Friday, December 1, 2017

My First 5K: A Christmas Story Run 2016

One year ago, on December 3rd, I participated in my very first 5K race, A Christmas Story Run in Cleveland, Ohio. Proceeds from this annual race are donated to the Christmas Story House Neighborhood Restoration Project.

The 1983 movie "A Christmas Story" was filmed in Cleveland, and the race route goes between Tower Square, where the old Higbees was once located, and the Christmas Story House, which is now a museum and has been renovated to look like it did in the film. There are 5K and 10K race distances - the 5K ends at the Christmas Story House, the 10K loops back to the start at Tower City.

The 2017 run is this Saturday, but I'm not participating this year.


The race itself was a lot of fun. Temperatures were in the mid-30s, the sky was cloudy but it wasn't raining or snowing. There were a lot of people there - 5827 people finished the races in 2016! Many came in costumes based on the film - people dressed as leg lamps, bandits, Santa and his elves, dogs with stuffed turkeys, and pink rabbit suits as far as the eye could see. My favorite costume was the Tapestry of Obscenity - a woman was wearing a poncho decorated in Symbol Swearing! It was hilarious. Unfortunately, I did not get a photo because I saw her during the race.

At the finish line racers received their medals and snacks - bananas, yogurt drinks, cookies, and Ovaltine! Be sure to drink your Ovaltine!

Race entry included one free admission to the Christmas Story House Museum, but we didn't go inside because the line stretched down the block. I had planned to go back with my mom at Christmas, but that never happened.

My Race
Not know how fast I would be running, I lined up at the back of the 11 minute mile group (the slowest marked pace) so I wouldn't block anyone running faster than me. Unfortunately there were still a lot of walkers who ignored the mile group markers, so I was ducking and weaving through the entire race, trying to pass people. I've read that this is pretty standard, especially for casual fun run races like this one, so it didn't bother me (too much) - we were all there to have a good time!

I ended up averaging about 13 minutes per mile and finished in 39 minutes - great for my first 5K! I set a pace at the start of the race and maintained it throughout the run, which was my goal - no walking breaks. I was very proud of myself when I accomplished this. My aunt, who ran with me, was very proud of me too. We're hoping to participate in more races together, though that will depend on my being able to drive back to Ohio.

If you had told me ten years ago that I would not only be able to run 3 miles without stopping, but that I would enjoy it I would have laughed. But I am very glad that this is something I can do now, and something I enjoy. Running became my "me time" and I (usually) look forward to it - and I have found that my mood is more level when I run regularly, probably due to the combination of physical activity, and taking some time each week where I can tune out and not feel guilty about it. I'm looking forward to participating in more races this year and one day I hope to participate in a Disney half marathon!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Carrie Fisher is my Queen

I originally wrote this post on October 18th, 2016, a few short weeks after I met Carrie Fisher at New York Comic Con 2016.  I never posted it because I wanted to clean it up - it's just a rambling account of meeting her, our brief interaction, typed quickly to record the moment so I wouldn't forget the details. But I never cleaned it up, I never hit post, I never added photos.

I miss her, like so many of us that she touched with her humor and wit and portrayal of Princess (GENERAL!) Leia.

Today is her birthday, so eff it, I'm hitting post. No edits, except to include this brief explanation. 

Last week I met Carrie Fisher. It was amazing. I'm considering going broke to Celebration Orlando in the hopes that I can meet her again.

The day started with us sleeping in and taking it easy. We had been up early to get in line to previous three days, and all we had on our schedule today was my photo op and one late panel.

I had decided to wear my "Kylo Ren is a punk bitch" shirt by Jordandene. I had originally bought the tank top, but since I've lost weight it's a little big now. It wouldn't be too bad, but it gapes at the sides and I didn't have anything to layer it with to hide my bra, other than a cardigan! On Thursday of NYCC I made sure to stop by Jordan's booth and buy a tee in a smaller size, so I wouldn't have to wear the cardigan and cover up the print.

It was the perfect choice, because Carrie Fisher LOVED it.

My photo op timeslot started at 2:00pm. Instructions said to arrive fifteen minutes early, but we arrived at 1:30. There were lots of people there already, so we got in the correct line and waited until it finally started moving.

