookie sheet. Loaves should be 3" wide and only 3/4" high. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes. Tops should be light brown.
  2. Remove from oven and immediately slice diagonally into 3/8" wide slices. Place the cookies back on the cookie sheet (cut side up) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake in oven for 5-7 minutes more.
Food It Forward http://fooditforward.com/
 
 

Come back tomorrow for some Friday food!

Devil On Horseback

Devil On Horseback

I just learned about Devils On Horseback. Have you heard of these before? There are different combinations, but the main ingredients seem to always be bacon and dates. For those who don’t appreciate dates, prunes turn the appetizer into angels on horseback. Martha Stewart stuffs her dates with fancy cheese, while others opt for smoked almonds in the center of the fruit. I chose cream cheese!

All you’ll need to recreate my version is some good bacon (nitrate free, please), dates (or prunes), cream cheese and a bottle of balsamic vinegar. I thought I’d get a little cah-razy with my vinegar and bought a bottle of black & raspberry balsamic.

  1. Slice open the dates, take out the seed and stuff with cream cheese
  2. Wrap the date in raw bacon
  3. Bake the rolled up fruit for about 8 minutes at 400 degrees
  4. Bring 1/4 – 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar to a near boil (I added 1 T. brown sugar for added sweetness). Then, lower heat and let reduce at least half way at a low temperature. Be patient, the more the vinegar reduces, the better it tastes.

I had some extra figs in my fridge and decided to wrap them in bacon as well. They come out a bit sweeter than the dates and add a little brightness to the plate.

Tip: My bacon looked a little too soft about half way through baking, so I gave each piece a little roll with a spoon. This helped ensure crispy bacon the whole way round, so flip ’em over if needed.

Drizzle balsamic reduction over your little devils and watch them disappear! (Please pray that Jy does not come home from the gym asking to try one. They are g-o-n-e!)

Take Papa John Off of Speed Dial

Take Papa John Off of Speed Dial

Did you have a merry Christmas? Are you still busting out a sweet Hanukkah? Are your jeans feeling a little bit tighter? Yeah, me too.

Guess what I opened last night? A bodybugg! No, it’s not some kind virus or bed insect, it’s a vehicle to bring me to the land of bikini body.

Yeah, that is 66 year old Helen Mirren. You know the time to up the health ante has arrived, when you choose a body almost twice as old as your own to emulate. Now that I have a brother who works as a personal trainer, I have a direct line to free workout tips. *If he thinks otherwise, I will remind him how many nights I let him sleep on my floor, after he begged.

I gave Jy a sweaty stocking stuffer this year. He is now an official gym member. It took all that I had to not sign myself up as well. I know that I just can never make it to a gym with both boys. It’s easier to try to sneak in a shot of 30 Minute Shred during naps or head out for a walk after Jy gets home from work.

What the bodybugg does is manage calorie output. It is still up to me to manage calorie imput and log what I eat (bleh.) However, the awesomeness of the bodybugg occurs when I simply check my little Droid phone to see how many steps I have taken during the day, how many calories I have burned, how my workouts affect me after the fact, etc. The mumbo jumbo of the manual says:

The system records and analyzes physiological parameters, and uses algorithms to report daily movement, calories burned, degree of physical activity and steps taken.

This translates to “If you eat the number of calories you are supposed to, according to how many calories the bodybugg records you burning, you’ll go from J. Hud before to J. Hud after.”

I’ll talk more about the bodybugg as I get comfortable with it and learn the ins and outs.

For now, I want to move on to the foods that may be good for us to try and take in during this awkward mid-holiday week.

If you are still celebrating Hanukkah, you have license to eat a fried food for a bit longer. The rest of us are going to have to find a way to make it to Saturday night without further damaging our digestive systems or adding anything to our thighs that is not a new, frangranced lotion we got for Christmas.

What are you eating this week? It is easy to be tired of cooking right now and call a pizza to your door. Don’t do it! Do everything you can this week to make January 1st a bit easier. Yeah, I am totally talking to myself here.

Why not spend the next week making the best recipes of the year. Take 2011 out in gastro-style! Here are few sites that offer up 2011’s most popular dishes. Go visit and get inspired!

Eating Well

Cooking Light

Souther Living

Check out this New Year’s Day Black Eyed Pea Salad recipe!

