Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ghost's Kitchen: How To Prepare A Fish Dinner

What's Cooking Today?

 A Tilapia Dinner with Hush Puppies and Mediterranean blend vegetables. 
(This preview totally has nothing to do with the fact that Facebook pulls the first picture it can find as the thumbnail.... nope nothing whatsoever to do with that >_> )

Hello everyone and welcome to another segment of

I love fish.  It's by no means my go-to meat for a dinner but generally if you offer me fish for dinner I won't turn you down.  There are so many wonderful varieties of fish to go with a wide array of cooking styles and utilization that there's no wonder you can find it everywhere.  Sushi, Breaded whitefish, smoked salmon, Cajun crappie fillets, tuna casserole - the list goes on and on.  The only exception to my love of fish so far is Swai... haven't quite wrapped my head around cooking that one without it tasting like rubber yet but I'm sure there is a way.

However there seems to be a bit of mystery and confusion when it comes to this delectable food item.  Most times that conversation leads to me cooking fish for my family I am given the response of "I don't know how to cook fish" as if it's some sort of super complex or difficult process that they have no knowledge of.  This fear/feeling that cooking fish is complicated just simply isn't true.  If you know how to prepare almost anything in a skillet you know how to prepare fish.  It's only as difficult as you decide to make it.  It would be a crying shame if your only exposure to fish comes from one of these establishments.
 Not that there's anything wrong with these.  They're good eats too!

Since I try to live by the K.I.S.S. method (keep it simple stupid) then of course the fish I'm going to show you how to make is going to be incredibly simple.  I tend to stick with tilapia as my fish of choice.  Why tilapia?  Tilapia fillets are generally large enough to suffice my appetite, it's a nice light fish that doesn't have a very strong "fishy" flavor to it.  It's a fairly mild taste that takes on the flavors of seasonings you pair it with.

Gather Your Ingredients and Tools!
  • 1-2 Thawed Tilapia Fillets
  • Seasoning of your choice
  • Cutting Board (so you don't get your counters dirty)
  • Skillet
  • Cooking Spray
  • Spatula/Turner
  • Fork

    (If you choose to make the sides I have picked)
  • Green Giant Mediterranean Blend vegetable bag
  • Hush Puppies
  • Baking Pan
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Silicone Oven Mitt

1.  Thaw fillets
Generally tilapia fillets are bought frozen and individually wrapped.  You can thaw your fish by placing them still in their wrapper in your fridge overnight.  Alternatively you can partially fill your sink with lukewarm water and submerge the wrappers in the water for a few minutes.  *Please Note* some people claim that thawing other meats such as chicken by using this water method can cause harm.  I'm not sure if any of those claims are legitimate but I would play it safe and only use the water submersion for fish.

2. Place fillets on cutting board and choose seasoning
Once your fish is thawed, remove from package and place on something you don't care to get dirty.  I generally use my fish cutting board.   Select the seasoning you would like to pair with your fish.  I often use Weber brand Zesty Lemon because it not only has a lemon flavor that pairs with fish well but it has other spices that give you something quite excellent.

3. Apply seasoning to both sides of fish
Simply open your seasoning and start shaking it over the fish.  Let a fair amount of it fall on the fish then gently pat the seasoning so that you ensure it's stuck to the fish.  Flip fish over and do the same to the other side.  The amount of seasoning you place on depends on your personal taste.  I like a good amount of seasoning so the picture above is what I generally do.  This is sometimes too much seasoning for my wife so her fillet gets less when I remember.

4. Get out your skillet, cooking spray, spatula/turner, and a fork.

5.  Turn the stove eye to medium heat
Each stove is slightly different and may need some adjustment but I generally set my fish at the 6 mark when cooking.  NEVER put fish on high.  When it comes to cooking a meal sometimes fast is not best.  If you cook your fish on high heat then you will walk away with one of two end results.  It will either be fish jerky so tough the dog wouldn't eat it, or you will have a burned top and bottom with a raw center which is an unholy abomination!  Medium heat is where you want to go here.

6. Spray skillet with cooking spray and place fillets in skillet

7. Leave it alone for awhile
From my experience something that can absolutely ruin a dish is when you start to flip it over and over and over in the skillet.  This may take some getting used to if you've always been flipping your food afraid that it will burn on one side.  Set the fear aside (there's a reason we put it on medium heat) and just let it sit for awhile.  Fish is especially dangerous to flip many times because as fish gets more done it starts to break apart and next thing you know you'll have shredded fish everywhere that no one will want to eat unless you turn it into fish tacos.

8.  Flip the fish when it turns white 1/3rd to 1/2 of the way up.
Raw tilapia is pink and clear.  Cooked tilapia is white.  As your fish sits there in the skillet slowly more and more of it will turn white.  Once the white reaches where my finger is pointing or a little bit more you can flip it over and let it sit for roughly the same amount of time on the other side.

9. Use your judgement till it's done.  
This may be the "scary part" for some people because I'm telling you to use your judgment instead of telling you what to do.   I often find that once I've done my initial flip to cook to raw top it will sometimes require a couple extra flips but not many.  Keep your fish on the skillet till it's fully cooked but not overdone.  How will you know when it's done?  The thick side will most likely split open as it has in the picture above on the left-hand side.  Another easy way to tell if it's done or not is to finally use the fork I asked you to get earlier.  You can simply insert the fork and slightly rotate it to one side.  Properly cooked fish should separate almost effortlessly even in the thick portion.

10. Pair with simple sides
I tend to use this Green Giant Frozen Mediterranean Blend for my vegetable.  It's a very good match with fish of any kind if you like squash.  It's a simple 6 minute heat up in the microwave.  Of course you can't have fish without hush puppies.  I buy this blue bag from Walmart because it has a very rich flavor.  It asks for seven minutes in the oven then to flip the hush puppies over and bake for seven additional minutes.  I never have a problem with them being too hot after the first seven minutes so I simply hold the baking pan with my mitt in one hand and flip them with my bare hand.

