Finnish at Heart

Culinary Cognition

I’m a firm believer that pancakes are the solution to almost any problem. A day can’t possibly be bad if you started it (or ended it! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten dinner at a diner and not ordered chocolate chip pancakes) with good old-fashioned flapjacks, whether blueberry or chocolate or banana or oatmeal or pumpkin or peanut butter or Nutella or lemon, topped with syrup or glaze or fruit or cinnamon or whipped cream or butter or any combination of the above. Basically, there’s a pancake out there for everyone, including delicious gluten-free pancakes and diet-friendly low calorie pancakes, in case you thought I’d forgotten anyone. 🙂

There is an endless horizon of pancake possibilities, which I hope to spend a fruitful life fully exploring, but I was really feeling making something a little different for a family breakfast. A baked pancake loaf recipe from the amazing Peanut Butter Fingers.com was really close in the running, but it got beat out by this one instead: Finnish Kropser , part pancake and part popover, basically bread and buttery perfection.

I took a cue from a woman a few comments down and scaled the recipe down to eight, baking it in the oven in a cast-iron skillet  (which I had no idea you could do, aside from bringing happiness pancakes also bring knowledge). I made one batch with banana slices and one with apple pieces and a few tablespoons of applesauce, ya know, just cuz.

The top one looks blackened, you say? Well of course, I meant to do that. It’s trendy now. Burning things is the new, you know, not burning things…

Anyway, it tastes nicer than it looks. ^_^

And I made rum-glazed walnuts (for the banana pancake) and maple-glazed pecans (for the apple pancake) to go on top:

And each one got it’s own syrup, too! 😀 Rum syrup for the banana (I’ve been on such a rum kick lately, I think my parents are getting a little concerned…) and a weird made-up but totally delicious sugar-apple sauce cocktail for the apple.

In hindsight, we probably could’ve made this look a little prettier.

I’ve been known to go a little topping-crazy, it’s a curse. But, you know, a little extra sugar never hurt anyone.

That’s not true at all. I apologize profusely for my flagrant fib-telling, it’s out of control.

Basically what I was trying to say with this deeply informative post is that pancakes are pretty much the best thing ever, and while your run-of-the-mill Bisquick is nice and all, you owe it to yourself, your taste buds and the expansive world of pancakes to get a little creative next time you plan on breaking out hotcakes for breakfast.

The End.

Hunger Games Review

Seeing as Hunger Games came out in March, I realize I’m more than a little behind the ball on this one. But I’ve set myself the task of writing a review for each movie I put on my top 11 list, and as the first to be released, it’s high time to compose my summary of the much-anticipated Hunger Games.

I should first express my opinion on the Hunger Games series, a trilogy which sparked a craze to rival that of Twilight (although the fact that it remains rather well-liked indicates that it never got big enough to experience Twilight-proportioned backlash). It bears many of the hallmarks of a stereotypical teen novel, which keeps the pages turning, but it combines cheesy romance and over-done themes with genuine sense of tension and a serious, even brutal concept. The book straddles a line somewhere between entertaining teen adventure and 1984-style drama,making it attractive both to those seeking out a semi-intelligent read and those merely in search of a good story.

My first complaint regarding The Hunger Games is the casting. Yes, there was a lot of talk amongst the young and female demographic surrounding who should’ve been chosen to play Katniss’ love interests Peeta and Gale (although I would like to point out that there’s never really a question of who she’ll end up with, I have no idea why people treat it like some major love triangle). But I was fine with the casting of the younger Hemsworth for the generic, sullen Gale and the adorable Hutcherson as charismatic, good-hearted Peeta. My concern was with the most important casting choice; Katniss herself. Critics tend to gush about Jennifer Lawrence and her ‘vulnerability’ and ‘strength’ (which seems a somewhat silly contradiction but I digress), yet I just can’t understand where the praise comes from. I’ve become more and more convinced I must just be crazy, because whenever I see her on screen it becomes immediately and uncomfortably obvious that I’m watching an actress attempting to play a role, that none of it is real. The constant blank stares, the monotone voice, the either complete lack of or carefully calculated emotion she displays. Admittedly I haven’t seen her breakout film, Winter’s Bone, but I had the same exact impression when watching her in both X-Men: First Class and Like Crazy. Others have deemed her acting nuanced but to me, it just appears clumsy, awkward and obvious. She reminds me of a bad magician, able to perform the tricks but constantly drawing attention to the method, instead of distracting the audience so they can appreciate the result.

