The Loved Ones: Pink Princess Cupcakes and Lovesick Blondies

 It’s Valentine’s Day. Are these treats “pretty enough?”

 the loved ones movie poster

            Valentine’s Day. The day of love.

For those of us gals fortunate enough to be married, attached, committed, or sought after,  Valentine’s Day can be a tasty, thoughtful day of fresh roses, candy, skimpy lingerie, or tickets to see The Evil Dead Musical (hey, whatever trips your trigger, right?)

But what about those single others? The day of love must be a virtual day of sorrow. And now that Valentine’s Day apparently has its own season (from January 2nd when the Christmas decorations come down to February 14th) it must be just one huge month of misery leading up to the Big Depressing Day.

If you are one of the fateful that falls into the latter category, don’t do it. Don’t slide into your yoga pants and oversized shirts. Don’t crawl under the covers, tear into that heart-shaped box of chocolates you bought yourself, and tune into John Hughes movies all night.

stone family fun

Dinner with the Stones

Instead, I invite you to call upon your other lonely lady friends and spend the evening at prom with Princess, Daddy, Bright-Eyes, and The King. It will be an absolutely terrifying night of looking through creepy stalker scrapbooks and blood-soaked torture porn all set to an eerie pink disco-ball backdrop. Refreshments like Lola’s “finger lickin good” chicken and a sludgy syringe cocktail-to-the-neck will be served, but you could always just bring your own…I’ve got a few in mind!

 

lola and drill

Princess and her drill

The Loved Ones. Think Pretty in Pink meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In fact, Lola (aka Princess) is exactly the type of tormented, obsessed, deranged girl I’d expect to see spawned from Leatherface and Molly Ringwald’s character, Andie.

 

the king

Brent, the new Loved One

When Lola is rejected by her latest crush, Brent, and then later finds him having sex with his beautiful girlfriend, Holly, she goes totally over the edge. She recruits her equally psychotic father (aka Daddy) to kidnap Brent and make him into her new King. But when Brent refuses to play along nicely with the sick prom night fantasy, he’s put through some pretty horrible, mind-bending punishment involving nails, drills, and crappy teen love songs. His rebellion eventually lands him in the cellar of surprises with Lola’s other collected “loved ones”.  I must say Robin Mcleavy is flawless as Princess; so sadistic and cute all drenched in pink. The only thing truly off-putting about this movie is Lola’s angsty theme song “Pretty Enough” that has been lodged into my brain for weeks now.

 

Am I not pretty enough? Is my heart too broken? Do I cry too much? Am I too outspoken?” Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

The Recipes: I don’t like pink. But it’s Valentine’s Day, and Princess wouldn’t have it any other color. In fact, I was told the cupcakes are almost too pretty to eat. Don’t let their outer charm deter you. Inside they are a sadistic, fluffy addiction just waiting to overcome you. The blondies are rich, buttery, and loaded with crunchy candy. When the last one is gone you’ll be lovesick for more…

 

DGbaking Blog 002Pink Princess Cupcakes

(makes 18-24 pretty treats)

 

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 ¼ cups sugar

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 sticks (1 cup) softened butter

3 eggs (room temp)

1 cup buttermilk

¼ tsp pink paste food coloring ( I used Wilton Rose Petal Pink to get the closest color to Lola’s dress)

1 batch Pink Vanilla Butterscream frosting

White pearl candies (I used Wilton’s white sugar pearls)

9-12 fresh strawberries (stems removed, cut in half)

Cupcake pan, pink or V-day print liners, pastry bag, large decorating tip ( I used tip #1G)

How to Make em: In a mixing bowl or bowl of standing mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and food coloring with your hand mixer or stand mixer into a creamy submission. Add the eggs, one at a time,  and the vanilla until fully combined. In a separate smaller bowl, sift together the boring stuff- flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to your creamed butter mix alternately with the buttermilk. I always start and end with the dry stuff. Mix until just combined. Fill liners about half way. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before dressing up.

Pink Vanilla Butterscream Frosting

(Makes enough to dress 18-24 cupcakes)

Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butter

1 pd powdered sugar

1/8 tsp salt

¼-1/2 cup whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp pink paste food coloring (I used Wilton Rose Petal Pink)

How to Make It: In a mixing bowl or bowl of standing mixer, beat together the butter, cream, vanilla, and salt with your hand mixer or stand mixer into a creamy submission. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until smooth. Stir or mix in the food coloring until thoroughly assaulted with pink.

Dollin’ Up the Cupcakes: Fit your pastry bag with your preferred decorating tip. Pipe on the pink frosting however thick you like it. Add a dash of classy white pearls and pierce with a strawberry slice. Too pretty!

 

100_1566Lovesick Blondies

(Makes 12 addictive bars)

 

Ingredients:

2 sticks (1 cup) melted butter

2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs (room temperature)

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1 bag Valentine’s Day M&M candy (I used the peanut butter ones)

13×9” pan

How to Make Em: Prep your pan with nonstick spray. In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar until well combined. Add in the eggs and vanilla. In a small bowl, sift together the boring stuff-the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture. Mix in the candies until well incorporated. Spread into the pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-28 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into. Tastes awesome with vanilla ice cream!

