cook tagged posts

Castles and Cooks Holiday Gift Guide

Buying gifts for gamers can be a real challenge. They are constantly picking up the newest games, Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: the Gathering might as well be foreign languages. So the Castles & Cooks brain trust joined forces to come up with 25 fantastic holiday gifts in a variety of price points.

Chocolate Dice – $8
If you need a stocking stuffer for any tabletop player, get them a delicious treat in the shape of a set of dice. It’s cheap, adorable and delicious. Available in white, 6o% and dark chocolate.

Bag O Zombies – $10
This is a bag of 100 zombies for $10, how is that not awesome? Any self-respecting DM can find a reason to use these, but when don’t you need a bag of zombies? It doesn’t matter if you play ZOMBIES or not – and they come in regular zombie gray or glow-in-the-dark!

LEGO Gandalf Arrives – $13
Lord of the Rings holds a special place in almost every geek’s heart, but as a desktop decoration, they don’t get more perfect than this. Gandalf’s cart is adorable and full of fireworks and a LEGO Frodo may be the cutest thing in the world.

Hogwarts Acceptance Letter – $15
Even if it didn’t arrive on your 11th birthday, getting a personalized acceptance letter to Hogwarts will bring a smile to any wizard’s holiday.

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Cook’s Recipe: Bleu Cheese Potato Crisps

Thaxus began shoveling another serving of this delicacy onto his plate from the heaping mountain in front of him. Four times now, the servants kept trying to take it away from him and every time, he violently refused.

I first had this dish while traveling and immediately fell in love with the delicious combination of fresh, crispy chips and smooth bleu cheese sauce. Yes, this is completely excessive and indulgent but it is beyond delicious. There is something special about making your own potato chips, and then smothering them in bleu cheese.

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Humans ‘R’ Us: A New Magic Deck Idea and Caesar Salad with Cajun Chicken Recipe

Castles and Cooks is proud to welcome back our first guest writer on the site – Bill O’Dell! A long time player of Magic, Bill loves what we’re doing here and offered up a new deck idea along with a corresponding recipe or two! Welcome back! – Jesse the Baker

One of my favourite deck types besides combo is tribal. And while Innistrad wasn’t as tribal happy as say Onslaught, the one shining light besides the angels were the humans. Their light would not be extinguished and unlike the darker magical critters of the night, they can keep multiplying endlessly without needing a host.

OK fine, humans do need a female host – but are we really going to get into a biology lesson now?

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Cook’s Recipe: Lamb Sliders & Sweet Potato Fries

Platter after platter, the halfing hosts continued to reward the heroes with enough burgers to feed an entire non-halfing village. With the trolls slain, the heroes began to wonder what would happen to the halflings if they discovered a human sized burger.

With my relatively new apartment, I had to make a huge sacrifice: the loss of my grill. Thanks to things like “fire codes,” I’m not allowed to have a grill on my porch. And since my smoke alarm goes off whenever I use my toaster, I’ve lost the ability to grill large pieces of meat. But sometimes I  really want a burger that isn’t McDonald’s. So combined with the fact that Trader Joe’s sells these adorable miniburger buns, I had to make myself some.

But then I realized that a slider is just about the right size for a halfling, and that’s why I went with lamb because I don’t see Bilbo or Frodo being able to take down a beef critter.

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Hunger Games Recipe: Lamb and Plum Stew

Peeta, Effie, and Haymitch are huddled around the table talking in hushed voices. That seems odd, but hunger wins out over curiosity and I load my plate with breakfast before I join them.

The stew’s made with tender chunks of lamb and dried plums today. Perfect on a bed of wild rice.

The Hunger Games, page 113

In honor of The Hunger Games movie coming out this week, Castles and Cooks is making the most of it by bringing you some of the best recipes for both cooking and gaming from this post-apocalyptic trilogy. In the series, Katniss talks about eating this lamb and plum stew until getting sick, which we don’t recommend, but we do recommend having it for dinner!

This fruit-infused lamb dish looks like a curry at first glance but certainly doesn’t taste like it. A mix of fresh plums, dried plums and red wine give this dish a unique flavor unlike anything else we’ve ever tasted. We decided it would serve well with wild rice, but alternatives like potatoes or couscous would work just as well.

Word of advice when shopping, you probably won’t stumble across “dried plums” in your local supermarket, but you will be able to find dried prunes with ease!

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Cook’s Recipe: Skyrim Salmon Steaks

I don’t know where Tom went, but I have an idea and it involves Skyrim. Between the occasional cryptic text and sudden exclimation of “YOU CAN COOK!” I knew we wouldn’t be seeing him for awhile. So if someone you know has been devoured by Skyrim, this recipe may help bridge the gap between our world and Skyrim.

Skyrim Salmon Steak

6 ounce Salmon steak, skin on
1 teaspoon of butter


Over a medium to high heat, melt the butter in the pan over the stove. Rinse the salmon in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Dust the salmon  fillets with salt and pepper on the pink side and only salt on the skin side. Once the pan is hot, place the salmon skin up in the pan for 2-3 minutes until the salmon begins to slightly brown around the edges. Flip the salmon and finish it skin side down until the skin is crispy and the fish is cooked, about 5-8 more minutes.

Looking for a late fall side? Tryout this:

Cranberry & Almond Green Beans

1 cup of green beans
1 teaspoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons of dried cranberries
1 tablespoon of sliced almonds


Heat the olive oil in the pan over a medium heat. Saute the green beans until warm, then mix in the cranberries and almonds. Continue mixing until the almonds begin to brown. Salt to taste and then serve warm.

