The musings of a madman...

Life, love, hip hop, humor AND instructions on how to cook a bangin'-ass meal... all in one place. I put the words here, make what you want of them.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Free Promo Corner -- Lego Dimensions

(image mercilessly curbed from Wikipedia)

Lego Dimensions: the most brilliant video game/toy idea in YEARS.  (AKA "shut up and take my money!")

Imagine you had the ability to play a video game tying a bespoke story involving characters from The Simpsons, DC Universe, Ghostbusters, The Lego Movie, Scooby Doo and 8 other franchises that Lego has licensing for currently ALL AT ONCE.  Imagine further that this particular game would be expandable by purchasing Lego toys.  Well stop imagining, because that is PRECISELY what this is.
It is a concept they have referred to as "toys-to-life," wherein you buy the game in a "Starter Pack" which contains a ton of toys already, and then you add onto the game with subsequent toys, which you can immediately add to the game.

You buy a "Fun Pack" and you get the physical toy set and the pieces in that set are added to the game, characters and vehicles.  Buy a "Team Pack" and it adds characters, vehicles and gadgets to the game.  You buy a "Level Pack" and it adds entire levels to the game, more characters, more vehicles and more gadgets.
The buy-in seemed high to me at first before realizing how much extra stuff physically comes with the game and the expansions.  The price is well balanced once one considers the amount of new Lego toys they receive with each expansion (or that they get an expansion with toy purchases -- look at that as you see fit).

Expansions are to be released in waves, looking as far out as about May of 2016, but it doesn't seem foreign to me that this could continue on ad  infinitum, considering Lego is constantly being tied in with other franchises and this would be an amazingly simple cash grab for them, considering that the packs don't NECESSARILY require that one give a damn about gaming to purchase since they don't saddle one with a physical disc or anything.

My copy arrived today after 4 and a half weeks of me talking myself out of it but unable to resist, and this is going to be MAJOR fun for my daughter and I on two fronts for a long time to come.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The frugal sneaker fiend

My name is a Phillip, and I am a sneaker head…
                I did not come by this as honestly as many who I have observed have.  In fact, I may have created it for a WILDLY different set of reasons.  When my twin and I were 11, we left my pops and became a single parent household.  Even before this January day, we could basically be assured that at any given time there would be three pairs of shoes in our lives:
1 – “school” shoes:  this would be the newest and cleanest pair, re-upped only at the beginning of the school year and Christmas.
2 – “play” shoes: the most recently demoted shoes from “school shoes” status, provided there had not been a major growth spurt to bring on a change.
3 – “church” shoes: replaced ONLY at significant growth spurts and/or Easter.  Otherwise self-explanatory.

                Let me preface this by explaining that I have worn the same size shoe since the summer before I turned 16.

As a kid, I learned to lowkey HATE that other kids got shoes for no good apparent reason while I had to understand that I would need to either conform to what was available or what I could scare up by cutting 5-9 lawns a weekend and riding the bus to the mall to acquire.  I do not resent my mother for this, trust and believe because 36 year-old me appreciates never having had to eat hunger for dinner and the "go fucking get it" spirit that it created in us.  At 16, though, I still had the hustler’s spirit that cut yards and shoveled snow to help mom with the bills and groceries, but now I could legally work as well.  3ish years prior, I had made a promise to myself that I would not ever dog out another pair of sneakers due to necessity at the exact moment I could afford not to.  Word to my employment at Winn Dixie 16 days after my 16th birthday, I have not in the 20 years since.  Sure, shoes have gotten old and demoted to "yardwork" status or succumbed to simple old age, but I have only worn out the shoes that I have run in and that was on-purpose wear.

                But wait!
After high school, I worked in the mall and shored up my dress shoes game on Mezlans, Cole Haan and whatever else we had in the store at the time (I still own and wear these shoes when I dress it up now), but I built allegiances in the mall to where I understood the beauty of a hookup as well.  1999 was the last time I paid full price for a pair of sneakers (triple black Flightposite 1, but don’t tell my mama they were $160 on release date).  I would later return to college and a more stable job.  At the both, I would find myself waiting for shoes to fall to clearance before buying, I would drive 1.5 (Concord NC) to 3 (Smithfield NC) hours to outlets to buy annexed-priced sneakers.

