Paranormal Activity 2

Photo #0

Film (with rating): Paranormal Activity 2 (R)

 

Studio: Paramount

 

Summary: After experiencing unusual activities around the
home, a family with a newborn baby sets up security cameras around their house
and discovers that things are much more sinister than they could have imagined.

 

Review: It’s rare that a sequel is as good as its
predecessor. Here, that’s the case. I loved “Paranormal Activity.”
And “Paranormal Activity 2″ does not disappoint. Set up as a prequel,
really, “2″ once again brings back Katie (Katie Featherston)  and Micah (Micah Sloat), who spend a lot
of time at the house of Katie’s sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden). Kristi and her
husband Daniel (Brian Boland) just had a baby, and life looks great in this
slice of Southern California suburban heaven.  But soon strange things start to happen, and so Daniel
installs a bunch of cameras throughout his house to capture everything.
“2″ is still shot in that “Blair Witch” style–wide camera
angles, no fancy cinematography. And all of this just adds to the movie’s charm
and creepiness factor.

The movie is a bit slow to ramp up, and this, in some
opinions, adds to the suspense. I wanted to speed things up a bit, especially
since the ending seemed rushed. But rushed or not, that is one great ending. The
tie-in between this installment and the first is brilliant, and actually made
me want to watch the first immediately after finishing “2.” The
acting by all involved was extremely believable, and I found myself sometimes
forgetting I really wasn’t watching someone’s personal home-surveillance video.

Although I’m a fan of gore-filled horror movies, I found the lack of blood
actually added to the terror factor of “2.” The simplicity of the
entire movie was brilliant, and so disturbing. It made the events feel real. So
keep celebrating this month of ghosts and goblins by turning out the lights,
grabbing a blanket and scaring yourself with “Paranormal Activity 2.”
You will never look at a crib mobile the same way again.

 

Extra highlight: Watch “Paranormal Activity.”

 

What to serve for dinner: For today’s Meatless Monday
entre, serve up a Southern California BBQ staple: burgers (www.vegnews.com).

 

1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP) granules

1 cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 white onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 cup vital wheat gluten

2 tablespoons panko-style breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

1-1/2 teaspoons onion powder

1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried dill

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 cup diced scallions

 

In a microwave-safe bowl, mix together TVP granules and
broth, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 5 to 6 minutes. In a
flat-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add mushrooms, onion,
and garlic and saut for 5 to 6 minutes. In a food processor, combine TVP,
sauted mushroom mixture, vital wheat gluten, breadcrumbs, parsley, onion
powder, garlic powder, dill weed, salt, chipotle powder, cumin, pepper,
nutritional yeast, tamari, and tomato paste. Process until well combined. If
mixture is crumbly, add a tablespoon vegetable broth or water until mixture has
a thicker consistency. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and mix in scallions.
Form into 6 to 8 patties. Refrigerate for one hour before cooking. On an oiled
grill over medium-low heat, cook patties for about 10 minutes per side.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What was the scariest scene
for you? Was it better than its predecessor? What do you think “Paranormal
Activity 4″ will be about? Will it work? Will you see it? It opens this Friday.
Who was your favorite character? What do you fear most? What would you do if
you thought your house was targeted by a demon? What did you think about the
ending? Compare this to my last entry: “Cabin in the Woods.” Are
psychological horror movies scarier than those that are in-your-face creepy?
What happened to the dog?

Cabin in the Woods


Film (with rating): Cabin in the Woods (R)

 

Studio: Lionsgate

 

Summary: Five friends embark on a road trip to a remote
cabin in the woods, but they get more than they bargained for.

 

Review: Happy Horror Month, everyone! Better known as
October, this month is all about frights. So why not kick things off with a
monster movie like “Cabin in the Woods?” I admit, at first, I did not
like this movie. I went in blind, not really sure what it was about. Horror, a
spooky cabin, lots of monsters. Okay, I’m game. But the opening scene,
featuring Bradley Whitford as a tie-wearing desk jockey, threw me for a loop.
Throughout the film, I found myself falling out of the horror mindset and
instead pondering the deeper meaning of what was on the screen–or even laughing
at what I saw.

