Friday, September 30, 2016

Movie Review: Stuck in Love

Image found here.
On a rainy afternoon, I was in no mood to leave the house. So instead, I had one of those rare Netflix nights at home, all to myself. And as much as I enjoy all of the new nature documentaries that are now available for streaming, I wanted to watch a romantic movie. I came across Stuck in Love. I had never heard of it before (even though it came out four years ago), but the film has a good cast and sounded like a cute story, so I went for it.

The movie explores different relationship concerning the members of the Borgens family, and how they are "stuck in love" when they don't want to be. You have the divorced parents (played by Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly), who have a history of infidelity and still pine for one another (in varying degrees). Then there's their teenage son Rusty (played by Nat Wolff), who falls in love for the first time with a girl who has a drug problem; he says that "looking at her hurt," that's how strongly he felt for her, even though he barely knew her at the time. His sister Samantha (played by Lily Collins) is jaded by her parents' relationship and defies love through her promiscuous one-night-stands with strangers. But then her classmate Louis (played by Logan Lerman) insists on being her friend, and she falls in love with him, despite her fear of being hurt. On top of that, the relationship between Samantha and her mother is rocky (due to the previously mentioned cheating), but of course Mom cannot help but love her daughter, even when Sam hasn't spoken to her in more than a year. These characters are "stuck in love," but in the end, it's not necessarily a bad thing.

I enjoyed this movie a lot. Many of the characters (Dad, Rusty, and Samantha) are writers, and the characters of the film themselves are well-written, so you really feel like you know who these people are. I could relate to most of the feelings they had, and all of the heavy stuff is saved for the last half hour of the movie; I must have cried five times just within that part of the film. If you have ever been in love before, and especially if you have ever had your heart broken before, you will see yourself in at least one of these characters. Love is a universal language, and even if you have not had these exact same experiences (ex. finding the girl you like snorting coke in the bathroom), you sympathize with the characters and may even think about what you would do or feel if you were in their place. You connect with their stories and their emotions, which for me is everything that makes a great film.

The movie poster calls the film "a story about first loves and second chances." I think that's the perfect way to describe it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Concert: Echo and the Bunnymen

Image found here. This "symbol" was all over their merchandise!
Last week, I went to the 9:30 Club to see Echo and the Bunnymen with my dad. We saw them at the HFStival in Baltimore when I was in high school, but the lead singer was actually sick, so they only performed two songs back then. So this time we got a much better experience!

Image found here.
The opening band was Skyline Hotel (not to be confused with Skyline Motel). The band is headed up by two brothers, Jeff and Jon Lee; one focuses on vocals while the other is the lead guitarist (with serious skills!). I liked their indie pop/rock sound, but I do wish they would have enunciated more with the lyrics. But maybe that just means I should buy their new EP?

The only time the lead singer was actually well-lit!
I will admit that while I like the music of Echo and the Bunnymen, I'm not really sure they're worth seeing live. The lead singer, Ian McCulloch, was kept in the dark almost the entire show (probably because he doesn't want everyone to see how old he's become!). None of the band members really danced, so they were just standing there on stage. McCulloch was drinking and smoking on stage between songs, and with his heavy British accent, the only time I could understand what he was saying when he was talking to the crowd was "Thank you" (his singing voice is much clearer!). Here's an hour-long video of some of the band's "best of" songs:

"Lips Like Sugar" was one of the only songs my dad recognized and was one of our favorites:

This was the first show where I finally got around to using my 9:30 Club "Friends with Benefits" card. I'm so excited to start collecting points, especially since I go to this venue all the time! If you're a frequent concert-goer, I definitely recommend that you sign up for it, too!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Recipe: Impossibly Easy French Apple Dessert Squares

Image found here.
Finally! The last apple dessert I made with the apples I picked from an orchard recently. Now I know that with 20 pounds of apples I can make: an apple pie, apple muffins, apple bread, another apple pie, and apple squares. This particular Betty Crocker recipe is so "easy" because it's made with Bisquick!



1 cup Original Bisquick™ mix
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup chopped nuts

Fruit Mixture

6 cups sliced peeled tart apples (6 medium-sized apples)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup Original Bisquick™ mix
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
4 eggs, beaten


  • Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In medium bowl, mix 1 cup Bisquick mix and the brown sugar. Cut in 1/4 cup butter, using pastry blender (or pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite directions), until crumbly. Stir in nuts; set aside.
  • In large bowl, mix apples, cinnamon and nutmeg; spoon into pan. In medium bowl, stir remaining ingredients until well blended. Pour mixture over apples. Sprinkle with streusel.
  • Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and top is golden brown. Cool 30 minutes or until set before cutting into squares. Store in refrigerator.
I think the only thing I changed in this recipe was that I did not include nuts in the topping (since many people do not like nuts in their desserts). The recipe is a bit egg-y for my taste, but still is very yummy, especially with whipped cream and/or ice cream!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Recipe: Apple Pie from Betty Crocker

Again, another apple recipe (this time from Betty Crocker) to use up all the honeycrisp apples I picked the other weekend!