On the other hand, I found some of the casting to be very impressive. Of course characters other than Peeta and Katniss have precious little to do, but there were nonetheless a few impressive standouts. Elizabeth Banks is great as the outlandish and perpetually cheery Effie Trinket. There are two ways to view Effie Trinket; as either entirely clueless, inexorably wrapped in the extravagant and dehumanized world of The Capitol, or as a woman whose overtly bubbly nature is a means of deflecting her guilt and anxieties regarding her occupation. The latter makes for a much more interesting character, and Banks’ Effie displays signs of doubt and sympathy, hinting at a depth that could easily be drowned out by a lesser actress in such an already outrageous and eccentric role.

Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane was another standout, although that rather distinctive beard might have been doing a lot of the work. And I was especially surprised by Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. The acting was adequate, and while he did little to evoke the Cinna presented in the book, what struck me was the clearly unintentional chemistry between him and Katniss. Watching Hutcherson and Lawrence’s anti-climactic kiss was comparable to watching tumbleweeds roll by on a dirt road, but when Cinna brushed Katniss’ cheek I swear I could see sparks. Again, maybe I’m just totally crazy, but by the end I was convinced she should ditch Gale and Peeta and run off with Lenny Kravitz.

I was also a huge fan of the addition of some ‘behind the scenes’ sequences, in which we get to see Seneca and his employees manipulating the Games from the outside, setting up the contestants like dominoes. When Katniss is caught in a manufactured forest-fire in the book, it comes off as merely another obstacle engineered by the Game Masters. But in the movie, the fire is very deliberately planned to herd the contestants back together, creating more action and thereby more entertainment.

To my more hard-core Hunger Games fan friends, there has been no end to the list of gripes regarding this movie, from the handling of Katniss and Haymitch’s relationship to certain dress and hair colors. But I tend to overlook details like that; if I wanted the book, I’d read the book again. In my personal opinion, movies are separate entities from their literary counterparts and should be judged as such. That said, I went into this movie with considerably low expectations and walked out pleasantly surprised. It might take itself a little too seriously (I’ll get major flack for saying it but Hunger Games is, at its heart, more parts fun teen-novel then political commentary) and certain climactic scenes fall flat, but as a stand-alone work I’d say Hunger Games is, while not exceptional, worth the watch.

On the Way:

Reviews for Cabin in the Woods, The Avengers, Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman! I would like to take a moment to point out that 4/5 of these movies contain a Hemsworth.

No complaints here.

Excursions in Cake-Making

I’ve got a lot of stuff I’ve been meaning to post up here, but this has got to take precedence.

The reason it takes precedence is because, obviously, it relates to food (surprised?).

For an upcoming family gathering (which I’ll be leaving for in a few hours) I was charged by my padre with creating a delicious culinary confection. Obviously I took this request very seriously, and entered the primary stages of provision planning.

Since we’re entering summer and temperatures have averaged out the past few weeks into the 70’s, I thought what was really called for were some summer flavors. And that’s how I decided on a lemon cake paired with raspberry buttercream frosting to result in a (hopefully) scrumptious pink lemonade cake! Yum. 🙂

I picked this fabulous recipe from Cookies and Cups, using the cake recipe and glaze but minus the frosting:

http://cookiesandcups.com/lemonade-cake-with-lemon-cream-cheese-frosting/

And swapped for this frosting recipe instead:

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/raspberry-buttercream-frosting-10000001879938/

I have carefully documented my lovely cake’s journey from a mere bowl of dry ingredients to palatable perfection (Yes, perfection. I never exaggerate.).

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And in case you didn’t feel like sitting through my entire riveting slideshow (thanks guys), here’s a picture of the finished product:

Step 12: Perfection.

I tend to go a little crazy with the decorating in order to cover up the fact that my frosting skills are pretty much nonexistent, so here we’ve got my lemon cake decked out with lemon wedges, raspberries, lemon zest, and lemon-mint leaves from the garden out front. It’s pretty much the cutest cake ever, if I do say so myself.

Well, that’s a lie, this is probably the cutest cake ever:

Damn you, Cookie Monster!

But I’d say mine comes in a close second.

Cookieception

I like food. A lot.

The following image pretty much sums up my entire existence:

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This too:

That’s me passing Dunks every Sunday on the way to voice lessons with my sister. If you ever need to get me to do anything, the lure of baked goods is always foolproof.

Hand-in-hand with my love for eating comes a love for cooking and baking, so I can make dangerously scrumptious batches of treats all for myself. I actually started a diet a little while ago, but all my summer free-time combined with hours spent Stumbling for recipes have all added up to a lot of self sabotage. And since I’ve been making so many things lately, and I’ve decided to breathe some summer life back into my beloved Zebu, I thought I’d share some of these culinary confections up here. 🙂

It’s almost the last day of school for my little sister, who’s a high school freshman, and she asked if I could throw together some treats. If I applied myself half as much when studying for school as I do researching new recipes, I might be Valedictorian.