Slumber Party Massacre Event and Recipes Part 1

                                                        It was a Slumber Party Massacre at our place for Halloween.

      This year, I couldn’t wait to dig out this truly awesome 80’s gem of a slasher flick that inspired our annual Halloween party. This greatness graced my VCR back in 1982, and became a birthday party sleepover staple for years thereafter. I subjected my squeamish friends and younger cousins to plenty of good (and bad) horror, but I think this is the one that made the memory books. I know it always brings back “the good ole days” for me…

As I mentioned, we chose this as our Halloween party theme, but you could just as easily copy my ideas for any type of big girl slumber party/ horror movie night. I had so many cool ideas and great recipes going with this party that I had to break this blog into two sections. An original post that talks mostly of the party details and a sequel that will offer you some insight into what makes this film so righteous.

Invites: Aside from social media event creating, I looked high and low for some simple Slumber Party invitations that I could bloody up for this party, but eventually gave up and made my own. I just cut pink card stock into simple squares and rubber stamped an old vintage telephone image on the front. Okay, so the phone image totally invoked naughty memories of a few prank phone calls we made back in the day at some of my notorious sleepovers.

In the Massacre font on my handy computer, I typed the heading “This is no prank! You are invited to a Slumber Party Massacre.” and then scribed the party details on the back. Once the invitations were complete, I gave them each a good splattering of red tempera paint blood by just thinning the paint with water and tapping a small paint brush over them. (Being a preschool teacher has its perks when it comes to getting crafty).

What to Wear?  Duh. It’s a slumber party. Wear pajamas! We had a white trash hubby wear his stained wife beater under a dirty bathrobe and cowboy boots. We had “grown up” Superman underoos, a cute little Cindy Loo Who in pigtails, and the ultimate in dorky-Angry Bird full footie jammies. But if I do say so myself, I stole the party dressed in my Daryl Dixon pajamas. My ensemble was fully complimented with my homemade DD swag-crossbow earrings, zombie/crossbow bracelet, and zombie heart hair bows for my piggy tails.

Setting the Scene: I wanted a bloody mess! Everything that stood still was drenched in white vinyl tablecloths splattered with the red tempera blood I used on the invites. I even spent the cash on a blood splattered shower curtain for the bathroom. Our local dollar store had vinyl blood drip wall borders and various paper instruments of torture that I implemented into our gory décor. A good horror buddy of mine sent me a huge batch of chilling horror soundtracks to play, and I incorporated some of my 80’s stash to mix. After all, this is a movie of the 80’s.

I got my Daryl Dixon swag on…

White candles dripping blood, candy filled glassware smudged with bloody fingerprints, and blood soaked body parts scattered haphazardly along the table suggests the Driller Killer crashed the party. But the real prize was my sickening centerpiece-a stack of pizza boxes oozing with blood and body parts. Severed limb pizza anyone??  To pay homage to the holiday; the reason for the celebration, I slathered corn syrup-based blood over different sized pumpkins. And keep in mind, in my world, anything looks appetizing on a tattered blood-soaked tablecloth.

Corn Syrup Blood recipe: Add 1 small bottle of light corn syrup and 1 small bottle of dark corn syrup to a nonstick pot. Add an entire 2 ounce bottle of red food coloring, stirring with a wooden spoon. This makes a bright slasher movie red. If you want more gore, add about 12-20 drops of black food coloring and a couple drops of blue.

         

            Other Fun Stuff: We played Human Scavenger Hunt. I made a list of slumber party related statements and guests had to find people at the party that either agreed or matched the statement. Who has played Bloody Mary or a Ouija board, the lame person at the party who didn’t wear a costume, someone who had attended a slumber party before, someone who had made/eaten “special brownies”, etc. I took a lot of guidance from the movie and my own slumber party experiences when creating the list. Whoever had the most names on their paper was named winner.

Something else fun…I found Sweet Tart candy teeth and gummi body parts at Walmart of all places!

Snacks and Goodies: Reminiscing about food typically found at slumber parties and, of course, consulting the movie, I came up with a pretty gruesome and fun menu. Savory snacks included Pizza Crescent Rolls, Deadgirls in a Blanket, assorted chips and dips, and a popcorn bar featuring three flavors of popcorn-Bloody Mary, Apple Cinnamon, and Chocolate Caramel. Sweet treats included Driller Killer cupcakes, Root Beer Float pillow pies, Deadblondies, and Scary Berry Pizza. Our signature cocktail of the night was called Truth or Dare.  (You will find the recipe for Bloody Mary popcorn in an upcoming blog…muwahahahaha)

The Recipe: Deadblondies

See what I mean? Dead blonde…

Nothing says 80’s slasher flick than a bunch of dead blondes strewn around. I’ve deviated from the traditional blondie recipe to make more sinful and sensuous bars because aren’t the bad girls the ones that get hacked up first? The answer is yes, and these treats were the first to go…

Deadblondies

(Makes 24 naughty little treats)

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

2 cups brown sugar

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

2 sticks (1cup) melted butter

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup chocolate English toffee baking bits (Heath brand sells these, but if you have trouble finding them simply add ½ cup regular toffee bits and ½ cup mini chocolate chips)

13×9” baking pan

How to Make Em:

Obligatory Reminder: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

1. Prep your baking pan with non stick spray or veggie shortening.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the hot melted butter with the brown sugar. Cool slightly.

