Friday, October 17, 2014

Video Game Pick of the Week: Chariot!

Welcome Back!

Today, I thought I would share with you a fantastic video game that I just discovered on my Xbox One called Chariot. The best part is that Chariot is FREE this month for Xbox Live Gold members! And who doesn't like free?


Chariot is a co-op platformer/puzzle game where you play a blue-haired princess on a quest to deliver your dead king's funeral chariot to his final resting place. Naturally, the ghost of the king accompanies you the entire way providing you with snarky comments and a boatload of criticism. You can play by yourself or with a friend as your faithful fiancé.

The goal of the game is to push, pull, shove, tug and fling the chariot through 25 levels of underground, maze-like catacombs. The environments are gorgeous and magical, fun to traverse and even more fun to conquer! I could probably sit here and talk about the environments all day long. The design is unique but the colors are what pulled me in. The levels are vibrant and bright with just the right mix of fantasy and realistic landscaping. The physics are realistic and provide a genuine challenge. Personally, I love platformers. These games remind me of simpler days when all I had was my trusty Nintendo NES and Super Mario Brothers.

I had a blast playing this game with my friend but it was just as fun playing it alone! So, give it a shot. I dare you not to become immediately addicted!

Chariot is available for Xbox One, PS4, Wii U and Steam.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

EASY Flour Tortillas

Welcome Back!

Most people, when they want a burrito and are out of tortillas, will go to the grocery store and buy them...or simply run out to Taco Bell or Del Taco and order a burrito the quick and easy way. I decided to try to make tortillas from scratch. I had never done it before. Tortillas were just something I always bought in the package or were already handily wrapping my delicious fajitas for me. But I was feeling adventurous!

Flour tortillas are shockingly easy to make. Most recipes call for lard or shortening but I used butter instead and the results were delicious! These tortillas contain ingredients you may already have in your pantry so you won't find yourself going out of your way to find what you need. They were slightly thicker and more filling than store-bought (as is usually the case with homemade bread) and they actually kept my burrito hotter longer than store-bought as well! Who woulda thunk? So, take a step outside your comfort zone and and whip up a quick batch of tortillas! You won't be sorry!



Ingredients

1 3/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
4 Tablespoons Chilled Butter
2/3 Cup Warm Water
Oil for greasing

Step One: Combine Flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix well.



Step Two: Add the butter and combine until you have a mealy, crumbly, dusty consistency. It's easiest to use a pastry cutter. You'll get a nice, even texture. These are great to have around, especially when making biscuits or scones when cold butter is essential.



Step Three: Add the warm water and mix together to form a rough, soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and work it into a smooth dough. Knead for about 5-6 minutes....



...until it looks like this!



Step Four: Lightly oil a bowl (vegetable or olive oil works perfectly) and coat the dough. Cover tightly and set aside. Let the dough rest for about 1 hour.


Step Five: Flatten the dough into a disk and cut into 8 even wedges.



Step Six: Roll each wedge into a ball and using a rolling pin, roll the ball into a thin, flat circle on a floured surface. To make rolling easier, lightly dust the rolling pin in flour and roll from the center of the ball out.



Step Seven: Stack rolled dough on a plate with wax paper between each tortilla. This serves three purposes. 1) It keeps the dough from sticking together. 2) It prevents the dough from drying out. 3) It makes transferring the dough to the pan WAY easier!



Step Eight: Pre-heat a dry pan on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, pick up a tortilla with the wax paper and plop it in the pan, dough-side DOWN. Don't cook the wax paper. That will not work out well. Cook on each side for one minute or until the tortilla is cooked and browned in spots. Don't be startled when air pockets begin to form. You can mash them down with a spatula or just let them deflate on their own.




And that's it! Flour tortillas! So easy! I hope you enjoy this recipe. Please comment below. I would love to hear from you! Join me next time when we'll be making...something tasty...I'll figure it out. Now, go forth and COOK!


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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Toasted Walnut Honey Cake

Welcome Back!!

It's Fall! And Fall means it's time to bake delicious treats. I love, love, love baking in the cooler months. Everything tastes a little better and...well...I'm not sweating my a$$ off in my tiny little kitchen with poor ventilation. 

My first Fall recipe is this delicious, dense cake. It's spicy, nutty and perfect with a cup of coffee for breakfast or dessert. I used brown sugar so the cake isn't overly sweet but I went all out with the cream cheese frosting for a bit of sweet satisfaction. Best of all...it's actually pretty easy. Because, let's get real, we have stuff to do....there are movies to watch, video games to play, children to warp....it's a lot. So, get your whisk ready and ratchet up that self-control because you will want to shove all of this in your face when it comes out of the oven!



