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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Lentil Soup

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So,  we’ve had a REALLY mild spring so far.  Actually, it’s been down right warm.  But Sunday it turned “cold” again, so I wanted to make soup.  The best thing about soup is that it’s filling and REALLY difficult to mess up.  You can pretty much do anything and it will still turn out.  The only thing I caution about is the salt content.  I use vegan bullion, which is essentially salt.  I would not add salt to the soup until you allow the bullion to dissolve.  There are many iterations of this soup.  This version doesn’t have spinach or parmesan in it.  Feel free to adjust to your tastes.

Lentil Soup

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 (or more) cloves garlic
  • 1 small or 1/2 large onion
  • 2-3 celery stalks
  • 2 medium carrots (or a bunch of baby carrots)
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes (or three large tomatoes diced)
  • 1 cup dry lentils (rinsed and picked over for stones)
  • 1/2 cup cracked wheat
  • 2 tsp dry thyme
  • 9 cups water with 3 bullion cubes or 9 cups veggie broth

In a pot, heat olive oil while chopping onion and garlic.  Add to the pot when the oil is hot.  Allow these to cook until the onion has become translucent (5ish minutes).  While this is cooking, chop your celery and carrots.  This is a rustic soup, so don’t worry about having a uniform chop.  Add the carrots and celery to the onions and garlic.  Allow the veggies to cook for another 5ish minutes.  While these are cooking, chop your tomatoes if you are using whole ones rather than canned.  Add the tomatoes to the pot and allow them to break down a bit.  Finally, add your nine cups of water and bullion cubes, thyme, and lentils.  I added my cracked wheat at this point.  If you cook the soup for an hour or so, the cracked wheat might get a little mushy.  But, I didn’t care, so I just added the wheat with the lentils and the liquid.  Allow the soup to simmer on low for half an hour to an hour.  That’s it!

Some variations: If you have any leftover parmesan cheese rind, you might want to add that into the soup while it’s cooking to give a bit more flavor.  Or just sprinkle a bit of parm on the soup itself.  I added some nutritional yeast (vegan version of parm cheese) and some red pepper flakes.  Again, a lot of lentil soups call for spinach as well.  If you are using frozen spinach, remember to  drain it well.  If using fresh baby spinach, I would add in during the last 5 to 1o minutes of cooking.

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Stanley Kubrick

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Have you seen a Stanley Kubrick movie?  If you have, you’ve noticed it sucks you in and yet it creeps you out.  I can’t say I’ve seen his full body of work, but the other night I had the “pleasure” of watching Full Metal Jacket.  I put pleasure in quotations as I enjoyed the cinematography and the storytelling elements of the movie.  I just kept thinking this movie is f-ed up the whole time.  I figured this blog is a pretty good way for me to express my feelings over the different movies I’ve seen of his.

The earliest movie of Kubrick’s I’ve seen was Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.  I actually watched this movie in college for a class.  My senior year I took an American History through Film class. In general I really liked it, but we watched Rambo II for our Vietnam era movie instead of something like Platoon…  Ridiculous.  On to the movie.  Again, not having been around during the height of the Cold War, this movie was unbelievable.  Why would someone think that the U.S.S.R would pollute the U.S.’s drinking water supply in an effort to destroy America?!  But that is the issue that this Air Force General thinks is going to happen.  Well, then the General goes a little nutty in the head…  And then the Russians let the Americans know about a Doomsday machine.  Oh, and of course there is Dr. Strangelove himself, an ex-Nazi genius with a hand that is uncontrollable.  In the end they are able to recall all but one bomb that this crazy General has activated.  This one bomb goes down, with a character riding it like it was a horse at the rodeo.  There is some more in the plot, but then the story seems to abruptly end.  I didn’t dislike this movie.  I just found it REALLY strange.  It’s a dark comedy about a time that I don’t have a good connection with.

I have only seen about 30 minutes or so of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I can’t comment on it fully, obviously.  I will say it was definitely interesting to watch a movie where the first 10-ish minutes there is no dialogue.  I hope to watch it fully at some point so I can add to my Kubrick knowledge.

Kubrick’s next movie is A Clockwork Orange.  My sister and I thought this would be an interesting movie to watch one evening.  Interesting, yes.  Disturbing?  Hells YES.  I get the idea about this movie.  To what lengths can a goverment go to control a population without taking away the basic ideas of its people.  This is a story of Alex, a very demented teenager, who gets off by causing harm to others.  He and his group of friends go around stealing, beating, and raping whatever and whoever they want.  Unfortunately for Alex, he beats on his comrades a few too many times.  Therefore, they double cross him and leave him behind to get picked up by the police.  He gets sent to jail for killing the lady at the last place he was robbing.  In jail he hears about a treatment the government will give you that will allow you to leave.  Alex acts reformed and gets selected for the Ludovico technique.  Using Beethoven’s 9th, movies of terrible violence, and a drug cocktail that causes physical reactions to the violence/music, Alex is “reformed”.  He is released back to his parents’ care, where they have taken on a boarder and essentially kicked him out.  I won’t give away the ending, but things do not go well for Alex.  This movie is disturbing on so many levels.  I honestly would not watch this movie again.  BUT, I also recognize how well this movie was made.  The acting is amazing.  Malcolm McDowell, who plays Alex, does an amazing job bringing you this thug character.

