Potluck DIY Sushi Party!

A few times over the past 8 years, we’ve hosted a – what we EVER so classily refer to as – “All You Can Stuff Sushi Potluck Party”. Twice, it’s been as my husband’s birthday party, and each time, I think to myself that I should blog this.

My husband’s birthday was this past week, which was a reminder that I was planning to blog his sushi party a YEAR ago. Whoops. At least I kept the information all this time … even if we once again forgot to take pictures as it was all happening. Again… whoops.

Anyway, apparently sushi rolling parties are actually becoming a THING now… though it was a new, unique idea back when we started. Boo, missed opportunity to be trend setters!

This party is a lot of fun to do, assuming you’re good with logistics. There’s a lot to juggle, but when it all comes together, it’s super rewarding.

First Off: Decide the Basics

We’ve now done this party a few different ways, and which way you plan to do it depends a lot on your friends, your finances, etc. Personally, I prefer one of the potluck methods … it just feels more social. Only you know your friends and what would work best for you, though!

1 – Guests Bring Items:

For this method, I do up a wish list of items, and divide it out among the people attending. I try to keep it even, that people are all bringing about the same value of items (Don’t stick one friend with bringing expensive fish, and ask for a single cucumber from another!). One thing to keep in mind when dividing out the list is who you are asking to bring what. Some people, I trust to know what a good avocado looks like, others… not so much! Another consideration is “Who lives near one of the few places to sell trustworthy sashimi grade fish?”.

2 – Guests Bring Items OR Contribute Money:

If you have a lot of friends that you may not trust so much to pick up certain items, this can be a good option. Some people get excited about showing up with a beautiful piece of salmon, for instance… while others would much rather just Paypal you a few bucks and have you do it.

3 – Guests Chip in Money:

The most recent time we hosted a sushi potluck party, we asked everyone which way they’d like to do this, and everyone decided that they’d like to just chip in. It was just before a busy con season, so it just ended up more efficient to have me do the shopping for it. Fair enough – everyone sent $10 per person via Paypal ahead of time.

4 – Not Potluck

You can, of course, always just straight up host the dinner, rather than do it as a potluck.

Next: Finalize a Guest List

Due to the nature of the party, it’s really important to have a solid guest count before you start shopping and prep work. In Minnesota, that can be pretty difficult with the popularity of the “Minnesota Decline” – putting a “Maybe” instead of a “no” when a guest knows they won’t be able to make it.

It’s important to give a deadline for RSVP, and request a solid Yes or No – Maybes should be counted as no. A lot of cost and planning goes into this, and you don’t want to be stuck doing extra work and/or extra purchasing if you don’t have to. Also, sushi leftovers do not exactly keep well!

Plan The Menu

No matter which way you’re doing the potluck, it’s best to wait until you have your guest list before actually planning your menu. The more people you have, the more selections you can add.

Additionally, consider your guests. Are some not sushi fans? You can add tempura vegetables, gyoza, chicken satay, etc as options. Are some vegetarians? Be sure to have extra veg options for filling the sushi. Anyone gluten-free? Be sure to have a bottle of GF soy sauce on hand.

As an example, our most recent Sushi Party menu was:

Appetizers:

Edamame
Gyoza
Chicken Satay

Sauces & Garnishes

Mango Sauce
Dynamite Sauce
Eel Sauce
Soy Sauce
Ponzu Sauce
Sesame Seeds
Black Sesame Seeds
Wasabi
Pickled Ginger

Beverage

Green Iced Tea with Lychee and Mandarin Orange

Dessert

Matcha Pavlova with Matcha Whipped Cream,
Honeydew, Lychee, and Mandarin Orange

Sushi Fixings

Nori
5 colours of Soy wrappers
Sushi Rice

Tuna
Salmon
Hamachi (Yellowtail)
Roasted Eel
Ebi (Shrimp)
“Crab” sticks

Spicy Salmon
Spicy “Crab”
Spicy Tuna

Tobiko
Masago

Cucumber
Avocado
Green Onions
Zucchini
Jalapeno
Sweet Potato
Mango

Recipe Links

Chicken Satay
Gyoza
Matcha Pavlova
Spicy Tuna Filling(Can be used with Salmon, etc)
Sushi Rice
Sushi Sauces – Dynamite, Eel, and Mango

Do Your Shopping List

Once you have your menu designed, go through and see what needs to be purchased as-is (the vegetables, which sauces, etc), and which you will be making at home.