                Then, I was 27 (this matters because I am still at the same job as I am on the downside of my 30s)
Apply the lessons of my childhood and early adulthood.  Remember that I made a promise to myself and my unimagined children that I would not dog out my sneakers anymore and that they (now a specific 'she') would not have to either.  I also learned the BEAUTY of not paying full retail.  There are now outlets closer to home and the ubiquitousness of the internet.  At any given time, I can go onto eBay and filter down my search to include shoes that BEGAN at $150 and are waiting for me to click “Add To Cart” for no more than $67 (<-- i=""> that is my magic number) and move on with NEVER having to have a teenager in the mall exclaim “WHAT ARE THOSE?!”
Back in July, I said I would chill on sneaker purchases, but two weeks ago, I realized that I was hamstringing my ability to enjoy the spoils of my own hard work and have copped a couple of pairs of otherwise exclusives since.

                $67 and under, shipping/tax included.  I don’t wait in line or pay full price.  I will ALWAYS own enough pairs of shoes to not HAVE to wear the same ones twice in any given 10-day period outside of my simply deciding to.  Knowing how to apply my search to own things I might have only HOPED to as a child?  Yes, that too.
I actually appreciate what my upbringing made me into as a sneakerhead.  I don’t exactly care for Jordan as a person, so his shoes fall to the same.  Add to that the fact that the designer of his shoes also designed 3 of my OTHER favorite Nike lines including my absolute favorite and I am good.  Give me a Trainer 1, Trainer 1.2, Trainer 3 or one of SEVERAL Huaraches and I am fine.

Now if you will excuse me, I am looking to score these Lakers-colorway Flight Huaraches for my price.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Jay-Z, Obama and Magna Carta... Holy Grail

A non-secret is that Jay-Z has money and a lot of it.  It is rumored that his net worth is more than that of a certain Willard Mittens Romney.  Incredible, as Romney got his on the back of a wealthy daddy helping to provide the best education money could provide and Shawn Carter is doing so without even a high school diploma to speak of.  Another non-secret or meme within the rap world is that those with money – even a little bit of it – walk around with it under their arms to use a metaphor.  “If you have it, show it” they say.  In exacting this, a theme that frequently gets pulled is “I ain’t even GOT to rap,” as if we didn’t already know that it was rap that got them there in the first place.
Anyway, never mind that…  Today, we’re talking about Jay-Z and his new album.  After the past 18 years of his life in rap, it is established that he, in fact, DOESN’T have to rap – or probably even ever work again – and his great-grandchildren will die wealthy too.  In spite of that fact, he and Samsung carried out a genius-level marketing play wherein Samsung pretty much subsidized the production costs of the album at a deep profit to Jay-Z by agreeing to pay $5 each for a million copies, which they would then give to a million owners of certain devices of theirs.  Since digital sales do count as sales in and of themselves, this means that the album was RIAA certified platinum before anyone had heard anything more than a commercial for it.
Which brings me to one of the points of today’s scribe…  If the album has already been guaranteed to turn a profit for Jay-Z, as well as Samsung for their troubles, then where is the motivation to actually make an album that would be worthy of the lofty name that once was Jay-Z?  Exactly…  There is none, really.
So why even make an album?

