BBQ Bison Stew

This is delicious!!! I love bison; one of the best burgers I have ever had was a bison burger. It’s red meat, but it’s extremely lean. Yet it also has a delicious taste that comes with it. Usually anything with BBQ is for the summer, but when it’s January, and you’re missing summer time then why not incorporate summer into a winter dish?! This is easy, fairly low maintenance, and just terrific for a lovely meal to eat or serve.

Ingredients: 1 lb bison, 1/2 onion, can diced tomatoes, can whole peeled tomatoes, can kidney beans, BBQ sauce (I used sweet and spicy), salt & pepper, carrots, sweet potato, and fingerling potatoes

Directions:

1. Cook onions until soft or brown in a large pan.

2. In a separate frying pan cook bison meat until barely pink.

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3. While the bison is cooking, cut sweet potato and fingerling potatoes into bite size pieces.

4. Add the potatoes to the onions with 1/2 cup of water and cook for 15 minutes, until potatoes soft to fork.

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5. Once potatoes are cooked, add bison and all tomatoes. Mix in BBQ sauce (as much as you like; I used 1/2 cup in the end). Salt and pepper as necessary.

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6. Cook until it’s nice and thick.

7. Serve with light cheddar cheese that’s melted.

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This is an amazing recipe, with a meat that’s fairly rare. I bought it from a specialty store and have been waiting for a unique dish to make with it. This definitely was awesome! Try it and let me know what you think!

 

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Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

As a graduate student, it is a bit of an understatement to say that I am stressed on an hourly basis. I have learned to do things that calm my mind, keeping it quiet and at peace. Reading is one of those activities that I love to do, and it’s even more soothing to read a novel that is based on a calming plot. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse has been on my list of books to read for a long time now. I always thought it was going to be a tome, but in reality was a short 122 pages. Don’t let the number of pages fool you, it is a great read, but not a throw-away paperback.

Siddhartha is a fictional novel that explains the life of the man Siddhartha who leaves his home embarking on a life-changing journey. I will have to say this is a fantastic book to read as a student. Many question the road they are on with respect to work, love, and the future. I would highly recommend this novel to any one who is unsure or needs some inner peace.

Siddhartha leaves home early in his life to wander the Earth as a beggar, in search of spiritual illumination. His best friend Govinda leaves with him and they are off to experience this journey together until they come across the Buddha. Siddhartha has a conversation with the Buddha, and so does Govinda, but separately. Govinda decides to then join Buddha and be one of his followers, where Siddhartha decides to stay behind and experience his own perspective.

From here, Siddhartha travels to a city and meets the beautiful Courtesan, Kamala. She teaches him the art of love and he, in order to gain her affection, works for a merchant and begins prizing materialistic goods. After years in the city, Siddhartha decides that it is not the life that he wants for himself and leaves Kamala. From there, Siddhartha meets a ferryman, Vesudeva, and works and lives with him for years. One day Kamala returns to the river and brings her son, also Siddhartha’s. Kamala dies from a poisonous snake bite, and Siddhartha wants to raise his son. Yet the boy does not like Siddhartha and ends up stealing all of their money and runs away. Siddhartha is heart broken, and it is Vesudeva who comforts him, helping him to realize what is important. The novel ends with Siddhartha and Govinda being rejoined and Siddhartha passing on his enlightenment to Govinda.

I cannot stress the utter peacefulness of this novel and the joy that it brought me to read. Siddhartha is such a humble and joyful character that one would want him to be your friend. In a society such as ours, it’s some times difficult to not get bogged down in the importance of materialistic goods. Isn’t it more important to know you are happy and fulfilled by the life you are leading? Wouldn’t it be more peaceful to worry more about eating to live rather than living to eat? For students, I find it more pressing to be excited to learn more and more and to be interested in the work rather than learning to live. This novel is a historic piece of literature and one that everyone should read. It is neither challenging nor simplistic. Reading it will give you a glimpse at inner peace and maybe change some of your perspectives on the importance of life. These are perhaps religious topics, but just in general, spiritual topics that one should consider. Just my thoughts, for what they’re worth.