3. Add the eggs and vanilla.

4. In a small bowl, mix together the boring white stuff: flour, salt, and baking powder.

5. Add the boring white stuff to the butter mix. Fold in the baking chips.

6. Spread evenly in the pan and bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

*Cool and enjoy!

Deadblondies are dangerous close to the Severed Limb pizza.

The Recipe: Pizza Crescent Rolls

You can’t have a slumber party without something to do with pizza, but frozen pizza rolls from a bag are too unoriginal for a Deadgirl shindig. This simple variation is super easy and versatile as you can add whatever pizza toppings you’d like. I stuck with budget-friendly basics.

Pizza Crescent Rolls

(Makes 16 slumber party yummies)

Ingredients:

2 tubes of 8-count refrigerated crescent rolls

1 jar pizza sauce or 1 large can of tomato sauce

1 7ounce bag shredded mozzarella cheese

1 package pepperoni

1 small can diced black olives

1 small jar chopped mushrooms

Spices: garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning (use these as desired to spice up your sauce)

2 cookie sheets, parchment paper

How to Make Em:

Obligatory Reminder: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

1. Prep your pans by lining both cookie sheets with the parchment paper.

2. Add the pizza/tomato sauce to a small bowl. Add the spices to desired flavor. Set aside.

3. Crack open each tube, tear each piece of dough at the perforation, and unroll each crescent flat.

4. With a regular eating spoon, smear a spoonful of sauce across the dough.

5. Add a pinch of cheese, 1-2 pepperoni slices, a pinch of olive, and one sliced mushroom.

6. Roll according to tube directions. I just start at the large end and roll my way to the small end, and it works fine for me, but many people are anal and want to follow explicit directions. I then say-consult your tube.

7. Pop in the oven and bake for 15-20 mins or until lightly browned at 350 degrees.

*These are best served warm unless your crowd is partial to cold pizza.

The Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Popcorn

More dead action courtesy of The Driller Killer!

A scary movie night without popcorn is like a serial killer without a body count-pointless. But nobody wants to eat your boring white buttered popcorn either. I chose an unusual fall flavored recipe that is just as appropriate in February as it is in October. Giving credit where credit is due: This recipe was stolen from the Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade: 20 Minute Meals Part 2 cookbook, but added to the section titled Awesome Movie Night Popcorn in my recipe box.

Apple Cinnamon Popcorn

(Serves a whole freaking bunch)

Ingredients:

2 bags of microwave popcorn, popped and cooled ( I have the best luck with Pop Secret Homestyle brand)

1 ½ cups dried apple slices, finely chopped (too gooey for the food processor. Just do it by hand.)

4 Tbsp butter (1/4 cup)

3 Tbsp water

¾ cup brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

Bowl, saucepan, wooden spoon

How to Make It:

1. Sift your popcorn for any leftover unpopped kernels. Breaking your teeth on popcorn kernels may seem appropriate during a horror movie, but believe me, your friends will not like you for it, and you won’t like the dentist bill.

2. Combine the popped corn and the apple bits in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. In a regular saucepan, melt the butter.

4. When the butter is completely melted, add the brown sugar, water, and cinnamon. Bring it to a full boil. Cook and stir for about a minute.

5. Oh so carefully pour the molten hot mixture over the popcorn in the bowl. Use a wooden spoon to gently toss the mixture until well smothered.

*Choose your favorite horror movie and enjoy!

Okay, so that does it for Part 1. Tune in next time, kiddies, for more Slumber Party Massacre commentary and recipes!

Game of Thrones: Peppermint Screamcheese Frosting and White Walker Chocolate Bars

Winter is coming… 

            For all of you raising your banners for House Stark or bending the knee to King Joffrey; for those of us rooting for the Onion Knight, wondering what lurks beyond the Wall, or still lamenting the beheading of one amazing Ned Stark, tonight is golden!
            Game of Thrones Season 2 begins tonight. For me, it’s just another excuse to bake. And just so you all are clear about how loserific my reading habits have become, I did not finish Book 2: Clash of Kings in time for the season premier. However, I have decided that reading the book in tandem with the season will quench my thirst for more between episodes. If you haven’t figured it out already-I get into my shows.
            What are you looking forward to most as Season 2 begins? I am excited to travel beyond the Wall with Jon Snow, his wolf companion, Ghost, and the rest of the Night’s Watch. Will they run into the Grumpkins Tyrion Lannister scoffs at? I’m afraid it could be something far more deadly-like those awful, pale White Walkers the septons spin tales about.
            My recipes celebrate the good and the bad of what it means to “take up the black.”  Finding one’s place in a brotherhood solidified by strength, newfound honor, and iron will is definitely a plus. But coming face to face with an icy undead corpse is a whole other test of might…
                                              Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly Taking The Black on The Wall-looks warm!

