Let’s Talk About the Blog… and Backlog

Let’s Talk About the Blog… and Backlog

Hey, everyone! It’s really nice to finally be back on the blog and back to cooking up new recipes for you! I took a bit of a break (obviously), starting with the holidays, but January has been a bit introspective for me. I sat down at the beginning of January, talked to some amazing bloggers about their “New Year Resolutions” and tried to come up with a few goals for this blog. But instead of discovering new, exciting changes to try to implement, coming up with some unattainable numbers goal, or even settling down for a mediocre goal, it turned into some deep thinking about what I even want out of this experience.

I started this blog as a way to talk about the things I love in a space and community that felt the same. I was feeling really lonely, really unfulfilled, and ready for a new project. This became that new project. And with that came a host of exciting new adventures! I met new people who loved cooking, baking, and especially gaming. I’ve been able to participate in some amazing community events and become friends with some really great, intelligent people. And I’ve been able to push myself creatively in both baking/cooking and writing.

And as I realized where I started, what I thought I wanted, and where I thought this blog was going, I realized I had my priorities wrong. I thought this blog was my “in” to making a cookbook. And, quite frankly, I haven’t given up on that. It’d be really nice to, down the road, get some kind of deal going with Nintendo to make an official BotW cookbook. But when I delved into the roots of what I love about this blog it wasn’t that hanging dread of numbers, influence, and what it would take to become a cookbook writer. It was interacting with all of you – the readers, the other bloggers, the new chefs and the old bakers alike – that made this blog such a good experience for me.

So I’m going to stop having this mental background of “how do I make this a career” and start focusing on the reasons I love blogging. I have some pretty smart people, people who write amazing blogs and who have been so supportive of me through thick and thin, to thank for this epiphany. If lightening couldn’t strike my brain at least it struck theirs (well that must have hurt). So let’s just forget about the dread of not posting and the dread of not meeting some imaginary numbers game that shouldn’t exist anyway and get back to blogging, interacting, and making myself and others happy. Because that’s what this is really all about, right?

And now for the changes that’ll come with that. Guys, I’m switching days on you. Thursdays will now be my Breath of the Wild posts. I’ve realized that cooking new recipes over the weekend doesn’t always work out. I make plans, go out of town, get busy, and then it’s Tuesday and I have nothing to show. I do most of my big cooking during the week, leaving weekends to pizza, eating out, or macaroni and cheese in an attempt to squeeze everything in. So expect Thursdays to become Breath of the Wild posts and, hopefully, that’ll mean a new post every week – with very few excuses (other than illness) to mess it all up!

But that means my Thursday posts need somewhere to go. Why not simply switch them, right? Tuesdays will now be my Gaming and Thankful posts. I’ll try to post one BotW post every week, one Gaming post every month, and one Thankful post every month. I want to participate in at least one community event every quarter, to make sure I get to help other amazing bloggers with their blogs. And I’m also going to run (sort of) a community event twice a year. Instead of doing gaming or thankful posts one month of spring and one month of autumn I want you, my friends and followers, to help me pick a fandom, and then pick 3 foods from that fandom to create recipes for. I’ll post each one and then round it all off with a reason why I love that fandom. What do you think? Sound like a good plan?!

But Teri, you say, there’s only 2 Tuesdays left this month. When will you do your posts? Ah, never fear. Today’s post will be my gaming post and, trust me, it’s a short one. So many wonderful bloggers and gamers talk about backlog. The complex ways they deal with it, the struggle of finding time to work on and finish games they want to play. So let me tell you my incredibly simple way to deal with backlog. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until a conversation with a friend pointed it out to me. You want to know my secret?

I don’t have a backlog.

That’s right – I don’t have a backlog. Oh, I have games I want to play, and games I haven’t started yet, but the way I keep my backlog non-existent is by not purchasing a game until I’m ready to play it. That means that I don’t buy new games until I finish the one I’m currently playing. It means that when the time comes to purchase a new game, my priority already exists, because it’s the game I want to play most. Yeah, it means I get really far behind in playing games, but I don’t ever feel the stress of those titles I’ve never gotten around to staring me down from their shelf (or menu, if you purchase digital games).

So how do you deal with backlog? How do you keep your priorities straight when it comes to choosing a game or picking what to purchase?

Mom’s Beef and Broccoli

Mom’s Beef and Broccoli

As I’ve mentioned before, my mom lived in Taiwan for a few years in her twenties (for more information about why, feel free to DM me on Instagram or Twitter).  This means that, not only did she come home with some amazing experiences, but she came home with some amazing small-town, authentic Taiwanese/Chinese recipes.  But this one is my favorite.  And in a post dedicated to my wonderful mother, what better recipe to share than my favorite thing she taught me to make.

My mother is incredible.  She’s easily one of the most dedicated, hardworking people I’ve ever met.  She had a successful career, raised several kids, and always managed to find time to get things done around the house.  Her energy and willpower seem limitless.  It’s quite inspiring to watch her (and also a little daunting)!  She’s strong and opinionated, determined and fierce.  And she’s my hero.  I mean, I’m pretty sure my mom is Wonder Woman (*recently confirmed by my dad).  She doesn’t see it- she’s always got one reason or other for how she can do everything and still find time to read about 2-3 dozen books a year – but I know the truth.  And while I can’t be her and do everything under the planet successfully and efficiently, I’ve learned so much about the person I can be from her.  So this post is dedicated to my mom, for the example she is and the life she taught me to live.  Thanks, mom.

Mom’s Beef and Broccolitime etc

Guys, this recipe is really easy.  In fact, it may seem so easy that you’ll wonder if it’s even worth eating.  Yeah, it’s a little basic – like all good homemade classics are – but I think it’s so good I’ll literally find excuses to drink the leftover sauce.  It’s so good you’ll probably stop eating beef and broccoli at restaurants because it won’t taste quite like this…

First, and always, we start the rice.  Come on, you’re old hats at this by now!  Rinse the rice, add water up to your first knuckle, turn on the rice cooker.  Again, if you don’t have one of those Christmas is just around the corner…  Maybe it’s time to splurge on the most-used gadget in my kitchen.

Then let’s slice the steak into long, thin strips.  Preferably about 1-2 inches long and 1/8-1/4 inch thick.  To make it easy, slice against the grain.  You see the way the muscle lines flow?  Slice perpendicular to that.  It’ll make a cleaner, easier cut.  Place all the meat in a bowl and add enough soy sauce to submerge, but not drown the meat.  It’s a fine line.