How do you get these sides to come out around the same time as the fish?
The Hush puppies take about 14 minutes or so to cook which is longer than the fish wheras the vegetables take around the same time.  What I generally do is as follows.  Once the oven is preheated to 350 I'll bake the hush puppies for 7 minutes.  During this 7 minutes I'll get the fish seasoned and waiting to go into the skillet as well as place the vegetables in the microwave.  At the end of my 7 minutes I'll remove the hush puppies, flip them over and place them back in the oven for another 7 minutes.  During this 7 minutes I'll cook the fish and heat the vegetables.   If the fish is taking a little longer just leave the vegetables in the microwave and lower the heat on the oven to the lowest it will go once the 7 minutes are over.  Don't worry they'll be fine.

11. Enjoy your meal

That's it.  Nothing incredibly complicated or difficult.  Now you know at least one way to prepare fish if you didn't know before.  The ONLY difficult part is making sure the sides and main dish come out at the same time but even that's not hard it just takes a little practice.  If you don't get it right the first couple of times don't worry you will only get better with time.

Hope this helped someone.  I'll catch ya next time!

This is Ghost fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other food topics and recipes then simply click here!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ghost's Angry Reviews: Smash Bros DLC

 Someone's going to regret THAT decision

Ghost here, thanks for joining!

As anyone who reads this blog or knows me personally can tell you, I am an avid fan of the Smash Bros series.  It alone has caused me to purchase the Gamecube, Wii, and WiiU system simply to play the next installment of the series.  Sure I have other games for these systems but if I only had Smash Bros I would be happy because I love the games so much.  They are a fun experience and they are what caused me to learn about these wonderful characters I have grown to love.
After millions of fanboys complained about the lack of Mewtwo in Super Smash Bros Brawl and the newest Smash for 3DS and WiiU, Nintendo decided to include him as DLC as well as announcing Lucas from Mother 3 making his return to smash as DLC in June but that was not all.  They decided to open the floodgates and allow fans to submit ideas to Nintendo directly as to who they would like to see in Smash as DLC or in future installments opening the ballot to ALL video game characters not just those owned by Nintendo.

This is a bold move by Nintendo because it's one thing to collect a sampling from people of what they think the fans worldwide will want and there's another thing to open it up to everyone with an internet connection.  Now whether we get to see the results of this is left to be seen but it's definitely doing a good job in making the fans FEEL good like their opinion matters whether they do anything with the information or not.  It's a step in the right direction.

Since I'm all about beating a dead horse and being late to the party as everyone else began posting their wish lists within hours of the announcement I'm going to go ahead and post my Top 10 Wanted DLC For Smash and my Top 6 Characters That Don't Need to Be DLC.  I'll start with the wanted.

Before I get started though there are a couple of rules that I want to toss in there.
  1. No Assist Trophies - I'm not going to be including any characters that are currently assist trophies in the games which is honestly a blow to the Legend of Zelda series as most of my desired characters from there got Assist Trophy Zoned.  If I didn't have this rule then my list would pretty much consist of Saki Amamiya. Magnus, Midna, Skull Kid, Samurai Goroh, Takamaru, Phosphora, and Shadow.
  2. Nothing that has practically no chance of getting in  - This one's a little more subjective but might explain why certain characters like Geno that everyone loves didn't make my list.  I realize anything is possible.  Fans were somewhat surprised when Sonic and Snake showed up in brawl and Nintendo likes to throw random characters in the mix but there are just some things that seem highly unlikely.  Things like Scorpion from Mortal Kombat, Heihachi from Tekken,  or anything owned by Square Enix cause they tend to be very guarded about their property. It's not that these couldn't be included but I'd rather not waste a list on things that have so tiny of a chance.
  3. Nothing Ridiculous - You know those trolls who put in votes for Goku, and Shrek.  For reasons that should be obvious I'm not going to touch anything there in either list because REALLY guys?
Top 10 Wanted DLC for Smash
(Honorable Mention - Shantae from Shantae and the Pirate's Curse cause of hair powers etc)

#10: Shovel Knight
Originating Game: Shovel Knight
The Video Game industry as a whole has decided that there should be a focus on the indie game market.  This is both good and bad as it gives more people a chance to see games not created by the giant corporations but it also means we have to sit through shows and conferences like Nintendo Direct  and E3 and watch things we don't care about in the least.  However one game has shone above the rest and that is Shovel Knight.  It's a "love story" to classic NES type of games that we don't see much of anymore while still keeping things fresh and new.  I personally have never seen an indie game with such a fanbase behind it.  Shovel Knight has numerous artifacts that he could bring to brawl as well as being a slightly unconventional fighter since he's from the indie market.  The developers have already stated that they would love for him to be in Smash Bros.  It would be nice to have one DLC character that has been released in the United States and not Japan (yet) for a change.  This will give Japan a taste of the confusion we had when Marth and Roy came to the Gamecube.

#9: Inklings
Originating Game: Splatoon
As of the writing of this, Splatoon has not even been released (not sure when this list will come out.)  So why on earth would I include characters from a game that no one has even been able to play?  This is honestly very simple.  I have never seen a character be debuted before that screamed "Smash Potential" like these two.  They fight in their games and use weapons... non-conventional weapons at that.  They are kid friendly, and they transform into squids.  If that doesn't fit right in with the quirkiness of brawl when we have characters such as Duck Hunt then nothing else does.  Nintendo is already planning on making amiibo of these two and since they want all smash characters to have amiibo half of the work is already done.  Give them all the different weapons from Splatoon that we have seen in the trailers, make four costumes be the female and four be the male, and call it a day.  Easily one of the better choices for Nintendo financially.

