Monday, February 23, 2015

Recipe: Copycat McAlister's Deli Spud Ole with Veggie Chili

Veggie Chili
Source:  Me* (usual copyright restrictions apply)  *Note:  I originally found this recipe on some message board, but I made a lot of changes.  I'm not sure how close it is to the original any more, and I couldn't find the original again.

Stir-Fried Veggies
2 T canola oil
1 onion, diced
1 T minced garlic
2 c sliced carrots

28 oz can no-salt petite diced tomatoes
1 8-12 oz jar of roasted red peppers, drained and diced
1 4-oz jar diced pimientos
4 14-oz cans beans (select from:  pinto, black, light and dark kidney, no salt if possible)
1 18-24 oz jar Hot On the Border Salsa (it has a very different taste compared to, say, Pace)
6 oz tomato paste
1 small bunch oregano (sub 1 heaping tablespoon dried oregano)
1 t ground black pepper
2-3 T ground cumin
5-6 T no-salt chile powder (I use Penzey's Hot or Regular)
3 T cocoa powder
1-2 c water
sugar to taste (the original is surprisingly sweet)
salt to taste

baked potatoes
bottled pickled jalapeno pepper rings
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream

In a large stock pot, heat the oil and saute the veggies until tender.  Add the remaining ingredients, adjusting water for desired consistency.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove and discard oregano bunch.

 Ladle the chili over opened hot potatoes.  Top with sharp cheddar and pickled jalapeno slices.  Put under broiler for a minute or so until the cheese melts.  Serve with optional butter and sour cream.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Let's Play Dwarf Fortress, Part IX

 It is difficult to maintain a dwarf fortress in the midst of so many new updates.  I have succumbed to the allure of the new software versions and had to start a new fortress.  I made a few modifications before starting this time.  For one, I added the Plantfix mod.  This makes all appropriate plant products useable.  I also added a custom world generation block which was designed to make a world with large amounts of Good and Evil land.  This world is the product of that.  Elves and Humans are extinct in this world.  There are thousands and thousands of goblins, and the dwarves are reduced to a tiny civilization consisting of my fort and a migrant band of merchants (one of whom is the king).  I selected the end of a valley to make my fortress.  In the picture below, I have carved out a main road leading across a moat deep within the mountain to the trading depot just inside.  There is a roofed wooden entrance hall leading outside the mountain which can be closed with a raising bridge.  To the south of the entrance is a walled-off garden area where we have a thriving crop of cabbage, fisher berries, and sun berries.  The last two are unique to dwarf fortress and can be cooked or brewed into alcohol.  Sun Berries are only found on Good land, and their resulting beverage, Sunshine, is highly prized by dwarves.  In the upper area, there is an enclosed animal paddock where I have my sheep.  I hope one day to figure out how to make the dwarves sheer them so that my clothing industry (top) can start.

Fortress Entrance
My chef is highly-skilled and regularly makes masterpiece dinners.  Let's take a look.  Dwarf Fortress calls any and all food preparation "minced."  Feather trees are another uniquely Good thing.  They are trees with remarkably light pale wood whose leaves are feathers and which grow eggs as fruit.  Gross.

Good regions are a bit weird.  The local vermin animal is not the rat but the "Fluffy Wambler," a creature that if ever caught and viewed can be seen to consist entirely of "fluff" and "pudge."  Some of the grass here is Bubble Grass, and pixies can be seen.  I was hoping for unicorns, but none have appeared.

Another Roast

All dwarf food with this many ingredients is known as a "roast."

The Dining Layer
Deep within the ground is the heart of the fortress.  The large lower circle is a stone-carven dining hall.  One of the tables is a legendary Artifact, and the two other fortress Artifacts are on display here in Viewing Cases.  More about these later.  The circles above house the fortress's poultry, one ring per type.  We have peacocks, guineas, turkeys, ducks, chickens, and swans.  I let all the female birds hatch one clutch, and now we are waiting for all the chicks to grow up.  I will then slaughter most of them and keep new birds to start the next generation.  There are a LOT of chicks running around.  They are generally too small to produce meat or even leather when slaughtered, so I will have to wait for them to grow up.  To the left are the bedrooms.  The fortress has a lot of metal, but all of it is gold, so many of the peasantry have golden furniture.  To the right is the food prep area and the Lever Room, where I hope to eventually construct machinary to operate the various retractable and raising bridges above.  As of now, the fortress has no working defenses, and that is not good in such a violent world.

The artifact table.