Wash everything (knife, cutting board, counter) so there’s no cross contamination.  Then rinse and cut the broccoli.  We want to keep just the florets in bite-size pieces.  I usually cut the stalk off and then break the broccoli up.  When you cut broccoli, sometimes the floret breaks apart, so this is my recommendation.  You can remove or leave as much of the stalk as you want – me, I remove as much as I can.  Place the broccoli in a separate bowl.  Then wash and dice the green onions into 1 inch pieces and separate into 2 piles.

When the rice is done (or nearly so) get out your trusty wok.  I guess you could try and make this in a frying pan, but it won’t cook the same and it may not taste the same.  Also, it’ll probably take way longer to cook.  But if you try it, let me know!

oil and onionsAnyway, add half the vegetable oil to your wok and turn the heat on as high as it’ll go.  Two things about this are important: 1) turn the heat up as high as it’ll go.  Trust me.  A proper stir fry, a proper wok, is cooked over very high heat.  Because of the way a wok works, things’ll get mushy and take forever if you cook it low.  And 2) use vegetable, canola, avocado, or some other high heat oil.  DO NOT cook this with olive oil.  The oil can’t handle those temperatures and it’ll burn, baby burn. 

Add half the green onions to this oil and wait until the onions start to sizzle and pop.  When they do, you know the oil is ready.  Add all the meat and soy sauce together (it should be nicely marinated by now) and cook, stirring frequently/continuously, until the steak is brown on the outside, but still probably pink on the inside.  Depending on how much liquid you added you may need to push the meat up out of the liquid onto the sides.  We don’t want the meat to boil, we want it to fry.  This’ll take between 2-4 minutes.

remove the steak

Remove the steak carefully, I don’t want any burns on my conscience, and put it into a new bowl – or the same bowl, but washed.  Again, no cross contamination here!  Add the remaining oil and green onions and wait for the sizzle and pop.

When you hear it, add the broccoli and stir until it’s completely shiny, about 1 minute.  At this point, make a well in the middle of the broccoli so the wok shows through and add all the cold water at once.  Quickly cover and allow the broccoli to steam for several minutes, or until tender.  Check after 3 and see how it’s doing – add more water if necessary, but be quick, we don’t want the steam escaping!

cook together

When the broccoli is ready add the steak and sauce back to the wok and stir until everything is well-mixed.  Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes so the broccoli can soak up all that delicious soy sauce.  Serve over rice and enjoy!

close up

Mom's Beef and Broccoli

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Delicious beef with broccoli in a soy sauce marinade

Ingredients

  • 1 pound london broil or sirloin steak – 1-1.5 cups soy sauce – 4-5 large broccoli crowns – 1 bunch green onions – 1 cup very cold water – 4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil – 3 cups calrose or other sticky rice – enough water to cover the rice to your first knuckle

Directions

  1. Rinse the rice and add water so that it comes to your first knuckle when your finger rests on top of the rice. Add the lid and turn on the rice cooker. 2. Slice the steak into long, thin strips, preferably about 1-2 inches long and 1/8-1/4 inch thick. 3. Place all the meat in a bowl and add enough soy sauce to submerge, but not drown the meat.  It’s a fine line. 4. Wash and cut the broccoli into bite-size florets. Place the broccoli in a bowl. 5. Wash and dice the green onions into 1 inch pieces and separate into 2 piles. 6. When the rice is done (or nearly so) add half the vegetable oil and half the green onions to your wok and turn the heat on as high. 7. When the onions start to sizzle and pop add all the meat and soy sauce together and cook, stirring frequently/continuously, until the steak is brown on the outside, but still pink on the inside. You may need to push the meat up out of the liquid onto the sides. This will take between 2-4 minutes. 8. Remove the steak carefully and put it into a new bowl – or the same bowl, but washed. 9. Add the remaining oil and green onions and wait for the sizzle and pop. 10. Add the broccoli and stir until it’s completely shiny, about 1 minute. 11. Make a well in the middle of the broccoli so the wok shows through and add all the cold water at once. Quickly cover and allow the broccoli to steam for several minutes, or until tender, about 5-8 minutes. You may need to add more water halfway through. 12. When the broccoli is ready add the steak and sauce back to the wok and stir until everything is well-mixed. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes so the flavors can meld together.

    Serve over rice and enjoy!

Veggie Cream Soup

Veggie Cream Soup

Alright, guys, I think I’m about to throw you for a loop.  After checking recipes, matching BotW photos, and deciding on what I want to make, I’m making a change up to my recipes.  Now, I have a Veggie Cream Soup already made.  But the BotW photo is much more orange, the Cream of Vegetable Soup is more creamy, and I wanted to make cheese soup.  Because, quite frankly, I don’t love Cream of X soup.  I utilize it in other recipes to make other things, but I never actually just eat Cream of X soup.  So I’m renaming my last veggie soup Cream of Vegetable soup, after all, it’s veggies, cream, and soup.  And the new and improved Veggie Cream Soup, is about to follow!

Veggie Cream Soup

time and difficulty

Basically, folks, we are making cheese soup.  And while I have photos one way, I’d really like you all, please, to follow what I say, not what I show!  It’ll make sense when I start describing what’s going on.

Start by chopping all the veggies up into lovely bite-size pieces.  Carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower can go into a bowl together, but keep the onions separate.  When everything is diced heat a heavy-bottom pot (or, I guess, any pot) and add all the butter but 3 tablespoons.  Add the onion and saute for 1 minute.  Then add the other veggies and saute for 2-3 minutes, until shiny and starting to soften.  

shiny veggies

Here’s that part where you get to ignore what I’ve done and pay attention to what I say!  I have you add the extra butter and flour to the sauteed veggies, but the roux really struggled to come together, and without a solid roux, the likelihood that your cheese will break is pretty high.  And, for me, I can handle that, but I don’t want that for you people at all!

So now we’re just going to remove the veggies and put them in a bowl.  Then, add the 3 tablespoons of butter, melt it down, add the flour slowly, and make a nice roux by whisking continuously.  I have photos from the old Veggie Cream Soup…  Pretend like they’re from this recipe.

