This vegetarian black bean chili I made is damn good. Served on rice.

RPG a Day: Adjacent hobbies

26. What hobbies go well with RPGs?

  • Scratch-made pizzzaReading, of course! All those adventures playing in your head, inspiring you to the virtual adventures you want to have with your friends.
  • A lot of crafts go well with too, such as drawing, map-making, miniature painting, terrain building, even sewing and costuming.
  • Some of us have a passion for theatre, acting, public speaking, or writing.
  • Cooking is another good one! There is something about breaking bread together that creates bonds between people.

mountain of books PO-2s_Assembly




Slow-Cooker Braised Elk Ribs

Elk ribs, from Bradley Smoker forumA guest had brought some pre-packed elk ribs so I made this for dinner yesterday (and of course forgot to take a picture, so you get a stock picture of what the uncooked ribs look like). I adapted the base recipe from Brown Hollow using ingredients I had which inspired me. Yeah, it’s pretty shameless the way I tinker with recipes and ignore instructions nowadays; my mom, who does the same but doesn’t own up to it, shakes her head.

I served this with a baby spinach salad topped with some of Edmund’s cranberry-orange relish and chopped pecans, and a side of basmati rice cooked with Edmund’s Moroccan preserved lemons.

Slow-Cooker Braised Elk Ribs

  • One slab of elk ribs (1.5 to 5 lbs or 0.7 to 2.2 kg)
  • Montreal Steak Rub or just salt and pepper

Braising Liquid

  • 8 ounces (250 mL) home-made cranberry-orange relish if you have it, or store-bought red currant jelly
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) ground mustard powder
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) tawny port
  • 4 cups (1 L) home-made chicken, turkey, pork, or beef stock (I used turkey)
  • ½ tsp ground allspice or crushed allspice berries
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) juniper berries (10 to 12), scorched and coarsely crushed (actually, I left them whole this time)
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom or 4-5 pods, husks removed and finely crushed
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) brown sugar
  • ½ cup (125 mL) apple brandy
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  1. In a slow-cooker set on High, whisk all braising liquid ingredients down to the cinnamon, being careful to liquefy the cranberry or currant jelly. Bring it to a simmer and let it cook for a while; this can take up to an hour if your liquids were cold. Alternately, heat and reduce in a pan on the stovetop before pouring in the slow-cooker if you want to hurry things up.
  2. Meanwhile, pat the ribs dry with paper towels. Rub with the rub mix or just salt and pepper. Brown the ribs in a cast iron skillet.
  3. Place ribs in slow-cooker, with the liquid level coming up over ribs and about three-fourths of the way up. If you need more liquid, add more broth or just water. Rinse the skillet you browned the ribs in with some of the braising liquid to get all those meat juices, and return the liquid to the slow-cooker.
  4. Aromatic and root vegetables such as onion, potatoes, turnip, celery, and carrot may be added in an amount to loosely cover the meat. I added little red potatoes 2 hours later in the cooking so they would be just right by dinner time.
  5. Simmer for at least 4 hours. The longer they simmer, the more tender the ribs get. Six to eight hours brings them to falling-off-the bone, which is the desired level of doneness.

Don’t add salt or pepper until serving time, as this makes a fairly spicy broth thanks to the mustard and the rub on the ribs. I saved the leftover liquid to cook a piece of beef later this week, rather than waste it.

This recipe should work well with any game ribs as well as beef short ribs. A dark port would work as well as the tawny port and result in a deeper-coloured liquid.

Turkey Day leftovers?

Turkey Pot PieHey, it’s time to make some of my favourite recipes for leftover turkey. In fact in our household, it’s really all about the leftovers. So let’s go dig up last year’s list of my favourite recipes for turkey. And if you have leftover cranberry relish or chutney, you can always do what I did last year as well and add it to this slow-cooker pulled-pork recipe.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Sausage

Spaghetti squash in panFor the Thanksgiving potluck, I wanted to have something with squash for theme and season, but I also felt like showing off the home-made sausage I’ve started making since I got a meat grinder.  So this recipe from White on Rice was a great compromise! But since we also have at least one vegan in the group, I decided to also make a meat-less, cheese-less version. Both were very well received at the get-together.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Sausage OR Vegan Filling

Yield: Serves 3-4.  Total Time: 1 hour

From: Try not to over cook the squash until it becomes overly soft.  It should still have a bit of a bite to the texture.  If pressed for time to make dinner, since the squash is warmed in the pan with the sausage at the end, one could always roast the spaghetti squash ahead of time and then quickly heat it with the sausage at dinner time.


