Monday, August 23, 2010

The Expendables

The action star is not dead. That's the statement Stallone is making with his new movie The Expendables. This movie has the who's who of 90s action stars: Stallone, Stratham, Li, and crew. You don't need to know much more about this movie other than it's an action movie. Stallone has a crew called The Expendables, though they're never mentioned that way in the movie, that are basically hit men for hire. Maybe they have a conscience or not, but if the price is right, they'll do the job.

The movie opens with a job and ends with a job. There are a lot of explosions, car chases, guns, and fighting. The movie didn't end up being as gory as I thought it might be based on the opening scenes. The guys disagreed and thought it was gory enough. Maybe I'm becoming desensitized?

It was an entertaining movie. The return or final shout to the true action heroes. All of these guys have seen better days though and I'm sure a few have had some plastic surgery. Jet Li's fighting scenes were cool but very few. Jason Stratham's character's choice of weapon are knives and that was fun to watch.

I think this movie was best summed up by Eric: It seemed like this movie came about while all these guys were sitting around having a beer and said, "Hey, let's make a movie!" It was basically just all these guys hanging out blowing things up and being their former action hero characters. Though Mickey Rourke didn't do a whole lot other than sitting around talking. And I could've used more Bruce Willis. Of course there was the Ahhh-nold cameo, which was actually sort of a fun scene with the comments that Stallone makes. Something along the lines of, "He's busy trying to become president."

Of course this movie didn't encompass all the old 90s action heroes. They're missing Van Damme, Seagal, and maybe even Chuck Norris. But for these guys, guess it was good to relive old times. Today, it's the comic book hero's turn in the spotlight.

A fun movie to watch if you liked these guys' old movies. Maybe not worth it in the theatre unless you want the full sound of the explosions. I am a fan of the movie poster though.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Stove Top Mac & Cheese

Who didn't have the neon orange Kraft macaroni and cheese as a kid? While some might find it gross, I actually really like(d) it. My mom used to turn it into "tuna mac" by adding a can of cream of mushroom and a can of tuna. She would even go the extra step to bake it in the oven with some French's fried onions on top. Yummy! I've made tuna mac for Wes, but left out the onions for obvious reasons.

I've tried baked macaroni with a twist and have seen a ton of recipes for baked mac & cheese. Until I stumbled upon Alton Brown's Stove Top Mac & Cheese. A non-baked version! I had to try it out.

Stove Top Mac and Cheese

1/2 lb. elbow macaroni
4 Tb. butter
2 eggs
6 oz. evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1 tsp. salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 tsp. dry mustard
10 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot an melt in the butter. Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper and mustard. I let this mixture sit out next to the hot eye on the stove so the eggs aren't super cold when they hit the pasta. You could also bring your eggs to room temperature. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

No neon orange "cheese" here!

Does that not look WAY better than the boxed mac and cheese? And oh boy was it yummy! Cheddar cheese deliciousness in every bite. If sharp cheddar is too sharp for you, try a mild cheddar or a combo of the two.

I doubled the recipe because we have a house guest who is a bottomless stomach. So I needed enough to feed him and have some for lunch tomorrow. A huge loaf of garlic bread helped to ensure we had leftovers for the next day. So my experience with the flavors might be a little different since I didn't double the amount of evaporated milk and mustard. But it still turned out really, really good.

And can I say how easy, easy, EASY this was? One pot and a bowl to clean. I love it! Almost as easy as making it from the box. Don't skip the hot sauce. It actually adds a nice, very faint, background zing. And don't ask me what the evaporated milk does. My only guess is that it helps the creaminess of the dish.

Now with the eggs, there is a concern of the eggs curdling while mixing with the hot pasta. So if you end up with a not so creamy dish at the end, you'll know that your eggs cooked a little in the pot. The way to remedy that? You can rinse the pasta under cold water after draining to cool them off and keep the stove on low heat, heat up the egg mixture near the stove so it's not so cold, and best of all, keep stirring the mixture. If you let the bottom sit for a few minutes, some of the eggs will most likely cook. I noticed it on mine a little, but it didn't hurt the texture of the dish so much that I noticed.

The one thing I hated about boxed mac and cheese? The leftovers were disgusting. I had the same fear with this dish. While it wasn't as ooey, gooey, cheesy as the night before, it didn't get as rough of a texture as I thought it might. Good enough for lunch leftovers the next day!

