Go To Jail

Jail-DebtsThe simulator has been improved to model the mechanics of Monopoly Jail. The Player  class has a method that sends player objects to jail and, on their next turn, selects a strategy to leave jail (paying $50, rolling doubles, or playing a “Get Out of Jail Free” card). The game flow has been improved accordingly to allow players who are in jail to spend several turns there, where they must roll and wait for doubles (if they so choose).

Human Players

Human players select a strategy to leave jail (pay, roll, or card) by considering the state of the game. If most properties are unowned, then players opt to leave jail quickly to buy properties. In this situation, most players pay (or use a card, if liquidity is an issue).

In contrast, human players choose to roll the die and idle in jail for as long as they can if most of the other players have monopolies. In this circumstance, jail provides a temporary respite from expensive visits to these properties.

The Simulator

Currently, the simulator uses a simple logic to get a player out of jail. A “Get Out of Jail Free” card is played, if available. Otherwise, the player pays the $50 fee as soon as possible. Players who cannot afford the fee roll the die until they can leave jail.

This fixed strategy is not ideal because it is agnostic to the state of the game. Unlike human players, the simulated players do take into account the dangers of moving around the board when they choose how quickly to leave jail.

Simulated players lack a method that allows them to examine the board, considering whether the current layout of monopolies and unowned properties makes it advantageous to leave jail expeditiously. (This method will also be useful for other types of strategizing, like deciding whether or not to purchase a specific property.)

A future improvement to the simulator will involve the creation of such a method, making the decision to get out of jail a rational response to the state of the game.

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Fat Tuesday: Big Chief Tugga

In celebration of Fat Tuesday and all Mardi Gras festivities, I share with you a video about the Mardi Gras Indian tribe, The Red Flame Hunters and their leader, Big Chief Justin “Tugga” Cloud.

Big Chief: A Mardi Gras Indian Documentary from FatHappy Media on Vimeo.

This video was created by FatHappy Media and shares the story of how Big Chief Tugga and his tribe create the elaborate ceremonial suits of the Big Chief and the cultural importance of the tribes. The Mardi Gras Indians are a central aspect of New Orleans culture. With origins dating back to the 1800’s, the Mardi Gras Indians were originally escaped slaves who joined the local Indian tribes. Since then, they continue to celebrate their long history in many ways, including unauthorized parades through the streets of New Orleans, ran by the tribes’ Big Chiefs.

Two Bite Apple Pies

Making desserts for family functions or parties is something I absolutely love to do.  Desserts are the perfect end cap to a wonderful meal.  Recently my husband asked for me to make desserts for a holiday party he was hosting at work.   Since it was a holiday party I wanted to have some sort of pie.  Because pies need to be cut and can sometimes get messy in the process I wanted to reinvent the traditional pie to make it easier to serve.  Furthermore, after a large holiday meal not everyone wants an entire slice of pie.  After considering these factors I knew I needed to make a bite sized pie.

Prairie Pepper Bite Size Apple Pie 6

Bite sized brownies and cupcakes are readily available in almost any grocery store.  Pies, on the other hand, only come in two sizes, a traditional 9″ pie or a smaller 4″ size.  The smaller 4″ sized pie would still need to be cut, possibly creating a mess, and thus would not work for easy serving.  Knowing I needed to make the bite sized pies from “scratch” I combed the department stores looking for a baking pan that would produce bite sized baked goods.  I found a 24 mini muffin pan that was non-stick, fairly inexpensive and was the perfect bite sized portions.

Prairie Pepper Bite Size Apple Pie 4

For the crust of the apple pie in this recipe, you have two options.  You can either make the pie crust from scratch or you can buy the ready-made pie crust which is available at most grocery stores.  Making pie crust from scratch is actually fairly easy and you can control the ingredients that go into it.  The ready-made pie crusts available at the grocery store do have added oils, preservatives, etc.  The ready-made pie crusts are certainly convenient and can save you a lot of time if you are making a bunch of bite sized pies.  The choice is up to you and I have included directions on how to use both in this recipe.  I have included a simple, easy pie crust recipe within this recipe page.

Prairie Pepper Bite Size Apple Pie 5

Since I would not be using a traditional pie pan, I knew I needed to cut the crust down to size in order for it to fit in the mini muffin pan openings.  I found a 3″ flower cookie cutter which was the perfect tool to cut the crust down to size.  The flower cookie cutter gives the crust a beautiful scalloped edge which is an added bonus.  You can find flower (or really any circular design) cookie cutters at most grocery or department stores.  If you do not have a decorative cookie cutter and/or you would rather not purchase one, you can use the opening of a cup to create a pie crust circle.

Prairie Pepper Bite Size Apple Pie 3

For the filling of the apple pie, I used an apple pie filling made from scratch.  You can find my apple pie filling recipe here.  I have also included it within this recipe page.  I made my own apple pie filling because I was not fond of the ingredients in the canned apple pie fillings found in most grocery stores.  The canned apple pie fillings contain a lot of fillers, sugars and artificial colors (or ingredients to help retain the apple color).  Just like the pie crust, it is up to you which apple pie filling you (homemade or canned) would like to use for your two bite apple pies.

