TrueBlood’s Sookie Stackhouse: Luscious Lemon Fairy Cakes

TrueBlood. It all began with a book-as it usually does for me-Charlaine Harris’ Dead until Dark. Through the narration of the delightfully witty commonplace waitress, Sookie Stackhouse, Harris opens the closet door, outing all sorts of supernaturalism-vampires, weres, shifters, demons, fairies, witches, and mythical maenads. Definitely a Deadgirl kind of novel!

Then HBO came along and made it into a naughty Grindhouse-esque supernatural soap opera. Again, I’m not complaining as I’ve never been one to turn down a horror film just because of some sleazy exploitation, but really, the plotlines do mirror those typically found in The Young and The Restless.

My Screen Rant: My summers have become synonymous with another season of TrueBlood. This year, I’m glad to see we are over the dreadful lovesick Viking plotline with Eric Northman and back to some cool, calculated vampiric bloodshed. With the vampire Authority stepping up, rebel Russell Edgington eating himself back to health, and fiesty Tara reeking havoc as a freshly turned bloodsucker, things around Bon Temps are bound to get a bit…messy. And no amount of air-condition cranking can ever cool down the simmering antics of one Miss Sookie Stackhouse.

      

A bloody good reason to tune in Sunday nights this summer

The Recipe: These lemon cupcakes are as sassy, luscious, and tart asLouisiana’s favorite fairy, Sookie Stackhouse. Miss Stackhouse is always full of delicious surprises, so of course I added a generous dose of homemade and hand-forged lemon curd to these unbelievably light treats. Cap them with an equally blond dose of lemony buttercream or leftover lemon curd and adorn with a fresh summer strawberry just ripe for the pickin, and you have the prettiest little dessert a Deadgirl could ever concoct.

Luscious Lemon Fairy Cupcakes

(makes 22-24 pretty pixies)

Ingredients:

3 cups cake flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter (soft as fairy skin)

4 eggs

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

¾ c milk

¼ c lemon juice or fresh juice from 2 lemons

Zest from 1 lemon

Lemon curd (recipe to follow)

Lemon Buttercream (optional)

Strawberries to garnish

Cupcake liners: lemon yellow, red and white checked, or other cutesy summer print-BLAH

How to Make Em:

Obligatory Reminder: Spray cupcake liners with non stick baking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Beat butter and sugar into creamy submission with your hand or stand mixer. I always use my hand mixer for that ultimately personal experience hehe!

2. Crack the eggs into the mix, one at a time, beating again after each addition.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, and milk. Set aside.

4. In another bowl, combine the boring stuff: cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

5. Stir  the dry boring ingredients into the creamed mix alternately with the lemony liquids. I always incorporate them with a rubber spatula for that hand-forged quality, but feel free to use your hand mixer or stand mixer again. Low to medium speed, please.

6. Using an ice cream scoop, fill each cupcake cavity about ¾ full for full figured buxom blond results and bake about 15-20 mins at 350 degrees.

Adorn: Dollop with lemon curd or pipe on the lemon buttercream frosting. Complete the look with a whole or sliced fresh strawberry. Eat up, bloodsuckers!

Hand-Forged Lemon Curd

(Fills 22-24 cupcakes; make a double batch if you are replacing curd for the frosting) 

Ingredients:

1/3 c sugar

3 Tbsp butter

3 egg yolks

2 Tbsp lemon juice or fresh squeezed juice of 1 lemon

Zest of 1 lemon

Wooden spoon, plastic wrap, bismark tip and pastry bag

How to Make It:

1. Add all the ingredients into a medium saucepan on your stovetop.

2. On low heat, use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture until the sugar has disintegrated and the butter is completely melted.

3. Cook about 15 more minutes until the curd thickens. The mixture should coat the back of your spoon nicely without dripping off like oozing vampire skin scorched by the sun.

4. Allow the curd to cool slightly then fill your cupcakes with a bismark tip. The curd also acts as a lovely alternative to overly sweet buttercream frosting. Just remember to make a double batch!

5. To store leftover curd: add leftovers to a bowl and cover the surface of the curd with a piece of plastic wrap to avoid a yucky skin from forming.

lemon curd sticking to the spoon like it’s s’pose to

Lemon ButterScream Frosting

(Caps 22-24 pretty pixies) 

Ingredients:

1 pound bag of powdered sugar + an extra cup or two

1 cup butter (soft like fairy skin)

½ tsp salt

¼-1/2 whipping cream

3 Tbsp lemon juice or the fresh squeezed juice from about 3 lemons

1 tsp lemon zest

How To Make It:

1. Beat the butter, salt, lemon juice, cream, and zest into creamy submission with your hand or stand mixer.

2. Slowly add the powdered sugar a cup at a time to the mix. I always start with a one pound bag on low-medium speed and then add more until I get the desired thickness I need to pipe on to my cupcakes.

3. After the cupcakes have cooled completely, frost with your terrifically tart frosting. Adorn with a fresh ripe strawberry.

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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!