 

But then it hit me. This is not a horror movie. It’s not
really a parody of horror, either. Think “Scream,” but deeper. I
watched “Cabin” thinking it was one of those amazingly scary monster
movies with a huge twist at the end. Not so much. “Cabin” is almost a
horror comedy, expertly written by horror professionals Joss Whedon and Drew
Goddard. The duo not so much poke fun of the genre as they do draw attention to
the clichs, the way today’s horror films are more like gore films instead of true
spine-tingling terrors. It also looks at why society likes horror in the first
place. It praises the films of horror market, but it also picks them apart and
snickers at them.

 

I’m not going to go so far as to say “Cabin” is
some morality-preaching vehicle. It’s simply a new take on a classic genre.
You’ll enjoy the film more if you know little of it to begin with. But just
take this to the couch with you: It’s not a traditional scary movie, so don’t
make the mistake I did and expect that. Go in with an open mind, and be
prepared to laugh, and be grossed out. Don’t take it all literally.

 

And never look at unicorns in the same way again.

 

Extra highlight: “The Secret Secret Stash”

 

What to serve for dinner: Pretend you’re a college kid like
one of the main characters and just order pizza.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What did you think about the
movie? Did it work? Were you disappointed? Who was your favorite character?
Favorite death scene? Did you buy the ending? Were you surprised by the
“boss?” Why do you think our society likes scary movies? What if
organizations like the one in the movie really existed? Which monster would you
have rather battled? Anyone else feel violated by the unicorn? Which monster
creeped you out the most? What’s your favorite scary movie? And for bonus
points…what scary movie did that line come from?

The Lorax

Photo #1

Film (with rating): The Lorax (PG)

 

Studio:
Universal

 

Summary: A
young boy (voiced by Zac Efron) searching for the one thing that will enable
him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams must first learn the story
of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.

 

Review: I
loved the book “The Lorax,” written by Dr. Seuss. Who can argue with
a rhyming, colorful tale that explains the disasters that happen when greed
runs amok? And in true Seussian fashion, “The Lorax” never preaches,
yet it screams its message loud and clear. The movie, directed by  Chris Renaud, follows that same path. It
is beautifully animated, with amazing voice talent from Efron, Taylor Swift,
Danny DeVito (as the Lorax. Perfect job!) and Betty White.  While not a lot of the famed Seuss
language makes an appearance in the film, that is forgivable since the film
holds true to the book’s message and feel. The musical numbers are actually
kind of charming, too.

 

In a nutshell, “The Lorax” tells the tale of young
Ted and his crush Audrey, who live in a town with only fake trees. Ted heads
out to see the Once-ler and the Lorax in an attempt to find a real tree and
impress his gal.  Problems happened
years and years ago when the Once-ler fell in love with the Truffula trees and
turned their fluff into “thneed” scarves. More scarves, more trees
cut down, more scarves made, more trees gone. On and on this went–despite
warnings from the Lorax–until no trees were left.

 

“The Lorax” beautifully tells this story of
environmentalism, conservationism and greed, but in a way that even the young
can understand and the grown ups can enjoy.

 

Extra highlight:
The animated shorts

 

What to serve for dinner: For tonight’s Meatless Monday recipe, let’s serve
up some “trees,” in honor of those Truffulas. (Doesn’t anyone else
have a kid who calls asparagus “trees?”) Springtime Asparagus Risotto
(www. mizkan.com).

 

According to the website: “The cooking method for this
risotto is not traditional, but even without constant stirring the result is
excellent. The flavors of grated cheeses vary. Start with 1/3 cup, and then add
more if desired. Serve risotto in 1-cup portions as a side dish or larger
portions as a main dish. A pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc wine would make a
lovely accompaniment.”

 

1            lb.
thin asparagus spears

2            Tbsp.
butter

2            Tbsp.
extra virgin olive oil

1            medium
onion, chopped

2            large
cloves garlic, minced

2            cups
(14 oz.) Arborio rice

1            cup
HOLLAND HOUSE White Cooking Wine (available at Target or other retailers)

4            cups
(32 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/3            cup
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino-Romano cheese

1            Tbsp.
grated lemon peel (optional)

1/4            tsp.
dried marjoram, tarragon, or sage

 

Wash asparagus and break off the tough ends. Cut spears into
1-inch pieces; set aside.

 

In a 6-quart pot, melt butter with olive oil. Add onion,
garlic and rice. Over medium-high heat, cook and stir 3-4 minutes; do not
brown. Add cooking wine and broth. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
Immediately reduce heat to low, cover and cook 10 minutes. No need to stir.