#8: Toad
Originating Game: Super Mario Bros
I know several people are going to shout foul for including Toad in the mix for multiple reasons.  Yes, he is Peach's standard special attack.  Yes, we have too many Mario representatives as it is.  Yes, he rarely does anything of real value, but I honestly do think it's Toad's time to shine.  Toad has been with Mario through it all.  He has been a playable character in multiple Mario and Mario Kart games, and he even has his own game now with Captain Toad.  I think it's time to go ahead and complete the Mario family and add him in.  You could easily pull a strange moveset from powerups or things he collects in Captain Toad.  You could have multiple costumes where he is Toad, Toadette, Captain Toad, Captain Toadette, or even a Toasdsworth costume if you wanted to be even more eccentric.  It's just time we gave Toad a chance even if he isn't the greatest character ever.

#7: Isaac
Originating Game: Golden Sun
Speaking of things we have too much of, let's talk about a character who wields a sword!  Actually that's not entirely fair to say about Isaac because he does carry a sword but more similarly to Robin he also uses magic called Psynergy in the Golden Sun series.  Golden Sun is one of those series that doesn't get a lot of love anymore.  With things like the Tales Of series being rampant as well as things like Fire Emblem finally getting their act together and doing things properly, there's just no need for Golden Sun and it's a crying shame.  Isaac would be a force to be reckoned with if brought in as a full fighter.  He was last seen in Super Smash Bros Brawl as an assist trophy using his Move Psynergy to shove people around.  As Little Mac has shown us, Assist Trophies can become full characters in the next game so I do hope it's Isaac.  He has his sword for basic attacks, his Move psynergy for messing with people and blocking attacks as well as an onslaught of djinni at his command to control the four elements in many numerous ways making his standard and custom moves varying on the level of Megaman and Palutena.  He would be an excellent addition to any roster.

#6: Impa OR Lana
Originating Games: The Legend of Zelda/ Hyrule Warriors
I honestly couldn't decide between these two characters.  The Legend of Zelda is a wonderful series who needs more representation other than two forms of Link, Two forms of Zelda, and Ganondorf.  However, with most of Zelda's best characters being stuck in assist trophy hades, the chance of any of them becoming DLC for this game is laughable.  Actually any additional Zelda representatives this time is somewhat laughable even for the simple fact that what they will most likely do is wait until the next game, remove some assist trophies and make them full characters.  But that doesn't stop me from wanting an additional one right now and both Impa and Lana would be excellent choices for completely different reasons.

Impa brings in the nostalgia.  Although she existed in the first Zelda game most people recognize her from Ocarina of Time as being the master Sheikah and Zelda's protector who taught her the "ninja" ways.  If bringing her weapon(s) from Hyrule Warriors she could be an extremely powerful opponent wielding either (or both) her giant sword similar to Magnus from Kid Icarus, or her Naginata, a spear with a sword on the end.  She would bring a serious side to the Zelda series as well as old fans of the series.

Lana on the other hand brings something entirely different.  She is a brand new character from Hyrule Warriors, a game that has become a smash hit for the Nintendo community.  She brings the hype of a current game so new gamers will recognize her.  She also brings a lot of fun.  Just look up gameplay of her in Hyrule Warriors.  She's cheesing for the camera, laughing, and dancing as she attacks people.  She could attack with mostly magic as she has a spell tome, but if they wanted, they could include her Deku Spear as a staff like weapon, or her Guardian Gate for use as chakrams, a weapon we haven't yet seen in Smash.   And don't tell me you wouldn't love for her final smash to be summoning that giant cucoo.  She could bring the fun and something fresh.

Either of these would be welcome additions to the Smash Family.

#5 Solid Snake
Originating Game :Metal Gear Solid
You knew this one was coming at some point.  When Solid Snake was added into Brawl many people were somewhat upset.  They were making claims that "Snake doesn't belong in smash he's too different!"  To be honest there's a part of that argument I agreed with and still do.  Snake's gritty realistic games don't exactly gel the easiest with the likes of Pikachu, Donkey Kong, and Pacman.  If he had never been in Brawl I wouldn't have selected him to be included in this list nor would many others.  Solid Snake fighting Duck Hunt.... just think about that for a minute.   But the fact is, he was included in Brawl and his very different play style made him a unique character that people grew to love.  He became accepted into the series and played often.  But for some reason his unique moveset was gotten rid of and we got things like Dark Pit and Doctor Mario.  This decision baffles me.  We shouldn't even be sitting here talking about this because unique characters shouldn't be cut from the game.  So hopefully they will fix this and bring him back.

#4 King K Rool
Originating Game: Donkey Kong Country
The Smash Bros series has always been really weak on villain representation.  I mean we have Bowser and Dedede who almost as often acts as a hero or just simply not being a villain so they doesn't quite count.  We have Bowser Jr and Ganondorf who count as villains but that's about it.  A Fire Emblem villain would be a good addition but we already have four Fire Emblem representations so who else could there possibly be?  Why King K Rool from Donkey Kong of course.  Some may say that he doesn't have enough moveset potential but if they can come up with something for the likes of Captain Falcon they can come up with something for this bruiser.  He can make shockwaves, he has a musket that he has used for firing thing as well as boosting him forward, he can toss cannon balls and if all else fails you could pull ideas from his minions and other bosses in the games.  You think Ness has all those magic powers?  NOPE!  Adding King K Rool would bring a massive dose of good nostalgia, as well as add to the Donkey Kong and villain representation in the game.

#3 Popo and Nana
Originating Game: Ice Climber
I'm going to stop you now.  Several of you will be saying "But Sakurai said that they were cut because the 3DS couldn't handle having 2 characters like that"   Yes that is true, but what I'm suggesting isn't that they magically find a way for the 3DS to handle them.  I suggest instead that we, for this game only, separate them.  Have ONE ice climber out on stage and that's it.  Have 4 Popo costumes and 4 Nana costumes.  Beef up their moveset to compensate for there only being one with extra power and range and either change their Up special to incorporate that bird from their game or have the other temporarily appear for the duration of the move.  It's a simple fix and it would give our wonderful ice children a way to get back into the party.  We miss you all even more than we miss Snake, though not as much as we missed Mewtwo.  Take that as you will.

