Monster Soup

Monster Soup

In spite of all my hopes and plans, this is the one recipe that I was forced to use food coloring.  I tried using, what I had thought, the perfect ingredient for making this soup purple without using any coloring…  But, unfortunately, the purple potatoes not only did NOT make the soup purple, it turned it a horrible shade of brown, meaning I simply had to use coloring to make it a nice, purple shade.  So sad.

Monster Souptime etc

Cut the onions, carrots, and celery into bite size pieces.  Wash and dice the potatoes, too.  Now, we know that I like my vegetables with their skins on, but if you feel so inclined, peel the carrots and potatoes.

In a nice pot heat the butter on medium until melted.  Add the carrots, onions, and celery and saute for 2 minutes, until the raw look is gone.  Add the potatoes and cook, stirring continuously, until the potatoes are “crisp tender”.  This means it’s still hard, but not raw.  This’ll take about 5-8 minutes.

veggies in a pot

veggies and brothAdd all the vegetable broth and bring to a boil, raising the heat if needed.  Reduce the heat back to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are starting to soften up.  Then we want to add the milk and flour.  Now, a word of caution about the flour and milk – we want to make sure that the flour is COMPLETELY whisked into the milk before we add it to the soup.  If it’s not you’ll end up with lumpy bits of flour everywhere and it’ll be gross.  Allow everything to simmer for about 5 minutes.  By this time the potatoes should be getting softer.

You’ll need to be extra careful with this next part.  Take out 1/2 of the soup, using a heat-proof container.  Pour the soup into a blender in however many batches you need to make it fit, blend until smooth, and pour back into the remaining soup.  When half of the soup is blended, and all the soup is back together, add the heavy cream.  Stir and heat until hot and then taste for seasonings.  You may want to add the rest of the salt and pepper now…

add coloring

Guys, now it’s time for the part that makes this Halloweeny, but also kinda weird.  Add all the food coloring.  It feels like a lot, I know, but it’ll make it the best color for Monster Soup – and make it not a weird shade of brown… I honestly thought pureeing purple potatoes would make the soup purple, not brown.  But I was wrong.  So if you don’t want to add Monster Extract to your soup, simply use russet potatoes to ensure that your soup is a nice, creamy white instead of a weird brown.

monster soup

Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, and fresh chives.  Also, if you’re using this at a Halloween party, serve it in a small cauldron for a great touch!

Link’s Monster Soup recipe:

    • Fresh Milk
    • Tabantha Wheat
    • Goat Butter
    • Monster Extract

Monster Soup

  • Servings: 5-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Potato Soup with purple coloring for a lovely Halloween effect


Recipe adapted from Perfect Potato Soup by Ree Drummond from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

  • 1 pound purple potatoes (or russet for a white soup instead of purple soup)
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk (substitute almond milk to make this vegan)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or more almond milk for a vegan recipe)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon purple gel food coloring
  • grated cheese, fresh chives, and sour cream to garnish

Directions

  1. Cut the onions, carrots, and celery into bite size pieces. Peel, if you desire.
  2. Wash and dice the potatoes, again, peeled if you desire.
  3. Heat the butter on medium in a pot until melted.
  4. Add the carrots, onions, and celery and saute for 2 minutes, until the raw look is gone.
  5. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring continuously, until the potatoes are crisp tender, about 5-8 minutes.
  6. Add all the vegetable broth, and the first amounts of salt, pepper, and paprika, and bring to a boil, raising the heat if needed.
  7. Reduce the heat back to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes start to soften.
  8. Whisk together the milk and flour until completely combined. Add to the soup and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the potatoes are nearly soft.
  9. Using caution, remove 1/2 of the soup, using a heat-proof container. Pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. You may need to blend in batches if your blender is small. Pour the blended soup back into the pot and stir to combine.
  10. Add the heavy cream and stir and heat until lightly simmering.
  11. Taste for seasonings, adding the remaining salt, pepper, and paprika if desired.
  12. Add the first amount of the food coloring. Stir until completely combined and the soup begins to change. If a darker purple is desired, continue adding coloring until the color you’re looking for is achieved.
  13. Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, and fresh chives.

Top 10 Spooky Movies

Top 10 Spooky Movies

I love spooky, haunted movies so much that I tend to only watch them during October.  That way, I get my fix, watch as many as I want as often as I want, and then can move on to other genres when the season is over.  Otherwise I’m afraid I’ll get far too bored of them and not be in the mood when the festive time of year comes around!  And every year, no matter how many new movies I may want to explore, I always find time for my Top 10 Spooky Movies.  I tried to keep it to 5, guys, I really did.  But I just couldn’t!  Now, this list may surprise you, since there’s only two truly scary movies on it.  But, really, I love these movies so much that no matter what other horror film I watch I always make time for these!  And since most of them are family-friendly they’ll go perfectly with whatever Halloween fright level you’re at!

ghost and mr chicken

The Ghost and Mr Chicken

This movie is, by far, my favorite Halloween movie.  When I was a kid it used to scare me to death!  Combine that with the fact that this movie probably, in conjunction with the Haunted Mansion, fueled my obsession with haunted houses and ghosts and how could it be anything other than my favorite!  With hilarious Don Knotts antics, witty banter you don’t quite catch as a kid, and a perfect ending, this movie is one of the greatest Halloween movies ever.  If you haven’t seen it, please watch it this year!  You won’t regret it!

the haunting

The Haunting

No!  I’m not talking about the new  The Haunting with Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta Jones and director’s stupid choices to show a dumb monster at the end.  I’m talking about the original 1963 version with Julie Harris that’ll, if you have the right mind for it, scare the living daylights out of you.  If you’re looking for jump scares and slasher villains, this isn’t the movie for you.  But if you’re looking for a classic horror film that leaves your mind prickling with fear every time you hear the creak as your house settles, this is definitely one you’ll love!  And my favorite part – the ending is almost completely unresolved, making it just that much more unsettling.