 

Add asparagus and continue to cook and stir, uncovered,
about 3 minutes. Taste rice to ensure it does not overcook. Rice should be al
dente and rather soupy. Stir in cheese, lemon peel and marjoram. Remove from
heat and serve immediately. Sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired.

 

Makes 8 cups (8 side dish servings, 4 main dish servings)

 

 

What to talk about over dinner: What is your favorite Dr. Seuss story? Why? What do
you think about “The Lorax’s” message? How can we help kids today
understand the need to conserve and protect the environment? What is the most
important crisis facing our earth today? Why is Betty White so awesome?

Chicken Run

Welcome to the new installment of Dinner and a DVD:
Meatless Monday Movies! In addition to our regular Friday feature, we’re going
to also be posting on Mondays. To ease you into the workweek, we’ll feature a
film along with a vegetarian recipe. That way, you can start the week on a high
note, and also do your part to help make the world a bit greener.

 

Film (with rating): Chicken Run (G)

 

Studio: DreamWorks SKG

 

Summary: Rocky the Rooster (voiced by a pre-crazy Mel
Gibson) and Ginger the Hen rebel against the evil Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy in an
attempt to escape the chicken farm and avoid becoming part of a pie.

 

Review: To welcome in Meatless Monday Movies, I’m going with
a modern classic for the family–and a classic that might make you think twice
about eating chicken. The same studio that brought us the loveable
“Wallace & Gromit” claymation shorts created “Chicken
Run.” In fact, “Chicken Run” is the first feature-length
claymation, or clay animation, film. Despite being rated “G,” the
movie is filled with enough humor and layers of comedy to please all viewers.
Loosely based on “The Great Escape,” the witty actioner “Chicken
Run” pairs up the tough-yet-loveable hen Ginger (voiced by
“Absolutely Fabulous’” Julia Sawalha) and cocky rooster Rocky as they
rally the troops to freedom.

 

This film, directed by Britain’s Aardman studios cofounder
Peter Lord and “Wallace & Gromit” creator Nick Park, has just
enough British humor to tickle our ribs, yet plenty of slapstick laughs to
please the kids in attendance. Fans of claymation, escape dramas, WWII films or
maybe just chickens will love “Chicken Run.” Even Mel Gibson’s fall
from grace can’t hurt this film. He was on his game as he voiced the flamboyant
Rocky, as was Miranda Richardson as the frightening and evil Mrs. Tweedy.

 

So enjoy your chicken movie, and chicken-free dinner. Happy
Monday, everyone.

 

Extra highlight: “Hatching of Chicken Run”

 

What to serve for dinner: Let’s try an easy meat-free meal:
vegetarian chili (foodnetwork.com).

 

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions

1 cup chopped red bell peppers

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 to 3 Serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced,
depending upon taste

1 medium zucchini, stem ends trimmed and cut into small dice

2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)

1 1/2 pounds Portobello mushrooms (about 5 large), stemmed,
wiped clean and cubed

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

3 cups cooked black beans, or canned beans, rinsed and
drained

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 cup vegetable stock, or water

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Cooked brown rice, accompaniment

Sour cream or strained plain yogurt, garnish

Diced avocado, garnish

Essence, recipe follows, garnish

Chopped green onions, garnish

 

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and Serrano peppers, and cook, stirring,
until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, corn, and mushrooms, and cook,
stirring, until soft and the vegetables give off their liquid and start to
brown around the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt and
cayenne, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes
and stir well. Add the beans, tomato sauce, and vegetable stock, stir well, and
bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring
occasionally, for about 20 minutes.

 

Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Adjust the
seasoning, to taste.

 

To serve, place 1/4 cup of brown rice in the bottom of each
bowl. Ladle the chili into the bowls over the rice. Top each serving with a
dollop of sour cream and spoonful of avocado.

 

What to talk about over dinner: Who was your favorite
chicken? What do you think of claymation? Have you ever watched “Wallace
& Gromit?” What other movies did this one remind you of? How did Mel
Gibson fall so far? What is your favorite British film or television show?
Would you ever go meat-free forever and not just on Mondays? What would you
miss most? How do you think the world will benefit by people giving up meat
just one day a week? Have you seen “Food, Inc.?” What did you think
of that?

