It’s October, and I am ready for spooky stories and rich, warm comfort food. I was able to get both at the same time with Hungry Ghosts, a new horror graphic novel written by Joel Rose and Anthony Bourdain before his death. The graphic novel centers around a version of the Japanese Edo period game of Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai–where warriors would gather in a room with 100 candles. Taking turns, they will each tell a scary story and then blow out a candle, until all of the candles are out or they’re too scared to continue. (Think of it as the orginal, much more bad-ass “Are You Afraid of the Dark”.) The stories in Hungry Ghosts focus around food and Japanese spirits and demons and they’re as dark and gory as you’d hope.
The novel includes a guide to the spirits mentioned in the stories and includes five new recipes by Anthony Bourdain inspired by the tales. I’ve been allowed to share one of them, a recipe for delicious, creamy saffron risotto. I always assumed risotto would be difficult to make, but it’s actually fairly simple. It is a bit laborious, as you’re stirring the rice almost constantly throughout, but it’s worth the effort. This risotto warms up your insides and makes you feel ready to take on anything spooky that may come your way. Check out the recipe below:
Combine half the chicken stock and the saffron threads in a small pan and bring to a simmer to draw the flavor, color, and aroma from the threads into the stock.
In a medium-sized pot, gently heat the oil and stir in the onion, taking care to get each piece coated with oil. Cook gently, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent; do not let it brown. Add the rice, stirring carefully so that it’s well distributed with the onions. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, to gently toast the rice. Stir in the wine and take the heat back down to medium-low. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, as the rice eventually absorbs all the wine and the alcohol smell can no longer be detected.
To this mixture, add a ladleful of the warm saffron-infused stock. Continue to stir and add more stock as it becomes absorbed, eventually also adding the reserved, non-infused chicken stock, a ladleful at a time. Once or twice before all of the stock is absorbed, check the rice for its state of doneness: at the end, it should yield to the bite and be cooked all the way through, but still maintain its structural integrity.
Now, assess the texture of the risotto. Is it runny enough to cover the bottom of a bowl without coaxing? If not, stir in a little more stock until it’s the correct consistency.
Now, add the butter chunks and the cheese and beat it with a light hand into the hot rice, incorporating some air and lightening the consistency somewhat as you go. Taste the risotto and season with salt if necessary. Serve immediately with the osso buco (see recipe in book).
Serves 6 as a side dish.
Are you a fan of creepy stories? Which ones are your go-tos in October?
I’m a huge fan of game nights, but have gotten stuck in a rut. I’ve been playing a lot of legacy games with my friends, and while I love SeaFall and Time Stories, I wouldn’t mind changing up the game and the group I’m playing with occasionally. That’s where UnboxBoardom comes in. It’s a board game subscription box that delivers a new game to you monthly. You can choose to be surprised with a random game (with an average value of $35 or more) or you can choose between three options, allowing you to pick the type of game you want–something more strategic, family friendly, or more party-focused.
UnboxBoardom signed me up for a month of their service so I could check it out. I loved the email I received showing me my options: Each title includes the number of players, the average play time, and how family friendly, strategic, and party ready the game is. Each game has been vetted by the UnboxBoardom staff and includes their recommendations. Here are the titles I got to choose from:
I don’t know a whole lot about football and have played (and enjoyed) King of Tokyo before, so I chose Prowler’s Passage, a game I hadn’t heard of. It’s a strategic two player game, which made for a perfect game night with my husband.
In Prowler’s Passage, you and your opponent are rival thieves, claiming underground passages for yourself and stealing goods while bending the districts to your will. It’s highly strategic and math focused: Do you focus on making your passage the longest? Stealing all of the statues? Focusing on just one color district or all of them, or do what the additional achievement cards encourage you to do? It’s quick to learn the basics of the game, but I’m still learning all of the strategy. Each game only takes 25 minutes, so it’s something you can play multiple times in an evening.
I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to learn a new game and love the idea of getting the gift of gaming at my door each month. Wanna give it a try? Head to UnboxBoardom.com and sign up for a new game every one, two, or three months. Prices are between $29.99-31.99 a package and UnboxBoardom donates a board game to kids who can’t afford them for every 10 they sell. You can’t go wrong!
Have you been playing any new games lately? Let me know in the comments!