Perhaps what lurks beyond the Wall??

            My inspiration came from the gorgeous artwork in my 2012 A Song of Ice and Fire wall calendar designed by fabulous artist, John Picacio. John’s stunning work in the calendar is based off characters from George RR Martin’s novels rather than the HBO series. The picture featuring Jon Snow and Ghost is so captivating that I had to use it as a background for my recipe photo. Photographer I am not, but I think it looks amazing! See more of John’s talent at www.johnpicacio.com
            The Recipes: My favorite chocolate cupcakes take up the black in their ebony liners; this time topped with a chilling dollop of Peppermint Screamcheese frosting reminiscent of all things cold near Winterfell. (Bake up your own favorite chocolate cupcake recipe or you can try mine from the September 2011 post). If that isn’t enough chocolate for you, White Chocolate Walkers should be what does you in. With just a handful of inexpensive ingredients and very light prep, these pale treats will definitely put the haunt in your forest. PS-I’ve substituted premium vanilla baking chips for the white chocolate; whatever trips your trigger.
Peppermint Screamcheese Frosting
(Makes an obnoxious amount)
Ingredients:
1 stick (1/2c) softened butter
1 8oz package of cream cheese (softened)
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp peppermint extract
1 pd bag of powdered sugar
2 dozen batch of your favorite chocolate cupcakes (or find my recipe in September 2011 blog post)
Black cupcake liners
Embellishment: Silver sanding sugar
How To Make It:
1. Cream the butter and cream cheese into submission.
2. Add the salt and extract. Beat on low for a minute to thoroughly incorporate the flavors.
3. Add the powdered sugar a cup at a time by hand until thick and well blended.
4. After your cupcakes have been baked and cooled in the obligatory black liners, use a large star tip to add a generous dollop of snowy peppermint frosting.
5. Sprinkle with silver sanding sugar for added Night Watch drama.
White Chocolate Walker Bars
(Makes 12-16 ghostly pale yummies)
Ingredients:
5 Tbsp butter
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup premium white chocolate chips OR 6 oz white chocolate (chopped with a sharp blade)
**Remember, you can use ¾ cup premium white vanilla chips instead.
How to make em:
Obligatory Reminder: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prep a 9×9” square pan for baking.
1. Melt the butter and white chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Be warned that white chocolate burns easier than regular chocolate so you will need to babysit the pan and stir continuously.
2. Once melted, stir it up smooth. Remove from the heat and allow the chocolate to cool.
3. In a large bowl, whisk up your eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Add the cooled chocolate mixture (make sure it’s cool or your eggs will curdle. Ew).
4. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt into the bowl. Stir until thoroughly combined-no dry batter showing!!
5. Spread the batter evenly into your pan. Bake for about 20-25 minutes on 350 degrees.
Doneness Tip: The top of the bars will be lightly browned and cracking like freezing dry skin (ahem, white walkers).
6. Remove from the heat and cool on a wire rack at least an hour before cutting into.
                                             Enjoy or may the Others take you!

The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon: Bad Arse Cheesecake Brownies

So it’s time to say goodbye to another season of The Walking Dead. It’s a final farewell to Sophia, Dale, Shane, Patricia, and Jimmy. For those of you who don’t follow the series: first, shame on you! (You should. It’s good). Second, it’s not just about flesh eaters and gore. While flesh eaters and gore are enticing to a Deadgirl like me, it’s more about the character-driven story and moral/social controversy that every episode throws up in my face, demanding to be discussed to death with anyone who will engage me.