Reign, The CW

I believe that I have written previous posts about my love for Elizabethan-era history. Recently on Netflix the first season of a show called “Reign” was newly released on the streaming service. It tells, in a fictional capacity, the beginning of Mary Queen of Scots as wife to the Dauphan of France, Frances. Throughout her life, Mary is guarded from the evils of the world and since childhood is hidden away in a nunnery until the day came when she was ready to be re-introduced to Court.

“Reign” not only looks at Mary’s life, but also that of life at the French Court, with King Henry, Queen Catherine de Medici, Frances, and Henry’s bastard son, Sebastian. In addition to the French Court, are Mary’s Ladies in Waiting: Kenna, Lola, Greer, and  Aylee. The Ladies have come to assist Mary, giving her a semblance of home through their presence, but also have come to Court to find husbands. Naturally, the show not only concerns the historical fight that Mary and the French royal family struggles with politics and matters of state, but also the fictional sense of relationships and Court intrigue.

The first and only season now available on Netflix is 22 episodes long, each being about 42 minutes. In general, the show is quick-paced, almost some times too much so, but moves quickly through time. Season 1 probably takes place over 18 months and it really is unnoticeable that so much time has past because the show keeps with it and drawing the viewer further and further into the plots.

However, it’s not only the plots that I really enjoyed. The costumes were something that you’d usually find in films. Mary’s four Ladies, herself, and Queen Catherine are the most beautifully dressed females on fictional television that I have seen in a very long time. The beading, the lace, the low and high neck pieces on all of the women are something truly incredible. Also, the wardrobes for the winter season in which all of the actors wore fur coats and scarves of fur was magnificent. Hats off to the seamstresses and designers who produced such beautiful pieces of are. Additionally, the sets were pretty awesome, but it was the on-site shots that were the best to watch. In particular, there was a scene with Sebastian and Frances, where they are at least in a foot of snow on a frozen lake. The viewer could see each breath they took and it felt as if you were there. Just fabulous.

I really cannot think of many things that I didn’t like about the show. In general, with the immense amount of time that past, it held its pace quite well. I have read quite a lot about Queen Catherine and how she was as a person, so much of her political pacts and issues that arose that were because of her were common, but I could see some get annoyed after a while. On the other hand, while I know a little about Queen Mary and how she wanted Elizabeth’s thrown and ended up being beheaded for it, I do not know much about her childhood. Yet, one aspect I wasn’t a big fan of was Mary’s transformation from a caring ruler, to a manipulative human being. You can see the difference in the very last show of the season that Mary changed dramatically and will use any means possible to protect her Scotland. But what she used to ask herself and doesn’t any more is: at what cost?

If you are a fan of historical fiction on television, and would like to learn something of European history, I would highly recommend watching “Reign”. Alternatively, if you like political intrigue, beautiful costumes, and cute men and beautiful women, I would also encourage you to watch “Reign”. It’s a great show, and I was rather surprised that it was produced by The CW, but props to them for making such a winner.

Transcendence; the film

I have gotten into the habit of watching a new film every Saturday in an effort to get into touch with what films have recently been released. Now, I am not a huge movie fan, but every once in a while I enjoy a good film. Since the advertisements for “Transcendence” came out a while ago I was intrigued because of the scientific basis of the film. The film stars Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, and Rebecca Hall with supporting actors Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, and Cillian Murphy.

Dr. Will Caster is shot by an anarchist group and has weeks to live because of radiation poisoning from the bullet that shot him. In an effort to save her husband, Dr. Evelyn Caster uploads his thoughts into an artificial intelligence unit that the Casters created. Evelyn is blinded by the AI unit for she thinks it really is her husband, and this causes a rift between Max (Bettany) and Evelyn. In short, Will’s AI part gets intertwined with every computer in the world and when Evelyn and him relocate to the desert, they establish their own labs. What Evelyn had no knowledge of was Will’s hope to control humankind by using nanotechnology to improve their physical capabilities and mental faculties.

