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Expert Interview Series: Sarah Downey of Foodie Dice About Preparing Creative Dishes

Creative dishes
Sarah Downey founded Two Tumbleweeds with her sister, Liz, to create products that inspire creativity in everyday life, the first of which is Foodie Dice. Sarah sat down with us recently to tell us how experimenting with different foods and spices can make you a better cook.

What exactly ARE Foodie Dice, and how do you use them to create tasty, unorthodox dishes and meals?

A fun new way to shake up your cooking routine, Foodie Dice is a set of 9 dice designed to inspire creative, whole-ingredients meals. There are 4 seasonal veggie dice each marked with a symbol denoting the season, and 5 primary dice (protein, cooking method, grain/carb, herbs, and bonus ingredient). You select the current season’s veggie die and roll with the other 5 dice.

We also have a 4-dice booster set (seafood protein, spices, additional herbs, and “wild card” ingredients) to add some adventure. You can either create a meal following your roll exactly, or use the dice result as an inspirational starting point.

We also have some other sets – Desserts, Asian Bowls, Salad Dressings, and Mixology Dice.

When using Foodie Dice, how do you know how long to bake, cook, stir, or heat the ingredients?

Well unless you’re an experienced cook, you don’t – but that’s part of the adventure. There are so many resources to turn to online for cooking temps and times; and in my experience, you learn a lot more by cooking on the fly than by following recipes. Using the dice and creating my own meals has made me a more confident cook, which makes cooking more fun and saves time.

One of the obvious qualities of Foodie Dice is their “unpredictability” in terms of what meal to prepare. Do you think that many of today’s busy people often get into a “cooking rut?”

Yes, and I think that’s part of why Foodie Dice has been successful. This “rut” is something a lot of people experience.

Do you think that Foodie Dice appeals to people who are intimidated by recipes?

I do, and I think cooking with the dice can make you more confident with using recipes, as well as making changes if you don’t have an ingredient on hand or want to add your own twist. Sometimes recipes are great; other times it’s fun to start from scratch.

For families who have children who are “finicky” eaters, are Foodie Dice a good idea?

Yes! Our favorite feedback has been from people who have used the dice to cook with their kids. The dice make cooking more fun and get kids interested in the process – which I think makes them more likely to try new foods.

What are some of the “foodie staples” that Foodie Dice owners should keep in their refrigerator or pantry?

Anything that keeps well – grains (rices, polenta, quinoa, pastas, millet), dried herbs and spices, potatoes and garlic, eggs – and it never hurts to have protein options in the freezer. Veggies are something I usually buy fresh, but having a few frozen veggies makes it easier to throw something together at the last minute.

Do you know of any Foodie Dice combinations that sound weird but actually taste pretty good?

Cinnamon is on our booster spice die, which sounds odd at first but works well with a lot of things – like cinnamon rubbed pork or squash.

Could you please share a recipe for one of your favorite Foodie Dice creations?

This one was actually created by Emily at Nourishing Matters, but we love it!

Middle Eastern Grilled Eggplant with Lemon Tahini Sauce

Grilled Eggplant:
1 large eggplant, top removed, and cut into 1/4″ slices lengthwise
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained (canned are fine)
1 1/2 teaspoons za’atar spice mix or dried oregano
1 large handful of cilantro or parsley, washed and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

Lemon Tahini Sauce:
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 garlic clove, minced
2 1/2 tablespoons tahini paste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Grill eggplant. Heat grill to high heat. Drizzle eggplant slices with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle evenly with salt. Grill eggplant slices, turning once, until softened, about 5-8 minutes total. Remove from grill and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix lemon zest and juice and garlic clove. Allow to sit for 5 minutes for garlic to mellow. Whisk in tahini paste, extra-virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

In another bowl, combine rice, chickpeas, za’atar, cilantro, salt, and 1/2 of the lemon tahini sauce. Stir until well-combined.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay out eggplant slices on a cutting board or countertop and place a heaping spoonful of filling on one end of each slice. Roll each slice up. Tuck away in a baking dish, seam side down. If any filling remains, you can sprinkle it around the edges of the dish. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle remaining lemon tahini sauce on top and sprinkle with remaining herbs. Enjoy! Serves 4.

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