Ingredients:

For the Cake:

1 Cup Butter (softened)
2/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Honey (warmed)
4 Large Eggs (beaten)
3 1/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Toasted Crushed Walnuts

For the Icing:

8 oz. Cream Cheese (softened)
3 Cups Confectioners Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
4-5 Tbs Milk

Pre-Heat Oven to 350º and butter (or spray with cooking spray) a 9x5 loaf pan and line the bottom with wax paper.

Step One: TOAST YOUR NUTS! Using medium-sized skillet, heat your crushed nuts over medium heat until they become fragrant, (about 10-15 minutes) and set aside. DO NOT wait for them to change color, you just want to bring out the oils and flavor of the nuts, not burn them. Burned nuts are funky, so be careful.



Step Two: Sift together flour, baking powder, ground nutmeg and ground cinnamon and set aside.


Step Three: With an electric mixer (or a whole lotta arm-power) mix together the brown sugar and butter until it forms a creamy, fluffy concoction that makes you want to eat it with a spoon. But don't. Trust me.



Step Four: Warm your honey! I don't have a picture, so just imagine what 1/3 cup of honey looks like in the microwave for about 20 seconds. You just want the honey to warm to the point where it's liquid, less thick, easier to work with. Don't COOK it; WARM it.

Step Five: Mix the honey in with your butter/brown sugar until nice and smooth. It should actually be kind of runny.



Step Six: Beat in your eggs! And beat them WELL! Gradually add your eggs to the mixture and beat thoroughly. Eggs want to separate and glob together, especially the whites. Be prepared to spend a good amount of time on this step. 

*TIP It helps to beat the eggs separately before adding them to the mix. 



Step Seven: Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, gradually add the flour mixture and toasted nuts to the egg/butter mixture and stir until a sticky dough forms.


Step Eight: Scoop the dough into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.


Step Nine: Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cover with foil for the first 20 minutes (this will prevent the top from getting too brown). The cake is done when you can test it with a toothpick and it comes out clean.


Set the cake (in the pan) on a wire rack and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Use a knife and run it along the sides of the cake to ensure it is not stuck to the pan and then turn the cake out on the wire rack. Peel the wax paper from the bottom and let the cake cool completely.

Cream together all the ingredients for the frosting until smooth and slather your cake with it! Slice and serve!



When you store this cake, let the frosting set up and wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate to keep it from drying out.  Chances are good it will only last a couple of days anyway. Enjoy!


I hope you enjoy this recipe. Please follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for all the latest 8-Bit Cook news!

Check in next time for easy home-made flour tortillas!





Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ichabod's Buttermilk Doughnut Holes

Welcome back! 

I know it's been a minute since my last post and I am sorry, dear readers, for being so neglectful. But I think today's recipe may well put me on the path to forgiveness!  

Let me preface this post by telling you that I am a Sleepyhead. What is a Sleepyhead, you ask? No, I am not referring to some form of Narcolepsy, but I am completely, utterly obsessed with the Fox series Sleepy Hollow. It's a modern adaptation of Washington Irving's  classic tale about a headless horseman and the town he terrorizes. Ichabod Crane, played by the charming and handsome Tom Mison, is brilliant and sardonic as he battles his way through the modern era with "Leftenant" Abbie Mills at his side. I'm not going to babble on for too long, so just take my word and watch it if you haven't seen it. 



The following recipe was inspired by the episode from season one called Blood Moon. Ichabod experiences doughnut holes for the first time and falls in love...and is then promptly disgusted by the 10% levy (tax).  I used buttermilk for a more dense and satisfying doughnut hole along with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg for a little extra flavor.

So, here you go, my fellow Sleepyheads....and future Sleepyheads! Enjoy! And don't forget to serve them up in a brown paper bag with a cup of coffee on the side!



Ingredients

For the Doughnut Holes

5 Cups Vegetable Oil for Frying
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
3 Tablespoons Sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Cup Buttermilk
2 Eggs
1/4 Cup Unsalted Sweet Cream Butter (melted)

For the Glaze

1 3/4 Cups Powdered Sugar
5 Tablespoons Whole Milk
2 teaspoons Vanilla (or Almond) Extract


STEPS

1) Whisk together all the ingredients for the glaze and set aside. If you're feeling sassy, soften up some cream cheese and throw it in for funsies (be sure to compensate with a little extra milk). It didn't occur to me until after I made this batch that it would have really been delicious.


2) Mix together well all dry ingredients for the doughnuts and in a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk and the eggs until completely smooth (no obvious whites or yolk floating around).



