IMG_5390 Buns are a great side dish to accompany a hearty stew, like our Lamb Stew with Dried Plums from last week. Plus, bread in general plays a huge role in The Hunger Games, so it wouldn’t be right to have a Hunger Games menu without it. It was hard to choose between all the great bread recipes featured in the books, but I finally settled on these cheese buns for two reasons:

1) Since Katniss loves them so much, she uses them in her Real or Not Real games with Peeta, making these buns a special representation of their relationship.
2) I am an absolute sucker for cheese.

P.S. Like our previous Hunger Games recipes, this one comes from the Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook (though I made a few changes). Then again, if you’re crazy in love with Ben’s Toasted Cheese Buns from our Treasure Island menu, that recipe could work for this dish too!

The Mellark Family Cheese Buns

“Peeta comes by every day to bring me cheese buns and begins to help me work on the family book…I sit around stuffing myself with cheese buns and watching Peeta sketch.”

— Catching Fire

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INGREDIENTS:

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  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano, separated
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk, plus 2-3 tbsp if the consistency is too dry
  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • For the butter wash: 1/2 cup softened butter, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 kosher salt
  • Makes 1 dozen buns

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° and grease a cookie sheet while it heats up.
  2. Pour Bisquick, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp oregano, sugar, milk, and cheese in a mixing bowl and blend until combined. You should be left with a bowl of cheesy orange goodness with a sticky, slightly gooey consistency. If it’s too dry, add the 2-3 tbsp milk one tbsp at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
  3. Place batter on the greased cookie sheet one heaping spoonful at a time, making sure to keep spoonfuls one inch a part. These babies expand!
  4. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 tsp oregano over the top of the buns.

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    The combination of dough, cheese, and oregano meant I spent the entire bake time wrapped in a comforting pizza-y aroma.

  5. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the tops begin to darken slightly.

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    If you like, you can sprinkle on some extra cheese for the last 5 minutes of baking.

  6. The original recipe calls for brushing a melted butter wash over the top of the finished buns. I found it to be too salty, so I left it off. If you would like to use it, combine the butter, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and kosher salt in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave until the butter is just melted. When it’s ready, stir it up and brush it on the buns with a pastry brush.
  7. You can serve these babies warm or keep them at room temperature in a sealed container for up to three days. Either way, enjoy! :)

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…there’s one missing from the dozen, you say? *brushes crumbs from chin* I have no idea what you’re talking about.

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In
The Hunger Games, the Capitol offers some great dishes—chicken with creamy orange sauce, fluffy dinner rolls, and even pumpkin soup. These all sound delicious, but I knew the best entree for our menu would be lamb stew with dried plums, since it’s Katniss’ favorite Capitol dish…and Cesar Flickerman’s too!

For Katniss, I think the stew’s appeal comes from the fact that it’s hearty and closer to the earth than most Capitol foods. Perhaps Cesar feels drawn to the stew for the same reason, after living in decadence for so long.

P.S. This is a crock pot recipe, so you’ll want to start the stew 9 hours before you need it.
P.P.S. The original version of this recipe appears in the Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook. I used the crock pot instructions and made a half portion of the recipe. I also made a few changes (fewer onions, more garlic).

Lamb Stew with Dried Plums

“So, Katniss, the Capitol must be quite a change from District Twelve. What’s impressed you most since you arrived here?” asks Caesar.
What? What did he say? It’s as if the words make no sense. My mouth has gone as dry as sawdust. I desperately find Cinna in the crowd and lock eyes with him. I imagine the words coming from his lips. “What’s impressed you most since you arrived here?” I rack my brain for something that made me happy here. Be honest, I think. Be honest.
“The lamb stew,” I get out. Caesar laughs, and vaguely I realize some of the audience has joined in.
“The one with the dried plums?” asks Caesar. I nod. “Oh, I eat it by the bucketful…it doesn’t show, does it?”
— The Hunger Games

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INGREDIENTS:

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There are a LOT of ingredients here, but bear with me. The recipe itself is actually really easy:

  • 2 1/2 lbs lamb shoulder (leg or fillet would also work)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 1/2 cups diced carrots
  • 3/4 cup diced celery
  • 1 1/2 potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 1/2 cups dried plums (prunes)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • seasoning: 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp white sugar, 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar, 1 tsp thyme, 1 1/2 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp basil, 1/2 tsp parsley flakes, 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup ginger ale (I know this one seems weird, but trust me)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Makes 4-6 servings

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Start by cutting your meat into 2″ cubes.

    IMG_5293

    Lamb shoulder can be a little fatty. If you’re concerned about the fat content, I’d recommend searing the lamb in a skillet and pouring off half the fat before adding it to the crock pot.

  2. Peel your potatoes, wash and chop your vegetables, and mince your garlic. Be sure to cut the potatoes a little smaller than the meat cubes (since they take the longest to cook, this will ensure even cooking).IMG_5287
  3. Toss all your ingredients, excluding flour, into a crock pot. The flour will be used for thickener later.IMG_5303
  4. Cover the crock pot and cook the stew on low for 8 1/2 hours. This stage is done when the lamb is cooked through and the potatoes are fork tender.IMG_5305
  5. Stir in the flour and cook on high for 30 minutes. The broth will thicken and change color slightly.
  6. Enjoy while visiting the Capitol of Panem!

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    I find lots of crock pot recipes to be bland, so I was really excited when I discovered this stew. The lamb is SO tender, and the combination of spices creates a flavorful broth. The plums incorporate into the broth, adding just a touch of sweetness. The Mister and I were such big fans of the final result, we decided to include this stew in our regular dinner recipe repertoire!