            Is the search for Sophia a lost cause? Is pregnancy during a zombie apocalypse a curse or a blessing? Who is the father? Does Carl’s hardening symbolize young people’s growing desensitization toward violence? Did Shane really kill Otis for Carl? Could I kill someone to save my own neck? Was Hershel insane to keep the walkers hidden in the barn unbeknownst to the group? Was it right for the group to go against Hershel’s wishes and kill the barn walkers? Is suicide a valid option in the midst of this kind of world crisis? Is killing Randall what Dale called “losing our humanity”? Was Rick keeping Jenner’s secret a secret a good idea? Can the group hold together, “hunker down, and make a life for themselves” as Rick demands, or is the group “too broken” as Daryl claims.
            Never has a television show or movie made me tap my moral compass or gauge my survival-ability as much as The Walking Dead. Never have I been so sucked into a character or a situation as I have been with The Walking Dead. I’ve really run the gamut of emotions-sobbing as Sophia stumbles out of the barn; cringing in horror as Glen is lowered into the well to lure out a waterlogged zombie; utterly pissed off when Andrea puts Beth’s courage to the test; justified when Andrea finally lets Laurie verbally have it; and smitten when Daryl finally lets down his guard and shows an ounce of compassion toward a grieving mother.
            As Daryl Dixon and Carol Peletier are my favorite characters in the show, my favorite part of the season was watching the beginnings of a bond form between them. I’ve been around the internet, reading other fans’ interpretations. Some think it is purely a mother-son thing (Carol being the nurturing mother Daryl obviously never had and still needs) while many believe a romance is blossoming between them.
             I surmise that Carol and Daryl are something deeper; way more complex. I don’t think it’s about mommy issues or any sort of physical attraction, but more about two completely fractured people identifying with each other’s weaknesses and finding a connection. As season two began, I loved watching Daryl’s hard exterior sort of drip away as he relentlessly searched for Sophia. Although he’s fairly socially inept, he managed to comfort Carol in a way that brought her closer to him and to the group. His violent reaction and withdrawn behavior at the search’s outcome suggests to me that Daryl blames himself, and feels like he failed the girl, her mother, the group, and ultimately Merle. I loved how the meek Carol steeled herself against his rage, proving that she could handle him. She picked through his wrought iron loyalty to Rick, his clear ability to lead and mechanically do what must be done or asked of him when duty calls, and she unearthed a “man of honor” beneath the twisted metal. All while battling the flesh hungry undead! But that’s just the start. How unfortunate that I must wait until next fall to watch the next phase.
            The Recipe: Redneck survivalist, Daryl Dixon. What’s the appeal? For starters, he says what needs to be said and does what needs to be done without a lick of concern for opposing views. He can keep you alive while staying alive, and he’s totally cool while doing it. As actor, Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), puts it, “’It’s hard not to look cool while holding a crossbow.” Or riding a motorcycle. Let’s face it-Daryl is just plain Bad Ass. What’s not to love?
            These cheesecake brownies are my ultimate favorite (like Daryl)-tough chocolate necessity combined with creamy dreamy cheesecake-sweet, yet totally Bad Ass. See the connection? I ask again, what’s not to love?
BadArse Cheesecake Brownies
(Makes 16-24 unstoppable yummies) 
Ingredients:
6 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate (chopped by a sharp blade)
10 Tbsp butter
1 cup + 2/3 cup sugar (divided)
5 eggs (room temperature, please)
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 (8oz) package cream cheese (softened)
1 tsp vanilla
How to Make em:
Obligatory Reminder: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prep a 9X13” baking pan with nonstick baking spray.
1. Cream two eggs, 2/3c sugar, the vanilla, and the softened cream cheese into submission. Set aside.
2. Melt the chocolate and the butter together in a microwave safe bowl. Stir it up until smooth and completely combined. This mixture will need to cool a bit.
3. In another bowl, whisk together 1 cup of sugar and the remaining eggs.
4. Add the cooled melted chocolate until combined.
5. Add in the flour and salt until combined.
6. Spoon about ¾ of the brownie mix into the bottom of the prepped baking pan. Next, spread the cheesecake mix evenly over the brownie layer. Using a spoon, add small spoonfuls of the remaining brownie batter all along the top of the cheesecake layer.
7. With a flat spatula, swirl the cheesecake and brownie dollops together to make a marbled effect. Don’t go into the bottom brownie layer. That serves as sort of a crust, if you will.
8. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into these supremely Badass brownies!!

