Monday, January 31, 2011

An explanation for #Jan25, and a NSFW Tasmanian aside

Explaining the Egyptian revolution to Americans through a medium they all understand -- a Hollywood movie that involves Egypt! Found this via Twitter and really want to spread it around. Unfortunately Blogger doesn't seem happy with the huge image (about 600 x 6500, 2MB), and all my attempts to reduce its size renders it blur and unreadable. So please follow this thumbnail instead to the image's location on TwitPic.
Explaining the Egyptian revolution to Americans through a medium they all understand -- a Hollywood movie that involves Egypt!

Interestingly, the creator of this piece is @furrygirl, who has gained a lot of followers since this emerged. Her reaction and caution: Warning: I'm a pornographer & atheist, & don't usually tweet politics. I am *NOT* work safe.

... and that segues right into something I've been wanting to share, and had no idea this #Jan25 post would give me that transition opportunity. The connection here is NSFW. Majorly NSFW. NSFW means NOT SAFE FOR WORK, in case you didn't know.

Words can't really describe this video. Just watch. And boys, snap those jaws back into place please!

This. This is the woman Neil Gaiman married.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Foody Friday: quiche galore

The more I make quiche, the more I love just how versatile it is. It's a breakfast equivalent of nasi goreng (fried rice) in the sense that you can throw in whatever's available at the moment, you know, finish off leftovers and such. I also recently tried a targeted quiche, i.e. trying to actually replicate a certain taste/combination.

Here's a list of my recent quiche permutations:

  • Leftover slow-cooked Catalina Cranberry Chicken (a recipe from mochamomma) with spinach and other veggies. This was particularly hearty and tasty: having flavorful chicken really helps pull it all together!
  • Spinach, artichoke & diced tomatoes with habañeros. This was my first try ever at artichokes. I used the canned variety. I knew it would complement the spinach. I made mega-cheesy because this was for the potluck end-of-semester "party" for my massage course. It was a hit.
  • Spinach, artichoke & orange peppers. I felt bad because Kosh had missed out on the goodness of the previous quiche, so I made this one for him :) I'd only used half of the canned artichoke (kinda on purpose), and while I was out of diced tomatoes, the peppers worked just as well. I eased up on using an entire bag of shredded cheese tho, LoL!
  • Spinach, orange peppers, onions & hot giardiniera relish. I was still in a quiche mood (hey let's face it, it's real easy to make, it's really hard to ruin, and I love love love eggy breakfast-type dishes!), so this was a more 'normal' quiche, i.e. throwing together what I happened to have on hand. Yes, my quiches tend to be vegetarian.
  • Philly Cheesesteak Quiche. My massage classmate speculated about making one of these, so I surprised her with one for her birthday. I'll expand on it below.
  • Crustless veggie quiche. After a few weeks off (I *did* get tired of quiche after a while, LoL!), and after deciding I needed to cut some unnecessary refined carbs (i.e. the crust) out of my diet, I tried my hand at a crustless quiche. I also used a whole lot more egg whites than I did whole eggs. It turned out fine, but looked a bit ...small... and the crust really did lend a nice touch to the overall taste and composition, so in this case something was missing... I'll have to experiment a little bit more with this, and also figure out the difference between this and a fritata :)

Okay... so now... let's delve a bit into the Philly Cheesesteak Quiche, shall we?

I found this recipe, and totally tweaked it :)

I started by attempting to carmelize half a white onion, sliced. Ended up just kinda burning the heck out of the onion instead :p Made that the first layer, followed by thinly sliced green peppers, and the drained contents of a small can of mushrooms. For the beef, I used two portions of what I found at Walmart. I kinda burned the things too, and had difficulty getting them to separate out into individual strips. Oops!

In the photo above you see the layers of onion, peppers, 'shrooms, beef *and* some philly cream cheese that I decided would add something unique to the dish.

When researching this dish, I found out that Philly Cheesesteak sammiches are made with provolone cheese. Well, either that or Cheese Whiz (is that the stuff that comes in a "spray can" like whipped cream?) (ugh!), it seems. So I found some sliced sharp/strong provolone, cut 'em into strips, and that made another layer.

Then I remembered I'd intended to add some shredded cheddar cheese BEFORE the sliced cheese. Oh well. So that went on top. Then in went the egg and half-and-half combo, and the dish was popped into the oven (350F) for 45 mins.

It came out looking just like any other quiche...
... and this is how it was delivered to the birthday girl.

