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Archive for July, 2012

Last week, Michael and I went to see The Dark Knight Rises. However, this post is not a review of the movie, but rather a review of the movie theater that we visited. We went to an AMC Dine-in Theater, and if there is a stupider thing that exists in the world, I don’t know what it is.

I will say, my first impressions of the theater were pretty good. Upon entering, there were no ticket booths or humans anywhere – just three touch-screen terminals for buying tickets. It was cool in a technological, computers-are-taking-over kind of way. Admittedly, one of the three machines was out of order. We were there pretty early in the day, so it didn’t cause a problem, but I could see it becoming more of a hassle when the place is actually crowded.

After picking up our tickets, we went through the doors into what looked like a hotel lobby. Fancy light fixtures, ambient lighting, couches, easy chairs, and flat screen tv’s scattered throughout. On the far wall, instead of display cases of candy, rotating hot dogs, and Slushee machines, there was a giant bar. The place didn’t even smell like popcorn, which seemed amazing (not to say I dislike the smell). Again, very classy. At this point, I was still pretty impressed.

Then, we went into the theater, and that’s where things started to go south. On the positive side, the seats are giant and very comfortable, and there are fewer of them than there are in regular theaters. In front of the seats, there are tabletops for people to eat on. On the edge of the tabletop is a string of yellow lights, like the ones that light up the aisles on the floor of the theater. When I sat down, the lights came right below the screen in my field of vision. Contrary to my assumption that they would eventually go off, they stayed on for the entire movie! That alone was reason enough to never go back to that theater. But, things only got better (read: worse).

So, before the previews started, we perused the extensive menu. Mixed drinks, sliders, Thai chicken salads, blackened tuna, pasta alfredo…basically, if you can order it at Applebees, it was probably on this menu. This got me thinking. What if you hated fish and the person next to you ordered the blackened tuna? Beyond that, there are the logistics of the whole thing. HOW does one eat a giant plate of pasta alfredo when they’re trying to watch a movie? Isn’t it distracting? What if the person next to you is a noisy eater? Wouldn’t that be gross? My questions went on like this for a number of minutes.

Right before the movie started, a guy came into our row and sat down one seat away from me. The attendant came up to him, and do you know what he ordered? THE FISH AND CHIPS. Luckily, I’m not bothered by the fish smell, and his food didn’t end up smelling anyway…but what I realized next was: the simple fact that there was someone next to me eating fish and chips during the movie TOTALLY PISSED ME OFF. There’s just something inherently wrong with the whole situation.

To top it all off, this guy didn’t just eat fish and chips. He started with a small bag of popcorn and a soda. Then, he had his fish and chips. Then, DURING THE MOVIE, he rang for the waitress (there is a little alert button on the table) and ordered two more bags of popcorn and another soda. Not only was it distracting for her to serve him during the movie, but beyond that—I did not come to the movies to watch this shining example of the American appetite gorge himself on food for the entire 2 hours and 40 minutes of the movie. If we were in a regular theater and he had one of those giant buckets of popcorn, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But, it was something about the refills (and the fish and chips) that really got under my skin.

Bottom line: there are some foods that work at the movies, and some that don’t. Popcorn works. Candy works. Pretzel bites work. Even a hotdog or one of those gross mini pizzas can work. Thai chicken salad doesn’t work. Blackened tuna doesn’t work. Anything that has to be eaten on a plate with a fork and knife does not work.

On the plus side, the movie was great. But I’ll die before I ever go back to another dine-in movie establishment.

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Another day, another zucchini dessert. This time around, it’s a zucchini pie. I got the recipe from Food.com, via Pinterest.

Zucchini Pie

  • 1 9-inch pie crust
  • 2 cups pureed cooked zucchini
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup evaporated milk, warmed
  • 2 eggs

1. To make the puree, skin the zucchini and cut it up into 1-inch chunks.
2. Microwave on high, until easily pierced with a fork, about 9 minutes.
3. Pour off any water (very important!).
4 Puree in a food processor.
5 Mix zucchini puree, honey and dry ingredients together.
6. Warm milk and add, with eggs, to zucchini mixture.
7. Use hand mixer to blend well.
8. Pour into unbaked 9-inch pie crust.
9. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes, then reduce to 350° and bake for 40-45 minutes longer—or until knife inserted comes out clean.
10. Cool for about 2 hours and then chill for several, if desired.

To reiterate in photo form, here are the ingredients.

Here is the zucchini puree.

Now, it is important to note that I actually made this pie twice (first was a test, second was for a family function). The first time, it came out pretty well, but I had a couple of small issues. The biggest problem was that I decided to try and bake it in a deep-dish pie dish, even though there wasn’t enough filling or crust. Little did I know, baking a small pie in a deep dish would have detrimental effects on the crust. Even after baking for the full time allotment, the crust still wasn’t very brown. But, the rest of the pie was done, so I had to take it the way it was.

Just as I had read, the pie tasted just like a pumpkin pie. It was delicious! However, the first time I made it, the filling was a tad grainy, and it was also a little bit runny. So, on the second attempt, I aggressively drained the chunks of zucchini before pureeing them. I put them in between a few sheets of paper towel and smashed them with a slotted spoon until all of the water drained out, and that seemed to work pretty well. On the second try, I pureed them for a bit longer until everything was smooth. I also baked the second pie in a regular, 9-inch disposable pie dish.

It turned out that all of those changes made a pretty big difference. The second pie tasted the same, but the texture had improved exponentially. I didn’t take pictures of the second pie, but it looked pretty identical to the first one.

So, if you’re a fan of pumpkin pie, this zucchini pie will definitely be a big hit.

Footnote: I made my own pie crust instead of using one that was store-bought. It’s easy and completely foolproof. This my adaptation of the original Good Housekeeping recipe.

