November 2014 archive

Stanley and Clyde: The Changing of Masculinity in Films

This is an excerpt from a research paper I did for my class, Introduction to Masculinity, in which I was asked to write about masculinity in culture and its effects. So naturally I decided to write about masculinity in films, in particular two films, A Streetcar Name Desire and Bonnie and Clyde. Here is part of that paper in which I discuss Streetcar and Brando’s groundbreaking performance. Note: I don’t speak as much about the film itself as I usually do but instead the single importance of the Brando performance.

Although A Streetcar Name Desire is mostly remembered for introducing film audiences to Marlon Brando and in particular an acting style known as method-acting, its contribution to popular culture goes further with the way men could be seen sexually.   Prior to the release of A Streetcar Name Desire, male sexuality was more used in an unseen nature of sexual innuendos or longing glares at female counterparts.   How did this particular film change the presentation of men as sex symbols in later films? First, we must not pretend that male actors weren’t sexy or sexual before Streetcar but they weren’t presented as sexual objects in the manner that we see Marlon Brando. Male sexuality prior 1951 was bottled up or under strict control (mostly due to the “Hollywood Codes” that were governed by Motion Picture Production Code, which monitored and prevented any strong use of profanity, violence or sex in films). In Roger Ebert’s 1993 re-review of Streetcar, he discusses the lack of edginess to performances before Brando. He says, “Before this role, there was usually a certain restraint in American movie performances. Actors would portray violent emotions, but you could always sense to some degree a certain modesty that prevented them from displaying their feelings in raw nakedness.” The measure of a man’s sexuality such as Cary Grant was in how he wore a black suit, not in the way he looked without his shirt on. (more…)

Charm, style, and a winning smile were the best and only way to display male sexuality pre-Brando in his sweat-covered tank top.   In his classic performance of Stanley Kowalski, Brando is presented as the object of sexual desire, which we see him using his sculpted body to his advantage. In the most memorable scene in A Streetcar Name Desire (the Hey Stella! Scene). Stanley is beside himself after an abusive fight with his wife Stella, Stanley (Brando) is in agony, begging for Stella to return to him. He is screaming out to the heavens for her to come back home and in the scene his shirt his ripped showing Brando’s exposed back. Stella eventually comes out from hiding at her neighbor’s home to see her crying, begging husband. She begins to come towards him while he screams for forgiveness and she does so. Although it may appear that Stella returns to Stanley because he has apologized for hitting her, she has returned because she can’t refuse the sexual desire she has for him. This is made clear by Stella admittedly needing to rub Stanley’s exposed back, then kissing him.

Susan Bordo discusses in her book, The Male Body, which examines the history of masculinity in culture, how despite his villainous behavior in the film, Stanley and Marlon Brando became sex symbols, “However women viewers may have responded to the ending, they undoubtedly went away from the movie with a set of powerful images emblazoned on their sexual imaginations. That first shot of Brando, taking off his bowling jacket, revealing a wet clinging short-sleeved T-shirt stretched over the most beautiful male chest ever (pg.136).” Along with his physique being an obvious part of the sex appeal, his wardrobe as Stanley Kowalski was key to cementing the character and actor as part of the new era in masculinity. The simple wardrobe of tight blue jeans and tight white shirts would be a style that would forever be part of male culture, from greasers to hipsters. Again, Susan Bordo explains how revolutionary Brando’s performance in the film was in shaping masculinity in the 50’s and beyond saying, “Brando almost went crazy when he saw how he looked in the skintight shirt and jeans: “This is it! This is what I’ve always wanted!” he exulted. Not just Brando. Brando’s look in Streetcar, (shortly to be copied by James Dean, Paul Newman, and others) became the style for sexual macho in many gay male circles and a required uniform for many would be teen rebels (pg.138)” So with that, A Streetcar Name Desire importance in film history is not only due to the importance of the way actors perform but in how we can see men’s sexuality while speaking of their masculinity at the same time. Brando’s sexuality would change not only the mediate films of the 50’s and 60’s but now can be seen to have an effect on modern performances such as Michael Fassbender in the intensely animalistic sexual showing in the film Shame or Joaquin Phoenix role as an untamed man with little on his mind besides sex in The Master Ironically or perhaps unsurprisingly, if you know the history of Brando, he slowly tried to avoid being thought as the honking stud with his film choices after Streetcar and his eventual infamous weight gain during the filming of Apocalypse Now, 30 years after Streetcar was released.


Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

You know how you always have an opened can of chipotle peppers in adobo hanging out in your fridge and you don’t know what to do with them? Oh you aren’t addicted to them like I am? Got it. Well, how about we throw them peppers into our cranberry sauce this holiday? Crazy. I might be. Lost my mind. A little. But when you are munching on that after Thanksgiving turkey sandwich with all the fixins’ and this chipotle cranberry sauce is the perfect condiment, you’ll be thanking my craziness. (more…)

There’s something magical about making your own cranberry sauce. It’s super festive and comforting. Your house smells like Christmas and you have control over what you want out of your cranberry sauce. Do you like it tart? Or sweeter than sweet? Maybe a little citrus boost? I opted for a little smokey with a little sweet. This cranberry sauce isn’t spicy by any means but has a little smokey kick to it. Perfect!

I think this is my favorite color scheme ever.

We got fresh cranberries (what beauties!), water, orange and lemon zest, sugar (I like mine sweet!), fresh orange juice, and the black sheep of the recipe: a chipotle pepper.

Everything is thrown into a pot and cooked down. The cranberries will pop creating the thick jelly-like sauce we all know and love (but not my husband). I like my cranberry sauce best cold and slathered on a croissant with butter. Or I wouldn’t judge you for adding a smidge of mayo for the best turkey sandwich condiment. This cranberry sauce would be perfect atop a brie wheel covered in puff pastry and baked to ooey gooey goodness. OR if you want to take a walk on the wild side, bake up your favorite batch of brownies and swirl this sauce in before they bake. Instead of a turkey sandwich, you could make enchiladas instead with the same ingredients and this cranberry sauce would be the perfect accompaniment. Whatever you choose to do with it, I hope you enjoy it. Have a Happy Thanksgiving loves!

Cheddar Chive Drop Biscuits

I was always the kid at any holiday table who would load their plate up with all the rolls and bread topped with salty butter before I even touched my turkey and gravy. What can I say? I love my bread and butter. The rolls were never homemade, always the store bought kind and I never demanded anything more. Growing up, I would hear of what my friends would have at their Thanksgiving table and I would think it was peculiar. Homemade biscuits, croissants, parker house or clover leaf rolls. Even recently, I’ve been okay with leaving the rolls to Giant’s bakery since no one really cared otherwise. (more…)

Most of us don’t include the bread portion of our Thanksgiving meal when we are making the meal from scratch or mostly from scratch. It’s too much to think about. Buying envelopes of yeast seems like a chore (or that’s just me), and getting flour all over my kitchen isn’t as exciting as getting butter splatters everywhere. Well, my friends, these biscuits will change your entire opinion on the latter. Drop biscuits are easy, no muss, no fuss, and turn out delectable every single time. They are just a simple combination of the 3 main food groups: flour, butter, and heavy cream. I made 2 kinds of biscuits for you but I’ll save the other one for after Thanksgiving. These Cheddar Chive biscuits are fluffy, buttery, salty, and have a slightly smokey flavor due to the paprika. Since you need cold butter to make these biscuits, you don’t need to wait around for the butter to soften, allowing these to be made in a pinch! I hope you venture out and try these lovelies!

Our ingredient line up:

Butter, chives, heavy cream, white cheddar, garlic powder, paprika, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.

We mix our dry ingredients then add the butter. Butter is broken down then we add our cheese and chives.

Our cream makes for a sticky dough and we use a measuring cup to make the “drop” biscuits. I used 1/2 cup measuring cup and it made large biscuits. If you want them smaller, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup. Bake and that’s it! Get ready for your kitchen to smell amazing!

This recipe makes HUGE biscuits, perfect for Thanksgiving dinner and sandwiches for leftovers! These biscuits are best served hot but can keep in the fridge for about 3 days. Confession: I might have made a bacon and egg sandwich on these suckers last night. No regrets! Happy biscuit making!