The Shining is the next Kubrick movie I’ve seen.  Of all the Kubrick movies, this is the best.  By far.  This is also the only movie by Kubrick I’ve watched multiple times.  It might also have to do with the fact that this movie is based on a Stephen King novel.  And I do love me some Stephen King.  FYI: if you ever think you should see a different version of this movie, don’t.  Jack Nicholson plays the best crazy ever :).  The premise of this movie is that a man, Jack, agrees to be a caretaker of a hotel in the middle of nowhere Colorado for the winter.  He brings his wife and son with him and thinks this will be a nice relaxing time for them and will allow him to finish his book.  As it turns out, Jack goes a little stir-crazy.  Then he goes full-out crazy.  He attacks his wife and son.  There is the famous line “Here’s Johnny!” in this movie.  I won’t give more away.  Again, it gets a bit weird.  It is Stephen King.  But if you like horror, suspense, and a bit of the super-natural, then you will really like this movie.

The last movie by Kubrick I’ve seen is Full Metal Jacket.  This is a story about Vietnam.  While I was not around during this time, I found myself more able to understand the people of the movie.  Maybe it is because I’ve seen many more Vietnam movies.  I dunno.  What I do know is this is again an f-ed up movie.  It starts as you meet a class of recruits for the Marines.  We are introduced to the drill sergeant and the recruits.  One of the recruits, nicknamed Joker becomes the squad leader as he doesn’t back down to the sergeant.  Another recruit, nicknamed Gomer Pyle is the “runt” of the group.  He is the oafiest guy there and can do nothing right.  Even with Joker’s tutelage, he still struggles.  The sergeant gets angry at Pyle, but realizes maybe punishing him doesn’t work so he’s going to punish the rest of the squad every time Pyle makes a mistake.  The squad gets angry and holds him down one night and they all beat him with towels and bars of soap.  This turns Pyle and he starts to go crazy.  You’ll have to watch to see what happens to him.  We get to the second part of the movie, which takes place over in Vietnam.  Joker is a reporter for the Marines who asks to cover the war from the front lines.  When he touches down, he is able to find his friend from training and follows his group for the battle.  The group goes out and ends up sustaining heavy fire and multiple casualties.  Again, you’ll have to watch to see the end, but do know that Joker is very much a changed person by the end of the movie.  I realize this is a war movie, so there is going to be more carnage than most movies, but this movie seems to show the evolution of these characters that are just f’ed in the end.

The Hours

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I donate a blood product called platelets on a regular basis.  Like every 3-4 weeks.  What I enjoy most about this process (aside from knowing I’m helping someone get better or the regular Coke I drink) is I get to watch a movie during this time.  And I usually pick a pretty crappy movie or rather a movie I might not normally watch.  I’ve watched winners such as G.I. Joe (the new one) and Transformers.  But I’ve also been fortunate and seen movies like St. Elmo’s Fire  and The Help.

Movie poster

This week I decided to watch The Hours.  Why not?  It won the Golden Globe for the Best Picture and Best Actress for Nicole Kidman.  She even won the Oscar for Best Actress.  I figured I’d watch something serious this time.  Boy did I choose wrong.  I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a more depressing movie.  It starts with a suicide and ends with another and shows the first one again.  Sorry if I delivered the punch line here, but you really need to know HOW depressing this movie is.

The movie is the story of Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) and her story “Mrs. Dalloway”.  Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is the lady in the 1950s reading the book and seeming to have a difficult time coping.  Simple tasks like caring for her son and baking a cake are just too much.  In another time line is Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep) throwing a major dinner party for her friend who won a poetry prize.  This friend is Richard (Ed Harris), a man dying of AIDS.  Virginia has previously gone crazy and she and her husband have moved to the country to allow her to write and relax.  Laura wants to be the perfect wife, but can’t do so, so she contemplates suicide.  Clarissa is in this seemingly loving relationship with a daughter.  But all she can think about is Richard and the life she had with him.

There was some superb acting in this movie.  I thought that Ed Harris, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep all gave phenomenal performances.  They brought depth to the characters they were playing.  Nicole Kidman?  NO.  I hated that STUPID nose they put on her face.  She also had this terrible accent.  Would I ever pick Nicole Kidman over Meryl Streep in this movie?  Nope.  But the American Foreign Movie Press sure did.  Idiots.  What’s even worse is that they picked this movie over others as their favorite.  Most notibly?  The Pianist.  Another excellent from that year, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.  Yeah. My rating: 2 out of 10.