#2: Krystal
Originating Game: Star Fox Adventures
Furries rejoice, it's Krystal!  Krystal is actually someone who I have been wanting in Smash Bros for a while now.  I wanted her in Brawl and I still want her now.  Star Fox is a series that doesn't get a lot of respect either.  I can kind of see why when their games are mostly ship-based combat.  That's not exactly my thing but I know people do enjoy that.  Slap in the middle of the franchise is a little gem known as Star Fox Adventures which took a normal action game approach to the series.  It involved Fox McCloud rescuing Krystal on the Dinosaur Planet with use of her staff.  This staff had lots of magical properties to it and allowed Fox to do numerous things.  This would lead straight in to the perfect character for smash.  Much as I like Fox and Falco, and as much as I played Wolf, for all three representatives of the same franchise to have basically the exact same moveset is stupefying.  Adding Krystal would add a unique female character and a unique representative of the Star Fox franchise by making her fight with her staff and magic... and not a blaster.

#1 Banjo Kazooie
Originating Game: Banjo Kazooie
If you want quirkiness, a wide moveset, character, and nostalgia then look no further than the Bear and Bird.  Banjo Kazooie has a deep seeded fan base that is practically as strong now as it was back in the day even with the Nuts N Bolts debacle.  Banjo Kazooie is thought of by many to be one of the greatest Nintendo 64 games of all time.  You wouldn't have to make up moves for him either because with the wide variety of things that they do in both the good games (and I assume Nuts N Bolts) you have a move set already created for you.  Microsoft's head guy has even said he saw no problems in letting Nintendo use Banjo Kazooie in Smash Bros which may only be a publicity cash in but who knows what might become of it especially with the rumor mill churning out whispers that Rare will probably announce a new game at this year's E3.  Most of the Banjo Kazooie fans are Nintendo fans and still have Nintendo systems.  I'm certain that they would absolutely love to see their favorite duo dash out some hurt in Smash.

But wait!  That's not it.  We still have a whole other shorter list to go through.  All 10 of the above inclusions would be wonderful if not amazing additions to the Smash series.  But with all this open communication to Nintendo there's bound to be people putting in votes for stuff that should never happen or stuff that doesn't need to happen.    With that said let's move on to the next list.

Top 6 Character That Don't Need to be DLC
I'm going to attempt to logically explain why each of these characters don't need to be included in Smash brothers.  If you enjoy these characters and wish for their return or inclusion then that's perfectly fine, but with the game as-is there are reasons why these shouldn't be on the consideration board.

#6: Any Veterans not mentioned above
Yes this is a lot of characters for one spot on the list but I'd rather not spell out each and every one of these and give the same exact responses.  It pains me to put Roy and Wolf on here but logic has overruled love of the characters.   The likes of Pichu, Roy, Young Link, and Wolf are completely unneeded.  We don't need more clones of characters even if they play slightly differently.  We have enough links, we have Marth and Lucina, we have Fox and Falco, and we don't need a pikachu clone.  I'd rather have the slots filled with unique characters rather than old ones who play the exact same as stuff we already have.  Then we come to Pokemon Trainer, Squirtle, and Ivysaur.  I do sort of miss squirtle and ivysaur but with Sakurai making a shift towards wanting people to focus on one character rather than multiple ones I can see why they were cut.  They aren't popular enough to earn their way back in since Charizard made it and honestly I would be disappointed if they did.  Sorry guys

#5: Dixie Kong
Don't get me wrong here.  Dixie Kong is a cool character and I feel if she was included she could have enough of a unique moveset to be a "Doc Mario" at best.  That being said, she honestly just needs to be an alternate costume for Diddy Kong like how they made the koopalings part of Bowser Jr.   'Nuff said.

#4 Choir Boy/Chorus Men
This is something I never thought I would need to talk about but once again the internet proves me wrong.  I think this may have originated on Reddit or Youtube but there has been a massive following to get the Chorus Men in Smash; or at least the placed I end up going looking for Smash discussion.  I... don't get it.  I understand that there have been various kinds of characters that you wouldn't normally think even had moveset potential or were even things that could be added to the game such as Mr. Game and Watch or Duck Hunt, but these guys... I don't understand the appeal.  Maybe if I played Rhythm Heaven I would understand more the fascination with these guys but just looking up their portion of the game on youtube gives me next to nothing.  I mean check this out.
.... Riveting.  If that doesn't tell you exactly why these guys need to be in Smash then nothing will.  Let's stop being a bunch of goons and put our backing power behind a character with REAL Smash potential please.

#3 Bayonetta
This one probably has the weakest argument of my list because Zero Suit Samus and Snake kind of wreck my reasoning but I still stand by this inclusion.  I realize these two games are loved by a lot of people I honestly do.  But if people are going to have complaints about Solid Snake being in Smash Bros then they should probably have an aneurism over Bayonetta.  Sure she's quirky and has a unique character but there's one thing that Bayonetta has that should never be in a Smash Bros game and that's the "mature audience" factor.  YES YES I know Solid Snake's games are rated M but they are rated M because of the realistic combat and weaponry.  Bayonetta's games are rated M for the violence but also partial nudity and how she embraces her sexuality.  That's the kind of stuff that doesn't really belong in a Smash Bros games with stuff like Kirby in there.  If you want a fighting game that over serializes the women in it...that's why we have Soul Calibur.

#2 Paper Mario
*sigh*  This one hurts... it honestly does.  I know a lot of people may not like the fact that he's here on this list and not the other but hear me out because I'm not fully happy with that fact either but there's a reason he is.  The Paper Mario games are wonderful games filled with jokes and varying types of combat and items.  Paper Mario is the PERFECT inclusion for a Smash Bros game but why is he on the no list?  Because we already have 9 Mario reps (yes Yoshi and Wario count no matter what logo they put behind them), and two characters in the roster are already Mario himself.  There's no need for a 3rd Mario.  What we need to do instead is wait till the next game comes out, get rid of Doctor Mario and bring in Paper Mario with a unique moveset.  There would be rejoicing through the land if the good people at Nintendo did that.   Why they didn't think to do this in the first place and brought back Doc is astounding to me.