Thanksgiving Inspiration

Happy Friday! I hope this post finds you well! I wanted to help you this Thanksgiving, just in case you needed a point of reference as to what in the world to make next Thursday (can you believe it?!). One down side of having my own blog is that it doesn’t give me too much time to try other cooks’ recipes, which I love doing. So I gathered some of my recipes for you (and still more to come) but also some recipes around the Internet that I plan on making or dream of making this holiday. So sit back, relax, and get that mouse ready for some bookmarking! (more…)

1. I’m sure you saw these from yesterday.
2.Here’s a new kind of casserole to have at your holiday table, just minus the chicken because chicken and turkey might be overkill: Thyme Chicken Pasta Bake
3. Oatmeal Cookie Apple Crisp because duh!
4. Let’s update that sweet potato casserole to this gratin.
5. These macaroons need a proper send off before Christmas peppermint everything takes over.
6. My favorite stuffing ever.
7.I made this pie for the first time last year. It’s like a brownie meets pecan pie. Nothing wrong with that!
8. Mac and cheese became a tradition when I got married. Brie Mac and Cheese with Figs is the perfect mix of elegant and rustic.
9. Making your own ice cream just became a lot easier. I’ve made this no churn ice cream twice already and it would go perfectly with any Thanksgiving pie. Enjoy the other recipes on the blog, very simple, delicious, and gluten free!
10. If you are looking for something other than pie for dessert, look no further. It’s everything we love about pumpkin pie except easier and moussier (so not a word!): Pumpkin Mousse.

Now, enjoy your weekend of planning and grocery shopping! What are you looking forward to the most for Thanksgiving? Also, I do have some more recipes coming up next week that are easy peasy and great for any holiday so stay tuned! Happy Weekend guys!

French Onion Mashed Potatoes

‘Tis the season of casseroles. We all have our dirty cookbook pages marked, begging to be opened and rediscovered because everyone just has to have YOUR green bean casserole or we have our unrealistic attempts of “something new this year” bookmarked on our laptops. Oh and don’t even get me started on the pies. As overwhelming as creating a memorable holiday can be, it’s good to have a game plan and here is your play by play for Thanksgiving….sike. I agree it’s helpful to have a game plan but unfortunately we live in a world of unpredictable chaos that can either make or break your day. That’s a lot of pressure for said game plan! My go to recipes are ones I can easily prepare the day or night before and all they need is a simple trip to the oven. Now, I understand some recipes would be hard to make the day before or even become not so appealing (I’ve made mac and cheese for 5 years in a row now for 10+ people so I get it) but maybe our chopping, slicing, and dicing can be done the night before just so you don’t accidentally hurt yourself on the big day. Not a sermon, just a thought. (more…)

You probably think that I’m some kind of mashed potato guru or that Thanksgiving day is my Olympics but let me let you in on a little secret: this was my second time making mashed potatoes…ever. In all seriousness, mashed potatoes have scared me and I always sucker my wonderful sister-in-law into making them. Pathetic I know. I decided to brave these taters and I’m oh so glad I did! I love french onion soup so I wanted to really stick to those simple but hearty elements of the soup. Meaty, dark onions, crusty croutons, and a gloriously cheesy topping. These potatoes were easy, cheesy, creamy and perfect for any Thanksgiving table!

Our ingredient line up:
From Top Left to Right: Butter, onions, heavy cream, fresh breadcrumbs, garlic, Worchestshire sauce, Gruyere cheese, fresh thyme, beef stock, and golden potatoes.

I didn’t mention brown butter is involved because I wanted to surprise you so SURPRISE! You can’t go wrong here. Embrace the butter. We add our heavy cream, fresh thyme, and garlic to the brown butter and let it simmer. You could just add this to the mashed potatoes and be done. But why would you want to be done when cheesiness is just around the corner?

But not this corner! Here, we have the “french onion” part. The onions are cooked down and drenched in Worschestshire sauce and beef stock making them nice and meaty. Think French Onion soup here. That is the inspiration after all.

Next, we layer out potatoes. Spread half of the potatoes in a greased casserole dish.

Add onions (making sure that luscious broth is also included), and breadcrumbs (our “croutons” here).

Then top with the nutty Gruyere. Rinse and repeat. Also, indulge every need to snack on the Gruyere as you cook. I always shred just a little bit more than I need for snacking. You’re the cook!

Now, I wanted to show you the delicious layers from this angle. Can you see the broth from the onions seeping into our wonderful potatoes? That’s magic and perfect moisture for our potatoes so they won’t dry out. Just bake this off in the oven.

Serve this hot! Right out of the oven! And I wouldn’t be offended if you added a little gravy from Thanksgiving dinner to these potatoes. Happy tater making!

Believing is Art: Whiplash

Chris and I saw this movie a couple weeks back and loved it! Here is Chris’s review of the fantastic film!