I’m hoping to do a regular Friday Flicks posting.  Hopefully they will be for better movies in the future.  If you want to watch an interesting/scary movie (not zombies!) try Phase 7 on Netflix.

Lemon Dijon Tofu and Potatoes

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What I really like about this recipe is that it is super versatile.  The original recipe from VeganDad uses leeks, white wine, two types of potatoes and real lemons.  I made this for a holiday meal and my sister actually asked for the recipe.  I didn’t use leeks the first time, but I did use white wine and two types of potatoes.  This time I didn’t have the white wine (Ernie finished it) or sweet potatoes, so I just used what I had.  I served it with a side salad and added some red pepper flakes to my serving as I like spicy.

Lemon Dijon Tofu and Potatoes

  • 1-2 tsp oil
  • 1 package extra firm tofu
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves or 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 3-4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 cup wine or vegetable stock
  • 3 potatoes (depending on size) and using white and sweet if you’ve got them
  • salt, pepper, and some chopped parsley

First thing: take the tofu out of the container at least two hours before you will be using it.  Wrap the tofu in paper towels to soak up the water.  This is KEY.  You want to absorb as much of the moisture as possible.

Set an oven to 425 F.  Spray a baking dish with some non-stick spray to prevent sticking.  Clean the potatoes and cube them.  Cube the tofu and add to the potatoes in the pan.  Dice the onions and mince the garlic and add to the potatoes and tofu.  Mix together the mustard, lemon juice, oil, paprika, thyme, and wine or stock.  Pour the sauce over the tofu/potato mixture.  Add in a few shakes of salt and pepper.  Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Stir every so often.

Enjoy!

Delish!

First Movie Review

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Again, I thought I’d be reviewing Goodfellas as my first movie, but I have watched TWO movies recently that are new to me.  Ernie and I had the pleasure of watching X-Men: First Class recently.  If you’ve seen any of the X-Men movies you were probably expecting a dud.  I know I was.  But, I LOVE the X-Men.  I think these were the only comics I truly remember reading when younger.  For one thing, Magneto was Jewish.  He survived the Holocaust and used his anger for mankind as his driving factor.  Plus, I’m a science geek.  One of my favorite toys growing up was my Fisher Price microscope.  So, a set of stories about people with awesome mutations was definitely up my alley.

The four previous X-Men movies have either been GOOD or BAD.  I really liked the first two that came out.  Storm is my girl.  But then you get to the third one, which focuses so much on the Phoenix storyline from the 1980s comics, but introduces major characters with no development.  I was so angry.  Then there was the Wolverine movie.  First of all, the character Wolverine is supposed to be short.  Like for real short.  And yet they decide to use Hugh Jackman.  Whatevs.  But Hugh Jackman and Liev cannot carry this movie.  PLUS, they give Gambit this little bit part.  He was my favorite.  He was snarky before I knew what snarky was.

Again, little hope going into this newest movie in the franchise.  But much to my surprise I truly LOVED this movie.  It is entertaining and thrilling.  No real romance to speak of either, which is fine in my opinion.  There are some FABULOUS cameos (won’t spoil them for you!) in the story, that caught Ernie and I completely off guard.

Synopsis: The movie really starts with the introduction of Magneto.  You see him at the entrance of a camp with his parents being taken from him.  The guards are pulling him away and as he is reaching out towards his parents.  As this is occurring, the gate twists and is almost wrenched open until someone knocks out Magneto.  A “doctor” notices this happening and tries to get Magneto to do something with a coin, which he can’t do (his powers aren’t developed yet) and the “doctor” kills his mother.  In another place Xavier is living in this house when someone breaks in and starts stealing his food.  It is Mystique, who ends up staying with him, even as he goes on to University and become an expert in genetics.

A CIA operative realizes that something is amiss and seeks out Xavier’s help.  In doing so, they end up sort of creating the first group of mutants that fight crime together.  A Cold War stand-off is the climax point of the movie.  We are introduced to Professor Xavier, Magneto, Mystique, Angel, Beast, Banshee, Darwin, and Havoc for the good guys.  On the bad guys front there is: Riptide, Azazel, Emma Frost, and Sebastian Shaw.

All in all, I think this is a great movie.  No, it’s not going to win a Nobel Prize or an Oscar or anything of that sort.  But it is a good story.  If you enjoy the idea that there are others out there that may have the ability to do more than an average person, this is a good movie.  If you enjoy comics, this is a good movie.  If you like action, this is a good movie.  I’d give it an 8.5 out of 10.