Add the milk 1 cup at a time and whisk until completely mixed.  This’ll thicken the milk.  Continue with the remaining milk.  Then add the cream and chicken or vegetable stock (your choice to make this vegetarian!) and stir in the veggies, salt, and pepper.  We don’t add a lot of salt because the cheese is salty, so don’t be tempted to add more.  It’ll feel bland at this step.

veggies and liquid

 

Here’s the next step, and it’s an important one for winding up with a nice, smooth soup instead of a cheesy broken mess.  Don’t let the soup boil.  It should simmer, barely bubbling, to cook the veggies, but it shouldn’t boil.  Keep an eye on it.  If it boils you may not get a great soup.

cheese added

Simmer it for 10ish minutes, or until the veggies are tender and delicious!  Then remove from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes until it cools slightly.  This is like adding chocolate to cream – if you do it while it’s too hot the fat will break out and won’t be able to reform properly, so you end up with a mess.  Cheese into hot things is the same.  So once it’s cooled slightly, add the cheese, 1 cup at a time, and stir until smooth and creamy.  And then eat it all while you can – you won’t really feel like stopping!

close up

Link’s Veggie Cream Soup:

    • Fresh Milk
    • Rock Salt
    • Any Carrot or Pumpkin

Veggie Cream Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A creamy cheese soup with broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots.

Ingredients

  • 1 large broccoli crown – 1/2 head cauliflower – 3 medium carrots – 1 small onion – 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter – 1/3 cup all-purpose flour – 4 cups milk – 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock – 2 tablespoons heavy cream – 1 teaspoon kosher salt – 1/5 teaspoons black pepper – 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Chop the carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower into bite-size pieces. Place these into a bowl. Dice the onion and keep separate. 2. Heat a heavy-bottom pot on medium and add all the butter but 3 tablespoons.  3. Add the onion and saute for 1 minute. 4. Add the other veggies and saute for 2-3 minutes, until shiny and starting to soften. 5. Remove the veggies and put them in a bowl. 6. Add the 3 tablespoons of butter, melt it, and add the flour slowly. Make a roux by whisking this constantly until thickened and yellow. 7. Add the milk 1 cup at a time and whisk until completely mixed and thickened. 8. Add the heavy cream and chicken or vegetable stock, stir in the veggies, salt, and pepper, and stir until combined. 9. Simmer the soup, barely bubbling, to cook the veggies, about 10 minutes. 10. Remove from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes until it cools slightly. 11. Add the cheese, 1 cup at a time, and stir until smooth and creamy. Serve hot.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time | The Game That Defines Sheikah Plate

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time | The Game That Defines Sheikah Plate

Hey, everyone! It’s Tuesday, and you know what that means – a new recipe! But I wanted to do something a little different. Yesterday my post for one of the most amazing collaborations went live. Normal Happenings has been running a series every day since November 1st on The Games That Define Us. 35 AMAZING collaborators have written up their feelings about the game that has meant the most to them. If you’re ready to shed some tears and experience some feelings, please go check out every single post. They’re all wonderful. But I’m reblogging mine here today because A) I want you all to read it and B) I created a special recipe homage to my favorite game of all time. So while it’s not Breath of the Wild, it’s still Zelda. Here’s The Game That Defines Me: Ocarina of Time.

Normal Happenings

<< Previous | Adventure Map | Next >>

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Audio

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introductionJust a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Well, do we…

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Happy Thanksgiving and Salt-Grilled Gourmet Meat!

Happy Thanksgiving and Salt-Grilled Gourmet Meat!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  Here in the U.S., and especially for me, this holiday is all about food.  Growing up, my mother would get up at an ungodly hour (for a holiday) to make everything from scratch on Thanksgiving day.  We’d tumble out of bed and start to help out when we could.  Now, as an adult, it’s become a tradition to get up as early as mom and stand around the table as she teaches us how to properly make pie crust, make stuffing from scratch, and roast a 30 pound(ish) turkey.  Thanksgiving for my family was about passing on the traditions of cooking, of learning and honoring those who came before you with family recipes and family stories shared over an entire day of cooking and eating together.  It’s the best way I know how to truly observe this holiday – with thankful hearts toward the people in my past who have made this holiday possible.

This year, that also means you guys, the faithful blog readers.  I feel so blessed and honored that so many people follow my blog and comment on my posts.  I feel lucky that I have the opportunity to learn how to better express myself through cooking.  And I feel grateful so many of you are so supportive of me, in spite of my long breaks between posts and ghost status on social media lately.  Thanks for all you do to help me become the best I can be!  And, in honor of the from-scratch people who were up at the crack of dawn (I love you, mom!) to make dinner, here’s a reblog of my Thanksgiving turkey recipe – Salt-Grilled Gourmet Meat.


It’s the second of two Thanksgiving posts and the day is almost here, which means this recipe is just in time!  So open this up, thaw your turkey (properly), and let’s make a turkey.

Raise of hands, how many of you have ever made a turkey before?  Really?  That few?  Well don’t be intimidated.  I promise it’s a lot easier than it sounds or looks.  Quite frankly, it’s just like any other salt-grilled meat recipe we’ve already done, with a few adjustments, of course.  And you’ll love the finished product.  It’ll be picture perfect and deliciously juicy for all your guests/family!

Salt-Grilled Gourmet Meattime and heart meter

Now, you should have started thawing your turkey by now following the instructions provided with your turkey (they almost always come with instructions).  It can take up to 4 days to thaw a turkey (depending on the size) in the fridge.  If you need to speed up the process you can fill a sink with cold water and place the turkey in.  Continue checking the water to make sure it doesn’t get too warm.  Drain the water every 1/2 hour and refill with cold water again.  Do this for roughly 8 hours.  It’s easier to thaw in the fridge but in a pinch, this other way will work.  Just whatever you do, please thaw it correctly!  I don’t want to be responsible for any food poisoning here!

turkey ingredients

We start with what’s called a brine.  Now, there are several ways to brine a turkey but I’ve chosen the easiest of them all.  You have enough to do on Thanksgiving – no reason to make it harder.  The brine with a turkey is the same principle as with pork – it tenderizes the meat and allows the juices to stay inside instead of the bird getting dry and gross.  It also negates, with an extra step, the need for basting!  That’s two time savers here people.  We’re on a roll!

You’re going to need to remove the bird from the packaging and take out any extras they throw in for the really hard-core people a.k.a the giblets and the neck.  Open the bottom of the turkey and they should be in there.  It’ll be a long neck and a packet of weird mushy stuff.  If the packet isn’t in there check where the neck is supposed to be attached.  Sometimes they put it up there to be sneaky.

Once everything gross is out pat the turkey dry with paper towels and coat it with kosher salt and pepper.  Be generous, it’ll help!  Allow the turkey to sit, with the salt and pepper, at room temperature for 1 hour to take off the chill.  The skin will be crispy and delicious if you do it that way.

