Monday, September 15, 2014

Chicken & Rice: the new, healthy version

And now, for something completely different: food!


Mom used to make a version of this that probably originated with a Campbell's soup ad in the 50s, since the principal ingredients other than "chicken" and "rice" were cream of mushroom and chicken gumbo canned soups. Oh, and a package of onion soup mix. I grew up on this and it's great hot or as a leftover (hot or cold). However.... packaged soups are full of really unhealthy ingredients. In the last few years I've noticed that I have serious GI issues after eating it, so I stopped making it. The other day I asked my spouse what some of his favorite foods were, and "chicken and rice" came up, so I decided to try to re-invent this thing without all the pasteurized milk, bad sodium, corn syrup, wheat thickener, MSG, and who knows what else. I think it's pretty darned good. Our local Costco is now carrying organic chicken, so it’s even better!

Remember: none of this is set in stone. Want to add peas? Hate mushrooms? Think it needs some celery seed? Go for it.

Oven to 350°

Ingredients:

2 cups of rice (I use brown, but you can use whatever you want)
4 cups of water & 1 tsp. bullion paste, or 2 cups of water and 2 cups of chicken stock
Half a large onion cut into chunks
2 carrots, diced
Some sliced mushrooms
2 celery stalks, diced
Some paprika
2 packages of onion soup mix (I use Trader Joe’s, because it isn’t full of weird stuff)
Chicken pieces, as many as you want to fit in there.

Directions:

In a 9x13 or equivalent baking dish/pan….

-  Stir up everything but the chicken and one of the packages of onion soup mix until distributed evenly.
-  Sprinkle some of the second soup mix on top.
-  Place the chicken in, pushing into the mix slightly.
-  Sprinkle the rest of the soup mix on top.
-  Cover with foil and bake for two hours. Take it out and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Monster Hunter Alpha" by Larry Correia

Monster Hunter Alpha (MHI, #3)Monster Hunter Alpha by Larry Correia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third installment in the Monster Hunter International saga takes us in a slightly different direction and focuses entirely on The Boss: Earl Harbinger. Artfully told in a real-time style and peppered with flashbacks that give us Earl's back story, this novel hits the ground running and doesn't let up. This is the kind of page-turner that will keep you up past your bed time. That's what it did to me, anyway: hello, three AM.

This story also introduces one of the most interesting origin stories for a particular type of supernatural creature that I've ever encountered.

Intelligent characters with plausible arcs, nail-bitingly intense running battles, and enough weapons tech to keep the hardcore gun guys entertained. Bonus: female characters you can cheer for, sympathize with, and admire. No screaming "arm candy" babes or "faux dude" chicks here.

Great Summer or vacation reading.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Rising Tides (#5 in the Destroyermen series) by Taylor Anderson

Rising Tides (Destroyermen, #5)Rising Tides by Taylor Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This isn't much of a real review, but I'm happy to save that until after I've finished the last book in this series. I'd been way behind and made an effort a few weeks ago to catch up, and now I can't stop reading. This series is like candy for action-adventure or space-time FUBAR stories (whatever that means to you). The actual genre is "cross-time shipwreck", and this is all that and more. "Rising Tides" became a real page-turner for me at about the halfway mark. Power reading through these novels is exhausting, though, because the characters really get put through the wringer again and again. Still, the payoffs are good and the world-building is utterly engrossing. I'll be sad when I get to the end.

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

"On Stranger Tides", by Tim Powers

On Stranger TidesOn Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a huge Powers fan, so it's no surprise that I loved this. It's not your typical pirate tale, but then what's typical? This is not YA. It is, however, obvious to me that the writers of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films had a copy of this in their possession from early on. In fact, I'd surmise that it has been the inspiration for the franchise since day one and not just for the fourth film, which bears almost no resemblance to this novel beyond the title and the fact that there are pirates, including Blackbeard (named "Thatch" instead of "Teach" in the novel), and a trip to the "fountain of youth".

***** minor spoilers *****

So many elements from the films seem cherry-picked from this novel that I couldn't get through more than a handful of scenes without flashing to aspects of the PotC franchise. Ironically, the only element that seems original is Cpt. Jack Sparrow, who has no counterpart in the book. Here you will find the basis for all the "voodoo"-inspired magic and sorcery, including crews of "undead" sailors, which add up to what amounts to a perfect back-story for Cpt. Barbossa (Phil Davies in the book). Although the female lead in the novel bears little resemblance to the films' Elizabeth Swann, it's no surprise that her name is "Elizabeth" and that she is placed in proximity to a mild-mannered but capable young man who ends up having to spend some time posing as a pirate.

My guess is that the screenwriters read this, saw it as great buffet of source material from which they selected a plate-full of tasty bits. Perhaps they optioned the book then and there. Perhaps they tried to get away with making enough changes that they wouldn't have to buy the option, but got called out on it after the first film and then entered in to a formal agreement with Powers, culminating in the fourth film using the book's title as the film's subtitle. Does it really matter? Not particularly. The films are what they are. The book is a separate entity. Powers certainly seems happy with the arrangement, and that's all that matters. To people who would cry, "But they ruined the book!" I would echo Powers' assertion that no film can "ruin" a book. The book stands alone. It has not changed. The films are what they are, which is to say that they are a different thing entirely. Nobody can change the content of a book by making a film that takes the story and turns it all topsy-turvy. That would be voodoo indeed.

I read some of this in paper, and listened to it all via audio book from Blackstone. The reader is pitch perfect, and manages to create distinctive voices from the very French Jack Shandy to the Robert Newton-esque Phil Davies to a hulking giant black voodoo practitioner with a voice like a sepulcher.  Imagine my surprise at finding it to be none other than.... Bronson Pinchot. I knew he was a good actor, but his character voices are a revelation. Well done.

By the way...  Tim, if you're reading this, I'm so sorry it took me so long to read this to completion. It seems like every time I picked it up something came up, or I had to read something else for a project, or who knows what else. Maybe I was hexed. Anyway, I hope they paid you a wheelbarrow of doubloons for the rights, because it looks like they were using it all along.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Victorian Heritage Festival recap

Cpt. Frye leads the cavalry.
This isn't much of a recap of the annual Port Townsend Victorian Heritage Festival since I was only there one day and worked most of it at the Old Consulate Inn (a fabulous place). I helped out with the parade as a cavalry "outwalker" and then rushed down the hill to shoot pics and video of the Gatling Gun demonstration. Next year I hope to be more involved...beyond just doing all the graphic design. I'd really like to have gone to some of the panels, and it's been ages since I've been able to get to a ball. 
Next year...
Col Marshall explains the gatling gun.
Cpt. Frye distracts the press at the gat demo.



Cpt. Frye and Mrs. Snow

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Port Townsend Victorian Heritage Festival 2014

My writing in general, and blogging specifically, has been a bit spotty lately as I've been teetering between nursing a bad back and grinding out graphics for the looming Victorian Heritage Festival in Pt. Townsend, WA. If you're interested at all in history, and in the Puget Sound area weekend after next, come pay us a visit!