We Bought A Zoo

** Check back here on Monday for a special announcement!**


Film (with rating): We Bought A Zoo (PG)

 

Studio: Fox
Home Entertainment

 

Summary: Cameron
Crowe (“Jerry Maguire,” “Say Anything”) directs this
based-on-a-true story film about a widowed dad (Matt Damon) who quits his job,
sells his house and moves with his two kids to a zoo. Together, with dedicated
staffers, they work to turn the dilapidated facility into something
spectacular.

 

Review:
Despite being a huge dog fan, I’m not a big lover of animal movies. In fact, I
hate them. I blame my elementary school. On the last day of first grade, the
entire school gathered in the cafeteria to watch “Old Yeller.” Sweet
mother of all things holy! I still get a twitch when I recall that film! So all
these years later, I still have trouble settling into a peaceful movie-viewing
Zen state when animals are involved. But being a big fan of Crowe (I mean,
could the boom box scene in “Say Anything” be any more classic and
memorable?) I thought I would give “Zoo” a try. And I’m glad I did.
Crowe, an unlikely romantic in Hollywood, keeps the nitty-gritty of zoo keeping
and grief off the screen. Yes, he also brushes past some details that tripped
me up for a moment (“You’re quitting your job? What about health
insurance? What will you do to feed your kids? What if you’re never hired
again?!”), but I realized the main focus of “Zoo” wasn’t to
provide a how-to map of starting a new life. Instead, it painted a portrait of
moving on and living again, for both two- and four-legged creatures. We saw the
picture; we didn’t have to witness the brush strokes.

 

What kept “Zoo” from being overly schmaltzy was
the acting talent. With each film he does, Damon becomes more and more
brilliant in my eyes. He did not disappoint here. In fact, it was his
believability, liability and rich skills that brought “Zoo” up a
notch in my book. As did the flawless Maggie Elizabeth Jones, who plays Damon’s
7-year-old daughter Rosie. She somehow managed to come across as adorable,
believable and loveable without marring the image with any saccharine-tinged overacting.

 

Scarlett Johansson, while decent and charming, seemed a bit
miscast as the eclectic zoo employee. But Thomas Haden Church, who plays
Damon’s brother, was a happy surprise. The movie, based on the British novel by
the same name, does take on a slightly British feel to it, especially when you
consider the multiple layers of supporting cast. Overall, though,
“Zoo” is a good movie to watch with your whole family. No, it’s not
going to throw over some of Crowe’s other gems in the popularity race, but
it’ll hold its own. Even if you don’t walk away with a “Show me the
money” phrase that will linger long after the film is collecting dust on
the shelf.

 

Extra highlight:
“We Shot A Zoo: Go Behind the Scenes”

 

What to serve for dinner: Since “Zoo” is based on a British
author’s book, let’s serve up some food from his homeland. Try Toad in the Hole
(www.bbcgoodfood.com).

 

cup plain flour (a little less than cup)

tsp English mustard powder

1 egg

1 1/3 cup milk

3 thyme sprigs, leaves only

8 plain pork sausages

2 tbsp sunflower oil

2 onions, peeled and sliced

1 tsp soft brown sugar

2 cups beef stock

 

Make the batter: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Tip flour into a
large mixing bowl and stir in the mustard powder with a good pinch of salt.
Make a well in the center, crack in the egg, then pour in a dribble of milk.
Stir with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating some of the flour, until you
have a smooth batter in the well. Now add a bit more milk and continue stirring
until all the milk and flour has been mixed together.

 

The batter is ready: You should now have a smooth, lump-free
batter that is the consistency of double cream. Tip it back into the jug you
measured your milk in, for easier pouring later on, then stir in the thyme. Use
scissors to snip the links between your sausages, then drop them into a
9×12-inch roasting tin. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, tossing the sausages in it
to thoroughly coat the base of the tin, then roast in the oven for 15 minutes.

 

Cook the batter. Take the hot tray from the oven, then
quickly pour in the batter – it should sizzle and bubble a little when it first
hits the hot fat. Put it back into the oven, then bake for 40 minutes until the
batter is cooked through, well risen and crisp. Check after 30 minutes. If you
poke the tip of a knife into the batter in the middle of the tray it should be
set, not sticky or runny.