The Boyfriend was going to hold my bag for me and just walk through to the exit with the line - possibly catching a glimpse of Carrie, keeping track of me. I can't put words to it, but I wanted this photo to be mine, and being the easy-going guy he is, he had no problems with that (I did offer to buy a second photo op when I bought mine). But they weren't letting people walk through with bags - all bags went into a "bag check" area, to be picked up immediately after taking your photo. So The Boyfriend decided to just wait outside the curtains with the stuff.

I entered the tiny curtained room and there she was, sitting on a chair with Gary, her loyal dog, beside her. She was leaning in to give everyone hugs and cracking jokes.

An attendant was reminding everyone to go quickly, walk up, hug, photo, leave behind Carrie's chair. Funneling everyone in and out, in and out. This was reminiscent of the experiences I read about at Wizard World Philly, though everyone here seemed nicer about it.

I waited my turn and walked up to Carrie, saying hello as I took my place beside her chair.

She asked me what my shirt said, so I turned towards her and held it out, making it more legible.

"Kylo Ren is a punk..."
"Bitch!" I cheerily replied.
She repeated the quote, and added "He certainly is!" Then she told me she wanted one, to which I replied they were being sold upstairs. She turned to the people standing near the camera, "Did you hear that? They're selling them upstairs! Someone go get me a shirt!"

We hugged and took our photo. I thanked her, but she made me pause before I could make my obedient, quick exit - "Did you guys see this shirt?" She gestured at me, so I held it out again. The door attendant was trying to shoo me away. "Kylo Ren is a punk bitch!" Carrie repeated.

I was simultaneously in awe and cracking up! She is so friendly and funny and she's as amazing as I expected her to be! I said thank you again and left so the next person could get their photo. And as I walked out through the maze of curtains, I started to cry. I wanted that moment to last. I wanted to go buy her a shirt. I wanted The Boyfriend to have seen Carrie.

Thanks for reading. If you want more Carrie today, I recommend her memoirs (Wishful Drinking, Shockaholic, and The Princess Diarist) and HBO specials (Wishful Drinking and Bright Lights) - she pulled no punches, held nothing back, and I love her voice. She'll always be royalty to me.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cooking in Azeroth, post 4: Making Magnificent Muffins

Cooking in Azeroth is a weekly blog series featuring recipes from "World of Warcraft, the Official Cookbook" by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel. Over the next year I will cook and review all 100 recipes.

Do you know the Muffin Man?

His name is Moser and he lives in Shattrath City.

And his muffins are pretty magnificent.

Moser's Magnificent Muffins
This week I made Moser's Magnificent Muffins from the Desserts section of the Warcraft cookbook.

These muffins are apple and cinnamon flavored, topped with streusel and maple-flavored icing.  Fresh from the oven, they are absolutely delicious - it was hard stopping myself after eating only one! And they hold up well a few days after baking, in case you don't have the numbers to eat the whole dozen right away.


Moser's Magnificent Muffins are very easy to make.  Most bakers will already have the ingredients in their kitchen - baking powder, flour, brown sugar, etc.  They come together in about an hour, making them a fine choice for a lazy weekend breakfast or to whip up quickly after dinner to get you through the week.

While these muffins are easy to make, they are a bit messy to eat... with sticky icing and crumbly streusel topping falling all over the plate.  Delicious, but not really a grab and go style muffin.  The muffin itself is dense and chewy, much like an applesauce cake.  These muffins go well with coffee, tea, and fresh fruit.

Streusel topping, before baking

The recipe as written makes 12 muffins.  Each muffin is about 310 calories.

Personally I will be stretching this recipe to make more muffins in the future - making only twelve as the recipe suggests, my muffin tin was filled to the brim and there was so much streusel wasted because it was laid on so thick.  This made me sad because this streusel recipe is amazing... I would make a batch and eat it by itself if I wasn't concerned about all the calories and sugar!  I think stretching the batter and streusel over 18 muffins will be just as satisfying, and make the streusel topping easier to bake and eat.

Icing the muffins

Once the muffins were a couple days old the added moisture and sweetness from the icing was appreciated, however I don't think the maple flavor added much.  The icing did melt into the streusel topping after a day, so if you want crunchy streusel and fresh icing I would recommend making a batch and drizzling it on right before you eat.

