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!

 

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