Book Review

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11/22/63 book jacket

I really wanted to do a review of a movie first, but as it turns out, I finished my book!  I was intrigued by the idea of this book, 11/22/63 from Stephen King.   I have pretty much read everything by Stephen King.  I had resisted reading The Dark Tower series.  It’s one of those things where I feel like I’m going to hate something just because I have a strange idea in my head.  I’m convinced I hate sci-fi.  Now, I am not keen on reading stories about fantasy (other than reading J.R.R. Tolkien years ago), but I actually like most sci-fi.  So, I gave up the fight and started the series.  I LOVED IT!  If you ever have a summer with nothing to do, I suggest reading these books.  Word of caution: the author writes himself into the story.  He becomes a character.  But I digress…  This Stephen King book is in the realm of sci-fi and not his normal weird/monsters.

The general idea of the novel is that a fry cook goes to his friend, a teacher, and tells him about a soft spot in the space/time continuum.  This soft spot allows the person to travel back in time to 1958, but the EXACT same time in 1958 no matter how many times this person goes over, comes back and then goes back again.  In discovering this soft spot, the fry cook uses the time travel to get cheap meat and to see if he can change history.  He tries first with a small thing, trying to save a girl from becoming paralyzed by a hunter, but soon realizes that he can do so much more.  He uses his time to learn about Lee Harvey Oswald and if he acted alone in killing Kennedy.  The fry cook couldn’t continue on his mission as he ended up with cancer.  So, he recruited Jack Epping to continue his mission.

Jake goes over for a mission to try to save a man’s family that was to be killed by the man’s father.  He is successful in saving all of them except the eldest brother.  Jake comes back to present time to find out that the man has now died in this new time line.  So, he goes back in time again, and instead of waiting to the night of the killing, he kills the father before anything can happen.  Jake continues on his journey and makes his way to Florida, then on to Texas.  He settles in a small town called Jodie, where he meets his love, Sadie.  This is where things start to go awry.  Jake wants to be with Sadie, but can’t tell her anything about himself.  Plus, he can’t commit to teaching/being in Jodie full time as he’s on a mission to figure out if Oswald acts alone and to stop the assassination of JFK.  Jake puts Sadie before the mission and ends up potentially compromising finding out if Oswald works alone.  Then some BAD things happen to Jake.  A recurring theme in the book is that history both repeats itself and dos not want to be changed.  You will have to read the book to find out what happens.

Again, I really liked this book.  The idea of time travel and string theory, of changing small things in history creating multiple similar time lines is an amazing concept.  But, these ideas aren’t fully explored to the VERY end of the novel.  There are men that keep watch over the portal and finally make contact, real contact with Jake at the end of the story, explaining to him about string theory and how both he and the fry cook have created multiple timelines.  This is a shame.  I wish King had explored this idea sooner.  Yes, Jake talked about the Butterfly Effect with the cook, but I felt that the love story and the story of Oswald became more important than the science fiction part of the book.  Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe this book was just supposed to be a good story.  I just feel that a book being over 800 pages should have more “meat” to it.

If you like King’s books, you will like this book.  But, if you are expecting a science fiction novel, this isn’t necessarily your book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

First Recipe

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Sunday nights I like to make a big pot of something.  It can be soup or some kind of rice and beans mix.  You get a lot of bang for your buck doing this, plus you end up with leftovers for much of the week.  I decided to go with a Mexican style soup for my first recipe.  I’ve been wanting to make a tortilla soup, but hadn’t found anything that really spoke to me.  The nice thing is that you can customize this recipe to keep it vegan or add cheese and make it vegetarian. 

Vegan Tortilla Soup

Ingredients:

Image

Here are most of the ingredients. Not pictured: fire roasted tomatoes and toppings

1 Tbsp olive oil

Medium Onion

3 cloves garlic (or more/less)

1.5 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp cumin

1/4 cup tequila (no need for the fancy stuff)

14.5 oz fire roasted tomatoes

juice from half a lime

3 Tbsp tomato paste

Roasted corn (as much or as little as you like, about 4-6 oz)

Seitan (or you could use tofu or black beans)

Bullion

5 cups water (or more depending on how thin you want the soup)

Tortilla chips

Directions:

Tortilla soup

Can't quite see it, but the soup is bubbing away...

Heat the olive oil in a big pot over medium high heat.  Add the chopped onion and let the onion soften/become translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add the minced garlic and allow to get fragrant.  Add the cumin and the chili powder to the mix.  Add in the tequila, corn, tomatoes, water, and tomato paste.  Lastly add in the bullion, lime juice, and seitan.  Let it reach a boil, then turn down to simmer on low for at least 30 minutes up to 2 hours.  EASY!

Some options:

raw onions, avocado, olives, hot sauce, cheeze, real cheese…. Pretty much anything!

Ladle into a bowl, add your toppings, then either crush some tortilla chips into the soup or use the scoops to eat the soup. 

Enjoy!