Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Good Food Blogs

I'm gonna be straight up: I had a dish planned for today. I did not, however, get to the grocery store to get the ingredients. That's gonna have to wait and be my next update. So, in place of a recipe today, I'm putting out a few links to some of my favorite food blogs.

Baked Perfection
A baking blog you may recognize the name of - this is the blog I linked for the s'mores cookies recipe! Risa, the blog's creator, has about three years worth of delicious-looking recipes to scour through with sweets to satisfy any craving or fit any occasion. It's one of my most recent additions to my blog list, but I expect you'll see other recipes from there on here as I practice more with my baking skills.

Cake Wrecks
How many times have you gone to the grocery store or the mall, scanned the cake (or cookie cake, at the mall) rack, and seen utter messes, egregious misspellings, multiple cupcakes squished together in an attempt to shape them into a recognizable form, or brown icing plopped down in a way that makes it look like, well, not icing, to say the least? Cake Wrecks, a humor blog, brings these delicious disasters to the world's attention. Any professionally sold cake is free game to this blog: the more disastrous, the better! At the very least, if you're planning on ordering a cake from a bakery soon, give Cake Wrecks a look. Because if the baker asks if you want anything on top, be sure not to answer "I want sprinkles." 

Hudocks to Haddocks: The Life, Times and Food
A general life blog run by a friend of mine who has a knack for 1) throwing amazing parties and 2) cooking! Many of the recipes she's posted on her blog are in my cookbook compilation, and making these recipes has pushed me outside of my comfort zone of cooking to put something new and regularly delicious on the plate. Some of DM and my favorites include the Creamy Taco Mac and the Broccoli and Shrimp Scampi Pasta. Not all of the recipes will work well around a gaming table, but they'll be hits around the dinner table!

Happy rolling!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Getting Down with Dice

Back when we started this blog, I talked a little bit about the types of dice that are typically used to play tabletop games. They're a common accessory to the tabletop nerd and can be found in complete sets or mix-and-match in any gaming store. Dice themselves seem plain, only mixing up colors in their basic format, but if you want to get creative or show off your nerdiness, your dice can be so much more. Today, I'm showcasing three different ways to express yourself with your dice.

1. There's more than just the basic dice you get in those plastic boxes at a game store. There are metal dice, fuzzy dice, giant dice (and giant fuzzy dice), tiny dice, and even specialty dice (ex: Thorn Dice). If you know someone who works with wood, you might be able to round up a set of wooden dice. There's no better way to express yourself at the table than with special dice.

2. Deck yourself in dice jewelry (ex: here). You usually won't be able to roll it anymore after it's been converted to jewelry, but if it's tastefully design, you can show that you're a geek girl and you're not afraid to show it off with a little bling. (Did you hear DM wincing? Cause I did!) It's also something that with a few tools and a little handiwork, you can learn to make yourself.

3. Invest in a dice bag that shows you roll with the best (ex: here). The only thing that you can use to express your gamer side more than your dice would be your dice bag. Some people use Crown Royale bags, and there's plain or simply designed ones at any gaming store. Etsy has plenty of specialty bags as well (I've seen Dragon-shaped bags and Cthulu-shaped bags as well as the above link), and if you've got some talent with a needle or even a pack of iron-ons and an idea, you can personalize your own.

You've got plenty of options to personalize your dice and show off your gaming style. Whatever you decide to do, remember to have fun; it's all about the game. (Also, Ravi, you just lost it.)

Happy rolling!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Nerdy Nibbles: S'mores Cookies

Let me ask you a question: Who DOESN'T like S'mores? The ooey, gooey, melty, crunchy marshmallow-roasted-on-a-stick-between-two-graham-crackers-with-chocolate goodness is one of my childhood favorites, and something I haven't been able to have for years. Honestly, when you go to the grocery store and do your weekly shopping, how often do you think, "Hm, I should get some marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars and make s'mores"? For me, not often. In any event, most nerdy pursuits don't usually take you anywhere near a campfire, and s'mores are too messy to try and use as table treats. Or at least, they are when you leave them as normal s'mores. When you make them into something else, though...

Introducing the S'mores cookie! Soft, chewy, buttery melt-in-your mouth deliciousness. I was linked to these on the blog Baked Perfection by a friend and fell in love. I knew these were going to be my next entry, and, coincidentally, my first ever real, honest-to-goodness baking adventure. I have never in my life made real cookies. These were a triumph!

At their base, these are chocolate chip cookies with graham cracker crumbs in the dough. During the last few minutes in the oven, they're topped with marshmallows and chopped Hershey bars. They're surprisingly simple to make and they're good as both mini-cookies and full-sized ones. The recipe makes around 4 dozen - I made 30 mini-cookies and 18 large ones.

S'mores Cookies (from Baked Perfection)

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups miniature chocolate chips (regular sized chocolate chips work too, I found out accidentally)
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 2-3 Hershey bars, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, salt, and dash of cinnamon. In a second larger bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly beat in the flour and graham cracker mixture until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop in balls onto either ungreased cookie sheet or cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. (I used the foil.)

Bake for 8 minutes and carefully remove from the oven. Push 3 to 4 marshmallows and a few pieces of Hershey bar into each cookie. Return to the oven and bake an additional 3-4 minutes until fully cooked. Let cool and enjoy! Share with friends if you can...

Happy rolling (and baking!)

(This recipe shared on Sweet As Sugar Cookies)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Video Games Live: The Best Concert A Nerd Can Imagine

DM's birthday was last month, and we were surprised a few weeks early with a trio of tickets to a concert in his hometown. It wasn't just any concert, though. It's a show I only vaguely knew about called Video Games Live, and it's almost exactly what it sounds like. Local orchestras team up with two top video game composers (Tommy Tallarico [host] and Wataru Hokoyama [conductor] for our show) and play several mind-blowing hours of classic video game music accented by game footage and lighting.

VGL started in 2005 and has expanded to anywhere between 50 and 70 shows a year in countless cities, and they're all performed with the local orchestra and for the first time this year, they came to our state. According to Tommy, our show was lucky enough to have over 110 performers on stage at once, and it was utterly stunning! They performed pieces from everything: A highlight reel of old classics to start, followed up with Metal Gear Solid, Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy 7, Halo, World of Warcraft, Kingdom Hearts, a beautiful-looking game called Afrika that was composed by the conductor, and they finished up with Castlevania and Chrono Trigger/Cross. I'm sure I'm forgetting one or two.

Along with the standard music, they had several extras. Before the show, apparently, there was a cosplay contest and it was won by a VERY deserving costume I'll describe later. Martin Leung, a young pianist famed for playing the Mario theme blindfolded serenaded us with a Final Fantasy 7 medley and a repeat of his blind Mario performance. Two people got the chance to win prizes by playing games on stage while the orchestra performed (one played Space Invaders, another played Expert mode of Sweet Emotion on Guitar Hero. He was only asked to play Hard - he upped the ante himself.) There was a video of the first ever video game being played and a live Skype interview with the inventor of the game. There were also cute little videos of video game mix-ups (What if Sonic were the main character of Pac-Man, or GTA played like Frogger?) and top 10 lists (we saw  Top 10 worst video game voice acting and Top 10 worst video game names. Apparently there's a Korean dictionary game for the DS they decided to call, in America, Touch DIC. Bravo, translators.) All together, it made for a completely amazing time! They encourage getting involved and rooting for your favorite games - by the end of the night I could swear I wasn't going to have a voice in the morning!

After the show, there was a Meet & Greet with Martin Leung, Tommy Tallarico and Wataru Hokoyama in the auditorium's lobby. We decided to get swag first before getting in line, and having waited to come out of the theater itself, we were near the back of the line. I decided to people watch and see if I could spot some of the cosplayers. There was a Riku (FFX) running about getting pictures, and after several minutes, I spotted on the other end of the lobby a giant Sackboy costume running around giving hugs and getting pictures. I just assumed he was someone with the show as he was acting like a professional mascot.

After we finally got our things, we hopped into the M&G line. Most people had already left, but the line was still decently long. The three of us chatted amongst ourselves for a minute before I turned around to see how many people had lined up behind us. And not 5 feet behind me was Sackboy, standing a good 8 to 9 feet tall. Let me tell you, that's not something that you want to see directly behind you. We struck up a conversation, though, and spent the entire time in line talking with him and his girlfriend. The costume was made primarily of foam and burlap, was impossible to take off without help, his head was level with the costume's mouth, and it had taken several weeks to make. Also, they had a second at home for her. Simply stunning. We five stayed at the end of the line and happily got our autographs, a little chat with the group, and watched as all three signed the Sackboy costume. We all left the concert with good music, good memories, and new friends.

If you're a fan of video games and video game music, check out Video Games Live. It was seriously one of the best concert experiences I've ever had, and if they come back again next year, you can bet you'll see us there. If you can't go to the live concert, they also sell CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays of their shows so you can enjoy it again and again from the privacy of your own home. But seriously, if you have the option and the ability, go see it live. You will not regret it.

Happy rolling!