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frodo says goodbyeAs we approach the end of the Age of Peter Jackson in Middle-earth (for now), we find ourselves a bit like our dear Hobbits watching Frodo and Gandalf sail away to the Gray Havens:  Misty-eyed, a little lost, reluctant to leave the shore until the ship has passed from sight. Parting from our friends with whom we have shared so much is painful, but there is more of our own story yet to write, and we must live it.

But what a wonderful journey it has been.  From the first wide shot of the Shire with its furry-footed Hobbits, we were off on an adventure that would connect us to people across the world who loved Middle-earth too – we went to symphonies together, chatted on websites, attended movie premiers and Oscar parties.  So devoted were we that our fandom spawned a movie – and brought new meaning to the word “Ringers.” Those of us who were not so adventurous or without means to travel were treated to little video moments of fan events and an insane number of production videos to help us feel included in the excitement.  We bought the theatrical VHS version, then the DVD of same.  We traded up to the Extended Edition DVD Sets and downloaded the soundtracks.

When we had memorized all the lines of every character in all the films, we went on to the appendices to learn all about making movies, and the forging of lifelong friendships that happens when you move to Middle-earth to dress up in wigs and pointy ears and amazing costumes, ride beautiful horses and explore breathtaking landscapes while breaking toes, ribs, teeth and suffering allergic reactions to your character’s makeup.  All of that to make a movie – one that most people up until then had thought could not be made.

And then, when we could hardly stand the thought that The Hobbit might never happen, suddenly there were THREE more movies.  We thrilled (and yes, sometimes grumbled at directorial indulgences) as more stories were brought to life on the screen.  We will soon be investing in twentieth anniversary editions of everything the merchandising machine can throw at us to keep our Hobbit habit alive.

From the forging of The Fellowship until our soon-to-be final installment of The Hobbit, we have delighted in each new chapter and given up countless hours of our short lives in four-hour film viewings and then twelve-hour marathons. Soon – for the very dedicated and those for whom time still stands relatively still – there will be the “extended marathons” of six films from the Fellowship through Battle of Five Armies (only backwards – in chronological order).

But there is nothing for it, my dear friends. “It is time,” as Gandlaf said to Frodo, to sail away and be at peace.  It is time to figure out what to do with the rest of the time we have been given.   Our fellowship of fans and bloggers and movie marathons may fade over time, but we will continue to tell the stories to our grandchildren of the time when Middle-earth became a real place – a place you could actually visit and touch and smell and feel yourself a part of.  A place that transports you from the world of literature and your imagination to the magical but real world that is modern Middle-earth.  Who among us does not have NZ on our bucket list because of these films?

Should I never make it to the other side of the world, I will always feel as if I have been there in spirit.

And so now, here at the end of all things, we stand and take stock of how our lives have changed in this time.  Some of us discovered Tolkien for the first time through the movies, and went on to read the books as well.  The movies even brought some families together because of the mathoms and toys we gathered into our homes.

As for this household, we now find ourselves with an abundance of memorabilia and a lifestyle that demands downsizing.  We recently came into the possession of a treasure-trove of collectibles.  Someone abandoned them at a resale store!  So we were compelled to rescue these friends from an uncertain fate.  We have begun to place them on Ebay where we hope they will find a loving home and adoring family to give them the place of honor they deserve. Here is a link to The Google + album depicting the various lots we’ve grouped the items into by scenes in the films.   “We have a CAVE troll” and Arwen at the fords of Bruinen challenging the Black Rider are just a few.   Several are already posted for bidding, more will be posted in the next two weeks.

If you should find yourself in need of gifts for the geeks in your life, now’s the time!  The precious is calling to you, it wants to be found!

Mae govannen!

PS – As of 12/16/14 Most of the action figures are selling or sold, but there are some still up for auction!