nightmare before christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Yeah, yeah, it’s a little cliche, but I love The Nightmare Before Christmas.  I love the claymation and the incredible music.  But, most especially, I love the story of a Halloween Town where all the things I loved as a kid live until it’s time to come creeping back into our lives the next year.  With catchy songs bordering creepy and fun and a style that’s suited for children and adults alike, Nightmare is a movie that’s hard to beat on a Halloween night.

ghostbusters

Ghostbusters

I’m not sure if this counts as a “Halloween” movie, but it gives me an excuse to rewatch it every year, so I make it one.  I really love 80s films and this is one of the quintessential 80s films.  With 80s superstars, outrageous acting, and subtle quips this is one of the best Halloween movies of all time.  Tie that in to some pretty amazing effects (for the time) and a soundtrack to withstand the ages and you have an absolute winner.

clue

Clue

Again, this could technically not be a Halloween movie, but I watch it every year and had to include it on this list.  This movie is hilarious, with extremely stark, witty banter, and the kind of situational humor that leaves you in stitches.  It has a star-studded cast who are all at their best when they’re able to play off each other.  And, with 4 different ways to watch the movie (the traditional, pick-one-of-three at random theatrical endings or the all-inclusive ending) this movie is the best (and one of the only) film adaptations of a board game.

woman in black

The Woman in Black

As my husband so lovingly calls it, Harry Potter and the Woman in Black is a true masterpiece in haunted house movies.  The book itself is scary enough, but this movie takes all the parts that leave your spine tingling and turns it up to 10.  The suspense and tension, combined with one of the best ghost stories written, will convince you that this is one of the scariest ghost stories ever.

corpse bride

Corpse Bride

Here it is – the second Burton movie on the list.  But I don’t care because I. Love. Corpse Bride.  This movie is incredible, with the use of color and black and white to show the stuffy lives of Victorian England.  The music is an incredible mix to classic Danny Elfman and the jazz version of Elfman, which makes for some pretty catchy songs as well as that feeling we all love to get from a Burton film.  The story is witty and clever, with a heart-warming twist and, as always, a beautiful ending.  Even if you’re not a Burton fan give this one a try.  It may just surprise you.

hocus pocus

Hocus Pocus

Especially this year, the 25th anniversary, what Halloween movie list would be complete without Hocus Pocus?  This movie includes some pretty incredible acting by Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler, and possibly your very first crush on a voice with Thackery Binks.  The Sanderson sisters are meant to steal your hearts with their hilarious attempts to stay young forever, while you’ll laugh at the absurdity of the older brother as he navigates new love and babysitting.  This movie, set in the 90s, will bring up all the nostalgia you could ever imagine or want.

practical magic

Practical Magic

My wonderful sister-in-law, who loves witches as much as I love Haunted Houses, introduced me to this one.  This wonderful love story, set among the witch-crazed northeastern US, is the perfect watch for anyone who loves romance.  The love and friendship between the two sisters is inspiring when you see how tightly they’re bound to each other, in spite of their polar opposite lives.  The brilliantly funny aunts make a nice comic relief while the creepy-crawly boyfriend adds a bit of Halloween horror.  Definitely give this one a go, but maybe not with the kids as it gets pretty dark right before the end.

frankenweenie

Frankenweenie

What?! you say.  Three Tim Burton films on your list?  Why, yes.  I absolutely and with no shame admit that I love Burton.  And this movie is, again, another Burton masterpiece.  The humor is outrageous, the parents completely relatable, and, as a scientist, Mr Rzykruski tickles my fancy.  The choice to air this movie in black and white, an homage to the traditional Frankenstein/all monster movies, is brilliant, and Winona Rider’s character just kills me every time.  Ultimately, this movie is a great story about a boy and his dog, and is something even my 2 year old loves.

Monster Curry

Monster Curry

Guys, there’s no such thing as Monster Extract.  We all know this.  It’s severely disappointing, but it’s true.  So, after much deliberation, I decided that Monster Extract was simply going to be unusual ingredients thrown into regular meals that either A) dye the food a more purple color or B) add a unique/unexpected purple food to the meal.  The goal is to actually do both.  And while some recipes will require the use of food coloring to achieve the right effect, this one, I am proud to say, does not!  Now, to make that happen, this meal isn’t quite as purple as I wish it could have been.  But we make do…

Monster Currymonster cake meter

We need to start with the chicken and the marinade.  This allows the spices to mix together for long enough that the marinade takes on the flavor of the spices and they don’t taste quite so raw and it also allows the chicken to soak up the flavor of the marinade.  It’s like… giving the chicken the Zora Tunic – all of a sudden Link takes on the characteristics of the Zora and can breathe underwater.  Thank goodness.

So cut up the thigh meat (technically you can use breast, too, but thigh tends to retain moisture better) into 1/2 inch cubes.  Doesn’t have to be perfect, we just want them similar in shape so they cook at the same time.  Then peel and cut the garlic and fresh ginger.

add to the blender

Next we add all the spices, the tomato paste, and the yogurt to a blender (or food processor if you’re cool like that).  Blend until completely combined.  You may have to stop occasionally, even in a high-powered blender like a Vitamix, and shake and scrape everything around to make sure the garlic and ginger get thoroughly chopped.

Add the spice mixture to a bowl with the chicken and stir to completely coat the chicken.  Cover and let it marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably 2.

When the chicken is nearly done marinating let’s take the onion, carrot, and beets, wash them, and dice them.  A word of caution – if you cut the beets into large or thick pieces they will take FOREVER to cook.  Don’t make my mistakes, cut them up nice and skinny.

Start the rice about the time you’re ready to start cooking.  We’ve gone over this – add rice, wash rice, add water, press start.  You guys are experts by this point!