While working at Xbox, I’ve started a tradition where I bring in cupcakes after we do an event. I pick one of my favorite aspects of the event and let that be inspiration for the flavor. At PAX West, we had a super cool area for Fallout 76 where people could guess the amount of bottle caps in an atom bomb and put their guesses into a replica Fallout computer. Those who completed this task were rewarded with Xbox and Fallout-branded bottle caps. I instantly knew I’d have to do a Nuke Cola cupcake!
For those not in the know, Nuka Cola is a blue cola available in the Fallout universe. It claims to be made with a variety of fruit flavors, but come on, it’s called a cola. So I ignored the fruit and made Coke-flavored cupcakes. I don’t think anyone minded. 🙂
I used blue cupcake liners and made a cupcake with a Coca-Cola reduction, but you could use cola flavoring or a cola concentrate/syrup you might have for your Soda Stream instead. I also brush the tops of the cupcakes with some Coke and incorporate a bit of the reduction into the buttercream frosting as well. The flavor is still fairly mild, but you get a good cola aftertaste.
If you’re like me, you love games AND you love cooking. No game night is complete without a few snacks or treats themed around what we’re playing. But what if you could combine both things into one and actually play a game with your food?
Jenn Sandercock did just this when she created the Edible Games Cookbook. She designed 12 different games centered around food and put it together into a beautiful 300 page hardcover book. And starting today, you can pledge for a copy of this book on Kickstarter! The book itself contains recipes, game rules, and modifications for both. Are you a beginner cook? A vegan? Playing with kids? Playing with grown-ups? There’s something for you. There’s even a game completely centered around getting kids to eat their veggies in a fun way!
I sat down with Jenn to talk a bit about the book and what led her to create it:
Why edible games?
It’s more like why not? It just seems so natural to me. As soon as I got into game design I was always trying to think of different ways to push games or use other things in my life I like, like dancing and food. Whenever I showed people the ideas I had around food games, people thought they were amazing, so I wanted to keep doing that. A cookbook is the best way to let other people play these games, because I just want other people to have fun.
What’s your favorite game in the cookbook?
The Patisserie Code. It’s the most annoying to make (it takes the most amount of time) but it takes cream puffs or profiteroles. My family, we called them petit choux. We ate them from quite a young age. My mom got them from a nearby bakery and when it closed, she started making them. I knew I wanted to make a game with cream puffs and I’m really happy with the game that ended up coming out of it.
What would you say to someone who’s intimidated in the kitchen?
A lot of the games don’t require cooking at all, just go to the market and buy some ingredients. Even for the more complex games (like The Patisserie Code), I’ve got a lot of cheat ways you can get around it, like you can buy things from the store. Even if somebody’s a total amateur, I ‘ve got options to help people be able to make them.
When you’re not playing with food, what are your favorite games?
At the moment my favorite tabletop/card game is Just Desserts, so staying on theme! I bought it because I wanted to see what other people were doing around food games, but I really enjoyed playing the game.
In terms of digital games, I was recently playing a game on my phone called Hexologic, and that’s a really lovely puzzle game.
I’ve been playing through LA Noire on the Switch, I worked on LA Noire and never had the time to finish it, so that feels really good.
Check out the Kickstarter today and download a sample chapter of the award-winning “Order of the Oven Mitt” game. Let me know in the comments if you back it!
Yes, yes, I know we all had the same reaction to those new creatures in Star Wars: The Last Jedi: They looked positively delicious! Chewie had the right idea when he decided to roast one up. Porgs are abundant on Ahch-To, have plump little bodies, and I have a sneaky suspicion they taste just like chicken when crisped to a golden brown. Give it a try yourself with this recipe. It’s a bit fancier than roasting over open flame, and would make the perfect main course for any early-April feast. (Star Wars-themed Easter dinner, anyone?)
I’m a sucker for licensed/themed food and drinks, and the Game of Thrones/Brewery Ommegang partnership is one of my faves. For the past five years, they’ve been making beers inspired by characters and events from Game of Thrones, and your viewing parties have never been the same.
Even though the show isn’t coming back for another year, Ommegang is still at it: they’re releasing the Royal Reserve Collection, a series of four new beers, in 2018. The first one is Hand of the Queen, a barleywine ale inspired by everyone’s favorite character, Tyrion Lannister.
