Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What's Cookin' Wednesday: Bruschetta!

So there's a place near me that has a huge selection of wines and beers and I was there Saturday picking up some wine. I thought to myself, hmm... what would go great with a nice red wine? Answer: Bruschetta! So I picked up the ingredients and got to work making it on Sunday. I often make bruschetta when I'm having a party and it usually goes over pretty well. It's pretty simple and makes a great snack even without the party though.


1/2 of a French baguette
2 large tomatoes
1 medium onion
1 large bunch of basil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt & freshly group black pepper (to taste)

So first preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Then cut up the baguette into 1/2 thick slices and set aside.

Chop up the tomato, and onion and put in a non-reactive bowl (since we'll be using vinegar, an acid.) All I had was metal bowls so I had to make due with a pound cake bowl. Chop up the basil and add it to the bowl as well, but put some of it aside for later. Add the balsamic vinegar and some salt, stir it so everything gets coated in vinegar and let it chill out for a bit.

Meanwhile, back to the baguette slices. Lightly brush the olive oil on one side and lay out on a baking sheet. (I don't have one of those little brush things so I had to make due with a paper towel. It was kind of a pain.)

Put them in the oven for about 5 minutes.

When they come out spoon the mixture in the bowl onto the bread. Make sure you are just scooping solids though. If you are scooping the liquid from the bottom as well then the bruschetta will come out soggy. (I failed at remembering that this time, and some of them got soggy, but still yummy.)

Put them back in the oven for about 4 minutes and then when they come out sprinkle the basil you set aside from before on top. Not cooking all of the basil makes it look brighter and taste a bit fresher I think.

A few twists of ground pepper and you are ready to go!

I enjoyed the bruschetta with an Iron Stone Cabernet Franc, which is lighter than the other red I had, a Shiraz. I didn't want the wine to overpower the bruschetta, so that's why I chose the Cabernet Franc.

Aside from some soggy pieces as I mentioned before, it was pretty delicious.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Newsday Tuesday: Virtual Seals Have Rights Too!

"Animal rights stunt-group PETA is protesting Canada's culling of adorable baby seals this year by hosting a battle royale in World of Warcraft.

This Saturday, PETA is calling on activist gamers to combat a team of Horde "seal killers" set on bashing soft, furry heads on WoW's Whisperwind server. The demonstration takes place in the high-level zone of The Howling Fjord on the glaciers where baby seals frolic unassumingly."
(Full Story)

So this strikes me as pretty ridiculous even for PETA. The whole premise of the game is to go around and kill stuff. The programmers put the seals in the game for that specific purpose. Aren't there some real life animals they could be protecting?

There was also a totally different story I found that I thought was worth sharing. Apparently due to a loop hole, the paper industry is being paid to pollute more.

"Thanks to an obscure tax provision, the United States government stands to pay out as much as $8 billion this year to the ten largest paper companies. And get this: even though the money comes from a transportation bill whose manifest intent was to reduce dependence on fossil fuel, paper mills are adding diesel fuel to a process that requires none in order to qualify for the tax credit. In other words, we are paying the industry--handsomely--to use more fossil fuel. 'Which is,' as a Goldman Sachs report archly noted, the 'opposite of what lawmakers likely had in mind when the tax credit was established.' "
(Full Story)

Now, I realize that lawmakers aren't perfect, and that it's hard to think of all the clever ways that one might abuse the spirit of a tax credit like this, but shouldn't these loopholes get closed pretty rapidly? It doesn't seem like that is happening anytime soon.

Well, that's it for now. Hopefully these were interesting. :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I Love India Pale Ales

So as far as beers go I'm a big fan of India Pale Ales (IPA). They are high on the hops which I think gives it a really good flavor. I am currently enjoying a Lagunitas IPA. I was out at a local market that has a huge wine and beer selection and I picked it up there. While I was at the market I also picked up ingredients for bruschetta! I made that today, but I'll save the full details for What's Cookin' Wednesday, so stay tuned!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Exalted RPG: Judgment

So in my most recent Exalted RPG session we switched to a different Storyteller and also allowed a lot of game world time to pass. Yesterday's post details part of what my character did over the break, and introduces a new character (the mouseman Lunar Exalted, Li).