When you’re done dicing and slicing, take the chicken out of the fridge to warm up a bit.  Add half the butter and oil to a pan – I prefer my good, old-fashioned cast iron pans.  I’m kind of obsessed with them…  When the butter is melted add the onion and cook for maybe 1-2 minutes.  Next add the carrots and beets and cook until they’re tender, about 10 minutes.

cook chicken

Remove the veggies from the pan and add the remaining butter and oil.  When the butter is, you got it, melted, add the chicken and all the marinade.  It feels like a lot.  It feels thick and goopy.  It feels weird.  But trust me, it all works out in the end.

add veggies back in

Cook until the chicken is completely cooked through.  Depending on the size of your chicken pieces it should take about 10 minutes.  Just make sure there’s no pink in the middle of a piece if you cut it open, okay?  Add back all the veggies and stir and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until everything is nice and combined.

add the cream

At this point, add your heavy cream.  Stir and mix until it’s completely combined and then simmer for about 15 minutes.  We want to give the flavors time to combine and we want to give the curry time to change colors from yellow to… a more purplish yellow…  It’s all I could do, folks.

close up

Serve with the rice and be happy!

Link’s Monster Curry recipe:

    • Hylian Rice
    • Goron Spice
    • Monster Extract

Monster Curry

  • Servings: 5
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
  • Print

A chicken korma curry with beets and carrots


Recipe adapted from Indian Chicken Korma by Sabrina from Dinner Then Dessert

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs boneless and skinless
  • 5 medium carrots
  • 8-10 beets
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil i.e. canola
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2.5 cups dry rice
  • water to cook rice

Marinade

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1.5 tablespoon-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1.5 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1/3 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more for a spicier meal)
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 1/4 cup greek yogurt

Directions

  1. Cut up the chicken thighs into 1/2 inch cubes.
  2. Add all the spices, tomato paste, and yogurt to a blender or food processor.
  3. Blend until completely combined, scraping down and mixing the sauce as needed.
  4. Add the spice mixture to a bowl with the chicken and stir to completely coat the chicken.  Cover and let it marinate in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours.
  5. Wash and dice the onion, carrot, and beets. Dice the beets into thin, bite-size pieces in order to shorten cooking times.
  6. Start the rice when you’re ready to start cooking. Rinse the rice several times, add water up to your first knuckle of your finger when it rests on top of the rice, and press start on your rice cooker.
  7. Take the chicken out of the fridge to warm up while you cook the vegetables.
  8. Add half the butter and oil to a pan. When the butter is melted add the onion and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the carrots and beets and cook until they’re tender, about 10 minutes.
  9. Remove the veggies from the pan.
  10. Add the remaining butter and oil. When the butter is melted add the chicken and all the marinade.
  11. Cook until the chicken is completely cooked through, ensuring there is no pink in the center of the chicken – about 10 minutes.
  12. Add back all the veggies and stir and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until everything is combined.
  13. Add the heavy cream.  Stir and mix until it’s completely combined and then simmer for about 15 minutes.
  14. Serve with the rice and be happy!

Top 10 Spooky Songs

Top 10 Spooky Songs

Yes, I know, this list is much longer than the last ones.  But honestly, how could it not be!?  I feel the same way about scary music as I do about Christmas music – I listen to it only around Halloween so I don’t get sick of it year round, and I listen to almost nothing else from October 1 till November 1.  I have a rather large playlist of creepy songs, fun Halloween jams, and even a few I sneak in year round because hey, they could be regular songs, too…  But listed here are my top 10 favorites, in order from favoritest, to 10th favoritest!

haunted mansion

The Haunted Mansion: Disneyland

I am a HUGE fan of the haunted mansion.  As a kid I was always a fan of the macabre, particularly ghosts and haunted houses, and even as a kid the Haunted Mansion was my favorite Disney ride.  I love the minor chords, the organ melody, and even love listening to the Ghost Host when I’m not on the ride.  All 14 minutes of this song get played to death during October… and sometimes the rest of the year, too!

nightmare before christmas

This is Halloween: Danny Elfman

I know, but I really do love The Nightmare Before Christmas.  And this song, with it’s haunting minor chords and creepy lyrics, is usually the first Halloween song I listen to October 1st.

13th hour

The Entire “The Thirteenth Hour” Album: Midnight Syndicate

It’s hard to find creepy music that isn’t tied to a film score.  And when it is a film score, all I can think about is the movie it came from and the scene related to it.  That makes it incredibly difficult to, say, play games while listening to it.  And then a good friend of mine, the people who introduced me to my top Halloween game coincidentally, introduced me to Midnight Syndicate.  This band is outrageously good, creating new, chilling content for, well, itself.  And while they have a long list of awesome albums, The Thirteenth Hour is by far my favorite, since the theme is a haunted house.  Definitely worth a listen to, and definitely worth adding to your playlists as you tabletop RPG this season!

monster mash

Monster Mash: Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers

No Halloween playlist would be complete without Monster Mash, an iconic song that includes 50’s doo wop with classic monsters!  And the best part – not scary, so little kids can participate, as well.

ghost and mr chicken

The Haunted Organ from Ghost and Mr Chicken: The Ghost and Mr Chicken Soundtrack

Easily my favorite scary theme, this haunting organ piece is designed to chill and, combined with the image of a haunted house, is likely to leave you shuddering and turning up the lights.

toccata and fugue

Toccata and Fugue in D minor: Johann Sebastian Bach

This thrilling organ piece, while not meant to be creepy at all, is one of the classic Halloween pieces.  The piercing beginning trills and runs, ending in a heavy minor chord that utilizes the depths of the base notes is the perfect song to get your mind in the Halloween spirit.

corpse bride

The Ball and Socket Lounge Music: Corpse Bride Soundtrack

If you like jazz these fun, simple, and spooky combo pieces really bring the Halloween spirit, even ending in a particularly memorable twist you’re bound to recognize.

halloween

Theme from Halloween: John Carpenter

The repeated minor piano notes, subtly and constantly playing in the background is the perfect way to set your teeth on edge and let you know that something, like those notes, may just be creeping up behind you.

psycho

The Psycho – a Suite for Strings: Bernard Herrmann

Again, this is more of a collection than a single song, because how could I possibly leave out some of the most iconic scary movie music of all time?  Even when you know you’re alone and are definitely not in the shower, this music is bound to make you check over your shoulder for an unwanted intruder.

dead man's party

Dead Man’s Party: Oingo Boingo

This song, in perfect Danny Elfman style, combines classic 80’s new wave with the almost mythical songwriting of a true creepy genius.  This particular song is a catchy, hilarious take on a funeral and the afterlife.

