Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Favorite Easter Appropriate Recipes

Easter is a bit of an odd duck holiday to me. I guess maybe because I'm not really religious, it's more of a holiday about food and chocolate than it is about anything else. Oh yes, and egg decorating and hunting. Don't forget the egg hunts.

Why did egg hunts become a thing for Easter?! So strange.

Anyway, because it's holiday mostly about the brunch and candy, I figured I would feature some of my favorite recipes ripe for the making this weekend. 

http://www.freshfromthe.com/2011/04/oven-chocolate-chip-easter-egg-cookies.html
You know those little chocolate eggs you can buy, with the candy shell? Yes, cookies are full of chocolate egg bits. Perfect to satisfy your sweet tooth.

http://www.freshfromthe.com/2014/02/soft-and-light-sugar-cookies.html
Of course, if you're feeling more traditional, you can make some sugar cookies. These aren't cutout cookies, but rather a much lighter and flakier cookie. You can still add some cute sprinkles to Easter it up. Yep, using Easter as a verb now!

http://www.freshfromthe.com/2010/04/oven-orange-glazed-monkey-bread.html
I've made this for a couple of Easter brunches, and it has always been a hit. Monkey bread is a pretty simple idea. Chunks of bread bits rolled in some butter and cinnamon-sugar and topped with a delicious glaze. You can't go wrong.

http://www.freshfromthe.com/2013/10/challah-bread.html
Challah Bread is seriously awesome. Especially when it's homemade. It can bit a bit on the labor intensive side, but the good news is, you can make this ahead if you're going to use it for french toast, because, ummm... yeah. French toast is always better with slightly stale bread, as it will soak up your milk/egg juices more.

http://www.freshfromthe.com/2011/04/oven-cinnamon-sugar-pull-apart-bread.html
 Another great brunch option if you want to bring something to a party pre-made. This is basically a loaf version of a cinnamon roll situation. What you'll love the most? Pulling it apart with your hands.

http://www.freshfromthe.com/2013/05/pretzel-jello-salad.html
 I wish I had a better picture of this lovely thing, because this does not do it justice. I will make it again someday and remedy that situation. But this is great for more of an afternoon brunch. It's got a slightly dessert-feel, but there's also fruit, so you know, some health factor. This is a staple in my family for most family gatherings, and you should definitely try it if you haven't.





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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Supernatural 9x18 "Meta Fiction"

Wow. Okay. That was probably the best episode of this show in a while. There was an unexpected guest star (was his name in the credits? If so, I missed it) and a whole lot of references that, according to my boyfriend, are only accessible to those that have watched the show from the beginning. Or, you know, not just this season. There were references to the Supernatural novels, Casa Erotica, and so much more. A real fan's heaven.
Supernatural 9x18 "Meta Fiction"
Don't mess with the dude with the Mark of Cain.

Anyway! Let's get on the actual plot. Last we saw Castiel, he had just offed Bartholomew and was less than receptive to the idea of being a new leader for the angels. You know, because it turned out so well (aka terrible) before. He's still feeling a bit peckish on the idea, and even moreso when he finds a group of angels slaughtered by some of Metatron's followers. A survivor is ready to follow his leadership, but he still says nein. Instead, he calls up the Winchesters to try to figure out what this homing beacon signal thing is that's on the wall there that called to all the angels in the area.

They're not sure what it is, but they do know that other groups of angels have been slaughtered nearby, so they decide to meet up with him in the area to try to figure it out. Well, things don't exactly go to plan. Cas ends up getting a visit from none other than... Gabriel?! What! Lest you forget, Gabriel, our erstwhile Trickster, supposedly died back in season five. Of course, it was never 100% certain that he really died, and now he's here to tell Cas that he wants to unite the angels against Metatron.

Supernatural 9x18 "Meta Fiction"
Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
But, it turns out that it was all, you guessed it, trick. The whole Cas and Gabe take on the world buddy comedy was to be short-lived, because it was only all in Cas' head. In truth, he had been snatched up by Metatron, who wants him to take up the mantel of the angel leader. Why would he want him to do that, when it would mean uniting angels against him, that is, Metatron? Because he basically wants to lead them like lambs to the slaughter. Cas, being the noble angel he is, refuses.

Meanwhile, the brothers Winchester manage to track down Gadreel, who is the one setting up the angel beacon signals (really the horn of Gabriel or something). They trap him and tie him and try to get him to talk, but he's doing no such thing. He tries to get Dean all riled up enough to kill him, but luckily Dean dampens the bloodlust surging through his veins thanks to his Mark and only beats him up a lot.

Metatron suggests a trade to Sam - Gadreel for Castiel, no strings attached. The brothers take this as their opportunity to trap Metatron seeing as this is the first time they'll actually know where he'll be and when. But, duh, Metatron is expecting just such a deception. And it doesn't matter anyway, because apparently the holy oil fire doesn't do much to him at all. They end up making the trade in the end, but you have to feel it's only because Metatron is using them in some way.

