Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Post: The Kiddies Like To Pick Pumpkins, I Like To Eat Them

This is halloween! Yep, that time of year where people do their best to scare the crap out of one another and/or dress up in costumes and go trick or treating, aka. "the holiday in which you go to other people's houses and demand that they give you candy." In the weeks leading up to it, people do plenty of things involving pumpkins. People go pumpkin picking, they put up pumpkins that are real or fake, they carve or paint them, then they either put a light in them and turn them into a jack-o-lantern or hang them up just the way they are.

It just so happens that I like pumpkins, too. The only difference is that I can do perfectly fine without carving them or anything else you do with them. If you make it into a meal, that's perfectly fine as well. I very much enjoy eating the pumpkin as a key ingredient. Pumpkins play an excellent star when they are the key role of a dessert or even a main course. I have had pumpkin soup from where I work and it can be very good. You just need to be in the mood in order for the pumpkin soup to strike a positive chord. Then again, I am fond of a soup that is prepared in the form of a puree. Tomato puree is commonly used in pasta sauce, thus plenty of vegetables (or fruits) that are pureed make for an excellent course.

I do, however, believe that pumpkins play a better role when they are sweet and not savory. That doesn't mean that's it not subject to savory courses, because anything that can be made savory and make a connection to a sweet element (like proscuttio and cantaloupe) is a work of culinary genius. As a dessert, I have had pumpkin in bread, doughnuts, and cheesecake. Yes, we all know about pumpkin pie and how it's a staple for Thanksgiving dessert (which may cause this to be a Halloween/Thanksgiving crossover, just as they are portrayed in American holiday cooking), but the three I have had were just as good. I am not a pie person (except pizza pie), so I would not be the best possible judge for such a confirmation about pumpkin pie.

While I may not be the judge for pumpkin pie, my smooth Dachshund, Link (God bless his soul), is associated most with this meal. On his first Thanksgiving back from being a show dog, he snatched the pumpkin pie, still in the box, from the table and tried to open it. He didn't succeed, but he dented the Thanksgiving dessert and got a scolding from my mother for doing so. Last year, before his death, I bought him a small pumpkin pie that he snatched from the plate and gobbled up. While he was ailing from a heart condition, he still had an excellent appetite.

That's the reason my dog liked pumpkin. I like pumpkin, because of its distinct, yet familiar flavor. Pumpkin bread is a fine example. A flavor of cinnamon without the tang interacts with your taste buds as you enjoy such a dessert. It's not sweet in the way that banana bread is, so enjoying something that has a bit of a spice (but not too spicy) to it is exactly the experience you get out of pumpkin bread. Butter could very well accompany pumpkin bread, but I'm perfectly fine with it just as it is.

I bought some pumpkin doughnuts for Halloween, for those and apple cider doughnuts are staples for Halloween (at least in my book they are and if they're not, they definitely should be). The pumpkin doughnuts deserve a lot of hype for what they have to offer. One could eat the whole box if they wish and in my situation, I am fortunate to even have the resistance to call it a snack after one, maybe two, pumpkin doughnuts. It sure takes plenty of resistance. In the glazed fashion, pumpkin doughnuts are quite delicious as well.

Pumpkin cheesecake has grown to be the one variable of cheesecake I have begun to enjoy instead of the regular. I absolutely love cheesecake, for it's my favorite kind of cake bar none (with cannoli cake being a close second). My ice cream creation for a high school project was chocolate chip cheesecake and it got "best taste." I felt it was a magical flavor myself. When you make a pumpkin cheesecake into the mix, you have something that has a sweet spice, but at the same time is creamy to the point it plays a vibrant tune in your mouth. On Thanksgiving day, I'll take the pumpkin cheesecake over the pumpkin pie any day!

On the topic of pumpkin cheesecake, Ben & Jerry's is coming out with a "Pumpkin Cheesecake" flavor that will be on my "to buy" list as soon as it comes out. From what I saw, the ice cream will be a pint of pumpkin cheesecake ice cream with a graham cracker swirl. While graham cracker isn't necessarily my favorite element of the cake, it should provide the pint of ice cream with the drive it needs. I'm not the biggest fan of chocolate (or fudge) covered cannoli, but the pieces of fudge-covered shells in their "Cannoli" ice cream provide an excellent element to their piece. Before I go off on a tangent having to do with how they need to bring cannoli ice cream back, I will say that the pumpkin cheesecake ice cream from Ben & Jerry's will be something to get. Whether I like it a lot or only a little will be determined in a simple fashion: if I finish the pint in one sitting, it's on my list of favorites.