Sunset Magazine

I think this might be the fourth time I’ll have to hit the grocery store this week. Obviously, I should be doing some better planning. Luckily, Jy is off all this week and I may be able to whip up some fun recipes to share with you. This week we will be going international in our Movies & Munchies segment. Mr. Movie Fuel will be talking about one of my all time favorite movies, Life Is Beautiful, I can’t wait!

Happy last week of 2011!

Hoping to Spread Cheer

Hoping to Spread Cheer

I didn’t think I was that  busy this season, but color me wrong. Remember the white chicken enchiladas I plan to make today? Those turned into enchilada and burrito plates from a local Mexican restaurant. I really wanted to make the dinner from scratch and then blog about it, but all the Christmas errands and a pesky dose of Bronchitis for my  husband got in the way. So, I apologize if you were hoping to read about Pioneer Woman’s dish.

Dallas, Max and I all grabbed the to-go plates and a wrapped up football to deliver to Josh So and his boys. I had not met Josh until tonight, but I am in the same Mother’s club as his cousins, sister. Follow that? His wife was in the club too. In an unexpected and devastating turn of events, Josh’s wife Anna died while giving birth to their second son, Jake. It happened right before Thanksgiving, forcing Josh to bring a newborn and three year old home to a new life, without their mother. The family member in the club had asked for a hand in meal and diaper deliveries. I feel awful for him. Jake is back in the hospital with some health issues. If you pray, please…pray for this family. If you want to know more about Josh or how you can help him, read this article from The Patch. (Photo – The Patch)

Cherish your family and loved ones, you can never know how long you will have them in arm’s reach.

While I wish I could sit and chat more about all the food I plan to work on tonight, I have to get my booty up and make it! Merry Christmas Eve – Eve everyone!

Move Fuel: Christmas Vacation with Grisowld Ham

Move Fuel: Christmas Vacation with Grisowld Ham

The ham is still in the oven, roasting away. I’ll let my very own Mr. Movie Fuel take it away with a modern Christmas-omedy favorite!

National Lampoon’s – Christmas Vacation (1989)

  Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly Deangelo, Juliette Lewis, Randy Quaid and Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Writer John Hughes has a talent for creating characters that are perfectly imperfect.  Their quirks and faults make them funny, but within each of his movies, he seems to create a world full of these people, maybe so they are not alone?  There is a certain sentiment he has for the outsider that is most notably demonstrated in films like Breakfast ClubPretty in PinkSixteen Candles and Some Kind of Wonderful.  But, I would argue that he is at his best when examining the family dynamic, especially because he has a gift for creating a family out of any group of people who grow to care for each other.

Films like Uncle BuckPlanes, Trains and AutomobilesFerris Bueller’s Day OffHome Alone and all of the Vacation movies.  If you ask anyone, they will argue why one National Lampoon’s Vacation movie is their favorite over another; European Vacation, the original Vacation movie in which they travel to Wally World and some people even love Vegas Vacation(?).  Needless to say, each movie has its moments and can be watched multiple times, still drawing out laughs throughout the living room.

My personal favorite is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  I love Christmas and I love the Vacation movies, so it’s the perfect match.  And everything about Christmas seems to be included here; tree hunting, mall shopping, decorating the house with lights, the family dinner, advent calendars and gingerbread houses, even reading “The Night Before Christmas,” but of course these are all done in the special Griswold family style of Christmas time fun.

As usual, Chevy Chase drives the movie home with his deadpan expressions and innate ability to get into trouble.  Chase’s Clark Griswold wants nothing more than happiness for his family and an ideal vacation. Griswold never fails to go about it the wrong way up until the very end, when he realizes his family loves him despite (and almost because of his) faults. However, it is the rest of the family that enhances his character this time. In this Vacation movie, we get to know the family members quirks at home, as opposed to their usual role of being a fish out of water in different locales. This time nearly all of their extended family come for a mostly unwelcome visit. The word dysfunction probably wouldn’t do this family justice, but the standout here is Randy Quaid as Clark’s hillbilly cousin in-law Eddie, who seems to live on another planet and is impossible to get rid of!   “Every time Catherine revved up the microwave, I’d piss my pants and forget who I was for about half an hour or so.” – Cousin Eddie

The movie as a whole is one segment after another that make up a giant circus of Christmas mishaps.  We can all get frustrated over the holidays and can relate to issues like family pressure, shopping, money stress, decorations and a general sense of wanting everything to be perfect.  And while this film dabbles with some of these themes, don’t kid yourself, this is all just straight laughs with a sprinkle of warming the heart.  So, grab your popcorn tin (four flavors!) and let John Hughes entertain you for 90 minutes!