Because, indeed, by the end, Castiel does decide to finally take ownership of his ability to lead, and calls the other angels to him. Is he falling straight into Metatron's plan? This seems to be somewhat of a nasty habit of his, so hopefully they find a way around that this time, because Metatron did seem especially pleased with himself there at the end of the episode.

Random Thoughts:

- Metatron giving Castiel basically all of pop culture knowledge for, you know, forever, is interesting. Now he gets references to the Death Star and pretty much everything else. This change should open up new avenues of comedy rather than just the old "I don't get that reference" schpiel.

- Cas also found out about Dean's Mark this episode, and basically looked pissed about it, and told Sam to keep an eye on him. Sam actually seemed more concerned about Dean than he has in some time there at the end as well.

- Did you all enjoy the shower scene at the top of the episode? I said "oh my, the ladies are going to love this."

- Metatron told Cas that his stolen grace is going to run out - so does that mean Cas is going to be forced to get another? Hmm.

- Will the angel and demon storylines converge somehow? We've basically got the whole trying to get back into Heaven thing for the angels, and the whole Crowley versus Abaddon thing for the demons. Hopefully they manager to intertwine them by the end of the season, which isn't too far away now.

Quotes:

Castiel: What's honorable about a miniature bar in a motel room?
Dean: Everything.

Castiel: Life on the road... smells.

Castiel: So I assume you faked your death.
Gabriel: And I assume you weren't let into Mensa while I was gone.

Gabriel: I used most of my juice to get back into porn. ... That came out wrong. ... So did that.

Castiel: I'm just a soldier.
Gabriel: Bitch, please. You've been God more than Dad has.

Metatron: First rule of writer's club: steal from the best.


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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Farewell to Being Human

It was a simple enough concept - a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost live together to try to make a go of it by embracing their more human sides rather than their supernatural sides. Of course, the supernatural would always come rear its ugly head to mess up their best laid plans pretty much every episode, but what else do you expect? This is TV!

Being-Human-US-2014-Season-4-Poster1
The US cast.
The UK version of Being Human began in 2008, with the US version following a few years after in 2011. A little over a year after the UK version officially bit the dust, the US version has followed suit. While there were certainly similarities between the two versions of the show, there were also a great many differences, and that's what made them both work independently of each other. Certainly, if there had never been a UK version, the US one would have been just as compelling as it turned out to be. But there was, so inevitably there are comparisons between the two.

The US one tended toward more melodrama than the UK one, which always strove to include humor in pretty much everything. And while the US show followed its predecessor more closely in its first season, with some major plot points all playing out the same way - how ghost Annie/Sally died, werewolf George/Josh accidentally turning his girlfriend Nina/Nora into a werewolf too, vampire Mitchell/Aidan dealing with his maker and other vampires who want him more part of the fold. But that's really where the similarities ended, and thankfully so, because who really needs two versions of the exact same thing when you could easily watch the original on BBC America?

beinghuman-uk-1-2
The original UK cast.
Strangely, the two versions both somehow ran faster and slower than each other. In the UK, actors don't sign agreements to stick with shows for five years or more, so by the time season three came around, or series three as they call it across the pond, some of the regulars were ready to exit. This presented the show with a dilemma - what to do when one of your favorite characters decides to go? And then more, leaving only poor ghost Annie to stick around? Well, it eventually led to an entirely new trio of ghost, vampire and werewolf to shack up together, and resulted in a rather uneven season getting it there in the process, with a somewhat hokey storyline involving a baby and prophecies and sacrifices. The new trio of Hal, Tom and Alex gave a lighter flair to the proceedings that followed, which was only one more season, unfortunately. I actually quite liked the new trio, but I guess it wasn't enough to keep it going. This is unlike another UK show I loved before all the main characters left, Misfits. Ah, misfits. You became a show of yourself once Nathan left.

Of topic! Meanwhile, back in the US, the show embraced all sorts of different supernatural craziness. Whereas Annie always steadfastly remained a ghost, Sally changed in a variety of ways. Perhaps because she was sort of boring at first without as much of the good-natured humor to her as Annie had possessed, they decided to send her down a darker path, eating other ghosts, turning human again only to go full zombie, and finally returning back to a ghost, but with magical witch powers.

Being Human series 5
The second UK cast.
This transformation of Sally actually touches on something I found interesting about the US Being Human in general. As I was watching the finale, I realized that each character had actually been given the chance to be human again for some amount of time, apart from Nora, but she started the show as human, so maybe it works for her too. Anyway, yes, Josh was able to reverse his curse for a bit, and Aidan ultimately died as a mortal as well. So, they really did get to be human again, if for only short periods of time.

I'm not sure I'm saying anything in particular in this article other than they were both good versions of the show. Both with their own drawbacks and strengths, but both compelling enough to keep me watching through to the end. So, without more adieu I will bid a fond farewell to these two shows, and thank them for not out-staying their welcome as some other shows tend to do nowadays, particularly in the US. It's always much more satisfying to have something end on a natural note than force it to keep going ad nauseam.

