Sunday, September 11, 2016

Cheese dip made from potatoes and carrots?

   You betcha! Well, it's close, anyway. For those of us with the dreaded "no more dairy" orders from our doctors, it's a pretty good compromise.

   I found this recipe on Instagram of all places, and tracked it back to the original blog it came from, Neurotic Mommy. I was pretty doubtful when I read the ingredients. Cheese? From vegetables? The real star here is the nutritional yeast. This was a new thing to me, as I had only ever heard of yeast being used as a leavening agent in baking, or in the creation of alcoholic beverages.

   This is a non-active yeast, so it doesn't work the same way. It comes in powdered form, or flakes. I was able to find the flake version at Whole Food. Trader Joe's and the regular supermarket didn't have it. It was only a few bucks for a pretty decent sized bottle.

   Apparently, there are quite a few uses for this in allergen free baking. It has a savory, cheesy/nutty flavor that really kicks up a lot of dishes that might otherwise be bland. Even though it looked like fish food, I was ready to give it a go.

   The recipe is super simple. It's basically just boil the veggies, then throw them, the yeast, and a few spices in a food processor and liquify them. Voila. Vegetarian cheese dip. If you're lactose intolerant, or allergic to dairy altogether, or just feeling adventurous, give it a go. I think you'll enjoy it. Recipe follows pics:

·         4 c red jacket potatoes, chopped
·         1 1/2 c fresh carrots, diced large
·         1/2 c water
·         1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
·         1/2 c nutritional yeast
·         1 tbsp lemon juice
·         1 tsp onion powder
·         1 tsp garlic powder
·         1 tsp parsley
·         1/2 tsp all spice seasoning
·         Salt/Pepper to taste

1.      Steam or boil the potatoes and carrots until tender.
2.      When that’s done place everything into a blender and run until smooth and creamy. Scrap down the sides if necessary.
3.      Pour over fries, vegetables or eat it straight up because it’s that good.
4.      Enjoy!

Keep stored in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. When it’s cooled it will firm up. Reheat it for a few minutes to get smooth and creamy.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl

   Two blogs in the same week? What is this madness?

   It was me getting to fulfill a childhood dream and see the best damn film composer of our lifetime conduct some of his very famous works at the Hollywood Bowl, that's what.
   I had been holding these tickets for MONTHS, ever since they went on sale. Williams has been coming to the Bowl for concerts every fall for a while, and I've never been able to make it until this year. The sad fact of the matter is, at 84, the cinema maestro is no spring chicken. I knew that if I missed seeing him, and then he was gone, I would regret it forever.
   The man is responsible for basically the soundtrack of my entire youth. He was absolutely ubiquitous in the 1970's and 1980's, composing the scores for Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Those are some of the best known themes ever put to film.
   Needless to say, I was VERY excited when the time finally came last night, and I was interested to see the Bowl, too. I've been living in sunny LA for five years, and never been.
   We got there plenty early, and I'm glad we did. The Bowl seats 17,500, and by the start of the concert, I think there were just a handful of seats left. People brought in all kinds of food and drink, and just about every other person you saw was carrying a lightsaber. I thought to myself "He HAS done other things besides Star Wars."
   It was when we finally got a program, and I looked at the night's selections, that I understood. The first half of the night was to be a tribute to Paramount Pictures, and would be selections conducted by David Newman, son of famed film composer Alfred Newman. After intermission, John Williams would come on and conduct a piece from Hook, a suite from The BFG, and a few selections from the Star Wars films. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. No Indiana Jones, No E.T., no Superman. Not even a Jurassic Park or Harry Potter. I didn't let it get me down too much, though. I was still getting to put eyes on John Williams and see him conduct one of his most famous themes.

   The first half of the concert with Newman was really excellent. They had film clips and montages running on the big screens for some of the selections, and they even live-scored the first ten minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness. It sounded so perfect, you were convinced you were just hearing the film, until you looked at the stage and saw the orchestra playing furiously. Amazing.
   After intermission, the lights dimmed again, and there he was. In walked John Williams. The gigantic crowd roared. He waved, went directly to his rostrum, and began conducting the first piece, "Flight to Neverland" from Hook. I wasn't as familiar with this film, but the music absolutely soared.
   With no interruption, he carried on with a suite of music from the recent film The BFG. This music I didn't really care for too much. I saw the film, and it was just okay. The music was well written, but not memorable for me.