If you're looking to cut some calories, you can probably skip the icing altogether, or make a thicker maple icing to top them and forgo the streusel. Both include a lot of sugar.  Stretching the recipe to make a larger batch would also decrease the calories.

I already had everything for this recipe on hand except for the applesauce.  A six-pack of individual applesauce cups costs $1.99 at Wegmans.  I bought my applesauce individually packaged so I wouldn't feel rushed into eating a whole jar once it was opened and in my fridge.  One half-cup portion was plenty for this recipe, and now I have the remaining cups for more muffins or snacks.

Thank you for reading!

Recipes completed to date: 9/100

Banner background, item description images and links are from Other images are my own.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Cooking in Azeroth, post 3: Westfall Stew

Welcome to Cooking in Azeroth, a weekly blog series featuring recipes from "World of Warcraft, the Official Cookbook" by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel. Over the next year I will cook and review all 100 recipes.

This week I made Westfall Stew, a hearty beef stew flavored with a variety of spices and red wine. The hearty Cornmeal Biscuits from the first Cooking in Azeroth post also made a second appearance. With local temps in the 20s, we wanted something that would fill us up and stick to our ribs - and this stew definitely succeeded.

Westfall Stew
"Westfall Stew" is one of the first recipes player characters can learn in-game. It is dropped by mobs in the Alliance Level 10-15 zone called "Westfall" - Horde players must travel there to obtain it.

This version of Westfall Stew is a hearty beef and barley stew. It cooks long and slow in the oven on low heat, and requires several hours to prepare and make. My prep time also took much longer than that cited in the cookbook, but I find that is often the case - I don't have much counter space in my kitchen, and I think that contributes to recipes taking a little longer.

Probably my favorite part of making this stew was preparing the mushrooms and pearl onions. They are mixed with a little butter and brown sugar, then roasted in the oven before being mixed into the stew towards the end of cooking. This gives them a slight glazed quality. Mixing this with spices and other roasted vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and squash could make a pretty awesome side dish.

After the stew has cooked for 2.5-3 hours it is very thick. This thickness might come from the pearled barley breaking down a little, and from the roux that is made at the start of the recipe. I noticed that our stew was thicker than the one pictured in the cookbook... but you also can't see the barley in that image.

Even though I could smell the bacon all through the cooking process, I did not notice the flavor at all; because of this I think we might try this recipe again in the future and omit the bacon and flour roux, hopefully giving the broth a texture more like an au jus than the thick gravy-like mixture that resulted. Cooking the stew covered for the last 90 minutes might also help it retain some moisture, thinning it a little.

The flavor of this stew was beefy and floral, from the red wine and dried juniper berries. I did feel like it needed something sharper to cut the floral and savory notes, and hoped the buttermilk in the Cornmeal Biscuits would offer that, but that flavor was much more muted than it was when we paired the Biscuits with the Dragonbreath Chili the other week. Using a more acidic or sharper flavored red wine than the pinot I had on hand, or maybe adding a splash of red wine vinegar, might offer this quality next time.

As for leftovers, the recipe says this stew makes four servings but I divided ours into six 2-cup sized servings and could easily have made it into eight servings. This stew was very thick and filling on the first night, and the leftover stew was even thicker. It reheated well. The Boyfriend is not a fan of mushrooms and did comment that their texture was more noticeable in the leftovers than on the night it was cooked.

Though The Boyfriend and I both enjoyed this stew, we preferred the Dragonbreath Chili.

I divided our stew into six 2-cup servings, which were 550 calories each. The Cornmeal Biscuits are 185 calories when the recipe is used to make a dozen.

I had some ingredients on hand already, like salt, pepper, butter, wine, and carrots. We bought everything* else for this recipe at Wegmans, costing $29.09. Divided by the six servings, that's less than $5 a meal. The "start up cost" of the spice blend used for this recipe was not included in this total, but is listed below. Everything to make the Cornmeal Biscuits was leftover from the last time we made them.

Bonus recipe: Northern Spices
This recipe for Westfall Stew incorporates a spice blend called "Northern Spices." Warcraft players will remember this in-game item from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, released in 2008; almost every recipe in that expansion seemed to use this item. Or at least it felt like that while leveling! I think I still have stacks of this stuff in my bank alt's bags...