After much deliberation I decided on these beauties from Picky Palate:

My madre modeling the confection in question.

Recipe here: http://picky-palate.com/2011/01/06/oreo-stuffed-chocolate-chip-cookies/

Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies, entirely from scratch (well, I mean, except the Oreo…) and ridiculously delicious-looking. I made a brownie stuffed version too from a different website, but neither the brownie nor the dough were as delicious as this one. Oh my goodness, I’m telling you, the deliciousness that is a homemade chocolate chip cookie combined with the heavenly crunch of an Oreo center is pretty much pastry perfection (except cookies aren’t actually pastries, but next to cooking on my list of favorite things are alliterations, so it stays).

I sent my sister to school with 30, she came back with 2. Just sayin’. If you’ve got free time and calories to spare, try these. And if you’re lacking either of the former, try them anyway. It’ll be worth it. 🙂

Film OverSaturation

So a while ago (and by a while I mean a really, really, really really really long time) I put together a lovely, elaborate list of the top 11 (I’m having some trouble understanding my past self’s thought process behind that number)upcoming movies I was most excited to see. 5 of these movies have now been released, and 3 are tumbling hot on their heels towards beautiful releasementship (these latter 3 would be Brave, Bourne Legacy and Perks of Being a Wallflower, in that order).

With the end of the school year I’ve recently come into a little free time, and obviously desperate for a way to fill it all up, I decided I might revive my poor, neglected blog with not only an updated list but some quality reviews through which to share my praises and gripes with the films in question.

I thought I’d begin with the new and improved list, seeing as it’ll be the easiest to get out of the way and I’m anxious to have something posted after a roughly three-month hiatus.

So let’s see, my List-of-Movies-Most-Currently-Highly-Anticipated-By-Amy, Part 2.

10. The Dark Knight Rises

Okay, originally this was going to be on my first top 10 list, but I took it off because my top 10 list was at 15 movies and I kind of figured it went without saying. But you know what, I’m putting it up here now. I. Am. Pretty. Excited. I enjoyed Batman Begins, loved The Dark Knight (who didn’t?), and am super stoked for the third and final installment. The fact that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy and Marion Cotillard (plus director Chris Nolan makes this a lovely little Inception reunion) are involved only amped up my excitement. My only reservation, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, would be the inclusion of Anne Hathaway. I’ve always been a fan of the girl but lately she’s been picking up a lot of parts that just don’t seem to fit (Once, what exactly possessed her to sign up for Valentine’s Day, and don’t even bring up Fantine around me or I will go postal). But the movie’s got too much in its favor to not be good, and I for one am dying to know if big bad Bane will or will not ‘break The Bat.’

9. Moonrise Kingdom

Yesssss, I know, it’s already out, has been for a while. This is another one that totally should’ve been on that last list, not quite sure why I cut it since I was entirely in love within the first twenty seconds of the trailer (“No, I said, what kind of bird are you.”) But yes, I am super psyched to get out and see this highly-praised Edward Norton/Wes Andersen collaboration.

8. Prometheus

Yes, also already out. But don’t tell me after all you’ve heard you’re not super psyched to check out this Alien-esque thriller starring the amazing Noomi Rapace, goddess Charlize Theron, and the ever-cool Michael Fassbender.

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7. Lincoln

Not gonna lie to you, if this movie had any other cast I probably wouldn’t be interested at all. I mean, sure, Lincoln’s a fascinating individual, but I know all about that from biographies and history classes. Do I really need the passages of my high school text book filmed and edited and retold (in a slightly less faithful fashion, I’m sure) on a movie screen? Well, since Daniel Day Lewis will be playing Lincoln himself with a supporting cast including Joseph Gordon Levitt (I don’t know if you’ve noticed a trend here, but I really love Joseph Gordon Levitt) and Lee Pace, I’m gonna say it couldn’t hurt. And while yes, the ‘other’ Lincoln movie (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) looks pretty entertaining, I’m not exactly expecting the quality I’m hoping to get out of this one.

6. Cloud Atlas

This is one I’ve been eyeing for a while, and while it’s seen the loss of a few names that were previously attached (Ian McKellen, Natalie Portman) there are still plenty to go around (Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent and Ben Wishaw all have roles). I’m sorry to admit that I haven’t actually read the book yet, but I’ve heard only good things and the premise sounds beyond intriguing. So obviously getting my hands on the novel is a prerequisite to viewing the movie, but I have faith that I’ll find quality both in the paperback version of the story and its upcoming film adaptation.