While the turkey is warming up wash the sage and oregano or thyme, slice a medium onion into quarters, and remove the skin from 6 garlic cloves.  Place these inside your roasting pan, or if you don’t have excess cash floating around to buy a new pan for one meal a year (like me) a normal 11X15 cake pan.  If you want to get extra easy buy one of those disposable cake pans, like my mom does, and just throw it away when you’re done.  Whatever will fit your turkey comfortably will work!  Line the bottom of your pan with these ingredients, putting the onions in the corners.

buttering the turkeyThe next step is almost as important as the brine.  It’s also, for those of you who are a little squeamish, the grossest part of the entire affair.  Rub the room temperature butter all over your hands.  Then rub the entire turkey with those hands, pausing to get more butter if needed.  Make sure the entire bird in covered in the butter to make sure there’s an even crisp to the skin.  A safety note, just because I’m a microbiologist, please don’t reuse any butter you may have touched with raw poultry again.  Just throw it out and save yourself a horrible bought of food poisoning.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  It’s very important you don’t go much higher than that because most glassware will shatter if you do and that would ruin your entire night.  If you’re using metal feel free to go up to 450°F.  Put your turkey in the pan and put your pan in the oven on the middle shelf.  Close the door and walk away for 45 minutes.  Plenty of time to get started on literally 1 million things to be cooked for dinner.

turkey in the pan

Once the turkey has been roasting for 45 minutes take some tinfoil and cover the breast of the turkey, molding it to keep it in place.  It’ll help trap in the moisture and make for a much more juicy bird!  If you need to make a piece of tinfoil bigger to cover the whole turkey simply fold over the edges of the foil together and press down to seal.  It’ll work.  Trust me.

Lower the temperature of the oven to 350°F and bake for the remainder of the time.  Here’s a handy, dandy chart for approximate times if you need one.  It’s all based on pounds, really, so make sure you know the poundage of your bird beforehand.

9-11 pounds: 2 1/2 hours

12-14 pounds: 3 hours

15-17 pounds: 3 1/2 hours

18-20 pounds: 4 hours

21-23 pounds: 4 1/2 hours

24+ pounds: 5+ hours

turkey thermometerTo check if the turkey is done you’ll need an instant read meat thermometer.  You can buy them in any grocery store this time of year for about $5.00.  It’s worth it.  You’ll use it again (maybe…).  When the time is up stick the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, making sure you aren’t touching any bones.  Allow the thermometer to read.  Your turkey temperature should be 165°F.  If it isn’t, your turkey needs more time to cook.  Mine took an extra 20 minutes to get up to temperature.  If you need to check again make sure you check in a different spot than the first time!  If you want to be extra careful, check in the breast under the wing, as well.  The temperature is much more important than the color.  Any turkey could have a pink coloring naturally, but if it got up to 165°F or higher, you’ll be just fine!

Remove the turkey from the oven and cover loosely with foil for at least 30 minutes to allow the turkey to rest.  This equalizes the juices inside so you have perfectly moist, delicious meat.

foiled turkey

Remove the turkey from the pan and start slicing!  There are several excellent videos if you google “how to slice a turkey”.  I think you’ll be alright!

While someone is slicing you can make the gravy.  Technically this isn’t part of the recipe but who eats Thanksgiving turkey without gravy?  Remove all the herbs, onions, and garlic, and pour all the drippings into a pot and add all the chicken or turkey stock.  Heat the liquid to a boil and, while you’re waiting, make the cornstarch mixture.  You could use a roux if you feel like it, but that takes longer and we are all about making Thanksgiving easy here!  Mix the cold water and cornstarch together until dissolved.  Once the liquid is boiling slowly add the cornstarch slurry to the drippings.  Stir and continue to heat until thickened.  If you need it thicker, just add more cornstarch liquid.

Serve with all the Thanksgiving trimmings and have an incredible time!

turkey leg

Link’s Salt-Grilled Meat

    • Raw Gourmet Meat or Raw Whole Bird
    • Rock Salt

    Salt-Brined Roast Turkey

    • Servings: dependant on turkey pounds
    • Difficulty: moderate
    • Print

    Turkey

    • 1 Turkey
    • 1/2 tsp kosher salt per pound of turkey
    • 1/4 tsp pepper per pound of turkey
    • 1/2-1 cup butter, room temperature, based on turkey size
    • 7 sprigs fresh oregano or thyme
    • 5 sprigs fresh sage leaves
    • 6 garlic cloves
    • 1 medium onion
    • 1 instant read meat thermometer

    Gravy

    • 1 pan turkey drippings
    • 3 cups chicken or turkey stock
    • 1/4 cup cold water
    • 3 heaping spoonfuls cornstarch

    Directions


    1. Thaw your turkey according to the packing instructions, generally refrigerated for a few days. If you need a quicker thaw, fill a sink with cold water and place the turkey in. Drain the water every 1/2 hour and refill with cold water. Continue this process for 8 hours until the turkey is thawed.
    2. Remove the bird from the packaging and take out the neck and giblets. These should be located inside the turkey at either the bottom or the neck holes.
    3. Dry the entire turkey with paper towels
    4. Coat the turkey in the kosher salt and pepper.  Allow the turkey to sit, with the salt and pepper, at room temperature for 1 hour to take off the chill.
    5. Wash the sage and oregano or thyme.
    6. Slice the onion into quarters.
    7. Remove the skin from 6 garlic cloves.
    8. Line the outside edges of a glass or metal cake pan large enough to hold your turkey with the aromatics, putting the onions in the corners.
    9. Rub the room temperature butter all over your hands, coating them completely.
    Then rub the entire turkey with those hands, pausing to get more butter if needed.  Make sure the entire bird in covered in the butter.  A safety note, if you touch any butter with turkey or turkey-covered hands please throw it away to mitigate the risk of food poisoning.
    10. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Put your turkey in the pan and put your pan in the oven on the middle shelf.  Close the door and bake for 45 minutes.
    11. Once the turkey has been roasting for 45 minutes take some tinfoil and cover the breast of the turkey, molding it to keep it in place. If you need to make a piece of tinfoil bigger to cover the whole turkey simply fold over the edges of the foil together and press down to seal.
    12. Lower the temperature of the oven to 350°F and bake for the remainder of the time. Please see the chart in the body of the post for the correct times.
    13. Insert the instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, making sure you aren’t touching any bones.  Allow the thermometer to read.  Your turkey temperature should be 165°F or higher. If the temperature is not quite high enough, roast the turkey until the temperature reads the correct amount.
    14. Remove the turkey from the oven and cover loosely with foil for at least 30 minutes to allow the turkey to rest.
    15. Remove the turkey from the pan.
    16. To make the gravy remove all herbs, onions, and garlic, and pour all the drippings into a pot. Add the chicken or turkey stock and bring to a boil.
    17. Mix the cold water and cornstarch together until dissolved. Once the drippings are boiling slowly add the cornstarch to the drippings, stirring to mix.
    18. Stir the gravy and bring it back to a boil. Add more cornstarch and water if a thicker gravy is desired.