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So excited for our new Book of the Month: The Hunger Games! I’ve loved both the books and the movies, and since Mockingjay Part 1 is coming out later this month, it seemed like the perfect time for a Hunger Games menu. Luckily, the books feature so many recipes, any difficulty in developing a menu comes from the sheer number of options.

For the appetizer, I wanted to feature a recipe that appears early in the first book, before the Games even start. Prim’s gift to Katniss of basil-wrapped goat cheese was the clear choice—a light, delicious salute to Prim and an example of the simple life in District 12.

P.S. The recipe I use here is an altered version of one found in the Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook.

Prim’s Basil and Goat Cheese Bites

“On the table, under a wooden bowl to protect it from hungry rats and cats alike, sits a perfect little goat cheese wrapped in basil leaves. Prim’s gift to me on reaping day. I put the cheese carefully in my pocket as I slip outside.”
— The Hunger Games

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INGREDIENTS:

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  • 5 oz plain or honeyed goat cheese (the honeyed version is a sweeter and lighter—I prefer the flavor of the honeyed version a little more, but plain goat cheese is more true to the book)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 10-12 fresh basil leaves
  • Makes 10-12 cheese bites

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Start by adding your cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice to a medium bowl. Stir until smooth. Now add your salt and pepper, stirring again until they’re evenly incorporated. In the end, you should wind up with a texture like ricotta.
  2. Spoon approximately 1 tsp of the cheese mix onto the middle of a basil leaf. Lift the two pointed ends of the leaf and pinch them together. Secure with a toothpick and repeat until you’ve reached the desired number of cheese bites.
  3. And that’s it! You’re all done. Technically, these can be covered and refrigerated for a day, but I recommend serving them right after making, so the leaves don’t wilt.

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    If you have leftover cheese mix, you can spread it on toasted french bread for a snack.

  4. Enjoy with a friend while walking through the woods just before the Reaping!

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    I really appreciated this recipe’s simple preparation and pure, clean flavors. Not only was it quick and easy to make, but I also think it is very representative of life in District 12.

Happy November! I hope you all had a happy and safe Halloween. We had SNOW on Friday, which I was super excited about, because I’m a weirdo who derives an unhealthy amount of enjoyment from cold weather (Need proof? The Mister once seriously proposed that we move to Alaska…and I thought it was a great idea).

Of course, the start of November means a new Book of the Month and new menu! I’m really happy with how our Dracula menu turned out, and the Halloween bonus post gave me a chance to finally cross eating bugs off my bucket list. However, now that I’ve had my spookiness fix, I’m ready to move on to something different.

Wanna take a guess at the new Book of the Month? Here’s a hint:

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Our Dracula menu has drawn to a close, but I’d like to leave you with one more awesome Halloween edible before the big holiday tomorrow. As you may recall, we’ve already made blue corn Spider Chips for Halloween, so for the brave souls out there, I decided to add some REAL bugs to the menu.

Last week, I ordered a 3-tin pack of chocolate-covered bugs from ThinkGeek. The tins contained 12 silkworms, 12 superworms, and 2 scorpions. Full Disclosure: I’ve been morbidly curious about edible bugs for ages, so Halloween is really just as excuse for me to let my freaky foodie flag fly. ;)

Armed with a 5 point grading scale, the Mister and I decided to perform a taste test. Here are our grading categories:

Presentation (1 possible point): Does it look like what it’s supposed to be?
Texture (1 possible point): Does the texture add to or detract from overall yumminess?
Flavor (2 possible points): Does the bug taste good? Does it combine well with the chocolate?
Snackability (1 possible point): If you didn’t know or didn’t care this was a bug, would you have it as a snack?

Partial points were possible, and since we took the average of our individual grading sheets, there were a lot of 3/4 points in the final rankings. I like to think that makes us look way more scientific…and less like two weirdos scarfing bugs for fun. ;)

EDIBLE BUG TASTE TEST

SILKWORMS

Presentation: 0.75, Texture: 0.5, Flavor: 1.5, Snackability: 0.75
The silkworms looked pretty safe. Too safe, in fact—we took off partial points for looking like just a lump of chocolate (not enough like a bug). Despite the off-putting texture (VERY dry, almost like sawdust), the flavor was ok. The worm has a very mild flavor, so it blends with the chocolate nicely.

Overall Score: 3.5 of 5

SUPERWORMS

Presentation: 1, Texture: 1, Flavor: 1.75, Snackability: 0.75
These definitely looked a lot more like worms. On some of them, you could even see the bumps of segmentation. These were crunchier and a little more firm than the silkworms. The flavor here was more distinct but in a pleasant way. The worms had an earthy, oatmeal flavor that reminded me of cookies when combined with the chocolate. Definitely a bit more snack appeal than the silkworms!

Overall Score: 4.5 of 5

SCORPIONS

Presentation: 0.75, Texture: 1, Flavor: 2, Snackability: 1
As the Mister gleefully put it, “SCORPIONS!” He was happy to give them full points, and I don’t blame him—these were delicious! However, I was feeling nitpicky and took partial presentation points for size discrepancy (one scorpion was half the size of the other). In terms of texture, the scorpions were by far the firmest and the crunchiest, though it was a little more work to navigate the shape. They were salty and just a bit bitter, so when you combine them with the chocolate, you basically wind up with salted dark chocolate. The Mister also noted that they have extra snackability because “no poison death!” Can’t argue with that!

Overall Score: 4.75 of 5

 

FINAL NOTES

I was surprised at how thoroughly the scorpions nabbed first place—I never anticipated how salty they would be! Now I’m curious about the seasoned edible bugs gift pack…especially the bacon and cheese grasshoppers!

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ThinkGeek is not a sponsor of this post or this site. I just like their stuff. :)

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