So good and easy. You can't go back to box mac and cheese after this. Although, for the price, I might slip in one or two.

Happy cooking!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Toy Story 3

The lovable Toy Story series continues with a third and maybe final installment of Woody, Buzz Lightyear and friends' adventures. The third movie picks up with Andy getting ready to leave for college. His mom tells him that he has to clean out his room and either store things in the attic, donate them or throw them out. And of course, the toys come into question.

Through a misunderstanding, they end up at a day care center where they think they'll be better off than in the attic or worse, in the trash. What happens to Andy's beloved toys? Do they end up finding a better life at the day care where toddlers chew, drool and mangle the toys or do they meet a fate much worse? You'll have to watch the movie to find out. But keep in mind. This is a Disney movie. *wink*

When I saw that they were making another Toy Story movie, I have to say I was a little disappointed. It had been years since Toy Story 2 came out. Maybe Pixar was grasping at straws for another movie? I'm not sure what prompted them to make a third, but of course the story didn't disappoint.

I wanted to see it because I had heard that it got great reviews. They were talking about it on the radio and people mentioned that they couldn't help but cry at the end too. Our friend saw that it had like a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So, it had to be good.

Every child who moves out after high school has parents who ask them to clean out their rooms. Maybe not so extensively, but at least a few items here and there. I think my mom finally got all of my stuff either to me, stored or thrown away. And yes, I even have some stuffed animals stored in the attic. Ones that I couldn't part with. And that's the same with Andy. While some toys have gone missing over the years, the key players are still there and Andy can't bare to throw them away or donate them.

But like I said, one misunderstanding lands the toys at a day care where they think they're better off. But the day care ends up being ruled by a stuffed bear who bitterly ended up at the day care by a series of events. Reviews have said that this Toy Story is much darker than the others. And it is, thanks to the tyrannical stuffed bear and an encounter with the town dump.

The movie still had its funny parts and humor. Probably one of the funnier things was Mr. Potato Head using a tortilla as a body. And fun trivia: Michael Keaton voices Ken. Don't think this movie is all dark. It's still a sunny Pixar/Disney movie.

I didn't cry in the movie, but I could see where people could get choked up. Pixar didn't disappoint and it kind of feels like closure for the 20 somethings who grew up with the first Toy Story movie. Definitely recommend seeing this. Especially if you've seen the first two. It's almost out of the theatres, so you'll have to wait until it comes out on DVD.

A classic Pixar movie.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Green Chile Chicken Casserole

Looking for an easy casserole? I think this recipe came from Cooking Light. Easy week night meal. Can even prep ahead and cook the next day.

Green Chile Chicken Casserole

1 1/3 cups fat-free, chicken broth
1 can chopped green chiles, drained
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup fat-free sour cream
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 - 10 1/2 oz. cans of cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 garlic clove, minced
cooking spray
24 - 6" corn tortillas
4 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast
2 cups (about 8 oz) finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Spread 1 cup soup mixture in a 13x9" baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 6 tortillas over the soup mixture and top with 1 cup chicken and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layers ending with the cheese. Spread remaining soup mixture over cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Sorry the picture isn't so great.

I like to keep an eye out for "casserole" dishes that don't involve pasta. When I saw this recipe, I thought it'd be a nice change of pace with the green chiles. It was super easy to prepare. The only thing I had to chop was the garlic. And I roasted a chicken in the oven and shredded that meat for this dish. Definitely can cook chicken breasts or use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store (which are getting really small, by the way).

This wasn't a bad meal. I did expect more of a green chile and spice flavor, but didn't get a whole lot since the cup of green chiles got lost in the big soupy mixture of cream of chicken and sour cream. I also didn't have as much chicken as the recipe called for, so it was lacking in the meaty department a little.

Overall, not a bad meal. It lasted us a couple of days and tasted even better after sitting over night. Definitely use four cups of chicken and maybe even some more to ensure that you get enough meat in every bite. I also went a little overboard on the cheese because I wanted a cheesy bite on each fork. While that might have helped the flavor, the cheese did just melt in with the soup mixture so I didn't get the stringy cheese I was hoping for. You can experiment with the layering if you're looking for different textures.