The real-life version of Northern Spices is a fragrant blend incorporating dried juniper berries and smoked salt with a variety of other spices. The recipe for this spice blend can be found in the Spices and Basic section of the Warcraft Cookbook.

Ingredients for this spice blend were purchased at Wegmans for $19.76, which included everything* except the allspice and black pepper. The most expensive was the jar of cardamom, $8.99. This recipe makes a couple tablespoons of spice blend, which should last through several recipes when stored in an airtight container. There was plenty of each ingredient left after making one batch of spice that we shouldn't need to buy again for other recipes using this blend or the individual spices.

Thank you for reading!

Recipes completed to date: 8/100

Banner background, item description images and links are from Other images are my own.

* Though I try to provide details about each recipe, I do not post complete ingredient lists or instructions on this blog. 
If you have questions about a recipe or any concerns about food allergies, I'll be happy to answer in the comments! 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Running the Mad-Eye Moody 5K

Last Thursday, February 2nd, I ran the Alastor "Mad Eye" Moody Constant Vigilance 5K, a Hogwarts Running Club event.

The Hogwarts Running Club is a charitable organization that hosts virtual races. Virtual races are race events hosted online that can be run anywhere in the world. There might be some requirements - such as providing proof of completion or running on a specific day - but generally they're pretty flexible. Some road races also have virtual options - the 5K I ran in December, the Christmas Story House 5K, offers virtual participation for people who can't travel to Cleveland to participate.

Participants pay to enter the HRC event - usually $25 - and are sent a medal after. Confirmation of completion/time/distance are not required, and participants can run, walk, or even divide the distance up over several days, making it possible for literally anyone of any fitness level to participate. And 70% of each entry fee is donated to a selected charity - the Mad Eye 5K was benefitting the Limbs for Life Foundation, an organization that donates prosthetics to people who cannot afford them.

I first learned about the HRC when Gladys tweeted about participating in 2016, though I did not "join" until HRC followed me on Twitter. As for joining, there's no application, no membership fee - it's just entering the races and joining Facebook/Charity Miles/Fitbit groups if you want to have an online social element. HRC uses the miles logged by each Hogwarts House group on Charity Miles to award the House Cup at the end of the year. Slytherin won in 2016... but Ravenclaw was the first to 100,000 miles in 2017, so watch out!

My bib, even though I forgot to print it off and wear it :(
My Run
Sweaty post-run selfie! 
I hadn't run in two months, not since my first 5K race back in December. After that the weather turned icy - I overheat easily and don't mind the cold so much, but the ice makes me nervous. Once I lost December it was hard to motivate myself to throw on my running gear and get going, even when we had a streak of 40 degree weather in January.

Unfortunately our weather has been back in the 20s and icy again, so I ran on my treadmill. I hate running on the treadmill - after about 10 minutes I get really bored, even if I'm watching an interesting show or listening to a great podcast. Also it's way too easy to quit and just turn the treadmill off. Even though I hadn't run in two months, this was more a test of mental endurance than physical.

I ended my 5K seven minutes slower than my personal best in December, four minutes slower than my November average. I had to take one walking break around the second mile, but that was more mental than physical - I had to slow down and psych myself back up to finish. For taking two months off, this is actually pretty great! I'm pretty proud of myself, even though I'm sore today.

I'm so glad I participated in this run. I would have felt so bad about myself if I hadn't run at all and it was the perfect source of motivation to get going again and show myself that I can still do this, and that I still enjoy it!

Friday, February 3, 2017

January 2017 in Review

Honestly I don't know where January went. The first half of the month was spent in a post-Christmas haze, fueled by mince pies and British chocolates. The last half of the month was spent in a constant state of anxiety, to the point where I am wondering if I shouldn't spent the next four years medicated.

I started a new blog series, Cooking in Azeroth. Each week I'm going to post about different recipes from "World of Warcraft, the Official Cookbook" by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel. I'm currently at 6 recipes made out of 100, and I'm looking forward to continuing this project.

January was the first month since June that I didn't lose a single pound... The combination of holiday treats followed by a month of giving in to my desire to comfort eat just didn't create enough of a caloric deficit. Add in that I just started blogging about making food (maybe not the best idea while actively trying to lose weight).

Oh well, that's life, January is over and as of yesterday I'm back on the wagon. If I stay on target I should hit goal weight sometime this year. I'll stay on target and hit goal weight sometime later this year.