The “struggling artist” genre is perhaps what I fall most prey to loving more than any other genre, for a lack of a better term: it’s my chick flick. Perhaps, this is because my own desires and inability to be a great artist (just being honest). Some of the best films made are about the ups and downs of the artistic life. The beloved Fellini picture 8 ½ best shows the weight that is carried on an artist (or a filmmaker as it is in 8 ½) whose public expectations have surpassed his own artistic desires. The Coen Brother’s, Inside Llweyn Davis, deals with trappings of the narcissistic and stubborn artist who is unwilling to play for the adoring crowds. While The Red Shoes showed the sacrifice that is sometimes demanding to accomplish acclaim and heights that few are willing or capable to reach. Each of theses films are at times brutally honest of the unglamorous parts of such sought after avenues, while speaking to the need to create. (more…)

Whiplash is the story of Andrew (played by Miles Teller), a young jazz drummer, who attends one of the most respected music schools in America. In only his first semester, he grabs the attention of the most renowned (and feared) teacher in the school, Professor Fletcher (played by J.K. Simmons), who pulls Andrew out of a class to have him join Fletcher’s own class band to be the alternate drummer. Although in they’re initial interactions Fletcher comes off as Mr. Chips, his true colors as a hard nose psychopath comes out in the band sessions. Both Andrew and Fletcher are trying to gain something from this “relationship”. For the student, it’s the pursuit of becoming the next Buddy Rich, a great jazz drummer, while also ultimately earning the respect of Fletcher. For the teacher, he has someone he can form into a true talent with extreme measures to do so for the sake of art.

Damien Chazzele (writer/director of Whiplash) comes from the school of Scorsese with a very energetic style of direction with much of the feel and pacing due to the fine editing that matches perfectly with Andrew’s jazz drumming. Many think what makes a Scorsese film a “Scorsese film” is the violence but that’s just a lazy observation. The strength of Scorsese is knowing when to turn the pacing, energy and cuts up to a ten or to turn it down to a five. Chazzele has this similar eye for pace that can be seen in Scorsese films, in particular Mean Streets and Goodfellas. What Chazzele perhaps does best, is what he accomplishes through his collaboration with the superb performance of J.K. Simmons. This truly is an eye opening performance for Simmons, who has always been a trustworthy character actor in a number of films (Juno and the original Spider-Man movies). In the early parts of the film, Fletcher lurks around the spaces of the music school like the shark from Jaws; you know at some point your going to see him in full attack mode but Chazzele wants to save that for when you feel relaxed and unprepared. Simmons plays Fletcher masterfully without sentiment and is someone who knows his own strengths as a teacher and how to pull the talent out of the best musicians with a drill sergeant attitude. Some of the best moments of the film are seeing Fletcher terrifying his class musicians, you’ll find yourself laughing in horror at the evil, manipulative things coming out this man’s mouth. Miles Teller is emerging as a talent with his charm and the “every young man” appeal in other roles (The Spectacular Now and Divergent) but his very reserved as Andrew, that is until he gets behind his drum set, where he shines and explodes. His spark comes alive whenever he has to display or fight for his talent whether in discussion or in showing his abilities.

Without giving much away, in the last fifteen minutes, Andrew is given the opportunity to really show what he has. Fletcher puts in front of him a challenge, in which he either has to step up to or fold under. What proceeds to happen is without a doubt the most exciting 10-15 minutes captured on film this year (this includes any big budget explosion action movie). It’s mesmerizing and will suck you in, like as if you where a longtime jazz fan. I know nothing about jazz music except for the occasional times my mother would play Kind of Blue or Bitches Brew while cleaning the house when I was a kid but this movie gave me a strong desire to play the greats (Louis Armstrong, Buddy Rich and Miles Davis) when I got home.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Dip

This is how it usually goes: I down a protein shake half asleep on my drive to work (my husband is the driver so I can be half asleep). I get to work a little more awake and disheveled (is it the weekend yet?) and try to get my morning tasks finished before my customer service line is set on fire. Around 11, I’m starving; like “I could eat that chocolate chip cookie I threw out on Friday because I have that much self control” hungry. So trying to be an adult, I usually come prepared with a snack to get me through to lunch. Sometimes, it’s edamame crackers with a kale yogurt dip (shout out to Trader Joe’s). Sometimes, it’s my Larabar I usually save for the afternoon slump. Sometimes, it’s a piece of fruit that is hopefully in season. But I still feel like the healthy snack idea well runs dry and then I become bored, hence the thrown away chocolate chip cookie. (more…)

Real talk. The holidays are upon us and as my heart grows bigger with excitement for the festivities to come so does my waste line if I’m not careful. In an attempt to dream up decadent holiday recipes, I also have to think of things to eat that aren’t as calorie filled. I know you understand this predicament and I am here to tell you we will get through this! I love apples and peanut butter for a snack but peanut butter’s serving size is itty bitty compared to my appetite in the morning. In this dip, we stretch out peanut butter’s peanut butteryness and make it more cheesecake like. I know you don’t have a problem with that. The best part is you can make this dip as healthful or decadent as you want but make sure you serve it with a yummy dipper! For me, it’s apples.