Easy meal to make and a great one to make for friends or family. It's definitely mild so people who aren't fans of spicy won't get overwhelmed here.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Granola Bars

I love granola bars. Quaker Oats, Nature Valley. You name it, I probably like it. I've made granola before from Everyday Food. But that was more like bite size crunchies and not so much bars. So, I attempted to make real granola bars, thanks to Ina Garten from Food Network. I actually saw her make these on her show one time and thought they were kind of intensive. But reading over the recipe, it wasn't hard at all.

Homemade Granola Bars

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 Tb. unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped, pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped, dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8x12" baking dish, line it with parchment paper and butter. Definitely coat your wax paper with cooking spray or butter!

Toss the oatmeal, almonds and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. I left out the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots and cranberries and stir well. I just added dried cranberries and white chocolate chips. I waited a bit for the mixture to cool before adding the chocolate.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

The salvaged granola.

Ok, so mistake #1: I didn't butter the wax paper. I'll admit, that direction, to butter the pan and the lay parchment paper, was a really weird to me. So I ignored it and just laid down wax paper. What ended up happening? The wax paper stuck to the bottom of the granola and I couldn't peel all of it off. I debated about just throwing it all out and starting over. But I decided to salvage whatever granola I could. It's not so pretty, but it sure does taste good.

It is a chewy bar and crunchy on the outside. It is also pretty sweet with the coconut and honey. But I love the cranberry and white chocolate combination. Not sure how healthy this granola bar really is, but it is yummy. Despite the wax paper sticking to the bottom, this is incredibly easy to make. I left it to sit over night and Wes kept asking when he could have some. Oh, did I mention that it makes the house smell amazing?

Of course you can add any fruit or treats you like and leave out what you don't. A fun treat to make. And after Wes did get to have some of the mangled bars, he couldn't stop snacking on them.

Happy cooking!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pad Thai

I'm a fan of pad thai. The rice noodles, the cilantro and the spiciness is just a yummy recipe. I've been on the hunt for a pad thai recipe for quite a while. However a lot of the recipes have ingredients like fish sauce and other items that I wouldn't be using for other dishes. So I've held off. Until Everyday Food printed this recipe that didn't include fish sauce! Hooray! This is a vegetarian recipe, but I added some shrimp for protein.

Pad Thai

8 oz. dried, wide and flat rice noodles
2 Tb. dark0brown sugar
2 Tb. lime juice
3 Tb. soy sauce
2 tsp. vegetable oil
3 scallions, white and green parts
1 garlic glove, minced
2 large eggs (optional), lightly beaten
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped, roasted, salted peanuts

Soak noodles according to package instructions and drain. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, lime juice and soy sauce.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add scallion whites and garlic and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add egg, if using, and cook, scraping skillet with a rubber spatula until eggs are almost set, about 30 seconds. Transfer egg mixture to a plate.

Add noodles and soy-sauce mixture to skillet; cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are soft and coated with sauce, about 1 minute. Add egg mixture and toss to coat, breaking eggs up gently. Serve noodles with lime wedges, topped with cilantro and peanuts.

Wrong noodles....

This didn't turn out bad. It probably would've been a lot better if I had gotten the right kind of noodles. You'll notice that I got the thin rice noodles. While they still soaked up the flavor well, it didn't have the same texture as the wide, flat noodles that are typically seen in pad thai dishes. But props to Everyday Food for coming up with a recipe that doesn't require the use of fish sauce and kept the same basic flavors.

I do miss the spiciness of restaurant pad thai dishes. So next time, I'll probably try to find a different recipe and maybe bite the bullet and use fish sauce. I'll definitely buy the correct type of noodles too, which would probably help.

But this is a good recipe to introduce people to pad thai if you've never had it before. Super easy and no foreign ingredients, except maybe the rice noodles. Don't skip out on the cilantro! That's a key ingredient to the flavor of this pasta dish. Though the peanuts are probably another key element, I skipped those because I'm not a fan. I have seen some pad thai dishes serve sprouts also. You can definitely cook some up and toss them in this dish. Actually, you could add a lot of different things to this dish and have it come out well.

So this recipe leaves room for improvements and tweaks. Not a bad starter, and if you like the flavor of pad thai, but not the heat, you'll like this dish. Just make sure to get the right kind of noodles!