Now, on to the eats! My Griswold ham is the second big pig butt I have roasted in the past month. I have a newly found, firm belief that every mother needs to teach her children how to roast a large piece of animal. This would have come in handy during my slice of pizza or bowl of cereal college years. I found a ten pound ham at Fresh & Easy for .97 cents a pound. It wouldn’t have been that hard to scrounge up ten dollars between my roommates back in the day! What I love about roasting meats is the large amount of food I end up with. It’s not too often that there are more than one or two portions of left overs in my home!

The secret to roasting ham (and all meat really) lies not in the ingredients, but the oven! Just like turkey, I like to let my ham cook uncovered in a hot oven (400 degrees) for the first twenty minutes or so. After that, the heat goes down to 325 degrees and the meat is covered loosely with aluminum foil. Pre-cooked hams need around 15 minutes per pound. This is why roasted meats are the best rainy day meal, you’ll need to be home for at least three hours while it cooks.

The last ham I made was seriously juicy. I had doused little Wilbur in orange juice, syrup, brown sugar, pepper and honey. This go around, I was out of orange juice. I used instead, extra honey and then patted the whole thing down with all the apple sauce I had in the fridge. Apple juice works well, but we are out of that too. My only other options were Kefir or Almond Milk. Uh, no.

That’s it, that’s all I needed to do. Now we have ham for at least three days, so I had better get crafty! Now, if someone would only teach me to slice!

Movie Fuel: Sherlock Holmes and Fish ‘n Chips (With a Twist)

Movie Fuel: Sherlock Holmes and Fish ‘n Chips (With a Twist)

Movie Fuel is back with a review of the newest Sherlock Holmes movie. I’ll be waiting for this one to get to dvd asap! There are plenty of fun movies to go see right now and I am getting antsy! I have heard that the newest Mission Impossible (number 5) is the best MI yet, full of fun and action! I’d also love to get out to see the Charlize Theron flick, Young Adult.

On to Movie Fuel!

Sherlock Holmes – Game of Shadows (2011)

 

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace

Directed by: Guy Ritchie

Three Stars (Out of Four)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary character Sherlock Holmes has been adapted more than any other, an astounding 25,000 times.  It is understandable, as the character is fascinating; a cunning know-it-all who has to always be one step ahead of his opposition, the grandest master of deduction.

Director Guy Ritchie has long been known as a rogue filmmaker who emphasizes style over everything else and knows how to please his audience.  He makes unorthodox decisions that others wouldn’t, like telling stories about British Gangsters, using slow motion where it hasn’t been used before, hiring his friends as actors and of course his most questionable decision, marrying Madonna.  But, there is no denying Ritchie’s signature style, you know when you are watching one of his films, which include: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)Snatch (2000)Rock n Rolla (2008) and the first Sherlock Holmes (2009) film (no need to mention Swept Away (2002), with the aforementioned ex-wife).

He catches your attention early on, grabs you  and pulls you into a free-falling chasm.  And before you can decide whether or not you like what you are experiencing, you are pummeled over the head with a barrage of quick camera shots, fast action and clever narration.  Needless to say, Ritchie can sometimes be a polarizing filmmaker, most audiences either love him or hate him. With the first Sherlock Holmes film, Ritchie took the best of a more recent bad adaptations like Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) and  the less than stellar Jack the Ripper Tale, From Hell (2001) and added his own style to create a swift and entertaining film with enough twists to make you care all the way until the end.

With Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, you get much of the same and you like it. However, there is at least a sense that the director is more in control of his craft and the film is driven less on action and more on a chess match of a story.  Where the first film in the series concentrates on developing the title character and relies heavily on style more than story , the second installment feels comfortable and confident.   Guy Ritchie’s  signature is still evident and  heavily stamped all over this version (yes, the narrated slow-motion action sequences are still intact, and this time with weapons!)  This is all done within the parameters of a well written, cat and mouse tale which is like a puzzle with missing pieces that are only to be found in the exciting conclusion.

