• Food for Thought: Potluck Ideas #1

    by and  • April 3, 2012 • Essays • 7 Comments

    One thing we’ve learned over the years is that hungry gamers are grumpy gamers. We’ve also learned that a good food experience makes for a better night than an utterly forgettable one.

    Food for Thought is a series where we talk about food at the table.

     

    Potluck Ideas #1 – Drinks and snacks

    This week’s Food for Thought is going focus on an actual food suggestions. We don’t want to do these every week but now and again we’re going to share  some ideas for food that may suit your gaming table and have worked well for us.

    The basic way that our group tends to set up meals is to divvy up the dishes. Since there are four groups (two couples and two singles), that gives up the categories of drinks, snacks, main and dessert. This week, drinks and snacks. Next week we’ll look main and dessert.

    And in case you are wondering, I rolled randomly to see who would tackle which dish. Yes, I really am that kind of a dork.

    Finaira – What do you mean I shouldn’t spike the punch?

    Drinks is often the easiest of the dishes to deal with. As such, we usually let one of the single men claim drinks since the prep time is quite low and it doesn’t, generally, require a lot of fore-thought.

    Pop, soda and fizzy drinks are all well and good, but they are frequently so sugary that sometimes our health consciousness kicks in and we want something a little less unhealthy. An easy fix is to bring juice, buy low calorie or low sugar drinks. But for those of you aiming to impress or just wanting to make something a little more themed, I bring you mulled cider.

    Mulled cider

    • 2L fresh clear juice (apple, cranberry or grape are favorites)
    • 2-6 cinnamon sticks or bark
    • 1 tsp to 1 tbsp whole cloves
    • 1 tsp to 1 tbsp  whole allspice
    • 5-7 cardamon pods
    • pinch of nutmeg
    • orange peel, in strips or circles

    Pour juice into a saucepan or slow cooker. Turn to low or medium if you are in a hurry. Places spices and orange peel directly into the juice and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. The stronger you want it, the longer you should let it sit (or add more spices). Strain out the plant matter and ladle into mugs to serve.

    Helpful tips: You can place the spices directly into the mix and then strain them out when serving or, if you like to keep things tidy, put the spices into a cheese cloth sachet and secure with a string. If you do this, you can use ground spices. Do not use ground spices without a sachet! You can prepare the spice mix in advance and store in a baggy in the fridge or freezer to save until needed. Orange peel goes directly into the juice, rather than the sachet, so keep a fresh orange on hand.

    Vanilla apple pear juice is a favorite here because it adds a nice sweetness to the drink that would otherwise be overpowered by the spices. If you do use a flavoured juice, don’t add the orange peels.

    Remember that heating up the drink does make a bunch of the liquid evaporate so plan ahead! It’s always a safe bet to bring some extra juice and add it in if it gets too strong or if you are running low on refreshments. The spices can be reused in the same pot or topped up if they’re getting a little over saturated.

    Adjust the amount of spices to taste! This is a great recipe to play with and try different levels of spiciness.

    You can always add a splash of dark rum (or rum extract) for extra flavour or to make your drink a little more alcoholic, as required. Save this for the mugs though, or else any alcohol will burn off in the pot.

    Kim: Pass the chips, please?

    Chips, cookies, candy – we all know the usual snacks that can hit a gaming table. Let’s wander a little further afield, shall we?

    If you aren’t interested in a lot of prep, fruit’s a good way to go. You can buy fruit platters with the fruit pre-cut or you can buy whatever’s in season and cut it yourself. You can use yogurt as a dip and you can pair fruit with cheese. I like brie and apples, myself, or a sharp cheddar with strawberries.

    If you’re okay with a little more prep, how about some bruschetta?

    Bruschetta

    • loaf of Italian bread (or your crusty bread of choice)
    • 1 large clove of garlic, cut in half
    • ~8 medium sized ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
    • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. As the oven heats, slice the bread diagonally into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Spread the bread slices on cookie sheets. Toast the bread for 15 minutes or until crusty and dry, turning the slices over once and rotating the cookie sheets between upper and lower racks halfway through baking. Transfer the bread to wire racks to cool. When the bread is cool enough to handle, rub 1 side of each toast slice with the garlic.

    In a small bowl, toss tomatoes, basil, oil, salt and pepper until combined. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the tomato mixture on the garlic-rubbed side of each toast slice.

    Fun variations: The toast slices can be topped with all sorts of fun things. Try some mild goat cheese and a bit of prosciutto, or a dab of tzatziki with a piece of smoked salmon. If tomatoes aren’t your thing, you could try a fried medley of mushrooms or chopped bell peppers with a touch of balsamic vinegar. Play around! (And let me know what works because I wanna try too.)

    Words from the peanut gallery

    What are your favorite drinks or favorite snacks? What’s something that you only pull out as a special treat?