Happy cooking!

P.S. Happy Friday the 13th.....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Grilled Pizza

Ever had wood fire pizza? It has that wonderful rustic taste. Well, we don't have the equipment to do a wood fire pizza. The next best thing? Grilled pizza! And guess what? I made my own pizza dough and sauce! It's a big step for me - making my own dough. I'm so proud. Thanks Everyday Food for the suggestion. Here's the recipe:

Basic Grilled Pizza Dough

1 tsp. sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl and brushing
coarse salt & pepper
2 1/4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

Pour 1 cup warm water into a medium bowl; add sugar and sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Whisk oil and 1 tsp. salt into yeast mixture. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until liquid is incorporated (dough will appear dry.) Turn out onto a floured work surface. Knead until dough comes together in an elastic ball, about 2 minutes.

Transfer to an oiled medium bowl, brush lightly with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; set in a warm, draft-free place until dough has doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Punch down dough and cover, let rise another 30 minutes.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. (To store, refrigerate dough pieces, covered, up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 month. Let rest 15 minutes before using.

Heat grill on one side to medium high heat. Roll out dough to desired thinness (dough gets to about 10" across). Brush with olive oil and salt & pepper. Using your hands, place dough, oiled side down, directly over heat source. Brush the top side of dough with more olive oil and add more salt and pepper. Grill until underside is lightly charred and bubbles form all over top, about 1 to 2 minutes. With tongs, flip dough and cook until lightly charred on the other side, another 1 to 2 minutes. When done, slide dough to cooler side of grill. Shut the grill off, add toppings to the pizza and shut the top until cheese is melted.

Simple Tomato Sauce

3 Tb. extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 - 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp. fresh oregano, minced or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Cook garlic in oil until fragrant. Add red pepper flakes and then tomatoes. I chop the tomatoes and then add them to the pot. Add the juice as well. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a rapid simmer, stirring often until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. I use a potato masher to finish mashing the tomatoes. If you like a chunkier sauce, you can leave the chopped tomatoes as you cut them. Stir in oregano. Store, refrigerated up to 4 days or freeze up to 1 month.

A little red pepper flake on the finished pizza made it that much yummier.

I was so stinkin' excited that this was a successful meal. I kept the toppings simple and just added mozzarella cheese. That was the only part of this pizza that wasn't made by me. I think making my own cheeses is a long way off.

Making my own dough was intimidating. I wasn't sure what to expect or how it would turn out. It actually isn't too had to make, just time consuming. Kneading the dough was actually kind of relaxing once I got into a rhythm and I've heard other people say the same thing. I did freeze half the dough for later and Wes and I really only ate once pizza together. So we'll see how the frozen dough turns out.

The tomato sauce was a bit sweet and tasted like tomatoes. I like my pizza sauce a little thicker and a little tangier, so I may find a different pizza sauce recipe next time. But with the grilled dough and this sauce, it had a nice rustic flavor to the pizza. It'll be fun to add different toppings next time. With the smaller size of the crust, they're really more like personal pizzas, everyone could customize their own.

If you have the time, at least try this pizza dough on the grill. I did this on the weekend. But with the frozen dough, it'll just take time to thaw in the refrigerator and sit for a few minutes before rolling, so it'll go at lot faster.

I may start making my own bread now that I'm not so scared by cooking with yeast. Hope you try this out!

Happy cooking!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Red Beans and Rice

Remember the recipe for Red Beans and Rice? It was one of the first recipes I posted on this blog. Well, I didn't think to take pictures back then, so I had nothing to show of the finished product. But I made it again and here are some pictures for your reference.

It was Wes's idea to add the spoon.

Hope you've had a chance to try out the recipe. How'd it go? Any tweaks or changes you like?

If you haven't tried the recipe, it's easy and yummy. Try it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad

Anything with chipotle in the title of the recipe has my attention. Reading through the recipe, this sounded like a winner, thanks to Cooking Light. That's right, it's a light recipe. Though, I don't know that I did much to help the lightness.

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2/3 cup light sour cream
1 Tb. minced chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
4 tsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. salt

4 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 cups chopped cooked, boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 2)
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
1/2 cup diced, peeled avocado
1/3 cup thinly, vertically sliced red onion
1 - 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 - 8 3/4 oz. whole-kernel corn, rinsed and drained

To prepare dressing, combine first 7 ingredients, stirring well.