John’s Roast Pork with Beets and Apples

John’s Roast Pork with Beets and Apples

My second (and first November) Thankful recipe is dedicated to my husband.  I can’t even begin to express what he means to me or how thankful I am for him.  His steady support through all my mental health challenges, his patience with my short temper, and the wonderful father he is to our son is overwhelming.  He’s so supportive (even when it means a kitchen covered in flour and a sink piled high with the dishes of 10 baking experiments) and so kind.  He is easily the best person I know.  So this recipe, with all the amazing feelings I have for him, is dedicated to John.

Roast Pork with Beets and Applesmonster cake meter

minced sageLet’s start with the herbs.  I, when I possibly can, use fresh sage for this dish.  There are so few flavors that we want the best of the best!  It seems like this is a lot of sage, a lot of seasoning, but trust me – you’ll want it all.  We are basically making an herb crust over the pork.  So take the pork out of the fridge to take the chill off and wash the sage.  You’ll want to mince it until it’s fairly small.  To do this well simply place one hand on top of the knife near the end of the blade and rock back and forth, rotating through the pile.  Stop every few rotations to readjust and remake the pile, turn 90-180 degrees, and continue rotating to ensure that everything is minced evenly.  Put the sage, salt, and pepper in a bowl and stir and toss with your fingers to mix it thoroughly.

coat the loin

Next we’re back to the old standby – pat dry the pork and rub each side and the entire length with all the seasoning. Now, if it’s a whole pork loin it will actually be two separate loins. That’s okay, simply separate them and treat them the same.  Again, it feels like a lot, but the flavor is to die for.  Set it aside and allow it to rest.

While the pork is lightly brining (for more information about pork brines, check out this recipe) chop the beets and apples into large pieces.  I slice the beets and then cut each slice in half.  Slice the apples off the core and then cut thinly.  The onion should be sliced and then each slice quartered to leave longer pieces of onion.

sear the loin

Add oil to a heavy-bottom pan that can be used in the oven (I use a braiser) and heat on medium.  If you don’t have this you can use a regular frying pan and then an oven safe 9×13 pan.  When the oil is hot add the pork and sear on each side for 2-3 minutes.  You want the sear to be nice and strong so once it’s laying down don’t move it for the entire 2-3 minutes.  You want to see the sear cook depth when you look at the pork from the side.  Repeat on all sides and then sear the ends.  Remove from the oil and place on a plate to the side.

veggies and fruit

Next add the onions and the beets to the same pan and saute for 3-5 minutes, or until the beets have lost their extremely hard feeling.  You still want them to be hard, by the way, just not rigid.  Then add the apples and continue to saute for 2 minutes, or until all the apples are shiny.

pork on veggies and fruit

Add the pork back on the veggie/fruit mixture.  You’ll want it resting on top to prevent the juices from getting into the pork and braising instead of roasting it.  If you’re transferring everything to a 9×13 pan first lightly grease the pan, place the fruit/veggie mix in, and lay the pork on top.  Then put the whole thing in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.  At this point you’ll want to test the center of your pork with a meat thermometer.  It needs to read 145F (for medium rare) to 160F (for medium).  If it’s not quite there simply continue allowing it to roast until it reads your comfortable temperature.  Pork inherently has some kind of nasty diseases if it’s raw, so be sure to cook it properly!  I don’t want anyone getting sick on my watch!

cover with foil

When it’s ready remove the entire pan from the oven and cover with tinfoil, allowing it to rest for 5-10 minutes but not less than 5 minutes.  This is to help the juices stabilize so you don’t lose any of that flavor when you cut it.  Serve and enjoy!

pork and stuff

John's Roast Pork with Beets and Apples

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
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Roast pork loin with a sage herb crust with beets and apples

Ingredients

  • 1 2-3 pound pork loin
  • 5-6 large beets
  • 3 medium apples (I prefer granny smith for this recipe)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/3 cup fresh sage (packed)
  • 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Remove the pork out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Wash and mince the sage by placing one hand on top of the knife near the end of the blade and rocking the knife back and forth, rotating through the pile.  Stop every few rotations to readjust and remake the pile, turn 90-180 degrees, and continue rotating to ensure that everything is minced evenly.
  3. Put the sage, salt, and pepper in a bowl and stir and toss with your fingers to mix.
  4. Pat dry the pork and rub each side and the entire length with all the seasoning. Set it aside and allow it to rest.
  5. Chop the beets and apples into large pieces. Slice the beets and then cut each slice in half. Slice the apples off the core and then cut thinly. Slice the onion and then quarter the slices.
  6. Add oil to a heavy-bottom pan that is oven safe and heat on medium. (If you don’t have this you can use a regular frying pan and then an oven safe 9×13 pan.).
  7. When the oil is hot add the pork and sear on each side for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Repeat on all sides and then sear the ends.  Remove from the oil and place on a plate to the side.
  9. Add the onions and the beets to the same pan and saute for 3-5 minutes, or until the beets have lost their extremely hard feeling. (The beets should still be hard, just not rigid.).
  10. Add the apples and continue to saute for 2 minutes, or until all the apples are shiny.
  11. Add the pork back on top of the veggie/fruit mixture. Or transfer veggie/fruit mixture to a greased 9×13 pan and place the pork on top.
  12. Put the entire whole thing in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.
  13. Test the center of your pork with a meat thermometer.  It needs to read 145F (for medium rare) to 160F (for medium).
  14. When it’s ready remove the entire pan from the oven and cover with tinfoil, allowing it to rest for 5-10 minutes but not less than 5 minutes.
  15. Serve and enjoy!

Hot Buttered Apple

Hot Buttered Apple

Weird.  It’s time for normal recipes again.  Well, when I say “normal” I still mean I’ll be fall focusing for now.  It’s nearly Thanksgiving here in the U.S., after all! And speaking of Thanksgiving let’s talk about my tiny, special surprise for this month.  We had Monster recipes in October, plus my favorite spooky stuff, so this month I’ll be focusing a little bit more on being thankful by posting a new Thankful recipe every Thursday!  These will be dedicated to the people in my life who have helped me become who I am, and who I’m seriously grateful for.  So are you ready for double the recipes, double the fun?  Either way, I am, so it’s happening.