5. Gangster Squad

Suave mobsters, 40’s fashion and the presence of Emma Stone, Josh Brolin, Giovanni Ribisi, Sean Penn,

Anyone else getting a ‘Reservoir Dogs’ vibe?

Anthony Mackie and, of course, Ryan Gosling have earned this otherwise rather nondescript film a spot on my movie-radar. Previously the upcoming ‘Wettest County’, recently retitled ‘Lawless’ (coincidentally also the name of another movie on this list, which I assume will have to be changed in response) was filling my 30’s-40’s era gangster movie quota, but the release of a decidedly underwhelming trailer has dampened my excitement. So Ryan Gosling, I’m just saying, you better pull through for me on this one!

4. Spring Breakers


So give me a moment to explain myself. I know, I know – a movie starring a bunch of previously squeaky-clean tween queens (Selena Gomez, Heather Morrison of Glee, Ashley Benson and Vanessa Anne Hudgens) partying hard and getting themselves involved in crime, sex and drugs sounds extra-sleazy. And I’m sure it is extra sleazy, and there’s absolutely no way I would even consider seeing it except for the fact that Harmony Korine is writing and directing. Korine’s never been known for subtlety (man loves his shock value), but there’s no denying his movies leave a strong impact. This is the writer/director of Gummo and the writer of Kids we’re talking about here. I don’t know for sure if his movies have something to say, but he’s very good at convincing his audiences that they do. The fact that the likes of Hudgens and Selena Gomez would sign on for a Korine movie is absolutely mind-boggling, and that’s why I’ve just gotta see it.


3. Lawless or Untitled Terrence Malick Project #2

If you remember, my last list included an Untitled Terrence Malick Project starring Rachel McAdams and Ben Affleck. Whereas that film has been titled ‘To the Wonder’ (no idea what that could possibly mean), it is not in fact the Untitled Terrence Malick Project listed above. That would be the tentatively titled Lawless, which will star Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Wes Bentley and Haley Bennett (that cute girl from Music and Lyrics whose career I’ve been inexplicably awaiting to take off for a while). And of course, as you might have gathered through very keen perception, it will be directed by Terrence Malick. Basically, if this movie were ice cream, it would be a Frozen Haute Chocolate (you know, that $25,000 sundae with the edible gold and the diamond spoon?). The plot summary reveals only this: “Two intersecting love triangles. Sexual obsession and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin, Texas.” Considering the aforementioned factors, how could this movie possibly be anything but fantastic? (As a side note, Malick’s third slated love story, Knight of Cups, sounds pretty promising too)

2. The Great Gatsby 

Okay, I know, I know, I’m such a hypocrite. If you read my first list you’ll know I included the latest Great Gatsby adaptation as one of my three ‘to be avoided at all costs’ movies for the year, on the grounds that previous attempts have been complete and utter failures and that Baz Luhrmann’s unorthodox approach to filmmaking didn’t really seem to jive with the tone of the classic novel. But I should first explain that despite my misgivings I’m a huge Luhrmann fan (Moulin Rouge, Strictly Ballroom and his ever polarizing Romeo + Juliet are among some of my favorite films) , and although I didn’t think his style would be a match the trailer completely swept me away. I know there are already rumblings about the modern music and the weird editing and such, but that’s just Luhrmann. You love him or hate him, and if you’re in the latter category you will without a doubt detest this movie as Luhrmann’s artistic stamp absolutely consumes every project he’s involved in. And since I admittedly love him, as well as Leonardo DiCaprio, I’ve decided to officially be excited. I am a little miffed, however, concerning some of the casting. Carey Mulligan seems all wrong as Daisy, pixie cute as opposed to delicate, manipulative and devastatingly beautiful. Tobey Maguire just didn’t come off well as the overwhelmed and somewhat detached Nick Carraway, and his choice of a Jordan Baker couldn’t appear more bland (and now that I’ve typed that watch her become next year’s Jessica Chastain). Anyways, I’m a little nervous about getting my hopes up but after the trailer I can’t help but be excited for Luhrmann’s latest project.

Django is Off the Chain.

1. Django Unchained

Oh my goodness gracious, I’m actually incapable of expressing to you exactly how much I am looking forward to this movie. I’ve never met a Tarantino film I didn’t like, and if you’ve seen the trailer you might share in my excitement (that shot of the blood on the white flowers and, oh my god, Leonardo Leonardo Leonardo). I can’t wait I can’t wait I can’t wait.

Feel more than free to chip in with your own comments and movie additions. 🙂