Do up a list for the stand alone items, as well as the ingredients needed to make the other items. Also, make a list of non-food items you’ll need – party cups, paper plates, LOTS of chopsticks, little sauce cups for wasabi/soy sauce, napkins, etc.

Get a few sushi knives. They don’t have to be expensive – I bought a few of this one, on Amazon. Love it! (Cosplayers: It is GREAT for carving foam!)

You’re more than likely going to need to go to more than one place, so I like to divide the list out by the stores I’m going to. IN this case, it was one normal grocery store, one Asian specialty store, and a fish monger.

If you are having some or all of your guests bring items, let them know what they’re bringing about a week ahead of time.

Plan Your Time Line For Food Prep

Take a good look at your menu, and list out what needs to be done, and when. It’s best to do as much as you can ahead of time, but you also have to take into account that some items need certain timing. For instance, don’t buy your fish more than a day ahead of time, avocados will brown if you cut them up too early.

As an example, here is the time line for our most recent party (which started at lunch time):

Me Porter
2 Days Before Buy everything except fish
Make gyoza, freeze
The Day Before Make sushi sauces
Make gyoza sauce
Make satay dipping sauce
Marinate chicken satays
Buy fish
Bake the Pavlova
Tidy front and back yard
Hose down the outside tables
Morning of the Party Make sushi rice (How many batches?)
Cut green onions, jalapenos, cucumber, mango, zucchini
Slice fish, prepare “spicy” fillings, chill
Peel and slice sweet potato, cook, chill.
Strain off cans of Mandarin Oranges and Lychee, use strained syrup for making iced tea.
Put the table cloths out
Dishes
Wipe off countertops in kitchen
Set out: Wasabi, soy sauce, plates, chopsticks, cups, pickled ginger, nori
As People Are Arriving Cook gyozas
Steam edamame
Heat satay sauce
Prepare sushi wrappers
Cut avocado
Set out remaining sushi items
Grill Satays
During Party Make whipped cream
Cut up fruit, assemble pavlova
Enjoy yourself, birthday boy 🙂

Set Up

Set up will depend a lot on your home layout, and how many people are going to be making sushi with you.

For us, we set up two 8′ long banquet tables, with a couple chairs at each. Each place gets a sushi rolling station – sheets of parchment paper for rolling, nori, soy paper. In between each two seats gets a big bowl of sushi rice, with a measuring cup or scoop. Along the back of the table is where the ingredients get set up. Due to the number of ingredients used, it’s a cooperative effort – lots of passing involved! Each table also gets a couple little bowls of water, a cutting board, and a couple sushi knives.

How the ingredients are presented depends on the ingredient. Stable ingredients are out on plates. Raw fish is on plates, covered in plastic while not in use, resting on a big bowl of ice. Only a small amount of fish is out at any given time, and the plates are exchanged for fresh ones with new fish as they run out. Avocado is also served up a little at a time, to prevent browning.

In addition to the rolling tables, a counter in the kitchen is designated as the garnishing station. There, the sauces (dynamite sauce is in an ice bowl), wasabi, sesame seeds, etc are laid out, as well as plates, chop sticks, etc. Once done rolling and slicing their sushi, guests go to the kitchen to finish their sushi off. Plate in hand, they usually head out to the patio to mingle and eat, as the next round of guests sit down to roll their sushi.

Throughout the party, we refresh ingredient plates, etc, as guests roll more sushi as they’re ready. Eventually everyone gives up as the sushi coma sets in!

Sushi Rolling

I like to have pieces of parchment paper (you can use wax paper, if you prefer) on hand for rolling, rather than bamboo sheets. Logistically, it’s great for clean up, and I also find it easier for sushi beginners to work with.