Hot Buttered Appletime and difficulty

Now, the original recipe is… a little boring.  Apples, butter.  While this sounds like an okay recipe I need my baked fruit a tad more flavorful for me to even pretend to enjoy it.  Hence, a very buffed up version of the Baked Apple you’re about to see here.  And the best part?  It’s insanely easy.  Like, 5 minutes to put together tops and 30 minutes to bake easy.  If you’re ever intimidated by Breath of the Wild recipes, this is the one for you!  Also, it’s apple season!  What else was I going to do?

jonagold apples

Wash the apple thoroughly – this is especially true if you buy them from the supermarket.  We have this lovely and absolutely amazing orchard near our house that I go out of my way to drive to during orchard season (I regularly post about it on Instagram).  If you’re lucky enough to have that – go there!  A lot of people recommend you purchase “a good baking apple” for these kinds of recipes and then list 5 apples completely different from someone else’s list.  Quite frankly, I have no idea what “a good baking apple” is, so just purchase an apple variety you like.  My personal favorite are Jonagold – not to sweet, not to sour, usually nice and crisp.

cored apples

Using a paring knife, cut around the core of the apple straight down, being sure to leave about 1/2-1 inch at the bottom of the apple (so you don’t poke holes through it).  Next, take a small spoon and, gently as you can, scoop out the core.  It may be harder than you think – you weren’t able to cut the bottom of your core, after all.  But make sure you get all the seeds, again, leaving about 1/2-1 inch at the bottom of the hole you’re digging out.  If you have an apple corer then bonus points, you can easily use that!  If, like me, you don’t this’ll be the easiest way.

Mix together the softened butter, sugar, and spices until completely combined.  Split the mixture in half and stuff each of the apples to the top of the hole.  Depending on your apple size you may need a bit more, or a bit less, of the mixture.  I had some nice, medium apples and it fit perfectly.  Sprinkle with kosher salt.

apples in water and container

Heat the water in a cup in the microwave, or even on the stove, until boiling.  Place the apples in an oven-safe container and pour the boiling water at the bottom.  This’ll help the apples bake evenly and not dry out – I wound’t recommend skipping this step.

Bake at 375F/30ish minutes.  This time is very subjective.  I prefer my apples to still be a little stiff, but baked through.  I don’t like soft baked fruit – it feels mushy to me.  So 30 minutes was perfect.  If you prefer your apples a bit wrinkly and a bit more like pie filling, bake for closer to an hour.  Really, it’s all based on touch – how the apple feels to you when you touch it and squeeze it.  Don’t depend on my times for your perfect apple.  Then simply take them out of the oven, allow them to cool slightly, and serve.  If your apples are a bit stiffer (like mine) you may want to slice them and allow the sauce to drizzle over each piece.  If yours are softer, simply serve with a spoon.  PS – these are amazing with some vanilla ice cream!

apple close up

 

Link’s Hot Buttered Apple recipe:

    • Apple
    • Goat Butter

Hot Buttered Apple

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Baked apples filled with brown sugar and cinnamon


Ingredients

  • 2 apples of your favorite variety
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, unpacked
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • sprinkle of kosher salt
  • 1 cup water

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F
  2. Wash the apples thoroughly.
  3. Using a paring knife, cut around the core of the apple straight down, being sure to leave about 1/2-1 inch at the bottom of the apple. Take a small spoon and, gently as you can, scoop out the core, ensuring you remove all the seeds and leave about 1/2-1 inch at the bottom of the hole. You may simply use an apple corer if you have one.
  4. Mix together the softened butter, sugar, and spices until completely combined.
  5. Split the mixture in half and stuff each of the apples to the top of the hole. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
  6. Heat the water in a cup in the microwave, or even on the stove, until boiling.
  7. Place the apples in an oven-safe container and pour the boiling water at the bottom.
  8. Bake for 30ish minutes, or until the apples are the correct “doneness” for your tastes. You may check this by squeezing them gently, but be careful not to burn yourself.
  9. Take them out of the oven, allow them to cool slightly, and serve. If your apples are a bit stiffer you may want to slice them and allow the sauce to drizzle over each piece. If yours are softer, simply serve with a spoon.

Monster Stew

Monster Stew

When  I saw the BotW recipe for Monster Stew I couldn’t imagine how I was going to pull it off.  Meat, seafood, flour, milk?  How on earth are you supposed to combine those together to make, not only something edible, but a stew?  So I just went with it – totally making this up as I went along.  It may not be the first recipe I’ve ever made up from scratch, but it is the first recipe I’ve dared share with people.  So hopefully you all like it as much as I do… I’ll be super embarrassed if not!

Also, no scary story today… I couldn’t get it quite right.  I’ll keep working and maybe I’ll post it a little later.  But Happy Halloween anyway, right!?

Monster Stew

time and difficulty

Let’s start with the beef.  This’ll take about an hour to cook down, and the entire recipe will take about 2 hours, so give yourself plenty of time before you plan to eat.  Otherwise you’ll be starving come 9 pm and you’ll order take out just because you don’t want to wait till it’s ready.

Cut the beef into 1 inch cubes.  Add oil to the bottom of a heavy pot – as usual, I prefer my cast iron – and turn it on medium.  When the oil is hot add the beef and garlic salt and stir until the meat is browned on all sides.  Then add 4 cups of beef broth, wait for it to come to a boil, turn it down to a simmer, put the lid on, and step away for an hour.  I’d recommend checking it every half hour to make sure the liquid isn’t boiling off too quickly.  If it looks like it needs more liquid you can add more beef broth or water.

While the meat is cooking cut the carrots, onions, and peppers into bite size pieces.  Also slice the Andouille sausage into bite size pieces and pull the tails off the shrimp.  It’s pretty easy – I talk about it in my Seafood Fried Rice post.  But here’s a quick recap: Properly thaw the shrimp.  Then place the shrimp on a cutting board, lay your knife on the tail, and gently pull the shrimp away from the tail.  It should just slip right out.  Easy peasy.

add rice

When your beef has been stewing about an hour add the remaining beef broth and the rice.  We are deviating slightly from the photos.  After eating the stew it was determined (by me) that the rice takes way too long to cook and the shrimp and veggies are all overdone by the time the rice is done.  I think this is inherent to the thick grain nature of the forbidden rice, which brings such a delightful color, but really takes a long time to cook.  So instead, add the rice and broth to the beef and bring back to a simmer.  Place the lid on and leave it alone until we add everything else.  This will allow the rice to cook properly.  A word of advice – if you’re using white rice, you probably need to add the rice and veggies/shrimp at the same time.  If you’re cooking with brown rice, I’d recommend adding them early, like the forbidden rice.