So a long time ago our characters encountered a powerful Solar Exalted named Bringer who was possessed by an evil, spirit-eating sword named Judgment that is bent on breaking into heaven and laying waste to all the "slothful" gods. (As my character Leggit works for Heaven, he knows that this means essentially all of them, heh.) Bringer claims to have an army assembled in an underwater city and that he is nearly ready to assault Heaven. We wrote Bringer off as a nutjob, though admittedly he did kill a bunch of the giant shark spirits we were trying to befriend. Leggit filed a report in Heaven about him anyway, and Light, the Solar Exalted in our group, arranged a meeting with him for a year later in hopes that he'd learn a way to free Bringer from the sword in the meantime.

Well, a year went by and Bringer didn't show. He did however show up on our hidden island and nearly killed one of our friends. Needless to say, now it's personal. Leggit goes up to Heaven to follow up on his initial report and finds out that Bringer, Judgment, and a giant underwater city disappeared from the loom of fate sometime ago. Bringer's story about an army in an underwater city suddenly seems a lot more credible.

So our group goes out to a black jade trading island near where the underwater city is supposed to be and we investigate. It seems there has been a sudden increase in black jade demand. (Black jade can be used to make magical armor, just what you'd want if you were equipping an army to assault Heaven.) Leggit uses a Charm, Serendipitous Voyage, to ensure that a vessel arriving on the island sometime in the next day will be fated to head to the underwater city. We stopped there, so hopefully next session we'll get to the city and lay the smackdown on Bringer and his army!

Online Dinner Reservations

So a friend just sent this link:

You can use it to make restaurant reservations online! I kind of hate calling places so this is excellent for me. I went ahead and tried it out and it seems to have worked fine. We'll see when I show up. :)

I can't believe that I used to think it was scary that you could do stuff like this from a computer. Now I think it's awesome!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Exalted RPG: Collaborative Creative Writing

So one of the players in my Exalted RPG, and I wrote a story for what our characters were up to between sessions. We did most of the writing together in Google Docs. Google Docs allows multiple people to view and edit a document at the same time. So we were able to start from an outline, each work on different sections, watch the changes being made by each other in real time and adapt and shift our own parts of the story accordingly. It was an interesting and fun experience in collaborative creative writing.

Here's the story we ended up coming up with (I've added [bracketed explanations] for some of the terms and places from the Exalted world setting):

Going by the information discovered from Marlina's trips to The Neck [The Neck = medium cluster of islands in the middle of the West], Li is investigating the rumor that Wavecrest ships [Wavecrest = large island nation to the south of The Neck] have been capturing slaves from The Neck to give as tribute to the Realm [Realm = continent in center of Creation controlled by Dragonblooded Exalts]. As a former slave himself, Li feels obligated to stop this. Unfortunately, he is a little too late and the islanders have already been rounded up and placed on the slave ship.

Knowing that he alone can't take down a fleet of armed men, Li transforms into a small gray mouse and boards the ship. From listening in on conversations and from reading the captain's log, an entire fleet of slave ships is preparing to leave Wavecrest in two months. Li knows that this would be the perfect opportunity to end the slaving operation and to harm Wavecrest, the only real Realm bastion in the West.


In the guise of a sea gull, Li flies back off the ship and back to Suryadvipa [Suryadvipa = small newly created, and populated island on the Western edge of the Wyld; also, our base of operations]. He brings this information to the circle. Light and Dorean are too busy working on plans for an artifact, but Marcus and Leggit are both interested. Marcus, being a defender of humanity, would love to get the chance to bring justice to Realm slavers. Leggit is interested in the operation for more political reasons. By disrupting the slave trade, he hopes to bring tension between the Realm and Wavecrest. Perhaps enough tension that the Wyld Hunt teams [Wyld Hunt = Dragonblooded Exalted teams that kill other types of Exalts like us] will retreat from the West for a bit.