I have a theory that has been largely unexplored.
President Obama.
No, stick with me, here…

After the debacle and fallout that came from Jay and the Carter family going on a HIGHLY illegal vacation in Cuba and bearing accusers clamoring for the president to DO something to someone who claimed to be a personal friend for that, he had to make it up.  It is no secret that Obama’s NSA has been spying on citizens’ digital lives through their wireless phones of late.  This album was the PERFECT out!  See, first ONE MILLION people VOLUNTEER to download an app that they agree to give out a ton of their personal information and access to even more of it in order to receive a free copy of an album.  Now being that among this million people, roughly 10-100 thousand of them would be willing to IMMEDIATELY leak the album to the masses 3-5 days before official release, a great many might not be savvy enough to make sure that some technical shit and encryptedness attached to the album might not be getting passed off to now TENS of millions on the internets, including myself.
I sat at my desk Wednesday night and thought "how much would Obama and the NSA pay for VOLUNTEERED access to the cell phone usage, records and internet activities monitoring of a few million Americans?"  Then I asked myself "how much, monetarily, does that compare to looking the other way while a dude who can afford it goes to Cuba in spite of laws that tell him not to do that?" and for a follow up to that question, "do ANY of us want to waste time in court bitching about it?"
That's right, Obama called Jay-Z one day on his personal NSA-monitored Galaxy S4 and made him an offer neither of them could refuse in order to avoid a VERY expensive felony. Jay-Z convinced Samsung to foot the bill and the NSA is now looking through all of the great porn I downloaded while I was on vacation this week.  And in exchange for that, Jay-Z didn't even have to TRY hard to make this album.  Sure, he used Samsung's money to pay some DAMN good producers and has a MASTERFULLY produced album, but lyrically he didn't even seem to be bothered with being bothered.

So there you have it.  Now we know WHY Jay-Z made the album and why he could get away with such an amazingly produced, but halfassedly rapped, album.
As with everything, we can go forth with blaming Barack Obama.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

In the Kitchen with Phlip - Curry Chicken Pizza Roll

"Curry Chicken Pizza Roll,"  yes I said those words in that order and you didn't wake up from a dream.

Since the Bookface is trying hard to make me fat again with all the recipes and ideas people post all the time, sometimes I find myself in position to ape a recipe and turn it into something so different from what it started as that I need not even link what the inspiration was.  This is one of those times.

Day One:

For this, you will need:

The star of today's show, the seasonings:

Mix them together (quantities to be discussed below):
Let the big spoon there be your guide: 2 heaping spoons of the curry and one small one of the cayenne (cayenne to taste, it is actually optional but I like my curry spicy).  A good hefty dash each of the lemon pepper, onion powder and garlic powder and a light dash of the nutmeg (nutmeg is assertive).

Start a roux; enough oil to coat the bottom of a saucepan set to medium/hi heat, and when it is up to temp, two of the spoons full of all-purpose flour and whisk it to keep it from clumping.:

When it is a nice blonde color, add two spoons of the spice mixture and toast it in with it, THEN add this guy:

Then add a small amount of butter and the rest of the spice mixture:

Bring it all to a boil, then add a half-cup of heavy cream (or half and half)

Return to a light boil, stir well and turn the heat off.  This sauce will thicken quite fast, so make sure you're employing a fast hand on the stir.  Now is a good time to go ahead and turn your oven on to 275°
Now you should have your chicken and vegetables ready:
Two large boneless/skinless breasts, a half cup each of frozen onions, jalapenos and celery.

Cover the chicken and veggies with the sauce, then (not pictured) tap the pan on the counter a couple times to fill in any gaps:

Cover with foil and bake in that 275° oven for 2-2.5 hours (low heat, long duration = tender outcome), internal temperature should be 165° with your meat thermometer when done.
This concludes day one's work... Allow it about an hour to cool naturally, cover the pan and refrigerate it.  Doing this in advance allows the sauce to REALLY penetrate the chicken and vegetables.

Day Two:

This guy is the tool of the day:

Everyone goes into the processor with the blade tool inside (you see it there).  Dice the chicken into manageable pieces, sauce and vegetables can go in as they are.  Pulse it a couple of times to get everyone mixing in, then go on low speed to make a paste of it without fucking liquefying it all.  This should take no longer than 2-3 minutes:
Curried chicken PASTE!?  Phillip, what have you DONE here?

