Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Skyrim Cooking: Chicken Dumplings

I decided to bump the difficulty level up a notch for my next Skyrim cooking project. I've always been a fan of meat pies (insert dirty joke here), so I wanted to try my hand at chicken dumplings. For the purposes of my adventure, I interpreted "dumpling" as "pasty" (pronounced PAST-ee, for those unfamiliar) because I'm from the Northwoods and we love our pasties. I used this recipe as the base, with some changes; some intentional, and some made out of necessity because I have limited supplies in my kitchen.

I didn't take any in-progress pictures because I was running around like a madwoman trying to juggle four or five cats the entire time. Making pasties from scratch is hard, and it takes time. However, the end result is TOTALLY WORTH IT. They came out deliciously, probably because they're about 60% butter. I still have a few in my freezer, which I'm going to have for dinner over the next couple days. Everyone else who's tried one thought they were tasty too.

Please note that I made my crusts a bit on the thick side, so I had leftover filling. I just stored it in a Tupperware container and heated it up later to eat with a piece of buttered bread. Very tasty.

So without further ado, here's the chicken dumpling pasty recipe:

Chicken Pasties

Serves about 9

Filling Ingredients
  • 1 lb raw boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into large pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • ½ c frozen peas
  • ½ c frozen corn
  • 1 large celery stalk, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 medium to large potato, cubed
  • ⅓ c unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ⅓ c unbleached flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp rosemary, crushed
  • ¼ tsp thyme
  • 2 c chicken broth
  • ¾ c milk

Dough Ingredients
  • 3¾ c unbleached flour, plus extra for rolling surface
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tblsp sugar
  • 17 Tblsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¾ c cold vegetable shortening, cut into chunks
  • ¼ c cold vodka
  • ¼ c cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water (optional, for glaze)

Filling Directions
  1.  Slice the veggies and cut the chicken into halves/quarters.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas, corn, celery, and bay leaves. Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Add cubed potato to the pot and boil for another 5 minutes.
  4. Drain the water. Remove the chicken from the mixture to let it cool.
  5. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add leeks and garlic. Cook until slightly browned (about 5 minutes).
  6. Stir in flour and seasonings.
  7. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thick (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  8. While the leek mixture is simmering, shred the chicken and return it to the vegetable mixture.
  9. Add the leek mixture to the vegetable/chicken mixture and stir well. Cook over medium-low heat until thickened, about 2-4 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat. Put the filling in the refrigerator while you make the crust.
Crust Directions
(Note: if you have a large enough food processor, use it in steps 1-3. Otherwise, do like I did and put the ingredients in a large bowl and smoosh them together with your hands (after washing them of course).)
  1. Combine 2¾ cups flour, the salt, and the sugar. (1 cup of flour is set aside for now.)
  2. Add the butter and shortening a little bit at a time. If using a food processor, mix it in short pulses. If mixing by hand, mash the flour into the butter and shortening with your fingers.
  3. Once the mixture is clumpy, with no loose flour left, add the final cup of flour and mix it all together until the butter, shortening, and flour are evenly mixed together.
  4. Sprinkle the vodka and water over the mixture. Fold the dough over on itself a few times with either your hands or a spatula.
  5. Divide the dough into three balls and flatten them slightly into discs. If you wish to chill the dough, wrap the discs in plastic wrap and pop them in the fridge for at least 45 minutes. However, I used the dough right away with no ill effects; it was just a bit trickier to handle because it was softer.
  6. Cover your work surface, hands, and rolling pin in flour. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Take one of the discs of dough and roll it out until it’s about ⅛ of an inch thick.
  7. With either a cookie cutter or a sharp knife, cut out a circle about 6 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer the circle of dough to the parchment paper. (I found it helped to use a spatula to lift it like a pancake or omlette.) Gather up the scraps of dough, roll it out again, and cut out another circle. Repeat this process for as long as you have enough dough. (I got about 3 circles per disc.) You may choose to refrigerate the dough circles for about 30 minutes, but I didn’t bother.
Assembly Directions
  1. Set the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Take the filling out of the fridge (and the crust, if you’ve been chilling it).
  3. Place about ¼ to ⅓ cup of filling in the center of each circle of dough. Gently fold the circle in half over the filling and pinch the edge together with your fingers, or press it together with a fork.
  4. Cut a small slit in the top of each pasty and lightly brush them with the egg wash, if desired.
  5. Bake the pasties until they are golden brown and the filling is bubbling (about 25-30 minutes). Remove them from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes before serving.
If you don't want to cook all the pasties at once and would like to save some for later, then make them like normal but put them in the freezer instead of the oven. Once they're frozen solid, wrap them in plastic wrap or put them in freezer bags. When you're ready to bake them, set the oven to 400 degrees and pop them in like you would if they were fresh. They might need an extra five minutes or so to bake, though.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Polyamory for People Who Hate Dating