In this sequel, we are introduced fully to Holmes’ greatest adversary, Professor Moriart. Almost as clever as Holmes, Moriarty ups the ante and provides a fierce challenge for our hero.  The real joy of both Sherlock Holmes films is the dynamic relationship between cohorts Holmes and Watson, played respectively by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.  Over two movies, Downey and Law have developed a friendly chemistry that is sincere and funny. When where every scene when the two are not verbally jousting, we feel like we are watching a filler leading up to the next time they can go at it again.

Game of Shadows takes place in the days and nights surrounding Watson’s wedding, which adds a new level of tension between the friends and partners and adds to the already layered storyline. While this is best described as an action movie, the film is at its best when we are witness to how Holmes mind works. Downey portrays him as a nearly clinically insane man whose ideas and true conspiracy theories constantly push him to the edge, where he prefers to be. Ultimately, Downey is what we paid our high priced admission for; his manic approach to the character is exciting and fun and seems like the perfect role that fits his personality. Early on, the viewer may feel as though they are in a maze leading to nowhere, but don’t be fooled, the filmmakers are fully in control the whole way through and by the end you feel smarter than when you walked into the theater and, as rare as this happens, like you got your money’s worth. –Movie Fuel 2011

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it! Now, what to eat?

Fish and Chips

 

California Fish and Chips
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the fish:
  • 1 lb. white fish (cod, haddock or catfish work well)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup corn starch
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • dash salt and pepper
  • 1 bottle of beer (dark works well, but I used Pliny the Elder)
  • 2 cups frying oil (canola, sunflower or safflower work best)
  • For the chips
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ⅛ cup corn starch
  • 2 cups apple juice or cider
  • dash salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Slowly heat your oil to around 350 degrees (use a thermometer) and plan to have a couple of pairs of tongs on hand, one for the raw fish and one to pull from the wok.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a shallow pan or large rectangle plastic container. Add the beer last and whisk until batter is smooth. Dredge one piece of fish at a time before allowing to fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Don’t hurry your fish by crowding the pan, it will cook best alone. Wear an apron, this dinner is a splashy one. Once your fish looks golden brown, pull the meat out of the oil with tongs and let drain on paper towels. I wanted to try using newspaper for that authentic feel, but couldn’t get over the idea of eating ink.
  3. The avocado batter will need to be mixed in another container to prevent cross contamination from the raw fish. If you’d like to use beer for this batter, you absolutely can. I chose apple cider to prevent any strong beer flavor for my kids.
  4. Homemade tartar sauce is super easy too. It’s just a blend of mayonnaise, vinegar, sweet relish, lemon juice and salt & pepper.
 

Yes, you read that right! Whole wheat flour for the batter and avocados for the fries! This is the Hollywood version of Sherlock Holmes, so I decided to fry California style. The wheat flour gives the batter a little bit of a heaviness to it, but it works pretty well! My husband was a hard sell on the avocado fries until he actually tried one. They were a success, nice and crisp on the outside and mushy goodness on the inside.

I fried my food up in a wok, since I don’t have a frying pan that is all that deep.

Please join me tomorrow to learn about a special family who could use your well wishes this Christmas. I’ll also be reviewing one of my favorite recipes, Pioneer Woman’s White Chicken Enchiladas. Thanks for reading!

Mushroom Elf Houses

Mushroom Elf Houses

I’ve been into making quick stuff lately and am really looking forward to slowing down after Christmas! Here’s another recipe for the time crunched crowd. You’ll need an egg, some bread crumbs, shredded cheese, garlic and a pound of mushrooms (any type that is not “magical.”)

When Dallas saw that I was making these he said, “Eww, mushrooms.” I promised him these ones would be different and after piling the fungi on a plate around some marinara, he agreed to be my taste tester. All of him “mmm’s” and “so goods” lured Max to his booster seat and now both of my kids are eating mushrooms to the tune of Dino Dan.

We agreed that the name of the appetizer must be changed from Baked Mushrooms to something kids would like. After testing out “Christmas stuff” and “Spicy Trees,” Dallas came up with “Little Elf Houses.” Perfect!