For salad, combine lettuce and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over salad; toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

I washed all of the romaine lettuce, but only shredded as much as I thought we would need. You'll probably have a lot more lettuce from a head of romaine than you'll need for this recipe. I stored the washed leaves wrapped in a paper towel in a ziplock. I also rinsed the can of corn and beans together. Basically I just added as much ingredients as I thought we would use for ht meal and put the rest in tupperware containers to mix later. Always mix the salad right before eating, otherwise it'll get gross sitting in your fridge.

I then tossed all the ingredients with the dressing and piled it in a warmed tortilla. Wrap it up and serve with chips.

Did a salad ever look so good?

Don't get the title of this post wrong, I did not make a salad for dinner and serve it to Wes. That would not have been enough for him. Me, on the other hand, would've been fine with it. So I took the recipe and turned it into a wrap with homemade potato chips.

With the chicken, you can use a store bought rotisserie chicken and shredded it or just cook up some chicken breasts. I had three chicken breasts that I pounded, dredged in a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne powder and paprika. I then grilled it to give it a smoky flavor. Oh, boy did it come out smelling good. Could have been because I accidentally added a whole lot of cayenne pepper which gives a smoky heat.

Besides the chicken, this dressing was SPICY! Granted, I probably added more than a tablespoon of chiles (I used about two chiles) and added a little spoonful of the sauce. Wes and I were gulping down the beverages in between bites of the wrap. But the dressing is so good. I didn't use the light sour cream like the recipe suggests and I almost left out the cilantro because I didn't have any. It is so packed full of flavor with the cilantro, cumin and lime juice. You can definitely scale back the heat by adding less of the chipotles. But those nutritionists out there say to eat spicy things because you'll end up eating less. Maybe that's why this meal is light....

For the potato chips, I cut some russet potatoes into thin slices, tossed them with vegetable oil and salt on a baking pan and baked in a 500 degree oven for about 15 minutes or so. Depending on how thin you slice them, the shorter amount of time it'll take. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn. You can flip them over if you notice the bottoms are already getting brown. They're good for that night, but don't do well the next day. Maybe one day I'll fry them and make real potato chips. But for now, these will do.

Love, love the salad. And like I said, it is light if you follow the recipe as is. If you like southwestern food, you'll like this salad. And it's easy to do.


Monday, August 9, 2010

The Other Guys

Will Farrell's new movie, or is it Mark Wahlberg's new movie, looked like a redeeming movie after Land of the Lost. Wahlberg's last movie, Date Night, needed no redemption. The trailers looked funny. With Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson as the cool, hero cops playing against Will Farrell's accounting cop, the movie looked promising.

Basically, Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg are partners. Farrell's character, Allen, is perfectly content to sit behind his desk without seeing any real action. He even happily volunteers to write up Johnson and Samuel's character's police report after an incident. Wahlberg's Terry, couldn't be more annoyed by Allen. After an unfortunate incident, Terry is forced to sit behind a desk and his career in homicide takes a nose-dive. But Terry gets the great idea to redeem himself and show Allen what it's like to be a "real cop."

Like I said before, the trailer was hilarious and seemed to be well received by audiences. So there seemed to be much anticipation to this movie. And the movie was funny. Much to my surprise (or not) the trailer is basically the first 10 minutes of the movie. Does that mean all the funny parts are in the trailer? I don't know that I'm one to really judge that. After all, I don't think I paid much attention to the movie because I was fighting to keep my eyes open after the first 10 minutes. I heard lots of laughter and it was a classic Will Farrell movie. But after the late night from Dinner with Schmucks, I couldn't concentrate on this movie. A full body twitch in the middle of the movie caused Wes to ask me if I had fallen asleep. So what if I closed my eyes for a few minutes?

Anyway, the movie's plot, from what I could discern, seemed to move a long at a snail's pace. After all, they needed to make room for all the crazy antics and comedy of Will Farrell. While he was in classic form, I did enjoy Mark Wahlberg in the movie as an up-tight cop. His comedy chops didn't quite come through, but I liked him enough in the movie. Michael Keaton, did an ok job as the police captain. Not sure if he's trying to revive his career or not. This wasn't the movie that's going to do that. I actually really enjoyed Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson and wish there was more of them in the movie. I think their characters could have played against Farrell and Wahlberg nicely for a really funny aspect. But that would've been another movie.

