A Few of My Favorite Things

Saturday, April 30, 2011
This turned into the never-ending blog post.  It's finally finished!

First off--

Saturday was the Second Annual St. George's Day George Sanders Film Festival!  This year's theme was the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible (I'll bet you were wondering how I was going to work that in this year), so I watched Four Men and a Prayer and Rage in Heaven as well as two biblical epics: Samson and Delilah and Solomon and Sheba.  I made true sacrifices in the service of cinema.

In Four Men and a Prayer (1938), George Sanders and his three brothers (David Niven plays one of them) work to clear the name of their dishonorably discharged father (C. Aubrey Smith) with the help of Loretta Young.  There's romance, gun-running and South American revolutions.  What more could the movie-going public desire?  So, it's not the greatest movie ever, but it was pretty entertaining.  (Available on DVD as part of the Ford at Fox Collection.)

Original lobby card from Wikipedia
Rage in Heaven (1941) was a film I'd never heard of until it played on TCM last month, despite the fact that it stars Ingrid Bergman and Robert Montgomery (and George Sanders!) and was based on a book by James Hilton, of Random Harvest fame.  I thought this was a well-done, entertaining, occasionally suspenseful film.  Both Rage in Heaven and Four Men and a Prayer would be good watching on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Since this film isn't available on DVD, here's a link to watch it online.

Now on to the films I can't really recommend on their own merits.  If you're a big fan of bad movies or you're really really bored, these two biblical epics might be worth the watch.  Maybe.  This comes from a person who watches The Ten Commandments every year.  Admittedly, I only watch the first part before Moses decides he wants to leave the Egyptian court.  After that, it just gets super-unglamorous.  Who wants to watch people wander in the desert?  Anyway, I digress...

French poster from Wikipedia
Samson and Delilah (1950) looks good, but the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired.  I did like Hedy Lamarr's costumes, though.  They'd probably make really fabulous bellydance costumes.  Sanders plays the mad, bad, dangerous-to-know Saran of Gaza.  Here's a clip from TCM.

Unfortunately(?) it's not available on DVD, but you can watch this film online, should you feel in need of cinematic self-flagellation:

I exaggerate a bit.  Samson and Delilah is ten times better than...

Lobby card from Wikipedia
...Solomon and Sheba (1959), starring Yul Brenner as Solomon, Gina Lollobrigida as Sheba and George Sanders as wronged older-brother Adonijah.  Tyrone Power was originally going to play Solomon, but he died halfway through filming after having a heart attack filming Solomon's duel with Adonijah.  Frankly, I doubt this film would have been any better with Tyrone Power instead of Yul Brenner.  Too much is wrong with this movie!  This clip  of the badly-choreographed orientalist "orgy" scene is a good illustration of the general ridiculousness of the entire film.  Warning: it's genuinely cringe-worthy.  Solomon and Sheba is inexplicably on DVD.

Scripture Cake
 Naturally, biblical baking was also required.  The Victorians (those party animals!) thought it great fun to  force bakers to look up bible verses.  For example, here's the ingredient list for Scripture Cake:

1/2 lb Judges 5:25
1/2 lb Jeremiah 6:20
1 tablespoon 1 Samuel 14:25
3 Jeremiah 17:11
1/2 lb 1 Samuel 30:12
1/2 lb Nahum 3:12
2 ounces Numbers 17:8
1 lb 1 Kings 4:22
Season to taste with 2 Chronicles 9:9
pinch of Leviticus 2:13
1 teaspoon Amos 4:5
3 tablespoons Judges 4:19-21
(from Jane Grigson's British Cookery)

I know the ingredient list works with the authorized King James Version (my copy is from the Oxford University Press), but I can't guarantee other translations.  So-- here's my recipe, adapted from Jane Grigson's and from The Great British Book of Baking:

Scripture Cake

This recipe is also available on food.com.

The recipe for mixed spice is here.  If you're not sure what to do with all of it, here's a link to a few recipes.