And a Bonus Song! ( because I couldn’t, in good conscience, leave this one off):

funeral march

Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor: Frederic Chopin

While you may not know this song by the correct title I guarantee all of you will recognize the melody as the classic “Funeral March”.  And this song, in it’s original format, has nearly 10 minutes of variations on that theme to augment any Halloween playlist.

Monster Cake

Monster Cake

It’s the first Halloween post of the season!  And yes, we are starting with the easiest, but I wanted to make sure A) the post got done and B) you could make these delicious little monsters for your own spooky (or simply fun) Halloween bash!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the polls on Instagram and Twitter this last week!  Even though the results were overwhelmingly in favor of allowing me to use purple coloring as my Monster Extract, I’ve decided on a compromise.  I’ll do half the recipes with naturally occurring purple coloring from the ingredients I use.  And for those recipes that need a little extra help I’ll add actual Monster Extract i.e. purple coloring.  Sound good?  Sound like a nice compromise?  I hope so, because it’s already happening.

Monster Cakemonster cake meter

We are going to start with the tempered chocolate.  Confession: I’ve never tempered chocolate before.  And not only have I never done it before, I just had to start with the most difficult chocolate to temper – white chocolate.  Oh well.  Prep by inserting a piping bag with a medium round tip (#10 Wilton is what I used) into a cup and wrapping the top of the bag around the edges.  It’ll be easier than trying to fill a bag in your hand.  Lay a piece of parchment paper out on the counter, and get ready to melt some chocolate!

We temper chocolate by using a candy thermometer and a water bath to gently melt the chocolate to the perfect temperature.  Start by splitting the white chocolate into two bowls – about 75% into a stainless steel bowl and 25% into any other bowl.  Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in any old pot, place the stainless steel bowl over the top, add the gel food coloring, and attach the candy thermometer.  Now, two things.  First, we MUST use gel food coloring.  If you add any amount of water to the chocolate it’ll seize up and be unusable.  And second, you’ll need to make sure the tip of the thermometer is in the chocolate BUT NOT touching the bottom.  If the tip is touching the bowl it’ll register the temperature of the bowl, NOT the chocolate.  We need to know the temperature of the chocolate.

seed the chocolate

Once it’s inserted correctly gently stir to melt the chocolate evenly until the temperature of the chocolate reads 110°F.  Quickly remove the bowl from the pot and add a few morsels of chocolate.  Stir until completely dissolved, read the temperature, and add more chocolate.  We need to use this “seed” method to bring the temperature of the chocolate down to 84°F.  This is the temperature at which the chocolate will still be shiny and not brittle.  Do it wrong, and you may have to start over.

When the chocolate reaches the correct temperature quickly add it to a piping bag and begin piping the chocolate into horn shapes on the parchment.  You’ll probably want them to be about 2 inches tall at the most – you don’t want them falling off the cakes!  Leave them on the parchment to cool and harden while we make the cake and frosting.  If you want to speed this up, yes, you can put it in the fridge.

Next – the cake!  And trust me when I say, the chocolate was the hardest part of this recipe.  The rest is… a piece of cake…

butter and sugar

Start by putting the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a bowl with a hand mixer) and beat on medium until soft.  Add the sugar and beat on medium until fluffy and pale in color (about 2 minutes).  Next, add the eggs one at a time, beating on low until each egg is fully incorporated, then bring the speed up to medium for several seconds until homogeneous.

dry ingredients

The next part is the trickiest with the cake.  Add all the dry ingredients to a bowl and either sift or, if you’re like me and don’t have a sifter, whisk until they’re fully mixed.  Then, slowly and with the mixer off (trust me on this one) add 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture to the stand mixer.  Mix on low until fully mixed.  Then add 1/2 of the buttermilk to the bowl and mix on low until incorporated.  Add the remaining 1/3 dry, 1/2 buttermilk, 1/3 dry and mix fully between each step.

Butter and lightly flour a sheet cake pan (18 x 26 inches with a 1 inch lip).  Add all the cake batter to the pan and smooth with a spatula.  It looks like a lot, I know, but this cake doesn’t actually rise a lot – it’s a pretty dense version of a blackout cake.  Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center.  Put aside and cool completely.

While the cake is either baking or cooling, let’s make the buttercream!  Now, for ease, I always make an American buttercream.  It’s much easier, doesn’t require any cooking, but is sweeter than your other versions.  I have found, with cakes, at least, that sweeter isn’t a bad thing.  Particularly because I prefer my cakes less sweet, so the balance works nicely.

Wash and blend or mash with a potato masher or fork all the blackberries.  Add the butter and powdered sugar to a bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or, again, a bowl with a hand mixer) and beat on low until the butter and powdered sugar have come slightly together.  Add 3/4 of the blackberry puree to the bowl and beat on low until the mixture comes together and there’s no more dry powdered sugar.  Beat on medium, check the consistency of the buttercream, and add more blackberries as needed to reach the right consistency.  You’ll want the frosting to hug a spoon or spatula and not slip or fall when held upside down (called a medium consistency).  This will ensure the frosting is thick enough to hold your cakes steady.

proper frosting consistency

Once the cakes are completely cooled, cut out each shape with a 3 inch round cutter.  Now, here’s where I’m going to suggest you do something different than I did.  In the pictures the cakes are overwhelmingly tall in comparison with the frosting layer.  Which is fine!  But if I were to make these for myself and my own party, instead of stacking two heavy pieces of cake together, I’d simply cut each round in half, fill the center, and stack them together again.  That way the frosting can actually hold up the top layer properly and no one gets a giant piece of cake there’s no way they could actually eat it.  Besides, by cutting it you’ll double the amount of cakes you’ll get – making this recipe way more feasible (you’ll get about 15 cakes instead of 7-8).