 I know, guys...lots of whisking...we'll get to the fun stuff soon, I promise. In the mean time, let's take a moment to appreciate Tom Mison...so dreamy...





Ahem...where was I? Oh, yeah! Doughnut holes!



3) Combine the buttermilk/egg mixture with the dry ingredients and work until a soft dough forms using a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon. You'll end up with something that looks like this:


4) Add melted butter to the dough and work together well until you have a nice, soft, sticky dough like this:



 5) Pre-heat oil in a deep pan to 350º. If you don't fry very often, use a thermometer to keep track of the rising temperature. Hot oil is nothing to mess around with. For the pan, my favorite thing to use is a Lodge Cast Iron Chicken Fryer. Lodge makes amazing cast iron skillets. They last forever and I use them for everything. Being from the Texas, we fry everything in cast iron...that's how my grandma did it and that's how I do it. 

6) Using your hands, form the dough into small balls no larger than 2 inches or so. Remember, as soon as the dough hits the hot oil, the baking powder will kick in and those suckers will get bigger. At this point, the dough is not very firm. And that's okay! Form the balls as you cook them. If you do them all at once and set a bunch of them aside, they will turn into blobby messes. So form about 5 balls at a time, pop them in the oil, let them cook, remove and repeat.


** Be sure to use a metal spoon to transfer your doughnut holes to the oil! DO NOT use your fingers because you WILL burn yourself! Safety first, kids!

7)  Fry each batch for about 5 minutes, flipping the ball over in the oil halfway through to cook both sides. As I said above, work in small batches, usually no more than 5 to avoid overcrowding the oil. Remove when the doughnut holes are golden brown and set aside on a paper towel to drain the oil. Move to a wire rack, drizzle with the glaze and serve em up warm for that season 2 Sleepy Hollow premiere!



So, there you have it...one of my favorite new recipes and one I will be making in the years to come. Enjoy the season premiere! I know I'll be watching!

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Movie Review: Knights of Badassdom

Welcome Back, Apprentices! I'm going to be honest with you right out of the gate, guys…this is not a "good" movie. You will not finish this movie having your mind blown by its awesomeness but, if you can appreciate the cheesiness, you will walk away with a satisfied chuckle. Unlike other films I deemed not-very-good and raged over the two hours of my life I will never get back, I don't regret spending time with this goofy little gem.

Knights of Badassdom is about a group of LARPers whom, while out for a weekend battle, accidentally summon a succubus demon from Hell with a book of spells purchased from "the internets."  It is up to the LARPers to destroy the demon and save mankind…or, at least save the other LARPers from being slaughtered like sheep with only their foam swords to protect them. The cast is truly stellar with Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Steve Zahn (Reality Bites, Treme), Summer Glau (Firefly, Serenity), Danny Pudi (Community) and with Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) pulling double duty acting and as the executive producer.

The writing is not fabulous…there are some truly cringe-worthy moments centering mostly around Kwanten's character, Joe, the slacker lead singer of a Doom Metal band who gets dumped by his high school sweetheart. So, just let me warn you now, you will fight the urge to turn the movie off and walk away whenever Joe starts to sing. It happens twice…so just hang in there!

The characters are pretty underdeveloped and read like the first episode of an internet web series. In fact, this film probably would have been an awesome web series if the script was broken up and fleshed out a little more. But as a film, it falls flat in some areas. Right now you're probably wondering why I even liked it and I honestly don't have a solid answer for you except to say that the cast kept me engaged. Peter Dinklage was, as always, a joy to watch. As a mushroom-eating knight wielding a +3 mace made by his mother (and yes, I spent far too long wondering how his mother constructed the mace), Dinklage manages to steal almost every scene. The man can do comedy and drama like nobody's business and we, as a society, are better for having him entertain us. Steve Zahn is hilarious as an "accidental millionaire" hiding from reality as a level 27 Wizard. He is so oblivious to reality and consumed with his imaginary world that he, ironically, can't face the fact that he actually summoned a demon. Ryan Kwanten and Summer Glau have their moments. In one particular "fight" scene, I had a faint glimmer of River Tam's epic battle in Serenity when she took on a roomful of Reavers on her own. But in this film, the lack of stunt choreography only served as a reminder that the memory was all in my head. Glau's physicality was underused and the scene poorly shot in what could have been a fantastic film highlight. But remember, these are LARPers, not actual "big damn heroes."