This cake has a really lovely flavor, but I'd probably replace the figs with another dried fruit next time, but I didn't want to bother with reading through the bible to change the recipe, so do what you like.  I'd even use rum or brandy to soak the dried fruit, but don't tell the fundamentalists.

It's great for breakfast, too!



I've been given a Liebster Blog award from Kate and I've been tagged by Soapy Mermaid to list ten of my favorite things (besides George Sanders).  I'm going to combine the two and pass the award on to my favorite less-than-300-followers blogs and ask them to list their favorite things, as well (except for Soapy Mermaid, who has already listed her favorites!).

I love...
  1. PG Tips... but also Tanqueray.
  2. Händel...but also Nine Inch Nails.*
  3. Peter Lely...but also Cecil Beaton.
  4. peonies...but also dandelions.
  5. the library...but also my Kindle.
  6. eating outside...but also eating on the couch while watching Battlestar Galactica (damn engineer husband).
  7. TCM...but also MSNBC.
  8. bad monarchs...but not bad politicians.**
  9. spring...but I love autumn more.
  10. reading French novels in French...but I love reading English novels in English more!
I'm passing the award onto these fine folks.  Can't wait to see their ten favorites lists!

As My Whimsy Takes Me
By gum, by golly!
A Cat Among the Pigeons
Honey Hi
Livin' Vintage
Lori Hairston
My Moving Finger Writes
My Pretty Baby Cried She Was a Bird
Pin Tucks and Pin Curls
Practice in Time
Pragmatic Attic
Sailing Over a Cardboard Sea
A Sip of Sarsaparilla
Soapy Mermaid
The Swing of Things
This Old Life
Those Were Very Good Years
Two for Tea
Where the Sidework Ends

If you decide to participate, just leave a comment with a link to your post.  Thanks!


**James I of King James Bible fame being one of those bad monarchs.  I studied the Stuarts, so there were lots of bad kings to go around.

Bridges, Literal and Figurative, and Reuben Obsessions

Monday, April 25, 2011
Ronda, Spain Souvenir Plate From Gourmet Pigs

Gourmet Pigs brought back a souvenir plate of Ronda, Spain for me from her visit there in December. She's nice like that, always bringing back gifts for me when she travels. Thanks lady!

Lest you think I post these things to brag, I should say it's rather the blogger equivalent of the thank you note. I learned this aspect of blogging from craft blogs. I discovered craft blogs before I stumbled upon food blogs. Craft bloggers by their very nature create, and they often share their creations with other bloggers, who then post about it and thank the sender. I've noticed people don't do this much anymore. Not that people don't give gifts, just that the community aspect of blogging seems to have shifted to the wayside in the last few years as more people vie for attention. Many posts now are geared toward specific subjects, what they think will turn up in searches, not so much the day-to-day humdrum of life. And yet, those are the blogs that have held my attention year after year. The subject might lure me in, but I read blogs for the people. Always a dinosaur, I hate to think manners have fallen out of vogue in the quest for SEO.

I've been thinking lately about bridges, or connections if you want to be heavy-handed with the symbolism. The literal bridges of the Columbia River Gorge on my visit home to Oregon last month, and the figurative bridges I've formed with family, friends, bloggers, and readers.

I don't fuss too much these days dealing with people. Well, some you can't do much about, like family or co-workers, people whom you have to be around. But the people I choose to spend time with are the ones who like to be around me. When I was younger, in school and in work, there was more of a need to find connections with others. I'd try and find connections with the few other Asians in school, or the few other Vietnamese in college, or the few other young people at work. But remove the shared environment, and many times there wasn't much left to connect us. These days, I'm just thankful for the long-time friends who've stuck around. Those friendships take the least amount of work and are the most rewarding.

Read more »

Taste and Explore Little Saigon; Help Japan

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Little Saigon, Orange County - California 14

Part of my aim for the blog, whether consciously or subconsciously, is to show others what's available around them so they can discover it for themselves. But I also get that venturing into new territory can be intimidating. I've long believed that the best way to learn about another cuisine, and by extension another culture, is through someone you trust introducing it to you firsthand. Learning about food through a friend makes unfamiliar dishes familiar, and teaches you about another culture without the prolonged history lectures.