So, slice each cake in half or, if the warning wasn’t enough, place two whole rounds together.   Fill a piping bag fit with a large flower tip (or star tip) with frosting, and pipe rosettes around each of the bottom pieces of cake.  To pipe a rosette simply pipe a fat star about 1/3 inch above the center of the cake then pipe a swirl around the outside of the cake.  Do it in one motion to make a nice rosette or two separate motions because no one will see it, anyway.  For a good video, see the Wilton tutorial here.

Layer the top portion of the cake onto the frosting-covered bottom and pipe another rosette on the top layer, continuing the swirl all around in ever-decreasing circles to get a nice swirl.  Again, a great Wilton tutorial can be found here.

Add your monster horns by gently pressing them into the cupcake swirl and really impress your friends for that Halloween party!  These are best eaten the same day or stored in the fridge for a few days.

Link’s Monster Cake recipe:

    • Tabantha Wheat
    • Cane Sugar
    • Goat Butter
    • Monster Extract

Monster Cake

  • Servings: 15 3 inch cakes
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
  • Print

A chocolate cake layered with blackberry buttercream and topped with white chocolate horns

Recipe adapted from Devil’s Food Layer Cake by Elizabeth Pruitt from Tartine

Cake

  • 1 3/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk

White

  • 12 ounces white chocolate (morsels or baking chocolate)
  • 1/8 teaspoon purple GEL food coloring

Blackberry

  • 2 cups butter, at room temperature
  • 7 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup blackberries, washed and pureed

Directions

  1. Prepare a piping bag by inserting a medium round tip (#10 Wilton or similar). Place the bag in a cup, wrapping the top of the bag around the outside of the cup. Lay a piece of parchment paper out on the counter.
  2. Split the white chocolate into two bowls – 75% into a stainless steel bowl and 25% into any other bowl.
  3. Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a pot. When the water is lightly boiling, place the stainless steel bowl over the top, add the gel food coloring, and attach the candy thermometer. Ensure the tip of the thermometer is in the chocolate not touching the bowl.
  4. Gently stir the melting chocolate until even and the temperature reads 110°F.  5. Quickly remove the bowl from the pot and add a few morsels of chocolate.  Stir until completely dissolved, read the temperature, and add more chocolate. Continue adding and melting chocolate until the temperature reads 84°F. This is the temperature at which the chocolate will still be shiny and not brittle.
  5. When the chocolate reaches the correct temperature quickly add it to a piping bag and pipe the chocolate into horn shapes, 2 inches tall, on the parchment. Leave them on the parchment to cool and harden or put it in the fridge.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F and butter and flour a sheet cake pan (18 x 26 inches with a 1 inch lip)
  7. Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a bowl with a hand mixer) and beat on medium until soft.
  8. Add the sugar and beat on medium until fluffy and pale in color (about 2 minutes).
  9. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on low until each egg is fully incorporated, then bring the speed up to medium for several seconds until homogeneous.
  10. Add all the dry ingredients to a new bowl and whisk until they’re fully mixed.
  11. With the mixer off add the flour mixture in 3 equal batches alternately with the buttermilk in 2 equal batches. You should start and end with flour mixture.
  12. Add all the cake batter to the pan and smooth with a spatula. Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center.  Put aside and cool completely.
  13. To make the butter cream first wash and blend or mash with a potato masher or fork all the blackberries.
  14. Add the butter and powdered sugar to a bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or, again, a bowl with a hand mixer) and beat on low until the butter and powdered sugar have come slightly together.
  15. Add 3/4 of the blackberry puree to the bowl and beat on low until the mixture comes together and there’s no more dry powdered sugar. Beat on medium, check the consistency of the buttercream, and add more blackberries as needed to reach the right consistency. You’ll want the frosting to hug a spoon or spatula and not slip or fall when held upside down (called a medium consistency).  This will ensure the frosting is thick enough to hold your cakes steady.
  16. Once the cakes are completely cooled, cut out each shape with a 3 inch round cutter.
  17. In order to maximize the amount of cakes you get and to realistically frost and present the cakes cut each round in half lengthwise, dividing each round into 2 equal pieces.
  18. Fill a piping bag fit with a large flower tip (or star tip) with frosting, and pipe rosettes around each of the bottom pieces of cake. Do this by piping a fat star about 1/3 inch above the center of the cake then pipe a swirl around the outside of the cake. Do it in one motion to make a true rosette or two separate motions because no one will see it, anyway.
  19. Layer the top portion of the cake onto the frosting-covered bottom and pipe another rosette on the top layer, continuing the swirl all around in ever-decreasing circles to get a nice swirl.
  20. Add your monster horns by gently pressing them into the cupcake swirl and really impress your friends for that Halloween party! These are best eaten the same day or stored in the fridge for a few days

This is Halloween & Top 5 Spooky Podcasts!

This is Halloween & Top 5 Spooky Podcasts!

Hey, everyone!  Thanks for putting up with my short hiatus.  Guys, I’m really hoping that time was enough to get things back on track for this blog.  I’m hoping that I’ll be able to start posting weekly again, as well as include more “thoughts” posts about gaming and myself!