Grate about a half-cup of cheese... My choice for this was pepper jack:

Pizza Dough time:
"store bought pizza dough, you should make your own, blahblahblah... eat me"

Set the oven to 425° now so it will be ready.
Open the pizza crust, lay it completely out and spread the curry chicken paste on it.  Leave about an  inch from the edge to keep it from running out when you roll it:

Sprinkle the cheese on it and CAREFULLY roll it up:

Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray/grease it to keep it from sticking.  Brush the top of the roll with oil:

Now you can place it into the oven.  Playing this by a desired color, pull it out when it is about this complexion:

Allow ample time to cool and all you'll need to do is slice it and serve!  ½" to 1" slices should do you just fine:

Warning: the amounts I used in making the sauce left it where I could do this THREE times or more, so I am seriously considering freezing some of it to do it later, or making another one later on this week.  At dinner, it was a hit, as I only had about a 3" section of it remaining when I got back home just now.  I am GOING to make this again this week and I am GOING to use more filling when I do so.
Beyond that, it was DAMN good.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

In the Kitchen with Phlip x Dads at War -- "Don't throw out those leftovers!"

This is something I came up with 6 weeks ago...
I found myself faced with a fridge containing leftovers that I no longer wanted as they were at the time, but unwilling to throw out or give to the dog food that was still good.  I sat the Ava down in front of Yo Gabba Gabba and went to work.

Started with some boneless/skinless chicken breasts I'd had on that Monday...

And some cheesy coarse-mashed potatoes from that Wednesday...

Now, addressing the chicken, make with the knifework and dice it up as fine as you can make it go...

Line the cookie sheet with foil and (not pictured) hit it with the cooking spray...

Panko bread crumbs and go ahead and put that oven on 400 now)...

(not pictured) simply fold into and mix the chicken and potatoes together, add some cheese if you're feeling sporty and pat out into 2.5"x1" patties, then dip into the bread crumbs to cover completely hit the tops of them with that cooking spray one last time to aid in crisping...

(40 minutes later)...

... and that's IT!!!  Give em a couple minutes to cool, and enjoy!  You just saved yourself the cash that the things you'd have otherwise tossed actually cost you on the front end!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dads At War -- $ave on your Grocery Expen$e$

Today, I am teaching a lesson…

This past weekend in line with the release of the Galaxy S4, I joked on the social networks about the unemployed people who have no actual income but always have money for new fly shit and how I stretch my money to make sure that I myself can afford at least some of the fly shit that I desire.  Yeah, I was being TOTALLY judgmental.
Well, one of the things that I mentioned doing is that I can make $100 worth of groceries last 3-5 weeks.  I assure you that people on Facebook see what I am capable of cooking and eating more than those who may be trawling my blog.
                Rather than spend time on the humor in my taking these people to task, the conversation turned to just HOW in the hell I am making $100 go just THAT far.  The rest of the conversation turned to me explaining how and why most of what people lose in their grocery budget goes right into the trashcan, literally.  Waste from cooking too much and seeing the leftovers go bad is the #1 culprit – or it was in my house – and luckily is one of the simplest to overcome.
And this is where I come in to help you…

  • When you buy your staple items (to make a long story short, I am talking about your meats here), buy in bulk and save on unit price.  The more you buy at once, the less you spend per pound.  Don’t be shy about the flash markdowns within the last couple days before expiration, more on why in a second.
  • Once you have that (those) huge package(s) of meat and you have gotten it home, divide it out into meal-sized portions that you will then freeze for later use.  THIS is why there is no good reason to be shy about the discounted stuff; you’ll be freezing it before its “use/freeze by” date anyway.  Smart money says that if you intend to marinate it to go ahead and do it now before putting it in the freezer.
  • With properly planned/portioned meals according to the number of people who live in your house, you will only be cooking for people who will be eating and in quantities that you will not have a ton of leftovers in the fridge for a week for the kids to get tired of and get tossed out.
  • (note:  this applies to my house and may not necessarily work for yours)  Not eating red meat goes a LONG way in the saving of money, as it is a simple fact that poultry and (most) seafood will cost quite a bit less than similarly applied red meat (beef/pork/etc…) items.  With that in mind, being a snob about dark meat vs white meat can and will unnecessarily drive your grocery bill up, so be realistic with what you’re needing and what you need it for.

