Friday, October 31, 2014

Foodie Friday: Soup's On!

It's Halloween (or it would have been if Blogger had published the post on time :), and even though the temperature here in northern Indiana was in the 70s earlier this week, the forecast says that there is a chance of flurries this evening. However, even though I still find the possibility of snow in October (albeit at the end of October) a little disconcerting, there is a lot I love about winter, especially early in the season. Besides the wardrobe (sweaters! slacks! sweater dresses! warm scarves!), I love having the opportunity to do some winter cooking, and some of my favorite winter recipes are soups.

I will admit that I wasn't always a soup person. I think it was mostly because it didn't seem like a substantial meal. However, a number of recipes have helped me see the light, and now a typical weekend ritual in the winter is to make a pot of soup to sustain me through the week. I also love sharing soup with friends, because despite my new found appreciation, even I can't stomach soup for lunch and dinner for an entire week. 

Creamy Tomato Soup from - Sometimes you need something familiar, and this soup is comfort food at its best. It is also easy, uses minimal ingredients, and is much better than anything that you can get from a can. I always use the optional garlic to give the soup another layer of flavor. Also, I strongly recommend using fire-roasted tomatoes if you can.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup from - This soup is stick-to-your-ribs rich, which makes it perfect after a day of being out in the cold shoveling snow. However, if you want to lighten it up, you can certainly cut down the amount of butter and cream and use low-fat milk. You can also add more veggies and/or use leftover turkey instead of chicken (perfect for Thanksgiving leftovers).

Chicken Tortilla Soup from - While I'm not a fan of The Pioneer Woman on television, I love this soup. It is warming but not too heavy (unless you go crazy with the toppings and add-ins). The only significant change I make to the recipe is to replace the beans with 8 oz. of frozen sweet corn, which I add near the end of the cooking time. I also don't use tortilla strips, opting instead to crush up some tortilla chips and mix them in before topping the soup with a little red onion, cilantro, cheese, and light sour cream.

Lasagna Soup from - I've yet to figure out how to make lasagna, but I don't feel like I need to since I have this soup for whenever I have a lasagna hankering. Rather than using Italian sausage, I use ground turkey. Also, as the recipe suggests, if you are planning on eating the soup throughout the week (or you make it ahead), you will definitely want to cook the pasta separately and add it to the soup as you eat it. This way, the pasta won't absorb all of the soup.

Are you a soup person? If so, what are your favorite recipes?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Characters Loved & Lost: Part II

After having a few weeks to think about the topic of character deaths, I must admit that I'm still torn about the issue. As mentioned in my previous post on the topic, I don't necessarily like my entertainment to be dark and depressing, but I also think that, in some cases, the death of a character makes sense. In order for this to happen, the death needs to fall into one of two categories: the character's death fits the storyline and/or propels the storyline forward or the actor who played the character died.

Storyline-Related Deaths - There are some instances where the death of a character fits with plot, character, and setting. For instance, if a given character has strong ties to other characters on the show, and his or her absence couldn't easily be explained away. The best example that comes to mind from my (very) limited scope is Mark Sloan on Grey's Anatomy. After having been established as wanting a child for several seasons, it would have been an abrupt about-face if Mark left the hospital and his family (including daughter Sofia and bffs Derek and Callie). While Shonda Rhimes has been known for killing off characters in unnecessarily violent ways (George was hit by a bus and was rendered unrecognizable to his co-workers, while Lexie died in a plane crash and was eventually eaten by wild animals), killing Mark, who actually had a pretty nice send-off by Grey's Anatomy standards, seemed fitting. Additionally, the plane crash (and Mark's and Lexie's deaths as well as Arizona's injuries) ended up providing the impetus for the following season (which wasn't that great, but at least it served a purpose).

Another, and perhaps more controversial, instance of this is the death of Henry Blake on M*A*S*H. I have enough self-awareness to know that I would have been one of the many angry fans if I had been around when Blake was killed, but in retrospect, the death seems very fitting. In times of war, there aren't always happy endings, and while the show had its share of death because of its nature and setting, having a main character die helped drive the reality of war home.

Actor-Related Deaths - While storyline-related deaths allow for the creators and show runners to work towards achieving some sort of creative vision, actor-related deaths come about as a necessity. Whether it is Coach on Cheers or Finn on Glee, killing off a character after the actor has passed away is usually the right thing to do. Not only does it give the character some closure, it also shows respect to the actor and the audience. In the case of Finn, not only was the character a central one to the show (the Ryan Murphy has mentioned numerous times that his vision for the ending of the show always involved Finn) but Cory Monteith's death received so much attention that having the character fade away into the ether would have been not just impossible but insulting.

Are there other reasons or scenarios where killing off a beloved character makes sense? Please chime in below!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I'll Be Right Back

I had every intention of writing a post last week, but the craziness of the semester has caught up with me. Consequently, I'm taking a week off, but I plan on having a new post (a continuation on character deaths) up by the end of the this week or the beginning of next week.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Characters Loved & Lost: Part I

Warning: Spoilers (at least they are spoilers if you are a week or two or three behind on Bones) ahead

Last night, on a whim, I decided to alternate between watching Grey's Anatomy (a show that I watch more out of habit than anything else) and Bones (a show I stopped watching several seasons ago). While I had a vague sense of what was happening on Bones, I was surprised to find that it killed a series regular in the season 10 premiere. A quick Google search later, I found an article that said one of the reasons the show killed Sweets was because the actor who played him, John Francis Daley, was in demand for writing and directing other projects. Stephen Nathan, the show runner and creator, told Daley that "it would be more satisfying for the fans to conclude Sweets in a dramatic way rather then for it to be up in the air and have him come back midway through the season."

Thinking about this today, I'm torn about this reasoning. First, the more cynical part of me can't help but think that Nathan, who has a history of including shocking moments in Bones, couldn't withstand the temptation to off a character in a dramatic fashion. In the past, he had Zack Addy, Brennan's original intern, become a cannibal serial killer's apprentice, and he killed Vincent Nigel-Murray, another intern, as part of a sniper story arc. Killing Sweets in the premiere seems right up Nathan's alley.

Additionally, the idea that Sweets's death would be considered "satisfying" is puzzling to me. Since I tend to watch television as a means of entertainment and escape from the real world's myriad problems, having a regular character on (what is usually) a light-hearted procedural drama get beaten to death is jarring. I know, I know - People die all the time in real life. True, but I'm not watching Bones for its adherence to reality. Even as a one-time viewer (and a casual one at that), I found Sweets's death distinctly unsatisfying. Comments on articles and on's Bones forum indicate that I'm not the only who didn't think the send off was warranted (or satisfying).

This isn't to say that television characters should live in perpetuity. In some cases, a character's death is necessary, cathartic, and (yes) even satisfying. While I plan to explore this in next week's post, I'd love to hear from you on this topic. What is your take when it comes to the deaths of television characters? What works for you, and what doesn't?