 

Make the gravy. Soften the onions with the remaining oil in
a large nonstick frying pan for about 20 minutes, stirring often, until they
are golden brown. Sprinkle in the sugar for the final 5 minutes. Add the
spoonful of flour, then cook, constantly stirring, for 2 minutes, so it coats
the onions and there is no dry flour left. Gradually pour in the stock,
stirring well to make a smooth sauce. Bubble for 4-5 minutes to thicken, then
season. Cut the toad in the hole into large wedges and serve with the gravy
spooned over.

 

 

What to talk about over dinner: Would you ever buy a zoo? Are zoos inhumane or
necessary to preserve species? What is the best zoo you’ve ever been to? What
is your favorite animal? What zoo-type of attraction would you buy if you
could? If you needed a fresh start in life, what would you do? Who was your
favorite character? What is your favorite Matt Damon movie? What is your
favorite Cameron Crowe film? Catch phrase? I’m sort of partial to “I gave
her my heart, she gave me a pen.”

Hop

Photo #8

Film (with rating): Hop (PG)

 

Studio: Universal Pictures

 

Summary: Fred, an out-of-work slacker, accidentally injures
E.B., the runaway Easter Bunny, and must take him in as he recovers. As Fred
struggles with the world’s worst houseguest, both will learn what it takes to
finally grow up and do their jobs.

 

Review: It’s Easter weekend, folks. While I originally
planned on writing up a piece on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
(look for it next week), I figured it might not be the most appropriate family
film for the holiday. So please to enjoy “Hop.”

This combination
animation/live-action flick is surprisingly charming. Perhaps it’s the British
accents. But more likely it’s the cute storyline and the likeable
characters…and the film’s ability to know it’s just plain silly. James Marsden
plays Fred, a lovable couch potato who accidentally injures a jellybean-pooping
rabbit named E.B. (perfectly voiced by Russell Brand), the future Easter Bunny.
E.B. ran away from his duties and destiny on Easter Island and ran smack into
Fred in Hollywood. What follows is a mix of life lessons learned, holidays that
must be saved, bad guys needing to be taken down a notch.

Despite the clichs
“Hop” is adorable. Both voice talent and live-action actors are
spot-on when it comes to delivering lines. Hank Azaria voices Carlos, a
power-mad chick and the elder Easter Bunny’s right-hand man, with hysterical
skill. The film almost seems to rejoice in its silliness, and for that it
succeeds. I mean, we’ve got David Hasselhoff making an appearance here, folks!
Silliness! Director Tim Hill (“Alvin and the Chipmunks”) somehow
found the sweet spot between stupid and adorable and set up camp. 

As an added perk, Hill included
numerous stages of humor so the whole family can enjoy jokes on multiple
levels. Some of the humor touches on the toilet-humor variety, and yet other
segments reach a bit higher on the hilarity ladder. And it all works.
“Hop” is a great film to enjoy after succumbing to a Peep-induced
sugar coma on Sunday.

 

Extra highlight: You’ll be too wound up on sugar to sit
still for any extras. Go do some pushups or run around the block.

 

What to serve for dinner: Stewed rabbit. Kidding! I’m
kidding! Go with a traditional Easter feast of baked ham and creamy au gratin
potatoes (allrecipes.com).

 

4 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

1 onion, sliced into rings

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 1-quart casserole
dish. Layer half of the potatoes into the bottom of the prepared casserole
dish. Top with the onion slices, and add the remaining potatoes. Season with
salt and pepper to taste. In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium
heat. Mix in the flour and salt, and stir constantly with a whisk for one
minute. Stir in milk. Cook until mixture has thickened. Stir in cheese all at
once, and continue stirring until melted, about 30 to 60 seconds. Pour cheese
over the potatoes, and cover the dish with aluminum foil.

Bake 1.5 hours in the preheated oven.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What is your favorite Easter
memory? What does the holiday mean to you? What are your earliest memories of
the Easter Bunny? What is your favorite Easter candy? What’s your opinion of
Peeps? Do you eat the tail or the ears first when it comes to chocolate
bunnies? When was the last time you went on an Easter egg hunt? What is your
favorite color to dye eggs? What did you think of the animation/live-action mix
of this film? What about the candy factory on Easter Island? Have you ever run
away from your responsibilities? What’s your favorite jellybean flavor?

