Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Life: Cranberry Pomegranate Relish

Is there anything more delicious than pomegranates?  I love their sweet-tart flavor, and when a friend gave me a taste of this relish I knew I needed the recipe.  Some experimentation later, I had a bright, juicy relish - no cooking involved.  You can get away with substituting sugar and lemon juice for the lemon curd, but do try to use the lemon curd if at all possible.  The flavor just can't be matched.

Fresh Cranberry Pomegranate Relish

1 12-oz bag whole cranberries
3 Tbsp lemon curd (or substitute 1/3 c sugar and 2 Tbsp lemon juice)
1 c fresh pomegranate seeds

In a blender or food processor, coarsely chop the cranberries.  Mix in the lemon curd or lemon juice and sugar, then mix in the pomegranate seeds.

Ta-da!  That's it.  Super easy (except for the seeding of the pomegranate) and deliciously fresh.  Try not to eat the whole thing with a spoon before company comes.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday Culture: "Slip"

One of the main purposes of art is to inspire connection across language and culture barriers.  The sheer physicality of dance presents an intimate and earthy feel; unlike music or fine art, there's no distance from the creator.  In this performance, the dancers explore a connection through trust and vulnerability - until the end.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Writing: Destiny's a Funny Thing

I love Star Wars, but I'll be the first to admit that the films, both original trilogy, prequels, and sequels, have a lot to answer for regarding plot holes.  A light-hearted epic space opera is probably not the best series of films to stand up to a really severe scrutiny, although fans and the Expanded Universe have been coming up with answers for generations.  That being said, there are a couple of issues that provide some amusement in pondering.

One of the really curious things about Star Wars is the hiding of the Skywalker twins, particularly Luke.  You might think that if you were going to hide a baby from his well-connected father you might not choose to hide said baby on the father's homeworld, with the father's only living relatives, under the father's name. Surely the Jedi must have been aware that Anakin Skywalker was bound to piece together his son's existence sooner or later with all the clues they dropped. So why drop the clues?

To answer this question, we must look at the other half of the puzzle; namely, Leia. Unlike Luke, Leia is provided with a secure cover.  She's hidden with an unrelated family under an assumed name on a completely different world.  What's more, her adopted family is politically powerful, assuring that she will grow up with all the privilege and education such a family could afford. Luke was set up to be a moisture farmer on a backwater planet, but Leia was well-positioned to develop as a political leader - precisely the sort of influential political leader that could be useful to the fledgling Rebellion.

To me, that suggests that Leia was the last hope of the Jedi and Luke was merely part of her cover.  The Jedi recognized that outright confrontation with the two Sith at the helm of the Empire was either doomed to failure or wouldn't provide the sort of systemic change needed now that the Empire was well established.  What they needed was a powerful figure to unite the Rebellion and set up a new government when the Empire was at last defeated - perhaps with some sort of symbolic significance as well, say, the daughter of the guy who screwed everything up in the first place.

In other words, Leia's the chosen one.  Luke's just a happy coincidence.

Or so I like to believe.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Life: Bottom Round Roast

Since I eat a mostly vegetarian diet, cooking meat has always been a bit of a challenge for me.  It took me a long time to stop cooking it to death, but I still struggle with getting it the right balance of cooked through and not unbearably tough.  Since we often get the cheap cuts, that can be tricky!  But the other night I picked up a bottom round roast and decided to try doing a stovetop pot roast.  Recipes on the internet claimed that with the proper amount of cooking you could emerge with a roast so tender it practically melted under your fork.  I was skeptical, but I gave it a try and folks - I'm a believer.  The meat was so tender and the various seasonings gave it such a deep, hearty flavor that I kind of don't want to make roasts any other way.  The bonus?  It was super easy and ridiculously fast.  It took me about five minutes to get it on the stove.

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Bottom Round Roast

2 lbs bottom round roast
salt & pepper
1/2 - 1/4 onion, chopped
2 Tb olive oil
1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
1 Tb dijon mustard
1 Tb brown sugar
1-2 c water

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or deep pot, then sauté the onions two or three minutes, or until translucent.  Liberally salt and pepper the roast and set it in the pan on top of the onions.  Pour around the roast enough water to come up 1/3 to 1/2 way up the meat, then add the Worcestershire sauce, the mustard, and the brown sugar to the water.  Cover and let simmer over medium low heat 3 hours.  Test with a fork; when the meat is tender and falling apart, serve with boiled new potatoes and fresh green beans.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wednesday Culture: Calvin & Hobbes Meet Kylo Ren

There are plenty of Star Wars parodies going around since "The Force Awakens" came out, including Emo Kylo Ren and his showdown with Very Lonely Luke.  Probably my favorite thing out there, though, is this Instagram account by Marvel and Disney artist Brian Kesinger, where the nostalgia of "Calvin & Hobbes" meets the next generation of Star Wars.  Visit the link to see all the pictures!

Monday, January 18, 2016

MLK, Jr. Day

Happy MLK, Jr. Day!  There will be no regular post today due to the holiday; instead, please enjoy this organ and choir rendition of "Lift Every Voice And Sing" as presented by the Children's Choir of Chicago.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday: Farewell to Alan Rickman

This has been a rough week for stars of stage and screen; today the world lost yet another of its great voices in Alan Rickman, who succumbed to cancer reportedly surrounded by family and friends.  I've long been an admirer of his work, from his breakout role as Hans Gruber in Die Hard to the lugubrious Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility to, of course, the conflicted Severus Snape in Harry Potter.  You might remember "Epic Teatime with Alan Rickman," one of the very first blog posts on this site; you can still view that video here.  I had the privilege a few years back of seeing him live on stage in an Ibsen play in Dublin, and I can verify that his voice is just as gloriously rich in person as it is on screen.  Rickman embodied his roles thoroughly, with a gorgeous combination of British restraint and perfect timing, and he was a delight to watch in just about everything.  In honor of a great actor gone too soon, here is Alan Rickman reciting Sonnet 130.