Monday, December 22, 2008

Thanks to Amanda for coining the term:

Empanasty - thus ending the debate whether or not it's an empanada or a pasty. Here are some pictures from the first batch which were straight up pastys. They were filled with the classic beef stew filling. They were actually pretty big.




* * *
Sometimes I genuinely love my sense of humor.












Friday, December 19, 2008

Far Cry 2 (2008) - more fun.

Important safety tips:

  1. Do not fire a RPG while standing in dry grass.  While watching the resultant destruction you will be caught in the brushfire.  
  2. After creating explosions - for example in a roadblock - wait before charging in to mop up.  The heat will cook off ammunition crates.  This is handy unless you are caught in the explosion, then it is not so handy.
  3. Far Cry 2 is one of the few games I have played where effective recon is handy during game play.  You have the tools, use them.
  4. Remember, the night time is the right time...for destruction.
Not safety tips:
  1. Running over gazelles with a Jeep does not cause damage to your vehicle.
  2. Shooting zebras doesn't really do anything except waste ammo.
  3. As far as I can tell there are no crocodiles or hippos in the water so don't be afraid to splash around.
  4. Try to unlock as many of the safe houses as early as you can - some of them have pretty kick ass weapons laying around.

I'm enjoying what time I've had with the game.  I think I might actually have to pick this one up. 




Thursday, December 18, 2008

Far Cry 2 (2008)

I was finally able to rent Far Cry 2 - oddly enough continuing my Ubisoft kick.  I've only put in a few hours but I have to say that I'm enjoying it.  Then again I have a soft spot for mercenaries, gun running, and Africa.  I also ran over a herd of gazelles with a truck.

I'm gonna get some more game time in before I have to return it.  I'll write more once I've gotten more game time in.

One cool thing about the game mechanics is fire.  Rather, setting things on fire.  I created a brushfire by lobbing a Molotov.  To my surprise the fire spread, a tree caught on fire, and I caught on fire while standing there staring like an idiot.  Neat.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tomb Raider: Underworld (2008)

Tomb Raider: Underworld is not a bad game but it certainly isn't thrilling.  Another rental.

My major complaints: there's not enough Tomb Raiding, the puzzles are fairly straight forward, and for some reason it takes the game a long time to get going.

On the upside the Mexico level is awesome.  It seriously kick ass, I had to force myself to turn the computer off and go to bed.

Underworld is perfectly reasonable and if you're a Tomb Raider fan I recommend picking it up.

Pastys/pasties/pastes/empanadas - part iii

Here's an example of why I love food history:

Apparently the Cornish emigrated to Hidalgo, Mexico to work silver mines and brought the pasty with them.  The pasty became the paste.  I'm still trying to nail down the difference between and empanada and a pasty/paste.  I wonder if the difference is filling.  Probably regional as well - likes calzone, stromboli, samosas or curry puffs.

Pastys part ii - making dreams come true.

Fortunately we had a good number of ingredients sitting around the house and only needed to pick up a turnip and some Crisco for the dough.

Have to say thanks thanks to Amanda for all help in making these.  I cannot make dough and apparently I have no idea how to crimp edges.  The ones I made were ugly plus they had multiple stab wounds.  

I added garlic, paprika, and a little this and that to the recipe.  Amanda also suggested adding cornstarch.  This was a good idea as it helped goo up the filling once cooked.  She would have preferred them a bit saucier but I think they turned out just fine.

Well all is said and done they turned out awesome.  They are a little bland for my tastes but that's why God made hot sauce.  They need a punch of salt too.  They are good - possibly better leftover - and didn't fall apart when I reheated it in the microwave.  

These are going to be a staple from now on.  I look forward to changing up the recipe and see what I can come up with.


A foray into the world of pastys. Part I.

Though I first encountered them in Michigan I knew little to nothing about the history of pastys. Before I get into that I have to tell you about a dream I had:

  • I was having a dream about dumplings.  Yes, I dream about food sometimes.  No, they are not sexy dreams.  I was dreaming about the giant meat dumplings at Tai Shan.  They are the size of steamed buns but have a dumpling wrapper.  Plus they helped me survive a long stretch of the late 90s.  So I was dreaming about the dumplings and then I dreaming about Jamaican Beef patties.  Then it was a short jump to pastys or pasties.  
The pasty (PASS-ty) is for all intents and purposes a hand held meat pie - if Apple marketed the pasty it would called the iPasty...ha ha, sigh.  The history of the Michigan Upper Peninsula pasty revolves around Cornish immigrants who worked in the mines.  I found this on www.whatscookingamerica.net:

Pastie or Pasty (PASS-tee) - These are basically individual pies filled with meats and vegetables that are cooked together. They should weigh about two pounds or more. The identifying feature of the Cornish pasty is really the pastry and it’s crimping. When pasties are being made, each member of the family has their initials marked at one corner. This way each person’s favorite tastes can be catered to, identifying each pasty.