A VERY early post (ie: excuse the poor photography!) on this blog – Spicy Tuna Maki – shows more or less how I roll sushi. We’ve since taken to having the rice go slightly over the far long edge of the nori, to form a bit of a lip to overlap the starting edge of the roll, if that makes sense.

How your guests roll their sushi will depend on their own experience/preference, the type of roll they’re making (rice in, or rice out), and the amount of ingredients they’re trying to cram in there. You will likely have some epic failures, so forks can come in handy!

It’s also a good idea to have at least one person on hand who knows what they’re doing, who can demonstrate and/or assist beginners.

Enjoy!

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Earl Grey Pie – Happy Pi Day! (Gluten-Free)

It’s March 14 – 3/14 – and first thing this morning, my husband rolled over and wished me a Happy Pi Day. You know, his favourite “holiday”.

Well, first thing that came to mind was a long string of expletives – for the first time since we’ve met (and I’m including the year following the tornado that destroyed – among other things – our kitchen!), I’ve completely forgotten about Pi Day. IN my defense, I’ve been swamped with development for More Than Poutine. This month has been ALL about developing recipes for Canadian junk food; most recently, that’s meant snack cakes. There is sugar everywhere, I can’t picture having added a pie in on top of everything.

… but I didn’t even post anything about Pi Day, leading up to today, on any of my social media. Not even so much as a share of my big “Pi Day is Coming, Are you Ready?” master list of Pi Day stuff. Kinda feeling like the worst wife AND worst nerdy blogger ever – I really dropped the 4/3πr^3 on that one!

Thankfully, his workplace is taking care of his pi day needs that I so woefully neglected, but I still feel bad. So, as my mea culpa to the universe, I will share my Earl Grey Pie recipe now! This recipe is one of the many fabulous gluten-free recipes in Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking & Baking, so if you’re gluten-free, or know someone who is, you should definitely check it out 🙂

If you don’t need this to be gluten-free, feel free to substitute a store bought pie crust, or one from of your favourite recipes. My go-to is my Great-Uncle Tom’s Pie Crust Recipe.

This is an elegant pie that isn’t cloyingly sweet – the Earl Grey flavour comes through well, and is really well suited for use in a pie!

We served it for some friends, and one of them – Derek – was almost in tears as he declared that “Everything is perfect with the world” after the first bite. When another friend joined us later, He told her that when she tries the pie, “The gates of heaven will open, and you will see everything”.

So. That happened.

I hope you enjoy this pie as much as Derek did! (And everyone else, really… his reaction was just amazing though! )

Gluten-Free Earl Grey Pie
Makes 1 pie

Crust:

1/2 cup Light buckwheat flour
1/4 cup Sorghum flour
1/4 cup Sweet rice flour
1/4 cup Corn starch
1 Tbsp Granulated sugar
1 tsp Xanthan gum
4 oz Cream cheese
1/4 cup Cold butter
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Large egg
1/4 cup Cold water

Filling:

2 Large eggs
1/2 cup Granulated sugar
1/3 cup Corn starch
1/4 tsp Salt
1 cup Milk
1 cup Heavy cream
3 Earl Grey tea bags
2 Tbsp Butter
Whipped cream, for serving

Measure flours, corn starch, sugar, and xanthan gum into the bowl of your food processor, blitz to combine. Add cream cheese, butter, lemon zest and egg, blitz a few times until mixture resembles gravel.

Stream in cold water as you run the food processor, just long enough to start to bring it together as a dough – you may need to use a little more or less water. Do NOT over-process it!

Remove dough from processor, knead lightly to bring it together as a ball. Wrap in plastic film, chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C), lightly dust your work surface with extra corn starch. Roll your crust out to about 1/4″ thick. Line a pie pan with the crust, trim the edges of the crust to only slightly longer than the edge of the pie plate. Use your fingers to crimp/ruffle the edge of the pie.

Use a fork to prick some holes on the bottom of the crust. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes. Once chilled, bake pie crust for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool to room temperature while you prepare the filling.

Whisk eggs together with sugar until fluffy and pale yellow. Add cornstarch and salt, whisk until incorporated and smooth. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring milk and cream just to the start of a boil. Remove from heat, add tea bags, steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags, squeezing out excess liquid back into the pot. Bring cream up JUST to a boil once again.