Our easy peasy ingredient line up:

Top to Bottom: Creamy peanut butter (or chunky if that’s your flow), greek yogurt, honey, cream cheese, and cinnamon.

We throw all of our ingredients into a mixing bowl and whip it! Whip it good! I mean, look at that dreaminess. You could add chocolate chips or nuts or dried fruit. Whatever you want. As for me and my house, we will serve it just as it is!

This dip is posing all pretty for you. That fluffiness is all I need! You can serve this for the holidays but I think it should be kept our little secret for those hangry snack attacks. Happy dip making!

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

Coming off of weeks of vacation, birthday celebrations, and the ultimate candy holiday, Halloween, low carb is key to our survival right now. I always like November because it gives you a break before the real heavy eating starts. By now, spaghetti squash is no secret to the endless possibilities of carb replacement. I made chicken alfredo with it and it was perfect! Totally satisfying and hearty without the food coma.

I started by first baking a whole spaghetti squash in the oven at 350 for about an hour. This time depends on how large your squash is; mine was pretty large. After the squash is cooked, cut it open lengthwise and let it cool (it will be very hot!). Once it has cooled slightly, spoon out the seeds in the middle. Take a fork and pull out the strands of squash; it will look like noodles! I like to toss mine with a olive oil and salt and pepper. Place aside.
Our alfredo is just heavy cream in a small saucepan with 2 smashed garlic cloves in it. Let the cream simmer over medium heat for just about 5-10 minutes, until the cream has thickened. For the two of us, I used just about 3/4 cup of cream so adjust according to how much you need. I shredded some rotisserie chicken and added it to the squash. Then just pour the cream over the chicken and squash and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. This is definitely an easy and quick meal that feels healthful. Enjoy!

Slow Cooked Asian Style Short Ribs

Slow cooker talk: I need them in my life. They make dinner so much easier. I even use them in the summer when it’s too hot to turn the oven on. Slow cookers are ideal for the full time working person or someone that just wants to throw dinner together and forget about it for the rest of the day until dinnertime. I feel like slow cooker meals have gotten a bad reputation throughout the years. The ease gets confused with the quality of products. Don’t get me wrong. I, too, have fallen victim to the world of creamed soups for a dump and go dinner. BUT, we can still have a dump and go dinner, we just upgrade our ingredients. What if I also told you that this dump and go meal is also worthy of a dinner party (something you would actually want to serve to other people). I have been fully immersed in a book of slow cooker recipes by William Sonoma and I’m literally starting from the very beginning of the book and working my way back. I came across this recipe and fell in love so I thought I would share. I tweaked it a bit to my liking but this is definitely a warm, comforting meal that doesn’t require that much work. You with me? (more…)

Before we get started though, we need to have a Daylight Savings ending talk. It’s hell for a food blogger, especially a newbie. I was just sitting on my couch, smelling the amazing aroma of what would be my dinner when I realized the sun was setting! I didn’t have a final picture! I did my best but had to scrap the pics. Hopefully, I can get my act together here. So now, we slow cook!

Our ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Beef short ribs, onion, garlic, ketchup, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar (I actually used white wine vinegar), a spice combo of cayenne, cinnamon, ground fennel seed, ground cloves, and fresh ginger. This may look like a lot of ingredients, especially on the printable page BUT most of these should already be in your pantry. It’s all about the flavor, baby!

Here is the dump and go part! We throw into the slow cooker all of the ingredients, except for the short ribs and spices. Our ginger looks like it’s in a happy mood today! Give it a healthy stir!

Our short ribs are seasoned and broiled on both sides so they are nice and brown. Add the short ribs into the slow cooker and turn the ribs a couple of times to be fully covered in the delectable sauce. These babies are slow cooked for about 6 hours until they are basically falling off the bone. I served mine with some broccoli I will be featuring later this week. Add some rice and you have a complete meal! Whew! Wasn’t that easy? If you aren’t a fan of short ribs, you can make the same recipe with a chuck roast. I might actually do that next time. Happy dinner making!