HBO and Ommegang sent me a couple bottles to sample before it comes out, and I highly recommend you pick this up. The barleywine is bold, rich, and much smoother than I would have expected. Ommegang had this to say about the beer:
Brewed with a complex blend of specialty malts and carefully-selected old-world hops, Hand of the Queen is a rich, full-bodied version of a classic barleywine and comes in at 10.7% ABV. Malt forward and multifaceted, the beer balances the intense flavors of brandy-soaked raisins and dark fruit with the lighter notes of apricot. Hints of molasses and toffee are evident before a finish characterized by the classic yet distinctive barleywine alcoholic heat. Hand of the Queen, an old-world example of the style, attempts to balance these strong yet unruly opposing forces, much like the way Tyrion maintains the balance of power among his influential contemporaries in Westeros.
It’s the perfect drink to carry around with you while you make snarky comments about everyone else in your life. If you’d prefer to wait and enjoy the beer with the new season next year, grab a bottle now and cellar it. Barleywine can be aged like normal wine.
Hand of the Queen is available in stores in early April. The other three pieces of the Royal Reserve Collection will be released in July, October, and December. Are you going to collect them all? (I know I will!)
Dave and Busters recently opened up a location in Washington, and this opening allowed me to finally attend something I had heard about for years. While I had heard about the games and fun environment, no one ever told me about their outrageous food and drink menu. Seriously: it’s bonkers. They have adult snow cones, a mac and cheese and pulled pork SANDWICH, and something called the “Caveman Combo” that involves ribs and sliders. I’ve heard they have some salads and other healthy items there as well, but let’s be honest, I didn’t come to Dave and Busters to be healthy.
After sampling the most ridiculous items we could find, I couldn’t resist tasting a bit of dessert. My eyes immediately drifted towards the Brookie Sundae Tower. Chocolate chip cookies combined with brownies. Ice cream in between. Stacked in a tower. Drizzled with caramel AND hot fudge. I’m drooling just thinking about it. This item quickly became the favorite thing we had that night. And I realized I could remake it at home.
So, if you’re feeling adventurous and would prefer the call of your couch over the call of some awesome video games and glowing drinks (who are you?), then check out the recipe below to make your very own Brookie Sundae Tower.
1 box brownie mix (plus ingredients listed on the box)
1 packet of refrigerated break-apart cookie dough
vanilla ice cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, and then coat with flour and dump out the excess. Set the tin aside.
Mix the brownie mix together as described on the box.
Fill each muffin cup ½ full with brownie mix. Then, flatten a square of cookie dough slightly and place one in each muffin cup.
Bake for around 20 minutes or until a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.
Prep the serving plate by drizzling chocolate sauce and caramel sauce in a pretty pattern.
Place a brookie in the center of the plate, and then place a scoop of ice cream on top of that. Drizzle some chocolate sauce on top of the ice cream. Top that ice cream with another brookie and another scoop of ice cream, followed by another drizzle of chocolate sauce. If the tower won't stay upright on its own, Place a wooden skewer all the way through the center.
Top the sundae with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry!
Do you have a Dave and Buster’s near you? If you want to check out the ridiculous menu for yourself, visit my Instagram. I’m giving away $50 in “D&B Dollars”!
Thank you to Dave and Busters for providing me with the sampling opportunity and additional dollars to give away.
Bottles of wine are such an easy, go-to gift, and if you’re like me, you often pick a bottle based off of the label/name. But sometimes, the right wine (and label) just doesn’t exist. For instance, what do you get your friend for Christmas that says “you’re more badass than a fictional character, and I hope you can Netflix and chill this holiday season”? WineGreeting.com to the rescue.
WineGreeting lets you entirely customize a bottle of wine. You can make a custom label or engraved bottle, and you even get to choose the color of the wax seal! You also get to choose between red, white, and sparkling wine, which means you can customize a bottle of bubbly for special occasions.
While the options for customization are fairly standard, I thought I would make one a bit geekier. I took their “Holiday Lights” option and turned it into a Stranger Things reference. The etching was deep and gorgeous on the bottle, and the red wax just made it look even more epic.
The wine itself was a very drinkable and delicious red blend, and I now have a bottle I want to display long after the wine has gone.