Sausage Meat-01
Home-made sausage meat

Sausage Filling

(Garlic-fennel sausage from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.)

  • 2.5 lbs (1.1 kg) ground pork. If grinding yourself, which I recommend, use a fatty cut like pork shoulder or pork butt.

  • 2 tsp (10 mL) crushed or chopped garlic (or more)

  • 1 tsp (5 mL) fennel seeds

  • ¾ tsp (3-4 mL) kosher or sea salt

  • ½ tsp (2 mL) fresh ground pepper

  • ⅛ to ¼ tsp (0.5 to 1 mL) Cayenne pepper

Mix in by hand in small batches.  This yields way more sausage than you need for the recipe, so freeze the extra for another dish one of these days.

Bread filling
Bread filling

Bread Filling

Crumble some bread (I used home-made sourdough) and splash with a bit of olive oil. Mix in a good pinch of salt, ½ tsp (2 mL) fennel seeds, crushed or powdered garlic, and pepper. Allow to stand for at least 30 minutes.


  • 1 spaghetti squash (about 3 lbs or 1.4 kg)

  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil (divided in two parts)

  • 5 or 6 medium shallots, thickly sliced

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced

  • 3/4 lbs (350 g) uncooked sausage or bread filling

  • 1 cup (250 mL) coarsely grated Parmigiana Reggiano (optional)

  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped oregano, or other herb complementary to the sausage [like fennel for the above]

  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste

  • Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Spaghetti Squash
Roasted spaghetti squash


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Oil a sheet pan with first 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of olive oil. Slice spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. (Use the tip of the knife to first pierce and get the cut started. Once you get the first cut started the rest of the squash should slice easily.) Scoop out the seeds and strands, then place cut side down on the prepared sheet pan.
    NOTE: Edmund has made the brilliant suggestion that the garlic and shallots could be oven-roasted at the same time and that would probably be really good!  I’ll try it next time.

  2. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the squash flesh separates easily into strands with a fork. Finish loosening and removing the “spaghetti” from the shells and set aside.

  3. Onto a large sheet of butcher paper or similar, pinch and pull small balls of filling, laying them so they stay slightly separate.

  4. Shallots in pan-01
    Shallots and garlic in pan

    Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Heat second 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of olive oil in pan, then add shallots and garlic. Cook until soft, stirring every 30 seconds, then add filling. Cook untouched until bottom side of filling starts to brown, then stir. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally until the filling is cooked through (2-3 minutes depending on heat, type, and size of pieces).

  5. Add spaghetti squash strands to the filling and continue cooking until heated (usually less than a minute.)

  6. Fresh Oregano-01
    Fresh oregano

    Remove from heat. Toss in oregano or other herbs, and if you’re not making this vegan, the Parmigiana Reggiano.  Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper (remember the cheese will have a bit of “saltiness” to it already.) Serve immediately.

Photos by Sophie Lagacé 2013, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.


Crab Chowder Recipe and Family Memories

Dungeness crabWe scored some fresh-caught, fresh boiled Dungeness crab from our friends Dorene and Steve W., so I made Mexican corn and crab chowder; Edmund made some tortillas to dip in.  Cleaning the meat from the crab, I was thinking about family camping feasts when I was a kid. Every summer our family went camping in the Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia) and we ate fresh fish or seafood every day: hake, cod, lobster, clams, mussels, scallops, crab…

Dad’s favourite was lobster, mom’s crab, so we’d set up a big pot of boiling water on the Coleman stove and dad would boil the critters; mom or the kids would make a salad, prepare garlic butter to dip in, and my parents would open a bottle of white wine. When we got old enough, us kids would get a bit of wine too.

We learned to cook and clean seafood thoroughly, no waste. One of dad’s favourite things to do was to help camp neighbours learn to eat seafood, because not everyone knows how to prepare it but they be watching us pig out and look envious.  And if you botch your first experience, you may never want to try again! Dad was so pleased when he felt he’d given someone a chance to enjoy the good things in life.