When a Stranger Calls (2006): Dark and Stormy Brownies

The storm rages outside. Streaks of lightning illuminate the night, sending inky apparitions dancing across the walls. Despite the continuous roll of thunder, the children have been asleep upstairs for hours. She’s pilfered the fridge and cupboards, browsed through the never-ending TV channels, and texted everyone she knows until the battery of her phone went dead. She wished for her laptop, but settled on curling up in a corner of the sofa with a bag of Doritos, a diet Dr. Pepper, and her latest read. With just a floor lamp lighting the pages, she sinks comfortably into every word.
          Then the house phone rings, and the book jumps right from her hands. She scrambles to find the cordless in the dim room, breathlessly answers, and is greeted by the cold, dark voice of a stranger, asking, “Have you checked the children?”
          My Screen Rant: It’s every teenage babysitter’s worst fear thanks to the 1979 classic thriller When a Stranger Calls. Carol Kane stars as Jill Johnson, a babysitter terrorized by a prank caller that becomes frightenly serious after police trace his calls to the inside of the house.  I watched it many times myself as a teenager, and I distinctly remember watching it once while babysitting! I tried covering my ears with throw pillows from my aunt’s couch, but the sound of the psycho caller’s voice still seeped through, forcing me to get up and yes-check the children.
           As if the original wasn’t spooky enough, they had to throw in a remake in 2006. I was a bit hesitant as I usually am with most remakes (or “updates” as Hollywood likes to spin it these days), but just seeing the trailer had me wishing for another night with Jill Johnson at the Mandrakis house. They cast a virtual big screen unknown as the new unsuspecting Jill and threw in an amazing modern, open concept house just perfect for casting eerie shadows and echoing small sounds. The opening scene was chilling without having to see the gore you knew was there. In fact, the entire movie was blood and gore-free. It didn’t need it. The killer’s frequent phone calls, the ominous setting, and the suspense-building game of cat and mouse had me curled in the corner of my sofa through the whole film. It was darn right scary, and again had me creeping upstairs to check the children.
          I highly recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys a good thrill void of slashers, guts, and gore. But-if you’d rather snuggle up with a good book, I have listed a few suggestions:
**Serious readers of Supernatural Fantasy-Game of Thrones by George RR Martin (I’m still trudging through book 2 Clash of Kings and LOVING it).
**Something darker? Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
**Great Christian horror: Isolation by Travis Thrasher, House by Frank Peretti & Ted Dekker, or The Hunted by Mike Delloso
Supernatural Fun: Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series (I’ve read them all and laughed my way through each book).
Something light and fluffy? Let Them Eat Cake series by Christian writer, Sandra Byrd (about an aspiring pastry chef; I loved all the yummy food references throughout each book).
          The Recipe: No matter if you are watching spooky or reading spooky, you’ll need a decadent square of strong chocolate to cling to during those jumpy moments. Dark and Stormy Brownies are not for the weak of heart. These small bars are thick with intense dark chocolate flavor and go so well with a few sips of red wine.
Dark and Stormy Brownies
(Makes 12-16 tumultuous treats)
Ingredients:
9” square baking pan
8 oz dark chocolate (chopped by a sharp blade-I use the amazing Ghirardelli)
10 tbsp butter (room temp, chopped by a sharp blade)
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
4 eggs (room temp, always)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla (only pure vanilla extract, NOT imitation. The word imitation should say it all).
Obligatory reminder: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prep your brownie pan by spraying the pan with nonstick baking spray or lining the pan with baking parchment and greasing with a small slab of shortening/baking spray.
What? No leavening agents like baking soda/baking powder? Don’t fret. Eggs are a leavening agent of sorts and typically brownies do not require either baking soda or baking powder unless you want a cake brownie.
Directions:
1. Place the chocolate and butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Micro on high for about a minute until butter is completely melted. Stir to melt the chocolate. Leave to cool about five minutes. Add cooled chocolate to a large mixing bowl.
2. Add both sugars to the chocolate and mix well.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating into a creamy submission.
4. Add the vanilla extract.
5. Add the flour and salt into the bowl and stir until creamy smooth.
6. Pour the batter into your prepped pan and spread it level. (No lopsided brownies, please).
7. Bake on the middle rack of your oven for about 20-25 mins at 325 degrees.
Doneness tip: An inviting light crust will have formed on the top of the batch.
8. Cool completely in the pan. Don’t be tempted to cut into your warm brownies until they are completely “chilled” otherwise you’ll just have a big pile of muddy mush.
9. Serve with a glass of red wine, and I promise you will not be disappointed. 
**This recipe is my adaptation from a recipe in Fabulous Brownies by Annie Rigg. (Awesome brownie book, by the way!)

