Film (with rating): Contagion (PG-13)


Warner Home Video


Summary:  A world-wide pandemic erupts when a new
and deadly form of the flu infects people across the globe.


Review: Being
a card-carrying hypochondriac, I also must be a bit of a masochist to have
actually wanted to see this film. And yet, there I was, begging my husband to
take me to the theater on “Contagion’s” opening night. I have a
weakness for end-of-the-world infection stories.

While “Contagion”
was riveting, it was not the film I anticipated. But that turned out to be just
fine. It was more of a character- and dialog-driven drama than an actioner with
a main, heroic figure who battles both flu bugs and bad guys, winning the war.
In fact, there were no battles requiring any CG-prowess, nor was there even a
main character.

The cast was star-studded: Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude
Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet (who did an awesome job). Each of these
characters carried nearly equal weight in the film. And it worked. Of course, I
had to fight the urge to floss Jude Law’s horrific fake teeth every single time
the man was on screen. Those things grossed me out more than the dead bodies.

But I digress.

“Contagion” did spark fear, but it also uncovered
answers and more questions. It explored the nature of what a real-life pandemic
might look like, both from the human side and the scientific one. Truth and
fiction blended together in this film, making it an entertaining,
quasi-educational experience. I found it fascinating. Especially the part where
it was revealed we touch our face a bazillion times every day. Ew.


Extra highlight:
“The Contagion Detectives”


What to serve for dinner: Cook up something soothing and nourishing, like
what Mama would make when you were home sick from school. Chicken noodle soup
with soft garlic breadsticks.


Soup (


2 1/2 cups wide egg noodles

teaspoon vegetable oil

cups chicken broth

1/2 tablespoons salt

teaspoon poultry seasoning

cup chopped celery

cup chopped onion

1/3 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup water

cups diced, cooked chicken meat


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg
noodles and oil, and boil for 8 minutes, or until tender. Drain, and rinse
under cool running water. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine broth,
salt, and poultry seasoning. Bring to a boil. Stir in celery and onion. Reduce
heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water
together until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Gradually add to soup,
stirring constantly. Stir in noodles and chicken, and heat through.


Breadsticks (


1 1/8 cups water (70 to 80 degrees F)

tablespoons olive or canola oil

tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

tablespoons sugar

teaspoons garlic powder

1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon minced fresh basil

cups bread flour

teaspoons active dry yeast

tablespoon butter or stick margarine, melted


In bread machine pan, place the first nine ingredients in
order suggested by manufacturer. Select dough setting (check dough after 5
minutes of mixing; add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or flour if needed). When
cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 20
portions. Shape each into a ball; roll each into a 9-inch rope. Place on
greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes or
until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove to wire racks. Brush warm breadsticks with butter.


What to talk about over dinner: What do you fear most? Nuclear attack or biological
warfare? Are you afraid of getting sick? What’s the sickest you’ve ever been?
How can we stay healthy? Do you believe in vaccines, or homeopathic remedies?
Who was your favorite character and why? What would you have done if you were
in the middle of a pandemic? Do we over-vaccinate? Is the flu shot worth it?
How many times a day do you touch your face?

The Smurfs

Film (with rating): The Smurfs (PG)


Studio: Sony


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


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 (
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 (,  followed by lots of Blue Velvet Cake ( 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



cups sugar

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


tablespoon cocoa powder

ounces blue food coloring

1/2 cups cake flour

teaspoon salt

cup buttermilk

teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

tablespoon vinegar



(8-ounce) package cream cheese

stick butter, softened

cup melted marshmallows

(1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar

cup shredded coconut

cup chopped pecans




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.




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!