   Finally, he took the mic and said a few words. He was really charming and funny, just as you'd expect. He talked about his career composing the music for the Star Wars films, including his recent collaboration with J.J. Abrams on The Force Awakens. He revealed that he was quite smitten with the character of Rey, and then conducted the orchestra to play her theme.

   Again, there were montages- scenes from ALL the Star Wars movies. People cheered and whooped loudly at some famous moments and beloved characters. It was amazing.
   Next, he spoke at length about composing Princess Leia's theme for the original Star Wars, and then the orchestra played that. It was stunningly beautiful. Really, really amazing. It starts off so quiet and tentative, and then builds to this amazing climax.

   Then came one of my favorite moments of the whole night. With no warning or word, the orchestra moved right into the infamous "Imperial March," otherwise known as Darth Vader's theme.  17,500 people went out of their minds. Every single lightsaber in the crowd lit up and started swinging in time to the music. It was a sight to behold. My lovely wife captured it on her cell phone:

  There were a couple more fantastic selections from Star Wars, and one final film montage, and then John Williams stepped down, waved to the crowd, and walked off the stage to thunderous cheers. A couple moments later, he walked back on for an encore:

   I love the Harry Potter movies. There's something absolutely magical about them. John Williams was the perfect guy to set that world up with his score. Hearing it live, you absolutely FELT the magic. He had actually been here a few months ago with the orchestra when Universal Studios opened "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter," and he had conducted this at that event as well. I bet people were just as affected then, if not more so.
   When that song ended, the orchestra rolled right into one of my very favorite movie themes of all time:

   We screamed and jumped up, and again the place went crazy. I have so much affection for the 1978 Superman and this huge, bombastic, heroic theme. It's something that the current, ridiculously morose and dark version of the character is sorely lacking. Stunningly good live.
   Once more, the maestro waved to the crowd and walked off. Again, the crowd roared for more. Again, he obliged. I thought for sure Raiders was coming. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised with the theme from E.T.

   This was absolutely beautiful. The music again soared, and made you feel like that young boy sailing across the face of the moon on his bike. Heartbreakingly beautiful.
   We wanted another encore, but the man was tired. As he made his final exit from the stage, he leaned his head over against his hands to mime "sleep" to the crowd, and we all laughed and cheered him off. National treasure John Williams. Truly one of a kind.
   I plan to see him every fall as long as he comes back. If you ever get the chance to see him in concert, DO IT. You will be absolutely transported.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

New Mexico weekend

   This past weekend, I went back to New Mexico for a very short weekend visit. It had been three years since I'd been back, and we really packed a LOT into a couple days!

   I flew in Thursday night, and then Friday, Mom and I did an all day road trip. We went north to Tent Rocks National Monument, then on to Bandalier National Monument, through Los Alamos (where we got tasty green chile burgers), through the Valle Grande, down through Jemez, and finally back to Albuquerque. It was an exhausting day of hiking, siteseeing, and picture taking, but it was amazing! I took about a billion pictures, which you can find on my Flickr account by clicking HERE.

   On Saturday, Dad and Lynn drove up from Elephant Butte, and my Aunt Gail joined us for a cookout.

Tasty burgers, corn on the cob, and potatoes

Relaxing backyard fountain


Lynn and Gail


   After the cookout, I rode back to Elephant Butte and stayed the night at Dad and Lynn's house. I had never been there before, so there was a lot to see.

   Sunday morning, we went to service at their church, and then it was time to play with the toys.

   First, we hooked up the boat and took it down to the lake for a quick run around the waters. There was a storm moving in, and it looked like all Hell was about to break loose, so we didn't stay out long. As luck would have it, the storm blew by without a drop.

Boat face

Cap'n Dad

   Next, it was time to meet Bigger Red. No, not BIG Red. Big Red is the name of Dad's big red Dodge Truck. THIS is Bigger Red:

   It was actually quite difficult to drive, despite the power steering. It was loud, rumbly, and stunk of exhuast, but it was FUN. Pretty cool machine. I drove it down the beach, and then in traffic a little bit on the way back to the house. I could really use one of these for rush hour on the LA 405.

   And just like that, it was time to come home. Hopefully, the visit will be longer next time. Until then, from the San Fernando Valley in California...