Measure about 1/4 cup of the hot cream mixture, and stream slowly into egg mixture while whisking. Continue streaming liquid and whisking until it is completely incorporated, and mixture is smooth. Repeat with another 1/4 cup of hot cream.

Remove saucepan from heat, pour remaining egg mixture into cream mixture, whisking constantly. Once fully incorporated and smooth, return to heat. Turn heat to medium-low. Continue whisking mixture constantly, cooking until mixture is very thick. Remove from heat, stir in butter until melted and smooth. Cool to room temperature.

Spoon filling into prepared crust, cover with plastic wrap. Chill until set, about 3 hours. To serve, top with whipped cream.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Handpainted Eye of Sauron Holiday Ornaments!

He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake… 😉

Last year, I designed and made an Eye of Sauron pen holder for a convention booth. After the event, I looked at it and thought “That would make a great Christmas ornament design!”… and here we are!

Perfect for any Tolkien fan on your gift list, this ornament will add a special something to any geek’s holiday tree – Lord of the Rings themed, or not. Go ahead, hang it next to a TARDIS, it’s all good!

Ornaments are all hand painted on plastic (I’m a cat owner. I can’t wrap my head around glass ornaments hanging from a tree!), are durable, and look great!

The “eye” is painted on both sides of each ornament, so it looks great from multiple angles.

saurontop

Due to the hand painted nature of these ornaments, no two will be alike – expect some variation from the photos shown. Order before December 12 for delivery before Christmas, US only.

sauronroundjpg

2.5″ Diameter Ornament

$12.00
Add to Cart

sauronroundjpg

3″ Diameter Ornament

$15.00
Add to Cart

saurondisk

3″ Diameter Disk

$15.00
Add to Cart

sauronset

Set of 10 2.5″ Ornaments

$95.00
Add to Cart

CCNow is our authorized online retailer for online orders.

Tolkien Fan? Be sure to check out these other posts:

The One CHEESE Ring
How to make a Hobbit Hole Cat Shelter
Caturday: Tolkien edition
How I Made that: Dwarf Wig
So I’m Dressing My Husband up as Thranduil…
The Two Week Thorin Costume!
Thorin Costume!
How to make Thranduil’s Crown
Smaug the Terrible… I mean, Terribly AWESOME.
I am Fire, I am FRUITY – Smaug Fruit Bowl
Smaug Costume
Doing the Elf Meme Thing…
Gandalf the Fabulous

sauronbottom

Dalek Cake for a Doctor!

So… I’m about 3 months late posting this, but better late than never, right?

Back at the end of May, I had the opportunity to not only make the electronics-enhanced Dalek cake I’d been wanting to do some day… but to make it for a Doctor! Console Room had invited Colin Baker to be a Guest of Honour. Of COURSE he needed a special cake! I came out of my “Never going to ever make another cake again, EVER!” retirement, just for the occasion!

As was the case in my (now-retired-from) cake days, and as is the case with our costuming, I designed it and had my husband do the electronics for it.

The cake itself is fairly basic: a stacked tower of cake layers, a food safe tube running up the middle to house the wires, and a head (and one layer in the middle) made from Rice Krispie Treat, to securely hold the electronics and accessory parts in place. The wiring up the center and into the head allowed for lights – the two on top of the head, as well as the.. forehead mini plunger thing. (So technical, I know!). It was about 2′ tall, decorated in marshmallow fondant, and accented with edible metallic-airbrushed chocolate domes.

The cake stand had electronics of its own – a speaker, a sound modulator, and the switches to control the lights and sound. When activated, the sound modulator played Dalek sound clips – it was a lot of fun! Click here for video of the sound modulator in action. I STILL lose it at “Would you care for some tea?”!

Now, I’ve served many, MANY cakes. I’ve assisted in many, MANY first cuts of a cake… but this one is definitely my favourite cake cutting experience of all time. Colin Baker was *amazing* – so much fun, and really got into it. Check it out:

So, yes. I got to teach a Doctor how to destroy a Dalek. I feel like I achieved a crazy bucket list item that I didn’t know I had!

