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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cooking with Banshee: Asian Asparagus

Believe it or not, the Banshee does eat vegetables.  Asparagus is one of my favorites, and this recipe for Asian Asparagus is one of my favorite ways to serve asparagus.  I found this recipe at  It appears here with a few minor tweaks.

2 lbs fresh asparagus
1 Tbs cornstarch
1/3 cup + 1 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs grape seed oil (can substitute vegetable oil)
4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
3 Tbs honey
1.5 Tbs dry sherry
2 tsp Sriracha sauce (can substitute 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper)
2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbs toasted sesame seeds

Steam asparagus until crisp tender (approximately 8 minutes).  Place in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 Tbs of soy sauce and the cornstarch.  Set aside.

Add the grape seed oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat.  Add the garlic and ginger.  Sauté for one minute.  Add 1/3 cup soy sauce, honey, sherry, Sriracha and sesame oil.  Whisk to combine.  Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Whisk in the cornstarch and soy sauce mixture.  Stir and heat until thickened.  Add the asparagus to the skillet and toss until evenly coated.  Heat until asparagus is warm.

Transfer to a platter.  Drizzle with remaining sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Book Review: Season of Saturdays

This is only the second book review ever published on Banshee Sports.  Once again, it is a book by Michael Weinreb that pushed me out of my comfort zone.  Season of Saturdays is a must-read for those who love college football.  More importantly, Season of Saturdays is a must-read for those who love someone who loves college football.

The full title of the book is Season of Saturdays: A History of College Football in 14 Games.  The structure of the book remains true to that title.  Weinreb is informative and entertaining as he tells tales of football games of the past and connects them to the current state of the game.  But, the soul of the book is captured in the prologue when Weinreb writes:
I grew up with college football in my blood.  I am not so blinded as to fail to recognize its inherent hypocrisies, and yet I still enjoy it more purely and completely than I enjoy almost anything in my life.  I don't want it to die.  I don't want it to fall victim to corruption and violence.  I don't want it to whither in a courtroom due to the failures of bureaucrats.  I want it to find a rational path beyond this point of crisis.  I want people to understand. 
What follows is my attempt to explain.

I read this paragraph many times, and tears came to my eyes each time that I did.  This was not the only paragraph in the book that had that affect on me.

To be clear, Season of Saturdays is not a maudlin or preachy text.  It is actually a fast-paced and oftentimes funny read.  But, at the same time, I found it poignant in many places because Weinreb captures the spirit of a college football fan in a perfect and vulnerable way.  Until I read this book, I thought that I was alone in these feelings.  Since reading Season of Saturdays, I have recommended it, loaned it, and given it to many others.

If you love college football or love someone who does, I cannot recommend Season of Saturdays highly enough.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

NFL Prediction Report Card

Before the NFL season started, I posted my official NFL preseason predictions for each division.  It's hard to believe, but we are a quarter of the way through the year.  That means it's report card time.  Let's take a look at my predictions and hand out some grades.

AFC East:  After going out on  limb with my 2013 predictions by predicting that the Dolphins would win the AFC East, I returned to conventional wisdom and picked the Patriots to win the division this year.  The Patriots got off to a rough start, but they are tied for the division league with a record of 3-2.  The Patriots seem to be hitting their stride a quarter of the way through the season as they come off dominating win over the Bengals in primetime in Week 5.  Prediction Grade: A

AFC North:  In the preseason, I predicted that the Bengals would win this division while the rest of the teams would finish around the .500 mark.  After the first three games of the year, the Bengals looked like one of the best teams in the entire league.  Even after taking a brutal beating in New England, the Bengals sit perched atop the division with a solid record of 3-1.  As predicted, the Browns, Steelers and Ravens are all still in the hunt, and none of those teams have a losing record.  Prediction Grade: A

AFC South:  My preseason prediction was that the Texans would win the division and that the Colts would make the playoffs as a wild card.  After five games, the Texans and the Colts are tied at 3-2.  Those two teams will play each other on Thursday night in Week 6.  If I had left the predictions at that, I would have earned another solid "A," but my declaration that the Jaguars would make great strides forward deserves at least a slight deduction.  Prediction Grade: A-

AFC West:  Before the season, I declared that the Broncos were the only team with any hope of winning the AFC West.  The Broncos are certainly a good team.  They have a record of 3-1 with their only loss coming in overtime on the road at Seattle.  However, it is the San Diego Chargers with a slight lead in the division with a record of 4-1.  I did predict that the Chargers would be a playoff team, but I can't get a full "A" when I flip-flopped the teams at the top of the division.  Prediction Grade: A-

NFC East:  After those AFC grades, it looked like I was on the way to being the valedictorian of preseason prognostications.  It gets a little uglier as we move to the NFC.  I picked the Eagles to win the NFC East with a record of 9-7.  The Eagles are tied for the division lead, but it looks like might be a little better than I thought with a record of 4-1.  I predicted that the Redskins would be the primary challengers to the Eagles.  I felt so good about that hunch that I actually put a little coinage down on Skins in Vegas.  That appears to have been a stupid thing to do as Washington has started the season at 1-4 and shows no real signs of life.  Another stupid thing to do was to write off the Cowboys as a lost cause.  The Cowboys are a very solid 4-1.  The Giants are also showing signs of life at 3-2.  In other words, I underestimated Philadelphia, and everyone besides Washington is competing for the division crown.  Prediction Grade: B

NFC North:  For the second year in a row, I picked Chicago to win this division.  And, for the second year in a row, that seems to be incorrect.  It's early yet.  The Bears have plenty of time to rebound, but they have already lost close games to the Bills and the Panthers and took a whipping from the Packers on their own home field.  Meanwhile, the Packers have gotten their offense rolling in the last couple of weeks and are tied for the division lead with the Detroit Lions.  Prediction Grade: B-

NFC South:  In the preseason, I predicted that the Saints would win the NFC South and that the Falcons would make the playoffs as a wild card.  By the time the season ends, the Saints and Falcons could certainly both make the playoffs, but at the moment, it looks like my picks have been as sloppy as the play in this division.    The Saints and Falcons have both struggled to early records of 2-3.  Meanwhile, the Panthers have not regressed the way I predicted and sit at the top of the division with a record of 3-2.  Prediction Grade: C
(USA Today Sports Images)

NFC West:  Before the season started, I predicted that Seattle would win the division and that they would be the only team to make the playoffs from this division.  I further predicted that if a second team did make the playoffs, it would be Arizona.  At this point in the season, the Seahawks and the Cardinals are both 3-1 and have a slight lead over the Niners at 3-2.  In other words, as I predicted, this division has lots of good teams that will put a beating on each other..  Prediction Grade: B+

Overall Grade:  I did a little math, and it looks like my GPA would be a 3.35.  Overall Grade:  B+

Think I was too lenient?  Want to make some predictions of your own?  Then, by all means, leave a comment and let me know.

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