I hate dating.

I love flirting. I love making out. I love sex. But I hate dating. It's emotionally exhausting having to rebuff advances from people I'm not interested in; it's terrifying to ask out people I am interested in; I have so many hobbies and interests that it's difficult to find the ever-important me-time while also searching out new partners. And there's the ever-simmering fear that almost all women have when going on a first date with a guy - is he gonna kill me? It kind of makes it difficult to enjoy oneself.

"But Natalie," asks my sock-puppet audience, "aren't you polyamorous? How can you be poly but hate dating?"

An excellent question! And one that I struggled with for a long time. There's a misconception that poly people must have several partners, or be constantly on the lookout for more partners. There are some poly people who are happy with that sort of high-intensity relationship style, and more power to them. However, I am not well suited to extended forays on the dating scene, and for a long time I made myself miserable trying to convince myself otherwise. I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

"So how do you do polyamory if you aren't into dating?" the sock-puppet audience asks. "Maybe I could get some good advice."

Gee, flattery will get you everywhere. Here's what I had to do:

Don't go tit for tat.

If you have a regular partner of any kind ("primary," "spouse," "boy/girlfriend," "live-in partner" - whatever your preferred nomenclature), don't waste your time comparing how many partners you have vs. they have. My main squeeze has had as many as seven partners at one time. I felt like I was getting left out or left behind when I didn't have as many partners as he did. But because I couldn't handle as many partners as he can, I instead started to feel like he should have fewer partners - not because he wasn't giving me enough attention, but because I was wrapped up in some weird idea of what was "fair." That's actually very unfair; as long as everyone's emotional and physical needs are met, he can have as many partners as he wants.

Be honest about how much you can handle.

Realistically, I top out at two "full-time" relationships. I don't have the time or the energy for more than that. I jokingly call myself a "lazy poly" because of it, although I get the feeling that two to three relationships is actually the norm for poly people. So if I'm at or near my limit, and I'm asked out by someone new, I either say (assuming I would normally say "yes" to them), "No, sorry, I'm not interested in dating at the moment," or, "Okay, I'll go on a date but I must be honest that I can't provide more than very intermittent attention." Some people are okay with just getting one or two dates; other people decide to look elsewhere to get their needs met. Neither of these are bad things.

Look for creative alternatives.

Are there ways to get the things that you want out of dating without actually going out on dates? For example: one of the things that I like is the date experience - going out to dinner, watching movies together, yadda yadda. Besides doing these things with my main squeeze, I go on "dates" with my friends. I get the date experience, but I don't have to worry about whether there's chemistry between us or whether my companion is going to be a surprise!racist or something equally distasteful. There also is no expectation of sexual behavior during or after the date, which allows me to relax more too. If I have a hankering for new people to get frisky with, I find that making out with people at parties satisfies that urge most of the time, and making out doesn't come with nearly the emotional complications/baggage that sex usually has.

Get comfortable with being alone.