This movie had an interesting perspective on the world of AI and whether it is a person or a computer that just wants to get more powerful. The question that kept on popping up throughout the film was what percentage of the AI unit was Will, given that it was his image and mind that gave rise to it?

The film was ok, in that it had some cool special effects, but the technology that it was based on was a little far fetched. The film had a gap of two years where I guess Will’s mind expanded its technology and whatnot to make the acceptable leaps in technological advancement it needed, and this was a bit confusing. Moreover, supposedly these nanoparticles could fission and copy wherever they were. Isn’t this kind of defying the law of conservation of mass? How do you duplicate without taking mass away from something else? This was confusing!

I guess the film was thought-provoking thematically, but that’s really all it was. There should be some concern over AI, but I’m not too sure that we have reached a point scientifically where this is a problem. Perhaps some day, but not today. In the meanwhile, this was an ok movie to watch on a lazy Saturday afternoon, and unfortunately, that’s all it was.

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

During the Fall of 2014 I was asked to join a group of graduate students and faculty on my campus called the Environmental Initiative. Every month, we get together, have dinner and a lively discussion about a range of topics that influence the environment. Being a part of this group of individuals has added to my knowledge about how mankind’s impact on the environment has played a role in several industries from economics, chemistry, biology, and history. These may be incredible variable disciplines, but they can all be intertwined with respect to environmental changes. Because of my interaction in this group, when I stumbled across Kolbert’s book review in the Washington Post I just had to read it.

Kolbert’s nonfiction novel The Sixth Extinction was recently published, and I waited until it came out in paperback to have a read. The book is rather well done and laid out in a fairly simplistic way to read. Each chapter discusses a different topic, area of the Earth that Kolbert traveled to, and animals or plant species that have been impacted by a change in the environment.

One of the greatest aspects of the book that I really enjoyed was Kolbert’s way of describing the science behind each of the extinction events or changes that have occurred in the fossil record or are currently happening. Sometimes scientists get frustrated with the way that non-scientists discuss scientific processes. The manner in which Kolbert discusses how pH can affect ocean life and plant forms and how the pH changes occur is one example of Kolbert’s style to effectively convey scientific processes while not “dumbing” them down for the average reader.

Another aspect that I really enjoyed from this book was the level of complexity that extinction events have on Earth. When one thinks about, as an example, the extinction even that killed the dinosaurs, one has to also think about the repercussions of their demise. Herbivores eat specific types of foliage, and when those herbivores die out then those forests are left to grow wild. The larger and more foliage a forest then is has a greater tendency to catch on fire and be decimated. What then replaces that forest are plants that are resistant to fires. This is an example of the natural progression that one extinction event can have on the Earth’s landscape, one in which that I never really thought about previously.

Lastly, I really enjoyed Kolbert’s willingness to travel across the Earth to see for herself the different areas that have been impacted. Her chapters were rich in information, but it was her actually going to the sites that she investigates in person that added a level of perspective that is not found in textbooks. One can learn a lot from textbooks and scientific papers (many of which Kolbert sites throughout the work) but to have a personal connection by traveling and seeing the fossils firsthand is something that I give Kolbert credit for and adds substantially to this work.