The Smurfs


Film (with rating): The Smurfs (PG)

 

Studio: Sony
Pictures

 

Summary: When
the evil wizard Gargamel chases the Smurfs out of their village, they tumble
from their magical world and into ours, right in the middle of Central Park.

 

Review: I
have to confess: I wanted to review this film just so I could concoct a bunch
of blue-themed food. But at the end of the day, I’m glad I did review it.
Having been a mild Smurf fan as a child, I felt lukewarm about the modern-day
cinematic revival of these tiny blue creatures. Even Neil Patrick Harris on the
cast list didn’t turn up my curiosity quotient. Yet the film surprised me. No,
it was not great. But it also didn’t tank, either.  Yes, there’s much humor for the third graders out there, and
there’s plenty of product placement for said third grader’s parents to
“enjoy.” Yet I still found nuggets of humor peppered throughout the
film, and it’s undeniably one that can be watched with the whole family. Of
course, your kids may (will) start talking Smurf and begging for Smurf
everything from Santa this year, but it could be worse. They could be asking
for those annoying hamsters that spin on the floor, tangle hair into their
wheeled “feet” and squeak at inexplicable times. But I digress.
“Smurfs” isn’t a total waste of 107 minutes. I wish director Raja
Gosnell would have kept some of the innocent, superficial flavor of the
original “Smurfs” cartoons instead of trying too hard to add
“hysterical” moments and plot segments for the above-8 crowd. But
hey, at the end of the day, this is a movie about tiny blue beings. So we can’t
expect too much out of it. Just go enjoy your family time and some Blue
Hawaiian.

 

Extra highlight:
More Blue Hawaiians.

 

What to serve for dinner: Ah, the part I was waiting for. First, serve
yourself a generous helping of Blue Hawaiian (http://www.drinksmixer.com).
Before, during and after dinner, if you’d like. Give the kids blue Gatorade or
blue Kool-Aid. Then, try Blue Cheese Shrimp and Rice (cooks.com),  followed by lots of Blue Velvet Cake (http://www.foodnetwork.com/). It’s a
Paula Deen recipe, so you know it’s rich as sin and twice as good.

 

Blue Hawaiian

 

1 oz light rum

1 cherry

2 oz pineapple juice

1 oz Blue Curacao liqueur

1 oz cream of coconut

1 slice pineapple

 

Blend light rum, Blue Curacao, pineapple juice, and cream of
coconut with one cup ice in an electric blender at high speed. Pour contents
into a highball glass. Decorate with the slice of pineapple and a cherry.

 

Blue Cheese Shrimp and Rice

 

1 lb butter

1 lb blue cheese crumbles

1 bag of raw peeled shrimp

your favorite white rice, dyed blue

 

In a deep saucepan, melt butter and blue cheese over
medium-low heat until it is sauce-like. Add the shrimp to the sauce and cook
until shrimp turns an orange color and is heated completely through. When you
cook the rice, add blue food coloring to the water so that the rice turns a
nice shade of light blue.

 

Blue Velvet Cake

 

Cake:

    2
cups sugar

   
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

    2
eggs

    1
tablespoon cocoa powder

    2
ounces blue food coloring

    2
1/2 cups cake flour

    1
teaspoon salt

    1
cup buttermilk

    1
teaspoon vanilla extract

   
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

    1
tablespoon vinegar

 

Icing:

    1
(8-ounce) package cream cheese

    1
stick butter, softened

    1
cup melted marshmallows

    1
(1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar

    1
cup shredded coconut

    1
cup chopped pecans

 

Cake:

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 (8-inch)
round pans.

 

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, mix until
light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition.
Mix cocoa and food coloring together and then add to sugar mixture; mix well.
Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture
alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine baking
soda and vinegar and add to mixture.

 

Pour batter into pans. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a
toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from heat and cool
completely before frosting.

 

Icing:

 

Blend cream cheese and butter together in a mixing bowl. Add
marshmallows and sugar and blend. Fold in coconut and nuts. Spread between
layers and on top and sides of cooled cake.

 

What to talk about over dinner: Who was your favorite cartoon character as a kid?
Who is your favorite Smurf? What childhood cartoon would you love to see on the
big screen today? What would you do if you saw a Smurf in your kitchen? What
was the funniest line in the film? What do you think will happen for the rest
of the season on Neil Patrick Harris’ “How I Met Your Mother?” Play a
game–see who can talk Smurf the longest. Smurf on, your smurfstars!