The only thing you should realistically have to go back to the store for in between your paydays is milk and bread (yes, eggs and cheese will keep that long).

Look at this…

Those are chicken leg quarters, plenty enough to feed me and my family one meal at a time.  Each one of those bags represents one day.  That nine days’ worth of chicken cost me $9.77 at Satan’s nutsack Wal Mart.  Similarly – as you will see in the only other image contained in this post – others items will be frozen as well.
Matter of fact, here’s that pic now…

On the top shelf, you will see about 8 frozen and vacuum-sealed tilapia filets from a bag that I (well, my mom since SHE wanted fish and didn't need to have 20 filets) only paid about $11 for.  On the next shelves after the ice maker, you will see one quart of spaghetti sauce and six 8x8 pans, two contain baked mac and cheese and four contain pre-rolled (but not yet cooked) meatballs.  As we should consider that our time is money, preparing these items ahead of time is a WINNER considering work/exercise scheduling and still having a meal ready to eat by dinner time.  Knocking 45 minutes of prep time off is the move.  Next down, you see all of the above-pictured chicken as well as what was already in the freezer from previous hauls.  Bottom drawer is FULLY stocked with frozen vegetables.  Not pictured and in the cabinets are various rice/pastas and non-perishable side items.  All told, I spent $60 in Wal Mart the past Friday ($14 of that was nonfood items) and we will EASILY eat on that for the whole of two weeks.
(Phlip Note: don't ask to see my fridge, the fact that I cook from my freezer makes my fridge look like I am a poor college student)

Individual results will vary, of course.  Remember that I have a small family and a very small child but following this lead will be the first step in saving some money on food supplies.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In the Kitchen with Phlip -- Chicken/Feta Meatballs

            I advise that this will be another of one of my short ones of these.  It was seriously just that simple to construct and do…

Simplicity is not without cost, though.  Let’s start with a cast of characters:

(Ground chicken, chicken sausage, chipotle Panko breadcrumbs, Feta cheese, and ranch dressing mix.  In observance of my granddaddy’s birthday last weekend, I am opting for brown eggs this week.  That is $17 in supplies and I have not even gotten to the sauces yet.)

Before doing anything, put the chicken sausage through your mini-chopper and chop it up as completely and finely as possible.  There is not a picture of this step in the process because it really is that simple and a mini chopper can be had for less than $10 at Wal Mart so you should already have one.

Now for the easy part, EVERYBODY IN THE POOL!!!

(Yes, simple as that.  Put everything in the mixing bowl, add a couple dashes of hot sauce of your choosing and (an option I visited) Worcestershire sauce, then mix everything thoroughly.)

Set that aside for now, it is time to make a sauce, with the following:

(not pictured: 1cup apple cider vinegar)

Put it all in a small pot on the stove, adding the hot sauces (and embellishing with some cayenne and/or sriracha to your own particular tastes).  Reduce to medium/low heat and set about the task of rolling bawls (heh heh heh), making them about 1.5-2” in size.  Set the bawls down into a sprayed/greased baking dish, then cover with the sauce.  Wrap tightly in foil and bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until your meat thermometer shows 160° in the middle of the biggest one.


Did someone say "side item"?


Start with 2 russet potatoes, slice them into 4-5 pieces, then hit them with your apple corer to make them into medium-sized chunks.  Heat up some oil on the stove and make home fries:

While you’re doing this, place one can of cream of chicken soup into the microwave for one minute, and when it comes out, mix in one cup of milk and 4-6oz of shredded cheese.  Pour this over the potatoes with some diced onions (optional) and coat completely.  Sprinkle a little more cheese on top to cover, then bake for 20-30 minutes.


Where I am normally the champion of the $20 meal that feeds two people for several days, this one was a bit more wasteful for what it included.  I easily spent $30 or more on this one, and while the yield was twice as many meatballs as were pictured above (the rest were shared with my mother and sister - who LOVED them), it was still considerably less than I get when I use turkey as my recipe normally calls for.