Some people don't need this advice; they have fully accepted and embraced their introversion and are more than happy to spend time with just themselves. However, there are plenty of people - I used to be one of them - who don't actually want to be around other people all the time, but, because of societal pressure to partner up, feel guilty about preferring to be a hermit. Because I thought being alone was Bad, I made myself go on dates when I really wasn't into the idea. Now I'm more than willing to turn down a booty call because I made plans with myself to knit and watch Mad Men all evening. A girl's gotta have priorities, you know?

All this advice basically boils down to "know thyself." Although when you think about it, almost all relationship advice boils down to that. Once you can honestly articulate what you want to yourself and to others, your love life gets a hell of a lot easier.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Agapi Seauton

I am getting fatter.

I am not fat, not by a reasonable definition of the term. I don't need to go to specialty shops to find clothes in my size - heck, I'm still firmly in the Medium category; perfect strangers don't feel entitled to comment on my weight; my doctor doesn't give me shit about my size. However, I am fatter than I was this time last year, and it's still messing with my head.

There are three probable culprits for this (apparently) sudden weight gain:

1. I'm not exercising as much as I was last year, and I didn't exercise as much over the winter. I stopped dancing regularly when my dance partner and I broke up, and the winter was particularly harsh; it's hard to move when you're covered in blankets.

2. I recently got a new IUD. I used to have a Mirena, but because my uterus is super-tiny, I went with the Skyla, a smaller hormonal IUD designed specifically for nulliparous women, this time around. I suspect that either the sudden spike in hormones (the amount of hormones released by the IUD tapers over time, and I'd actually kept my Mirena in a year or two longer than I'm supposed to, so I was probably close to nil on hormones) or the slight difference in the hormonal cocktail has messed with my metabolism.

3. I'm getting older. Friends of mine who are in their thirties and forties have mentioned that they experienced a sudden change in their body shape in their late twenties or early thirties, almost like a second puberty.

Obviously, only one of these culprits is reasonably under my control, even though I suspect that all three are more or less equally to blame. I can't reverse aging, and I'm not willing to go through the rigmarole of finding a new form of birth control that works for me just because I'm getting a bit heavier. So all I can do is exercise more, which I'm mostly doing by getting a bike. I'm considering a few other activities as well; some friends have taken up swordfighting, which sounds awesome and would be a good workout. And I could get back into dancing, but it's harder without a more experienced partner to serve as a guide.

But, realistically, addressing only one of the three culprits probably isn't going to make that much of a difference. Even if I don't get bigger from here on out, I am probably not going to get much smaller, and this bothers me a lot more than I think it should.

Part of my feminism is being a strong proponent of "healthy at any size" and body-positivity in general. I think the diet industry is a scam that encourages women to misdirect their unhappiness inward, upon themselves, rather than recognizing the external sources of their hardship (i.e. patriarchal oppression). What's more, I like bigger women. I find that the type of woman who elicits the biggest "va-va-voom" gut reaction from me is a woman with extra padding, who would quite commonly be called "curvy" or even "chubby."

I don't like what it says about me that I'm happy to fuck a fat woman, but I'm not happy to be one. That tells me there's a bit of objectification or even fetishization behind my attraction. I'm okay with fat women being the Other, but not the Self. While I can talk a big game about loving one's body for what it does, not how it looks, obviously I have a lot of work yet to do on applying that mindset to myself.

As if I weren't being hypocritical as it is, it's not like I'm actually that big. Like I mentioned at the start of this post, I haven't even broached the Large category yet. I've gained only about 10 pounds, and I'm still in the "normal" weight range for my height. When I express dissatisfaction or anxiety about my size or my weight, I've been roundly scolded by friends who point out that I'm still much smaller than they are - friends who, not too long ago, I was beseeching to stop dieting because they don't need to subject themselves to that bullshit. And they're right. I really shouldn't complain.

And yet... and yet...