The real stand-out performance for me was Jimmy Simpson who plays Ronny, the Gamemaster. He is introduced as the foil, the long-time rival of Joe going back to their days together playing Dungeons & Dragons. Upon first impression, you think you are just going to hate this guy…he's the master of his LARPing domain (likely the only domain he has ever and will ever master) with his minions trailing after him as he barks orders in hilariously butchered Olde English. But every moment with him onscreen is pure gold. He plays the part with the perfect balance of conceit and comedy. Had he tipped the scales too far in either direction, the character would have been ruined and I'm fairly certain the character WOULD have been ruined in the hands of any other actor. Simpson found the charm of the character as deeply invested in the game and truly appreciating the imagination and creativity behind it. Ronny's sincerity gives him a lovable quality that, again, could have been buried in smarminess had another actor been in the role.

Clearly filmed on a budget, this movie contains precious little CG. And I think we're all better off for it because…honestly, it's not very well-done. Most of the gore happens offscreen with copious amounts of fake blood being thrown around (a la the original Evil Dead) and a final "boss fight" with a wonderfully terrible, floppy latex monster rampaging through the LARP battlefield. I won't ruin the sheer, campy awesomeness of the monster by posting a picture here. I want you to experience it yourselves.

I've read other reviews of this film that speak of genuine disappointment that something so wonderfully nerd-centric went so wrong. But I think you can appreciate movies for different reasons. This movie kept me entertained and that's what matters. Besides, how could I NOT watch it as a huge fan of Firefly, True Blood, Game of Thrones and Community? Overall, I enjoyed Knights of Badassdom and I'll likely watch it again with friends, food and many, many cocktails.

Rating:

+ 10 Awesome Cast
+ 5 Wonderfully Cheesy F/X
+1 Just For Trying
-2 Terrible "Doom" Music & Awkward Singing
-7 Character Development/Writing


Stay tuned! Tomorrow I'll be posting my recipe for delicious buttermilk cinnamon rolls! Be sure to like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for the latest 8-Bit Cook news!



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Short Hair & Social Media

Welcome back, Apprentices! Today, we're taking a break from the kitchen to discuss something that has been swirling about the nerdosphere of late, short hair. Specifically, the great social experiment that occurs when a woman cuts off her long, luxurious locks. It's a topic near and dear to my heart because in May of last year, I shaved my head for charity. Yep. With a razor. It was GONE. Check out the picture below…see that? GONE! Shaved away by that lovely bearded and tattooed man!


Having short hair is an adjustment. It is. And when I made the decision to shave it off, I was met with mixed reactions from friends and family. More than once, I was asked, "So, what kind of wig do you plan to get?" I was taken aback by that reaction. I was shocked that some friends and family thought having a bald head would be something to be ashamed of…to be covered. Because how could I dare to go out in public with a shaved head? Other reactions ranged from praise and admiration to disbelief. Many of my girlfriends responded, "I could never do that." And I always wondered…why not? It's JUST hair. It grows back. But then, I realized, there is so much wrapped up in a woman's hair. Other's perceptions of our femininity and sexuality is frequently directly associated with the length of our hair. Even our health is associated with our hair length. One day, I went to the grocery store and the woman at the check stand gave me a pitiful look and leaned in close, "How's your treatment going, honey?" I blinked, not sure how to respond. I quickly recovered and smiled, "I'm not sick." She turned about three shades of red.

The social implications run far and wide and exist among men and women. They are perpetuated by a media-obsessed culture with one, set idea of what feminine beauty should be: young, skinny and long, flowing hair.

Recently, there was an online article published by some guy going by the name Tuthmosis entitled "Girls With Short Hair Are Damaged." The website that published the article is dedicated to the lowest common denominator of men. And it is not a website any male friend of mine would frequent since I prefer to keep the company of men who are…you know…intelligent. I can't bring myself to actually link to the site because, frankly, that's what the administrators want…more attention. The article proclaimed that women are delusional and damaged if they think they are, in any way, attractive with short hair and that others are just lying if they say women are attractive with short hair. He goes on to say that women with short hair are deranged, demented and that we must be making some sort of political statement if we cut off our hair. But, in the end, for that "writer," it boils down to sexuality because surely, all women with short hair, are lesbians. The "writer" freely touts his opinion as universal fact and goes on to detail how one day, a woman with short hair came to his place and texted with one hand and performed a sexual act on him with the other…way to underscore your credibility as a writer there, Sparky. You just proved my point for me. Your argument is now invalid. Pictured below, Tuthmosis in his natural habitat.





