Trail Rations: Beef Stew on Trenchers

cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgIt’s been a while since I’ve done a Trail Rations post, but as I head in to 2017 I’ve taken it upon myself to cook more meals at home, as opposed to eating out or ordering in. Since game sessions are a huge culprit in my fast-food habit, I’m rededicating myself to cooking at home for game sessions. Because I work during the day, I often use my slow cooker to prepare meals for game night. Whenever possible, I try like to serve something which might evoke the game world for my players. Previous posts (search the Trail Rations tag) have touched on some of those recipes.

One of my favourites for a basic fantasy-feel is slow-cooker beef stew, served on trenchers. What are trenchers? Once upon a time, trenchers were flat bread upon which food was served. Often this food was a stew or something else drippy or runny, which would soak into the trencher. Used trenchers would be given as alms to the poor, or just eaten the next day for breakfast. At some point trenchers stopped being bread and started being a round wooden disk with a raised lip, but its function remained the same: hold a bunch of food. I’m assuming they stopped giving them to the poor or eating them for breakfast at that point, but I’m not the boss of them.

Here’s the beef stew recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  1. Heat a frying pan to medium-high, and add the olive oil. Sear the beef stew meat until it has a nice colour on the outside, but don’t leave in the pan long enough to cook all the way through.
  2. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the seared beef to the slow-cooker, and pour the flour mixture over that, stirring to combine.
  3. Add all the other ingredients to the slow cooker and mix to combine. If you have the time, let the slow-cooker run for 10-12 hours. If you don’t, 4-6 hours on the high setting will do the trick.
  4. Serves 6. Serve in bowls, or find some hearty flat-breads at your local bakery or grocery store and serve it on trenchers.

If you are celiac, ditch the flour. And you can make the dish vegetarian but retain some of the same flavour by leaving out the beef, changing the beef broth to vegetable stock, and adding 3 cups chopped mushrooms and 2 tablespoons soy sauce to the mix. It’s a recipe which lends itself to experimentation, so give your ideal stew a try.

 

 

Advertisements

Trail Rations: Healthy Dips

Replacing junk food at the gaming table with healthy, home-cooked options is a big part of my group’s attempt to game healthier. But let’s face it, sometimes you want chips and nothing else will do. When that craving strikes you can still make your chips a little healthier by making the dips and salsa yourself. Heck, if you have the time you can even make the chips yourself.

Below I have three recipes for healthier snack alternatives you can make at home. Two of them don’t even require cooking! And if you know how to turn on your oven the third will be a snap.

Basic Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups seeded, chopped tomatoes (6-7 medium tomatoes)
  • Leaves from one bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped*
  • 6 cloves fresh chopped garlic
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Juice from ½ a lime

*You can leave out the cilantro if you aren’t a fan; substitute parsley instead.

Directions: Mix all ingredients until well incorporated. Refrigerate overnight for maximum flavor. If you want a cooler salsa, remove the seeds from the jalapeno before chopping. If you want a hotter salsa, add more jalapeno to taste.

Simple Garlic and Chive Yogurt Dip**

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions: In a small bowl, combine Greek yogurt, minced garlic clove, chopped chives, salt, pepper, dried dill, and lemon juice. Mix well and chill for at least an hour; overnight for the best flavor.

**Feel free to experiment with flavors for this dip; you can substitute other herb/spice combinations for other flavors quite easily.

Homemade Baked Potato Chips

Ingredients:

  • 6 Yukon gold potatoes, washed and unpeeled
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush 2 large baking sheets lightly with oil. Use a mandoline or hand held slicing machine to cut the potatoes lengthwise into 1/8-inch thick slices. Arrange the slices in 1 flat layer on the baking sheets. Brush the slices lightly with oil and bake until golden throughout, 15 to 20 minutes, checking often since they brown at different rates. Transfer to paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper while hot.

For a little extra crunch, add the sliced potatoes to a pot of boiling water for about 5-7 minutes, then brush with oil and put in the oven.

*     *     *

And that’s it! Three recipes to sate your group’s junk-food lust while keeping it healthier than store-bought. These basic recipes have plenty of room for experimentation, so you can play around with flavours to suit your table. Try sprinkling your chips with garlic powder, for instance, or substitute capers and black pepper for the garlic and chives in the yogurt dip. Have fun with it, and let me know in the comments what combinations you come up with.