Radagast’s Rhosgobel “Rabbit” Sausage Sauté – tastes alot like chicken!Rostobel Rabbit Sausage Saute

The eccentric old wizard Radagast the Brown is the Middle-earth version of St Francis of Assisi!  The animals of the forest come to his home for refuge and healing.  His magic potions sometimes even bring them back from the brink of death!   He is even able to communicate with some of them using the Westron language – most notably his prized Rhosgobel rabbits

Everyone knows rabbits are swift of foot, but this breed of rabbit is even faster than usual, and much bigger – up to two feet long not counting the legs!  So it only makes sense that they would work wonderfully to pull a wizard’s sleigh!  Able to dart quickly in new directions to evade enemies such as giant spiders, bats, wargs, and grissly orcs, they are excellent at creating a diversion so a company of dwarves, a hobbit, and a wizard can escape into the caves that lead to Rivendell!  It may seem improbable that a team of rabbits can perform such feats, but, when Gandalf suggested the wargs and orcs would over power them, Radagast defiantly replied, “These are no ordinary rabbits!  These are Rhosgobel Rabbits! LET THEM TRY!”

 

As a point of clarification, please note that this is not a Middle-earth Recipe from the “LOTR Scrapbook” site but is a creation of my own, and the suggestion for the name of the dish came from my husband.

Radagast’s Rhosgobel Rabbit Sausage Sauté

6 large sausages
1 large sweet onion
2 cloves of garlic, smashed (more if you really like garlic)
2 large fresh tomatoes, diced (or canned if not in season)
Fresh ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper
White wine
White rice, prepared in advance

Obtain a package of six large sausages of your liking from the local market – chicken, pork, or turkey.  They come with a variety of seasonings these days!

Grill the sausages, preferably over a flame, but a cast iron skillet works well indoors too.

While sausages are grilling, slice or dice the onions and tomatoes.  Remove the sausages from the grill and cut them into one inch rounds.

Heat a large heavy skillet to medium high and add two tablespoons of olive oil and the smashed garlic.  Stir it quickly so the garlic doesn’t burn, then add the sausage pieces.  Immediately add the white wine and let it cook off a bit, stirring the sausage a couple of times.  You’re just keeping the meat warm and letting it soak up the flavors.

Turn down the heat to medium and push the sausage to the side of the skillet and add the onions, salt and pepper, sautéing until nicely browned and translucent.  Then add the tomatoes and stir all of the ingredients together, cooking another 2 minutes or so.

If you like cheese with your “rabbit” consider adding fresh ricotta cheese in serving spoon-size portions around the top and let it melt into the mixture for a few minutes.

Serve over steamed white rice, noodles, or potatoes!  You might also add sauteed mushrooms or peppers to this dish.

This post, which has been a long time coming since my last one, is in honor of the milestone of more than 50,000 site views! Thanks for noticing!


The desolation of Smaug is indeed cause for celebration as the old worm lies dead amid the smoldering ruins of Esgaroth.  The burglar Bilbo Baggins proved his quality to the once doubting company of Dwarves by outwitting the Dragon and discovering his weakness — an unprotected patch under his left breast.   Fatally pierced by the Bowman’s arrow, the treasure of Erebor was restored to its rightful owners.   The Dwarves had their revenge at last!

seed cakes for gimli

While news  of the dragon’s demise spread, it was fitting for the thirteen dwarves and their burglar to celebrate.  With the city in ruins, the celebration would be sparse.  But our dear Hobbit is nothing if not resourceful, and also very fond of parties.   He rallied the younger Dwarves Kili and Fili and off they went on another mission — this time to look for provisions for the party amid the ruins of the town.   Kili and Fili wished there might be more than roasted coneys on the menu — they talked of the sweet seedcakes that were part of every Dwarf family celebration.  Because of his heroism, the townsfolk took pity upon Bilbo and offered him what little they could find left of their provisions.  He inquired whether there might be any ingredients to bake a tasety treat, as they had been on their journey for a very long time and he was yearning for some of the comforts of his home back in the Shire.    One of the dear old women of the city brought him to the rubble that had been her home and offered whatever he might find there.  As luck would have it, Bilbo managed to scrounge up a bit of this and a dab of that and unearthed a few pots while he was at it.  Kili and Fili came running — Kili was carrying a goat and Fili had a chicken in one hand and two eggs in the other!    It seemed like their wish would be granted as they watched Bilbo work his magic,  though there would not be enough to share with all the rest. After baking it on the open fire Bilbo cut it into four sections — not three.  Kili and Fili protested that if he cut the cake into three pieces they would each have more.  But Bilbo had another plan.  Taking his slice and the fourth with it, he led the young Dwarves back to the camp with Kili and Fili protesting the whole distance.  But once they arrived, they witnessed the legendary Hobbit hospitality as Bilbo offered the fourth piece to Thorin, their leader.   If anyone else should enjoy this sweet revenge, it was he.