We want to add the shrimp/veggie/sausage mixture in at about 15 minutes remaining in rice cooking time.  So when the rice has been cooking for about 10 minutes heat another pan/skillet with the remaining oil until it’s hot.  Add the sausage, shrimp, and creole seasoning and stir until the shrimp are just barely turning pink.  At this point add all the veggies, stir them around until everything is shiny, and pour the entire thing into the soup pot.  Stir it around to mix the creole seasonings in and cover again, letting it simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes more.

close up of stew

Serve and enjoy this creepy, purplish black masterpiece!

Link’s Monster Stew recipe:

    • Any Meat
    • Any Seafood
    • Monster Extract

Monster Stew

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
  • Print

Southern-style beef and seafood stew with forbidden rice

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rump or chuck roast
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, thawed and deveined
  • 15-20 inches of Andouille sausage (about 3 links)
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 8 cups beef stock
  • another 4 cups beef stock and water in case your liquid boils off too quickly
  • 5 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons Creole seasoning

Directions


1. Cut the beef into 1 inch cubes.
2. Add 3 tablespoons of oil to the bottom of a heavy pot and heat on medium.
3. When the oil is hot add the beef, salt pepper, and garlic salt and stir until the meat is browned on all sides.
4. Add 4 cups of beef broth and allow to come to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. I recommend checking it every half hour to make sure the liquid isn’t boiling off too quickly.  If it looks like it needs more liquid you can add more beef broth or water.
5. Cut the carrots, onions, and peppers into bite size pieces. Slice the Andouille sausage.
6. Pull the tails off the shrimp. To do this, properly thaw the shrimp. Place the shrimp on a cutting board, lay your knife on the tail, and gently pull the shrimp away from the tail. It should slip right out.
7. When your beef has been stewing about an hour add the remaining beef broth and the rice and bring back to a simmer.  Place the lid on and allow to cook for 15 minutes. A note: if you’re using white rice, add the rice and veggies/shrimp at the same time as the cooking time is less for white rice.
8. Add the shrimp/veggie/sausage mixture in at about 15 minutes remaining in rice cooking time. So when the rice has been cooking for about 10 minutes heat another pan/skillet with the remaining oil until it’s hot.  Add the sausage, shrimp, and creole seasoning and stir until the shrimp are just barely turning pink.
9. Add all the veggies, stir them around until everything is shiny, and pour the entire thing into the soup pot.
10. Stir the stew to mix the creole seasonings in and cover, letting it simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes more.
11. Serve and enjoy this creepy, purplish black masterpiece!

Top 5 Spooky Games

Top 5 Spooky Games

Now, I need to preface this with a little confession: I don’t play scary video games.  And there’s a reason for that.  While I love scary movies, scary books, and scary podcasts I can’t seem to play a scary video game.  I have a pretty vivid imagination and that leads to some pretty horrific nightmares and night terrors, even as an adult.  It’s easier to separate myself from movies, books, and podcasts because, while I’m hearing the story, they aren’t quite as immersive as a video game.  I tried a horror video game once… Until Dawn… and it gave me nightmares for a week.  And I barely made it through the first hour or so of gameplay.  So the games I play at Halloween/all year long because who doesn’t love a good scare, are mostly tabletop.  I do list one video game – it isn’t horror but it’s definitely suspenseful!

betrayal at house on the hill

Betrayal At House on the Hill

Easily my favorite game to play at Halloween.  In this tabletop coop you and your group are explorers within a haunted house – but you don’t know it’s haunted.  Based on a series of cards drawn and dice rolled you eventually discover why the house is haunted.  When the haunt begins the combination of cards drawn dictate you toward one of 50 scenarios in which one of the players becomes a “traitor” and the game becomes all against one.  This game is incredible, especially when played with the right ambiance of dim lights, spooky music (I highly recommend Midnight Syndicate – especially the album listed in my Top Spooky Music post), and people who are willing to get into the atmosphere!

arkham horror

Arkham Horror

I love this game so much.  We have a set of friends that we play long, complex games with and they introduced us to this one.  Again, it’s a cooperative tabletop game but this one takes place in the mythical world of H.P. Lovecraft.  There are several scenarios, each involving a new Arkham “boss” monster, including (obiously) one with Cthulhu.  Each of the scenarios brings new challenges to what is already a fairly complex game.  Add in some luck of the dice rolls and an increasing sense of panic to complete the game and you have the perfect creepy horror game for any Halloween night.

the last of us

The Last of Us

Ah, here it is, the one lone, intense video game.  Now, I know this isn’t a “horror” game, but there are moments in this zombie thriller that will get your heart racing.  I’m not the biggest fan of zombie games, or the whole zombie genre, but this one is special.  With epic storytelling and a realistic zombie plague – there is actually a fungus that behaves eerily similar in real life, called the Cordyceps fungus – this game starts out with a creepy overtone.  But add in a few truly frightening moments (anyone remember the hotel basement?) and you’ve got a recipe for the perfect spooky Halloween game.

luigi's mansion

Luigi’s Mansion

Now, this one isn’t scary, but how could I possibly leave out a Mario game about a haunted house!?  This game is wonderful, in the vein of other classic Mario games, but with a few Luigi twists that really make that character stand out.  Add in a few ghosts and some tricky puzzles and you’ve got a great Halloween game you can play to get you or your kids in the spirit of the holiday!

mysterium

Mysterium

Yet another tabletop game based in a haunted house but this one feels a lot more like a version of Clue.  Instead of discovering the murderer of the recently deceased, however, you’re a set of mediums receiving visions through one of the players, acting as the ghost.  Through a series of rounds the ghost must covey their clues to the mediums through basic visions to help them discover the location, weapon, and suspect of their murder.  While this game is a little less creepy and a lot more fun, it’s still a fantastic Halloween game, particularly for those who prefer a their games a little less frightening.  Trust me, you’ll enjoy this one.  Especially if you like a good who-done-it!