Golden rooms.  Gold is useless in fortress defense.  You cannot make weapons, armor, or traps out of it.
Another artifact.
Our final Artifact to date.  Why did this dwarf make a doll version of another dwarf?
Immortalized in Art
Here is the dwarf that was forever captured in artifact form.  For starters, he and the creator of the Artifact do not know each other even slightly.  Looking at Asmel's description, I like to think that Adil (the artifact creator) saw Asmel walking by and said, "There goes the common man!"  He simply had to have him model for him, and then made an image of him tending the soil, as embodied in the Plump Helmet Man (plump helmets are edible mushrooms, and plump helmet men are sentient mushrooms...I actually didn't know plump helmet men existed in Dwarf Fortress).

A Legendary Dwarf

Here is another fortress resident, Creator of the single boot artifact above.  The line at the top of the screen is intended to be the dwarf's personal motto.  Notice that she dreamed of creating an artifact, and "her dream was realized."

Next on the fortress agenda is defenses.  I was able to buy a number of metal items from the travelling caravan.  I'm hoping to melt them down for armor.  I also need to get the bridges working and increase the height of the walls around the outdoor areas.  I haven't seen any goblins yet, but this world is crammed with them.  Since my dwarves are the last of their kind on the world, I would hate for them to be slaughtered by goblins...we'll see...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Recipe: Pork Loin with Cranberry Chutney

Pork Loin with Cranberry Chutney
Source:  Me (usual copyright restrictions apply)

Warning:  This is not authentic Indian food, especially the "pork" part.

The Spice Blend (substitute 5 t Panch Phoran if you do not have these spices)
1 t whole cumin seeds
1 t whole fennel seeds
1 t whole nigella (charnushka)
1 t whole fenugreek seeds
1 t whole brown mustard seeds (or yellow mustard seeds)

The Chutney
1T vegetable oil
1 c sugar
2 c water
1 t - 1 T salt
1 12-oz bag fresh whole cranberries

1 pork loin, about 1 lb 2 oz, trimmed of all visible fat
1-2 onions, cut into thin half-rings
1-2 gala apples, cored and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
¼ c golden raisins
red wine

cooked jasmine rice
steamed kale

To prepare the cranberry chutney, place half of each of the five spices in a small dry skillet and toast over medium heat for approximately five minutes, until they are golden brown and emit a toasted aroma. This spice blend is called Panch Phoran and can be purchased in Indian and specialty food groceries. Let the toasted spices cool on a paper towel, then grind them in a spice grinder and reserve. Heat the oil in a large skillet.  Place the remaining whole spices and cranberries in the hot oil, and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until the cranberries are plump and shiny, and the spices are sizzling.  Pour the contents of the pan into a saucepan, and set the skillet aside.  To the saucepan, add the sugar, the water, and the salt to taste. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat to maintain a boil, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until a thick sauce is formed. Stir in the ground spices during the last five minutes of cooking. Remove from heat. Store any extra sauce in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Preheat the oven to 425.  Reheat the skillet. Add the pork loin and turn it to sear on all sides. Place the pork loin in a casserole dish large enough to contain it and set aside. To the same skillet, add the onions, apples, and garlic.  (You may need to add additional oil at this point.) Cook the onions slowly, turning down the heat if necessary, until they are golden brown and carmelized. Add the golden raisins, a splash of water, and a splash of red wine. Stir all of the browned bits in the skillet back into the sauce. Add a fourth of the cranberry chutney to the sauce, bring briefly to a boil, and then pour over the pork loin. Cover the casserole dish, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the temperature of the pork loin reaches 165-175 F. Remove from the oven and let sit on the counter, covered, to continue cooking for 10-15 minutes. Serve with the remaining chutney, rice, and steamed kale.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Recipe: Cranberry Pecan Quick Bread

Cranberry Pecan Quick Bread
Source:  Me (usual copyright restrictions apply)

Dry Ingredients
1 c. wheat flour
1 c. white flour
1 c. sugar
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1.5 t. baking powder (I don't remember exactly how much I used of this)

Wet Ingredients
1/4 egg beaters egg substitute (sub:  1 egg)
3/4 c. apple cider
2 T. oil
1/2 T. dried orange peel

1 12-oz bag whole fresh cranberries
1-2 c. toasted pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare a 9x5 loaf pan by greasing it or using parchment paper.  Mix dry ingredients.  Stir in wet ingredients with a wooden spoon just until blended.  Stir in inclusions.  The batter will be a thick paste.  Spread in prepared loaf pan and bake at 350 for 75 min until a knife inserted in center comes out clean (unless you have inserted it directly into a cranberry).