The solid ridge of pastry, hand crimped along the top of the pasty, was so designed that the miner or traveler could grasp the pastie for eating and then throw the crust away. By doing this, he did not run the risk of germs and contamination from dirty hands. The crusts weren't wasted though, as many miners were believers in ghosts or "knockers" that inhabited the mines, and left these crusts to keep the ghosts content. There is some truth to this rumor, because the early Cornish tin mines had large amounts of arsenic, by not eating the corner which the miners held, they kept themselves from consuming large amounts of arsenic.

One end of the pasty would usually contain a sweet filling which the wives would mark or initial so the miner wouldn't eat his dessert first, while the other end would contain meat and vegetables. The true Cornish way to eat a pasty is to hold it in your hands, and begin to eat it from the top down to the opposite end of the initialed part. That way its rightful owner could consume any left over portion later.

Pasties are one of the most ancient methods of cooking and of carrying cooked food. It is said that the early Irish Catholic Priests created them in order to transport food as they walked about the countryside preaching and aiding the people. The dish is mentioned in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor (1598).

The earliest known reference to the pasty contribute it to the Cornish.  From 1150 to 1190, Chretien de Troyes, French poet, wrote several Arthurian romances for the Countess of Champagne.  In one of them, Eric and Enide, it mentions pasties: 

Next Guivret opened a chest and took out two pasties.  "my friend," says he, "now try a little of these cold pasties And you shall drink wine mixed with water...." - Both Guivret and Eric came from various parts of what today is considered Cornwall.

Irish people that migrated to northern England took the art of pastie making with them. Soon every miner in northern England took pasties down into the mine for his noon lunch. Pasties were also called oggies by the miners of Cornwell, England. English sailors even took pastie making as far as the shores of Russia (known as piraski or piragies.

The Cornish people who immigrated to Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the United States in the middle of the 19th century to work in the mines made them. The miners reheated the pasties on shovels held over the candles worn on their hats. In Michigan, May 24th has been declared Michigan Pasty Day. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the pasty has gone from an ethnic food to a regional specialty.


Huh.  Things you never knew.  The standard recipe goes like this:

Cornish-Finnish-Michigan Pasties

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup shortening
1 1/4 cups ice water
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 cups thinly sliced potatoes
2 carrots, shredded
1 onion
1/2 cup diced rutabagas
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons monosodium glutamate
1 cube beef boullion
1/2 cup hot water

  1. Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut shortening. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and quickly stir in ice cold water. Form dough into a ball. Set aside.
  2. Dissolve the boullion cube in the hot water. Combine uncooked vegetables, uncooked meats, salt, pepper, monosodium glutamate, and boullion.
  3. Roll out pastry dough into 6"x8" rectangles. Place about 1 1/2 cups of filling in the center of each rectangle. Bring 6" sides together and seal. Cut a slit in the top of each pasty. Place on a dull, not black, baking pan.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Prince of Persia (2008)

The Prince of Persia series is a pretty good one but one that I quickly lost interest in because - frankly - I suck at platformers. The jumping and dodging involved usually gets me to a point where I can't make one jump and get frustrated and extend to the game my middle digit.

The current Prince of Persia was kind of a fluke. I rented it because Far Cry II wasn't on the shelf and I wanted something different to play. Prince is challenging but not punishing platformer, with a fairly decent story, and some stunning art design. All in all a good game. If you're the kind of person who only picks up a controller once a week then you'll be glad to know that Prince is forgiving. Yes, there's acrobatic derring-do but the controls are pretty simple and if you miss your jump then you're automatically brought back to life at the last piece of solid ground your character was standing on.

I was, and still am, impressed by the graphics and art design. The game is cel-shaded but not. That doesn't make sense but Prince doesn't have that paint by numbers look that earlier cel-shaded games had. Sweeping vistas, etc, etc, etc. There are one or two moments of vertigo as you sprint across beams and walls. Pretty neat actually.