Click here to see more photos from that evening!

Gluten Free Sauerkraut Buns Recipe (Pyrizhky)

Yikes, it’s been over a month since my last post! Sorry about that. We’ve been super busy with 3 conventions, Pi Day, AND a long road trip in that time. Back now, and it’s about a month til our next convention, so… here I am!

Growing up, I loved Sauerkraut buns… soft little bready balls of joy that would show up at family gatherings. Though we’re not Ukrainian ourselves, growing up in Winnipeg meant that many of the traditional foods from other cultures – Especially Ukrainian – were pretty… ubiquitous. Bacon, onion, and sauerkraut is a pretty genius filling, so it’s no wonder that these were super popular back home.

I’m kind of surprised that it seems like no one I know here in Minneapolis has ever heard of them!

While preparing for Pi Day, I decided that it was time to develop a recipe for a gluten-free version. These aren’t QUITE as soft as the original – and the technique is different for putting them together… but they are full of flavour, inside and out. The bread has a great texture, and they’re easy to make.

Enjoy!

Gluten Free Sauerkraut Buns (Pyrizhky)
Makes about 35 buns

Dough:
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 envelope yeast
1 1/2 cup+ Brown rice flour
3/4 cup gluten-free oat flour
1/2 cup Amaranth flour
1/2 cup Millet flour
1/4 cup Corn starch
1/3 cup Potato starch
2 Tbsp Tapioca starch
3 tsp Xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream

Filling:
1 lb bacon, chopped
1 bag saurkraut (about 19 oz), well drained
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt
Pepper

Melted butter

Prepare the dough:

Gently mix together warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup of the brown rice flour, remaining flours, starches, xanthan gum and salt. Form a well in the middle, and pour oil, eggs, and sour cream into it. Mix well, then add the yeasty water. Mix until everything is well incorporated, then knead lightly for 1 minute – it will be a bit wet. Place dough in a large, greased bowl. Cover and allow to rise somewhere warm for 1 hour.

As you are waiting for the dough to rise, prepare the filling:

Cook bacon & onions until bacon is almost cooked, but not crispy. Add saurkraut to the pan, cook and stir well until bacon fat is absorbed and everything is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool.

One the hour rise is up, mix remaining 1/2 cup rice flour into the dough. Pinch off a walnut sized piece of dough, and work into a circle. If dough is too wet to work with, add a little more flour. You want it more wet than normal dough. Let stand for another 10 minutes.

Assemble the sauerkraut balls:

Note: I like to wear latex gloves for assembly:

Divide dough into a bunch of walnut sized pieces – about 35 of them.

One at a time, flatten a piece of dough into a circle approximately 3″ across – I like to do this in the palm of one hand. Place a 1 Tbsp mound of filling in the center of the circle. Carefully pull up the edge of the circle up and around the filling, sealing the filling in (like a drawstring bag). Roll around between your hands a bit to get a uniform spherical shape, and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough/filling, leaving at least 2″ between dough balls.

Loosely cover cookie sheets with plastic wrap, and allow to rise another hour.

Heat oven to 375F. Remove pastic wrap from cookie sheets, bake for 25 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and brush liberally with melted butter.

Great served hot, fresh out of the oven, cold, or even reheated. IF they last that long.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Gluten-Free Lembas Recipe

With just a few short days til TheOneRing.Net‘s “One Last Party”, I decided that it was finally time to develop my own Lembas recipe. I think it would be fun to bring it along on our journey (along with our Miruvor!): Cheaper than airport food, healthier – especially in light of the travel, looong hours, etc we are about to subject ourselves to – and, you know.. themeatic. Also, it involved creative problem solving, so a good way to keep me distracted while waiting!

The facts are these…

Lembas is a type of Elvish bread / cake / biscuit from Tolkien’s writings. First made by Yavanna from a special Elvish corn, it was nutritious, and known to be ridiculously sustaining – that “One small bite will fill the stomach of a grown man”, etc. It’s generally theorized that Lembas was based on hard tack – a very dry and bland bread product used for military rations and some traditional Newfoundland cooking.