But first, I promised you all some very special stuff for October.  And that starts with this post right here.  You see, I may seem like a cute little food blogger with a nerdy twist and an extremely geeky lifestyle.  And you would be right.  But I also have a pretty strong dark side.  I love to be afraid.  I’m addicted (in a good, non-harmful way) to the thrill and adrenaline rush that comes with being scared.  I love reading, watching, and listening to horror.  I love haunted houses, both real and the ones created for entertainment.  I enjoy dark, slightly twisted tabletop games and have even dabbled slightly in horror video games.

This is halloween

But, in tandem with my very eclectic tastes in desserts (for example, I don’t like frosting… or cake, really), I’m pretty picky about what I like to scare me.  I’m not a fan of slasher films or games.  Not a huge fan of violence for violence’s sake or sexual violence as a medium for horror.  And definitely don’t enjoy things that play around with demons and demonic possession.  So, you ask, what does a girl who doesn’t enjoy half the horror genre actually like?  That’s easy.  It’s ghosts, paranormal activity, unexplained disappearances in mysterious circumstances, haunted houses, graveyards and crypts, the dark, monsters, and just about everything else.

As a lover of Halloween and this spooky time of year, I’m going to release a Top Spooky Things list each week until Halloween!  Each week will have a theme: movies, books, podcasts, songs, and games. I’ll also be posting one of the 5 Monster recipes from Breath of the Wild each week.  There may also be, thanks to some encouragement from Kim over at Later Levels, be a special fiction short story released on Halloween!  I’ve never tried a short story before, but I’m genuinely curious if I can do it.  Guys, this October is going to be amazing!

And now, without further ado, let’s talk about my Top 5 Spooky Podcasts.

I’m actually kinda picky about my podcasts, and particularly from the horror genre.  Those “call in” podcasts where people tell their own stories don’t always seem believable to me and usually have a hodge-podge format I struggle to pay attention to.  And, as a bit of a skeptic, I don’t always enjoy “tell your own paranormal encounter” stories.  I’m also pretty picky about the quality of the story.  Even Lore nearly didn’t make the cut because I’ve started to hate shows that sound too fabricated; puns that feel too forced, writing that seems too obvious, and podcasts that don’t understand how to tell a story without being overly descriptive, a quality that diminishes my immersion in the horror.

The magnus archives

The Magnus Archives: Rusty Quill

This is easily the best horror podcast on the market.  And, in my opinion, one of the best podcasts ever!  Writer Jonny Simms and producer Alexander Newell, are a dynamic duo who understand writing for an audio audience, allowing the listening to fully immerse without falling into so many of the mistakes other podcasts don’t even understand they’re making.  Combine that with an intriguing overarching story and genuinely frightening episodes, The Magnus Archives is my favorite podcast to date and well worth listening to, even if you don’t love horror.  Definitely start from the beginning on this one, as the story unfolds over the course of the 3 seasons currently available!

unexplainedUnexplained: Richard MacLean Smith

Unexplained is, by far, my favorite non-fiction horror podcast.  Delving not only into scary stories, this podcast explores any event without any final explanation, including treasure hunting and reincarnation.  Richard MacLean Smith has thoroughly researched each story he tells, with a wealth of information and un-embellished details that help you understand the truth of what really happened and what we really don’t know.  Some of his episodes are interesting and some just downright frightening.  Go ahead and listen to this one out of order, but some stories are broken up over several episodes, so make sure to hear those in order!

spookedSpooked: Snap Judgment and WNYC

Spooked is my favorite of the “real life” horror podcasts.  The stories aren’t simply “call in”, with terrible quality and no editing to ensure they make sense.  They are people sharing real stories in a documentary format, which means the stories are rounded and coherent, putting this podcast number one in this genre.  Some of the stories aren’t frightening, merely interesting.  Some are downright unbelievable.  But then you get the few that are genuinely terrifying.  Definitely worth a listen to if you’re into that kind of thing!  The biggest downside is the long, overly-dramatic introduction.  The host, though possessing a nice, smooth voice, is a bit over-the-top for me.  It definitely detracts from the podcast for me, so I usually just skip forward to the stories.

loreLore: Aaron Mahnke

As the podcast that introduced me to audio horror, Lore will always be on my list, and I’ll probably always listen to it.  The stories are interesting, most of them stories I’ve never heard before.  Some are funny, others interesting, and the rare episode a bit frightening.  This podcast focuses on legends, even the legends surrounding true historical events.  And while this gives him an enormous amount of creative license, which enhances some aspects of the stories, it can be a bit distracting when he’s telling a story you actually know and gets some of the facts wrong… His way of storytelling can also be a bit off-putting, with seriously forced puns that he pretends aren’t and a stilted way of speaking that can, on occasion, grate on your nerves.  In general, however, I’ve listened to every single one of Lore’s episodes, and I do enjoy them.  So if terrifying isn’t your thing, gives this podcast a listen to!  It’s spooky without being frightening.

the horrorThe Horror: Relic Radio

This podcast makes the list, but it’s definitely last on it.  In The Horror, host Jim Paul releases actual radio show epsidoes from the 1920s-1960s, the golden age of radio.  Each episode is, essentially, a rebroadcast of a stand-alone radio show episode.  The quality, because these are digital copies of recorded radio, can sometimes make it difficult to understand the show, and the content can sometimes be more funny than scary, and the episodes are definitely hit and miss.  Some are well worth your time, others are just… not.  So while I enjoy this one, it’s hard to say definitively that I recommend it.  But, if you’re ever in the mood for some “old-fashioned horror”, it’s worth a shot!

 

 

 

Blogger Blitz Finale: One Thousand Strong

Blogger Blitz Finale: One Thousand Strong

Okay, folks.  This is it – the Blogger Blitz Finale.  And after some intense writing, researching, and last-minute editing, I actually have a story I’m really proud of.  Is that weird to say?  I’m not sure I’ve ever truly been proud of something I’ve written, but this time I really am!  I can’t believe that this challenge is almost over.  I’ve learned so much through this.  Ian, as always, blows me away with his creativity and his ability to push boundaries, and, with the help of the other guest bloggers, of course, really brought out my creativity.  These last challenges have been harder than I thought I was capable of accomplishing and yet, I’ve been able to do it.  So thanks to Ian and his magnificent competition for helping me stretch myself a little bit and open up to a world I wasn’t sure I was capable of being a part of!

