Late to the Party

3 09 2012

“Wow, a food blog post about the Hunger Games.  How original.”  See how judgmental you can be?  Maybe you should come back later when you’re feeling better.

Some very good friends of ours just moved 3,000 miles away.  But before that they did something terrible.  They introduced me to the Hunger Games.  I’m not sure exactly why this trilogy of books has nailed me so completely, but I find myself going back every so often to reread certain passages (or the whole book).  What strikes me is that from the beginning this series is not so much about a fight to the death or action or violence, but survival.  From the very first page we find out that in the districts of Panem the main enemy is starvation.  Food is vitallly important in this story, and even in the arena Katniss notes “…how quickly the food disappears.”  So it’s no surprise that it’s inspired a cookbook and countless bloggers to take up the mantle and dedicate posts and recipes to the many meals described in detail in the book.  I may be late to this party but that’s what I do.

The very first food in The Hunger Games is so simple, yet it’s given star treatment.  A gift from her sister, Katniss receives a “…perfect little goat cheese wrapped in basil leaves.”  Spread across some special bakery bread, this breakfast is dubbed a feast.  It certainly made my mouth water to read it, so I thought it would make a perfect appetizer for our Hunger Games dinner (which you’ll find out about later).

I searched my favorite recipe site (Cooking Light) for “goat cheese basil” and this beauty showed up:

Fresh Herbed Heirloom Tomatoes and Goat Cheese Crostini

That’s quite a title, isn’t it?  For a recipe with no photo, just the list of ingredients made my mouth water.  But it’s not exactly what I was looking for so I made a slight adjustment.  And by slight adjustment I mean I put the bread on the bottom instead of the tomatoes.  Actually it was more than that, because we didn’t have lemons and I used limes.  But lime juice is very potent so I used half as much as they asked for; even so it was a bit limey for my taste but still very good.  We went to the bakery at our local butcher shop and got some Italian sun-dried tomato bread and toasted it up in the toaster oven.  On went the goat cheese, topped with the tomato slices and basil oil.

A feast indeed.  Karen mentioned that this could have been a meal in itself.  I agree.

Strike two against Burger King

1 07 2007

I grew up in the 80’s. That’s to say I wasn’t a teenager in the early 80’s, so most of those brat pack movies went over my head. I couldn’t really relate to The Breakfast Club (I loved Ferris Bueller though) but I watched it since my older sister watched it. But there was one fad for which I was the perfect age, the “target audience.” Hence my state of depression this week.

Karen and I have long held the belief that PG-13 movies should NEVER under any circumstances be seen by children under 13, and in some cases 17. (Remember Titanic?) And when Spider-Man movies started coming out a few years ago it was an easy decision. Isaac was WAY too young. But he turns seven this month, and the coolest thing that ever existed in my childhood is making its way to the big screen.

You’re thinking “Another Star Wars movie?” No, cooler. Star Wars was incredible, amazing, and awe inspiring, but the Transformers were cool.

This, however, is not cool:

Isn’t this supposed to transform?

I understand that happy meal toys cost about twelve cents, so we can’t expect much. But even my four-year-old wasn’t fooled with this one. Um, Burger King? Transformers toys are supposed to, well, transform, ya know? Not this one.  No, here’s the new version of Starscream, and what you see is what you get. It’s some stupid plastic, well let’s call it what it is, it’s a statue. It’s not a transformer, it’s just a robot. Isaac picked up on it immediately.

So here’s an idea. How about these fast food places stop giving toys with happy meals. Maybe little books instead, or activity pages or something. To the chain that comes up with an idea to actually engage children I will offer my patronage. Until then I may just start asking them to take the toys out before we even see them.

Ratatouille goes down easier than Shrek

28 06 2007

Honestly I couldn’t stomach Shrek the Third at all. It was awful. Ratatouille, on the other hand, is great. How do I know? I made it last week.

All this time I thought the rat’s name was Ratatouille and then I find out his name is Remy. Ratatouille is apparently just a dish with a really silly name. When I heard that I figured it would be something silly where you whisk eggs into a foam and fold them into puff pastry or something. (The French don’t care what they eat, so long as it’s difficult to prepare.) It’s actually kind of like a vegetable stew.

I looked at the Food Network and Cooking Light and found three recipes that looked promising, so Karen and I took something from each recipe and made it work. Okay, Karen tinkered with the recipes, but would you trust me with something like that? Me neither. Notice a recurring theme that when Karen is around to keep me in line I don’t ruin dinner.

Here are the recipes we found:
Grilled Ratatouille from Bobby Flay
Grilled Ratatouille from Emeril
Grilled Ratatouille from Cooking Light

Step number one was to cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and peel it. Then you liberally salt both halves all over and let it sit for about an hour. This apparently draws out all the bitter juices and it works; there were a lot of drippings in that pan. While it was sitting I put it to drain on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Then you fire up the grill.