If you’re looking for an awesome custom gift, I highly recommend WineGreeting. And if you use promo code “GEEKYHOSTESS” you’ll save $15 off your first order!
Let me know what custom bottle you’d make in the comments!
Thank you to WineGreeting for providing a bottle of wine for me to review.
So you’ve been given a name for a Secret Santa, and your recipient is a bit of a geek. You want to get them something fun, but don’t know much about their interests and don’t know where to start. Never fear, The Geeky Hostess is here! Whether you’re not-so-geeky or are just into different fandoms than this person, you should be able to find something easy and inexpensive that they’ll actually like right here. And bonus: All of these gifts are available through Amazon Prime, so they’ll be here in time for your holiday party.
For the Tabletop Gamer
Does this person have miniature figurines or dice on their desk? Do they mention the phrases Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, or RPG? Then the safest thing to get them is a set of dice. Dice is like jewelry to us: there are so many gorgeous options out there, we can never have enough, and they make great gifts. Get them this set of metal dice for a gift they’ll treasure. (Bonus points if you claim they’re “lucky dice” and will always roll high!)
For the Doodler
Adult coloring books have become a thing. And it’s the perfect gift. It’s something that I’ve personally never purchased for myself, but always secretly wish someone gave to me. A silly luxury that someone can enjoy during holiday travel or boring conference calls. Plus, it’s genuinely supposed to be calming and relaxing. This particular coloring book is one of the most popular. The images are beautiful, and there are bonus activities/puzzles to solve. Gift this with some really nice colored pencils and you’ll be set.
For the Book Nerd
If your co-worker’s nose is always in a book, or you see them updating Goodreads often, then help them prepare for hygge. Hygge is a Scandinavian term for staying in, being cozy, and curling up with a good book. It’s basically an acceptable form of hibernation that happens around the holidays. Encourage some hygge-ing with this delicious smelling candle. The Paddywax Library candles have scents based on different authors. Charles Dickens’ scent is perfect for the holidays, but a variety of authors are available. Pair this with a gift certificate to a local book store, some cozy socks, or some nice tea or cocoa.
For the STEMinist
Is your recipient a developer, scientist, or another STEM profession? Did they encourage the whole office to go see “Hidden Figures” last year? They need this Women of NASA LEGO set. The set is selling out everywhere, so you’re paying a tiny bit of a premium on Amazon, but it’ll be worth it for the look on their face. Between LEGOs, NASA, and recognizing important women in the field, it’s got everything they could hope for.
For the Animation Aficionado
Is this person the type who would love to relive childhood with a big bowl of cereal and a full day of Saturday morning cartoons? are they always watching Cartoon Network and talking about Rick and Morty? Get them some cartoons from their childhood (or possibly before their time, if they’re a young whipper-snapper.). This Nicktoon collection includes 40 episodes of all the classic Nickelodeon cartoons: CatDog, Hey Arnold, Rocko’s Modern Life, Ahh! Real Monsters, and Angry Beavers.
For the Escape Room Champ
If your recipient is always trying to get the team to do an escape room together, this is the gift for them. The Werewolf Experiment is an escape room in a box that will let them recreate the experience at home. I played the first version of this game and it was terrific. So terrific, that Mattel took it and made a version that will be on toy store shelves everywhere. the puzzles are challenging, the writing is great, and it makes an excellent “escape room” experience for a group.
For the Fantasy Fiend
Would your recipient rather live in a world of dragons, unicorns, and mermaids? Turn them into a mermaid/man while keeping them cozy with this adorable mermaid tail blanket. Perfect for the co-worker that’s always a bit too chilly in the office as well!
For the Theatre Lover
This person probably already has all of the swag for their favorite show, and they listen to the soundtracks on Spotify non-stop. So get them something they may not have: Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway. This book tells them the history of Broadway in a super interesting read. Tell them it’s like The Producers meets Smash. They’ll know what that means.
For the Mouseketeer
Bring some of the Disneyland magic home with this Mickey Waffle Maker. They look just like the ones they’d eat in the Happiest Place on Earth! (Plus, you’re practically inviting them to make waffles for you in the future…) If they’re more of a Disney princess fan than a Mickey fan, then they NEED this Chip Mug in their life. I’ve seriously just stared at it while squealing for the past few minutes. Who hasn’t wished they had Chip?
