Black Bread


The beer was brown, the bread black, the stew a creamy white.

George R.R. Martin, Dance with Dragons


Having grown up a rice-eating Asian girl on the West Coast where Eastern European delis are just about non-existent, I have very little experience with black bread. I’ve had the opportunity to taste rye bread on a variety of occasions, none of which made that big of an impression on me.

I was going to use the recipe from A Feast of Ice and Fire (p. 85) which looks wickedly easy… and involves beer. Which I sadly have never developed a taste for and likely never will. So rather than buy a can of beer for a baking project, I decided to cobble together a recipe from ingredients more readily found in my own kitchen, namely cocoa and coffee.

What I ended up with was a black bread that was considerably

One of the deviations I made from most other black bread recipes is that I kneaded in softened butter during the initial mixing process. This is something I do regularly when making non-artisan style breads to help improve the texture.

For the party, Steph sliced up the loaves and presented them along side an olive loaf from La Farine (in place of Umma’s Olive Loaf) and bagel chips to complement her Westerosi nosh platter filled with grapes, soft cheeses, olives and cold meats. Everyone at the party agreed that the bread was especially good either spread with cheese or slathered with honeyed butter.

Black Bread (Rye)

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Inspired by George RR Martin's A Dance with Dragons, this is a slightly sweet, wholegrain bread that derives its color and flavor from coffee and cocoa powder and is reminiscent of the bread from Outback Steakhouse.


  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 2/3 c. rye flour
  • 1/3 c. light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 T unsalted butter, softened


Standard directions

Mix together the water, yeast and flour

Bread machine directions

Place the ingredients in your bread machine according to your manufacturer's directions.

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More black bread recipes

Groosling and Roots

[quote]Rue contributes a big handful of some sort of starchy root to the meal. Roasted over the fire, they have the sharp sweet taste of a parsnip. She recognizes the bird, too, some wild thing they call a groosling in her district. She says sometimes a flock will wander into the orchard and they get a decent lunch that day. For a while, all conversation stops as we fill our stomachs. The groosling has delicious meat that’s so fatty, the grease drips down your face when you bite into it.[/quote]

Breads of Panem — Food inspired by The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

* *
Groosling and roots: if there’s one meal that emphasizes the “survival” aspect of The Hunger Games, it’s this one. It’s a rustic meal, made literally from what you have on hand.

One of the aspects I really love about THG is the wildlife. Okay, so muttations aren’t something I actually want to come across, but I think the unknown-to-us species, like this groosling, are pretty interesting.

Growing up in the suburbs of NorCal, I can’t say I’ve had anything truly unusual to eat (well, outside Asian norms, I guess) and in particular, I’ve never really had game. I’ve had venison exactly once in my life which my father-in-law prepared for us as Vietnamese bun.

Since a groosling doesn’t actually exist in real life, I debated what type of fowl it should be. By the name, it sounded like something between a grouse and a goose. The  fattiness Katniss describes definitely sounds like a goose  but the description as Katniss hunted them sounded more like smallish turkey. Huh.

Making do with what I do have available to me, I decided to substitute the closest thing I could think of. My local Asian megamart has a decent selection of more “exotic” meats and on an average day, I can find frozen frog legs, rabbit, lamb, duck, pheasant and quail all ready for the taking.

I considered using pheasant but found out that it’s a pretty lean bird that Gordon Ramsay suggests barding with streaky bacon before roasting off.

I settled on a duck and took home a 4 pound bird at a pretty good price to stick into the freezer until I was ready to cook it. It wasn’t until I thawed it that I realized it was labeled “Buddhist Duck” and I didn’t have the foggiest idea what that meant at the time. It turns out that it means that it’s a free range bird, described as small but flavorful.

As I unwrapped it, I realized to my horror that the duck still had its head and legs attached! I nearly screamed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had roasted duck in Chinese restaurants plenty of times before.  But I’m pretty squeamish when it comes to dead things and while I’ve eaten duck that still had the head on, this was the first time I’ve prepared one with its head still attached so this totally unnerved me.


Katniss and Rue roasted their bird and roots over an open fire. The bird would most likely have been on a makeshift spit that I imagine Katniss could have easily fashioned from a branch. Parsnips would likely have remained unpeeled though maybe washed with some of their precious water to get rid of excess dirt before being cooked in the hot embers. I doubt salt and pepper packets were among the provisions though I suppose if Katniss were concerned with flavor rather than sustenance, she could have easily found some herbs to throw in to the bird’s cavity.


I did consider a more authentic recreation of Katniss and Rue’s arena meal using our backyard fire pit. But trying to cook a fatty duck and parsnips over an open flame with a four year old running around is pretty much a recipe for disaster so I nixed that idea really quick. (It might be fun to try while camping, though!) So I guess you could say this is far more a Capitol take on the meal but hey, you work with what you got. They had open fire and I have a kitchen.


Groosling & Roots

A real-life recreation of a meal shared by characters Katniss Everdeen and fellow tribute Rue in the 74th Hunger Games arena, as depicted in Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games.