No news about any SDCC ticket sales yet - presale has usually passed by now, with general sale happening in March the past few years. Though The Boyfriend is saying we'll try to buy them again, I'm cautious that we'll get them and then decide the cost of flights and hotel is too much and cancel our plans. (If I'm being completely honest... I'm getting cabin fever and ready to say eff it all, pack up and move west. That'd remove the need for flights, at least.)

Books I read...
Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher
Shockoholic, Carrie Fisher
Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher

I read/re-read Carrie Fisher's memoirs in January. I found comfort in her words, as I was grieving her death and anxious over the future presidency. Sometime I'll get around to posting what I wrote about meeting her last October at NYCC.

Movies I saw...
Um... none, actually. Despite really wanting to see Hidden Figures we never made it to the movies in January. The Boyfriend never got to see Moana either, which is a shame because that movie was GORGEOUS on the big screen. But Hidden Figures is still showing at my local theater, so I will probably treat myself to a matinee sometime this week.

Other than that, nothing really interesting happened here. Just calling my Congressmen and Senators multiple times a week, working, and finding my joy where I can.

#5FandomFriday: My TBR Pile

Wow you guys - somehow I completely lost track of Five Fandom Fridays! Other than the Harry Potter month last summer I honestly didn't realize there were new prompts, probably because I slacked off on blog reading last year.

Anyway, I saw Megan's post this morning... right after pondering my TBR list on Bookreads and my yearly goal of 35 free-read books. It was serendipitous. As a PhD student I read A LOT, but I really don't read many things for the sheer enjoyment of reading unless I'm making an effort to.

I prefer reading in the evenings and before bed. I like fantasy and historical fiction the best, along with sci-fi and non-fiction history. When and what do you like to read?

Currently in my looooooong TBR pile...

1. Surrender the Pink, Carrie Fisher
I've seen the movie "Postcards From the Edge" based on Carrie's book, but I've only ever read her memoirs. Reading/re-reading Carrie's books has been part of my grieving process, and seeing as how Amazon was sold out of many of her books last month, I'm definitely not alone in that.

Having never read her fiction I selected "Surrender the Pink" because the plot of a woman "find[ing] it hard to relinquish the 'pink' fantasy that a man will indeed secure her happiness ever after"  (Publisher's Weekly, 1990) intrigued me. I think many of us go through something similar... realizing that the rose-colored, Disney-esque fantasy of happily ever after doesn't come with marriage, and life is continually working at everything, relationships and all. And I know Carrie will put a wonderful humorous spin on that.

2. New Star Wars canon, various authors, published by Del Rey and Disney
I've read a few of the new Star Wars books, but now that I own many of them I want to read through them in chronological order. My reading order is: Dark Disciple, Ahsoka, Tarkin, A New Dawn, Moving Target, Lost Stars, the Aftermath Trilogy, and Bloodline.

3. A Court of Wings and Ruin, Sarah J. Maas
This book won't be published until May, but I really can't wait to read it. Seriously - my memory keeps tricking me into thinking it's going to be published next month! This is the third book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I found ACOTAR on my Kindle last summer (I buy ebooks when they're on sale and then forget about them) and proceeded to DEVOUR it while on a road trip to Canada. As soon as I arrived home I ordered physical copies of ACOTAR and its sequel, A Court of Mist and Fury.

These books are... delicious. A perfect combination of fantasy and adventure, with plenty of elements inspired by classic fairy tales and Celtic folklore. While I was reading ACOTAR I felt like this was exactly the series I've been craving my whole life.

4. The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill
My local library actually picked this one up after I suggested it. *smug smile* I can't afford to buy every book I want to read right now, so I love accessing my library's collection in both physical and ebook formats.

This book is a fantasy about a young girl with magic powers who is raised by a witch, and one day must defend her home. It sounds like an adventurous exploration of identity and coming of age.

5. The Family Plot, Cherie Priest
A new take on classic haunted house horror, this book is right up my alley (I have enjoyed Cherie Priest's Boneshaker and Maplecroft books, and a year ago I spent October reading spooky stories). I wanted to read this one last October, but never got to it.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Cooking in Azeroth, post 2: Lunar Festival Treats

Welcome to Cooking in Azeroth, a weekly blog series featuring recipes from "World of Warcraft, the Official Cookbook" by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel. Over the next year I will cook and review all 100 recipes.