“Seedcake for Gimli”  The recipe is a bit like a scone in a pan.  In my version I substituted Chia seeds.  I’d been wondering what to do with them and I don’t care for caraway which is in the original! I also added a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to the wet ingredients before adding the dry.   I baked mine in a 10 inch cast iron skillet.   I cannot vouch for the recipe’s 45 minute cooking time because my oven is not heating properly, but at 350 degrees in my oven I only needed 20 minutes but that could be due to the cast iron.  Definitely use the middle rack as suggested so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.   I am not sure if the recipe is meant to be slightly thinner than a biscuit dough, then it would have taken longer.  The only other thing I did differently is not sift the flour.  Give it a try!  I’m going to have it for breakfast with a bit of yogurt!


Back in the finer days, before orcs and cave trolls ravaged the great city of Dwarrowdelf, Balin’s kin would gather for his legendary feasts, which always included his famous Spiced Beef.  Now the dwarven people, as we well know, are a rather proud folk; prone to boasting and very fond of contests to demonstrate their prowess.  Games of one-ups-man-ship between best mates were a daily occurrence.

And so, on the mornings before Balin’s gatherings, it was customary for the elder dwarf to summon a few of the younger dwarves and challenge them with the question, “which of you lads has the sharpest axe, the best aim, and the strongest arm?”

As each one roared, “I DO!,” they snapped to attention, fixing their eyes on Balin’s eyes, planting feet firmly in the soil and crossing their arms over puffed-out chests.  “Well, then,” Balin continued, “it seems as though we have a stalemate – each of you believes he is the best, but only one can be the champion.  We will have a contest.  I plan a feast for tomorrow, and we are short on game.   Go out to the hunt, and bring us back a prize.  The first one to return before nightfall with the largest kill shall be the champion.”

As the young dwarves ran to gather their weapons, Balin would turn to his best huntsmen and, with a wink and a nod from him, the men set about the task of butchering the game they had caught before that morning’s sunrise.  Even if the lads managed to bring back a fox or a few rabbits, let alone a buck, it wouldn’t be enough to fill this hearty and hungry lot.  And it would take hours for the meat to slowly roast until it fell cleanly off the bone.  They would have the day to get at least the first course ready to eat.

The young champion had the honor of being seated next to Balin at the feast, his contribution to the meal now roasted to perfection.  The first bite was Balin’s, who would proclaim that it was the most delicious of all the choices laid out before them.  The cousins and brothers, mothers and sisters, grandmothers and other elders of the company would then cheer the young hunter and dig into the feast.  Strong drink flowed and merry songs of conquests were sung with great gusto. 

Torches were lit from the fire and families slowly went off to sleep, filled not just with food, but the hospitality of their friend and elder, Balin, who was greatly esteemed by all who knew him.

_____________________

This is a very delicious recipe that works well in a crock pot but for authenticity why not try a cast iron dutch oven if you can find one.  Add vegetables to make it a stew if you like, and soak up the juices with a crusty garlic bread!  We also suggest shredding the cooked beef for sandwiches to stave off your hunger while you watch the Oscars to see how The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey was honored.


Merry's Mulled Cider and Chai Spiced Tea

Merry’s Mulled Cider and Chai Spiced Tea

“And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).” — The Lord of the Rings, Prologue.