“”Eat little at a time, and only at need. For these things are given to serve you when all else fails. The cakes will keep sweet for many many days, if they are unbroken and left in their leaf-wrappings, as we have brought them. One will keep a traveler on his feet for a day of long labour, even if he be one of the tall men of Minas Tirith.” – Fellowship of the Rings

“The food was mostly in the form of very thin cakes, made of meal that was baked a light brown on the outside, and inside was the colour of cream.” – Fellowship of the Ring

In the movies, Lembas was shown to be a crumbly white biscuit type food. Apparently they used an unsweetened shortbread that tasted awful. They were presented wrapped in leaves, and tied up with twine.

Tolkien has said that they contain honey, and the “fruit of the Mallorn tree”, which was described as ” Its fruit was a nut with a silver shale” in Unfinished Tales.

Oh, and as one other challenge to this little exercise? Half of our little fellowship is allergic to gluten.

So.. lots of random information to work with, in addition to my own assumptions… and nutritional goals for the finished product.

To me, I picture this as a sweet thing, but not a DESSERT thing. They straight up mention its sweetness, afterall. I picture some of the sweetness coming from the (canon!) honey, but also from dried fruit, which would contribute to the nutrition of it. I think dried apples would work best given the colour description of the interior, but I think apricots are more in line with the complexity of flavour I’m picturing. I decided that there should be a small amount of spice for complexity, and a pinch of herbs to bring it back from being too desserty. In terms of “fruit of the mallorn tree”, I am choosing to interpret that as almonds.

Now, in terms of the nutritious / sustenance properties of Lembas… I wouldn’t have used white flour even if we weren’t working around gluten issues. There’s just no real nutrition there. I decided to use a small amount of masa flour, due to the original Lembas being corn based. Because I have no elven magical corn, it’ll have to do 🙂 Also, I’m supplementing it with protein powder and ground flax to contribute to nutrition. Non-magical, non-valar corn is only slightly more nutritious than wheat flour, after all.

Gluten-Free Lembas
Makes about 8 3″ Lembas biscuits

1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup masa flour
1/2 cup gluten-free oat flour (can use millet instead)
1/2 cup vanilla protein powder*
1/2 cup Sliced almonds
1/2 cup Thinly sliced dried apricots
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup Ground flax seed (flax meal)
1 Tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 tsp Cardamom
1/4 Rosemary, finely crumbled/chopped

corn starch, for rolling

Mix butter and honey together just until combined – do not cream it or over beat it. Add milk, gently mix until combined amd smooth

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Add dry mix to butter and honey, mix until combined. Wrap dough in plastic film, chill for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Generously sprinkle clean work surface with corn starch, roll dough to 1/2″ thick. Cut into 3″ squares, and carefully transfer biscuits to prepared baking sheets, leaving 2″ between each. Cut a shallow “X” into each cake, if desired.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Allow cakes (biscuits?) to cool on cookie sheets for at least 5 minutes before moving, cool completely before serving.

If you want to get fancy with it, wrap them in leaves, and tie with twine. (I used collard greens). Oh, and be sure to “like” our Facebook page to see all of the crazy photos we’ll take when out in LA! Marie Porter, Cosplay Costumer!

* Choose your protein powder wisely! If it’s something you don’t like to drink, it’ll make the bread taste weird.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Miruvor Recipe

Well, this is fun. As I started to blog this recipe, I realized that I probably need an “Elvish” category. 🙂 I nested it under my Ethnic Foods category, LOL!

Anyway. A couple months ago, I started work on a recipe for as-legit-as-possible Miruvor. I’d seen recipes out there for cocktails called Miruvor, but nothing that seemed really canon. So…

Miruvor (or Miruvórë) is an elvish drink, from Tolkien’s writings. “Miruvor” was mentioned in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as “Cordial of Imladris”. Made by the Rivendell elves, its purpose in the stories is to revive those who drink it… sort of an elvish energy drink.

“As soon as Frodo had swallowed a little of the warm and fragrant liquor he felt a new strength of heart, and the heavy drowsiness left his limbs. The others also revived and found fresh hope and vigor.” – Fellowship of the Ring

Elrond gave it to Gandalf, who shared it with the Fellowship – in small doses – explaining it to be precious.