So, farewell to Mitchell, George, Annie, Nora, Hal, Tom, Alex, Aidan, Josh, Sally and Nora (and the actors who portrayed them!), along with all the supporting guests who made the shows that much better too. We shall remember you all fondly as you head into your afterlives.

Sorry, I had to.


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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Vanilla Baked Doughnuts

I need to start baking donuts more often. They're a cinch to make, requiring no mixer - just a bowl and a quick mix with your hand. Easy peasy lemon squeezey. And the results? I mean, come on.


This time around, I was not a dummy and did not try to force all of the dough into the 6 cavity donut pan. That was just silliness when I made the brown butter donuts. When you have two donut pans, just use them both, duh! Also? Please do make sure you spray these with non-stick spray for these. I know when your pan is supposed to be non-stick, usually you don't need to do it, but trust me here - just do it.


These are really quite like little delicious cupcakes in doughnut form. Light and airy little round cupcake doughnuts? Sure, we'll go with it. But seriously, I don't think you'd regret making these! Get to it!

Vanilla Baked Doughnuts
(via Averie Cooks)

Doughnuts:

1 cup all-purpose flour
6 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsp milk (or whatever you would like to use - water, cream, half/half, depending on how you like your glaze)

Preheat your oven to 325F. Lightly grease, or use cooking spray, your donut pan(s).

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add in the buttermilk, egg, vanilla and melted butter. Whisk or stir to get all combined together.

Spoon (or go crazy and use a pastry bag) the dough into your prepared pans, about 2/3 full for each donut.

Bake for 8-11 minutes until the donuts spring back when touched. They won't look browned or anything, but they should be a bit set. Mine took 10 minutes. Then let that sit in the pan for about 5 minutes before removing.

While they're cooling, make your glaze. Whisk together your powdered sugar, vanilla and milk until you get your desired consistency. I did about 1 1/2 teaspoons of milk. Dip your donuts into the glaze and then let set on a plate. You can always add some sprinkles for extra flair at this point as well.

In photos:

Mix up your dry ingredients - flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Then mix in your wet - egg, buttermilk, vanilla.

You can pipe that into your cooking-sprayed pans, or just spoon them in. That's what I did. As you can see, I got 7 donuts out of the deal.

Bake those for 8-11 minutes until they are springy to the touch. Mine took about 10 minutes. Let those sit in the pan for 5 more minutes while you prepare your glaze.

For your glaze, mix up your powdered sugar, milk (or water) and vanilla.

Then get to dipping. It's up to you which side you dip, but it usually tends to be the side that was in the bottom of the pan.

This glaze didn't stick out a lot on these. If you want a thicker glaze that is more apparent, add more powdered sugar. 

Eat 'em up!



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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Supernatural: Running it into the Ground?

Did you know, I used to be one of the biggest Supernatural fans? I wish I had kept a blog back when it first started, because my recaps would've likely been much more glowing than they are now. Alas, blogging was a mystery back in 2005. Oh wow, 2005. It somehow seems like ages ago and just yesterday at the same time. It was when I first moved to LA, first started graduate school, first tried out online dating. A lot of firsts back then. Have I really lived in LA that long? Egads! That's a topic for another day.

Back in the day.
Supernatural's first season definitely was not its best, but it set up something that would become one of the longest-running shows on TV. It wasn't even certain the show would continue on after the first season, and now here we are, barreling down to the end of season nine and on into season ten. But I'm feeling fatigued. I've made a promise to myself that I will keep reviewing it until the bitter end, but right now that end does sadly look bitter. A show I once was so excited about I can now hardly garner much more than a shrug of indifference toward.

That's not to say it's bad now, but is it really still good? The epic love story of Sam and Dean has tread the same waters over and again with their characters, because there's only so many places you can go. Death has become somewhat meaningless on the show now, whereas back when John died it was this huge thing. Now if someone dies, you can almost guarantee they're going to come back in some way, especially if they're a fan favorite, and almost certainly make us annoyed about it. Both Bobby and Kevin came back as ghosts. Yes, they're gone now, but the episode where Bobby originally died nearly lost all meaning after the numerous ones after where he was this sort of vengeful spirit.
And now.

Back at the end of season five, I wasn't ready to say goodbye either. The show was running on all four cylinders. The end of season five was a natural ending point, but here we are, four years later, and I'm starting to think it really should've just ended back then, with the original ending Kripke intended, whatever that may have been (though we can speculate). Back when it was at the top of its game, rather than becoming a shadow of what it once was.

The real test for me came when I started thinking about if I would actually change my top 10 episodes list I made back when season 5 ended. I'm really not sure I would. Maybe to add The French Mistake, but that's about it.

Now it's your turn to speak. Do you think I'm totally off base? Do you think the show is still as good as it was, or even better? Or do you agree? You can vote in my poll, and/or head to the comments and discuss. I'm all ears!

When should Supernatural end/have ended?
  
pollcode.com free polls 



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