It’s the season for invitations to holiday parties, most of which you cannot decline lest you find yourself alone at home next year.   Some Hobbits enjoy staying at home with a pipe and a pint; but they would not wish to be rude.  Miss Dora Baggins’ Book of Manners was the definitive work on Hobbit meals and etiquette. It was followed exactly by all good Hobbit wives and husbands. So off they would go, from party to party to party, eating their way across the Shire from breakfast to second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper.

You wouldn’t hear the words “No, thanks, I’m dieting,” at one of these parties!   There would be huge glazed hams, sweet baby carrots, buttery potatoes, fried mushrooms, and mouth-watering breads.  For dessert there would be scones, cakes and tarts.  As for beverages, Hobbits are fond of good wine and ale, but they also enjoy a nice cup of tea or a mulled apple cider.

Estella and Merry Brandybuck usually had tea with Pippin and Diamond Took and their son Faramir.  Often they would invite Samwise and Rosie but only when school was in session.  Oh, they loved all 13 of the Gamgee children, but having so many little Hobbits around at tea time made the whole affair pointless.  There was simply too much noise and activity to relax and talk with old friends.

After Frodo left the Shire for the Gray Havens, the three didn’t speak as much about their journey when they were together.  But now and then, at tea time, the room would grow still, and everyone would lift their cups in silence to the memory of Frodo.  How thankful they were for their friendship, and the good things of the Shire — like a pint of mulled cider or a cup of spiced tea.  It was good to be home, feeling safe again, since King Aragorn re-gained the throne of Gondor and brought peace to all the residents of Middle-earth.


3 News NZ online has a link to The Middle-earth Foodie in a story dated December 16, 2012,  about a new book being written on food inspired by Tolkien’s works.


The women of Lake-town who survived the wrath of the dragon Smaug and saw his defeat at the hand of Bard the Bowman, set about making their new city a place to rival any other settlement of men in Middle-earth.  While the men were focused on construction, the women made sure they were well-fed.  Re-building an entire town would not be easy nor swift, but the NEW Lake-town, or Esgaroth, as it would be named, would be far less flamable!  This feature was perhaps a bit late in coming, since there was no more threat of immolation from gold-hoarding dragons.

Nonetheless, the residents wanted to attract new businesses, and, of course, tourism was bound to pick up once the bones of Smaug were recovered from the bottom of the lake and re-assembled for viewing.  A museum celebrating the heroism of Bard the Bowman would be built and the dragon’s bones placed on exhibit.   One could envision future festivals celebrating the great victory over Smaug with dragon kite flying contests, dragon boat rides, and flaming sword-swallowers on parade down the main street.  Perhaps the wizard Mithrandir would join them and offer up some of his famous fireworks!

Once the city was in good enough shape to promote itself as a destination — “Visit Esgaroth!  We’re no longer flammable!” — would be the focus for the marketing campaign — a farmers’ and artists’ market was established on the lake shore.   Many vendors offered dragon-themed wares, such as replicas of the arrow that slew Smaug, wall hangings featuring the dragon breathing fire over the city, and deep-fried “dragon on a stick.”

These novelties were a necessary part of the tourism industry, but they were not the reason for the market’s eventual fame.   The Esgaroth Public Market became known throughout the realms of Middle-earth for its regional cuisine!  The women had preserved some of the former town’s heritage by serving traditional foods that were handed down to them over generations of mothers of Lake-town.   Many recipes included varieties of fresh fish from the lake.  And in summer, the bounty of the gardens came to the Market in dishes featuring fresh tomatoes, peppers, spinach, onions, carrots, spices and herbs.

While recipes of this era have not survived, one can imagine such a dish as we will call Lake-town Market Salad.   Since it would have been poor stewardship to waste any of the harvest, one way to use up the odds and ends was to combine them with grains or noodles to create a one-dish meal.  Lake-town Market Salad was not as famous as other, more sophisticated, dishes, but it has a regional flare that reminds one of the rustic way of life back in the third age of men.