The other aspect of blogging that keeps me engaged is the sense of community that gets formed -- learning from each other, making friends, and uniting over common goals. I don't often talk of current events, but it seems impossible to ignore the devastation in Japan following last month's earthquake and tsunami. Not that natural disasters and their toll should be ignored, just that my ability to do much about them seems miniscule. People do what they can with what they have, and I've always left it at that. A lot of bloggers have been reaching out to do what they can to help -- distributing socks, making quilts for survivors, or selling photography manuals for charity.

Recently, I pitched to my advertiser, Foodbuzz, the idea of exploring northern, central, and southern Vietnamese regional cuisine in Little Saigon for its monthly 24, 24, 24 series. It was accepted. Yay! And while I've done this a few times before, applying the stipend toward the cost of supplies or treating my friends to a nice meal, I'd rather use the stipend this time for something more.

So this coming Saturday, April 30, just in time for the anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, come explore Little Saigon with me.

For a $50 donation, or more if you wish, which will also include several meals, you'll have me as a culinary and historical tour guide to Little Saigon.

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Life this Week: April 18, 1938

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Here are links to a few of my favorite articles from the April 18, 1938, issue of Life, courtesy of Google Books.

The cover features a portrait of Paulette Goddard with her dog.  I love her collection of bracelets!  The contents page tells us she is "generally supposed to be Mrs. Charlie Chaplin" and that she is admired in Palm Beach for her "pixyish charm and by her long fingernails, which extend nearly an inch beyond her fingertips."  Life also tells us that she carried a broken fingernail around in a sling (seriously?) and she's no longer in the running for the role of Scarlett O'Hara.

Don't be a bad-tempered bride--buy a Simmons Beautyrest!

Louis Fabian Bachrach believes the prettiest American girls are to be found along the Atlantic seaboard from Boston to Baltimore.  Do you agree?

If you're as cheap as a Scot, you'll love Sanka.  I would argue against the stereotype of my ancestral home being full of cheapskates, but I'm too busy turning off the climate control and saving yarn scraps and bread crusts.

There are two pages on the Austrian reaction to Anschluß (April 10, 1938).  Life reports, "Some observers expected that Austria may become the center of an underground anti-Nazi movement infecting all of Greater Germany." 

Oh my God, this is one of the worst movies I've ever seen.  Seriously.  Even Life calls it "melodramatic Hollywood hokum" in an article about Sigrid Gurie, "the flower of Flatbush."  Unless you have a perverse love for ridiculous dialogue, ahistorical content and white actors in ethnic make-up (Basil Rathbone as an Arab, anyone?), don't bother with this one.  Funny tidbit: this film shares its "Venice" set with the (actually less crappy) Goldwyn Follies.

The Santa Fe Super Chief  has "every form of hotel comfort."  Too bad first-class accommodations no longer cost $56.15 for a trip from Chicago to Los Angeles!

Life devotes eight pages of this issue to illustrate Passover traditions, show Doré engravings of the Book of Exodus and discuss the problems facing Jews in 1938.  Frankly, they could have devoted an entire issue to that topic.

There are plenty of interesting ads and articles.  Which were your favorites?

Almond Butter Oats Cookies for Maitri

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Have you checked out Maitri yet? It is a friendship chain in which you get a box of mystery from a foodie friend! Exciting right? For more details check out Priya and Reshmi's sites.

I was matched with Savitha and I received a fun package from her last week. The mystery ingredient was quick cooking oats. She also sent me a little measuring cup. Thank you so much Savitha. I use the oats and the measuring cup today to make these delicious cookies!
I recently discovered the goodness and deliciousness of almond butter and picked up a huge jar at Costco. I used it to make these cookies and they tasted great with a glass of milk. They also make a great tea-time snack or even a dessert!

Moving on to the recipe..