The first thing to set on the grill was a head of garlic cut in half, per Emeril’s directions. We thought roasted garlic sounded killer so I did it. How’d it look afterwards?

garlicy yummyness

We couldn’t salvage the top half. Apparently there was too little garlic and too much of that papery covering; it caught fire. But it did add a nice smoky taste to the half we did use. It seemed kind of odd to be grilling vegetables and leaving the meat on the stove to cook, but when in Paris, right? I charred the outside of some of the vegetables (I’m not enjoying my experience with gas grilling) but that’s okay, I peeled them when they were done.

veggies on grill YUM

I always read recipes and say to myself “Emeril is nuts, I’m not doing that.” This was one of those times, and don’t you make the same mistake I did. Emeril said to slice the red onion and put those slices on the grill. I thought “I’ve grilled onions before and the middle rings of onion fell into the flame. I’ll just quarter the onion.” Guess what, it came apart anyway and I still had to grill the onion on foil. It would’ve cooked much better had I sliced it. So slice the onions.

See, I did make a mistake, but it wasn’t ruined.

The yellow squash that we had was a couple weeks old and unusable so we didn’t. I’m sure that’s my fault too.


People say (don’t ask who, just people) that ratatouille can be served cold, hot, or at room temperature. People also say you can make it a day in advance so that the flavors can come together. I think we liked it warm, and it was definitely better on leftover night, so go ahead and make it the day before your big BBQ pool party (invite us over). This recipe makes a ton of food, and over rice it makes a great vegetarian leftover night all by itself. Not exactly man food but I did make it on the grill!

Read the rest of this entry »

Disturbing Superhero Images, vol. 1

3 06 2007

In Spider-man 3 our hero is taken over by this mysterious black suit that strengthens all his super powers, but in return it tries to take over his mind and turn him evil. In Spider-man 4 the black suit makes a comeback and tries to take over completely by removing Peter Parker’s head and growing a new one of its own. In this scene Peter’s body searches desperately for his head (still alive inside the mask) before the symbiote consumes him.

“psst! I’m over here, to your right.”

…now where did I put that thing?

“No! Over here! To the right!”

psst!  to the right!

“No! No! No! The right! The right! Oh, how did I get such a stupid body?”


“Yes! That’s it! You’ve almost got it, quick! Be careful!!!”

Ahhh, there you are!

Peter quickly reattaches his head with the help of Dr. Connors and defeates the symbiote again.

Up Next: Batman’s Severed Arm!

More arguments for $1 ticket prices

27 05 2007

We saw Shrek 3 on Friday night.  Two adults and two kids walk in and between admission and concessions we’re out 50 bucks. Shrek 3 was not worth the $4 you pay at Blockbuster.  I suppose Shrek 2 set our expectations too high but seriously, this was as bad as Ice Age 2Shrek 3 was so bad that when Jonathan and Ben got bored and irritable Karen and I did rock-paper-scissors to see who’d get to leave the theater with them and walk around the mall.  The loser (me) had to stay and watch the rest of the movie with Isaac.

In other news I learned another one of those life lessons this weekend. You see, I’ve been driving around since December without the insurance cards in the car. They arrived, honest your honor, but they just never made their way into the glove box. I didn’t even notice until the time came to renew registration. So when our new cards came last week I made it a point to get them in the cars fast. Friday morning Karen was taking Jonathan out so I gave Jonathan the card and said “Give this to Mommy when you get to the car.” That’s right ladies and gentlemen I trusted my three-year-old more than my wife. Guess what happened. Thirty seconds later I turn around to see Jonny holding a Spider-man action figure – and the card is gone. Disappeared! Vanished! It’s nowhere! After much searching we find that Jonny put it in Ben’s car seat next to Ben. At least he was responsible enough to pass the buck to someone else going in the car.

The state police can just come and arrest me now.

Arguments for $1 ticket prices

17 05 2007

Shrek the Third opens this weekend and that means lots of money for Katzenberg. It also means that we will be taking a Saturday afternoon sometime soon and seeing it. But it also brings to my mind a question. Has anyone else noticed the disturbing trend of Disney/Pixar and Dreamworks making identical movies? Here’s what I mean:

Insect Movies:

Dreamworks: Antz 1998
Pixar: A Bug’s Life 1998

Ants by PixarAntz by Dreamworks

This one started it for me. This was back when we were all enamored with the idea of computer animation, and it didn’t really matter whether the movies were any good or not. I remember thinking “Do we really need two ant movies in the same summer?”  Were we really supposed to tell these two apart?  A co-worker actually told me “No, I saw Antz, because in real life ants have six legs.” Engineers are so stupid. What kind of freakish logic is that? You’re not smarter than me just because you can count to six.