Miruvor was based, in-world, on Miruvórë – a drink created and imbibed by the Valar, in Valinor. Miruvórë was made from flowers grown in Yavanna’s gardens, and has been referred to as “A kind of nectar” by Tolkien, and as a sweet mead by Galadriel. So, enough information to use and build on, but still fairly vague.

While my *serious* Miruvor is indeed a mead recipe, next week’s “One Last Party” seemed like an ideal occasion to break out a bottle of Miruvor… but my brewing batch will not be ready for several more months. I decided to do a “quick” version: liqueur, rather than mead. So… Miruvor, rather than Miruvórë. As with the in-world beverages, my Miruvor will similarly be inspired by my upcoming Miruvórë 🙂

So, as I do not personally have access to flowers from Yavanna’s gardens in Valinor – and because pretty much no information was ever created in terms of the actual FLAVOUR of said flowers, I had to get imaginative. In my mind, it would be a light floral flavour, almost fruity. I didn’t picture it as anything heavy, like rose or lavender, for instance.

In running through my knowledge of edible flowers that were also readily accessible, and deciding whether any were suitable as what I was picturing, it hit me: ELDERFLOWERS. Not only is their flavour pretty much exactly what I was picturing, the name is perfect. Elder flowers… Eldar flowers!

Ok, yeah, Rivendell elves aren’t technically “Eldar” elves, but Elrond WAS captured and raised by Maedhros and Maglor, who WERE Noldor, and therefore “Eldar”, so … Whatever, it’s headcanon now. Elderflowers = elvish.

For this recipe, I decided to use elderflower syrup, as it’s available year round and just a few clicks away on Amazon. You can use IKEA’s Elderflower syrup for a budget version, but I find the D’Arbo White Elderflower Syrup to be vastly superior in taste. Plus, you know… it’s SUPPOSED to be a precious drink, go ahead and spend the extra money to get the really good stuff!

Miruvor

500 ml Elderflower syrup (IKEA or D’Arbo)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
Peel of 1/2 lemon
peel of 1 orange
1 vanilla bean, split
Pinch salt
2-3 cups (500-750 ml) GOOD vodka

In a large pot, combine Elderflower syrup, honey, water, citrus peels, vanilla bean, and salt, whisking until well combined. Bring JUST to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Stir about 2 cups of vodka into the cooled syrup mixture, and taste. Continue adding vodka, to taste, until desired flavour / alcohol level is reached.

Strain through fine cheesecloth or a coffee filter, discarding peels. Funnel into clean wine or liqueur bottles.

After bottling, you should let it age for about a week in a cool place before drinking it – IF you have that kind of patience! Aging results in a smoother, more mellow flavor.

“Nerds” Wedding Favour Boxes – a Free Template!

Ever since posting about it a few years ago, this post about the wedding favours my husband and I made for our wedding has been one of THE most popular entries on this blog. Not only was it a cool idea for wedding favours, it would also work well for birthday parties, graduations, and more!

Since then, I’ve had a lot of requests for doing custom boxes for people (I’m not comfortable doing so, because of IP issues!), and some requests for the file itself.

Well, I’ve finally dug out one of my original files, and am making it available for download! The file is 4MB, click here to download it.

Please note: I am offering this as a free, standalone resource. I am unable to offer any design assistance or trouble shooting, beyond the information contained in this blog entry. Thank you for understanding.

Here is what you will want to do (more or less!)

1. Open it in Photoshop.

2. Change the background colour to one more appropriate to your own event. Delete the background copy layer (just left it in there as an idea of what looks good for texture). If you’d like a textured background, go for it. (Works best with a really small, fine texture)

3. Edit “Website or greeting here” to… well, a website or greeting. 🙂

4. Swap out the flowers for flowers more appropriate to your wedding, or – for other events – something else. Maybe a birthday cake, etc? Use a high res image for best results.

5. Change the colours of the dresses and bowties, if desired.

6. Personalize the Name(s) and date for your own use. Also, feel free to change the wording of the greeting on the back of the box.

