Thursday, December 20, 2012

Another Recipe

More of my favorite foods -- both to eat and to cook!

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

  • 1 1/2 lbs small red potatoes
  • 1/8 c olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves (or 2 tsp dry rosemary)

Preheat oven to 400. Cut potatoes in half or quarters and place in bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary; toss until well coated. Dump all onto a baking sheet and spread out into one layer. Roast in the over for at least 1 hour; turning at least twice to ensure even browning. Cook until crisp.

NOTE: When I don't have the fresh spices, I will use the substituted dry or powder ones, but they are definitely not as good. If you have time to plan ahead, make a special trip to the grocery store for your herbs -- it's worth it!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Some recipes

There are a few recipes that I make that people ask for the recipe over and over. Although I've tried to share these on a special recipe-sharing website, I don't think the interface is very friendly and so people keep asking me directly anyway. So now I've decided to start posting these on my blog so I'll have a permanent link I can share with anyone.

This first recipe actually came from one aunt who gave it to another aunt, who served it to me and now I continue to pass it along. Because I am lazy, I don't brown the butter, but just melt it into the sauce which works nearly as well. Also, because I love the sauce so much, I usually double or quadruple it for the same amount of asparagus.

Asparagus Andrea

  • 2 lbs asparagus
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400. Spray cookie sheet with Pam and place asparagus on it. Cook in oven for 12 to 15 minutes until tender. Brown butter, then add soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Pour over asparagus before eating.

This next one I got from the Food network. The recipe calls for just cauliflower, but I usually make it with both broccoli and cauliflower.

Oven Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

  • 1 lb cauliflower, cut into 1.5 inch flowerets
  • 1 lb broccoli, cut into 1.5 inch flowerets
  • 1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2.5 Tbsp lemon juice (or I use 1 Tbsp lemon and 1 Tbsp lime juice)
  • 1.5 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (or I use .25 tsp basil)
  • 1.25 tsp kosher salt
  • .5 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1.5 tsp minced garlic (or .25 tsp granulated garlic)
Preheat oven to 375. In large bowl, combine everything except the garlic (if it is fresh). Toss to mix well and place in shallow roasting pan. Put pan in oven and stir every 10 minutes. Cook until tender and caramelized around the edges, about 30 to 35 minutes. Add the fresh garlic for the last 5 minutes.

Monday, July 09, 2012

KantCon 2012

I posted my few pictures of KantCon.  I'm still too exhausted to process it all, but it was a blast as usual.  I hope this small peek will display a little of that enjoyment.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been having a hard time figuring out how I want to review this book. In the end, I’m going to give it 4 of 5 stars because I did enjoy the story and plan to continue the series. However there is just something nagging at me ... something that doesn’t feel quite right about the book, but I can’t put my finger on it.

I didn’t start this one with a completely blank slate. I went into it knowing that it was a fantasy story, and I do have a prejudice against most of those in general. The first few paragraphs made me even more biased because of the overly poetic wording. I mean, there is only so much talk about different forms of silence and how it embodies a space that I can stomach before I want to get on with the story. I managed to get through that bit and found myself eventually drawn in by the characters and situation.

And I really did begin to enjoy the actual plot quite a bit. There is a lot of the typical author’s tricks of hinting at something larger, more ominous, but letting the reader know that it’s not going to be revealed until much later. However, it hasn’t felt too heavy-handed or distracting yet. There are enough other interesting things that are explained quickly enough that I feel willing to save some patience for the bigger elements. Yet at times, we delve into these poetic paragraphs that grate at me ever so slightly that I can’t embrace the book as a whole.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love descriptive words and a well written narrative that might have some poetic leanings. However, it’s like that favorite food that’s just been sprinkled with a little too much salt –- you know just how enjoyable it could be so that even the slightest deviation sours the experience for you even if it makes it better for someone else. I know that a lot of people really love this book. And I agree that it is a good book, but it just isn’t quite to my taste.

The other small detractor is the fact that I didn’t realize this was part of a trilogy until I was more than half-way through. I have been looking for self-contained novels to read of late so that I don’t get sucked into these never-ending stories, and here I find that I was duped yet again. The author has me sufficiently hooked that I will continue reading, but I’m going to do more research before I jump into another story.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Movie Review: Prometheus

I watched Prometheus twice this weekend. I bought both tickets ahead of time, which is the first time I can remember gambling on a film like that. In this case, it did not pay off.

Long story short: I did not like this movie. Even if you view it completely separate from Alien, its story-linked predecessor, I feel that it did not succeed. Of course, if you try to link the two movies and compare them together you won't get very far because although they may be set in the same universe, they are not same genre nor scope. I read another review (by Faith Erin Hicks) that worded this difference quite well:

Alien is a taut, miniature movie focusing on a tiny fragment of working life in the future. In contrast, Prometheus is high-minded message SciFi, ruminating about life, the universe, everything.
Don't go into this movie expecting a horror film, or even an action film. It tries to be a mysterious drama, but it ends up answering all the wrong questions and left me as a viewer unsatisfied.

Another big problem I had with the story-line is that the characters consisted of supposed experienced scientists, who acted like they knew nothing of the scientific method. Several lines in the movie refer to quarantine procedure, but very little of what I would consider proper procedures were ever followed. And I don't even want to get started on the actual science behind DNA. The leaps that this tale were making were so absurd as to make me laugh out loud.

