Sunday, November 12, 2017

DIY Yzma Halloween Costume

"Ah, how shall I do it? Oh, I know. I'll turn him into a flea, a harmless little flea, and then I'll put that flea in a box, and then I'll put that box inside of another box, and then I'll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives...I'll smash it with a hammer! "
- Yzma, The Emperor's New Groove
Inexpensive & easy Yzma costume from The Emperor's New Groove - made from feathers, coat hangers and a cloche hat.

Yzma is a Halloween costume I had wanted to try for a while. "The Emperor's New Groove" is a nostalgic Disney favorite for many people my age, and the movie is endlessly quotable ("Why do we even have that lever?!"), making this a fun costume to spend a Halloween party in. Yzma's style is dramatic, glamorous and unique - all attributes that make for an awesome costume, visually.

With my PhD thesis due far too soon, I didn't have endless hours to devote into sewing. I was pleasantly surprised by how fast this came together - probably a little under 3 hours of crafting time, half of which was gluing the feathers.

Because I was able to recycle a few things I already owned into this costume, it was also fairly inexpensive (also, see above, PhD students need budget costumes)! The base of the headdress is made from a cloche hat I had collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. I cut off the brim, planning to discard it before realizing the stiffness and shape of the brim made it a perfect base for the feather collar. Wire hangers and the black dress were similarly pilfered from my closet. The biggest "spend" item was the fake eyelashes - an optional, but effective final touch. All told, this costume can be made for under $50.

The headdress stayed put the entire night and I generally felt quite comfortable. Most people recognized the costume and I felt suitably glamorous and villainous. For 3 hours of crafting and $50, this was an effective, easy and frugal DIY Halloween costume.

[Check out my Daenerys Game of Thrones Costume from last year!]

Materials & Tools

Crafting Supplies:

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Lord of the Rings - Foraged Herb & Rabbit Stew

Sam busied himself with his pans. “What a hobbit needs with coney,” he said to himself, “is some herbs and roots, especially taters. Herbs we can manage, seemingly.”

“Gollum!” he called softly. “I want some herbs." Gollum’s head peeped out of the fern, but his looks were neither helpful nor friendly. “A few bay-leaves, some thyme and sage, will do -- before the water boils,” said Sam.

“No!” said Gollum. “Sméagol is not please. And Sméagol doesn’t like smelly leaves. He doesn’t eat grasses or roots, no precious, not till he’s starving or very sick, poor Sméagol.”

“Smjagol’ll get into real true hot water, when this water boils, if he don’t do as he’s asked,” growled Sam. “Sam’ll put his head in it, yes precious. And I’d make him look for turnips and carrots, and taters too, if it was the time o’ the year.”

- "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit," The Two Towers

Tolkein's classic series, the Lord of the Rings, inspired this rabbit stew packed with herbs.

Foraging for ingredients and cooking this stew takes up about half of this chapter from The Two Towers, appropriately named "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit." It makes for a fun cooking challenge: can we develop a tasty recipe with only the ingredients the hobbits would have had on their journey to Mordor?

I did take a couple of liberties - since it is indeed the time of year here, I included the turnips, carrots and "taters" that Sam longed for. I also assumed that the hobbits might be carrying a few cooking supplies, like cooking oil, salt, pepper, and - perhaps most optimistically - chicken bouillon cubes. Finally, I thickened the stew with flour. Wandering hobbits would have had access to lembas bread, however I had to make do with what I had.

While the origins of this recipe are fantastical, this main course wouldn't be out of place at a Sunday night dinner. The root vegetables and woodsy herb flavors are perfect for a fall night.

Rabbit stewed to tender perfection with root vegetables and fresh thyme and sage.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Game of Thrones House Sigil Dinner Party

"The dragon has three heads," [Daenerys] sighed. "Do you know what that means, Jorah?"
"Your Grace? The sigil of House Targaryen is a three-headed dragon, red on black."
"I know that. But there are no three-headed dragons."
- Daenerys V, A Clash of Kings

In our house, our annual Game of Thrones season finale party is second only to Thanksgiving. Every year, I've done a variation on a Game of Thrones themed party. Last year, I did a Highgarden feast (a sadly ironic banquet for the season 6 finale). This year, I served a 9-course meal, with each course themed around the house sigil for one of the Great Houses of Westeros: Greyjoy, Martell, Tyrell, Tully, Arryn, Baratheon, Stark, Lannister and Targaryen. I think this Thronesgiving was my favorite so far! Check out the links below!

Full House Sigil Menu:

House Targaryen Madness or Greatness Chocolate Truffles

King Jaehaerys once told me that madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Targaryen is born, he said, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land.
- Daenerys VI, A Storm of Swords
Targaryens are either great leaders or mad. Which sort of Targaryen would you be? Lavender or chili chocolate truffles.