Ingredients (Yields 1 dozen cookies) 
Dry ingredients

Whole wheat flour - 1 cup
Rolled oats/Quick cooking oats - 1 cup
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
Brown/White Sugar - 3/4 cup
Salt - 1/4 teaspoon

Wet Ingredients
Vegetable oil - 1/4 cup
Almond butter - 1/4 cup
Milk - 1/4 cup
Vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease the baking sheet.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl.

Add dry to wet and mix until just combined. Form a lemon sized ball, and press onto baking sheet until 1/2 inch thick. you could use a fork to flatten out the cookies. It also gives a nice imprint on the cookies.

Bake until lightly browned, about 15-17 minutes. After about 5 minutes, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and allow them to cool. The cookies will not firm and crisp up until they are cooled.
Enjoy some warm cookies along with milk or tea!

Pesto Pizza

Friday, April 8, 2011
It is Sweet Punch time again! This time Divya selected Pizza as the bake. I loved baking the pizza. The base took no more than 10 minutes to put together. It tasted delicious too. For the toppings, I kept it simple by using a store bought pizza sauce and topped it with fresh pesto sauce, cherry tomatoes, black olives and cheese. The pizza toppings are inspired by a pizza we get at a local pizzeria. It is more of the mediterranean style toppings. Mozzarella would have been a great addition, but since I did not have it, I used a combination of shredded cheeses.  I halved the recipe for the pizza base and made one medium sized pizza.

A great way to make a quick and delicious meal.

For the base (Makes two crusts)
(Recipe Source: The Pioneer Woman)
Active Dry or Instant Yeast - 1 teaspoon
All-Purpose Flour - 4 cups
Kosher Salt - 1 teaspoon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1/3 cup

For the toppings
Pizza sauce - 3 tablespoons
Fresh Pesto - 2 teaspoons
Cherry tomatoes
Shredded cheese
Oregano - 1/2 teaspoon
Parmesan cheese - 1 tablespoon


Sprinkle yeast over 1 1/2 cups warm (not lukewarm) water.

In a mixer, combine flour and salt. With the mixer running on low speed (with paddle attachment), drizzle in olive oil until combined with flour. Next, pour in yeast/water mixture and mix until just combined.
Coat a separate mixing bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil, and form the dough into a ball. Toss to coat dough in olive oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until you need it. 
Sprinkle the pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal/semolina.Roll out the pizza to your liking[thin/thick]. Spread the oil over the dough. Spread enough pizza sauce over the base. 

Then add all other toppings - pesto sauce, cherry tomatoes, olives and  oregano.

Then top with required amount of cheese.

Preheat oven to 500F.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes or till the cheese starts bubbling and the pizza is evenly cooked/browned.

Serve hot! Think before you order your pizza next time, when it can be made so easily at home!