Trail Rations: Qadiran Cockatrice Thighs

I like to encourage my regular Thursday night group to eat less junk, and to that end I often cook up a meal for us to enjoy before the game. Last time I posted a recipe for a hearty stew, but this time I wanted to get a little fancy.

Since we’re playing Pathfinder, I enjoy tricking out the dishes I cook to fit areas of Golarion. Things like this can really help to add an extra dimension to your game world, because the smells and tastes of cooking can evoke a very strong sense of place. If you are at all cooking inclined, I highly encourage you to give it a try at your next game night.

Since Qadira is the default Middle Eastern/North African area of the world I filed off the serial numbers of a Moroccan Chicken recipe I had filed away, and renamed it to suit the setting. Since cockatrice is very much a rare speciality cut of meat in our world, I substituted chicken thighs instead. Also, I find the dish a low to moderate heat but you might not share my love of spicy foods; in that case cut the amounts of paprika and cayenne pepper in half and you should be fine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tray of chicken thighs, approx. 12-14 pieces.

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 3 carrots, sliced

  • 3 stalks celery, sliced

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

  • 2 cups diced tomatoes

  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained

  • 1 zucchini, sliced

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

To Prepare:

  1. Season chicken with salt and brown in a large saucepan over medium heat until almost cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  2. Saute onion, garlic, carrots and celery in same pan. When tender, stir in ginger, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and turmeric; stir fry for about 1 minute, then mix in broth, dates, and tomatoes. Return chicken to pan, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add chickpeas and zucchini to pan and bring to simmering once again; cover pan and cook for about 15 minutes, or until zucchini is cooked through and tender. Stir in lemon juice and serve.

This can be served as is, or you can make up a side of lentils or brown rice and serve over that. Or serve with naan for dipping, scooping. This makes enough for six people.

There you go! Fast and delicious food to help your players immerse themselves in the game world. Better than trying to convince them the Doritos are Dwarven…

Do you cook for your games? Have any recipes to share? Drop them in the comments!

Trail Rations: Hearty Slow-cooker Slaw Stew

My regular Thursday night group has a long tradition of eating a shared meal before we game. It started when we gamed at our then GM’s house and his lovely wife (also a member of our motley band) would prepare dinner for us. We kept that practice intact until Scott and Sheila moved, then there was a several year gap while we gamed at places that didn’t have kitchens (like the offices at BioWare Games). But now that we’re back gaming in someone’s (my) home, we are bringing back the tradition of sharing a meal before our game.

So I thought I’d share a quick and easy recipe my group enjoys, and one that I love making on busy days because it takes just a few minutes to throw together. Then the slow cooker takes over and does the heavy lifting. If you don’t have a slow-cooker you can do it in a large pot on the stove, just keep the heat low and stir often so it doesn’t char at the bottom.

Slow-cooker Slaw Stew

Ingredients:

1-bag pre-shredded coleslaw cabbage blend (found in the bagged salad area of your grocery store)

1-bag baby spinach (found in same place)

1-bag pre-shredded carrots (found in same place)

3-12 oz. (340 gram) cans of diced tomatoes

2-15 oz. (425 gram) cans of kidney beans

1-15 oz. (425 gram) can of black beans

1 large white or yellow onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or 3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Optional:

One package lean ground beef (or whatever ground meat or stewing meat you prefer)

Preparation: Dice your onion; don’t worry about making the dice particularly small, the slow cooker will reduce the onion quite a bit. Add all the ingredients except the baby spinach to your slow cooker, stirring them together to blend them. Then add the bag of baby spinach, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover, and start the slow cooker. Don’t worry that the spinach seems overflowing, it will reduce a lot during cooking. I use the 6-hour setting on mine, but you can set it for whatever time works best for you. Optional: if you are adding ground meat, brown the meat in a pan just enough to give it colour, then add to slow-cooker along with other ingredients. One of my guys is vegetarian, so I wait until the slow-cooker is almost done and brown the ground beef in a separate pan for the rest of the guys to add on the side.

Serves five voracious gamers, with seconds, and I usually have enough left for lunch the next day. You can top each bowl with a dollop of sour cream or handful of shredded cheddar cheese if you like.

There you go! Healthy, easy to make, and delicious. And a nice break from the usual fast-food gamer fare. Give it a try at your next session.

What does your group do about meals at game time? Do you have favourite gaming foods or recipes? Let us know in the comments!