Blog on Hiatus!

Dear Readers:

Thank you for following my “Dinner and a DVD” blog. It’s not going away for good. No, not at all. It’s just going on hiatus. Please check back in mid- to late April to read all about the spring’s new releases and what good munchies will work best as you watch them.

Have a great weekend,

Kyra Kirkwood

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

 

Photo #2


Film (with rating): Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (PG)

 

Studio:
Warner Home Video

 

Summary: When
a former feline agent goes rogue with plans to unleash a device to bring down
all of her enemies–both cat and dog varieties–the felines and canines must join
forces to prevent a global “cat-astrophe.”

 

Review: Ah,
talking dogs. Why not? Hollywood loves it some anthropomorphism! And so do
audiences. “Kitty Galore” is actually better (much better, but
that wasn’t too hard of an accomplishment) than its 2001 predecessor, and it
features an all-star voice cast (Christina Applegate, Nick Nolte, James
Marsden, Neil Patrick Harris, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bette Midler). The plot
isn’t too ridiculous, and the dialogue proved pretty witty at times, too.


Director
Brad Peyton tosses in lots of biscuits for the adults to gnaw on while watching
this flick with the families; the “007″ spy-themed references are
quite funny and turn this into a fur-covered James Bond parody. And yes, Roger
Moore is part of the cast. Kids will enjoy the animal antics, as well as the
action scenes and the sniffing-butt humor. Sure, the movie is formulaic, but
really, what did you expect? It’s about talking dogs, freaked out felines and a
hairless, power-hungry cat (voiced hysterically by Midler).


This is not
“Eat, Pray, Love,” folks. (But watch for that review next week, just
in time for the long holiday weekend.) So grab the family and enjoy some
downtime before the holiday season kicks into full gear next week.

 

Extra highlight:
“Looney Tunes Coyote Falls.” Very cute.

 

What to serve for dinner:  Go
with a classic James Bond favorite go-to meal: scrambled eggs and bacon. Sure,
it may be breakfast food, but the kids will love having “brinner.”
Serve with some steamed asparagras on the side. And for the adults, shake (do
NOT stir) up a martini (www.mi6.co/uk).

 

Scrambled eggs a la Bond (www.commanders.com/)

12 fresh eggs

Salt and pepper

5-6 oz. of fresh butter.

 

Break the eggs into a bowl. Beat thoroughly with a fork and
season well. In a small saucepan, melt four oz. of the butter. When melted,
pour in the eggs and cook over a very low heat, whisking continuously with a
small egg whisk.While the eggs are slightly more moist than you would wish for
eating, remove the pan from heat, add rest of butter and continue whisking for
half a minute, adding finely chopped chives or fines herbs. Serve on hot
buttered toast with bacon cooked per package directions.

 

The “Vesper” Martini, inspired by “Casino
Royale”

1/3 oz Smirnoff Vodka

1 oz Gordon’s Gin

Splash of White Wine Vermouth

 

Pour all the ingredients into an ice filled shaker. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What do you think of movies that employ talking,
thinking and plotting animals? What would your pets sound like if they could
talk? What do our pets do when we’re not around to watch them? Who was your
favorite character? What’s your favorite talking-animal movie? Count how many
spoofs “Kitty Galore” tossed in there. Which one was your favorite?
Are you a big James Bond fan? Who was your favorite Bond? Favorite movie?
Favorite Bond girl? Do you like your martinis shaken or stirred?

Toy Story 3

Photo #1


Film (with rating): Toy Story 3 (G)

 

Studio: Pixar

 

Summary: Buzz,
Jesse and the rest of the Toy Story gang are mistakenly delivered to a daycare
center instead of the attic right before Andy leaves for college. It’s up to
Woody to convince the other toys that they weren’t abandoned and that they
should return home.

 

Review:
Rarely do sequels surpass their predecessors, and even more rare is a third
film of a trilogy that jumps to the top of the heap. Yet “Toy Story
3″ did just that with gusto. It is the best
of all three
films in the franchise by far. I mean, how can it not be fantastic when it made
grown men and women alike cry in the middle of a movie theater and then dig
through their long-forgotten box of childhood swag in the garage in search of
their own special toys?