This chocolate surprise was the final course in my Season 7 Game of Thrones party, in which I themed each of the courses around a family of Westeros. The Targaryen family's disposition to mad rulers like the Mad King and legendary monarchs like Aegon the Conqueror is an interesting part of Westerosi lore. While the stories and the quote above make it out to be an either/or phenomenon, I wonder if some of the Targaryens are a little of both? Either way, I wanted to represent this dichotomy in the Targaryen course.

I went with chocolate truffles, which are easy to make, and more importantly, easy to make look the same from the outside while secretly containing a flavor on the inside.  For the "greatness" of the Targaryens, I went with lavender - a soothing flavor, as well as the hereditary Targaryen eye color. For the "madness" of the Targaryens, I went with cayenne pepper and cinnamon - a surprising but still appetizing flavor, evocative of the "fire" portion of the "fire and blood" Targaryen words.

I served the chocolates in tiny gift boxes decorated with the Targaryen emblem, and a miniature scroll with a quote about the Targaryens.


House Lannister Wine and Cheesecake

"Podrick Payne edged his gelding closer. He was carrying the royal standard, Joffrey's great stag-and-lion, and struggling with its weight. Bronn bore Tyrion's own banner, the lion of Lannister gold on crimson."
- Tyrion V, A Storm of Swords

Edible gold glitter makes these Lannister cakes sparkle. A boozy dessert for a Game of Thrones theme party.

This decadent dessert was served as the dessert course for my Game of Thrones Season 7 party. Each of these courses was designed to look like the sigil for one of the Great Houses of Westeros. I also tried to capture some of the personality of the houses. Lannisters represent themselves with a gold lion on a field of crimson, but they are also recognizable for their prominent display of their considerable wealth. Many of the Lannisters - or at least Tyrion and Cersei - are particularly fond of wine. A rich dessert that incorporated wine therefore seemed fitting, so I went with Shinee's "Cheesecake Bars with Wine Gelée." I then decorated each little cheesecake bar with a golden lion made from stenciled Lustre Dust.

Lustre Dust is a fantastic ingredient to have up your sleeve for kicking your recipes up a notch. Available in many different colors, it is edible glitter. While it is edible, I am not sure if it is digestible. Do Lannisters shit gold? You'll find out! 


House Tyrell Artichoke Bud Salad

Near all the chivalry of the south had come to Renly's call, it seemed. The golden rose of Highgarden was seen everywhere: sewn on the right breast of armsmen and servants, flapping and fluttering from the green silk banners that adorned lance and pike, painted upon the shields hung outside the pavilions of the sons and brothers and cousins and uncles of House Tyrell.
- Catelyn II, A Clash of Kings

Artichokes are edible flower buds. When roasted, they serve as a perfect Tyrell salad course for a Highgarden dinner or a Game of Thrones theme Party.

This salad was served at my Game of Thrones Season 7 party. At this dinner, I served 9 courses, each designed to look like the heraldry for one of the Westerosi Great Houses. House Tyrell, with their golden rose on a field of green was an obvious choice for the salad course.

I thought about a few ways to make a rose shape. I'd previously made apple roses pastries, however there is an unfortunate dearth of Westeros sigils that honor vegetables and I wanted to at least attempt to create a balanced meal. Vegetables cut in the shape of flowers seemed either too cutesy or too finicky. In the end, I went with an edible flower - the artichoke.

Although closer to green than to the desired golden hue to begin with, the yellow tones become stronger once roasted. I flavored the artichokes with lemon, olive oil and garlic, and kept the "field of green" field greens simple. 


House Stark Direwolf Pies

"It was too far to make out the banners clearly, but even through the drifting fog she could see that they were white, with a dark smudge in their center that could only be the direwolf of Stark, grey upon its icy field. When she saw it with her own eyes, Catelyn reined up her horse and bowed her head in thanks."
- Catelyn VIII, A Game of Thrones

Wolf-shaped pastry on top of a beef & dried fruit stew. Adorable mini pies for a Game of Thrones party.

This adorable mini personal pie was the meat course of my Season 7 Game of Thrones Party. For this event, I made each course resemble the banners of one of the Great Houses of Westeros. For some Houses, like Tully or Baratheon, I could serve the actual emblem. This approach was a dead end for House Stark, since wolfmeat is not widely available...

I instead chose to recreate the direwolf shape. I ordered a Stark cookie cutter from Etsy however USPS lost it and it didn't arrive on time! As a back-up plan, I ordered a full-sized wolf (well, coyote) cookie cutter from Amazon and used just the head portion to cut the dough.

Because wolves are carnivores, it seemed appropriate to make the Stark course a meat course, so I used my cookie cutter to shape a pie crust for a meat pie. I'd previously made Inn At The Crossroads' Beef and Bacon pie and liked it; the dried fruits are an unusual touch that tastes medieval. I can imagine much of the fare at Winterfell incorporating preserved fruits and vegetables due to its short growing season, so it seemed like a great starting point for a recipe. I made a few changes to the original medieval-inspired recipe. For example, soy sauce is an excellent way to add depth to a recipe but wouldn't have been available to medieval Britons.