Friday, April 28, 2017

"Unforgettable" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Unforgettable" as well as DVDs "Collateral Beauty" and "Desierto."  The Book of the Week is a cookbook, "An American Girl Living in London."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Scarface" (and you can save your "I can't believe you haven't seen 'Scarface" remark.. I've heard it many times already)!




Unforgettable


Tessa Conover (Katherine Heigl) is divorced from her husband, David, but she's not happy about it.  And she is even less happy when she meets David's new girlfriend, who he plans to marry. 

Tessa and David (Geoff Stults) Conover are divorced but you would never know it.  They have a daughter together, Lily (Isabella Kai Rice), and I guess that's the reason why Tessa seems to be around all of the time.  It doesn't hurt that she only lives about a block away from David which makes it easy for her to drop by whenever she wants...and she does, which makes you wonder...um, David, why aren't you telling your ex-wife to take a hike? 

Tessa is the epitome of The Ice Princess right down to her perfect platinum blonde hair, her perfect pale skin, her perfect manners and her perfect white clothes. She is one of those perfect suburban mothers who always brings the best treats to school events, keeps an orderly calendar and has taught her daughter manners.  She is unflappable and, well, perfect.

In contrast is Julia (Rosario Dawson), a dark-haired beauty with a past, a victim of domestic abuse who spent some time in a mental hospital because of it.  But now, her career is on track, she has moved in with Geoff, she plans to marry him and is happy to be the step-mother to little Lily. But despite restraining orders and hiding from her tormenter, Michael (Simon Kassianides) - she doesn't even have a Facebook account, can you believe it? - she is still afraid that he will find her. Lots of changes for Julia so she is vulnerable and imperfect.

And let's just say that once Tessa is through with her she will seem VERY imperfect.

However, we soon find out that Tessa is less than perfect, too, as the façade begins to crack.  She has a mom (Cheryl Ladd, who at 66 looks damn good), who you can tell was hard to please so naturally Tessa thinks she needs to live up to her mother's high standards and, likewise, is passing that on to little Lily. 

But I guess the most important thing that stands in the way of Tessa's perfection is that... Tessa is unhinged.

Tessa wants Geoff back and decides that the best way to do that is to get rid of Julia, so she stalks her and embarks on a series of situations to make Julia look bad and ultimately, points the evil Michael to her.  And horrors, she is a catfish - she sets up a fake Facebook account in Julia's name and catfishes Michael.

Remember "Single White Female?"  Well, this film is kind of like that, that and just about every Lifetime Movie ever.  And director Denise Di Novi and screenwriters Christina Hodson and David Johnson have included every single Lifetime Movie device in their screenplay. 

And I mean EVERY...SINGLE...ONE!

Let me refresh your memory on those:

  • The movie opens with our heroine having already gone through her ordeal, whatever it is, and then the movie flashes back six months (it's almost always six months for some reason).
  • Our heroine is being set up and/or framed by someone who is jealous/feels wronged/is crazy and murderous/ or all of those things...you fill in the blanks.
  • Lots of stalking.
  • Heroine never tells anyone about her past or the phone calls and stalking, instead practically gives herself a stroke trying to deal with this on her own
  • Husband or boyfriend is clueless and absolutely no help whatsoever and in fact, often must be saved by our heroine
  • Girl fight - always a girl fight
  • The ending is always a flash forward - six months again - and everything seems happy and resolved...
  • Until... a knock on the door/phone call/ text/you fill in the blanks that leaves us and our heroine thinking...happy ending...OR IS IT?


But, hey, I like Lifetime Movies (in fact, I wrote an appreciation of them awhile back), and I kind of knew what I was getting into with this, but I don't know.  When I pay almost $11.00 for a senior ticket for a matinee, I expect the film to be on a bit of a higher level than what I can watch for free any time of the day on the Lifetime Movie Channel.  but, alas...

Last week, when I was reviewing Anne Hathaway's new movie, "Colossal," I mentioned that in 2013 she was considered "the most hated woman in Hollywood."  Well, if the gossip rags and TMZ are correct, Katherine Heigl won that title after Anne, and not sure that she still isn't the most hated.  Since Katherine plays the villain here, this film won't help her image any either, but I have always liked her as a actress.  She is a beautiful woman and certainly a competent actress and does Ice Princess very well.