These couldn’t be easier to make. They works in the same way fried chicken does. Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Whisk one or two eggs in a shallow bowl and wet the mushrooms before dipping into a mix of bread crumbs, shredded cheese and minced garlic. That’s it, that is all of it! Feel free to sprinkle the mushrooms with any crumbs left over and bake for 10 minutes.

Short and sweet, right? That’s what we all need right now during this high cookie holiday season. Happy Hanukkah too who celebrate!

Come back tomorrow to check out a review of the newest Sherlock Holmes and a twist on traditional fish and chips!

Winter Compote

Winter Compote

Or a jar, whatever. Now that we are far out of the summer fruit season, it is time to find ways to enjoy the fruits of late fall and winter. Clementines are everywhere and I suggest you grab another bag if the first bag you bought this year was tart. My recent Costco purchase was nothing but sweetness. I’m sure you should also be able to find cranberries for just a bit longer. If you haven’t already, grab an extra couple bags to freeze. The third fruit you’ll see all about town is the confusing pomegranate aril. These are crunchy, yet light little seeds that have conveniently been removed from the ultimate stainmaster, the pomegranate.

If you have all three of these babies, you have the makings of a totally delicious winter compote. It can be used to top anything from french toast or oatmeal to cold pasta or pork chops. You’ll love the combo of juicy, cruncy and tangy in this mix.  The longest part of the process will be cooking the cranberries until they pop. I cheated and did this in the microwave, which only cost me four minutes for about two cups of cranberries.

As for the clementines, peel them. Stretch afterwards if that was strenuous.

The arils, they just need to be scooped out of their container. If you are an overachiever, you can pull them from a whole pomegranate, but wear an apron!

Mix together and blend in sweetener of your choice. Honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, sugar, you’ll have to choose one. The tartness of this mix without sweetener might be enough to kill someone. (I think.) Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired and diggity-dig in! I should mention that I found this recipe from the helpful blog, Hungry Healthy Hillary.

Fruity Coconut Cream

Fruity Coconut Cream

Shaggy was on the Today Show’s fourth hour with Kathie Lee and Hoda this morning.

Not the “Zoinks!” Shaggy, the other one.
This one.

He was singing a song called, “Christmas in Jamaica,” which was about making out and listening to Reggae. It hasn’t exactly made the Christmas cd cut this year. I also think the song bothered Max, because while I was blending up today’s treat, he was blending up his numminoes.

Watch him cute his way out of it.

So, on to today’s treat! I have read that it only takes ten days of winter before most people start complaining about how much they hate the cold. I might be ahead of the game, as I am ready for spring and winter is still a couple of days away.

I decided to blend up a can of light coconut milk with frozen berries to find out if I would end up with something ice creamish. Sho’ nuff, I did! Costco has a great frozen blend of dark berries that includes strawberries, pomegranate arils, tart cherries, blueberries and raspberries. You will need frozen fruit for this to work, but it does not need to be of the berry variety. Frozen bananas and mango would be extra tropical tasting and if you plan to make this for company, you could melt together a sauce of dark rum, brown sugar and smashed banana. Unless of course your company does not drink, then that would be like pouring cow blood over a Tofurky. Have I mentioned I want to be a teacher? I should probably practice my similes and metaphors first. Am I right?

In case you can’t read the tone of my voice through your computer (if you can, call me, you are a genius), then I should mention that I am thinking of a particular SNL skit with the question, “Am I right?” There is a hilarious bit on the show, with different comics using their own catchphrase and mocking the crutch on which many comedians lean. “The Original Kings of Catchprase Comedy” cracks me up every time! *Click on the underlined title to watch a clip.*

I know, I know, I was telling you about a frozen treat. I just wanted to mention one other SNL crack up. Did you watch Saturday night’s episode? It was one of the best I have seen in a looong time. If you missed it, check out what I think was one of the best sketches of the night. I was crying by the end of the skit, please watch!

Saturday Night Live – Buble Duets – Video – http://www.nbc.com.