And yet, my body feels wrong to me right now. My belly pushes against the waistbands of my skirts and pants in ways it didn't just a few months ago. My thighs rub together now. I can feel the extra flesh on my body with every other step I take. When I look in a mirror, I get a little shock because the woman I see is not the woman that I expect. It's not the woman that's supposed to be there. It's almost a dysmorphia of sorts.

Not being able to fit into some of my clothes anymore makes me feel really shitty. Not only is it inconvenient - buying new clothes, particularly work clothes, can be expensive! So yeah, I really do hope that I'm able to lose a few inches from riding my bike. (That might not correspond with a loss of weight, which I'm okay with.) If that doesn't happen... I'll just have to learn to live with it, I guess. And buy bigger clothes.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Life on Two Wheels

The warm weather has led to me being outside much more and writing much less.

That's my story about why I abandoned this blog, and I'm sticking to it.

Of the things I'm doing outside, biking is the most significant. When I first moved to Chicago, I brought with me my old mountain bike from high school, which was by now too small for me, and not a good fit for Chicago roads anyway. In addition, I was (understandably) terrified of biking in Chicago. So the bike sat unused for a year, and then when I moved to my current apartment I abandoned it.

Then I sold my car, and while walking and public transit meet most of my needs, I realized that there are some parts of the city that are simply too complicated to get to by CTA, and carrying groceries on the bus can be a real hassle, besides. Combined with my realization that I was starting to put on weight (a complicated issue I'll address in a later post), I decided it was time to buy a bike.

A friend of mine who is a bike mechanic has said, "The first bike that people buy is never the right bike." My old mountain bike was definitely not the right bike for me. Chicago is almost entirely flat and almost entirely paved; it is the exact opposite environment for which a mountain bike was designed. So what kind of bike should I get?

I've always been terrified of road bikes. I tried riding one once, and it felt like I was constantly on the verge of tipping over or getting flung over the handlebars - which felt completely counterintuitive in design, as well. I just couldn't figure out how to use those curly handlebars. They may be the fastest way to bike in Chicago, but they definitely are not the most comfortable. No road bike for me.

Next I looked at beach cruisers, and even tried out one that a friend left behind when she moved. This was more my style - comfortable, easy-to-ride, and good-looking. However, it had one huge drawback: it used a coaster brake instead of hand brakes, which is pretty typical for beach cruisers. A coaster brake simply doesn't have the stopping power that I need for biking in Chicago traffic; you never know when a cop car is going to cut you off, or an inattentive pedestrian is going to step into the bike lane, or a fellow cyclist is going to biff it right by you. (These are all things that have happened to me in the short time that I've been cycling in the city.) And then the chain on the cruiser snapped the second time I tried riding it, so that sealed the deal - a beach cruiser was also out.

Finally I settled on a commuter bike, which is essentially a cross between a road bike and a beach cruiser. It is built for comfort, like a cruiser, but is a bit speedier and more agile, like a road bike. I visited a few bike shops, where new commuter bikes went for between $400 and $8000, depending on how many speeds they had and other features. My budget was less than half of that, so I'd have to find a used bike.

I tried Craigslist, but with no luck. Commuting by bike has become increasingly popular, especially in Chicago, and especially in my neck of the woods, so they get snatched up almost as soon as they're posted. And my criteria were so specific that it was difficult to find anything that matched them all.

Then, one day, I was walking through Humboldt Park with my friends ahead of Dyke March, a radical queer march that is held every year as a bit of a counter-movement to the increased corporatization of regular Pride. Across the street was a bike shop; I decided to meander on over, just to see if there was anything promising.

And there it was: a vintage Schwinn Breeze three-speed in candy-apple red with chrome detailing, and right at the top end of my price range. At the encouragement of my friends, who knew I'd been in the market for a while, I jumped on it right then and there.