Happy Birthday to Me: Happy Birthday Brownie Cupcakes & Buttercream Martini

Birthdays are a big deal around here. I’m a DIY party Deadgirl so once I decide upon a theme, I pretty much fixate on every tiny detail, working my nights and weekends on my many ultra snazzy party creations. Handmade invitations, cupcake toppers, food tents, table top décor, anything I can imagine, I attempt to make before settling on buying. And that also includes the food!
            When conjuring up an idea for a birthday or any kind of themey get-together, I usually rummage through my vast collection of horror. Fortunately, I’m never disappointed by a lack of fresh subject matter. One of my favorites is definitely Cupcakes, Cocktails, and Corpses inspired by the early 80’s slasher film, Happy Birthday to Me.
My Screen Rant: I’m (obviously) quite partial to my 80’s slashers, and this particular title does not let down. To today’s younger, more impatient, less seasoned horror viewers, Happy Birthday to Me may seem a bit slow at times, but the agonizing pace is all part of its pleasure. Because giving away even a few details will spoil the movie, let me set the most basic stage for you non-seers of this classic: College coed, Virginia (the main character), has finally been accepted as a member of the hip crowd, but soon her cool friends start dying in totally awesome ways (dig my 80’s slang). And just days away from her birthday, you may fear she’ll have no one left to invite to her party. No worries. Her friends are true blue to the end. Not even death can keep them from celebrating Virginia’s big day.
            With all the who’s-in-love-or-sleeping-with-who drama, this movie is the St. Elmo’s Fire of scary movies. Although Happy Birthday’s only real attempt at romance begins with a cozy fireside shish kebab dinner and ends with the metal skewer rammed into someone’s mouth. Yowch! As you are introduced to an extensive line of real creepers, Virginia being the creepiest in my opinion, Etienne, Rudy, Alfred, and even Doc Faraday all become suspects right away. And with that I shall type no more for fear of ruining this major Whodunit for non-seers.    
          How can you incorporate this movie into your own Cupcakes, Cocktails, and Corpses party? Give it a watch. Find what inspires you about the film. Invite your friends to come as corpses. Match cupcake flavors with its familiar cocktail counterpart. How about chocolate cupcakes and chocolate martinis? Fresh apple cakes with spiked apple cider? Orange Chardonnay cupcakes with mimosas? Seriously, I could list a thousand. Get yourself on the web and start typing for cocktail cupcake recipes-chances are you’ll find one that suits your sweet fancy. (I found a tomato soup cupcake to compliment a Bloody Mary. Wowzer!) Want to serve savory appetizers? Start with anything served on a stick! Just don’t get too carried away with the empty skewer
The Recipes: Brownie Cupcakes and ButterScream Martinis; a match made in birthday heaven. You see, brownies are my niche. They are the crème of my sugary confection crop. I love making them mainly because they take no serious technical skill just excellent ingredients and a bit of creativity to turn them extraordinary. I top these brownie bites with a batch of my Milk Chocolate ButterScream frosting and a festive dash of colorful nonpareils. Let’s sing!
“Waitin’ for an invitation to arrive. Goin’ to a party where no one’s still alive. It’s a dead man’s party. Who could ask for more? Everybody’s comin’, leave your body at the door…” Dead Man’s Party; Oingo Boingo
Happy Birthday Brownie Cupcakes
(Makes 10 birthday treats)
Ingredients
6 oz unsweetened chocolate (chopped with a sharp blade)
1 stick of butter (also chopped with a sharp blade)
¾ c brown sugar
2 eggs (room temp, please)
1 tsp vanilla
¾ c all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 recipe of Milk Chocolate ButterScream frosting (to follow)
Pastry bag fitted with a decorating tip of your choice (to pipe on the frosting real cute)
Birthday print baking cups
Candy deco sprinkles (your favorite kind!)
Candles
 Prep: Add baking cups to a 12-cup muffin pan. Always give your baking cups a spray or two of nonstick baking spray for best liner results. I do, and it works!  Obligatory Reminder: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Directions
1. Add the chocolate and butter to a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for about a minute. Stir until smooth. Allow to cool.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, and vanilla into foamy submission for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the melted chocolate and stir until thoroughly combined.
4. In another small bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
5. Fold the flour mix into the chocolate batter until it is fully incorporated.
6. Use your ice cream/cupcake scoop to fill each lined cavity 2/3 full.
7. Bake at 325 (middle shelf, please) for 15 minutes. Brownie cupcakes should be firm and well risen to indicate doneness.
8. Prepare the frosting according to the directions below.
9. Allow to cool a few minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire cooling rack and cool completely before piping on the frosting.
10. Prepare your piping bag by adding the deco tip (size/style is your choice) and filling with frosting. Pipe a big ole swirl atop each brownie cupcake. Decorate right away with yummy sprinkles and adorn each treat with a single birthday candle. Lighting them is optional.  
Milk Chocolate Frosting
(Frosts 2 dozen cupcakes)
Ingredients
4 oz dark chocolate (chopped)
4 oz milk chocolate (chopped) **I love using a Hershey’s chocolate bar for this frosting!!
2/3 c heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 stick butter (soft and chopped up)
(1) 16 oz bag powdered sugar (Add a cup at a time)
Directions
1. Add the chopped chocolate and chopped butter to a medium heat-proof bowl. (I chop the butter because it melts faster and easier that way).
2. Heat the cream and syrup in a small saucepan until it just begins to boil.
3. Pour the syrup cream over the chocolate and butter. Stir until smooth. Leave to cool for at least 5 minutes.
4. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time for desired consistency to the cooled chocolate mix and stir by hand until well blended.
**I only add about 3-4 cups, but if you want a thicker frosting-add more.

Before the frosting…

                                     After the frosting
ButterScream Martini
For one drink, you will need
1 oz spiced rum
½ oz butterscotch schnapps
½ oz vanilla schnapps
1 ½ oz half and half
Ice cubes
A sprinkle of candy confetti
A cocktail shaker and martini glasses (enough for all your imbibing guests, of course)
Directions
Pour the half and half along with both schnapps flavors into a cocktail shaker. Add a bit of ice. Cover and shake until the liquid is very cold. Strain the liquid into a chilled martini glass. Garnish the drinks with a sprinkling of celebratory candy confetti. Cheers to another year alive! I hope….