The group plans to ambush the slaver fleet. Leggit will lead the ships while Li and Marcus will free the prisoners and slay the captains.


On the night of their voyage the Wavecrest slaver fleet sets out for the Realm. Unbeknownst to them, waiting in their path is the Suryadvipa fleet. Under cover of night, Leggit walks out onto the water (using the hearthstone borrowed from Light) leading a group of water elementals to create a dense fog bank between the slaver fleet and the Suryadvipa forces. Li, Marcus and Leggit's familiar Ati set out through the night fog in a small boat heading for the slaver ships. Marcus goes from ship to ship, drops off Li, then finds and assassinates the crew's leadership.

As a tiny mouseman with streaking silver across his body, Li sneaks down into the slave holds of the ship. As he picks the locks of the manacles he says, "I am Asdon, God of Mice. The gods do not want you to become slaves of the Realm, so I have come to rescue you. Ships are on their way and they will take you back to an island paradise if you choose. When you hear a horn blow three times, you must storm the decks and take out the crew. Be strong and brave, for the gods are with you this night. Now I most go and free your friends." After that, Li moves up and on deck to find Marcus. Marcus picks up Li and jumps to the next ship to continue freeing the slaves. Ati follows Li iand Marcus immaterially and when the last of the ships have been reached Ati uses Hurry Home to return to Leggit's side. Leggit organizes the fleet into battle positions and at the blow of his horn a coordinated ambush on the slaver fleet begins.

Caught surprised in the night fog, without leadership, and with the slaves revolting, the slaver fleet quickly surrenders. Those who are willing to start a new life in Suryadvipa are welcomed. The freed slaves who do not come are returned to their homes, the slavers who do not are killed, and the slaver ships are added to Suryadvipa's fleet with some modifications.


Wavecrest finds their main tie to the Neck (the slave trade) abruptly severed and must scramble to come up with the realm tribute which was to be the large shipment of slaves. Wavecrest's ability to investigate the incident or retaliate is delayed due to their dealings with the Realm.

In the meantime Dorean and Li spread anti-slaving propoganda to those barbarians in the Neck who actively traded slaves to Wavecrest. Thus providing a further barrier for Wavecrest in re-establishing their interests in the Neck.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What's Cookin' Wednesday: Strawberry Chocolate Smoothie

So for What's Cookin' Wednesday I decided to switch it up from the entree dishes I'd been showing and do a smoothie! This one was a Strawberry Chocolate Smoothie.

The ingredients:

8 ice cubes
1/2 cup vanilla low fat yogurt
1 cup skim milk
1 cup semi-thawed frozen strawberries
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon chocolate-hazelnut spread
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 tablespoon wheat germ

Just put everything in a blender, blend for about a minute until it's smooth and you're all set. (I added an extra little sprinkle of slivered almonds in the glass as a garnish, but it's not really necessary.)

It ends up making enough for 2 large glasses each having 291 calories. (You could omit the chocolate-hazelnut spread and have it be 241 calories a glass.) It makes for a great breakfast or snack and is pretty healthy. The almonds and wheat germ give it a bit of thickness and texture that I enjoy, but if you don't like little bits of almond you may want to blend it a little longer to make sure they are broken down finely. It hadn't added the chocolate-hazelnut spread when I had made this before but I decided to switch it up a bit. I couldn't really distinguish the two chocolate flavors at the end, so in the future I'd probably omit the spread. (I LOVE it with other things though, especially on bagels or in a crepe with bananas... mmm... I need to make crepes again soon).

Anyway, once you get the general proportions down, smoothies are great fun to experiment with. I've tried different fruit combinations, peanut butter, various nuts, ricotta cheese, even leftover coffee. (There was coffee in the pot from the morning once and I used it for frozen mocha inspired smoothie.)

I highly recommend you all give smoothies a try if you haven't already. Be sure to let me know if you come up with any big hits!