This week I made Red Bean Buns and Pearl Milk Tea to celebrate the Lunar New Year! These treats were really delicious and easy to make.

The Lunar Festival is one of many in-game holidays (such as the Feast of Winter Veil/Christmas, Hallow's End/Halloween) and coincides with the Lunar New Year. Cities are decorated in paper lanterns, there are fireworks and gifts enclosed in red paper envelopes, and characters can wear clothing that looks like cheongsam.

This in-game holiday and the fourth game expansion, "Mists of Pandaria," are the inspiration for many East Asian-inspired recipes in the Warcraft cookbook, all of which sound delicious.

Red Bean Buns
The recipe for Red Bean Buns can be found in the Breads section of the Warcraft cookbook. This recipe is inspired by the in-game item "Red Bean Bun" from the Mists of Pandaria WoW expansion, released in 2012. The Cooking profession quests to source ingredients and unlock new recipes were a highlight of this otherwise problematic expansion (in short: reliance on tropes perpetuating the view of East Asian cultures as mystic and traditional).

These buns are made with a yeast dough. Preparing the buns for baking takes a while because you must let the dough rise twice: once before assembling the buns by filling flattened circles of dough with sweetened red bean paste, and once again after they have been assembled.

I have never, ever managed to get dough to rise in my kitchen without proofing the yeast first. Proofing involves mixing dry yeast with 110F water and sugar, then waiting for it to bubble - gotta make sure those yeastie beasties are still alive! The recipe does not mention proofing and my yeast packages say they can be used without proofing as long as the recipe involves mixing the yeast with warm liquids, but I always strike out - so your mileage might vary. I did find the extra liquid from proofing made the dough easier to work with and gave it a consistency closer to other yeast doughs I've made in the past.

Even if you're a beginner, this recipe is very easy to make. The resulting buns are delicious, perfectly sized for breakfast or a snack, with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. The dough is made from ingredients most bakers have on hand and the recipe instructions were very easy to follow. And I love how the buns look like flowers, with the slits cut into their sides and poppy seeds!

The Boyfriend did express that he wished the dough was saltier, so we might experiment with that.

This recipe makes 10 servings. Each bun has about 185 calories when filled with a tablespoon of bean paste. I bought my bean paste at a local Korean grocery store and it was just the right amount of sweet.

Ingredients cost me $10.98, and included the yeast, bean paste, and poppy seeds. The jar of poppy seeds was the most expensive item at $6.49, and might have been cheaper if I had gone to the larger store that carries more than one brand. Everything else (flour, sugar, etc) I had on hand.

Pearl Milk Tea
I LOVE boba tea and have always wanted to try making my own. I was so excited to find this recipe in the cookbook! Mainly because I would have to make it, and couldn't back out like I always do after googling boba tea recipes (it's just so much easier to visit a local cafe instead of buying and making the boba).

The "Pearl Milk Tea" in-game item is also from the Mists of Pandaria expansion, released in 2012.

The recipe is pretty standard - milk, tea, boba pearls. The instructions say to use yak milk for best results but this is a reference to the in-game recipe, which uses an item called Yak Milk to craft the recipe. I just used regular 2% in mine.

I used Cock Brand tapioca pearls because they were the only ones available at my local shop. I had to experiment with cooking them because there were no instructions on the bag. I found that soaking the boba before boiling made them very slimy and broke them into smaller pieces, while dumping them into boiling water left many with uncooked, chalky centers. Finally I found placing the boba in its cooking water before bringing the pot to boil for 30-35 minutes, then letting them soak in the hot water another 15-20 minutes made them the best.

In the future I will probably source my boba from Amazon, because of the variety and reviews, though I'll continue to check my local groceries for different types of tapioca pearls to experiment!

The other ingredients for this recipe were things I already had on hand or were bought at my local chain supermarket, like 2% milk and black tea. You can use your preferred tea for this recipe, so we tried it with green and black, and found the black tea stood up better against the sweetness of the other ingredients.

Once the boba were cooked this recipe was very easy to make. The recipe includes suggestions for steeping the tea while the boba soaks in its syrup, so everything has a chance to soak up yummy flavors and cool off - I found that after my boba had chilled a bit it was gummier and less slimy, which I really liked.