Likewise, I like Rosario Dawson, but in this movie, she just can't seem to rise above the script.  In her defense, I don't think Meryl Streep could either. And here's something. I didn't mind the child actress.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Unforgettable?  Nope, forgettable. If you are in a Lifetime Movie mood, turn on the Lifetime Movie Channel and indulge yourself for free.


 

***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!

On DVD





Collateral Beauty (2016)


A guy loses his daughter, can't deal with it, has a bit of a breakdown that is manifested by his writing letters to Love, Time and Death.  Yes, you heard me, he writes letters to Love, Time and Death, and he actually mails them.

I know.  Sounds awful, doesn't it? This film did not do particularly well at the box office and the reviews were not good either, which is not surprising since the premise is way out there, but hear me out.

Howard (Will Smith) runs an advertising company and is supposedly brilliant at it.  As the film begins we see him rallying his staff with a speech about how all humans are connected:

"We long for love, we wish we had more time, we fear death."

I guess according to him, those precepts are the backbone of good advertising.

But that was then, this is now - three years later.

After the death of his daughter, Howard is a shadow of his former self and his co-workers, Claire (Kate Winslet), Simon (Michael Pena) and Whit (Edward Norton) are worried about him. Whit is particularly worried, more about the fact that the company is going down the tubes and he is Howard's partner. And he should be worried, because Howard spends his days making elaborate domino structures and then knocks them down. That's about it for his day.

Whit doesn't see Howard coming out of this any time soon, so he wants Howard to sell his share of the company. When the three discover that Howard has written letters to Love, Time and Death, they decide, "Yikes. Ok, that's it.  We have to do something!" And that's when the three come up with an elaborate plot to gaslight Howard so he will question his own mental capacity and sell, or they can legally question his competence and get control of the company. Now, my first question is, "Um, are you guys his friends?"

Whit meets Amy (Keira Knightley) when she appears for try-outs for an advertising campaign. She is an off-off Broadway actress and through her Whit meets Brigitte (Helen Mirren) and Raffi (Jacob Lattimore), two other actors.  They need money to put on a play and so when Whit proposes to them that they play the parts of Love, Time and Death and approach Howard, they eventually agree.  The idea is that if Howard is forced to confront the actual manifestations of Love, Time and Death, he will come out of his funk and Whit will be able to reason with him and get him to sign over his shares of the company to him. Or meeting the actual manifestations of Love, Time and Death will send him all of the way around the bend and Whit can force him to sell.  Either way, it's a win-win for Whit.

However, naturally as the three are dealing with Howard's issues, it becomes apparent that they have their own issues.  Whit has a daughter who doesn't want to spend Christmas with him because he cheated on her mother; Claire is running out of time to have children; and Simon is dying.  So instead of plotting against Howard, those three need to check themselves, doncha think?

First Death (Brigitte) shows up in a blue beret and a feather boa.  She quotes from his letter to her and actually manages to convince Howard that only he can see her.  Likewise, Amy as Love and Raffi as Time are able to do the same thing and Howard starts to believe and question his own sanity. 

So Howard joins a support group for parents of dead children and he meets Madeline (Naomie Harris). Madeline shares her story with the group.  She, too, has lost a child, and at the hospital after her child had died, she met a woman who told her about collateral beauty - Collateral Beauty - what we learn from devastation. 

You've heard of collateral damage, right?  It's that thing that happens when a bomb goes off and kills the intended target but also innocent bystanders.  If it kills some innocent people along the way, well that's collateral damage, sometimes that happens. Here we have collateral beauty, that thing that can happen after something terrible happens, when something good comes from it.  Or at least, I think that's what this movie is trying to say.

So does collateral beauty emerge out of tragedy for Howard?  And from this nasty little plot to ruin Howard, are Claire, Simon and Whit redeemed by collateral beauty? Geez, I wonder...

After seeing all of those cheesy trailers that were all over the place at Christmas time and now hearing about the plot, are you thinking what I thought?  This sounds terrible! And what are all of those A-list actors doing in a movie like this? Do they know something I don't?  Because after seeing this film, I am still wondering what attracted them all to this.

But here's the twist. 

There actually is a twist, and I didn't see it coming at all and that twist ALMOST saved this movie for me. I said almost. Let's just say it had a bit of a "Sixth Sense" vibe. Written by Allan Loeb and directed by David Frankel, I liked this film much more than I thought I would, though it was a bit of a slog to get to the part I liked. Yes, it's sentimental and schmaltzy - and it even takes place over Christmas so there is snow and Christmas lights and Salvation Army bellringers, all meant to make you feel warm and fuzzy - but I have to admit that by the end of the film, it did eventually get to me. 

I had new respect for Smith when I saw him in "Concussion (I gave him a good review)," but I detect a wee bit of overacting here if gnashing of teeth and clenched fists can be construed as over-acting, but Smith is also able to convey a certain tenderness that comes through, so I will give him a pass.  Likewise, it's interesting to see Michael Pena in a dramatic role (please tell me you didn't go see "CHIPS"), and though Mirren is a bit too cutesy, she makes it work and Norton and Knightley do the best they can with what they've got to work with.

Rosy the Reviewer says...pure schmaltz but I like schmaltz. 






Desierto (2015)


As a group of people try to cross the border from Mexico into the United States, they encounter a man who has taken patrolling the border into his own deadly hands.

This film shows the plight of those seeking a new life in the United States.  When people are willing to be crammed into the back of a truck in blazing heat and cross deserts on foot, you know they are desperate.

A truck with what appears to be Mexicans trying to get into the United States breaks down in the middle of the desert.  At that point the driver points, says "The United States is that way," and abandons them.

Next we meet Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who appears to just be a good old boy cowboy in a truck, but we soon learn he has a mission and suddenly this film changes from a movie about Mexicans crossing the border and trying to avoid the border patrol to a horror film where a self-proclaimed border patrol vigilante feels compelled to keep others out by any means possible, and that means tracking them down with this vicious dog and picking them off with his rifle.

Right away, five members of the group get separated from the rest and that's a good thing because those who had gone ahead are mercilessly shot and killed.  And when you are crossing a desert, there is nowhere to hide.  The five who were left behind watch in horror as their comrades are gunned down.  After killing them, Sam put his cigar back in his mouth, puts his cowboy hat on and says, "Welcome to the land of the free."

When the dog, fittingly named Tracker, alerts Sam to the others who had fallen behind, the film becomes a cat and mouse game.  I am a dog lover but now I know why I don't particularly like other peoples' dogs - Tracker is one mean mutt, mean as in ripping people's throats out.

About halfway through the film, we get some background on the people who are still alive and why they wanted to come to the U.S.  And in all of this current controversy about illegal immigrants, we forget that these are our fellow human beings who are not murderers and rapists but just people who want a better life.  Sam is representative of those who hate immigrants, those who see the U.S. being overrun by people they don't understand.

Sam is an exaggerated, deadly version of Trump's Wall.

Gael Garcia Bernal is the other star - I first saw him in the 2000 film "Amores Perros," a Mexican film he made before he could even speak English.  He was so good in that and had such movie star looks that he broke out, learned English and has been starring in English language films ever since but has not really gained the stardom that was predicted.  I know who he is and always recognize him in films, but I can never remember his name.  I always have to say to Hubby, "You know, that guy with the three names who was in that dog movie."  Hubby can always read my mental shorthand.  But maybe that's why Bernal is still toiling in indie films like this one. The biggest mainstream film he has been in appears to be "Babel (2006)" though he stars in the web-TV series "Mozart in the Jungle" and is currently in pre-production of a Zorro film where he will star as Zorro (does anyone remember Zorro anymore)?  Perhaps that will be the film to cast him into the world of celebrity.

Morgan has mostly been a TV star ("The Good Wife," "The Walking Dead"), but his evil, steely and believable performance here should bode well for his future in feature films.

Written by Jonas Cuaron and Mateo Garcia and directed by Cuaron, this is an indictment of racial hatred and showcases the nightmare for some who just want to be a part of the American Dream. It's also one taut, scary movie. (Cuaron is also the writer and director of the aforementnioned up-coming Zorro film, and he is the son of director Alfonso Cuaron who won a Best Director Oscar for "Gravity" in 2014), 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a  sad commentary on extreme racism and man's inhumanity to man.  It's also a heart-pounding horror film that could actually be true and which reminded me why I hate the desert.




***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***



204 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?
(OK, don't answer that.  I know you have and you don't need to remind me that I hadn't)!




Scarface (1983)


From Cuban immigrant to drug lord.

Save your intake of breath and your "YOU HAVEN'T SEEN SCARFACE???" exclamation.  I know...but sometimes movies slip through the cracks even for a seasoned movie-goer like myself.  I think I was boycotting violent movies at the time, but I'm here now so let's move on.

I don't agree with anything Trump said about Mexicans or immigrants in general, but according to this film, Castro did empty out his jails and did send us those he didn't want. The film begins by saying that there were 125,000 refugees who escaped Castro's Cuba or were kicked out by Castro and of that number, 25,000 had criminal records.  Maybe this movie is where Trump got that idea about Mexican immigrants. But as depicted in the film "Desierto (reviewed above)," most immigrants have come to the U.S. for a better life for themselves and their families.

And Tony Montana (Al Pacino) was no different, though I think he was in a bit of trouble back in Cuba and his idea of making a better life for himself involved murder and some criminal activity.  When he arrives, the immigration guys want to send him back, so Tony gets to do an Al Pacino speech right at the beginning of the film as he talks his way in the U.S.  A month later, Tony and his friend, Manny (Stephen Bauer) are in a refugee camp under a highway in Miami, Freedom Town, and before we know it, Tony has a gig to kill a politico from Cuba.  Tony knifes him during a riot and in so doing finds himself and Manny out of the refugee camp and proud owners of a couple of green cards.

The two start out working in the kitchen of a sandwich shop across from a posh nightclub called Little Havana.  They envy the rich clientele they see coming and going from the nightclub and plot how they will get there themselves.  It's not long before they are recruited by Omar (F. Murray Abraham), one of Frank Lopez's (Robert Loggia) goons.  Lopez is the current drug lord and he wants Tony and Manny to pick up some cocaine from some Colombians for $5000.  So Tony and Manny quit the restaurant and thus starts their lives of crime.

The drug deal goes wrong, very wrong.  It becomes clear that the Colombians have no intention of handing over the cocaine.  In fact they are planning to not only keep the cocaine but take the money as well.  They tie Tony and his cohort up and then threaten the two with a chainsaw. Give up the money or it's chainsaw time. As soon as the guy pulled out the chainsaw, I remembered why I didn't want to see this movie.  Ew.

This scene sets the stage for what a bad guy Tony really is.  He sees his buddy chopped up with a chainsaw and still he doesn't turn over the money.  He just gets mad and madder.  When Manny and another guy finally stop flirting with a girl in a bikini out on the street and come into the apartment, they rescue Tony, and now Tony has the money and the coke and Frank has to negotiate with Tony.  Naturally Frank is impressed with Tony's balls and honesty so he earns a place in the Cuban mafia.

And then Michelle Pfeiffer shows up, or should I say, Elvira, Tony's dream of a woman and Tony's Achilles Heel.  He lusts after Elvira, even though she is Frank's girl, and you can see where that's headed.

Tony's mantra is you need to make the money first, then you get the power and then you can have whatever you want.  And of course he does, but once he gets it, it's not what he had hoped for.  My mantra is, "Be careful what you wish for?"

There is a side story involving Tony's sister and mother.  Tony sees his sister, Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio whose accent sounds more Eastern European than Cuban), as a virginal girl to be protected and he is not happy when he sees her partying in a club, doing cocaine, and eventually falling for Manny.  She is another Achilles Heel for Tony and helps to lead to Tony's ultimate downfall. 

Directed by Brian De Palma with a screenplay by Oliver Stone and wonderful score by Giorgio Moroder, neither De Palma nor Stone are known to pull any punches when it comes to violence and gore and this film is no exception.  It's full of it.  And it's full of really good filmmaking.  The sign of brilliant filmmaking is creating a horror scene like the one with the chainsaw and scaring the crap out of the audience without really showing anything. Well, there was blood, but you know what I mean.

Pacino, was well, Pacino.  His accent came and went from time to time, but he was what we have come to expect from Pacino: over-the-top, scenery-chewing and absolutely riveting. He had just come out of success with a more low-key performance in "The Godfather" and was already on his way to superstardom.

This was a seminal film and a very original and different kind of movie for 1983. Today, we have come to accept gangsters, drugs and violence in movies (and Al Pacino's over-the-top acting), but then it was shocking.  It set the stage for movies to come and set the stage for success for many of those involved. The screenplay by Oliver Stone was only his 4th feature film screenplay and before his successes as a director. Michelle Pfeiffer had just come out of "Grease 2," which was hardly Academy Award material, and these were Stephen Bauer's, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's and F. Murray Abraham's first big roles.  All went on to have successful movie careers (Abraham went on to win an Academy Award for his role in "Amadeus)."

Why it's a Must See: "Brian De Palma's updated remake of Howard Hawks's 1932 gangster classic...is bloody, excessive, outrageous, and brilliantly crafted --and it sports an unforgettably histrionic performance from Al Pacino...De Palma's controversial masterpiece gives us the subversive thrill of seeing a social microcosm explode into a thousand fragments -- and all the while, a blimp flies above, heralding a bitterly mocking slogan in neon: 'The World is Yours."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

At almost four hours, "Scarface" is an epic film that has achieved cult status.  Who among us hasn't said at least once, "Say hello to my little friend!"

So, if like me, you missed this one, go say hello to your little friend, the DVD player!

Rosy the Reviewer says...it's an epic film about unscrupulously fighting to get what you want and then finding out it doesn't make you happy.  And now I can say I've seen 'Scarface."  So be quiet.




***Book of the Week***





An American Girl in London: 120 Nourishing Recipes for your Family from a California Expat by Marissa Hermer (2017)

 
 

Classic British recipes with an American twist.

Just the title makes me green with envy. I want to be an American girl living in London. That's what drew me to this cookbook, that and the fact that I love cookbooks (are you following me in my "Test Kitchen?)"

However, when I requested this book from my library, I didn't realize that Marissa Hermer is one of my "Ladies of London," which is a British version of "The Real Housewives," and as you probably know, the "Real Housewives" franchise is one of my guilty pleasures. So that made it even more fun and actually, this is a really good cookbook.

Hermer grew up in Southern California (Newport Beach), moved to New York City and eventually found herself working in London where she met her future husband, who was a restaurateur.  Now ten years later, she is still in London helping to run her husband's restaurants, has three children and is starring in a Bravo TV show.  Not bad. And now she has added a cookbook to her resume.

She shares breakfast recipes, soups, salads, sides, comfort food, roasts, party foods, what to serve for tea and pudding (that's desserts to us Americans).  There are traditional British classics included such as Bubble and Squeak and Kedgeree, but she puts a California twist on some British classics e.g. using sweet potatoes in a shepherd's pie or salted caramel sauce for her sticky toffee pudding.

It's a nicely presented cookbook with large colored pictures for most of the dishes and Hermer comments with tips and substitutions. 

"I've never thought of myself as a chef -- I'm not one.  I'm a working mother who cooks easy recipes and keeps a growing family well fed...However, I do have a few tricks to keep my British husband happy, my picky children nourished, and my California soul satisfied."

And I found her recipes to be satisfying too.

Rosy the Reviewer says.. you don't have to be an Anglophile to enjoy this cookbook but if you are one, you will love this!

 
 
Thanks for reading!


 
See you next Friday 

 
for my review of


"The Circle"

and

 
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on



"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project." 


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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.


Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen.  Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

NOTE:  On some entries, this has changed.  If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page. Click where it says "Critics." Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list.

Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Rosy's Test Kitchen #3: Cooking Successes and Cooking Conundrums - "Soup, Salad and a Sandwich"

Hello, again, everyone. 

If you have been following me on this new little cooking venture I have embarked upon, you know that I had some problems in my first installment but did much better in Installment #2, where I shared a Moroccan Chicken Vegetable Soup and some of my comfort food favorites.

Today, it's all about soup, salad and a sandwich.

I have already professed my love of soup in the last installment, so I don't need to go into that again, but salad.  A good salad with a nice piece of protein is probably the perfect meal.  And a sandwich?  Comfort food extraordinaire.  Oprah has been known to wax poetic about her childhood and the joys of eating Campbell's tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. I, too, found that combination a childhood favorite.  If it's good enough for Oprah, it's certainly good enough for me!

So speaking of grilled cheese sandwiches, for the Test Kitchen portion of this post, I am going to wage


THE BATTLE OF THE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES!!
 
 
And naturally, since this is my blog, I will be the judge!


I think I already shared my fool-proof method for making the best grilled cheese sandwich, but I will share it again here.  I bake it!  No chance of burning the bread and it comes out perfectly every time.
 
 
"Rosy's Baked Grilled Cheese Sandwich"

  • Set the oven at 425 degrees and put a baking sheet into the oven to warm while the oven is heating up.

  • Butter two pieces of bread on one side (some people swear by using mayo instead of butter, but I tried that and thought it made the bread greasier and tougher but do what you want with that).

  • When the oven has reached 425, pull out the baking sheet (be sure to remember to use an oven mitt or potholder), place one slice of bread buttered side down, layer on your cheese (I use Kraft singles - 2 and a half slices - but you can use higher end cheese if you like.  I just think the singles melt more evenly.  I know, I know, those Kraft singles aren't really cheese, but I like them.  It's a childhood thing).  Top the first piece of bread with the other buttered slice, buttered side up and place the baking sheet with the sandwich on it into the oven.

  • Bake for 8 minutes (but depending on how brown you like your sandwich and how hot your oven bakes, you might want to check it at 5).  Then flip the sandwich over and bake for another 5 minutes or so (again checking as you go).


Voila.. Perfection!

So now my method of making grilled cheese sandwiches is going up against the famous "Waffle Iron Grilled Cheese Sandwich," "The Low Fat Grilled Cheese Sandwich," that uses low fat cream cheese for some of the cheese and is grilled in olive oil instead of butter, and the "Knife-and-Fork Grilled Cheese with Honey" from the restaurant at the Las Alcobas Hotel in the Napa Valley and recently featured in Food and Wine Magazine (May 2017).


Let the battle begin!


First, let's try the waffle iron version.


"WAFFLE-IRON GRILLED CHEESE"

Sounds easy enough.

  • Heat the waffle iron, butter the bread, layer the cheese, put it in the waffle iron butter side up and cook for about two minutes.

What I liked: Looks easy

What I didn't like:  See picture below





What I learned:  Looking easy does not an easy or good recipe make!
Verdict:  Yuck

Yikes!  I don't know what I did wrong, but it came out a gooey, greasy mess! And...anyone know how to clean melted cheese out of a waffle iron?




OK, moving on to...


"The LOW FAT GRILLED CHEESE Sandwich"

First, that sounds like an oxymoron, but if I could eat my beloved grilled cheese sandwiches and not have to worry about so many calories, that would be a plus.  And this recipe assured me that the addition of low fat cream cheese would make up for the low-fat cheese, which is not known for its creamy consistency when heated.

  • Combine 1/2 oz. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese and 1 t. canola mayo.  Add 1 oz. 2% reduced-fat grated cheddar cheese.  Spread between two slices whole-grain bread.  Sear each side in a skillet over medium heat in 1/4 t. oil until bread is browned and crisp and how you like it. 


What I liked: Swapping the olive oil for butter saves 7 grams of fat, and the cream cheese and mayo helps the low fat cheese melt to give you that pleasant mouth feel we all crave when we eat a grilled cheese sandwich.

What I didn't like: how do you determine a 1/2 oz. of cream cheese or 1 oz. of  grated cheese? You could weigh it or eye-ball it. Just do the best you can).

What I learned: I told you I don't like frying my grilled cheese sandwiches, which is why I prefer baking them, but I learned that it's probably not a good idea to run out to the mailbox while frying my grilled cheese sandwich.



Verdict:  Mostly unsuccessful

However, I was able to eat one side of the sandwich, the side that wasn't burned, and it was quite tasty - but not as good as mine!



"KNIFE-AND-FORK GRILLED CHEESE WITH HONEY"
(as served at the Las Alcobas Hotel in St. Helena, California).



You will need:

  • Softened unsalted butter for spreading
  • Eight 1/2-inch-thick slices of sourdough boule
  • 1 lb. sliced Taleggio cheese, rind removed
  • Honey for drizzling
  • Flaky sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Spread the butter on one side of each piece of bread.  Top the unbuttered side of the bread with the cheese, close the sandwiches and press down lightly to flatten.  Cook the sandwiches in a large griddle or skillet  on moderate heat until golden, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate and drizzle with honey and season with salt and pepper.

What I liked: adding honey to a grilled cheese sandwich?  Sounds good!

What I didn't like: having to find fancy ingredients

What I learned:  I can't find Taleggio cheese (but you can probably substitute Fontina).

Verdict:  I didn't even try it because I couldn't figure out what a boule was so if this sounds good to you and you are lazy like I am, make your grilled cheese however you like it and toss some honey on it!  Done!



WINNER OF THE BATTLE OF THE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES????

Why, mine, of course!




Now on to the soup and salad. 

Warning: this is a mélange.  These next two recipes are not necessarily meant to be eaten together or with the aforementioned grilled cheese sandwich...unless you want to, of course.  Who am I to say that it's not OK to eat a grilled cheese sandwich with tortilla soup and a Burger Patty Salad?


Tortilla Soup
(From: Long forgotten paperback cookbook from the rack near the check-out stand at the supermarket)



I absolutely LOVE tortilla soups and I have tested more recipes for tortilla soup than I care to count but this one is the best...and the easiest.  However, who'd have thunk it?   I found this one in one of those little booklets that sits in racks at the checkout stand at the supermarket.  You know, one of those "50 Soups That Will Change Your Life" kinds of things.  You know what I mean.  But anyway, this is a killer tortilla soup.  But here is the REAL KILLER. It's a slow-cooker recipe!

You see, my crock pot and I do NOT get along.  I keep trying to give it a chance and every single time that darn crock pot lets me down.  Everything comes out tasting bland or soggy.

But this one dish is the exception and it's the best tortilla soup recipe to boot! It's easy and delicious.

Put all of the following into your crockpot:

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (1.25 pounds) but I use more.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 c)
  • 3 corn tortillas cut into 1-inch pieces (I just tear them up because, who cares, they dissolve into the soup anyway)
  • 1 and 1/2 c. corn, canned or frozen
  • 1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chiles
  • 3/4 c salsa verde
  • 2 cans (14 oz.) chicken broth (but I use 3 cans)
  • 1 t. dried oregano leaves
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1/2 t. cayenne

Cook on low for 5-7 hours.  Stir to break up the chicken thighs and then stir in two chopped tomatoes (I don't bother to seed them) and as much cilantro as you like.

What I Liked: Three easy steps. 1) - Throw everything into the crockpot 2) - Garnish 3) Eat!

What I didn't like:  I still don't like crockpots much.

What I learned: More chicken, more broth works the best and use a few more tortillas and a bit more corn if you like.

Verdict:  Successful and delicious! Ole!




BURGER PATTY SALAD
(From: "Cooking Light," August 2016)



The name of this salad does not do it justice.  Burger Patty sounds like something from McDonalds.  However, I promise you, this is a very delicious and high end salad despite its unfortunate name.

-First make the burger patties-

Put the following in a food processor:

  • 1/2 medium red onion, quartered
  • 2 T. chopped parsley
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1/4 t. allspice
  • 2 garlic cloves

When combined, add 6 oz. lean ground beef, 4 oz. ground lamb (if using) - or 10 oz. of just ground beef - and 1 large egg.  Pulse in the food processor to combine.

-Next, make the dressing-

  • 1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt (the recipe calls for 2% but non-fat works fine)
  • 1/4 c. canola mayo but use whatever kind you like
  • 1 T fresh lime jusice
  • 2 T. chopped parsley
  • 1/4 t. black pepper
  • 1/8 t. salt

Mix those ingredients and then add 1/2 of a grated English cucumber to the mixture.

-The Salad-

  • The recipe calls for a 5 oz. bag of baby kale but use whatever greens you want.  Toss the greens with 1 T. oil and 1 T. fresh lime juice.  Divide greens onto 4 plates and top with the other half of the English cucumber, sliced, as much of the remaining red onion as you want and several wedges of tomatoes.  Put two meat patties on each plate and garnish the patties with the yogurt mixture.

  • Shape the meat mixture into 8 patties, place them on a jelly-roll pan or baking sheet coated with cooking spray and broil for 6 minutes or until done.

When you make the burger patty, you will swear that it just won't work because the ground beef mixture is so oozy and runny but as soon as you make the mixture into patties and put them under the broiler they come out moist and delicious.

What I liked: Nothing is better than a lovely salad and a bit of protein and the Middle Eastern flavors give it just the kick it needs to stand out.

What I didn't like: They need to change the name of this recipe.

What I learned: This recipe calls for a mixture of ground beef and lamb, but I made it with just the ground beef and it was really good.  However, I would think that adding lamb (if you like lamb) would give it an extra little kick.  I will try it with ground lamb next time, though I not only don't see ground lamb much at my supermarket, I also have a bit of a hard time eating little lambykins.

Verdict:  Delicious!

So that's it for this installment.  Join me next time when I will be sharing my favorite "sweets" with you.

 
 
Thanks for reading!
 
See you next Friday 

 
for my review of

"Unforgettable"


and

 
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on



"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project." 


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