If you like Will Farrell movies, then you'll probably like this one. It didn't quite live up to Wes's expectations, but had its funny parts. Me? I don't really have an opinion since I was half-conscious during the movie. (I have a knack for falling asleep during movies - at home or in the theatre.) So if you're even slightly curious, go see it in the theatre. It'll be funnier with a whole bunch of people who think it's hilarious. Or, wait until it comes out on video and watch it with friends.

But don't give this review too much credit. I was the one in the front row snoring.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dinner for Schmucks

You've seen the trailer for this: Paul Rudd's character Tim is going to get promoted big time in his company. But before it's official, the owner or CEO throws a "Dinner for Idiots" party. The person who brings the "best idiot" wins. Enter Steve Carell's character, Barry. He's the lucky schmuck that Tim decides to take to dinner, much against the advice of his girlfriend.

I think I had somewhat high hopes for this movie. The last time Steve Carell and Paul Rudd were in a movie together, it was The 40 Year-Old Virgin, which is a classic to some. Paul Rudd has been on a roll with leads in various movies (I Love You Man) and Steve Carell wasn't doing to shabby either with Date Night. However, this movie didn't live up to expectations.

Steve Carell's character, Barry, is incredibly, incredibly socially awkward. He's a taxidermist and creates scenes with dead mice that he dresses up. He doesn't know when to shut up and butt out. The insanity begins when Barry mistakes the dinner party for the wrong night. And it just snowballs from there. Maybe I was tired (we saw a 10 PM show on Thursday night), but instead of Barry's antics being funny, I found myself getting incredibly stressed out by all the situations.

Paul Rudd's character, Tim, spends 90% of the movie trying to correct all of Barry's "good-intentions." He gets pulled between what's morally right and what he thinks is right for his future. Of course, a movie like this is somewhat predictable and what's morally right ends the movie. Sorry for the spoiler, if you call that one.

There were a few laughs during the movie. Mostly coming from Wes and mostly because other people in the theatre were laughing. Steve Carell did a good job of being a socially awkward person. He's usually able to play those goofy characters with no problem. Probably pulling from some of Michael Scott. I have to say that I really enjoyed Paul Rudd in this movie. It was refreshing to see him in a role where he's not always the goofball or sidekick. Really glad his career is taking off.

Dinner for Schmucks is probably funnier watching it with a bunch of people. If you enjoy I Love You Man and other Paul Rudd movies, you'll probably enjoy this movie. But maybe save it for a Redbox rental one night. Oh, and side note, I don't think the word "schmuck" was uttered once during the entire movie.

P.S. Saw a trailer for Little Fockers. Yes, Meet the Parents lives on!

P.P.S. Hopefully The Other Guys is a lot funnier than this movie. Stay tuned for a review of that.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mozzarella & Sun-Dried Tomato Ravioli

In my little herb pot, I started off with thyme, cilantro, basil and parsley. Cilantro and basil are probably my two favorite herbs. Sadly, my cilantro plant didn't make it. It's still there, but apparently it's "gone to seed." No more cilantro. My basil however has exploded. I had to look up basil recipes because I have so much, I don't know what to do with it.

Enter The Pioneer Woman. I like to drool over her cooking and her pictures of food. She had this recipe for basil ravioli.

Mozzarella and Sun-Dried Tomato Ravioli with Basil Cream Sauce

For Ravioli:
4 whole sun-dried tomatoes
4 basil leaves
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 whole egg, beaten
1 package wonton wrappers (or egg roll wrappers cut in quarters)
1 whole egg white

For Sauce:
10 basil leaves
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 cloves garlic
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tb. unsalted butter

For Ravioli: Rehydrate the sun-dried tomatoes in boiling water for 30 minutes. Pat dry and grind with 4 basil leaves in a food processor. I used tomatoes packed in oil, so I didn't have to rehydrate them.

Mix the tomato-basil and cheeses in a bowl and taste, adding more cheese if desired. Add the egg and mix to coat.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay out 24 wonton wrappers (give or take, depending on how full you make them) and divide the filling between them. Place a spoonful in the center of the wrapper, leaving space around the edge. I used about a tablespoon of filling in each. Be careful not to make them too full or they won't seal well.