#1: Ridley
Fan boys just need to go ahead and shut up about Ridley... it's never going to happen.  Despite the amount of times other fans tell them it's not going to happen, despite the fact that Sakurai himself said it's not going to happen, and despite the times he's shown up as a boss in the game people still keep asking for Ridley.  I can understand why.  Who wouldn't want a large space dragon to fight with and who wouldn't agree that Metroid is a vastly under-represented franchise in the Smash Bros games but Ridley is not where you need to look.  Yes I'm going to use the old argument everyone hates.  Ridley is too big.  Now I realize Bowser has been a whole lot bigger than Ridley in games like Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario Sunshine but he's a bit of a porker he looks beefy and putting him down to regular size will make him still normal looking.  Ridley however is that large and already sort of spindly looking.  Can you imagine how he would look if he was comparable size to Samus as in the picture above.  He would look awkward and absolutely ridiculous being that small with those already small arms and such.  It would be an insult to the character.  I know a lot of people want him but he's just not compatible to be in Smash as a playable character.

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So there's my Top 10 Characters I Want and Top 6 Characters I Don't Want.  Do you disagree?  Do you have your own list?  Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.  Hopefully we're looking towards over a year of wonderful DLC with Super Smash Bros and even more hopefully some of these characters will make the cut!

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ghost's Kitchen: Stocking Your Kitchen Tools

Hello everyone welcome to a new segment of this blog called Ghost's Kitchen.

I figured since I do my video game, movie, and TV stuff under my old character name of Ghost then I might as well continue with it here.

I have come across several people in my immediate sphere of influence who don't really know how to cook or are intimidated by it either because they lack the confidence and instruction or they simply have never needed to learn before now.   I also know just as many people who cook wonderful meals and have for several years who are looking to perhaps increase their recipe library with simple things for themselves or their family.  I'm hoping that this will satisfy one or possibly even both groups of people with each entry.  

Today we're going to start off with something basic before we get into recipes and tips.  Today we're going to talk about stocking your kitchen with the proper tools.

Yes yes, I know.  There are going to be several of you all who absolutely do not need this information whatsoever.  This one is mostly going to be for people who haven't really had the need to cook before but want to get started.  Plus it's a way to sort of base-line what tools we will be most commonly using during the rest of my series of food related blog posts.

Stocking Your Kitchen Tools
(a.k.a. The Broke College Kid's Kitchen Starter Kit)

Few things can be as frustrating as starting a job without the right tools whether you're trying to build something but don't have enough nails or you're playing a game and find out way too late that you've left a required item stuck in a barrel at your house.  The same is true with cooking.  If you don't have the right tools and/or enough of them, cooking a meal can become incredibly difficult and frustrating.  Now there's something to be said about improvising with what you have but sometimes that's just not going to cut it for certain things.

The below pictures show items which I feel every kitchen should be stocked with.  Obviously some of these things are negotiable depending on your preferences and taste but if you have all of these things in your kitchen you'll be prepared for most normal meals that you would fix and probably all of the recipes that I will ever cover on here.

To start off with, you will need access to your basic kitchen appliances and features.  Things such as a sink, refrigerator/freezer, oven, stove top (if not part of the oven), and microwave are necessary to make most things we'll be discussing in later installments. This may seem painfully obvious, but some of you reading this may be currently living in a dorm at college where you quite simply don't have these things.  For those of you which that applies to, hopefully if you wish to practice your culinary skills you have a friend with a house or apartment, or you can head home and practice with your family.  Once you have gained access to those essentials, it's time to make sure you have/have access to the following items.

A. Can Opener - I suggest spending a little extra money here.  The cheap can openers are cheap for a reason as they either don't work or will cause physical pain in trying to operate it.  Don't go overboard but don't buy the Dollar Store one.  The one pictured here was bought at Target for $14... a little pricy for me at first but it was fully worth every penny.

B. Spatula/Turner - I have two of these so I don't have to keep them clean and ready because sometimes I'll use mine more than once a day.  You don't need to spend a lot of money here as long as the product is sturdy.  A flimsy turner is as good as a Kleenex

C. Slotted Spoon - Good for stirring things which are cooking in a pot.  Also good for serving these things and more.  Pretty self explanatory and will be used often.

D. Wooden (NOT BAMBOO) Slotted Spoon - Good for stirring things that require something to be a little more sturdy like brownie mix, chilli, and mac n cheese.  Also good to put over a boiling pot of pasta to help avoid boil over (will cover this in a later post)  Why not Bamboo?  Because you need a porous wood for the pasta boil over trick to work.

E. Ladle - Used for stirring and serving things like chilli and soup.

F. Pasta Stirrer - Used primarily for stirring and serving spaghetti, linguine etc.  The teeth help to grab the pasta and keep it in the spoon.

G. Whisk - Used for beating whipping and stirring ingredients.  Most often used for desserts or making omelets.

H. Knife Set - You need to look for a set that has at minimum a set of scissors, a small knife, and a large knife/cleaver.  Most knife sets will have multiples of these or different kinds but these 3 will be the ones you use most often.  This is going to be the most expensive thing on the list.  Similar to the can opener you get what you pay for with knives.  Spend extra money or ask for a knife set for Christmas or something.  If you absolutely cannot afford a nicer set, a cheap set will still work; you'll just be putting in extra elbow grease and energy in using them.  I had a cheap dull set for years that I thought was perfectly fine till my dad bought me a fairly expensive set that cut me even if I look at them.  So if you can afford a good set spend the money, if not get something cheap till you can upgrade!

I. Paring Knife - This tiny little knife can actually be quite useful.  I mostly use this to make curved cuts in things, check if the center of brownies and the like are done etc.  It's kind of a multi-tool in my hand.  It seems a bit redundant if you have a full knife set but trust me you'll end up using this bad boy more often than the others.