9-inch Pie Crust

  • 1 1/3 cup AP flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 4-5 tbs ice water

1. In food processor with knife blade attached, blend flour and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle in ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until large moist crumbs just begin to form.

2. Shape dough into disk; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight. If chilled overnight, let dough stand 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling. Roll out and fill!

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The garden is still providing us with a number of zucchinis, so I’ve moved on to a new zucchini bread recipe. This one is a Carrot Zucchini Bread, from Fitsugar.com, and is a bit healthier than the Lemon Zucchini bread that I made last time. I also liked this recipe because it allowed me to use some of the many carrots that we’ve also harvested from the garden.

Carrot Zucchini Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots

1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, beat egg and add sugars. Then add oil and vanilla and mix until smooth.
3. Stir in vegetables, then mix in dry ingredients.
4. Pour into greased bread pan. Bake 45 to 55 minutes at 350° until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

I have to say, as much as I enjoyed the Lemon Zucchini bread, I think I prefer this recipe. First of all, it’s big on fall flavors with the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg. This bread came into my life at the right time, since I’m just starting to think about fall and how nice it’s going to be when the leaves change, and when I start wearing sweaters, and all that other good fall stuff.

The other reason I like this bread is because it’s relatively healthy. It actually came out surprisingly sweet, so I think I’m going to make it again with a few alterations to make it even healthier. I would start by cutting the sugar from 1 cup to 1/2 cup (leaving the brown sugar the same), and I would also cut the 1/2 cup oil down to 1/4 cup, and substitute some applesauce to make up the difference. Then, I think the bread would be pretty much guilt-free.

Next up: Zucchini Pie. Spoiler: It’s really good!

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Rita’s Italian Ice and I go way back. I still have vivid memories of driving there with my friend Emily during our high school lunch period. Back in those days, we had little concern for our own nutrition, and would often make a meal out of ices or gelatos, with the occasional addition of a cheese pretzel if we were especially hungry. Way back when, we were such big Rita’s fans that we went so far as to keep a running list of all the flavors we had tried throughout the season. We might have even rated them, but I can’t be too sure about that.

Over the years, I settled into my favorite flavor: Mint Chocolate Chip. Not your typical Italian ice, this is a cream-based flavor and, to me, is one of the most delicious frozen desserts in the world. These days, I don’t make it to Rita’s nearly as much as I used to. So, when I do, there’s no question of what flavor I’m going to order.

Yesterday, on my way home from work, I decided on a whim to stop into Rita’s to pick up some ices for Michael and myself. I had never been to this particular Rita’s before, and was quite impressed to see that it was a sit-down establishment. However, the novelty of the space quickly washed away as I was greeted with a paltry selection of 12 flavors, and Mint Chocolate Chip was nowhere to be found!

Not only did they not have Mint Chocolate Chip, but they didn’t have any of the creamy flavors (fudge brownie, cookies & cream, piña colada)—they were all just straight-up fruit flavors! When I was paying for my second-string ice (mango and pear), I asked the girl, “Do you usually have Mint Chocolate Chip?” To my horror she said, “No, but if you want, you can sign up with your email address and then we’ll send you an alert the day we have that flavor.”

This post is already pretty long, so let me get to my point: Imagine going into a clothing store to buy a pair of pants and being told, “Oh, we only have pants on certain days, but we can email you the day they’re in so you can drop what you’re doing to come and buy them.” What kind of business model is this? Mint Choco Chip was one of their staple flavors. You can’t eliminate it, just like you can’t eliminate pants. If they want to cycle some flavors in and out, why not start with Swedish Fish or Cotton Candy? You know, the weirder stuff. I guarantee that no one is counting on Cotton Candy always being there, but I can’t be the only one whose favorite flavor is good old Mint Choco Chip.

To add insult to injury, the Pineapple flavor I got for Michael tasted more like chemicals than fruit, which is something I’ve NEVER experienced in all of my Rita’s consumption. What’s going on with you, Rita’s? Unfortunately, I think you’re losing yourself. Do yourself a favor. Forget all of this email/text/Twitter technology nonsense, and go back to selling quality ices. Oh, and bring back Mint Choco Chip.

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Ever since the spring, Michael has been toiling around in his new, spacious garden. Thanks to his green thumb, we have been eating fresh vegetables since May.

Now that we’re into the heart of the summer, the garden has kicked into overdrive, and we’re beginning to see the onslaught of zucchinis, peppers, tomatoes, and summer squash. Michael is the cook of the family, so he’s been cooking, canning, and pickling a lot of the vegetables. But, even with all of his efforts, we still have a ton of produce to work with. Since I am the baker of the family, I’ve decided to experiment with a wide variety of zucchini-centric baked goods. There are lots of recipes out there, so I’m going to try out as many as I can until the supply runs out. This one came from a blog that I found on Pinterest.

Lemon Zucchini Bread with Lemon Glaze

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I didn’t have buttermilk, so I used skim)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 Tablespoons lemon juice)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup grated zucchini

In large bowl, blend flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In medium bowl, beat 2 eggs, then add canola oil and sugar. Then add the milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Fold in zucchini and stir until evenly distributed in mixture.

Add wet mixture to the dry ingredients and blend everything together, but don’t overmix.

Pour batter into greased 9×5″ loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then transfer the loaf to a wire rack and cool completely.

Lemon Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 Tablespoons lemon juice)

Mix the two ingredients together and drizzle over the loaf after it has cooled completely.

My pictures are not staged very well, but you get the general idea.

I am partial to anything lemon-flavored, so of course I really enjoyed this bread. It was very moist, and I don’t think I missed much by substituting skim milk for buttermilk. It works as a breakfast bread, dessert bread, snack bread…basically, this bread is great for any time of day.

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