For the Cocktail Connoisseur
If they’re always talking about their bourbon collection or visiting the nicest cocktail bars, get them something to elevate their drinks at home. This bitters bar set has something for any type of cocktail, and Hella Bitters is a delicious brand.
For the Foodie
Fondue is so old-fashioned. Even though it’s been around for hundreds of years, Raclette, or the act of scraping copious amonts of hot cheese directly onto your food, has become a food trend in the US in the past couple years. You’ve probably seen videos of places scraping melted cheese directly off the wheel. Well, this Raclette Grill is a way to do the trend at home. It’s a “cheesy” gift that will be very much appreciated!
For the Social Media “Guru”
If this person has tons of followers and spends more time taking pics of their food than eating it, then they need this. It’s a Selfie Ring Light that doubles as a phone charger. It’ll go over their normal phone/phone case and make all of their photos even better. It even has three different light levels, so it’ll be perfect in any situation! Just make sure they tag you in those flawless pics.
For the Sci-Fi Fan
The new Star Wars movies is coming out, and they’ve already got their tickets. All they need is a lightsaber. And while they’re fun, they’re not super practical in our everyday use. But this Lightsaber water bottle is! It’s perfect for their desk, the gym or carried around in their bag, and it will help them show off their fan status everywhere.
For the Video Gamer
If they have an Xbox One or a PC, get them a copy of Cuphead. The game is a run and gun platformer with art stylings inspired by 1930’s cartoons. Everything is hand-drawn and SO cool looking. The game is snatching up tons of awards for best indie game/art direction in 2017, so you’ll look super in-the-know if you give them this.
For the Wizard in Waiting
Does your recipient often claim their letter to Hogwarts got lost in the mail? Help them live that wizard life with this beautiful Pensieve memory set. It includes a journal, a wand pen, and two memory vials, all in a keepsake box.
For the Political Activist
Your recipient can exercise their rights and their body with this RBG Workout book. Do the same workout Ruth Bader Ginsberg does twice a week. Spoilers: It’s not easy!
Give the film buff their very own cinema light box. It’s perfect for their desk or home–they can let you know their mood, what movie they’re about to watch next, or let the office know their short review of the latest blockbuster.
For the Horror Fanatic
This graphic novel is full of haunting stories in a fairy tale setting. Seriously, these tales will stick with you. I like horror and had to put the book down. Late some nights, some of the stories still pop into my head… The book is beautiful and scary, a great gift for a horror lover or anyone who prefers the Grimm tales to the Disney ones.
For the Comic Con Attendee
This Bag of Holding: Con Edition was made by geeks for geeks, and includes pockets and places for everything you need at a con. It’s a bit pricier than the other gifts in this list, but for the right recipient, it’s totally worth it.
Fellow geeks, help out these Secret Santas: what gifts are you wishing for this year?
(Items featured above may contain affiliate links.)
I had an amazing Thanksgiving with my family, but as soon as the day was over, it was time to break out the holiday decorations, make lists of presents, and put on my amazing new Wonder Woman sweater from Fun.com. While taking a break from eating leftovers, I made my Dad take some pics of me so I can show it off in all its glory.
This sweater is amazing. I was concerned that it would be cheap or flimsy, since “ugly holiday sweaters” are normally just a novelty, but it’s extremely thick, warm, and well-made. It’s my go-to sweater for chilly nights and lounging around. Plus, while it’s definitely a Wonder Woman sweater, the design itself is so nice, it can be worn around non-geeks as well.
And it’s also a great sweater for…sneaking pie. I had to test it. You know how it is.
Fun.com has a HUGE amount of holiday sweaters available, including plenty of DC-licensed ones (and three different Wonder Woman sweaters!). If superheroes aren’t your thing, they’ve got sweaters for Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Alf, Star Wars, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Disney, Elf, Bob’s Burgers, Rick and Morty, dinosaurs, and a ton of ridiculous Christmas and Hanukkah designs. Seriously. They have over 150 different sweaters.
Will you be picking up a holiday sweater this year? Which one is your fave?
(Thanks to Fun.com for letting me review this sweater! Check out all of their holiday sweaters here. )