Bonus Game

ten candles

Ten Candles

This little gem was introduced to me by our dear friend over at Adventure Rules, Ian.  I’ve just started to get into tabletop RPG and Ian very kindly suggested this as a good introduction.  Now, I haven’t actually played this game.  I keep trying to make it happen but I can’t find people to play with me/haven’t been able to find the time to prep for it.  I’m hopeful it’ll happen before the end of the month.  But from the descriptions, from the way Ian explained it, and the photos, it looks like a truly terrifying game!  Played using candlelight and character sheets that you literally burn, it has all the hallmarks of a good, solid scare.  Just be careful – if you have a good game master you may not sleep that night.

Top 5 Spooky Books

Top 5 Spooky Books

In my Spooky Podcasts post I discussed the type of scary stuff I enjoy.  Because of my pretty picky preferences, I’m actually not the biggest fan of horror novels.  While I enjoy, thoroughly, being scared, most horror novels include one of the things I don’t like.  And while there is really good horror out there and even some that I do enjoy my version of being scared by books tends to be centered in paranormal suspense/thrillers.  But this list doesn’t just include my favorite frightening novels.  It also includes my favorite Halloween book of all time, something I read multiple times throughout the year, and even daily now that I have my own kid!  So without further ado, let’s get listing!

It's halloween

It’s Halloween: Jack Prelutsky

When I was a kid we owned a copy of this book and my dad made up tunes to go along with the catchy poems written by Prelutsky.  The poems are spooky and fun, just perfect for your little trick-or-treaters.  And if you feel inclined to make up your own tunes you’ll have the best Halloween carols to get you and your kids in the Halloween spirit!  And who knows, if I get enough people asking for my songs, maybe I’ll put a few of them on Instagram for you to hear!

thunderhead

Thunderhead: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

This is one of the scariest books I’ve ever read in my life, including the handful of Stephen King I’ve picked through.  Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are my favorite authors, hands down, and they have an incredible talent for writing suspenseful, slightly paranormal, murder mysteries that I can’t get enough of.  The entire Pendergast series is worth reading, but if you only choose one make sure it’s this one.  It’s more of a stand-alone novel very early in the series, so there’s no need to truly know the characters beforehand.  And the subject matter, skinwalkers, hits me right in the backyard (being from the state it’s set in) and in the goosebumps.  If you get jumpy, I don’t recommend reading this one at night…

relic

Relic: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Ah, Relic.  My first foray into the world of supernatural thrillers.  I will never forget the first time I read this book and will never forget how it altered my taste in novels forever.  This is the first of the Pendergast series by Preston and Child, and it is the perfect first novel.  Terrifying, thrilling, and with one of the best epilogues ever written, I cannot recommend this book enough.  If you accidentally saw the movie don’t let that sour your opinion of this book.  Just pretend, like I do, that the movie was never made, and fall in love with one of the best book series of all time.  Maybe, like me, you’ll eventually have an entire bookshelf dedicated to just these two authors.

the woman in black

The Woman in Black: Susan Hill

I always take 4-5 books on vacation with me.  There’s always so much downtime when you travel and I want to make sure I have enough material – especially when I travel alone.  For one of my last work trips I took The Woman in Black, thinking it would be scary, but ultimately fine (I don’t read a lot of ghost stories that genuinely frighten me).  But I was dead wrong.  I read this the first night, all in one night, and was so scared I ordered room service just to have someone else come to my room for a moment.  I couldn’t even leave my bed to go to the bathroom.  Now, this book could be considered non-frightening because there aren’t any visions of the actual ghost, any jump scenes or violence.  But the mastery of this novel is similar to The Haunting (my favorite scary movie).  It doesn’t ever show you the ghost, what’s haunting the house.  It leaves nearly everything up to your imagination.  And if you’re willing to let your imagination run wild you’ll be terrified.

amazonia

Amazonia: James Rollins

This was the first James Rollins book I read and it terrified me.  His complex, well-developed plots are enthralling, and always center on some supernatural, unexpected terror.  I remember my mom getting a bunch of Rollins for Christmas from my dad and, within days, I had borrowed most and them and read them.  But this is the one that scared me the most – it was so gripping I literally couldn’t put it down and read deep into the night to finish it in one day.  If you prefer thrillers to true horror I can’t recommend this book enough!

Bonus Guest Posts!

I have two in-laws who share with me my love for reading scary books.  My sister’s brother, Spencer, reads all the horror I’m too chicken to pick up, and my husband’s sister, Teri, reads all the bewitching novels that I’ve never even heard of.  So I asked both of these amazing readers to contribute guest paragraphs on their favorite scary novel and why it’s so good!

First, Spencer, is the first person I ever met who reads actual horror.  He has recommended all of the Stephen King novels I’ve attempted and loves scary movies more than almost anyone I’ve ever met.  He’s not intimidated by long, intense novels, so be warned about his favorite book!  If you pick it up you’ll be in for 1000 pages of pure terror.

And second, Teri Harman, is a voracious reader who finishes as many books in a year as I dream of finishing.  But she’s not just a reader, but also an author herself, and has published a trilogy about witches, The Moonlight Trilogy, and a stand-alone novel about dealing with grief, love, and loss, called A Thousand Sleepless Nights.  Her website, including all her information and where to purchase her books, is here.  Definitely go check her out!

it

Spencer’s Pick – It: Stephen King

When I was asked what the scariest book I have ever read was, “It” by Stephen King instantly came to mind. You’re reading about a monster whose main form of choice is a clown, has a way of figuring out your deepest fears and secrets, and then uses those to scare the main characters senseless. You find out that he does this as a way to survive and “feed” off of their fears. Clowns are unsettling to begin with but now everyone can experience a little coulrophobia. The character development is so amazing in “It”, you feel a personal connection and feel such horror when you see how It chooses to present itself to them. The book kind of makes you evaluate your own fears and you start to become very aware of every phobia you feel. “It” really got into my head and stuck with me long after the back cover was closed.

the winter people

Teri’s Pick – The Winter People: Jennifer McMahon

Set in a small town in Vermont, this physiological thriller brings the mysteries of the past roaring into the present.  In 1908, Sara Shae is found dead behind her farmhouse shortly after her daughter disappeared.  In the present day, seventeen year old Ruthie lives in Sara’s house with her mom, Alice, and younger sister.  When her mom goes missing, Ruthie finds Sara’s diaries hidden under the floor in Alice’s room.  But can the secrets inside help Ruthie stop the past from repeating itself and save her mom?

This book is beautifully written, with rich emotions and deep characters.  The mystery is impossible to turn away and the atmosphere thrilling.  The supernatural elements are mystical and perfectly creepy.  So, so good!