Double-Crust Pastry (I used Walmart's brand)
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples (~8 medium-sized apples)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine


  •  Heat oven to 425ºF. Prepare lower crust pastry in pie plate.
  • Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large bowl. Stir in apples. Turn into pastry-lined pie plate. Dot with butter. Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1/2 inch from rim of plate.
  • Roll other round of pastry. Fold into fourths and cut slits so steam can escape. Unfold top pastry over filling; trim overhanging edge 1 inch from rim of plate. Fold and roll top edge under lower edge, pressing on rim to seal; flute as desired. Cover edge with 3-inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking.
  • Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust. Serve warm if desired.
I always try to make recipes as simple as possible, hence why I use pre-made dough (I will never roll my own pie crust. I just don't see the point!). I didn't really bother to trim the top dough crust; I just pinched the edges with the lower one. I also didn't fold and cut the top crust like the recipe calls for; I thought the heart design I made on top was cute, but I do wonder if the slits were too small to let the steam out, so the filling was a bit runny. My pie also took MUCH longer to bake than the recipe says. The last apple pie I made took 75 minutes to bake, so I would suggest letting the pie bake for at least an hour.

I enjoyed this pie with whipped cream rather than ice cream. Just as decadent!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Recipe: Apple Bread

Image found here.
Just another apple recipe to try to use up all the apples I picked at a local orchard in Poolesville, MD! I found this recipe on, and I think it turned out well!

Ingredients (divided by wet and dry)

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups apples, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or more to taste)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan.
  2. Beat eggs, sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl; add apples.
  3. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon in a separate bowl; add to apple mixture and stir just until evenly combined into a thick batter. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Cover loaf pan with aluminum foil; continue baking until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes more. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.
Here are my own modifications:
1. Instead of using plain vegetable oil, I used an orange-flavored oil I bought from Olivins in St. Michaels, MD. This is a great way to add more flavor to any recipe! (It tastes great in brownies!)
2. Rather than just using cinnamon, I also added half a teaspoon of all-spice.

This bread is very moist and quite decadent! A delicious dessert!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Recipe: Quick and Easy Apple Muffins

Again, with the plethora of apples I picked last weekend, I decided to try to make apple muffins. I chose this recipe from because it doesn't call for streusel, which to me is kind of a pain to make. This recipe only makes a dozen, but I suppose it would be pretty easy to double the batch.

Ingredients (divided by wet and dry)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup apple - peeled, cored, and chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
  2. Stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, stir together milk, egg and butter. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture just until combined. Fold in chopped apples. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

I did not have milk on hand, so I just used water. Also, the recipe doesn't call for icing, but I thought they looked a little naked (and potentially dry), so I slathered on some vanilla icing. Yum!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Recipe: Apple Crumb Pie

I went apple picking last weekend in Poolesville, MD (near Rocklands Farm), and I ended up with close to 20 pounds of honeycrisp apples! So of course I had to bake an apple pie! I found this recipe on the website of Mel's Kitchen. It's not too hard, but I did have to peel, core, and slice at least six apples!

    Pie Crust:
  • 1 single crust pie dough ( no-fail sour cream pie crust)
  • Apple Filling:
  • 3 pounds apples [I sort of went by eyeballing how many apple slices would fit into a pie]
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
  • Crumb Topping:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
  1. Make the pie crust according to directions, roll it out into a 9-inch pie plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before filling with the apples.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Peel, core and slice all the apples to about 1/4-inch thick. It doesn't have to be exact - just try to get them all about the same thickness so the apples cook evenly.
  3. Toss the apples in a bowl with the lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon, then stir in the sour cream, if using. Scoop the apple mixture into the chilled crust.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Add the butter pieces and cut in with a fork, your fingers or a pastry blender until the mixture is coarsely combined and makes a streusel-like consistency.
  5. Lightly press the crumb mixture on top of the apples. Place the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 60-90 minutes until the apples are tender and the crust is golden brown. If the crust edges are getting too dark during the last 30 minutes of baking, you can cover them with foil for the remainder of baking.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature. This pie is divine with a bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
And of course I made my own changes. I used a store-bought Pillsbury frozen crust that I simply rolled out into the pie plate. And I only had one lemon, but I think it was sufficient. 60-90 minutes is quite the range, so I went in the middle and baked my pie for 70 minutes. I thought the streusel was annoying to make, but I haven't found much on buying pre-made streusel (other than this website, which doesn't give me many details on how much is in one order, etc.). I will say that, for next time, I'll try adding other spices like nutmeg rather than using just cinnamon; I didn't use the sour cream, so maybe I'd try that another time, too. The pie definitely tastes better the next day when the apples have had time to absorb all the spices!

Original Recipe Source: adapted from a 2007 Real Simple magazine (used a completely different pie crust, omitted walnuts and raisins, used salted butter in the topping and a different variety of apples)