Felicia Day, founder of the Geek & Sundry YouTube network and Nerd Queen to us all, recently cut her hair into a gorgeous short and chic messy do. Because she is in the spotlight, the trolls came out to play on YouTube (as they tend to do), leaving stupid, infuriating comments like, “Love your videos, will be back when you grow your hair out.” How does the length of her hair effect the content of her videos or her network? Answer: It doesn't. Comments like those reflect the narrow, pathetic views of an individual incapable of seeing the bigger picture. He succumbs to the Photoshopped version of beauty that is most likely plastered to his bedroom walls and in the magazines stashed under his bed. And in the process, he loses out on some fantastic original content and possibly, as Felicia points out herself in a response on Tumblr, missing out on a real-life woman/girl.

A few online trolls even went so far as to post "before and after" photos of Felicia to prove their point. The best part of this little trollful attack, is that the before picture ISN'T EVEN HER! Read her hilarious and always classy response on her Tumblr page.


So, what is it about short-haired women that society finds so mind-boggling? Why does the length of our hair define us as women? By cutting off our hair, are we making a bolder, political statement that we will not center our existence around a patriarchal society any longer? Are we actively telling men their opinion no longer matters to us? Are we making some sort of sexual declaration of lesbianism? We can ask ourselves these questions and get hundreds of different answers.

Here are mine:

When I shaved my head, I felt free. It was a liberating, cathartic experience that made me feel happy and new. It's a feeling that I hope all women can experience at some point in their lives. And I love having short hair! Partly because it suits me and partly because my hair is naturally thin and curly. Living in the desert, this is a horrible combination since the dry air dries out my hair and makes it a frizzy, brittle mess. My hair looks healthy for the first time in 5 years.  Do I struggle with my femininity? Occasionally. But not because of the short hair. I struggled with long hair, too. Unfortunately, I was not born with that innate ability to accessorize or style my hair with any Vogue-like sensibilities. I have to try…really try to feel pretty. Not because I'm not pretty but because it is a constant journey to search out my own beauty. For women, beauty is a great social and personal experiment. We play with different looks, haircuts, clothes, jewelry and types of makeup until we find the combination that suits us best. We fight a daily battle against society's expectations and the media's unrealistic, unrelenting barrage of Photoshopped, "ideal" beauty. Sometimes we come out victorious... sometimes we're able to look past all the crap and see ourselves for who we really are: gorgeous, unique creatures with infinite gifts to offer the world.




Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all the latest 8-Bit Cook news! Be sure to check back next week when we'll be making buttermilk cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting!






Monday, February 3, 2014

Baked Andouille Corn Pups

Welcome back, Apprentices!  Today,  we're making baked andouille corn pups for a slightly healthier and spicy, cajun twist on the classic fried corn dog! The good news is, with this recipe, you don't miss out on that delicious, crisp cornbread outer shell but you cut WAY back on the grease! Keep in mind, you can substitute andouille sausage with regular hotdogs, turkey dogs or veggie dogs if you choose! I like andouille sausage because it is spicy, flavorful and delicious! So get ready to add a new staple to your family dinners and check off one more thing you can stop buying in the frozen food aisle! If you like this recipe, please take the time to like us on Facebook and follow on Twitter for all the latest 8-Bit Cook news!




INGREDIENTS

1 cup reduced-fat milk
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (extra for kneading)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
8 andouille sausages, halved
1 large egg, beaten (optional for browning)
Brown Mustard (or the sauce of your choice)

Heat the milk until it's warm to the touch. Usually, a good 30 seconds in the microwave on high will do the trick. You want to be able to stick your finger in and hold it there without being uncomfortable (about 100º - 110ºF). Just make sure your finger is clean first because otherwise…gross. Transfer the milk to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top of the milk. This will activate the yeast and make your dough rise. Let the yeast and milk set for about 5 - 10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.
 



In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda and set aside. Stirring together the flour salt and baking soda in a separate bowl helps to combine these ingredients more thoroughly and makes for a more even dough.


Add the olive oil, cornmeal & brown sugar to the milk/yeast mixture and mix together well with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.




Gradually add flour mixture, stirring well, until it forms a sticky dough.



Dust with more flour and using your hands, knead until it forms a smooth dough. Lightly oil a clean bowl and transfer the dough to the oiled bowl.



Cover and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.


Pre-heat your oven to 450º and lightly grease a baking sheet.

Divide dough into 16 equal pieces and roll into balls. Place on a lightly floured surface. Slice andouille sausages in half.



Roll balls of dough into ropes.



Wrap the ropes of dough around the andouille sausage, making sure to slightly overlap each turn.



Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and brush with beaten egg.



Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and serve with your favorite dipping sauce!

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Be brave and experiment with the dough! If using regular hotdogs or veggie dogs, add chopped jalapeño, minced onion or 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese to the dough during the kneading process. Remember, cooking is FUN! Don't be afraid to try out new things…what's the worst that could happen?

Points:

+10 Mixing
+ 5 Baking