Monthly Film Recommendations: April 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Sorry--it's a few days late.  Dodsworth and Gone with the Wind have already aired.  GWTW is, of course, on DVD and I'll let you know the next time Dodsworth is on.  All times are central and everything airs on TCM.
  • Ball of Fire (Sa 4/16/11 7:00 p.m.) a houseful of professors take in nightclub singer Barbara Stanwyck
  • Born Yesterday (Sa 4/16/11 3:15 p.m.)
  • Dial M for Murder (Tu 4/12/11 9:00 p.m.) Hitchcock.  Grace Kelly.  Classic.
  • Dodsworth (W 4/6/11 8:15 a.m.)- a retired industrialist's (Walter Huston) life falls apart on a European vacation, but he finally learns how to live 
  • A Face in the Crowd (Sa 4/9/11 2:30 a.m.)- You MUST see this film.  It is one of the most amazing movies I've ever seen.  Andy Griffith plays against type to perfection and Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau are magnificent; Elia Kazan was a genius.
  • Gilda (Sa 4/9/11 1:00 p.m.)- I never get tired of the costumes in this one
  • Gone with the Wind (M 4/4/11 7:00 p.m.)- Does this movie need a synopsis?  I will recommend the book if you haven't read it.
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets (Su 4/17/11 9:00 a.m.)
  • Kiss Me Kate (Tu 4/12/11 3:45 p.m.)- Sue me, but I love this ridiculous technicolor musical
  • Ivanhoe (M 4/11/11 3:00 a.m.)- This movie is pretty much terrible, but it has George Sanders in it.  You might want to read the hokey book instead.
  • Love Me Tonight (Su 4/17/11 7:15 a.m. and M 4/25/11 2:45 p.m.)
  • The Love Parade (M 4/25/11 12:45 p.m.)
  • North by Northwest (Th 4/28/11 11:00 p.m.)
  • Now, Voyager (Su 4/17/11 11:00 a.m.)- ugly duckling Bette Davis gets a makeover and falls in love with yummy Paul Henreid 
  • The Painted Veil (Th 4/21/11 7:00 p.m.) Greta Garbo follows husband Herbert Marshall to China where she's romanced by George Brent
  • Road to Morocco (Th 4/21/11 10:00 a.m.) Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, silly jokes: I love it
  • Shanghai Express (F 4/22/11 1:00 a.m.) Marlene Dietrich is terribly well-dressed in this pre-code train film set in the midst of the civil war in China
  • Virginia City (W 4/20/11 9:00 p.m.)- really only for fans of westerns, Errol Flynn or Randolph Scott
  • You Can't Take it With You (Sa 4/9/11 5:00 a.m.)- James Stewart falls in love with secretary Jean Arthur, but his well-to-do parents don't accept her unconventional family, headed by Lionel Barrymore 

My Weekly Menu Plan

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
What's for Breakfast?    What's for Lunch?    What's for Dinner?

These are the questions I face when I enter the kitchen everyday. Even though I have a pantry and fridge fully stocked, I find it difficult to quickly plan meals. This results in some grocery ingredients forgotten to be used up, going bad and finally they get tossed. Without any menu planned out for the week, I found that we were eating the same meals over and over. This results in a cooking and eventually a blogging block since I have no interesting stuff made in my kitchen.

I realized that I need to follow a proper planned out menu, in order to make interesting, healthy and balanced meals and also use up all ingredients in my pantry. Monthly menus did not work well, since I ran out of certain ingredients or forgot to restock some of them. I hope weekly menus would be more effective and would also serve as a guideline for my weekly grocery shopping. It helps save time and make my meals more balanced.

So, you will be seeing weekly menus here, probably for all three meals of the day, probably at the beginning of each week. I will also try to link to the recipes if I have them already in my blog.

So here is the menu for the week!
BF - Soaked Almonds - 5 each, Steel Cut Oats cooked with flaxseed meal and topped with walnuts and blueberries, Coffee
Lunch - Bean burger on sandwich thins, side salad with lettuce, olives, tomato, cucumbers and goat cheese, homemade buttermilk
Dinner - Aloo Paratha with ketchup and yogurt

BF - Soaked Almonds - 5 each, Dosa with tomato chutney, Orange juice
Lunch -Whole wheat pasta salad and lemon juice
Dinner - Bisibelabath and homemade vazhakkai/banana chips

BF - Moong dal sprouts, steel cut oats with bananas and walnuts, OJ
Lunch - Trader Joes Masala Burger on Sandwich thins, Banana
Evening Snack - Ginger Tea and Kuzhi Paniyaram
Dinner - Chapati/Roti with channa masala

BF - Moong Dal sprouts, Bread toast with homemade jam, OJ
Lunch - Left over channa masala, rotis
Dinner - Chapati with egg kurma

BF - Soaked Almonds - 5 each, cereals/steel cut oats with berries, OJ
Lunch - Rice, dhal and beetroot poriyal, curd rice
Evening snack - Kesari!!
Dinner - Eat out

Since I cook lunch only for myself, I tend to keep my lunches simple and make elaborate meals for dinner. Also, as of now I am planning menus only for weekdays. Will start posting weekend menus, once it I try sticking to the weekday menus.

If you have similar menus planned out, do leave a link in the comments section and I shall link them up in my posts.

Do you plan out your meals regularly? If so, how do you keep track of them?

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