I've been biking to work at least three days a week for the past couple weeks now, and I'm a solid convert. Taking the train just isn't the same. I need less coffee in the morning because the ride does a great job waking me up and getting my blood flowing. Owning a bike makes me feel much freer, too. If I need to run an errand, I can just hop on and pedal off, without having to do any math about which bus arrives when. And there's something calming about riding a bike - much like when I would go for long-distance runs or cross-country skiing. Being a bit sweaty when I get to work is worth it.

I was lucky that I held on to a lot of my paraphernalia from my old bike: I didn't need to spend any money on a pump, lights, or a lock, three things that are absolutely essential to riding a bike in the city. (I did need to buy a new helmet because I lost my old one.) I have saddlebags as well, but my bike doesn't have a rack yet - that's something I will need to invest in, and soon. My shoulders can't handle carrying my messenger bag everywhere.

I'm also lucky because there's a major bike route (semi-derisively nicknamed the "Hipster Highway") that runs right from my apartment to my office. Getting to work by bike couldn't be much easier than that. And while Chicago isn't the most bike-friendly city (that honor goes to my hometown, Minneapolis), there have been several projects started and completed to cultivate a biking culture in this city. Hopefully I'll continue to be part of that for a while.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dream Casting: Neil Gaiman's "American Gods"

My parents gave me a new copy of my favorite book, American Gods, for Christmas. I lost my original copy, which had been signed by Neil Gaiman himself, so fuck that, eh?

Anyway, as I was reading it I thought about, as I often do, who would be best fitted to play the characters in the inevitable movie adaptation. And if they're already talking about adapting Sandman, then fuck, this must be right around the corner, eh? In which case these are my picks:

Shadow - Jason Momoa

Shadow is big, but not dumb (though he allows others to assume as much), and his biracial heritage is a constant source of confusion for other people. Jason Momoa was stellar in Stargate: Atlantis as a guy who could understand the situation even if he wasn't as educated as everyone else. He'd be a great fit.

Wednesday - Donald Sutherland

Wednesday is a combination of endearing and menacing - a combination that Sutherland displayed well in the Hunger Games movies.

Loki - Jackie Earle Haley

Haley was the best part of the Watchmen adaptation. I think he'd fit well playing yet another convict. (Though I know he fears being typecast as villains.)

Mr. Nancy - Sydney Poitier

Let's be real here - Poitier was a real hottie when he was younger, and you can tell even today. Who else to play the ladykiller Mr. Nancy?

Czernobog - Daniel Day-Lewis

Okay, so Day-Lewis is a bit too young for Czernobog. But you gotta admit - he really rocks the mustache well, and that's one of the character's trademarks. He also does a good job of playing the right mixture of endearing + dangerous.

Mr. Jaquel - Lance Reddick

Reddick is dignified, intelligent, and just a little mysterious - perfect for playing one of the Egyptian gods of the dead.

Easter - Christina Hendricks

Voluptuous, sensual redhead - done!

Mad Sweeney - Kevin McKidd

Okay, so he's Scottish instead of Irish. Regardless, he's a seasoned actor and he's damn tall, so I think he'd fit the bill.

Whiskey Jack - Branscombe Richmond

While younger than Whiskey Jack is supposed to be, I think Richomond has a sense of jollity and humor about him that is essential to the character.

Bast - Halle Berry

Berry is sexy and powerful - perfect for the cat goddess. Plus, she needs a chance to redeem herself after Catwoman.

Horus - Donald Glover

I can't really explain why I imagine Glover as Horus. He just seems to fit: youthful, but sad. And I think he could portray madness very well.

The Tech Boy - Jim Sterling

God of the internet played by a real-life internet celebrity? C'mon, it's too perfect.

Laura - Scarlet Johansson

Maybe it's just because she's America's darling right now. Or maybe it's because the idea of making such a stunningly attractive woman incredibly unattractive through the rot and decay of death appeals to me. 