Fish Movies:

Pixar: Finding Nemo 2003
Dreamworks: Shark Tale 2004

fish by Pixarfish by Dreamworks

When Jonathan was born and Karen was still in the hospital I took Isaac to see Finding Nemo. Isaac was three. Can you say five bathroom breaks? Who makes a kid’s movie set in the water, anyway? This movie has the highest gross ticket sales of any Pixar movie, and it’s no wonder. You got kids, you’re only seeing half this movie at a time thanks to potty breaks. There were some scary moments in that movie, too.  There were scary sharks, scary jellyfish, a scary angler fish, but the part that scared Isaac the most was when Nemo’s daddy was yelling at him.  Reminded him too much of his own abusive father I suppose. Shark Tale sucked, although the scene of that shark coming out of the closet dressed like the Village People was pretty darn funny.

Movies about zoo animals who are accidentally sent back to the wild:

Dreamworks: Madagascar 2005
Disney: The Wild 2006

who really needs two movies like this, anyway?Hello?  Anybody seen this?  No? me neither

In this case Dreamworks and Disney released, in consecutive years, two bad movies with exactly the same plot, setting, and most of the same characters.   I’ll be honest, I never saw The Wild, and I only saw a tiny bit of Madagascar because it was boring. How can a movie with Chris Rock in it not be funny? Ask Dreamworks, they did it. Bad timing for Disney, though, because when The Wild was released everybody had already seen it the year before, when it was called Madagascar.

Rat Movies:

Dreamworks: Flushed Away 2006
Pixar: Ratatouille 2007

singing slugs are funny.  New law of comedy.A rat chef in a 4 star french restaurant.  Not much of a stretch, actually.

Two movies about a rat who likes living the high life. In Flushed Away, he was the high society pet rat in a wealthy house, and in Ratatouille he’s a master chef in Paris. Maybe he should’ve been voiced by Gordon Ramsay. I’m siding with Dreamworks on this one even though Ratatouille isn’t out yet and it looks very funny. Hey! A food movie! Maybe I can write a review! I wonder if I can claim the ticket price as a tax deduction. But Flushed Away wasn’t really done by Dreamworks, it was done by Aardman. I’ve been a Wallace & Gromit fan for a long time now and anything with Nick Park’s name on it wins in our house. And who doesn’t like singing slugs?

That isn’t rice, it’s maggots you’re eating!

Bird Movies:

Dreamworks: Chicken Run 2000
Disney: Valiant 2005

yes, these chickens are made out of claySquab!  Quick, suck their brains out!!

As stated before, anything from Nick Park wins in our house, and Chicken Run was his first full length movie. Since these movies take 2-3 years to write, direct, and produce this is perhaps the only set capable of being a true copycat in the list.  I never saw Valiant, but seriously, did anyone see Valiant? Anyone? Valiant it proof positive that Disney has lost their magic completely. My only consolation is that Disney lost $20 million on it.  Almost immediately following this flop Disney bought Pixar.

Monster Movies:

Pixar: Monsters, Inc. 2001
Dreamworks: Shrek 2001

monsters who aren’t scary trying to scare kidsan ogre trying to prove he’s really a nice guy

This one’s a bit of a stretch, I know, especially since I loved both movies. I can’t say anything really bad about these two except that the make-believe creatures weren’t made as scary or ugly as they could’ve been because they’re marketed towards kids. Is it me or are those monsters cute?  For those of you who’ve never read Shrek!, the book by William Steig, you must. It is hilarious and I guarantee you’ll love it. Shrek is far more repulsive in this book than he is in the movie. That being said, both these movies are winners in my opinion, and are actually fairly original stories, which is hard to find in one movie a year, let alone two. Shrek was pretty good but it was nothing compared to Shrek II. Dare we dream that Shrek the Third is better still?

Superhero Movies

Pixar: The Incredibles 2004
Disney: Sky High 2005 (Live Action)

these heroes kick ass…these don’t

This is perhaps the real surprise of the bunch because they’re both from Disney. Disney has long been known for beating lots of dead horses, and I won’t even get into movies like Cinderella II, Cinderella III, Pocahontas II, The Lion King II, The Fox & the Hound II, Little Mermaid II, Bambi II, Lady & the Tramp II, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, Brother Bear II, The Return of Jafar, and all the other cheap-ass sequels that went straight to video. Did anyone actually pay money to see Sky High, when you knew it would be on the Disney Channel in a month or two?

Now that I think about it, maybe Sky High is more of a copy of the X-Men franchise. Either way, boo to Disney for producing some cheesy knockoff of a real movie. I must say I really liked The Incredibles, and for months Isaac ran around the house at top speed like Dash.

Is it me or has Fiona lost weight?

I’m not sure if I’m imagining things but it seems as though Fiona the ogre has hit the gym since we saw her three years ago.  You decide:

Fiona in Shrek 2Fiona in Shrek 3

I understand that ogre obesity is on the rise, but so are ogre eating disorders so I’m a bit surprised at the decision.  At this rate Fiona will be a size 2 ogre in a little ogre miniskirt and haltertop in Shrek 4.