  • 4 ~ 6 lb "groosling" (duck)
  • 1 handful of fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs of "starchy roots" (parsnips)


Roasted Groosling

Remove any stray feathers before rubbing the duck skin and body cavity with salt to refresh the meat. Rinse thoroughly under cold water and pat dry.

With a skewer, prick the skin of the duck to encourage the fat to drip out.

Season cavity and body well with salt & pepper and then stuff with garlic and herbs.

Roast prepared duck at 425F for 30 minutes. Remove duck from the oven, pouring off the excess fat and reserving it in a jar. Lower heat to 375F and continue roasting the duck for another 45 ~ 60 minutes. Check every 15 minutes to remove the rendered duck fat.

Remove the duck and parsnips from the oven and raise the temperature to 400F. Allow the duck to rest for 15 ~ 20 minutes. (Do not cover the duck -- you don't want to ruin the crispy skin!!)

Roasted Parsnips

Prepare the parsnips by peeling and slicing into 1/2" batons.

Par cook by microwaving on high for 5 minutes. (Alternatively, boil for 5 minutes and drain well.)

Drizzle the parcooked parnsip batons with 1 ~ 2 tablespoons of the reserved duck fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and roast for 15 minutes

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Sausage Rolls

Being the hopeless Anglophile that I am, it is probably no surprise that when it comes to savory snacks, sausage rolls are among my favorites. Like a fancier cousin of the humble pig-in-a-blanket, these treats are sausage meat (usually pork) wrapped in a buttery, flaky pastry. What’s not to love?

These treats are standard takeaway fare in the UK, Australia and other Commonwealth countries, but don’t enjoy the same popularity in the US. (You’d think that more Americans could appreciate the goodness of meat wrapped in pastry but I guess not!)  I’ve only ever seen them at specialty Faires like Renaisance Faire and Dickens Fair where they are easy $5 or more. Oof. Too expensive.

A few years back when  I was craving my sausage rolls but it wasn’t anywhere near Fair season, I came up with a  recipe to replicate the Fair-style sausage rolls using British-style banger sausages. (And here I pause to snicker wildly to myself. Yes, I’m 12 inside.) If I do say so myself, they are delicious and taste very close to the sausage rolls I’m used to getting at Faires.

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Pumpkin Biscoff Cheesecake


I love reading food blogs and the personal stories that come from them. And one thing that never fails to make an impression on me is to read how a food blogger’s love of cooking or baking was influenced by growing up and cooking or baking alongside a loved one.

I dreamed of being able to bake with my mom. But like many immigrant parents of her generation, my mom worked long hours outside the home. Being a nurse on the swing shift which meant I rarely got to see her aside from her dropping us off at school or driving us to the baby sitter’s before she sped off to work after school. During her precious time off, cooking was the  not high on her priority list. Instead, she spent her time making sure we were enriched with the few extracurricular activities our family could afford.

I know that my mom wanted to be home to make memories with us; she mentioned it often. But the reality of life as a working class immigrant: often means puting aside what you really want in life to make sure that your kids have a better opportunity than you did.

Being the spoiled child that I was, I never fully understood this feeling until I became a mother myself. When I became a stay at home mom to The Little Empress (TLE), my mother was beside herself with happiness. It wasn’t until I sat down and thought about it that I realized what it meant to her for me to be a SAHM. I got to fulfill the dream that she had, to stay home with her daughters and be there for everything.

When my daughter was born,  one of the things that I swore to myself that I would do is to give her good memories of being in the kitchen with Mommy. I looked forward to her growing up so that we could cook together and hopefully, through those memories, help show her how food can be a language of love.

This is one of the many reasons I try not to take my being a stay at home mom for granted, to know that I am living the dream not just for my daughter, not just for myself, but for my mother as well. Every day is the opportunity I have to make memories with my daughter in a way that my mother wanted.

Baking is one of those activities that I always dreamed of doing with my mother but never got the oppportunity. So I have baked with TLE ever since she was old enough to stand at the counter. We’ve used a Learning Tower when she was about 14 months old. It’s rated for 18 months and older but she had taken to it so well early on that we just let her use it. (Always with supervision!) More than three years later, it’s still one of the best kids items we’ve ever purchased and I highly recommend it to anyone with small children.

When she was really little, we would make a lot of stuff out of mixes. I know that mixes get a bad rap bya lot of folks, particularly by foodie parents who may scoff at the idea of starting their little ones out on processed foods. (OH NOES! TEH HORROR! Y U NO EAT BETTR?)

Don’t get me wrong: I adore cooking from scratch and feeding my kid things that I can pronounce. But when TLE was a toddler, it was more important for me to make memories than make food. And if that meant using the convenience of a mix to simplify the baking process so that it was enjoyable to a fickle toddler with an atrociously short attention span, I was glad to do it.

Now that she is older and more easily engaged, we’re slowly moving to more complicated recipes like this pumpkin Biscoff cheesecake. As she grows and learns more, she gets more involved in all aspects as baking. At first she was just dumping and stirring. Then we moved on to things like preparing pans — toddler fingers greasing a pan is always a hit! — or counting out cupcake liners.