Even if I saw this film without the benefits of
pregnancy-induced hormones, I would have still needed numerous Kleenex. The
ending is that good.

 

With Pixar at the helm, viewers knew they were in for a
visual treat. “Toy Story 3″ looks gorgeous, even without the 3-D
element seen on the big screen. But even more importantly, the movie is so
filled with meaningful, clever dialog and an amazing, satisfying plot, adults
and children both walk away touched and entertained.

It’s a complete mystery to
me how the geniuses behind this franchise keep hitting home runs without once
resorting to a tired, clichd character arc, plot twist or theme. The new
characters introduced, like Lotso, and subplots (Ken and Barbie are beyond
hysterical) illustrate how much effort and care went into the making of
“Toy Story 3.” No one, and I mean no one, phoned this one in.

 

The voice cast is another perk; the usual suspects all came
back, and more were added to the party. We’ve got Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen
as Buzz, Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head and Michael Keaton as Ken. Not a single
miscast. Even John Morris, the original voice of Andy throughout the first two
films, is back once again. Keeping voices the same only added more strength to
this Herculean franchise.

 

The message of “Toy Story 3″ was loud and clear,
yet so gently and beautifully woven into the film it didn’t come across preachy
or forced. Time marches forward. Kids grow up. Mortality is unavoidable. Life
happens. And yet, life goes on. And change can be embraced, not feared.

 

Who knew I could find such huge life lessons at the foot of
a plastic space ranger and a spaghetti-thin cowboy?

 

Extra highlight:
Dry your eyes and watch the “Day & Night” theatrical short.

 

What to serve for dinner: “Pizza Planet” is Andy’s favorite
restaurant, so serve up some Toy Story Veggie Pizza Planets for dinner. End
with some Green Alien Cupcakes (all courtesy of www.family.go.com/disney).

 

Toy Story Pizza Planets

 

    *
Flour, for your work surface

    *
Store-bought pizza dough (approximately 14 oz.)

    *
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

    *
1/4 cup pesto, store-bought or from your favorite recipe

    *
1/4 cup cooked broccoli florets, chopped

    *
1 cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese

    *
Grated Parmesan cheese

    *
Pizza sauce, for dipping (optional)

 

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll, or
stretch, into a rectangle about 1/4″ thick. In a small bowl combine
ricotta and pesto. Spread the ricotta-pesto mixture over the surface of the
dough and sprinkle with the cooked, chopped, broccoli florets. Top with
shredded mozzarella. Roll the dough lengthwise, into a log. Cut your pizza log
into 1″ rolls. Kitchen shears work best for this.

 

Place cut rolls 2″ apart on a parchment-lined baking
sheet. Sprinkle the tops with grated Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for
12-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the dough is lightly browned.
Serve your planets warm, with pizza sauce for dipping.

 

Green Alien Cupcakes

 

    *
Cupcakes, baked from your favorite recipe

    *
White frosting, store-bought or from your favorite recipe

    *
Neon green food coloring

    *
Mint-flavored chewable candies (found packaged in rolls)

    *
Green apple sour belts

    *
Green apple sour straws, cut into 2″ pieces

    *
Black decorator gel icing

    *
Kitchen shears, or a small leaf shaped fondant cutter

 

First, mix up a batch of alien green icing by adding few
drops of neon green food coloring to your favorite white icing. Prepare your
aliens’ ears. Cut ears, shaped like teardrops, from green apple belts. A pair
of kitchen shears works well, or use a small leaf shaped fondant cutter. You
will need two ears for each cupcake. Frost cupcakes and insert a 2″ sour
straw antenna. Press your ears into the sides of the cupcake.

 

Line up three mint-flavored, chewable candies as eyes, and
dot with black gel icing for pupils. Give your aliens an awed expression by
drawing on a circle for a mouth with black gel icing.

 

What to talk about over dinner: Why was this “Toy Story” so much better
than the other two? Or do you disagree? Who is your favorite character? Least
favorite? Why? What was your favorite childhood toy? Did you have your own
Woody? Why did you love that toy so much? What happened to it? Is it hard for
you to part with childhood treasures, or do you keep everything? Where are they
now? Did you pass any along to your kids? What toys did your children like, or
do they like now? Do their choices surprise you?