Well, I have already given you the recipe for this treat. One can of coconut milk, a bunch of frozen fruit. For those who are not sugar addicts (like moi) you will want to add sugar to taste. I can’t get back on the glucose roller coaster, I’ve just stepped off. So buyer beware, this is a tart ice cream. It is no more tart than the yogurts in all the trendy fro-yo shops, so I’m guessing you just might like this dessert the way it is. I’ve topped mine with some unsweetened coconut, but would suggest you trying pistachios on top. If only I had a pistachio tree.

Thanks for reading along with me today. Can you tell I am feeling a bit chatty? We have a fun week planned, including the Movie Fuel movie review (instead of summary) of a flick that is out in theaters! Join us Thursday for his review of Sherlock Holmes and my twist on Fish N’ Chips. Just like 80’s band, ‘Til Tuesday!

Pre-Hanukkah Numminoes

Pre-Hanukkah Numminoes

Max refers lovingly to his food as “numminoes” and to water as “bla-la-lala-la.” Much of the family (on my dad’s side) was able to get together last night and celebrate Hanukkah (yes, a very early Hannukah) with some serious numminoes. It was more of a Hanukkah dinner as we didn’t light the menorah or exchange gifts. None the less, it was fun to get together with family and even more fun to eat so many carbs!

My aunt fried up some latkes. I friggin’ love latkes! They are like hash browns, but have matzoh meal, garlic, onions and probably some other stuff mixed in, I wish I knew. I have never tried to make them, I excel more at eating them! My friend from my college days would always sing, “I love latkes. I love latkes. Not a little…but a lot-ka!”

I was in charge of bringing salad and wasn’t able to buy lettuce until the last minute. The best way I could prep ahead of time was to lay out all the salad ingredients (minus the leaves) and bottle up some dressing to go. Pretty to look at, hard to transport!

Next on the caloric list, one of my favorite desserts has always been my Nana’s (as in bananas) orange jell-o mold. I think the recipe is a moderately kept secret, I’ll have to ask my aunts. If not, I’d love to share it with you. My dad couldn’t wait for the mold to be flipped before cutting. Can’t blame him!

And Hanukkah would not be Hanukkah without blintzes. I don’t know what is inside of a blintz either. But, I know it tastes good with sour cream or apple sauce. Oh, I forgot to mention the homemade apple sauce on the latkes. Mama mia! I don’t really question Hannukah food, I just eat it!

So, I guess I am not really forwarding any important food information today. I am really just showing you the reason I did not step on the scale this morning!

On the other religious spectrum, I indulged again  this morning on a giant cinnamon roll at church. Every Wednesday since September of 2007, I have been lucky enough to be a part of a fantastic group called Mothers Together. It’s an outreach program at church (meaning it is meant for anyone to come join, not just church members) and it is a wonderful place for new moms especially.

At Mothers Together there is free childcare that is top quality. My boys have always had loving, caring teachers there and learn something from the bible each week. There is free coffee, which I don’t need to discuss further. You know how I feel about coffee. There is always an abundance of homemade baked goods. There are fabulous speakers and teachers and best of all, amazing women you really want to befriend. We had our last meeting of the year this morning and I can rarely (if EVER) say no to a cinnamon roll!

Want to see our crazy attempts at a family photo? Some are missing, lots are blurry,  but we tried!

 

Peanut Butter – Banana – Chocolate Chip Hummus

Peanut Butter – Banana – Chocolate Chip Hummus

You read that right! Let the power of the chickpea reign forever! Fiber, protein and potassium in a dessert? Hecks to the yeah. This recipe was inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie’s No Sugar Cookie Dough Dip. Her site is fantabulous for dessert lovers who aim for a smaller butt. There is definitely a much more eloquent way of wording that last sentence, but I am typing this while my kids are actually cooperating, so I’m not taking any chances here, I’m writing as fast as I can!

I was in a focus group last night about ice cream. It was great to sit around and chat for two hours and walk away with a check for $125. I think the marketing group is pretty dumb though. I would have forsaken the money for some darn ice cream. Try sitting and talking about dessert for a couple of hours and see what happens. It is all you can think about! I headed straight to Trader Joe’s and picked up two pints, Chocolate and Candy Cane Joe Joe flavors. Trader Joe’s Chocolate is a little tough to scoop and didnt’ leave much of an impression on me. The Candy Cane Joe Joe flavor on the other hand, was seriously the bee’s knees. Buy some!