I was really anxious about not only giving away a total experiment (which included kinda burned onions *and* beef!), but giving it away as someone's birthday present to boot! Thankfully she said it was good, and that everyone who had a slice gave rave reviews (she only got to eat perhaps a sixth of the dish, because of those other mouths, poor thing!).

I still have two portions of the frozen philly-style steaks: whether I do another round of PCS quiche, or try to fix an actual Philly cheesesteak sammich for Kosh & myself, we'll have to see... in the meantime, if you try your hand at your own Philly Cheesesteak Quiche, do drop by and tell me about it, k?

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon

This review of Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon is part of the 2011 Stephen King and Read Me Baby One More Time Challenges.

This is a tale targeted towards kids. It reads like a fairy tale. The narrator is all too present, too prominent, dropping too many hints of "oh if only so-and-so knew of the room full of such-and-suches, would it have made a difference? I'll let you decide," that might be amusing at first, but irritating after a while.

That said, I rather enjoyed this book.

Stephen King obviously had his Dark Tower characters on his mind when writing this: the land is named Delain (very similar to Roland Deschain's last name, don't you think?); the ruler is Good King Roland (no link or relation to our Roland Deschain except for the name, though); but best of all, it features Randall Flagg as the bad guy. We learn a LOT about Flagg through this tale, and for that alone I think my digression from the Dark Tower series to this book was no mistake.

In fact, reading this BEFORE The Gunslinger might be a good strategy for people who want to approach the Dark Tower indirectly: you might then have a better feel for the person with whom Roland finally palavers at the end of The Gunslinger.

But back to The Eyes of the Dragon. The plot is simple: Randall Flagg has served as advisor/magician to Good King Roland and one or two rulers before him (and that's just this iteration!), but his objective is always to induce chaos, plans that will be thwarted if Roland's first-born, Peter, takes the throne. Thomas, the second-born, is so much more flawed, malleable, corruptible. What unfolds then is what you would expect: the king is poisoned, Peter is found guilty and imprisoned for life in the tallest tower, Thomas is crowned King, and Flagg gets free reign in steadily steering the land into anarchy. Can Peter escape? Save his land? Rid Delain of Flagg? The narrator implies he can, but strings the tale out quite a bit until you find out how.

Mentioned without really being expanded on is the concept of the White, the 'good' force that works subtly counter to the Black of which Flagg is but one representative. This is something that is expounded more in The Stand, in case you were interested in what Mr King was trying to say. Do check it out too, if you haven't already.

One thing I found interesting was how Thomas was described: not that great with his studies, neither very creative nor intuitive, someone who kinda plodded along the best he knew how ... these were about the same things said of Roland Deschain. Of course, one was raised in the shadow of his never-do-wrong brother while the other had integrity, loyalty and pride beat into him from an early age, it's no wonder they turned out very different... but think about it: was Mr King experimenting with a "What if" scenario where our Roland Deschain had from early on been in the thrall of Flagg? Those who have read this recently: any opinions?

For the record, this is at least the second, if not third, time I've read this book. I'm guessing once during my college years (the 90's), at the end of my work career (mid-00's), and now.

I'll be taking a short break from rereading Stephen King because my massage therapy classes have just started up again, so I should get to reviewing stuff before class, and already get moving on assignment we've already been given. Ugh. Hopefully I'll plow through The Drawing of the Three during the MLK Jr long weekend.

Until then: happy reading!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Stephen King's The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower I)

This review of Stephen King's The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower I) is part of the 2011 Stephen King and Read Me Baby One More Time Challenges.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. It is in this first sentence that we already meet Roland Deschain, formerly of Gilead, in pursuit of his old enemy Marten (or Walter, or Randall Flagg, or ...). As the chase continues, we are treated to some of Roland's backstory, whether the relatively recent encounter with the townspeople of Tull, or events of his childhood that set his feet upon the path he now walks.

And if you'd not come to the conclusion already, once the events surrounding Jake the boy from New York found at the Way Station unfold to their (end), you wouldn't be wrong to dislike Roland a litte, or at least to see him not as a cookie cutter hero, but a real man; a hard man; a man forged of bullets, murder, pride, vengeance; a man of unparalleled focus and intensity. A man on a mission.

By the time the gunslinger and the man in black finish their palaver, I think it's safe to say readers will be intrigued by what has been put forth: what is this Dark Tower? Who is the man in black's master, who could grant virtual immortality to the furthest of his minions, and only by visiting through dreams? What this thing about worlds having moved on? What did Jake mean when he stated Go then. There are other worlds than these.?