These days, I have her help with the mise en place. We get to talk about the ingredients, what the individual parts taste like, and what she thinks they will taste like when you put it all together. Plus there’s a bunch of great real life math lessons involved: counting, measuring, etc.

I can only hope that our baking sessions will be seared into her memory. I know that they are forever in my own.

Here is my little helper in an outtake photobombing the Biscoff product shots!

Here is TLE carefully pressing the Biscoff crumbs in nice and evenly to make the crumb crust. :) (You can see part of the Learning Tower behind her.)


Pumpkin Biscoff Cheesecake

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours

1 9\" cheesecake

Pumpkin Biscoff Cheesecake

Combining seasonal favorite pumpkin with the caramelized, slightly spicy goodness of Biscoff cookies, this is a great fall cheesecake for any occasion.


  • 1 package Biscoff cookies (8.8 oz)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • Cheesecake
  • 2 packages cream cheese (8oz each)
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp Biscoff Spread
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree


Cookie crust

Crush Biscoff cookies into fine crumbs and mix together with melted butter.

Press crumb and butter mixture into a 9" pie pan

Bake crust in a preheated 350F for 5 minutes. Remove from oven while you work on the filling.

Cheesecake filling

Combine cream cheese, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and spices and mix together until well blended.

Divide cream cheese batter evenly between two bowls.

Add pumpkin puree into one of the bowl of cream cheese batter, mixing well until the pumpkin is evenly distributed.

Add 1/2 cup of Biscoff spread into other bowl of cream cheese batter, mixing well to distribute evenly distributed.

Pour most of the pumpkin batter into the prepared cookie crust, reserving about 1/4 cup before pouring the Biscoff batter on top of the pumpkin batter.

Dollop the reserved pumpkin batter and Biscoff spread onto the top and then swirl with a tooth pick or the tip of a knife.

Bake the cheesecake in a preheated 350F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the center is set.

Remove from oven and cool on counter top for one hour before placing in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.

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Chili con Carne and Cornbread

Chili and Cornbread

Chili and Cornbread

Chili con carne is a seasonal food for me, one that I think about every autumn. Much as I love summer’s bounty in the form of local farm fresh produce, I am not a fan of the summer heat! So I’m more than happy to say goodbye to summer to welcome in the fall and its blustery temperatures with bowls of hearty soups and stews.

The very first time I made this chili was over a decade ago, when I got a little ambitious and decided to make this for my friend RD’s housewarming party. It was the first time I would ever cook for such a large crowd and I was a little lot overwhelmed. I kind of cringe now to think of the various missteps that I had when trying to feed a crowd of ravenous 20 somethings. Thank goodness for friends who jumped in to help!

I’ve made this chili countless times since that first time. It’s consistently been a crowd pleaser, no matter what size the crowd. It’s just the right amount of spicy with this great blend of flavors. It’s a Texas style chili meaning that it’s a big bowl of meat in red sauce — not a bean in sight! I’m perfectly happy without them but if you like beans, feel free to throw in a can or two of pintos during the long simmer.

Chili con Carne

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

Chili con Carne

Based on El Cid Chili from Food Network, this is an all-meat chili for hearty appetites. Great as-is with a block of sweet cornbread or as a topper for chili dogs, nachos, and more.


  • 2 lbs stew beef, cut into 1/2" dice
  • 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 lbs chorizo sausage
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 cup chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes with basil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 green jalapenos, slit lengthwise 3 times each
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar


Heat a large heavy bottomed stock pot over medium high heat.

Season the cubed stew meat with a little bit of salt and pepper.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in the pot and saute meat in batches until browned.

Remove the browned meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

Add another tablespoon of cooking oil to the pot and saute the onion and garlic until soft and translucent.

Add ground beef and chorizo and continue cooking over medium high heat, stirring occasionally to break up the meats until the beef has cooked through.

Add the browned stew meat and any accumulated juices, crushed tomatoes, beef broth, chili powder, cocoa, cumin, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and jalapeno peppers.

Bring to a boil and stir well to distribute the powdered spices, making sure there are no lumps.

Lower to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

After two hours, remove the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and jalapenos.

Add in cornmeal and brown sugar and stir well to incorporate.

Simmer for another 15 minutes until thickened before serving.

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Cornbread is one of those foods that I thought I hated. I wouldn’t even touch the stuff until I was well into my teens. I guess I just had to find the right kind of cornbread, which for me is the type that you’d get at Marie Callender’s — that really moist, sweet and soft cornbread, topped with honey butter.

Imagine my surprise when I tried real Southern cornbread for the first time — unsweetened! My tastebuds were very confused.

Much as I adore uber-sweet cornbread, I’ve been making more of an effort to cut down on sweets. So this cornbread recipe is somewhere between traditional Southern cornbread and the sweet cornbread I love. This cornbread recipe is easy to mix up from pantry staples and just a touch sweet, making it a healthy choice.



  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted


Preheat your oven to 400F

In a large bowl, mix together the corn meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.

Add the eggs and milk to the dry ingredients, mixing just until a batter is formed.

Add the melted butter to the batter and mix to thoroughly combined.

Pour the batter into a greased pie plate or 8 x 8 square baking pan.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 20 minutes before serving.

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