J. Measuring Spoons - Pretty self explanatory.  As you can see I just have a cheap plastic set.  Just remember which spoon is which measurement when the measurement starts wearing off from washing and you'll be fine. 

K. Measuring cups - You can probably get by with only having one 2 cup glass measuring cup but I would highly suggest getting a 1 Cup, a 2 Cup and a 4 Cup because you never know what you might end up making and needing it for.  I use the 1 cup and 2 cup ones most often.

L. Plastic Mixing Bowl - You may be thinking "well why not just use a regular old cereal bowl or something instead of buying a mixing bowl?"  Well that's a good question...tell me your own answer to that when you try to mix seasonings with 2lbs of raw meat in a cereal bowl.   You may not use this all the time but it's size is incredibly helpful.

M. Skillet/Pan - This is for cooking many many many things.  I would suggest buying a 12 inch skillet as that will easily fit most things you would ever need to make in it unless you plan on feeding a family of 10.  I can easily fit 6 burgers in my 12 inch skillet.  Most Pot and Pan sets have an 8 inch and a 10 inch skillet and if that's what you have that's fine and at times you may find that you need 2 skillets but from my experience and the kind of things I cook, I haven't found that a necessity.

N. 11x15 Glass Casserole Dish - *you could also use a 9x13 pan as most recipes call for that*  I prefer using the 11X15 pan because of a couple dishes I make which need a little extra room for stuff to actually fit and cook through.  Yes that means I end up with thin brownies when I use this one but if that's the only drawback then I'll take it!  You'll use this for things like brownies, cakes, casseroles and a chicken dish that I will be covering at a later time.   Sometimes these will come in a pack with a smaller casserole dish as well.  If you find a combo pack get that because the small one can be used for things like banana pudding.

O & P. Pots - Generally pots come in a set with pans so if you end up getting that then you should be good.  Unlike skillets/pots, I find that I regularly need two pots.  Generally a very large one for things like chilli and pasta and a small one for things like green beans, spaghetti sauce, and carrots.  If both of them have a lid then that's excellent but you will definitely need a lid for the small one as most things that end up being prepared in that one tend to pop and spew stuff all over you and you kitchen (I'm looking at you spaghetti sauce!)

Q. Colander - There are many kinds of colanders on the market and I'll be honest with you.. they all work pretty much the same.  You can have a silicone one with a handle, a large cheap plastic one, one that hangs on your sink, or a metal one...doesn't matter.  They are to drain water off your food when you're fixing spaghetti or other things that you may boil in water.   Save some money and run to the dollar store for this one.

R. Cookie Sheet/Baking Pan -You'll probably want a couple of these in various sizes but to start off with you'll only NEED one large one.  This is for baking practically everything from biscuits to cookies to chicken.  Don't worry about spending a lot here because I've had both expensive ones and cheap ones and they all end up looking like they crawled out of a ghetto back alley within a couple years... which is why you have...

S. Aluminum Foil - Use this to cover your baking pan so that the inevitable unhappiness of the pan doesn't get on your delicious food.  You can also use this to wrap leftovers or put ingredients in and place on a grill or fireplace if necessary.

T. Silicone Oven Mitt - You'll need this for pulling out that cookie sheet from the oven unless you just don't like having flesh on your hand.  Why silicone?  Easy Cleanup!  I would avoid ones that are fabric like the plague because they don't insulate anywhere near as well as the silicone.  Also if you happen to get grease or anything on the mitt, if it's silicone it'll just wipe off.  If the mitt is fabric it will need to go into the washing machine and could shrink making it unusable (not that THAT'S ever happened to me before grumble grumble)

U. Cutting Board(s) - Cutting boards are essential so you don't butcher your kitchen counter with that expensive sharp knife you just bought.  There are multiple kinds of these but I would avoid wooden ones because of their porous nature where the juices from different meats can get into them.  I'm sure a good scrubbing or running it through the dishwasher will eliminate those problems but why not just use a plastic one and not worry?  You can have one simple cutting board like the white one on the right that you'll have to wash off if you are cutting multiple kinds of things or you can find a four pack like the ones on the left where there is a designated cutting board for vegetables, beef and pork, fish, and poultry.

V. Small Glass Bowl - These can come in a four pack (or larger) or may even come with your 11X15 glass casserole dish.  This one is more on the side of "you don't really need this" but I find it incredibly handy.  I use it to put sauces and oils in that I plan on brushing on to meats when I cook.  They can also be used as mini icecream bowls!

W. Brush - This is simply used to brush on sauces and oils to meat and other foods.  They come either as the one above or in a silicone variety.  Both have their ups and downs and it depends on what you want.   My fiber brush brings a lot of liquid with it but you have to blast it with water to get them all out.   The silicone one gets cleaner faster but you have to dip it in the liquid more often.  Take your pick

SHEW that was a long list

Now this is nowhere near the amount of kitchen supplies you could purchase or perhaps even need.  There are some things I will be using later on that I haven't mentioned here such as a glass bowl, or a burger patty maker. There are certain things that serve very specific purposes that you don't generally need on a daily basis such as a flour sifter, and a wok.  There are a lot of expensive items that can make your life easier such as a blender, hand or stand mixer, or a toaster oven. The purpose of this entry was not to fully get your kitchen to where you have every single thing imaginable, but rather was to get you to a base point where you could adequately make food for the average person.

Obviously if you can't afford to get this all at once improvise as much as you can or need.  Slowly stockpile these things over a few months or if you are lucky enough to still have your parents living ask them for help acquiring these things.  From my experience, parents will buy these kind of items ten times over before spending money on a video game or movie for you. Don't be too proud, just ask them and I'm sure they'll be impressed with the decision you have made and help as they can.

Yeah there's just a few more things that you should consider keeping stocked up on for your kitchen to help you make the best food possible.  That's right I'm talking about a barebones set of spices, seasonings and oils!