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Cook’s Recipe: Roasted Chicken and Gravy

The feast of kings and peasants all revolve around the same classic meal: chicken. A roasted bird is a majestic centerpiece on the table that brings people together with the idea of home cooked goodness.

There is nothing quite like roasting a whole chicken. For some reason, people seem to think that it’s a lot of work and are usually impressed by it when serving it for dinner. Besides, what is better than devouring a whole chicken leg?

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Recipe: Apple Pork Loin

The days grew shorter in the wood, and one early morning Azel awoke. Darts of cold, honey-colored sun had slipped through cracks in the bark of her hollowed home at the base of the tree. The crisp air made her grateful for her blanket of moss, though her nose felt like a snowdrop. She warmed her nose with her hands and smiled. She knew where she would find her meal today.  She sheathed her dagger and slipped out of the opening at the base of her tree.

The trees were quiet, but murmured at the sight of the dryad passing into the orchard.  The orbs of fruit hung low on the branches.  Azel picked one and cut its skin, but just as the tangy scent sprang from the apple, there was a rude commotion  and the sound of clumsy hooves.  Azel sprang into the tree and readied her dagger for the hunt.  

Fall arrived in New England last week. Though it’s my favorite season, I bitterly resisted at first because the end of summer signals two things that I dislike:

1)  That the season has changed, but I’m not returning to school for the first time in memory. Thanks, necessary arrival of adulthood!

2)  Autumn is short, and soon I’ll be battling cold, snow, and ice again for at least six long months.

However, it only took a few days for me to fully welcome my fall favorites back into my life: Shipyard Pumpkinhead & Sam Adam’s Octoberfest, Starbucks’ pumpkin spice lattes, candles that smell like pie, comfy knits, and my Gryffindor hoodie. So I happily decided that it’s also time to transition to Fall cooking. Let me let you in on a secret: Fall cooking is the best cooking!

Each season I tend to have a go-to ingredient. I keep that ingredient plentiful, then I use it gleen inspiration or to spice up dishes I whipped up after a twelve hour workday. For example, this summer that ingredient was coconut flakes. This fall that ingredient is, as it usually is, apples!

Apples are perfect because they smell incredible, can be used in sweet and savory dishes, and, if you grew up in the Northeast, carry lots of childhood memories. I’m certain that my love of this season entirely stems from trips to my town’s apple farm and my grandma’s apple pie. Pure, simple, Americana.

Here’s the perfect savory combination:

Apple Pork Loin

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Cook’s Recipe: Pepper Hot Pot

The pot in question.

Relshaar accepted the bowl from his captors with bound hands, struggling to balance it on his knee to eat with the wooden spoon they gave him as well. “Thanks for the stew,” he said to the goliath warriors’ backs as they returned to their fire.

“Hot pot,” Elinor corrected, her hands bound as well. The eladrin balanced her bowl more easily than Relshaar and ate much more daintily than the half-orc as well. “I believe this would be considered a hot pot.”

“What in the Nine Hells are you talking about?” the half-orc demanded, his voice so filled with venom that the goliath raiders who had taken them captive stopped and turned back to the pair in surprise.

Elinor affected not to notice her companion’s tone and swallowed her bite of food gracefully. “I believe with so many ingredients and so little broth this would be considered a hot pot. They are no doubt cooking with a metal pot rather than the traditional ceramic vessel but I believe the presentation argues for the more specific designation, don’t you?”

Relshaar’s eyes flared dangerously as he stood with his bound hands causing his shoulders to bulge with his strength. “You told me the road was safe and got us into this mess,” he told the eladrin in a tone of cold fury, “and now you have the gall to lecture me about… damned culinary terms!” The goliaths who had brought dinner moved back cautiously towards the captives, joined immediately by their two companions gathered around the cooking fire. The giantfolk exchanged mumurs in their own tongue, no doubt placing wagers on the outcome of their prisoners’ fight. “You’ve got a lotta nerve, pointy-ears. Too much!”

In an instant the half-orc’s arms burst through his bonds and he rushed forward. At the last instant he pivoted on his heel, coming at the goliaths in a rush rather than Elinor. Two of the giants were knocked unconscious by his rampaging fists and the others were struck down by a flash of lightning from the eladrin wizard. Relshaar booted the unconscious forms for good measure before turning to untie his friend. “Next time,” she said as her hands were freed, “let us refrain from racial slurs, yes?”

“I was in the moment,” Relshaar replied, rubbing his wrists and retrieving their gear. He turned quickly to go but paused a minute glancing at the fire. “It did look good, though. Let’s take the stew.”

Elinor smiled calmly but said only four words. “You mean ‘hot pot.'”

This is my favorite sort of recipe: chop everything up and throw it in the pot to cook. I cooked this the other night while playing Arkham Horror and kept just half an eye on it while it cooked on the stove. I’m pleased to say the hot pot was a hit and I shot Y’golonac in the face with an elephant gun. Victories all around.

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Cook’s Recipe: Chicken Lo Mein

Part of my personal quest as someone who loves food far too much is constantly learning how to dishes that I love from restaurants. For years, my major weakness has always been Chinese food. But after forcing myself to learn how to make dumplings, I knew I could keep the trend going and tackled the second course: chicken lo mein.

Many of the spices and ingredients used in the dumplings show up again here, with garlic and ginger leading the way. The only must buy sauce here is Hosin, which is like a sweet potato barbecue sauce that can’t quite be replicated any other way. Also, if you don’t have rice wine vinegar, white or red wine will work in a pinch.

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