7. Make sure everything is as you want it, save the psd file as is (just in case), then convert to JPG and save it as a different file. It should look more or less like

…. with your own design added, of course 🙂

8. Obtain a template for a large postcard from your choice of printer – we used VistaPrint, with their “Oversized Postcard” option.

9. In Photoshop, select all for your completed design, copy and paste it to the printer’s template. Center it, making sure to keep it within the safe space guidelines provided. Delete the guidelines layer (if applicable), flatten and save.

10. Order your prints. I HIGHLY recommend ordering 50% more than you think you’ll need – this will allow for cutting/assembling mistakes, accidents, last minute extras needed, and keepsakes.

11. Order your choice of filling. We were able to find a company that sold Nerds candy in bulk – so much easier than buying retail boxes and transferring the contents!

12. When your print order arrives, use a slide cutter to trim the postcards to the outer outlines of the box.

13. Use very sharp, pointed tip scissors to trim all of the little “v” cuts, etc. (We used small scrapbooking scissors)

14. Using the dull/blunt attachment for your slide cutter (you may need to purchase this separately), score all of the fold edges.

15. Fold all of the boxes.

16. Glue the boxes together at the side flap.

17. Glue all of the boxes together at the bottom flap. Allow to dry completely.

18. Fill the boxes about 2/3 full, glue the top flap closed.

… and that’s it! It’s a bit of effort, but VERY much worth it!

Pi Day is coming – are YOU ready?

I’ve been so caught up in this whole winning the Czar of Cakes business, I was actually sort of caught off guard the other day. Someone had messaged me to say that Think Geek had blogged about our crazy Pi Kitchen Backsplash again.

Oh crap, that’s right – Pi day is less than a week away! (March 14 – 3/14!)

Luckily, I have a few extra days to prepare. With Pi Day falling on a Wednesday this year, we’ll actually be celebrating “St Pi-trick’s Day” next Saturday. It’ll be an interesting mix of math and Irish decor, pies, Pi-napple punch, and … corned beef.

Given the INSANE response to our Pi backsplash – Thinkgeek tweeting and blogging it (2x on the blog), thousands of “likes” / hundreds of shares on Facebook, “Make” Magazine and PC World blogging about it, just shy of 10,000 hits our blog tutorial for it in ONE MONTH… I’m thinking it’s about time for Pi Day to become more of a “thing”. Let’s make it more mainstream!

Pi day is a lot of fun, and there are SO many different things you can do to celebrate. No worries, the following suggestions are all far less expensive and labor-intensive than the pi backsplash!: (more…)

Free Crochet Pattern – “1 Up” Mushroom Baby Hat

Still without an at-all functional kitchen (not so much as a sink hooked up, at this point!), let’s go for something completely different today!

This weekend marked a first for me – attending a baby shower. I tend to meet friends after they’ve finished spawning, and my younger friends tend to be happily childfree. The opportunity to attend such a shindig just hasn’t come around.

Not that I really minded, btw. From what I’ve heard (Games involving melting chocolate bars into diapers and “identifying the poopie”, for instance)… they sound sort of horrible. I’m not a huge fan of anklebiters in general (though I’m sure yours are awesome, dear readers!), and I’m not the type whose uterus shudders with delight at the idea of teeny tiny socks.

Yep, sometimes I just fail at being a girl! Haha!

Jenni, however, is awesome. Awesome person (I mean, she’s a librarian… I’ve yet to meet a less-than-awesome one of THOSE), total geek… one of the very first friends I met through Convergence. Love her!

Still, I was super stressed out about attending. After looking up her registry, the idea of shopping at “Babies R Us” terrified me. I don’t know what ANY of that stuff was for, but it mostly looked… tremendously unsettling. LOL. Yep, I was gonna have to wing it, and make something. Besides, making something meant no risk of duplication of gifts, right? 🙂

In honor of the geeked-out beginning of our friendship (and the guest list for the shower!), I decided that I would crochet some baby hats based on “random fandom” – 4 hats in total. This one – for a Super Mario Brothers inspired baby beret – was my favorite of the lot. I’d like to show you how I made it! (more…)