 

Peanut Butter - Banana - Chocolate Chip Hummus
 
Prep time
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Author:
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: 2-3
Ingredients
  • 1 can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ⅛ tsp Salt
  • ⅛ tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • scant ¼ cup Peanut (or other nut) Butter
  • scant ¼ cup Almond, Coconut or Soy Milk
  • ⅔ cup sweetener (I used a mix of honey, agave nectar and brown sugar)
  • ⅓ cup chocolate chips
  • 2 to 3 T oats
  • 1 banana, sliced
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) to a blender or food processor, and blend until very smooth. Then mix in the chocolate chips. Layer banana slices into the dip. If you'd rather not use sweetener, substitute 1 and ¼ cup medjool dates. Blend the dates until they are as small as your blender will get them!

*If you are wondering why you can see oat bits in my dip, blame it on my Ninja. No, not my husband, my Ninja blender. It’s 1000 watts of great blending power, but it will never cream something completely. If you have a different blender or food processor, expect prettier results!

The sky is the limit for dipping choices. I would think graham crackers, pretzels, marshmallows or Nilla wafers would work best. I know those are not all “real food” choices, but they would all work well.

 Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will show you some of the yummy food we will be eating tonight, for our family’s Hannukah celebration. So, we know it actually isn’t Hannukah yet. We also know that my (immediate) family is not Jewish. However, my wonderful aunts are and one of them will be visiting from Texas. We don’t plan to exchange gifts, but we do plan to eat! I’ll talk more about it tomorrow!

GF Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

GF Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

These muffins were born on the Comfy Belly blog and turned out better than I expected. The recipe makes about eight muffins and only uses 1/2 cup of coconut flour. That’s not the type of muffin I normally bake! Coconut flour does not come from a grain, which makes these little babies gluten-free.

Remember, coconut flour sucks liquid up, so measure correctly! I was a little short on coconut oil, so I added a tiny bit of applesauce to make up for the missing fat. After the last stir, I still thought the batter looked dry and I added about a tablespoon of half and half and a tablespoon of lemon juice. You could probably just use extra lemon juice or water if you wanted to skip any dairy.

 

Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Bread
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • ½ cup of coconut flour
  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • ⅓ cup of oil (I used melted coconut butter and a touch of applesauce)
  • ½ cup of honey (I mixed honey and agave nectar)
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest (about one medium lemon)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and blend well.
  3. Add the eggs, oil, honey and vanilla to the dry mixture and blend very well. I use a mixer.
  4. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, and poppy seeds and blend well. I prefer to grate the lemon directly over the mixing bowl (and estimate a tablespoon).
  5. Add the batter to baking cups and bake. For mini-muffins, bake for about 12 minutes. For regular-size muffins, bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top has browned a bit.
  6. Enjoy! Store for several days in a container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
 

*I was able to eek out 12 muffins. Wish I could talk more, but I am off to a focus group on ice cream today. Mama’s gotta make the Benjamins!

Brussels And Bacon

Brussels And Bacon

This would be a killer side dish to tote along to the next potluck you are invited to. Although, you might want to consider bringing it somewhere that is not far from home. This dish is best served hot, hot, hot!

brussel sprouts and bacon

 

My brother told me that there is no recipe for this mix. You’ll just need to go with what instructions I have and cook Free Willy style.

Brussels And Bacon
 
Prep time
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I wish I had specifics for this recipe, it was relayed to me after the fact!
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Ingredients
  • Brussel sprouts
  • bacon
  • red onion
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Boil brussel sprouts for 4-5 minutes until dark green, drain and rinse under cold water, slice into at least thirds.
  2. Fry slices of bacon and save some of the grease.
  3. Use the leftover grease to saute chopped red onions until softened.
  4. Slice bacon and add back to the pan with onions, brussel sprouts and reheat the mix together.
  5. Dress with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (while food is still hot in the pan) as well as salt and pepper.
*I should add that I normally loathe brussel sprouts. I think I have one of those super taster tongues, which makes brussels taste more like the sweat off the back of The Muscles from Brussels than a veggie. By the way, that means they usually taste gross. Not this time. If you have a STT like me, give them a go!

**One more thing. I always thought the “Muscles” was Arnold Schwarzzy. It’s Jean Claude, according to Google images. Go fig!