This milk tea was very sweet to me, but the texture of the drink was deliciously smooth and much nicer than some of my local shops that use powder mixes for flavor. The honey flavor from the boba syrup stood out the most, followed by the black tea. Since I didn't care for the sweetness I think I will omit the condensed milk in the future (this would also cut some calories!)

The recipe says this makes about two servings, but for us it was closer to three. At three servings, and estimating that about half the syrup is left after soaking the boba, this recipe comes in at about 430 calories per serving.

Ingredients cost $14.26 and included all of the ingredients for this recipe except the black tea, which I had in my kitchen already.

Thank you for reading!

Recipes completed to date: 6/100

Banner background and item description images are from Other images are my own.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cooking in Azeroth, post 1: Dragonbreath Chili and Chocolate Cake

Welcome to the first Cooking in Azeroth post!

This weekly blog series features the recipes from "World of Warcraft, the Official Cookbook" by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel. Over the next year I will cook and review all 100 recipes.

To start, I selected Dragonbreath Chili and Cornmeal Biscuits. Though our weather has been unseasonable warm, it is still very chilly here (well, it is January). This cookbook is full of recipes for warm, delicious-sounding soups, perfect for this gray part of winter.

Dragonbreath Chili
Dragonbreath Chili is a food item in Warcraft that includes a special ability - for ten minutes after eating it, player characters have a chance to belch fire while they are engaged in melee combat!

With a skill like that, I knew to expect a spicy chili.

We were not disappointed - this chili is delicious. This recipe is described as being on the "milder side of dragon-y," so cooks can alter it as they like. There really was not a lot of heat, but I could taste the smokiness of the chipotle peppers. The Boyfriend thought there was a nice amount of spice in the aftertaste, but I couldn't feel it - I might add more chipotle and jalapeno next time.

I ended up letting it simmer an extra half hour because I started my biscuits late. This let the chili thicken up a bit more, and it was a delicious consistency as a result.

Right away I noticed a typo in this recipe - there is a line that lists "1 tsp..." but doesn't include the ingredient! Googling showed me that other people had noticed this too, but there was no correction available. I think it was probably a dry spice that got left out - later on the recipe instructions say to add the "spices" but cumin is the only one left at the point.

While assembling my shopping list, I was shocked at the shear amount of meat included in this recipe - three pounds of ground beef, chuck beef, and Italian sausage! I bought my Italian sausage as raw links and squeezed the meat out of the casings, using it like a mince. Everything else about the ingredient list was very straightforward - spicy peppers, canned beans and tomatoes, things like that.

This recipe makes 8 servings, and clocks in at 505 calories per serving. This may seem high (I track my calories and panicked a little at the thought) but the servings are very big. Depending on how large a portion you want, this could easily be stretched out to 10-12 servings.

We're going to be eating this for days...

My ingredients cost $30.21 at Wegmans. Half of this cost was the fresh meat, and this recipe makes A LOT of food - it averages to less than $4 per serving. If you did want to decrease cost or number of portions, I would recommend using only ground beef and spicy sausage (for flavor), halving the recipe, or adding more beans and tomatoes instead.

Cornmeal Biscuits
In-game, food items are used to heal player characters after combat. The Cornmeal Biscuits in-game heal high level players for 20,000 health points. The homemade Cornmeal Biscuits were pretty hearty, holding up to their in-game description.

This recipe creates a basic cornmeal drop biscuit that can be served with a variety of meals, including stews, chowders, or pork.

The ingredients include grated cheddar cheese, which really stood out in the finished biscuit. These biscuits complimented the Dragonbreath Chili well, with a sour cheesiness and a good texture for dipping into the chili. Adding minced garlic or other seasonings would also work well with this recipe.

One tip, because I never remember to do this - pull your butter out of the fridge to soften. Prep time took a while for me because my butter was cold. I'm going to stick a post-it in my cookbook so I don't forget next time!

This recipe makes 12 biscuits, 185 calories each. The biscuits are a good size, about the same size as a hockey puck. They did not spread very much while baking

Ingredients were not very expensive; I already had things like AP flour and baking powder on hand at home. The additional ingredients, like buttermilk and cornmeal, cost $7.27 at Wegmans.