Brush the edges of the wrapper with egg white and place another (new) wrapper over top, sealing the edges together. Pick up the now assembled ravioli and press the edges together firmly and place on the wax paper.

Once they are all assembled, boil a pot of water, add salt, and boil the ravioli for 4 minutes. Keep cooked ravioli warmed on a plate in a 250 degree oven if working in batches.

For sauce: Puree the 10 basil leaves, wine and garlic in a food processor.

Transfer to a saucepan and add the cream. Whisking frequently, simmer over medium/medium-high heat for around 15 minutes or until reduced by half. Add the butter and whisk until melted.

Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over ravioli and serve.

Note: Sauce will have a mild basil taste with 10 leaves; add more if you prefer a stronger basil flavor.

They may not look so pretty, but it tastes oh, so good!

I wasn't too sure how this recipe was going to turn out. I mean, wonton wrappers in place of pasta dough? Even though the wonton wrappers were a little more delicate than pasta dough, it was actually a nice alternative. It was light and a thin sort of dough. Since I didn't fill the ravioli's very full, there was a lot of extra dough. If it had been regular pasta, that would've been too much pasta with no filling. But with the wonton wrapper, it's not super dough-y.

The ravioli's don't really take 4 minutes. Since the dough is so thin, it took maybe 2 minutes total. I waited until they floated to the top and were translucent to tell when they were done. They're not the prettiest raviolis ever, but they are tasty! The sun-dried tomatoes are nice and sweet and with the mozzarella, it makes them cheesy and gooey. Mmm....

The basil cream sauce is delicious! I did add a few more basil leaves, but I'd probably even add more. It smelled so good and it's garlicky and creamy. The butter at the end adds a silkiness to the sauce that just flows over the pasta. A nice paring with the sun-dried tomatoes. Actually those two seem to go well together. Remember this recipe?

Anyway, the filling only made about 14 raviolis for me. Which was just enough sauce for me and Wes with some leftover. I'd definitely double the recipe next time and fill the raviolis a bit more. Definitely double the sauce if you double the pasta. This would also be yummy as baked ravioli and a pesto cream sauce.... mmmmm...... You can also just use one wonton wrapper and fold it over itself to make a triangle ravioli instead of adding another wrapper on top. This will save wonton wrappers for this dessert and make the raviolis a bit smaller and easier to manage.

Super easy to make and it was yummy! Next time I'll add some grilled chicken so Wes can have a little more subsistence. Happy cooking!

Monday, August 2, 2010


Is she a Russian spy or isn't she? That's the premise of Angelina Jolie's new movie.

I think that's the easiest movie synopsis ever. Ok, it's not exactly that easy. Basically, Jolie's character, Evelyn Salt, is accused of being a Russian spy who is going to kill the Russian president at the United State's vice president's funeral. Don't ask me why. In fear, she runs. The CIA chases her and the story unfolds from there.

It was an entertaining movie. The action is non-stop, with little down time. I have heard it compared to the Bourne movies. Jolie does a good job as the title character. She is probably one of the few female actresses out there who can hold her own in an action movie. The only other actress I could think of that could possibly do this role would be Charlize Theron. Jolie does a lot of running and punching and general butt kicking. Wes's only thing with her as the lead was that she's such a tiny human that it's a little unbelievable that she can generate a lot of force to fight toe-to-toe with some of these bigger guys.

Although there's not a lot of downtime in between chase scene and chase scene, the movie does explain itself along the way. Some interesting things come up, and although Wes was able to predict it, I found myself second guessing everything. Hope that doesn't give things away.

Did you know that Tom Cruise was originally booked to play the lead role for this movie? He pulled out for whatever reason, probably to do his dud Knight and Day, and the role was re-written for Angelina Jolie. Knowing this, I tried to picture Tom Cruise in the role at various times during the movie. I have to say that I like Jolie better in this movie than I would Cruise. Having a woman in this role gives the movie a different dimension than if the lead was a man. No offense to you guys out there.

Overall, an entertaining movie. Not a have-to-go-see-it-in-the-theatre-movie, but if you want some entertainment, it's worth a rental.