One of my favorite week-end activities is to cook.
I subscribe to "Cooking Light" magazine and collect cookbooks and love nothing more than pulling out recipes I have been wanting to try and cooking a bunch of them over the week-end. Since it's just the two of us, Hubby freaks out when he sees all of the food.
"Who is going to eat of all of this %$#&!! food," he shouts. Well, he doesn't actually shout, but it still makes me feel bad.
Doesn't he realize I am tapping my creative side by making this food? And then we can eat leftovers all week. What could be better?
Though I don't by any means consider myself a gourmet cook, I do OK. But I definitely have some cooking issues, so if you can help me with them, I would be most grateful.
What is the deal with slow cookers?
I love the idea of putting a few ingredients in a pot and eight hours later, a meal is prepared. However, what I don't love is the fact that everything I put in that pot tastes the same: tasteless.
What am I doing wrong? I have "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker (there was a reason why my mother didn't have one, I guess) and "Crock-Pot, The Original Slow Cooker Recipe Collection," and I have tried everything from mac and cheese to pork chops to chicken breasts and everything turns out tasting like an old tennis shoe (how I know what an old tennis shoe tastes like is a long story).
If you have a foolproof, worthy slow cooker recipe, I would like to have it before I toss the thing into the trash. It's taking up space.
Speaking of chicken breasts, why can't I bake a decent one?
They are always over cooked. Hubby says that's the problem. Don't bake them. Hubby says the only way to eat chicken breasts is to fry them, but in my quest for the perfect body, I tend to shun fried things (except French Fries. Those don't count, do they?)
I am thinking that it's the chicken breasts I buy. We get the ones from Costco and they are unnaturally huge so I think I overcompensate for that. I think I will stick with chicken thighs. Those are even good when overcooked.
Another thing I can't fathom is seafood.
Well, I have kind of figured out shrimp, but clams, mussels and scallops scare me. And it's difficult for me to believe something cooks in just a few minutes, so I invariably overcook my fish. And lobster. Oy. I could never drop a writhing, living lobster into a pot of boiling water.
Let me tell you a little story about a lobster.
Hubby and I were eating at Morton's, a famous but highly overrated and overpriced steak house restaurant (in my humble opinion). The custom there was for the waiter to come around to each table and show you what you could order. I am talking about actual baked potatoes, actual cuts of beef, actual lobsters. Now the cuts of beef are just pieces of meat, so no matter how you may feel about eating meat, at least it's already dead. But the lobster was alive. After the waiter had made his presentation, he placed the tray with the lobster on it by the kitchen door and left it there. As I sat through dinner eating my meal, I couldn't take my eyes off of that poor lobster sitting on that tray, probably thinking that even swimming around in a lobster tank with his other sentenced-to-death lobster friends was better than this. What suffering was he going through in that little lobster brain of his? It ruined my lobster dinner. (Just kidding. I didn't order lobster).
It haunts me to this day. No way are lobsters going to be languishing in my kitchen.
Then there is the conundrum: who cleans up this mess?
When I cook, I can't say I clean as I go. After all of those cooking shows I watch, you would think I would have that as a given along with my mise en place. But no, I just jump in, and then when I find I don't have enough flour for my brownies, but I have already melted the chocolate, or I have run out of toasted sesame oil right in the middle of the stir fry, I yell, "Hubby!" and off he goes to the store. He's good like that. But when I am finished cooking, he does say, "Who is going to clean up this mess?"
And finally, what the hell is fenugreek?
Well, there you have it. My kitchen conundrums. Well, some of them anyway.
But despite my cooking shortcomings, I love to cook and to collect recipes. I even use a big photo album to store them in under the plastic pages. My very own cookbook!
Here are four of my favorite recipes that I go back to time and time again and even I can't screw these up.
Nonstop, No-Chop Chili
(from Cooking Light, Sept. 2002) which I have adapted).
The absolute best and easiest chili recipe you will ever make.
It's true, you don't have to chop one thing. Just plunk everything in a big pot and there you have it.
- 1 pound ground round or ground turkey (or a combination of both)
- 1 cup salsa
- 2 cups chicken broth (if you don't want it so juicy, one cup will work)
- 1 can corn
- 2 T chili powder
- 1 T sugar
- 2 1/2 t ground cumin
- 1 1/2 dried oregano
- 1/4 t salt
- 1 16 oz can chili beans undrained (I used the fancy chili beans to vary the flavor depending on my taste - Louisiana chili beans, etc.
- 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes undrained
I found this recipe in "Woman's Day Magazine" March 2010. It is one of Ree Drummond's recipes from her Pioneer Woman show. You have never had meatballs quite like these. They really are comforting to eat.