Pumpkin picking is not necessarily an October tradition I keep up with. I'm just fine with seeing pictures of my friends on Facebook doing the pumpkin picking instead. I can do without the chalky dirt on my hands. Pumpkin eating during the last quarter of the year is something I do like to take part in. So if one person invites me to go pumpkin picking while the other invites me to dinner and dessert with a pumpkin cheesecake dessert, you can easily guess with one I'll settle for.

I want to wish everybody a Happy, Healthy, Fun, and Safe Halloween and I hope you're able to eat as much candy and consume as much holiday indulgences as you possibly can!!!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Ninth Season Of "Whose Line Is It Anyway"

First off, I must mention the unfortunate trend that has been occurring with my updates on this blog. I'm currently in a semester in which I'm taking five classes, four of which are English, and my time is stuffed with reading books, writing papers, arranging powerpoints and group presentations, and then tending to a job in the mix. Fortunately, I will do my very best to find the open time that DOES reside in my life to submit here. The finale for the ninth season of Whose Line Is It Anyway premiered last week, going out on a very good note with host Aisha Tyler, regular performers Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie, and Ryan Stiles, and guest performer Nyima Funk. So while this season had a lot to remember, which includes the obvious comeback of the show, there may be some touching up that the show can work on in order to make the tenth season of the show, which will have twenty-four episodes, a bit better... but not very much at all.

It was great to see Wayne, Colin, AND Ryan return to the show as regular performers. These guys were excellent during the Drew Carey era and it feels as if nothing changed. Wayne was as flashy as ever, Colin was as quick and blunt with his humor as ever, and when Ryan wasn't feeding the media's poking fun at the conservative agenda only or the fact that we like to make New Jersey the butt of all state jokes, he was quite the riot! In addition, the guest performers were a good batch to choose from. The best of the bunch has to have included Nyima Funk, Jeff Davis (who was also in the Drew Carey version), Jonathan Magnum, and my personal favorite, Keegan-Michael Key from MAD TV. These guest performers were able to fit in quite well and provided us with some outrageous humor. The only thing I would ask is that these guest performers are provided with a bit more time on the program, which we eventually got to see as the season progressed.

The one thing that we don't always need is the celebrity guests on all except one episode. On some occasions, the celebrity guests would get just as much or more time on the show than the guest performer, which isn't a good thing. If I'm not mistaken, there were more celebrity guests in this season alone than there were on the whole duration of the Drew Carey era of the program, but Carey made the most of his guests (Jerry Springer, Richard Simmons, Florence Henderson, Sid Caesar, Lassie, etc.). This time around, the guests were b-rate. I did like Wilson Bethel, who played along very well with the notion of the program. Perhaps the best celebrity guest sketch this season was when he, Wayne, and Ryan performed a "three-headed song" titled, "I Just Can't Live Without Your Rubber Duckie." If there are particular guests I wasn't fond of, it would be Kevin McHale, who was irritating and had way too much air time (in addition, I'm not a fan of Glee) and Maggie Q, who was just painful to watch, because she put no effort into her participation. In the "Dubbing" sketch, she didn't even move her lips on some occasions. If I were arranging the episodes, I would cut the celebrity guest appearances to about 33%. It's far more powerful to have three meaningful guests on the program for the season than eleven b-rate (I would go as far as declaring some of them to be c-rate) performers that eliminate performance time for the meaningful guests.

I also hope that Whose Line Is It Anyway captures much of the essence that made them great under the Drew Carey era. While it wasn't my favorite sketch was I was younger, they need to bring the "Hoedown" back, because a lot can be done with this sketch at this point in time. Allow the "winner" to sit out and either have Aisha Tyler or the celebrity guest (if we choose to keep having time) perform with the other three. Speaking of the Carey era, they need to bring back some of those performers to participate on the program. I would like to see Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, and Chip Esten, maybe even Whoopi Goldberg, Stephen Colbert, among some of the others that made the show magical. If the tenth season features a concentration on the guest performers and at the same time highlight their main three, this show will be a mainstay on CW.

What I liked a lot about this season was the execution of the one-liner sketches, such as "Scenes From A Hat," "Props," and "Online Dating Profile." These sketches allowed each performer to provide us with samples of the best they have to offer. In "Online Dating Profile," I saw some of the most outrageous, but hysterical examples of undesirable profiles of men you wouldn't want to date. Colin's was so outrageous that it stopped everyone's train of thought. I also enjoyed "Hollywood Director," "Greatest Hits," and "Weird Newscasters." Ultimately, if they're able to incorporate different material and perhaps some new material that they only use every so often on the program, then the show could see a flow that allows them to reach even higher marks than it did in this ninth season of the show.

The tenth season, which will be much longer, should definitely be something to check out. It should be far more outrageous now that things are back on pace and with more episodes, there will be more opportunities to come up with was incredible improv!

Verdict for Season 9: 8/10