And, with that emotional introspection, let’s get on with the show!  As always, I want to acknowledge my challenger, Michael over at Git Gud at Life.  His submission to this post can be found here.  And if you haven’t read his past submissions, go do it.  They’ll blow you away with their unique writing!

And then a HUGE thank you to Ian at Adventure Rules, where the results of this competition can be found on Friday!

Here is the prompt for the final:

Anyone can take on a single enemy. Taking on a dozen or so enemies isn’t really that tough either. But fighting an army of 1000 monsters born of the darkness left behind when a human body is deprived of its heart – now THAT’s scary! But that’s exactly what our lovely antagonists will have to do in this event if they plan to make it somewhere very important – the venue for their best friend’s wedding.

Villains keep strange company, so really it’s only natural that they would hang out with someone who thought a monster-infested canyon would be a cool place to tie the knot. As the best friend, your chosen bad guy (or gal, or gender-non-binary person) is obviously expected to be in the wedding. But to get to the front of the crowd, you’ll have to fight your way through one thousand Heartless, beings that feed on the darkness inside of hearts – and there’s a whole lot of dark hearts at this wedding!

Luckily, you’re not alone. One of the most iconic parts of the Battle of the 1000 Heartless in Kingdom Hearts II is the series of cameos from previous allies who show up to kick some tail and help you make your way through the Heartless army. In the Blogger Blitz championship, these partners are the characters you’ve defeated in battle! You can include in your post cameos from the two opponents you defeated directly, as well as the character your semifinal opponent defeated, giving you a total of three characters to partner with when taking on the Heartless menace.

And, without further ado, let’s get on with the show…


Ugh.  If he weren’t my most faithful servant, the actualization of my precious sword, I wouldn’t bother with this stupid wedding.  I need to focus on the death of the boy called Link.  Even now, years after my last setback, I feel my hatred and malice for him growing, becoming more refined.  That boy, who has overthrown my plans again and again!  HOW?!  He, the holder of the most worthless piece of the Triforce?  Power and Wisdom, and then “Courage”.  That simple brat continues to best me with courage…

I need a new strategy.  I need to focus, not gallivant off into the sunset to watch Ghirahim marry himself.  The invitation was ridiculous. 

Please, my Master, attend this precious moment, where pure beauty and finesse shall marry the only possible match – itself.  I, Ghirahim, request the presence of Ganon, the reincarnation of Demise, at this joyful union of me to myself, at the Breach of Demise Canyon at sunset.

ghirahim

How could anyone possibly take seriously the sharing of power in some kind of “union”.

Sigh

And yet… he is my most faithful of servants, the very blade I wield in the fight against the goddess.  I must attend.  His deference for me, even the place he has chosen, in homage to me.  I suppose I can give him a few moments of my time.  Especially if it means he will be better focused in the future.

I stand, stretching to relieve the cramping in my muscles that remain from a night of plotting.

It feels like a few weeks only have passed since I reveled in the Forbidden Fortress, enjoying an evening of my triumph.  And yet, years have passed.  Enough time to have been defeated again and again by that brat.  No… never defeated.  Merely slowed down.  He is simply putting off the inevitable.

I quickly dress in my best robes and, as I pass the dresser, hesitate slightly, my eyes passing over the cards of all the previous villains I’ve recently been in contact with.  I quickly pocket all three, knowing that, if any problems arose, I could easily call on those pathetic weaklings to take the brunt of the issues.

After all, there’s no one better at manipulation than Ganondorf, wielder of the Triforce of Power.

I release a shrieking call and a gargantuan black stallion comes whipping up the trail to my hiding place.  I mount, and with another shriek, send the stallion along the way to the canyon known as the Breach of Demise.

breach of demise

Mere hours later I slow to a trot, suddenly wary of the unnatural darkness settling in.  The canyon is within sight, but, with an hour left till sunset, the shadows playing across the land are unsettling.  I know that my own creatures, the Bokoblins, Moblins, even Lynels, wouldn’t dare harm their King.  So what is making that soft scratching noise where the shadows are deepest?

I dismount, creeping closer to the nearest rocky shadow, and am surprised.  A creature unlike any I’ve ever seen crouches, half-hidden in shadow.  His yellow eyes shine bright and the antennae which are just visible wave slightly as it shudders.

heartless

Is this some new being I can harness to my will?  Something that will give me an edge in the fight against Link?

The creature shifts its weight, making a soft padding sound.  I stiffen and quickly glance around as I hear that same noise echoed countless times.  Peering into the darkness settling around me I see hundreds… no, at least one thousand of these creatures, their strange yellow eyes glinting in the shadows they’re hiding in.  I throw my hands to my side, calling my purple ball lightening and ready to attack when I pause.

Yes, I could defeat this swam myself.  I am Ganondorf, the most powerful being to ever live.  But when have I ever been the first to take the brunt of an attack?

I slowly back into the light, hand slipping into a small pocket, and bring out the cards I so brilliantly brought along.  Each card bears a single name: Sigma, Marjolaine, and Xehanort.  Selecting the first of the cards I use my considerable skill to summon the first of my opponents to my side.

Let’s see how these creatures of darkness handle a man of metal and code.

As an arc of purple lightning flashes across the sky Sigma, the enemy of Mega Man, appears at my side.

sigma

“Ah, Sigma.  Delighted you could join me” I say, a slight smirk on my lips

“Ganondorf.” Sigma says dispassionately, “Why have you brought me here?”

“You see, Sigma, knowing how… desperately you enjoy researching new, insidious ways to bring down your robot friends I thought I’d invite you to share with me the discovery of a new species.  And look,” I gesture around the landscape, “there’s plenty for the both of us.”