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 3/4 cup quick oats
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons very finely minced onion
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- Plenty of ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup ketchup
- 4 to 6 tablespoons minced onion
- 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- Dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
DirectionsFor the meatballs: In bowl, combine the ground beef and oats. Pour in the milk, and then add the onions, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Roll the mixture into tablespoon-size balls and refrigerate them for 30 to 45 minutes to firm.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dredge the meatballs in the flour, and then brown the meatballs in batches until light brown. As they brown, place them into a rectangular baking dish.
For the sauce: Stir together the ketchup, onions, vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Drizzle the sauce evenly on the meatballs.
Bake until bubbly and hot, about 45 minutes.
Baked Risotto with Bacon and Peas
(from Oprah Magazine April 2012)
Yes, baked. No more standing at the stove and stirring, stirring, stirring. It's foolproof and only the pickiest risotto aficionado would complain about this version.
Yes, baked. No more standing at the stove and stirring, stirring, stirring. It's foolproof and only the pickiest risotto aficionado would complain about this version.
Serves 4 to 6
- 4 strips bacon, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1½ cups Arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 cups chicken broth or water
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 cup frozen peas
- ½ cup chopped basil, plus more for garnish
- 2 to 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces), plus more for garnish
Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Preheat oven to 400°. Using an oven-safe, straight-sided saucepan or Dutch oven with a lid, cook bacon over medium-high heat. When cooked through, remove bacon and set aside, reserving fat in pan. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat with bacon fat. Stir in wine and cook until it has evaporated, 1 minute more. Stir in broth, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and bake 20 to 25 minutes; check the risotto. Most of the liquid should be absorbed and the rice just cooked. Stir in peas and basil and return to oven, uncovered, for 5 more minutes.
Remove risotto from oven and stir in butter and cheese. Add reserved bacon, season to taste with salt and pepper, and spoon into bowls. Shave additional Parmesan over the top and garnish with basil.
Shrimp and Sausage Corn Chowder
from "The Busy Mom's Cookbook"
The Best Soup You Will Ever Make
What you need:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound ground Italian sausage, without the casing
1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk
4 cups chicken stock (I use a bit more)
2 cups fresh, canned or thawed frozen corn
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, chopped in thirds
salt and pepper, if desired
In a large sauce pot, heat the olive oil on medium high. Add the sausage, red and green peppers, onions, salt and pepper. Saute, breaking up sausage into bite sized pieces, until sausage is cooked through. Reduce heat to medium.
Add butter to the pan. After the butter is melted, stir in the flour. There should be enough liquid in the pan for the flour to be completely incorporated. Continue stirring for another minute.
Pour in the milk and chicken stock, stir well and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low, and allow chowder to thicken for about 4-5 minutes. Stir in corn and let chowder simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add shrimp and simmer for about 3-4 minutes or until shrimp is pink and curls into itself. Remove from heat and serve!
Now On To The Week in Reviews
***In Theatres Now***
Oren Little (Michael Douglas) is a realtor, a widower and a curmudgeon...until the little granddaughter he didn't know he had enters his life.
Oren's wife has died and he is selling his huge estate and moving to his other property in Vermont. In the interim, he moves into an apartment on one of his properties and Leah (Diane Keaton) is his neighbor along with an assortment of other folks: the black cop and his pregnant wife, the married couple with two obnoxious little sons, etc. It's apparent no one likes Oren very much and why should they? He's a mean son of a gun. When his errant, ex-druggie son shows up with the daughter Oren didn't even know about and asks Oren to take care of her while he is in prison, Oren balks because he doesn't like his "good for nothing" son very much. But good hearted Leah sets him straight. Turns out Luke, the son, isn't really guilty of anything and is clean and is taking the rap for something he didn't do.
Directed by Rob Reiner (and he also has a small role, though you might not recognize him right away with the bad toupee) and screenplay by Mark Andrus, who gave us "As Good as it Gets," it's obvious they were hoping for another film like that. "Ain't gonna happen."
The twitchy, giggly, nervous Annie Hall thing worked when Diane was younger. It doesn't look so good in her 60's. She had a period when she conquered those mannerisms to give us some really good work, but lately, she has regressed into an aging Annie Hall and it ain't pretty. On every talk show touting this film, she is so self-deprecating, it's embarrassing. Get a grip, Diane.
One of the main themes is that Leah is a singer. Diane can sing a bit, but would someone, let along Frankie Valli (not sure what he was doing in this thing) pay her $1500 a WEEK? I don't think so.
Cliches abound. Little girl turns the curmudgeon's heart of stone to mush. It's almost like "Annie" without the music.
I will say at least we were spared the precocious, wise-cracking child that knows more than the adults. Little Sterling Jerins evokes the necessary pathos to make Oren and Leah want to take care of her and that is about all I will tolerate in children in films.
The grey hairs in the audience loved this thing. I guess that's why I am a blonde. I also feel like I am too young to enjoy a love story like this about people like me. I was obsessed with Michael Douglas' ears. Have you ever noticed how big and stretched out old mens' ears get?