In the end, there were a couple of redeeming factors. One, Michael Fassbender continues to impress me with a performance was that truly entralling. Despite the questionable nature of the character he portrayed, he was the one of the few in the movie that I wanted to keep watching. The only other characters of note in my mind were Charlize Theron's company woman and Idris Elba's captain of the ship. All other actors, although some of them very qualified and respectable in their own rights, seemed to be delivering very flat or strained performances. The relationships between the characters didn't feel realistic and their reactions to the situation as presented were fairly ridiculous.

The second redeeming factor was the visuals. Not just the special effects, which were fantastic. But the composition and structure of many scenes was captivating.

Final rating: 4 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: Mockingjay

Mockingjay Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the end, this is just more of the same as "Hunger Games". Not a lot of surprises, but an enjoyable and easy read.

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Review: Catching Fire

Catching Fire Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the end, this is just more of the same as "Hunger Games". Not a lot of surprises, but an enjoyable and easy read.

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Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book after watching the movie. Although both were enjoyable, I felt they were "shallow". The label of young-adult applies aptly to this book.

I think if I had read this when I was in grade school, I would be one of the many avid fans who consider Katniss a personal heroine. I know back then I really enjoyed stories of young people who had to go above and beyond the average person to help support themselves and their family, especially if that meant hunting and/or living in a forest. And my glee was even greater when the main character was a female -- a seemingly plain girl who was loved secretly or from afar. This books hits on all those notes.

However, I am older now and I appreciate stories with characters that make surprising choices and struggle on a more internal level to be a better person. Katniss felt pretty formulaic; never really surprising me. Furthermore, I predicted much of the story as a whole, even guessing where the twists and turns might come in.

Still, because it brought back some childhood memories of old favorites, I would recommend this highly to other young readers.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Coyote

Coyote Coyote by Allen Steele
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think as long as an author has good grammar, decent sentence structure, and basic storytelling skills, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. I believe I will try hard to like a book but sometimes, it just doesn't work. At the end of Coyote, I found I just couldn't like it despite the fact that I held on until the end.

The most annoying problem was what I refer to ask "carrot dangling". Sometimes in a narrative there will be vague references and allusions to the past or the future so that the reader is curious enough to keep reading. For example, a character might briefly remember bits and pieces of some bad accident from their youth and the reader hangs on until the details and complete story are revealed over time. I often felt this technique come up in Coyote unnaturally, and it brought my focus out of the story instead to critique the writer explicitly. There are a couple of examples I will provide to demonstrate why this was so annoying.

The first example is a case where the story was following a young girl and her relationships to two different boys. The next chapter was an excerpt from the same person's diary, written in her old age, describing events like a flashback. For no apparent reason, the woman refers to her husband as "my current partner". So when does someone writing in their diary not use first names, especially of those people close to them? Furthermore, no where else in the book was the term "partner" used like that – is she married or not? Why would she bring it up like that? It felt like a direct poke at the reader – "you're not supposed to know which boy she picked yet, so you have to keep reading."

Another example in same vein – we are still reading a woman's journal as she describes events from her youth that haven't happened yet in the primary narrative. She makes a reference to an adventure she went on that "cost a person's life." Really? When you're writing in your diary, you wouldn't just say how you miss so-and-so because they died on your adventure?

These details were really jarring to me and made it hard to empathize with any of the characters. Another reason that it was hard to empathize is that the story never really focused on one character. I think that as the reader I was supposed to care about the group as a whole – their survival and ability to start a new colony – but the motivations of everyone where so disjointed that instead I just felt tossed from one individual struggle to the next. If there was an underlying thread that was supposed to tie all the independent actions together, I never found it.

This is one book I can't see myself ever reading again, and probably won't even try any of the author's other works.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Pictures from Aruba

Finally processed most of the pictures I took from our trip a couple weeks ago. This is about one tenth of all of them. (I went a little camera crazy) Enjoy!

Aruba 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

Review: Judas Unchained

Judas Unchained Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall, I liked the series because it had the hard scifi feel I've been craving, however, certain themes fell a little short for me. Final score is 3 out of 5.

I finished the book awhile ago, so this review may be a little fuzzy on details from bad memory. (I was busy preparing and then experiencing a vacation in the Caribbean -- a good excuse!) The general take away I have from this story is a pleasant one. One of my primary drivers to read this in the first place was to find some serious hard science fiction and this definitely fit the bill. It was well-written and didn't fall into any tropes that I am familiar with. In other words, I was engaged and on my toes most of the time. However, there are a few areas that didn't work so well for me.

First, I felt overwhelmed with the number of protagonists and never really sympathized with any of them. The large cast and wide scope of the story felt a lot like the Song of Ice and Fire (George R. R. Martin) to me. However, with George, I perceived the world as being small at first and then growing bigger and bigger gradually. Peter, on the other hand, just plunged me in to this huge Commonwealth so quickly I had a hard time getting my bearings. (I will admit that some of this could be biased because I’ve read Ice and Fire more than once.) And this is my fuzzy memory talking here –- but the viewpoints from the Commonwealth didn’t seem truly first-person. Like I never really got the sense that I was getting inside anyone’s head. Thus, being an outsider, the events didn’t impact me that much.

(Minor spoilers here)
Second, several aspects of the technology were not explored to my personal satisfaction. The fact that humanity is basically immortal at this point should have changed our culture more drastically in my mind. Similarly, if humanity can create memory-storage chips that are built into our brains, wouldn’t we have a ton of other cybertech? Too many aspects of everyday life remained the same as what we experience today that at times, I almost forgot how far-future the story was supposed to be.

Those complaints aside, I did enjoy the series. I like it when alien species are presented as truly alien and not just a different human culture in costume. I like exploring the universe in space ships and using computers and technology to do amazing things. Once my ‘to read’ list empties out, I would even consider revisiting this story again.

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