X. Cooking Spray - simple aerosol cooking spray is a necessity for most things that you will cook so that your food doesn't stick to whatever you are cooking it on.  I chose canola oil but you can use vegetable oil or any other variety.

Y. Vegetable Oil (not pictured) and Olive Oil - Vegetable oil is your standard go-to oil that most cakes and brownies ask for and is a necessity from that aspect.  However when I'm doing basically anything else I end up using Olive Oil.  When mixed in with food it keeps things incredibly moist and adds a slight bit of good flavor to the food.  It's a key ingredient in making good salmon and turkey so that they don't dry up like sand.

Z. Salt and Pepper - If you don't already have this in your house I don't know what you are doing with your life, I really don't.  If you don't have this get it and slap yourself for not having it already because this gets used in too many things to count.

AA. Garlic Powder - I personally love garlic and don't have time to deal with fresh garlic so garlic powder became something I use fairly often like in my turkey burgers or omelets.

AB. Cinnamon Sugar - This one won't be used as much but it can be used for things such as sweet potatoes, sweet potato fries, cheesecakes, and a plethora of other desserts.  It's a good thing to have handy just in case.

AC. Various Seasonings That You Enjoy - It's always good to keep well stocked on a few seasoning blends that you enjoy and go with multiple dishes so you can pull something out at the last minute.  I tend to prefer Weber brand seasonings because they just appeal to me and taste incredible.  The ones I use most often are their Old Bay, Zesty Lemon, Roasted Garlic and Herb, Kickin' Chicken, and Gourmet Burger.  I highly suggest checking them out and giving them a taste for yourself.  If that's not your thing then find something you enjoy!

Well that's about it.  As I've said before this may not be all that you want or need but this will provide you a good base of which to grow from.  I don't claim to know everything there is to do with cooking or probably even 1/10th of anything about it but I do what I can and the people I have cooked for seem to enjoy it and that's all that matters.  If you enjoy yourself and others find your cooking appetizing then you have succeeded.  If you think I've missed something that people would find essential to starting out then please leave a comment on here or on Facebook!  I'd love to hear from you and learn myself.

This is Ghost fading into the darkness!
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If you want to see my other food topics and recipes then simply click here!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ghost's Angry Reviews: The Mario Kart Problem

Here we go!
Last Week on Facebook Messenger

Me: One review I want to do soonish is "The Mario Kart Problem"

Daman: Oh man, the Mairo Kart problem INDEED.  Mario Kart is the only racing game I play LOL

Me: Same here... anymore at least.  One thing I do miss about the F-Zero series is the feeling of speed.  You went REALLY fast in those games.

Daman: I feel like Mario Kart just needs to be faster.  Idk

Me: Eh... too much faster will take away the fun and weirdness of it.  It's about perfect where it is.  We just need more games that give us a different racing experience for those of us who want it.

 OH, SON OF A....
(Please note: the above sequence ACTUALLY happened.  It was not made up for the sake of this review.  It was...too perfect to not include)

Ghost here, glad you could drop by.   Let's talk about racing.

Whether you realize it or not, racing has become an incredibly popular activity throughout the world.  Whether it's going to your local drag strip to test out your own machine, sitting down at a NASCAR or Formula One race to watch your favorite driver, watching NASCAR, Formula One, or Top Gear at home, or going to the theater to see Furious 7.  I personally can't wait for Furious 8: The Great Longneck Migration!
 but I digress...

It's no wonder with racing being such a prolific part of humanity that this activity would translate over into video games as well.  In fact, it's one of the best ways to experience racing for those of us on the lower end of the skill spectrum.  Racing can be extremely dangerous and costly.  Sure you don't get the adrenaline rush from sitting at home on a computer or console but you still get somewhat of an experience for 1/30th of the cost and no personal risk involved.  It's a great avenue to explore for games, and the video game industry began developing racing games early in the creation of the medium.

The video game industry has an extensive list of great racing games in its past.  There is a long legacy of  burnt rubber and gasoline fumes if we simply take a look back, but for today we're going to focus on Mario Kart and the problem it poses.
Mario Kart 8 to be specific as it is the latest installment of the franchise.

Mario Kart has been around since 1992, and it's almost pointless to talk about it because most people have seen or played one of the numerous versions of the game out there, but for the sake of argument and to make this longer than necessary I shall do so.  It is my M.O. after all.

Mario Kart is a series of racing games in which characters from across the Mario Universe as well as others such as Link from Legend of Zelda get together to race on various tracks in different worlds including but not limited to the following: The Mushroom Kingdom (Mario), Yoshi's Island (Yoshi), Kongo Jungle (Donkey Kong), and Hyrule (Legend of Zelda).  There are, up until April 23rd, three speed settings for you to choose from based on your skill level.  However it's not just a simple racing game, there are boost pads, obstacles, and items that can be used to attack or make the track more difficult for others.  It's the sort of mad house experience you would expect from Mario being in a race.
In recent years it has gone even beyond that.  There have been additions to the carts themselves that have made the game more diverse and interesting.  Dirt bikes and motorcycles started appearing.  The carts and bikes could turn into a hovercraft for when the track didn't stay on the ground; they used this hovering to become aquatic and perform underwater racing.  They even started adding gliders to the backs for aerial jumps and maneuverability. 

However, the single greatest thing to also happen to Mario Kart is the Online Multiplayer!  You no longer have to be in the same room with your friends to be able to race and battle against them.  You can also be placed in a random room full of strangers from across the world and race to your heart's content.  With the randomness, people's skill, and the sheer number of differing vehicles and courses there's fun to last several years, especially with DLC being released to add more fun to the mixture.

Now I know what you might be saying.

Ghost, it sounds like you genuinely like the Mario Kart series.  So what's this problem?

Of course I love the Mario Kart series.  There are few who don't.  But, in my opinion there is one problem with this series that has subtly sneaked in under the radar of most people, and it's not even a problem that's a common one to have.

The Problem

Mario Kart has become too good.