Friday the 13th: Smores Brownies

Every Friday the 13th should be named a national holiday. If not every one, then at the least the first Friday the 13th of each year. I would adore a paid (or even unpaid) day to bum around in my worn Voorhees tshirt, bake up a few movie inspired treats, and spread out in the living room for a blood-soaked Friday Filmfest.
            To get you amped up for the big day, let me share some basic fun facts about the original 1980 movie that started it all for me-Friday the 13th.
                                                       Kill her, mommy. Kill her.
            -The first working title for the movie was originally A Long Night at Camp Blood. (eh, not as catchy)
            -The movie positioned itself at numero uno at the box office opening weekend. Fabulous!
            -The body count was a whopping ten and only four different weapons were used to kill off the counselors.
            -Some famous faces you will see in the movie: Kevin Bacon, Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, and Harry Crosby (played Bill)-he’s Bing Crosby’s son. Sally Field tried out for the part of Alice. Wowzers!
            -The Camp Crystal Lake sign in the movie boasts the camp’s establishment as 1935.
            -The movie was filmed at Camp Nobebosco in New Jersey. It’s still open. Anyone up for a little B-rated action at good ole Camp Nobebosco???
            -There is actually a township in New Jersey named Voorhees. It’s near Haddonfield, New Jersey. Awesome. A camp and two horror towns-my only three reasons for caring about that state.
            -Jason’s name was originally set to be Josh, but it was changed for sounding too “nice”. Jason was named after a school bully that tormented the writer in his youth. Hm. So bullies either grow up to be bigger A-holes OR become a fictitious serial killer’s namesake.
The Recipe: When I think of Camp Crystal Lake, I immediately think Smores; marshmallows brutally skewered on a stick, roasted over hot flames until their soft pale skin chars to black crisp. Then, they’re squished mercilessly between layers of unyielding graham crackers and smothering chocolate before chomped down upon by a ravenous set of jaws…sounds vicious, but so good. I took the flavors of this favorite camp time treat and incorporated them into my signature brownie recipe. These brownies may not be as legendary or iconic as the first original Friday the 13th, but they are pretty DAMN close, if you ask me.
Camp Crystal Lake Smores Brownies
(Makes 16-24 yummies)
Graham Cracker Crust:
2 c crushed graham crackers
1 stick butter (melted)
3 Tbsp sugar
Brownies:
¾ c baking cocoa (I only use Hershey’s brand)
½ tsp baking soda
2/3 c melted butter (will be divided)
½ c boiling water
2 c sugar
2 eggs (room temp, always)
1 1/3 c flour
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1 bag large marshmallows
9×13” baking pan
Candy Camp Crystal Lake Counselor Tshirts: (Optional, but so darn cool)
1 bag white candy coating (Wilton makes a decent brand or CK brand)
Black and red food writer pens (local cake deco stores/most craft stores now sell them in their cake deco aisle)
Tshirt candy mold (stumbled across one at my local cake deco store)
Obligatory Reminder: No campfire necessary! Preheat the oven to 325 degrees for the crust. Prep the pan with a light coating of non-stick spray.
Make the Crust:
1. Crush the graham crackers by adding a few sheets at a time to a sturdy freezer bag and roll over them repeatedly with a rolling pin until finely crushed. Measure out the 2 c needed. You can use any extra to sprinkle over the finished brownies.
2. Add crumbs, melted butter, and sugar to a medium bowl. Mix well.
3. Pour into the prepped pan and press the crumbs firmly to cover the entire bottom of the pan.
4. Bake for about 20 mins at 325 degrees or until golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 15 mins.
*Prepare the brownie batter while the crust bakes and cools. Preheat the oven for brownie baking at 350 degrees.
Make the Brownies:
1. Stir together the cocoa and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
2. Measure out a 1/3 c of the melted butter and add the 1/3 cup to the cocoa-soda mix. Stir until blended.
3. Add the boiling water and stir until the mixture thickens like mud (but it’s yummier).
4. Stir in the sugar, the eggs, and the remaining butter. Stir smooth.
5. Add the flour, vanilla, and salt. Blend together completely.
6. Spread carefully over the cooled crust in the pan.
7. Bake for about 20 mins on 350 degrees. (They will not be completely done. This is good. You want a soft center at this point).
8. Pull the uncooked brownies from the oven. Quickly push the large marshmallows randomly into the unset batter (as many as you’d like. I like to over do it). Place back in the oven and bake for another 7-10 mins or until the marshmallows begin to brown.
9. Cool completely. Garnish with remaining crushed graham crackers and a candy Camp Crystal Lake Counselor tshirt.
Make the Tshirts: (Optional)
1. Prep your mold by washing and thoroughly drying it ahead of time. You seriously don’t want any moisture coming into contact with your melted candy so make sure it’s totally dry before using.
2. Melt about a ¼ c of the white candy coating in a microwave safe bowl. Takes about 50 seconds, but keep a close eye on it. Stir to smooth.
3. Using a teaspoon, fill each cavity of the mold with melted candy. My mold contained 12 tshirt cavities, and I was easily able to fill the entire mold set with ¼ c candy.
4. Place in the fridge until set (only about 20 mins).
5. Only when completely set can you decorate with the food writers. I added smears of red blood and tried to make my tshirt look as “dirty” as possible without looking just gross and wrote Camp Crystal Lake in black. Place back in the fridge for a few minutes before garnishing your gooey brownies.
                                           I’m sure Jason’s mother would be so proud…