Those summer feasts were one of the symbols of family and love for me. Dad cracking the shells for mom, that was love. The two of them clinking glasses, that was love. Their choice to feed the good, expensive stuff to their kids and teach us about the good things in life, instead of feeding us hot dogs and running away for tête à tête dinners, that was love. The adults and older kids trading their coveted lobster or crab claws for less savoury bits to the youngest kids to encourage them to learn to love the stuff, that was love. Eating and talking and laughing together at the picnic table as sunset turned to dusk and night birds started calling, that was love.

Anyhow, enough maudlin thoughts; enjoy this Mexican-style crab and corn chowder with friends and family.

Mexican Crab and Corn Chowder

Mexican crab and corn chowderIngredients

  • 1 pound red tomatoes (or two cans)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 or 3 jalapeño pepper, seeded OR (as I did today) one small jalapeño and one small Serrano or Thai pepper, seeded; chipotle are also very nice
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. (1 mL) cumin
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) masa flour (corn tortilla flour) or corn meal
  • 3 cups (750mL) chicken broth, preferably home-made
  • fish broth, crab shell broth, or clam juice
  • 2 cooked Dungeness crabs, cleaned and cracked
  • kernels from 2 ears corn OR one 10-oz. package frozen corn kernels
  • Salt
  • 2 limes, cut in small wedges


1. In a 5- to 6-quart pot (cast iron is excellent for this), sauté the onions, garlic, and peppers in the oil until softened and golden, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Sprinkle the cumin and add the tomatoes.  Cook for a few more minutes. You can use an immersion blender to turn this into a smoother mixture.

3. Mix masa flour and broth. Stir into pot along with tomatoes and a cup of fish broth. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring; occasionally; cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

4. Add corn and crab pieces to pot. Cover and simmer until crab is hot, 5 minutes (if using cooked corn) to 10 minutes (if corn is raw). Adjust thickness; add more masa or corn starch if too thin, first mixing it in with a little broth or water to eliminate lumps; add more fish broth if too thick. Adjust seasoning.

5. Ladle soup into bowls. Serve with grated cheese (such as queso fresco, cheddar or Monterey jack), warm tortillas for dipping, chopped cilantro, and juice squeezed from the lime wedges.

Healthy Dinner: Rogan Josh

I made rogan josh curry for tonight’s dinner, using a leftover of the nice slow-roasted beef my husband had cooked a few days ago.  There was only about a third to half of the meat the recipe called for, so a few minutes before the end of the cooking time I added a chopped eggplant to add some volume.  I felt virtuous that made it half to two-thirds vegetarian, right?  ^_^

I served the curry on a bed of basmati rice, along with a side salad with yoghurt dressing.  Even more virtuous, yet tasty!  I love eating healthy meals, but they have to be real food…

Gamer Food!

"No Junk Food" signThis weekend Edmund and I are going to be on staff (and hopefully doing some gaming) at Pacificon Game Expo in Santa Clara, CA.  We’re on a very limited budget and we’re also trying to eater healthy meals, so we just can’t live on potato chips and hamburgers from Friday through Monday.  So we have planned to make and bring the following menu items:

  • Spicy cocoa muffins
  • Slow-roasted beef sandwiches with basil, on home-made bread
  • Cold soba noodles with shrimp and vegetables
  • Hummus, pita and tabbouleh salad
  • Oatmeal bars
  • Cold-brewed coffee
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables for snacks

It sounds complicated but it’s much simpler than it seems because we use the bread machine and the food processor a lot.  Edmund has just put the muffins in the oven, and the bread is already done.  The beef is currently seasoning and will be roasted tonight, the fruit and vegetables have been acquired, Edmund will make the oatmeal bars after the muffins are baked; and while the beef is roasting tonight, I will be making the hummus, tabbouleh, cold-brewed coffee, and some mustard since we’re out (all of those benefit from sitting in the refrigerator overnight). The soba can be prepared at the last minute.

Sadness: we decided we didn’t have time to make pita, so I bought some at the store.  But we didn’t get a single unhealthy item, and except for the pita, everything is home-made, down to the condiments.