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    About

    I am a casual tabletop gamer and occasional larper who likes to hold forth on gaming in general and draws like a crazy monkey who was given coffee by accident.

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    About

    I'm a tabletop roleplayer, a larper and a video gamer. I run games, play games, remix games, talk about games, critique games, read games and have opinions about games. Sometimes, I do that online. I also have a passing fondness for making food.

    7 Responses to Food for Thought: Potluck Ideas #1

    1. avatar
      chemrebel
      April 3, 2012 at 16:57

      Drink-wise, we’ve become a group of craft beer samplers recently with the return/addition of a new player/old friend who now has time to join us. He typically brings several different beers and those of us who partake give feedback, and swap drinks, accordingly. Closer to the holidays, the hosting family has done wassail and other variations on mulled wine or cider. These drinks do especially well in the crock-pot.

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    2. avatar
      April 3, 2012 at 22:04

      Apopalypse Corn!

      Make popcorn. While it’s popping. melt some butter in a pan. Add a healthy amount of cirracha or your other favorite hot sauce. Add *just* a it more. Pour the spicy butter over the popped corn. This is also good with curry powder or nori sprinkle, but it’s not *quite* as good.

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      • avatar
        Finaira
        April 3, 2012 at 23:44

        Ooooh, that sounds lovely. Now if only I have a popcorn machine.

        *looks into buying a popcorn machine*

        • avatar
          April 4, 2012 at 16:36

          You can make popcorn in any fairly large pot, as long as it’s light enough for you to lift and shake while the corn is popping! The key is to use a test kernel to find out when your oil is hot enough; the Internet can tell you the rest of the details.

          Meguey – OH MY GOD I MUST EAT THAT NOW. Wish I didn’t have to wait until after Passover!

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    3. avatar
      Dmol
      April 4, 2012 at 07:23

      Mekike:
      1 egg
      1 block of yeast
      1 tsp to 1 tbsp of sugar
      1 tsp of salt
      1-4 deciliter of milk
      800-1000 g of flour (any type that reacts with yeast)
      6-10 deciliter of water
      frying oil (any type)

      Take a large mixing bowl (or a large pot if you do not have a bowl) and break the egg and put its contents into it and mix it. Then add the sugar, salt, yeast and milk. Mix it again. Add the flour. Mix it again and then add water and mix it until the dough is homogeneous. Put the lid over your mixing bowl (or pot) and then cover it with a clean piece of cloth. Depending on the type of flour used the dough should rise in 20-60 minutes, but you need to make sure that the bowl (or pot) is closed airtight or the yeast won’t work and the dough won’t rise.

      Once the dough has risen take a glass and fill it with water and then put a tbsp in it, also take out a cooking pot (or a frying pan but I use a pot) and put frying oil in it and put it on the stove and let the oil heat up near to a boil then use the tbsp to add the dough into the oil (remember to put the tbsp into the glass every time you pour the dough into oil or the dough will stick to the tbsp) then put the stove on 1,5 (1; 2- depending on your taste in frying, the scale on my stove goes to 3). Once the dough has been fried to your preference(this part is tricky as the dough can not be raw when you finish frying it, yet you can affect the color, texture and taste of the final product with your choice of flour and oil, the temperature on which you fry, your method of frying and the amount of dough added with the tbsp) put it into a bowl (metal or ceramic, never plastic as it will most likely melt) and continue frying the dough on the lower temperature until you have enough of mekike for your meal.

      Several things to keep in mind:

      The amount of dough you fry should be equivalent to the amount of mekike you expect to be eaten, the dough itself can stay in your fridge for a couple of days while mekike themselves go stale with the same speed bread does.

      You can not use less then a full block of yeast without using less then a single egg (example: if you use 1/4 of block of yeast you must also use 1/4 of a single mixed egg) and if you go with that remember to scale down the other ingredients as well.

      Mekike can be eaten with cheese,jam, honey or anything you would normally put on bread (you can even make small sandwiches out of them if you want).

      Keep in mind that depending on the temperature on which you fry the dough a single bowl can take from 20-45 minutes to make and the dough is usually good for 3-4 bowl at least.

      Please note that typing mekike into Wikipedia will get you to their Serbian cuisine page, but clicking on the mekike link on that page gives you an article on the Bulgarian version of the dish and the article itself is a stub not even mentioning the different names and variations on the recipe.

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      • avatar
        Finaira
        April 4, 2012 at 16:20

        Sounds yummy!

        Quick question, do you know the grams or volume of a “block of yeast”? I have never seen these in Canada so I’m not certain how much would be required.

        Thanks!

        • avatar
          Dmol
          April 5, 2012 at 10:09

          A commercial block of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) with maximum moisture content of 70 % weighs 45 grams at the moment of packing.

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