Monday, February 2, 2015

Recipe: Baked Pears Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Baked Pears Stuffed with Goat Cheese
Source:  Me (usual copyright restrictions apply)

4 peeled, halved, and cored bosc pears

4 oz of goat cheese flavored with honey (just add some honey if this isn't available)
3 T toasted pecan pieces
1/4 t salt
1 bunch chives, minced

1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 t toasted sesame oil
2 T butter
3 minced shallots
3 cardamom pods
crumbled pieces of cinnamon stick, cloves, and allspice
3 T brown sugar
1 T maple syrup
1/4 t salt
1/4 c white wine
1/2 t vanilla paste
sprinkle of apple pie spice

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place the pears in a baking dish with cut sides up. Mix together the stuffing ingredients. Divide in 8 parts and place one ball in the core cavity of each pear half. Saute the shallots and spices in the oils and butter. Add the sugars and cook for a few minutes. Remove the spices and discard. Stir in the other ingredients, and drizzle over the pears. Cover the pan with foil, and cook for 30 minutes, or until tender.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Year 2014 Lists: Part III, Movies and Other Watchable Things

Movies I've Watched This Year (In No Particular Order)
1. Thale. In this Scandanavian thriller, two guys get stuck in the woods and meet a girl there under very odd circumstances. This movie has some traditional Scandanavian creatures, and it is not at all clear what their intentions are and whether they are human enough to have intelligence or goals, and if so, what those goals are, which adds a lot to the tension.

2. Victor/Victoria. What is this? A musical written by Henry Mancini?! Starring Julie Andrews and Robert Preston?! I had to watch it immediately. Unfortunately, it's filmed in brown-vision (because that's how you know it is the past), and the dull situational-humor dialogue is filled with pause-for-laugh spaces as if they are filming a play. It also has crass and unlikeable characters and the most lifeless jazz soundtrack. Entirely painful.

3. Tale of a Vampire. If you watch only one terrible vampire movie this year, I recommend this one. A broody, moody vampire finds a woman who attracks him, but his vampirism (and remembering his first love) get in the way. Yes, it has the exact same plot as every vampire tale ever told, but it's British, and that means it's better.

4. Fido. Yet another movie set after the zombie apocalypse, but this one happened in the 50s and was apparently quickly taken care of by the united civic-minded U.S. populous. Now there is nothing left to do but deal with suburban angst except with zombies. A black comedy that sparkles with commercialized wholesomeness like a mirror world ABC Special Feature.

5. Zorro: The TV Series (staring Duncan Regehr) I finally got around to watching this. It came out on DVD recently, and this had been My Show when I was a kid. This is the show that taught me all the tropes: no one will ever change clothes, if it says "Guest Star," the guy will not be living through th episode, and Zorro is never actually going to tell the Senorita his secret identity despite what it showed in the preview. Now that I am grown, the show turns out to hold up really well. Zorro is dashing and handsome (the actor was a pro figure skater), and the scenarios are thrilling in an action kindof way. Watch it if you can find it.

6. Casanova. A BBC miniseries starring David Tenant. This is set in "the ?past?" and has steampunk elements. David Tenant as Casanova starts out as a hapless nobody but soon he is winning and losing fortunes right and left and really hamming it up. Everyone seems to be having so much fun in this movie; it has great energy and absolutely nothing contemplative in it. My brain candy for the year.

7. Freeman's Mind. This long-running Youtube series ended with the close of the year and can now be viewed in its entirety on the Accursed Farms youtube page. This is a Machinima, an entire playthrough of the first-person shooter Half Life: Source, but it is played entirely in character with voice-over added. (In the original game, the protagonist is completely silent.) So, in this series, instead of endless pointless shooting, we have an arrogant incompetent physicist who comes to work one day at a vast amoral corporation only to find himself stuck in an alien invasion and subsequent government wipeout/coverup. Now he has to somehow escape the vast labryinth of factories and warehouses, maintaining throughout a steady emission of both bullets and whining. It's hillarious (but also definitely not for children or work...has lots of shooting, exploding, and profanity).

8. Noah. Um. Wut.

9. The Dead Inside. Imma put this on here to improve my Indie Cred. Directed by Travis Betz, this is a movie about an author writing the 13?th book in her zombie/rom-com novel series who is suspected by her husband of having been taken over by a ghost recently. It's also a musical. The music is really good, and it's pretty creative for having been filmed in a single room with, like, three dollars, but I think a second act got lost somewhere along the way. It has a setup...and an abrupt conclusion.

10. Let's Read Boatmurdered by youtuber drageuth. This is an impressive number of layers of creativity. First, someone (Tarn and Zach Adams) made a game, then a bunch of people played it and wrote stories about their experience, then other people sent in fan art, then this guy read the entire thing and put it on Youtube. He does voices! Warning for content here, again.