How on earth could being "too good" be a problem?  I and all manner of amateur, half-witted, and professional critics go around all day complaining about games being not good enough or not up to potential; how could I ever say something was too good?  Isn't that backwards thinking?

Well yes and no.  It's true that we want a quality experience to come from our gaming.  We want something that is fantastic and will last.  In the last few years we've even wanted continued support through both free and paid DLC.  Nintendo listened to what we have asked for with Mario Kart 8 and really hit a home run.  It's everything we could have asked for.  They have delivered a supreme quality product and given how Nintendo has been for the last few years, honestly surprised many of us with just how great it is.  Come to think of it, they've been surprising us a lot here lately with them stepping up to the plate for their fans

Before I get into HOW it's too good, let's conduct a BS experiment shall we?  Give me a name of a racing game that has been released in the last seven years that has been either accepted by a very large number of people both hardcore gamers and casual gamers alike, or has been influential in how racing games are made or presented.

Most of you are probably sitting here not thinking of anything.  There may be a few of you who mentioned Need for Speed or Twisted Metal but let's be honest here, you're saying that out of nostalgia for a series you love not because they are influential on a whole anymore.

Now that we've done that and got you thinking, how exactly is Mario Kart TOO good?

Mario Kart has been filled with so much content while maintaining it's level of fun and ingenuity that it basically has eliminated the need for almost every single other racing game in one fashion or another.

Seriously.  Mario Kart could be the only racing game we have at any point and most people probably wouldn't notice or care.   Yes, a few people would would be wanting their Need for Speed and NASCAR simulators but overall what your common video game player will want can be provided by the Mario Kart experience  The proof of this comes from (probably) not only your answer to the question I presented above, but just the simple fact that though racing games aren't exactly my favorite genre, I had to look up what all racing games were even released in the last 7 years aside form Mario Kart but I SURE knew exactly how many Mario Kart Games have been released in that time period.

My own collection of games can reflect this fact as well; completely unintentionally as well.  I only realized the "Mario Kart Problem" a few days ago as of the writing of this.   Let's look at our modern generation and the generation before that.
I've got Mario Kart 8, Mario Kart Wii, and Sonic Riders Zero Gravity.  The latter of which was bought out of sheer curiosity and played maybe 1/20th as much as Mario Kart Wii and that's being generous.

Looking back at previous generations however, before Mario Kart perfected it's craft we have a different story.
I've got Mario Kart Double Dash, Mario Kart 64, and Kirby Air Ride which was a Mario Kart wannabe with half the fun, but I also have Automobili Lamborghini, Star Wars Episode 1 Racer, and F-Zero GX which offered entirely different gameplay experiences.

There simply were more games with more diversity before Mario Kart perfected itself.  Now there's no need for any of those game franchises outside of lingering nostalgia.  You can find almost everything you need in Mario Kart 8.

Need Further Proof?  Let's take a look at some racing games from the past/present and stack them against Mario Kart 8 and see what we have.  Obviously each of these racing games have MORE to offer than what I'm placing in the scenarios below but I'm trying to go with what stands out to me while avoiding repetition.

And for the heck of it
As you can see, destructible surroundings, real life race tracks, and the feeling of using a gas and brake pedal with your foot are pretty much the only things that Mario Kart is missing as a whole.  Well that and a lot of different kinds of real life cars but that could be an easy DLC even for the current game.

I realize that there are markets and people who want that experience of racing in NASCAR; there are people who want the thrills of Twisted Metal and Need for Speed, but with Mario Kart having most of everything you need then, from a producer/developer standpoint, what's the purpose of trying?

And that's my problem.

What Am I Getting At?
Mario Kart has basically perfected the family friendly racing experience.  One simple update or a hardware release could easily even fix the things I mentioned above that the series doesn't currently do.  My problem with this is that especially on a Nintendo console, there's no reason for the company to put any money into any racing experience other than Mario Kart.  It doesn't matter how much you pump into a WiiU release of a Need for Speed Game it will never come close to the content, sales, or likability that the Mario Kart game has, or worse will just be considered a "second hand clone" of Mario Kart.  

If there's no chance of making a difference in the market with the other racing products as-is then racing games will have to go above and beyond to make something different and stand out/beside Mario Kart.  This means taking a risk and potentially a sizable one.  Game developers take fewer and fewer risks now days because there's no guarantee of it selling especially with all the game avenues and indie scenes popping up.  If your only options are to sell poorly because something else exists that does what you want better,  have the potential to sell poorly because of making a mistake with a risk, or pouring your money into another project what has a better chance for success what are you honestly going to do?

Things like Twisted Metal are at a slight advantage in this situation because it has always been a Sony Exclusive.  If you're a Sony fanboy and don't even have or care about a Nintendo product then you're in the clear because Mario Kart isn't messing up your market.   If you're a NASCAR fan and the only experience you want is racing across America as if you were a real NASCAR racer then you're not affected by this either as that's not what Mario Kart is about and you're probably playing the NASCAR game on PC.  There are niche and very specific markets that other racing games can thrive in but they are few and far between. 

I've love to see another Podracing game because Star Wars Episode 1 Racer was a very underrated and wonderful game.  I'd love to see something like a good version of Sonic R come out where the characters are mostly not in cars and doesn't feel like it's piggybacking off Mario Kart's success.  I'd love to see another F-Zero game come out for Nintendo but with Mario Kart hanging out there what are the chances that they would pour money into something that won't sell as well or do as much?  Short answer - they're not.

It's long been said to never bring up a problem unless you have a solution, but in this case, I don't know of a solution to provide.  Nintendo is doing EXACTLY what they should with the Mario Kart series.  They are making it a game that people everywhere, including me, love.  They are going above and beyond with this series and I couldn't be more happy with the Mario Kart 8 experience.  I will keep playing the current one and I will buy the new one when it comes out.  I just wish there was a way for great racing titles, especially F-Zero, to not only be funded and made but to shine at least 3/4ths as brightly as the "almost" perfection of Mario Kart.

This is Ghost fading into the Darkness.
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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!