Chocolate Celebration Cake
The Boyfriend's birthday was last week, so I also made the Chocolate Celebration Cake! We used to play Warcraft together often, even raiding in the same guild for a season. It seemed fitting to make him a cake inspired by an in-game item.

The Chocolate Celebration Cake in-game is a sharable item, feeding up to five player characters. The cake I made was also a sharable item, and could feed more than eight party members (get it? Birthday? Party? I'll stop now.)

Combining chocolate, hazelnuts, and a variety of spices, this cake is very flavorful. The batter is described as "light" in the recipe but it was very thick and sticky, almost more like a brownie than cake batter. The recipe does not call for much liquid and the cake is just on the border of dry - though The Boyfriend thought it was fine.

Whipped Cream, from the recipe in the Spices & Basics section of the Warcraft cookbook, is used to decorate the cake. This lightens up the cake, and provides a smooth contrast to the spicy chocolate cake. It also is a pleasant source of moisture. Dotting the top of the cake are candied hazelnuts. The instructions for these are included in the recipe, though I overcooked my sugar just a touch.

Because this cake is layered with whipped cream I was worried that the "icing" wouldn't fair well in the fridge for leftovers - but the second night it was still delicious! The spices, cayenne in the cake and cinnamon in the chocolate whipped cream, were more muted than when they were freshly made, but otherwise it was just as good. The piped decorations even retained their ridges and definition!

The Chocolate Celebration Cake cut into 8 servings is 691 calories a slice. (Ouch.) Being a double layer cake, it is large enough to cut into 10 slices (or more). It can be served with ice cream, but I didn't think it needed it.

The cost for additional ingredients, such as whole hazelnuts and Nutella, cost $20.84 at Wegmans. Though the ingredients included AP flour and other things I already had in my cupboard, I was low on vanilla and butter - this contributed to the cost, though most of these ingredients will last me through several recipes.

Making the Chocolate Celebration Cake the same week as the Cornmeal Biscuit recipe was a lucky decision too, since they both call for buttermilk. Buttermilk is something I do not keep on hand - but there are recipes online if you would rather buy regular milk and sour just enough for your recipe using vinegar or lemon juice.

Thank you for reading!

Recipes completed to date: 4/100

Banner background, item description images and links are from Other images are my own.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cooking in Azeroth: an Introduction

For Christmas I received a copy of "World of Warcraft, The Official Cookbook" by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel. We saw it in person at the Insight Editions booth during NYCC 2016 and it looked really fun, filled with recipes inspired by the Cooking profession in World of Warcraft.

As soon as I unwrapped the book I decided... I'm going to "Julie & Julia" this thing and cook every recipe in it!

I had thought calling this new blog series "Katie & Kil'jaeden" or "Katie & Kael'thas" would be funny. I even found a Cooking Trainer NPC named Katherine Lee, but I was pretty sure no one would get the joke if I called it "Katie & Katherine."

Instead, I welcome you to Cooking in Azeroth!

This series will run weekly on Thursdays, with 1-4 recipes from the book featured in each post. There are 100 individual recipes included in the cookbook, and I will cook all of them before the year is over. The book is divided into sections for Appetizers, Breads, Soups, Entrees, Desserts, and Beverages. All of the recipes are inspired by foods found throughout the game, either through the Cooking profession or bought from a vendor. The images included with the recipes are delightful, resembling the game art used for each dish.

Throughout the book are other references to the game, such as mentioning the NPCs who sell or teach a recipe, or describing harder recipes as requiring a Master-level Cooking Skill (as opposed to an Apprentice-level skill). There is even a section about the importance of feasting in Azeroth, with suggestions for holiday-themed recipe combinations.

I'm looking forward to learning these new recipes and level up my Cooking Skill! Each blog post will include photos, cost and sourcing information for ingredients, and calorie information. I will not post the actual recipes or step-by-step instructions, but will offer tips and tricks if I come across anything that I feel needs explained.

The first Cooking in Azeroth post will publish this Thursday and will feature Dragonbreath Chili, Cornmeal Biscuits, and Chocolate Celebration Cake! Please come back on Thursday to see how it all turns out!


The "World of Warcraft" cookbook retails for $35, though it can be found for a discount on Amazon. The author, Chelsea Monroe-Cassel, has also written "A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook."