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  • From the mouths of…2.0…

    …my *youngest* this time. Who rarely takes an interest in these cooking attempts, but I will take what I can get.

    I ha let the ham stock congeal overnight, then skimmed the fat off. (Because, hey, ham stock. We have had this discussion, amiright?!) I slopped it into a bowl for disposal later. Both eldest and youngest wandered by, gazed upon these remains, and asked the same question, “Is that…apple pie filling?”

    (Separate questions at different times! Just when you despair of them paying attention…)

    Anyways, I informed them it was not. Youngest looks at me, back at the remains, and repeats the gaze. “Can I…try it, to be sure?”

    No, kid you cannot. Learn from my mistakes. This will not end well; trust me on that. “How do you know?” Just…this is one of those times you will have to take it on faith, kiddo. Fortunately, he does and wanders off.

    Further reduction, removal of the bones, and skimming of the skin leaves me with about 2 cups of *rich* ham stock. Negotiations are ongoing with Herself for dumplings for pasty soup.

  • Campaign Summary: From the Journals of Elis Took – 8.

    We reached the waters of the river. Once there, the party debated what to do with the boat. We decided to leave; the spirits’ binding will fade, and can then use the boat to flogat leisurely downstream! But first we hid the boat. Then it was off to Bushton the Old! Night fell before we arrived, but we pushed on.

    Actually, we do not. My compatriots convinced me another night rough would not kill me. After dinner, I took first watch. Something approached our camp. I woke the gnome and the Highlander. It appeared to be a 12-year-old boy. I welcomed him to our camp and asked what can we do?

    “Have you seen any witches tonight?” he asked.

    “We have not, young sir.” I replied

    He had seen a meeting of witches and the Lord of Hell. He was on a quest to save a Princess of Knee and free her from a curse. We wished him good luck with that. I offered hospitality; he was grateful, because he had not eaten for days. He had hid from witches in hollow of a tree. He remained with us the rest of the night. My woodland menagerie fascinated him.

    Night passed. The boy remained there in the morning. We split breakfast and sent him on his way. In morning’s light, we belied last night’s fear effect was the result of the Lord of Hell. We entered Bushton the Old. There, we were greeted by wanted posters with caricatures of us on them. There is a 2000gp reward for us, dead, offered by Wizards of the Coast. They desired our heads. I had an additional bounty for art theft, Angus for slaughtering small children in the temple, Sean for an unpaid bar tab, Gil for kicking puppies, and Fergus for committing plagiarism in his poetry contest.

    Sean disguised us with his illusions, and we moseyed through town. But we were then mistaken for the boy, apparently named Izar, from last night by someone who turned out to be his older brother. We tried dissuading him in his belief. That proved difficult, as Gil and I were virtual twins of the last. The brother continued pestering us. Was it witchcraft? Were we possessed? Why were there two of us? We continued out of town, but a crowd kept gathering.

    Fergus created water over the brother and other bystanders. We bolted out of town. As the part exited, they realized I was not with them.

    The party returned to town. Several minutes later, I showed up with followers. Angus came to get me, and I kept going. The rest of the party followed, but I again fell behind. Angus picked me up, over my non-strenuous non-objections. The posse took exception to this and began stoning us. Angus was hit by one rock, and the rest of us took some injury, but we outran the posse. We travelled a bit further, then made camp for the night.

    As we sat down to dine, six large wolves entered the camp site. Though seemingly unfriendly, Fergus offered them some of our conjured ham. The wolves took exception to this and bit Fergus. The fight was on!

    I lifted the wolf that had bit Fergus, while Fergus blessed the party. Sean cast a colorful spell that knocked out a wolf. My wolf escaped, and the rest swarmed me. Gil and Bronxy savaged a wolf, while Angus struck two others.

    I stabbed the one that got away from me. Fergus began chanting. Sean cast another colorful spell, throwing an orb at another wolf. The wolves then swarmed Fergus. Gil and Bronxy continued savaging their wolf, and Angus struck two more.

    I stabbed another wolf. Fergus maintained his chant. Sean attempted to frighten one wolf, but it remained unafraid. Again, the wolves swarmed me. Gil and Angus each manage to slay their wolves. Bronxy then slayed the wolf fighting me.

    I disengaged and quaffed a potion. Fergus continued to chant. Sean threw a dagger and winged one. The remainder attacked Fergus, negating his chant. Gil missed, but Angus and Bronxy both successfully battled their respective opponents.

    I threw my dagger at one remaining wolf. Fergus healed himself. Sean also threw a dagger, but the wolf still stood! What did it take to kill this thing?! Wolves swarmed Angus and nicked Gil. Gil attacked her attacker. Ferus killed one. Bronxy attacked successfully.

    I stayed out of combat. Fergus resumed his chant. Sean interposed himself between Fergus and wolf. Fergus missed. Gil missed. Angus missed. Bronxy missed.

    I stayed out of combat. Fergus continued chant. Sean scrounged for a dagger. A wolf managed to nick Angus. Gil dropped her sword. Angus hit with a mighty blow. Bronxy missed.

  • Fanfic Friday: This is how I wanted the sequel to The Force Awakens to go.

    Of course I write fanfic. Fortunately most of it precedes Eternal September and is lost to the mists of time. The following is mine, originally posted on another site of mine.

    (I dunno if this will be a regular feature.)

    Before we knew the name of The Last Jedi, before the passing of Carrie Fisher, before Rogue One, before I left the theater, I knew.  This is how I wanted the sequel to The Force Awakens to go.

    (NB:  No spoilers included for The Last Jedi.  I had not seen it at the time I wrote this.)

    The first third of the movie is a training montage, Luke training Rey and Snoke training Kylo.  Physical training, philosophical discussions, tests, tricks.  It’s just these four characters.  It’s intimate. It’s gritty.  It exhausts the audience as much as the characters.

    Cut to a scene of Leia reading in a medical bay.  Sounds change off screen.  She puts her reading down and stands up.  She’s been watching over Finn; Finn’s awake.  “We need to talk,” says Leia.  

    The second third of the movie details Luke and Rey’s assault on the First Order, while Snoke and Kylo wait for them.  Infitration.  Cat and mouse games.  Massive mook casaulties.  Finally, Luke and Rey confront Snoke and Kylo.

    Cut to a scene of Leia and Finn in a landing bay.  “It’s time,” says Leia.  Chewie welcomes them abord the Millenium Falcon, which takes off and enters hyperspace.

    There’s some back and forth discussion between Luke, Rey, Snoke, and Kylo. But we all know the lightsabers are deciding this.  Out they come.  This is an epic four-way battle across the entire First Order base, from it’s depths to the surface.  It’s long.  It’s gruelling.  It’s always in doubt.  The combatants are always trying convince each other to turn.  Finally, finally Luke and Rey talk Kylo down.  Snoke doesn’t take this well, so he orders the First Order to kill them all a lot.

    Cut to Poe Dameron, Rogue Squadron, and the Millenium Falcon arriving and *messing stuff up.*  First Order TIE fighters launch in response.  The Falcon hovers over the battlefield, with it’s ramp down.  Two figures jump from the ramp.  Leia and Finn land on the ground between Luke, Rey, and Kylo, and Snoke, igniting lightsabers.

    Cue end theme.  Roll credits.

  • From the mouths of…

    …well, not babes. But my eldest, at least.

    I was boiling down another hambone for stock (I know, I know, nobody’s surprised, and this is old news), when eldest wanders in and says, “Whatcha doing’? Making more Whatever Soup? It smells amazing.”

    Actively engaged without prompting? Parenting WIN! I casually explain it’s not Whatever Soup. But it will be. Eldest nods sagely, and opines that Whatever Soup has been pretty good so far. So I go out on a limb and solicit an opinion.

    “Add potatoes. And slice up and add some carrots. In fact, you should make pasty soup, Dad! Meat, potatoes, carrots!”

    (What’s a pasty? Proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. More prosaically:

    Pasties have bread, I remind eldest…may be dumplings? Eldest’s eyes get wide; “Ooooohhh!”

    We have a plan!

  • Campaign Summary Sunday Will Continue!

    I hit a brick wall summarizing the Elis Took campaign, but that’s on me. We continued the current arc I’m detailing, then took a break. We revisited the campaign months later and picked up where we left off. That arc finished, and we’re on to another campaign now. But we will be revisiting Elis and friends to finish the adventure.

  • Are those scrambled eggs leftovers from Easter still any good?

    The texture’s not quite right, but enough cheese and black pepper will fix that. Wrap it in a tortilla shell and subject it to three minutes of nuclear fire. That should solve any problems!

    (Said leftovers were frozen well within their use-by-date. To paraphrase the Operative, “I am not a MORON.”)

    I love breakfast burritos. Now I have the fixings for my own, and I have the desire to make more.

  • What the HELL?! Soup

    Hang on to your hats, True Believers. This one went weird, even for me.

    After yesterday’s escapade, I had four cups of thin but flavorful stock with 4oz of cubed ham in it. It was destined for soup. That is after all, what I do. But the rest of the ingredient list was…lacking. I had:
    2# of potatoes
    1 gal of frozen zucchini

    The potatoes were looking at me funny, so they deserved whatever happened. The zucchini (from August 2020?!), I had to dig that out of ice buildup in the freezer. I said part of this project was to empty that freezer. While the stock warmed, I diced up the potatoes. Those went in first, about the time the stock came to a boil. Then I dropped in the zucchini. Frozen, it suppressed the boiling for awhile and added a lot more liquid. I lowered the heat and let it warm for some time. Soon the entire place smelled like zucchini. That was a problem. I was not fond of zucchini, except as sweet breads.

    To address it, I again doused the soup with Barbecue of the Americas. The taste improved, but the earthiness of the zucchini still overpowered everything else. So I cast about for anything else to add. I ended up with:
    1 cup of frozen, leftover sauerkraut
    1/2 cup frozen, leftover turkey gravy


    I was not fond of kraut either, except with brats. The gravy could be taken or left. What the Hell…both went into the pot. I left it over low heat for a few more hours, only interrupting with an occasional vigorous stir. I ended up with a little more body from the gravy, some break down of the zucchini, and some tang from the kraut. That tang masked the zucchini and brought out the potato. The result tasted much improved. In this case, two wrongs made a right. I called it a success and pulled it off the stove to cool for storage.

    And that’s how I ended up with zucchini-potato-sauerkraut-ham soup.

  • I Have a Bone to Pick

    Pick clean. Remember that ham bone I could not fit in the crock pot?

    It turned out our small stock pot was big enough to fit that bone. So, Thursday night, I added about five cups of water and the bone to the stock pot. To add some body, I doused it with Penzeys Barbecue of the Americas. It took about four hours with an alternating hard and medium boil, but eventually everything rendered down. The bones blanched clean, and the remaining meat and fat broke down. With only one bone, however big, and no other liquid, this stock was very thin. Though it still smelled good and tasted better.

    I had found a gallon bag of frozen zucchini early, so I used that as an ice pack to cool the stock pot. Once at safe temperature, into the fridge it went. Me? I went to bed.

    The next morning, I pulled it out and took a look. After skimming off the fat, about four cups of stock remained. About 4oz of ham also remained. I cubed up that meat and dropped it back into the pot. Now I had to decide what to do with it.

  • A Note About Spices

    You may have noticed me referencing various Penzeys spice blend in various posts. While I know True Cooks (TM) experiment and make their own artisanal, hand-crafted, proprietary spice blends, True Cook (TM) is never a titled I have claimed. I am just some schlub with a freezer full of leftovers who has been left unsupervised in the kitchen.

    The Owner and I were gifted it some Penzeys spice mixes. We like them. So we kept using them and kept trying new ones. Some were hit; some were miss. Nobody bats 1.000. But for anything that’s not a straight spice available at the average grocery store, Penzey’s is our go-to vendor.

    NOTE: This is not a paid endorsement. I am not, nor have I ever been, employed by or related to anyone employed by, Penzeys spices. I just like what they make.

  • Whatever Cookies

    Yeah, I’m branching out.

    My youngest was pawing through the freezer recently and found the bags of Mint and Peanut Butter M&Ms ™. (They’re separate bags. Ew; get your mind in the game!) The cry went up, “Why haven’t we used these, Dad?!”

    Well, Dad’s been saving them for something special. Checks date. Since 2014. Ouch. No time like the present, eh?

    Unlike my soup endeavors, I’m a little less experimental when it comes to baking. Ms. Crocker and her chocolate chip cookie recipe are my go-to for cookie goodness, so I figured I would start there and see where the whim led us.

    The first batch was a single batch; it took less ingredients and was quicker to complete. I had some problem with the butter. I didn’t soften it enough, and it seems I didn’t use enough. I excluded chips, using the whole bag of Mint M&Ms instead. A little added butter at the end got the consistency of dough I wanted. Into the oven they went. They turned out pretty well, but were VERY minty.

    The second batch was a double batch. I was now confident in my usage of the recipe. Plus I had half a back of dark chocolate chips, that bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms, and small batch of macadamia nuts.

    Yes. It had finally happened: the macadamia nuts were *NOT* a bridge too far!

    I left the butter out to soften, but it turned out I had to melt some of it. Everything else went in OK, and the dough looked good. Cookies got deployed successfully and baked. But boy, did those cookies spread out… Moral of the story: when Ms. Crocker says soften, she means soften. But they still tasted good!

    Herself also knocked out a strawberry pie for Pi Day. With the cookies and the leftover biscuits from Sunday dinner, that’s a lot of baked goods in the fridge. We’re gonna be carb-busy for awhile.

    Oh, the horrors!