You will probably notice that there are quite a few characters missing here. That's for a couple reasons:

1) I can see the character in my head clear as day, but for the life of me I can't figure out what the name of the actor is. (Mr. Ibis, Mama-Ji)

2) The person I have picked is someone I know in real life, and it'd be inappropriate to plaster their name and face on the internet. (My girlfriend from high school is a dead ringer for Sam, lemme tell you.)

3) The cast of characters for American Gods is FUCKING HUGE. Holy crap.

However, I would very much like to hear other people's ideas for casting of this hypothetical movie - either for characters I've already listed or ones that I left out. Sound off in the comments if you dare.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Skyrim Cooking: Apple Cabbage Stew

I'm diving right into things, aren't I?

This time, I made apple cabbage stew. Mostly because I had most of a head of cabbage left over from a previous recipe and I needed to use it up. I used this recipe from Vegan Latina, who apparently is a Skyrim fan, with the slight alteration that I used a mixture of veggie stock, water, and chicken broth instead of just veggie broth. Otherwise, however, I used her recipe as-is, so I'm not going to bother reproducing it here - go over and check out her version.

Anyway, things got off to a good start. I had all the ingredients lined up and ready to go. Following the advice I gleaned from the Moosewood Cookbook, I now have a separate cutting board just for onions, garlic, and other smellies.

Oh right - I just remembered that I used a Peruvian onion instead of shallots, and several green onions instead of a leek, just because that was what I had on hand. Using a leek would have been more true to the source material, though. I chopped up that entire head of cabbage, but wound up using only half of it, if that. So now I have a ton of cabbage I need to use up, yay.

Anyway, I started out sauteing the smelly veggies in the pot with some olive oil, and things were going pretty well.

Look at how pretty that is! Delightful. I think I'm getting the hang of this cooking thing.

Unfortunately, very shortly after I took this photo, the olive oil started to burn, and so did the smelly veggies. I'm more used to stir frying with peanut oil, see, and that has a much higher cooking temp than olive oil. That triggered the smoke detector, and between frantically trying to stir up the veggies and flailing at the smoke detector, I wound up with a burnt, brown-and-black mess on my hands. Great. Well, maybe adding the broth, cabbage, and spices will make things better.

...Nope. Damn, that's an ugly-ass stew.

To make things better, the spices smelled... kinda funky when I added them together. Especially the marjoram. I wondered if Miss Vegan's palate had gone all sideways from the lack of animal products. But there wasn't anything more I could do about it - it's not like I can un-add them - so I resigned myself to the likelihood of a not-great meal. I figured it was bound to happen sooner or later in my cooking adventures.

Then I added the apple.

Hmmm.... starting to look better! The additional color does wonders. The smell of the spices was starting to mellow out too. Maybe this was going to work out, after all. I cooked the apples for the shortest indicated time - I love the texture of apples, so I wanted to retain that in the stew. Then I ladled myself a bowl and plopped some plain yogurt on top.

And you know what? It tasted great! Woohoo!

The only issue with this stew is that it isn't very filling - I had three or four bowlfuls before I felt full, and normally I'm a fairly light eater. Even then, though, I had a decent amount of leftovers, which I'm going to have for lunch at work. I imagine it'll last me only a day or two, but that's a day or two that I don't have to worry about cooking/buying lunch, so I'll take it.

Thrifty Kitchen: Spices

I live in a neighborhood that has a very high Latino population. One of the unexpected perks of living here is the abundance of grocery stores and the increased diversity in food products; there's a little mercado every quarter mile or so, and even the "mainstream" (read: white-owned) grocery stores have more selection than they did in the suburb that I grew up in.

However, as you may know, Latinos eat many of the same foods that everyone else in the US eats. This leads the amusing practice in some grocery stores of offering the same product from both Latino brands and "regular" brands and pricing them differently. Often times the Latino version of the product is significantly cheaper, for whatever reason, and one area in which I've taken advantage of this quirk is with spices.