I fold my arms and watch as Sigma stares me down, wary of any help.

“What could possibly be in this for me?”

“Oh, Sigma, I thought you were more intelligent than that” I see his eyes narrow at the insult.  “You see, I don’t know these creatures.  They are completely new to this land.  And you, Sigma, you can interface… compute… even understand animals.  If you do this for me I’ll ensure that, when you share your knowledge, I send you back home with a few of these monsters.  You can utilize them in your next fight against your nemesis.  If they’re new to him, won’t they be more difficult to defeat?”

I see Sigma processing this information.  After a moment he nods once and begins to tread softly toward the darkness.  I continue to watch, but as I do so I notice something slightly disconcerting.  As the shadows lengthen the creatures move from their hiding places, keeping to the darkness, moving slowly toward Sigma and myself.

I see Sigma pause, just slightly out of reach of the nearest creature, then see his hands whip out, attaching long metal cords to the creature.

“They are searching for… hearts.  They consume hearts, breeding from the darkness found within them.  I cannot see where they originate from.  Some land full of anthropomorphic animals dressed in ridiculous clothes.  But I… I cannot… I…”

Sigma’s voice slowly fades away and he begins convulsing slightly.

“Sigma?” I shout.  “Sigma, what’s going on?”

There’s no response.  He slowly turns to looks at me, eyes changing to a luminescent yellow.

“I have no heart” he dispassionately intones.  “But I do have a body.  Easier… to… possess”

I quickly summon a ball of lightning as Sigma throws himself at me and blast him to the ground.  He shakes and sputters, the electricity frying his circuits.

Useless…

With a simple incantation and another flash of purple lightning I send him home.  Quickly removing the next card, noticing that the shadows are deepening, I summon Marjolaine.

marjolaine

“Yes?” her sultry tones echo slightly as she materializes.

“Marjolaine, I bested you in the last competition.  You know what I’m capable of.  Together we can destroy these monsters, keeping just one or two for ourselves.  Apparently they consume hearts.  I’m sure you’ve got plenty of hearts in your world just itching to be destroyed for the… well, the fun of it.”

“I do enjoy games” she croons, finally turning to face the swarm of monsters straining to reach us.

I hear her gasp.

“So many…”

“I would have thought someone like you would be itching for a fair fight?”

“I can only destroy so many with a bow” she spits at me.  She pauses.  “There may be a way.  I can stun them.  Every one of the enemies within the sound of my voice, for a short period of time.”

“So what are you waiting for?”

She glares at me, venom in her eyes.  Then she opens her mouth and begins to sing.  The song is haunting and as the shadows finally reach where we stand the creatures, running at us, are frozen.  I laugh.  It’s so much easier to defeat an enemy when someone else does all the difficult work.  I begin blasting the creatures with my ball lightning, turning and spinning to reach all I can see.  After several seconds I pause, looking back, waiting for the woman to spring into action and join me.  But she merely continues to stand, singing her song.

Wait…  In performing her best ability against a swarm of monsters she’s… completely useless herself?  What a worthless companion.  Do I have to do everything myself?

I let out an angry roar, lightning arcing from my fingers, stretching out and destroying the remaining creatures within my vision, their bodies vanishing into puffs of smoke.  I hear the padding of hundreds of feet as more creatures attempt to take their places.

Turning swiftly to Majorlaine I snap my fingers.  Her voice cuts off and she vanishes back into the useless world I stole her from.  Chest heaving with frustrated breaths I pull out the last card.  With an angry bellow and one last arc of lightning I summon the man to my side.

xehanort

He appears, looks calmly around him, and his face cracks into an evil grin.

What?

“I see my plan worked… This world, so full of people with so many hearts and so much light, was just itching for a cleansing.  A balance, if you will…”

My eyes narrow as the realization hits me.  This man planned this attack.  He wanted me to invite him here… to MY realm?!

“Do you truly think you can take over my kingdom?  Steal from me what I’ve earned, what I deserve!?  DO YOU THINK YOU CAN MAKE A FOOL OUT OF ME?” I shout, my rage building inside.

“Of course.  Sending one thousand of my Heartless to your kingdom, on the eve of your pathetic puppet’s wedding?  Why, this worked out better than I could have imagined.  You fell for my plan.  Like the simpleton I always thought you were.”

I scream in rage, malice building inside me as he lets out a cold, mirthless laugh and his minions begin to surround me.  As I glance around me, preparing for battle, I notice that several have stopped stalking me and have, instead, merely sat upon the ground.  Odd…

“I am Ganondorf, the most powerful, the most evil of all beings.  I, the reincarnation of Demise the Demon himself, can NOT be overruled by a worthless, pathetic master of a simple sword.  I cannot be defeated!”

As my echoes die out the creatures, Heartless, Xehanort called them, all stop and slowly turn away from me and toward their master.

“Enough of this!  Attack!”  Xehanort cries, pointing the tip of a long key at me.  I brace myself but the attack never comes.  I see my enemy glance around, a look of fear replacing the triumph.

“NO!” he cries “I am most evil.  You bow down to me!  I am your master!”

“Most evil, you say?”  I chuckle.  It has finally dawned on me that these Heartless, born from darkness, must gravitate toward true evil.  And I know exactly whose heart contains the most evil.  “It seems that your gamble was… mistaken.  You should have known better than to mess with a Demon King.”  I lift a finger and point at the trembling form of my adversary.  The Heartless begin padding toward him at a run, rushing to consume the man they once served.  Xehanort lets out a shriek of terror before raising his Keyblade and vanishing, like a coward.

I chuckle again, triumphant in the knowledge that I have a new monster to let loose on the world.  What is the goddesses chosen hero to a swarm of creatures born from darkness?  I call my noble steed and set off toward the canyon and my servant’s wedding, my horde of Heartless trailing behind me, confident that I, Ganondorf, will soon conquer this world.

ganondorf