Christine: Choco-Cherry Cola Cupcakes

What is it with men and their machines? No, I’m not talking about Playstation, Wii, and Xbox. I mean the toys boys tinkered with way before video games ever came upon us. Cars. And not just cars-trucks, tractors, motorcycles, skateboards, dirt bikes, even remote control dragsters; basically anything with wheels they could make go fast.  
            In high school, a guy pal introduced me to the world of American Graffiti. It was a relatively innocent joy ride with dolled up muscle cars and classic rock-n-roll cranking out as teenagers cruised their way around puppy love and engine envy. A few years later, a motor crazed boyfriend insisted we rent Easy Rider, but I wasn’t nearly as captivated by Billy and Wyatt’s trippy motorcycle odyssey and all the bizarre situations they passed through as he.
             In marriage, I’ve been forced to watch the entire Fast and the Furious series (yes, even the most terrible third one, Tokyo Drift), and I’ll admit I either paper crafted or internet chatted through most of the tire-screeching madness while my corpse groom got his wanna-be-street-racer fix. And now in motherhood, I have Disney’s Cars memorized. Silly, talking, animated vehicles that crashed into my youngest zombling’s heart and have whizzed across our television screen at least 13 times a week.      
          What’s with this automobile obsession? I think the only reply I ever got that came close to answering my question was from Stephen King in the pages of Christine. It is one of King’s earlier novels and quite possibly one of my favorites (ironic considering I’m not a car buff).
            John Carpenter brought Christine to movie reality in 1983. It was easy to see why Arnie Cunningham was so taken by the gorgeous 58 Plymouth. Her sleek cherry red curves, huge headlights, and plush interior would certainly have any car fanatic salivating, but for me it was the way those headlights seemed to beam right into you; the color red seeming more dangerous than sultry, and don’t forget the previous owner’s suicide in the cab of that pretty machine. Ew. Anyone think to get a Carfax report before purchasing this lemon? Just don’t be overheard by Christine calling her a lemon. To her, she’s the cherry in your cola; the twist in your licorice. And if not, buyer beware 
          She comes out screeching, her classic rock-n-roll tunes blaring. No backseat driving, ladies, because she’s ultra possessive of her men. She’ll chase you down and try to try to choke the life right out of you. Slashing her tires? Don’t even try. Unless you want her angry tread marks streaking your back. Fire can’t ruin her. It’s merely a scratch on her exterior. She’s the most reliable vehicle you’ll ever own. She even repairs herself! I suddenly see the attraction. 
The Recipe: The classic drive-up diner era flavors in these cupcakes represent what cruisin’ was all about back in the days of muscle cars and The Platters. The subtle cherry cola really revs up the moist chocolate, and the creamy vibrant taste of the red cherry licorice filling will definitely be the unexpected highlight. I topped mine with hand-forged chocolate butterscream frosting, a swirl of the licorice filling, and a nostalgic wax candy soda bottle. The darling polka-dot liners reminded me of cute aprons worn by the roller skating car hops of the 1950’s.  Enjoy. But don’t get any crumbs on Christine’s pristine seats or else… 
Choco-Cherry Cola Cupcakes
(About 2 dozen drive-up darlin’s)
Ingredients:
1 ¾ c cake flour
2 c sugar
¾ c baking cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c half-n-half
½ vegetable oil
1 tbsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 c warm cherry cola (I used Classic Cherry Coke)
1 batch cherry licorice filling recipe
1 recipe chocolate butterscream frosting (look for this recipe under Chocolate Macabre cupcakes)
Liners: red and white polka-dots or whatever gets your pistons pumping
24 wax candy soda bottles (I found mine at Mangelsen’s here in town. Check your local candy shop.)
Make Them:
Obligatory Reminder: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray liners with nonstick spray before adding batter.
1. In a large mixing bowl, add the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. Beat with your mixer on low speed until all ingredients are fully combined.
3. Add the eggs, half-n-half, oil, and vanilla. Beat into creamy submission for about 2 minutes on medium speed.
4. By hand, stir in the warm cola.
5. Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes on 350 degrees. The tops of your cupcakes will be bouncy and playful when touched by a quick, careful finger.
6. Prepare the filling and frosting.
7. Let the little darlin’s cool in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely; I usually allow a good 20 minutes to assure the frosting doesn’t melt right off.
7. Fill each cupcake with filling using your bismark decorating tip. Pipe on the frosting using a large round #12 tip. Add the candy soda bottle. Ta-da!
Cherry Licorice Filling
(Makes enough to fill 24 cupcakes and then some!)
Ingredients:
10-12 red cherry licorice vines, dismembered into 1” pieces with kitchen scissors (I used Twizzlers. The yummiest!)
2 c water
1 ½ c sugar
¼ c cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
4 egg yolks (slightly beaten)
Make it:
1. Add the licorice pieces and water to a saucepan. Cook over medium heat unit the water comes to a boil. Stir frequently. The licorice pieces will remain a bit chunky during the process. No biggie.
2. Remove from the heat and allow the bubbling hot mixture to cool slightly. (So as not to curdle the eggs when you add them).
3. Whisk in the remaining ingredients.
4. Cook again over a medium heat, whisking constantly. The mixture will bubble and thicken. Perfect. Continue to cook for about another minute and then remove from heat.
5. Cool the filling completely to room temperature before adding to your pastry bag and injecting into your luscious cupcakes.