Then pick up book II - The Drawing of The Three, and prepare to yourself be drawn even further into Roland's world.

ADDITIONAL NOTES for those who have already read the book:
I read the "revised and expanded throughout" version, but with the "original" version on hand to compare and contrast some passages. I'm sure somewhere online someone has done just that, and provided exhaustive analysis of what was changed and why between the 1982 and 2003 editions. Here I'll just note two main things that I made a point to look up.

The first was in Tull, when the pianist Sheb comes bursting in on Roland and Alice in a blind jealous rage. In the revised version, Roland recognises him as someone who was involved in what went on in Meijis. I remember in Book IV that the early (if not earliest) encounters between Roland's ka-tet and the bad guys of Neijis occur at a pub where were have someone plinking away at the keyboards... I guess that was also Sheb? I'll find out/confirm it once I get to Wizard and Glass :)

The second actually covers many things, but they all occur during the palaver between Roland and the man in black during that enchanted night. The main thing that was changed was that Marten *was* Walter who in turn *was* the man in black (in the original, Walter was the man in black, but Marten was someone else, someone Roland later tracked and killed). That the man in black's master was Maerlyn, who lived backwards in time, was nixed: instead he is Legion, and that's about it. No mention about the Beast that lives in / guards the Tower.

These amendments definitely help tidy things up a bit: the confusion about Marten/Walter was always at the back of my hubby's head, so when I was done with the reread, we sat down and discussed the changes, he with his notes he'd made of Books I - IV, and me with the two versions to flip between and quote from. Major quality time, I tell ya! No, I'm being neither sarcastic nor facetious. I've mentioned before that Stephen King, specifically the Dark Tower series, was one of the subjects we bonded over way back when we were dating. So yesterday's discussion was a great throwback to our younger days :)

Next, I picked up The Eyes of the Dragon: that review will be up in a few days... stay tuned!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Foody Friday: Middle Eastern Rice with Black Beans and Chickpeas

Yes, that's quite a mouthful. But tastes great! Earlier this week, I was on the hunt for a recipe that would use the cans of black beans and chickpeas I'd had in the cupboard for ages, and finally decided on this Middle Eastern Rice with Black Beans and Chickpeas because I had most of the ingredients on hand, and those that I didn't, well, I'd just do without.

Here's a crappy picture of the finished product:

And here's how I prepared the dish:

Recipe called for heating 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then adding 1/2 clove garlic, minced, stirring for a minute.
IRL, I accidentally poured a lot of oil (I use Smart Balance) -- oops! -- into a medium saucepan. Added a LOT of minced garlic from the bottle plus half a red onion, diced. Stirred at medium/high heat for a while, until the onions were translucent.

Recipe called for stirring in 1/2 cup of uncooked basmati rice; 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander; and 1/2 teaspoon each of turmeric and cayenne pepper. After 5 mins, add 2 cups of chicken stock, bring to a boil, then cover & simmer for 20 mins.
IRL, I had the uncooked (brown) basmati rice, but threw together a heaping teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, chili powder and allspice altogether with the chicken stock. Robbed it of that 5mins of non-stock cooking. Oh well! Brought it all to a boil, then reduced heat and covered. It took a lot longer than 20mins for the rice to be cooked: perhaps as long as 40mins!

Recipe called for placing 3/4lb ground turkey in a skillet over medium heat, and cooking until evenly brown.
IRL, I used a package of MorningStar Farms fake ground beef in a huge pot/saucepan, and flavored liberally with fish sauce as it heated up.

Recipe called for gently mixing the turkey, drained & rinsed garbanzo beans & black beans, (and optional cilantro, parsley, and pine nuts) into the cooked rice.
IRL, I added the beans and a handful of spinach leaves to the cooked fake meat, and made sure to heat them all up well. Then I added the rice to the meat/bean/veg mixture, and stirred well.

Recipe called for seasoning with salt and pepper.
IRL, I almost never do this step, just as a matter of principle. In this case, it really wasn't needed anyway: I think the fish sauce was more than salty enough to make up for any other taste deficiencies there might have been in this dish!

Kosh liked it, but felt something was missing, ".. like a big chunk of meat." If I make this again, I might use ground lamb instead (Kosh's eyes totally lit up at that statement, so I think I'm on the right track LoL!), it would fit with the region's choice of dead animal anyway, right?

WARNING: I was farting up a storm no thanks to the beans, so if you're planning on making this, just be aware, k? :p

Happy Friday, and have a great weekend!
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