Rob Reiner, like so many people who get old, has gotten sentimental. How did we get from "This is Spinal Tap, "When Harry Met Sally," and "A Few Good Men" to this?
Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a trifle that will do no harm, but it doesn't really do any good either and if you were expecting another "As Good as it Gets," forget about it!
You Might Have Missed.
And some you should be glad you did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to!)
Day Night Day Night (2006)
Two days in the life of a soon-to-be suicide bomber.
Did you ever wonder what the days leading up to a suicide bombing would be for the bomber? No? Well, I have. I'm like that.
This is a chilling almost hour by hour representation of what that might be like.
The film opens with a young girl praying fervently on a bus. She is picked up by a man. They eat at a Chinese restaurant and she orders some egg rolls to go. Then the man takes her to a hotel and he leaves, telling her to wait there for instructions. She takes a bath, shaves her underarms, cuts her toenails, brushes her teeth, sleeps, eats. She eats a lot in this film. All mundane activities made chilling by the fact that we know what her ultimate goal is.
She is eventually joined by a man in a mask who gives her some tests, probably to see how compliant she is. Then two others join them. They buy her some clothes and she tries them on for them, an almost funny scene if we didn't know what will happen. They are respectful and polite to her and she is dutiful and obedient with them. She is given a new identity and tested on her ability to remember everything on her new driver's license. She repeats the instructions over and over. They make a video of her holding a rifle. She is fitted for a backpack and she is given instructions on how to detonate the bomb. Little things like the bomb makers worrying the backpack will hurt her back or making sure she puts her seat belt on as they head to where she will set off the bomb (Times Square) give you the sense that this is just a day at the office when in fact she is setting out to set off a bomb, killing herself and possibly hundreds of others.
It's all very matter of fact.
Who is she? Why is she doing this? We are never told and there are no political overtones.
The film is beautifully photographed in blues and greys and whites, the colors of heaven. Even though you know what will happen, the film is still riveting and you wish that she won't go through with it.
Newcomer Luisa Williams as "She," won a casting call of over 650 other young women. She looks eerily like Lea Michele.
Rosy the Reviewer says...A chilling and haunting account of the last two days in the life of a suicide bomber. For sophisticated movie goers.
On My Way (2013)
Facing the end of a relationship and her struggling restaurant, a woman in her sixties goes out for cigarettes in the middle of lunch service and just keeps driving.
Catherine Deneuve plays Bettie, a put-upon woman in mid-life crisis with a resentful daughter. Her daughter asks her to come and take care of her son while she goes to see about a job in Belgium. Bettie says no at first but as she begins her odyssey, she decides to go meet her grandson, Charly, and they go on a road trip together.
We learn that Bettie was once Miss Brittany in the Miss France Pageant and has been invited to a reunion of ex-Misses. This leads to a riff on beauty and as Ms. Deneuve herself famously said, "You can't save your ass and your face," or something along those lines. It's clear Ms. Denueve has chosen to save her face and it is refreshing to see one of the most beautiful women in the world allowing herself to age naturally. It's a French thing, I guess. At the reunion, when the photographer is taking a group picture, he tells her to keep her head up to avoid a double chin. How many actresses would allow a line like that in a film?
One memorable scene has Bettie stopping and asking an old man for a cigarette. He invites her to his home to roll her one. His swollen fingers take ages to roll the cigarette paper as Bettie is just gagging for a smoke. They talk about old people being put away because they are pains in the ass. Funny and poignant at the same time.
Bettie drives an old Mercedes through stunning French countryside. Now, I like Mercedes cars, but her car surpassed all expectations. Bettie drove and drove and only once stopped for gas. There are some other little issues such as where Bettie got her sparkly dress for the reunion and how she inexplicably turned up in a raincoat and wellies. For someone who just took off on the spur of the moment, she certainly had a well-equipped car.
Rosy the Reviewer says... It's a charming film and it's all about La Deneuve. (subtitles)
***Book of the Week***
A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man by Holly George-Warren (2014)
Remember the song "The Letter" by The Box Tops? Well, this is the guy who fronted that band and sang that song and he was only 17. And despite some success in a band called Big Star, by 28, he was washed up, drug addicted and a dishwasher.
Chilton doesn't come across as a particularly nice guy. Probably what happens when someone becomes a big star at such a young age. But his talent was recognized by many artists and despite being down on his luck for most of his adult life, he was still a trendsetter and inspired many musicians from REM to Jeff Buckley.
Author George-Warren knew Chilton later in his life and has interviewed over 100 people who knew and worked with Chilton to produce a painstakingly detailed biography. However, that is a blessing and a curse because one wonders if Chilton really deserved this much detail and adulation.
Rosy the Reviewer says...for ardent Chilton, Box Tops or Big Star fans and those who can't get enough of the 60's and 70's.
That's it for this week!
Thanks for reading!
See you Tuesday for
"A Retired Librarian's Perfect Day"
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