One of the grocery stores I patronize sells San Miguel brand spices in addition to the standard McCormick and Gourmet Collection brands. They're hidden - they're not with the regular spices, nor are they in the "Hispanic Foods" aisle. They're in the produce section, on an unassuming wooden rack near the bulk beans and rice, and while the selection isn't quite as broad as in the regular spice aisle, if it has what I need I can buy it at a greatly reduced price.

When I buy San Miguel spices, it comes like this:

Eight whole ounces, and for a fraction of the price that a two-ounce McCormick container would cost! Because I'm usually cooking just for myself, this one bag will probably last me for years. Pretty awesome, huh?

The problem, though, is keeping my spices fresh. San Miguel spices come only in simple plastic bags, and once I open one it's hard to keep airtight. If I'm not careful, my spices could go stale long before I'm even halfway through them.

Fortunately, I hit upon an easy solution:

I save old glass jars (pickles and jam, mostly) to store leftovers. They can also keep my spices fresh. A bit of masking tape and a marker helps me track which spice is which, too. If I wanted to get really fancy, I could apply some of that chalkboard paint to the jars and label them that way. But I don't know where to get that stuff, and I'm lazy anyway.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Skyrim cooking: Tomato Soup

As I mentioned before, one of my goals is to cook every food available in Skyrim. (Within reason; I don't think I'll be able to recreate mammoth roast anytime soon, nor horker loaf.) I decided to start with something simple: tomato soup.

Now, I actually didn't like tomato soup for a long time. It was one of those things that I decided I Didn't Like as a kid - I can't remember if I'd even tried it before coming to this conclusion - and this belief that I Didn't Like tomato soup stuck with me up into adulthood. However, as I've been exploring food and cuisine more I've been giving stuff I abhorred as a child a second chance - usually to discover that now I love the stuff! Mushrooms, cottage cheese, chili, spinach, sweet potatoes - they've all been redeemed in my adulthood.

So I decided this was the perfect time to give tomato soup another chance.

I wanted to use a recipe that incorporates fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes because that would be more "authentic." (Never mind that tomatoes probably would not be able to survive in Skyrim's climate.) I also didn't want anything too fancy - access to exotic ingredients is probably limited in Skyrim, especially with the civil war going on! I used this recipe as a result, which has a simple ingredient list and uses fresh whole tomatoes. Because I'm new to this whole food blogging thing, I forgot to take pictures of the cooking process, and D and I were too busy eating the soup to take pictures of it once it was done. So instead I'll give you a picture of how many tomatoes I have left over from the process:

Clearly I over-estimated how many tomatoes are needed to produce four cups.

I'm glad that I gave tomato soup another chance - it was indeed tasty, although when I followed the recipe to the letter it was a bit too salty; there was already plenty of sodium in the chicken broth, so adding more salt was ill-advised. When I make tomato soup in the future, I'll follow the altered recipe that I provide below, which with a few tweaks can be made vegetarian or vegan. D and I ate it with regular grilled cheese sandwiches, but for a truly Skyrim experience you could instead use a chunk of hearty homemade bread with a bit of cheese melted on top.

Skyrim Tomato Soup

Serves 2-3


  • 4 c chopped fresh tomatoes (about 6 tomatoes)
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 c chicken broth or veggie broth
  • 2 Tblsp unsalted butter or margarine
  • 2 Tblsp flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Salt (optional)


  1. In a pot, combine tomatoes, onion, cloves, and broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. If too much liquid boils off, add more broth.
  3. Remove from heat. Run the mixture through a blender or food processor until the mixture is smooth, with no chunks. Leave it in the blender/processor for now.
  4. In the pot (which you may want to rinse out), melt the butter (or margarine) over medium-low heat. Slowly add the flour, mixing it into a smooth paste.
  5. Cook the flour/butter paste until it is light brown. Gradually add the tomato/broth mixture back into the pot, stirring constantly.
  6. Add the sugar. If using a low/no-sodium broth (or if you prefer a saltier soup), add salt to taste.