That is also a much cheaper way to eat; do you have any idea how much freakin’ hummus and tabbouleh you can make from chickpeas and bulghur?  It’s about three to five times more expensive and far less flavourful to buy prepared foods.  The slow-roasted beef is made from eye round, an inexpensive cut from Costco which comes out cheaper per pound (or kg) than any cold cuts, deli meats, sausages or hot dogs.  Etc., etc…

Time-wise, I admit that a bread machine, food processor and dishwasher make all this food prep much more pleasant, but I have also done this with nothing more advanced than a $20 electric egg-beater in the past, and it was still worth it.

Cinnamon Peach Cobbler

Peach Cobbler, 2013-08-17The peaches, nectarines and apricots are in season, so it was time to make this peach cobbler recipe.  The original is from aeposey on, and despite being described as a “Southern” Peach cobbler is not, as you might suppose, over-sweetened.  Even so, I cut sugar yet a bit more.  This dessert has been a big success every time I served it.


Peach Layer

  • 8 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced into thin wedges [Yesterday I used enormous peaches so I only needed six to fill my 3-quart dish until there was barely any space for the rest.  I love it as a mostly-fruit dish.  I don’t always peel the fruit if the skin is very nice.]
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon (0.5 mL) ground nutmeg or 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) cornstarch

Cake Layer

  • 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL)white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL)brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt
  • 6 tablespoons ( 90 mL) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) boiling water

Topping – Mix Together:

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) white sugar
  • 2 teaspoon (10 mL) ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2.  In a large bowl, combine peaches, white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Toss to coat evenly, and pour into a 3-quart baking dish.  Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender [I zap in my food processor], until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water until just combined.
  4. Remove peaches from oven, and reserve a few nice slices for decoration later.  Drop spoonfuls of topping over the peach layer. Sprinkle entire cobbler with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake until topping is golden, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Garnish with the reserved peach slices and serve with a drizzle of fresh cream, a dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of ice cream.

Chicken Curry, Colombo Martinique-style

Full disclosure: I’ve never been to Martinique and I don’t have any family or friends from there to teach me proper recipes. This is, therefore, reverse-engineering as best I can a dish I’ve only had in restaurants. Still, the result tastes good, it’s easy to make, and it’s a one-dish meal.  (I stupidly forgot to take a photo, but we still have some in the refrigerator so I’ll try to snap a shot when I reheat it.

The sauce needs to be pretty spicy because the chicken, potatoes, coconut milk and fruit all serve to tamp down the heat.  So don’t be afraid to put in the whole hot pepper, and even add more spice if you have to.  And upon reheating any leftovers, the fruit will tend to overcook so you may want to add more.

Using de-boned chicken allows cooking a little faster (especially if you cut the meat in one inch or 2.5 cm cubes) but I like using a whole chicken that I cut myself; it’s cheaper and it gives me a carcass to make chicken broth with.  You can vary the vegetables and tropical fruit as available.

Spice Mix

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ to 1 hot red pepper (Scotch Bonnet is great) OR ¼ tsp (1 mL) dried chili seeds plus ½ tsp (2 mL) black pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp (7 mL) sea salt
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) coriander seed
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) yellow mustard seed
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) cumin
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) cardamom seed (from shelled pods)
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) turmeric
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) dried marjoram

Grind all into a paste (a food processor is good!), put in a plastic bag, and toss the chicken pieces in. Shake well, seal, and place in the refrigerator for at least three hours.


  • 4 Tbsp (60 mL) oil (olive, sunflower or peanut are good)
  • A medium chicken, cut in pieces and skinned, marinated in the spice mix
  • 4-6 potatoes (depending on size), peeled and diced
  • 1-2 big carrots, in thick slices
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 big shallots or 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chicken stock
  • 1 cup (250 mL) coconut milk
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 yellow squash, diced
  • ½ cup (125 mL) rum
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and cut in big chunks
  • 1 ripe papaya, peeled and cut in big chunks
  • 2 bananas, in chunks
  • Juice of ½ lime

Heat 2 Tbsp (30 mL) oil in a heavy sauce pan. Sauté shallots or onions for 10 minutes; set aside. Brown the chicken on all sides. Add the potatoes, carrots, more oil, and return the shallots or onions to the pan; cook until softened and browned, stirring frequently.

Add bay leaves, stock, tomatoes and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. Add the squash, simmer for 5 more minutes. Adjust seasoning.

Five minutes before serving, add the rum, lime juice, and fruit. Serve on rice.

Makes 8 portions.