I also really dug the characters. The Prince - standard vagabond rogue - and Princess - scrappy, no nonsense whose brains are in her head and not in her tits - are both solid characters. The voice acting sold me. The Prince had just the right amount of smary self-confidence disguising a painful past. The Princess had just the right amount of scrappy yet slightly vunerable but not storybook useless - she actually has a couple of sarcastic lines about princess stereotypes, "Yeah, gee, I don't know what I would do if you weren't here. Probably curl up in a corner and cry."

Prince of Persia is pretty short - I think I finished it in about fourteen (?) hours. I don't know if that's worth $60 but it's definitely worth renting or picking up for someone who takes their time with games.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Correction: random videos.












Brilliance.

Texican Lasagna

It's been quite some time since I posted a recipe and since this is my newest addition, well, here ya go.

Texican Lasagna. Tex-Mex is all well and good but I think Texican is a more accurate term. Lasagna because:

Although the dish is generally believed to have originated in Italy, the word "lasagna" comes from the Greek λάσανα (lasana) or λάσανον (lasanon) meaning "trivet or stand for a pot", "chamber pot"[2][3][4]. The Romans borrowed the word as "lasanum", in Latin, meaning "cooking pot". The Italians used the word to refer to the dish in which lasagna is made. It wasn't long before the name of the food took on the name of the serving dish.
Yeah, so basically you layer tortillas, cheese, and meat with vegetable goodness and bake the bastard. This is the way I've decided to do it:
This makes enough for two people with roughly two or three servings for leftovers. Of course if you are hungry, want more leftovers, or are feeding more people use more.
  • 1lb ground chuck - use the cheap shit, yeah it's fattier but I'll tell you a trick in a second.
  • 1/2 lb of chorizo - beef.
  • 2 cups diced onions - any color is fine, decide what flavour you want yourself.
  • A shit-ton of garlic - sliced it, dice it, mince it, whatever.
  • 1 Red pepper - diced
  • 1 Green pepper - diced
  • 2 cups of corn - I use frozen, sue me.
  • A can of Rotel - We always have the Mexican style in the cupboard. It has lime juice. If you don't have Rotel in your region then I guess you could use something from the "Ethnic" aisle. Buy the can of tomatoes with the least amount of English on it.
  • A 20-30 pack of corn tortillas. Note: Don't use flour. They'll turn to mushy ick.
  • A punch of my spice mix. A punch is two or three pinches.
  • A can of El Pato. Use the stuff in the yellow can if you are a'feared of the spicy.
  • Cheese fool. I use big bags of shredded pepper jack and cheddar. I'm sure you could use queso fresco or y'know that Mexican version of mozzarella.
  • A colander.
  • A bowl the colander fits in.
  • An oven.

Okay, after all the prep-work is done...

Here's a side note:

Do all of your prep work before you start cooking.

Yes, it's a pain in the ass. Yes, it takes time. Listen, what would you rather do? Attempt to dice vegetables while sauteeing and making sure you don't set fire to yourself? Do the prep work first. Plus it makes stir-frying much, much, much easier.

Also, open your canned goods after you do your prep work.

Start cooking up your onions and garlic. Drink and stir. Toss in the chorizo. Stir it all up - keep it moving. Please don't wander off and let this burn. When the garlic, onions, and chorizo (beef) are starting to smell all good add the ground chuck. Keep everything moving. Yes, it looks greasy and vaguely unnerving. Safety tip - do not read the ingredients of the chorizo. When the chuck and everything is cooking and looks right put the colander in the bowl that the colander fits in. Pour everything in the pan into the colander.

Return the pan to the stove top, add the canned goods, corn, and stuff. Start cooking all that. With the meat and what not - strain out the grease. Hey, neat - you just strained off all the grease with no fuss, no muss. Throw the meat'n'stuff into what's cooking in the pan. Stir. While this is getting combined get out a casserole pan.

Spray the casserole pan with oil or slop some Crisco on there. No stick. Place corn tortillas on the bottom of the pan to cover. Spoon meat'n'stuff onto the layer then put cheese on there. Another layer of tortillas, meat'n'stuff, cheese, etc etc... continue until the pan is full.

Yeah, yeah, yeah - preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

When the pan is full put the whole thing in the oven. Go smoke some cigarettes or watch a sitcom. This is one of those dishes that is done when it is done. Remember to let it cool before you slam your face in it.

There ya go kids. Texican Lazagnaz y'all.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Fable 2 (2008)

I finally escaped the clutches of Fallout 3 - which ended up being more along the lines of an action game with RPG aspects - and ended up renting Fable 2.  Fable 2 seems like more of a fantasy sim with some RPG/action aspects.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Fable was a game I didn't play until it was available as an XBOX Original download.  It had been an XBOX exclusive when I was still a rabid PS2 follower.  Fable was a good game, more romp than grinding, but eventually I got bored.  In all honesty I wasn't that interested in Fable 2.  Hell, I almost rented Far Cry 2 last night instead of Fable 2.

Thanks to my buddy Farley - who donated a hefty sum to get my character started - I have managed to skip a good deal of nickel and dime nonsense that goes along with a starting level character.

There are a few things I really like about Fable 2:
  1. The Sims/fantasy-land aspect.  Apparently every business, home, building, shanty is for sale in the game so you can basically become some kind of real estate magnate.  I love buying property in games and in Fable 2 once you purchase a residence you can rent it out.  Then you can jack up the rent or do all kinds of stuff.  There is also a lot of NPC interaction, build relationships, get married, have a family, and your actions make people react to you accordingly.  Right now my character - my standard female default rogue - has people chasing her around with amorous intentions.  Is this what happens in RL when you wear a corset?
  2. Humor is tough and humor in games is exceedingly difficult.  More often than not humor in games falls flat.  Fable 2 is pretty solid.  Granted, some of it sounds like Monty Python...again...but for the most part it's a pretty funny game.  Apparently NPCs love it when you kick chickens.  As much as I do.
  3. I really like the MMORPG-lite CO-OP.  If you don't understand what the hell that means then dig - you can play with your friends but not have to run around interacting with the entire world like in World of Warcraft.  Also a second player can join in and it's not a big deal.  The second player plays a henchman character.  I played last night with Farley but the system was getting all glitched.  The cool thing about the co-operative play is Amanda and I can actually play something at the same time.
  4. I like the pseudo-bizarro Victorian land the game takes place in.  It's not steampunk - though I like steampunk just fine - but there's just a skewed Dickensian feel to the game.  Plus there are guns.
One problem I think that I have with the game and I won't know until I really get into it - I might actually buy it or request it for Christmas - but I think Fable 2 is going to be too easy. Granted, Farley gave me a bundle of start-up cash.  I spent all that on property and corsets any way.  It just seems like an easy game.

Example: When you rent out a home you are paid a dividend every five minutes, no matter where you are.  I appreciate that this means I don't have to play the landlord and run all over hell and high water collecting rent but every five minutes?  Once a day seems reasonable.  I dunno, it seems like...not cheating per se, but a crutch.  

Example:  There's an optional glowing direction line directing you towards objectives.  Yes, I can turn it off.  I know.  Hell, it's even handy sometimes.   I dunno...

Example:  You get a helpful dog in the beginning of the game.  He runs around and is cute and if you treat him nice in front of people they like you.  He also points out where treasure is.  You cannot turn this feature off.  I love treasure hunting in RPGs, hell in every game.  So, I'm materialistic so what?  Property and treasure.  Boo yah.  The stupid dog takes away a good part of the exploring aspect.  Fortunately you can be mean to the dog.  I wish it was a cat.

All in all I am looking forward to continuing to play Fable 2.  I'm not sure I should have picked it up before finals but too late now. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Incredible Hulk (2008) dir Louis Leterrier

I never cared about the Hulk, Incredible or otherwise, but we wanted to watch a super-hero movie and wanted to see something we hadn't seen before.  The Incredible Hulk was actually really enjoyable - not as OMG as Iron Man but was still genuinely satisfying.  Like I joked, "It's amazing what you can do with a decent script, some good actors, and a halfway decent director." Of course I had just come off watching a scratched copy of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith so even a video of Pete Townsend farting in a tuba would have been more enjoyable. 

I would buy this movie to add it to my super-hero collection.  It would be a good movie to throw on while cleaning on a Saturday.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tropic Thunder (2008) dir. Ben Stiller

For years I hated both Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. It's just that way...at least it was. I hated Ben Stiller because of his character in Reality Bites. I just didn't like the cut of Downey's jib.

It's only been in the last year or so that I've come to appreciate both actors.  This is a good thing because otherwise I wouldn't have seen Tropic Thunder.  I really enjoyed it, more than I thought I would.  Parts were genuinely funny and it's been a while since I've laughed out loud at gore.  Ben Stiller playing with a severed head cracked me up.

This movie was a lot better than it had any right to be.  I don't know if I'd buy the DVD but I definitely enjoyed it.

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