Prairie Pepper Bite Size Apple Pie 2

The apple pies can be topped with a pie crust lattice, a crumb topping or left plain.  I have included recipes and instructions for each type of apple pie topping in this recipe page.  The recipe I have listed below creates about 24 mini apple pies.  The recipe can be doubled or cut in half depending on how many mini apple pies you need for your occasion.  If using the canned apple pie filling, please note you will not use all of the filling for 24 mini apple pies.

Two Bite Apple Pies

1 cup homemade apple pie filling (see below for recipe or use a 21 ounce can of apple pie filling)

2 homemade 9″ pie crusts (see recipe below or use two 9″ ready made pie crusts)

Apple pie topping, optional (pie crust lattice strips or pie crust crumb, see recipes below)

Spray oil (I prefer coconut oil but any spray oil can be used)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Using your flower (or any circular design) cookie cutter, cut 24 flowers from the pie crust.  Lightly spray the mini muffin pan with spray oil.  Line each mini muffin opening with a pie crust flower.  Press gently down on the pie crust to ensure a good fit.  Bake the unfilled pie crusts in the preheated oven for about 3 minutes.  Remove the pie crusts from the oven and set aside.  Using a teaspoon, scoop some of the apple pie filling into each pie crust.  Top with pie crust lattice strips, apple pie crumb topping or leave plain.  Bake in preheated oven for about 12 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack before popping the pies out.

Homemade Pie Crust (makes two 9″ pie crusts)

3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup coconut oil (room temperature is best, do no melt – or 3/4 cup shortening)

1/4 teaspoon pure Stevia extract (or 1 tablespoon cane sugar)

1 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons cold water (more may be needed)

In a large bowl, combine flour, Stevia (or sugar) and salt.  Using your fingers press the coconut oil (or shortening) into the flour mixture.  Crumb the oil and flour mixture together until it is similar to course sand.  Using a fork, stir cold water into the flour/oil mixture.  Continue adding water, one tablespoon at a time, until dough somewhat comes together into a ball shape.  Press dough into a ball and wrap in plastic.  Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes before using.  After 45 minutes the dough will be chilled enough to be rolled out, using a rolling pin, on a flour countered.  Roll the dough to about 1/8″ in height.   

Prairie Pepper Bite Size Apple Pie 7

Pie Crust Lattice Topping

A lattice topping for an apple pie can be created using either the homemade pie crust or the pre-made pie crust.  After the pie crust is rolled out, use a pizza cutter (preferred) or a sharp knife, cut thin strips of pie crust.  The pie crust strips can then be cut down to smaller rectangles to be crisscrossed across the top of the filled pies.  

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Apple Pie Crumb Topping

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon pure Stevia extract (or 2 tablespoons of cane sugar)

2 tablespoons coconut oil (or 1/4 cup melted butter)

In a microwave safe bowl, heat the coconut oil (or butter) in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Once melted, add the flour and Stevia (or sugar) to the oil. Using a fork, crumb the mixture together.  Sprinkle the crumb topping over the filled pies.

Prairie Pepper Bite Size Apple Pie 8

Plain Apple Pie Topping

If you would rather let the apple pie filling do all the talking and not adorn your pies with any toppings, than the pies can be left plain.  The plain apple pie version is super tasty, has lots of flavor and showcases the apple pie filling the best.  The cooking time for the plain apple pie version remains the same, just follow the two bite apple pie instructions above.  Because the apple pies are not topped the filling has a tendency to bubble up, sometimes, onto the crust sides, so keep an eye on the pies while they are cooking to ensure the filling is staying where it should.  

Prairie Pepper Bite Size Apple Pie

Healthy Apple Pie Filling

5 Braeburn or Gala apples (peeled, cored and cut into slices or mince into smaller chunks)

3 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce

1 cup of water (or unsweetened apple juice if you want a super apple flavored pie)

1 tablespoon lemon juice (I prefer fresh but you can use bottled, just read the ingredients, it has a lot of them for something so simple)

1 teaspoon cinnamon (you can add more or less depending on how spicy you want it, I actually add more because I love cinnamon)

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

a dash of nutmeg (optional but recommended)

1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract (add more or less depending on how sweet you want the pie.  Can also use cane sugar which would be 1/3 cup cane sugar)

In a large bowl, toss apple slices or chunks with lemon juice and set aside. In a medium sized saucepan combine water and cornstarch.  Over medium heat, using a whisk, quickly whisk together the cornstarch and water.  Keep whisking until the cornstarch is completely dissolved.  Add the stevia, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg to the cornstarch mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil.  Boil on medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Make sure you stir (or whisk) constantly or else the corn starch will stick to the bottom and clump up. Add sliced or minced apples to the mixture and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the apples are tender, about 6-8 minutes. If you minced your apples, the time it takes for the apples to get tender will be about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and either use in your prepared apple pie crust or store in the refrigerator to use at a later date.

Prairie Pepper Bite Size Apple Pie 4