Lake-town Market Salad

2 cups cooked risotto
1 each small Yellow, Orange and Red Bell Peppers
2 Green Tomatoes
2 Ripe Tomatoes
1 small Shallot or Onion
Black olives (or green if you prefer)
1 can of black beans (or other variety or combination of beans)
Fresh basil, oregano, and parsley to taste
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tbl Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper to taste
Cook risotto according to package directions, drain, and set aside to cool.
Dice the vegetables and add to the risotto with the herbs and spices.
Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar.  Stir.  Place in refrigerator to cool one hour before serving.
A dollop of sour cream or ricotta cheese on top is a nice addition, or add cubed ham and shredded cheese for a anti-pasto.
 
This “salad” is also good served hot – after mixing (omit the olive oil and vinegar), heat it on the stove top or put it into the oven.  Grate cheese over it to get nice and melty.  You could also put this mixture into a nice broth — either chicken or beef — and make a soup or stew!  Add tobasco or red pepper flakes for those who like it with some kick!
 
*Disclaimer — this recipe is not on the Middle-earth Recipes site.  It is my own creation, in honor of Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo’s birthdays today, September 22, 2012.

Roasted Potatoes and Onions

Roasted Potatoes and Onions

     What Sam wouldn’t have given for a bag of fresh-dug taters to put in his rabbit stew!  The brief but welcome stop on the journey to Mordor found him inspired to cook sumthin’ tastey and the “brace of coneys” that Gollum proudly presented to him conjured up thoughts of home.  What a feast he could have made of it from his massive garden of vegetables back in the Shire.  The scrawny rabbits promised to be tough and would need a good boiling to soften up.  Good thing he still had some spices in his bag!  He couldn’t imaging much worse than unseasoned rabbit for supper!  Or maybe he could — another month of nothing but Lembas!  That would just about do him in, he reckoned.

   With the meat on the boil over the open fire, Sam noticed he was suddenly alone.  He looked around and saw Gollum crawling off into the scrub and Mr. Frodo nowhere to be found.  Sam bolted up to follow Gollum and suddenly came upon Frodo, who was lying on his belly and looking intently off into the distance.  Oliphants!  What a sight!  Sam was thrilled to get a look at these massive creatures and hoped to live to tell about it some day after they returned from the journey.

No sooner had their delight turned to dismay as arrows began to fly from somewhere near them.   Before they could escape, they found themselves in the company of Rangers from Gondor.  The Rangers didn’t trust Sam and Frodo but they were hungry from their travels and smelled the boiling coneys on the fire.  Their captain, Faramir, agreed to take up the matter of what to do with the two halflings after supper, which Sam had graciously invited them to share.  Sam figured the best way to defeat an enemy was by kindness, and besides, he desperately did not want to walk away from the first decent meal he would have in weeks!

This recipe, as depicted, is a combination of two potato recipes — Potatoes Boulangere and Roasted Potatoes with Onions.  I had picked up some multi-colored small potatoes at Trader Joe’s with this dish in mind. I added leeks, which are not called for in either recipe, but which I had on hand.  You can put nearly any mix of spices you like in these dishes.  Mine was done in a pressure cooker with chicken.   So on the plate you see the potatoes, a bit of roasted chicken breast, and a dollop of champagne and shallot butter (store-bought).   They were very tasty, but I know I’d prefer them browned in a pan or on the grill.  Either way, they make a nice side dish to any meat or a yummy addition to a vegetarian stew, if that’s what you like!  In case you’re looking for the Boulangere dish, I found the link to be broken on the Middle-earth Recipe site.  But if you find the Roasted Potatoes and Onions dish, scroll around and you’ll also find Potatoes Boulangere!


This post is in appreciation of a new The Middle-earth Foodie’s subscriber (are there others?) who served up a warm helping of praise with the lament that there was not more.  I hinted that a motivator might be more subscribers.  So I submit this entry, simple as it may be, to say thanks!