There were very few things that I didn’t particularly like about this book. And before I get into them, I need to preface this part in that this is not a piece of fiction. One cannot judge the caliber and denseness of this book compared to that of a work of fiction. This book IS dense and is NOT a quick read. One learns a lot from it, but it’s not one of those “throw-away” pieces. Now, in saying this, while I enjoyed the lay out of the book and it made sense, it really was unfortunate that each chapter stood on its own. This made for a difficult time in reading in that one had to read a whole chapter at a time, because if you put it down you’d either forget about the topic of discussion or some of the details, all of which are very important. On the other hand, I don’t really have an alternative for how Kolbert should have laid the novel out. But, I read this book while experiments ran or on the bus to and from work and one really needs a quiet place to read it. Also, and this is just a personal preference, Kolbert interjected a few times some unnecessary personal commentary. For example, she visited a fossil site and went to the gift shop and asked the woman working at the shop if she could get a tour. The woman responded that she was too busy, and Kolbert placed in the book something to the extent of “we were the only two on the site that I could see.” Snarky comments such as these really detract from the non-fictional, evidence-based arguments that this book was based on. The comments like these were unnecessary, superfluous, and rather just stupid. Was the woman paid to give you a tour? No. What was the manner in which you asked for a tour? Nice or deserving? Again, adding personal commentary about your experiences in site visitations was unnecessary, Kolbert, and could definitely have been left out of the published version.

Obviously, I really enjoyed reading the dense, but highly enlightening novel The Sixth Extinction. If you have the time and mental desire to broaden your horizons and learn about how humans have impacted this Earth, read it. Even if you do just read each paragraphs topic sentence you will learn a lot, and that’s sure saying something.

Chicken Fajita Stew

Happy 2015! I finally made a dish worth posting about. WOOHOO!

This recipe is fairly simple and well-worth your culinary time. Not too much of a time investment and tastes super yummy at the end. Unlike other recipes, I am going to add a section at the end of how I would tweak this recipe in the future.

Ingredients: 4 chicken thighs (can be breasts if you don’t like dark meat), 3 different color peppers, 1 yellow onion, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, 1 can of chickpeas, 3 cups chicken stock, 3 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp ground cumin, 2 tsp salt, garlic, 2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, touch of black pepper, olive oil

Directions:

1. In a large sauce pan, place a tbsp of olive oil and saute chopped onions. Once nice and soft, add matchsticks of bell peppers until they are nice and soft.

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2. While peppers and onions cooking, add tomatoes, chickpeas, and all seasoning to crock pot. Stir well.

3. Clean chicken and take skin off. Place chicken in crock pot on top of tomato mix.

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4. Place cooked bell peppers and onions on top of chicken.

5. Add chicken stock on top of bell peppers. Make sure that the chicken pieces are submerged in order to cook in crock pot.

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6. Cook on high for 5 hours and turn down to low until you are ready to eat.

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Alterations:

Overall, this recipe is really tasty and I enjoyed cooking it. I did though think it was a bit lacking in substance so I cooked a can of black beans and placed that in the bottom of my bowl and put the stew and chicken over it. I also added some low fat mexican cheese to each bowl of soup I ate to add some flavor. I would suggest to either serve this soup with beans or over spanish rice in the future. It needed some thickness to it. What do you all think?? Happy crock-potting!

Food Blogs and Update

I haven’t posted a blog about food in a long, long while. A few reasons include: over vacation I cooked things, but never took photos of any of the food (including three various cookies I made) and I made some dishes that really sucked!

One dish in particular was a 15 bean soup I was making this past weekend. I bought a bag of 15 beans and according to the directions soaked them in water overnight (12 hours, actually). I then proceeded to cook them in a slow cooker with chicken stock, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. I kid you not, after 12 hours of cooking (8 of which on high) the beans were still crunchy. It was 11pm by this time, so I turned my slow cooker off, but left the pot in the cooker until the next morning. By 5am the next morning, the soup was lukewarm and some of the beans were crunchy while others were the required softness.

Now, I don’t do crunchy beans. I also despise the idea of a soup that cooks for 17 hours. Chicken cooks in 5 hours or less on high. So if chicken cooks in that time, there is no reason beans should take 3 times that!

I hope to make something great this upcoming long weekend. I will have the time and drive to try something good. Maybe a curry dish, those usually turn out rather well for me. If you have any suggestions let me know.

Hope 2015 is off to a great start for everyone! I’m reading, crafting, and watching films at a great rate this year. It will be a year of change and all for the better, I hope!