Summer is waning and the new school year is upon the children of Hobbiton.  After a hearty breakfast of porridge, the round doors open and the paths fill with little Proudfoots, Brandybucks, Tooks, and Gamgees tramping off to be greeted by Mayor Sam.

Each year since the Scouring of the Shire, Sam has made the same speech to the returning students.  He would not let the memory of Mr. Frodo and Mr. Bilbo fade into the distance, like the Elven ship carrying them off to the Gray Havens.   He, Merry and Pippin would make sure that the lessons of The Fellowship would be remembered for all generations of Hobbits to come.  Never again would the Shire folk stand by while their land, homes, and peaceful way of life was destroyed by evil outsiders.

And so, each year, Mayor Sam calls the little ones to gather around him under the Party Tree.  The parents and elders quiet the excited group and everyone settles in to hear the story of the journey to Mordor and back again. 

Sam’s storytelling now rivals that of Old Mr. Bilbo, and the children listen, riveted, as he draws out the sword Sting and holds up the Mithril vest worn by Frodo.  They shiver at the descriptions of Wraiths, Orcs, Wargs and of the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog.  They fall silent in wonder at the gift-giving in Lothlorien.  Their mouths gape open at the final battle between Frodo and Gollum.  

And with the Mayor’s admonitions to honor the memory of Frodo and Bilbo by respecting the land, keeping loyal to family and friends, and living a peaceful life with all residents of Middle-earth stirring their hearts, a chorus begins to rise from their midst:

Tho men may call us little, and hold that we are weak,
yet we are friends of kings and queens, there’ll be no more defeat! 
The road may lead t’ward dangers, yet we shall not lose heart. 
Evil wizards, wraiths and dragons cannot pull the Shire apart.  
Together we shall thwart them, never yielding to the threat; 
for we are made of stronger stuff than they have seen as yet! 

 

Apologies to Middle-earth Recipes, but this one is not posted on their site.  Its a little something I concocted that seemed to require a Middle-earth identity.

Smaug's Meaty Bits - Dragon Sized Appetizers

 

Easy as (meat) pie to make!  All you need is:

2 sheets of refrigerated puff pastry dough, thawed

1 pound of ground beef (chicken or turkey would work too)

1 cup Salsa

1- 1/2 cups Monterey Jack Cheese or a Mexican Blend

1 cup Spicy Black Bean Dip (Trader Joe’s preferred)

1 pint Sour cream (for topping)

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions as garnish

One regular size muffin tin for 12 muffins

Cooking spray

Roll out the puff pastry dough to about half of its “out of the box” thickness.  Cut six equal squares from each of the two sheets of dough.   They don’t need to be exact, but should be about 3 inches square in size so they drape over the outside rim of the muffin tins. 

Spray the tins with a light coat of cooking spray.  Place the dough squares into regular size muffin tins and without stretching too much gently shape the dough into the tin to form a well for the meat to fill.

Brown your ground meat and drain the grease from it.  (The best way to do this is to layer paper towels on a plate and spoon the meat onto the paper to soak up the excess oils.)

Mix the spicy bean dip into the meat to hold it together and to give it flavor.  If you want to add other seasonings, be my guest!

Fill each pastry-lined muffin tin with a couple of tablespoons of the meat/bean mixture.

Cover each one with one tablespoon of chunky salsa (if it is too liquid it will make the pastry mushy.)

Top with about 1/8 cup of grated cheese

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown

Cool just a bit, then add a dollop of sour cream and a few sprinkles of green onion

This should make 12, maybe a few more, depending on how well you are able to get the pastry dough to cooperate!

If you happen to own a tamed dragon, then you know how they can be very handy in the kitchen! 

  • They can re-light your pilot when the gas stove goes out. 
  • You don’t need a torch to create a lovely carmelized sugar on top of your Crème brûlée
  • Meringue toppings on your pies will have just the right touch of brown
  • They will roast the skins right off of those poblano peppers when making chiles rellenos
  • And it goes without saying they’re mighty handy around a campfire for making s’mores!
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