Dexter: Red Velvet Cupcakes with Scream Cheese Frosting

Tonight’s the night. It’s going to happen again and again. Has to happen. Nice night. Miami is a great town. I love the Cuban food and pork sandwiches, my favorite. But I’m hungry for something different, now.” –Dexter Morgan
            Another season of Dexter has come and gone. I wish I could say the same for my crush on Dexter Morgan. I blame the author, Jeff Lindsay, for introducing me to the character and initiating this whole darn one-sided love affair. It began with Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the first novel in the series.
          True crime. I’ve read plenty, pouring over every detail of senseless acts committed by sociopaths and real scary bad guys, but I’d never picked up a fictional crime drama novel until Dexter. Admittedly, the title is what got me. I’m a sucker for alliteration. After only three pages, I was hooked. It usually takes an entire chapter. An amazing read; it’s more memoir than fiction.
           The fact that blood splatter expert, Dexter Morgan, is a vigilante-style serial killer is incidental. I mean, aside from his habit of killing only evil people, he has a fairly solid sense of morality. And even that demands some consideration. A killer that only strikes down other killers because he thinks innocent people deserve to live? Sounds fair to me. Besides, Dexter’s bottomless introspection and his mild-mannered living masking that sinister secret hobby intrigued me more. He’s smart, unassumingly charming, doesn’t have it in him to get all caught up in the complexities of love/relationships, has a terrific work ethic, and is-in my mind-a great catch! Then, place a stunning visual like Michael C. Hall to bring the character to life, and you’ve created the total Dexter package. If only I was a single fictional gal living in Miami
          The Recipe: “No blood. No sticky, hot, messy, awful blood; no blood at all. Why hadn’t I thought of that? No blood. What a beautiful idea!” –Dexter Morgan. No, Dex.  No mess and no blood; just luscious cocoa and a bit of red food coloring baked up yummy then injected with a Deadgirl’s ultra satisfying, hand-forged Screamcheese frosting.
          Red velvet cake is a Valentine’s Day staple. The traditional hues of red cake and white cream cheese icing symbolize the color of purity and love or naughty decadence (depending on who you are). This Deadgirl thinks a bit on the darker side and turns it into fluffy-gory cupcakes.
            “Needless to say I have some unusual habits, yet all these socially acceptable people can’t wait to pick up hammers and smash their food to bits. Normal people are so hostile.” -DM
Dexter Morgan Red Velvet Cupcakes
(2 dozen bloody good yummies)
Ingredients:
½ cup butter (softened for the slaughter)
½ c vegetable shortening
2 c sugar
3 eggs (room temp, please)
3 Tbsp baking cocoa powder
2 ounces red food coloring
2 c cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 c buttermilk
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
2 recipes Screamcheese frosting (make 21/2 recipes if you want to fill or ahem…inject your cupcakes)
Make:
*Obligatory reminder: Spray your cupcake liners with non-stick spray. I always do, and my cupcakes come out stunning! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. All your ingredients should be at room temperature before mixing.
1. Cream the butter, sugar, and shortening into complete submission w/your hand mixer set to med-low.
2. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. In a small bowl, stir together the cocoa powder and food coloring to make a gory paste.
4. Add the gory paste to the creamed butter mix.
5. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
6. While yet, in another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and the vinegar.
7. Alternately add the flour mix and the buttermilk-vinegar combo to the creamed butter mix. Start with the flour mix and end with the flour mix. Mix into creamy submission, but do not overbeat. You don’t want to ruin the aeration process here. This is a science, people!
8. Fill your liners 2/3 full using an ice cream scoop or a spoon.
9. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. Cupcake tops will spring back when lightly pressed.
10. Cool completely before injecting or smothering with Screamcheese frosting and adorning with a cute little syringe. (See photo below) I paper crafted one in honor of my second favorite television show. (Come on, you all know Game of Thrones dethroned Dexter last spring…)
To Fill your cupcakes: For thinner fillings like frosting or Bavarian cream, I use Wilton’s bismark tip #230. For thicker fillings like pudding or fruit, I stamp the center of each cupcake with an apple corer (don’t go too deep. You don’t want seepage), pull out the “core” of the cupcake, add my filling, and add a swirl of frosting over the hole. Simple stuff.
Deadgirl’s “Scream”cheese Frosting
(Frosts 1 dozen cupcakes)’
Ingredients:
½ c butter (room temp, please)
8 oz block of cream cheese (room temp)
1 pd bag of powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
1. Beat the butter and cream cheese into creamy submission with a hand/stand mixer.
2. Add the salt. Mix well.
3. Gradually add the powdered sugar. I go by cups and typically end up using about 4-5 cups. Add sugar until your desired consistency and sweetness is achieved. If you are doing piping work with a decorator’s tip, a medium consistency is best.
Dexter Syringe Cupcake Toppers
Dexter prefers to sneak up on his victims, putting them to sleep with a quick jab from his needle. I could definitely see how that might make binding and gagging someone go much smoother.
1. Locate a suitable syringe image online. Print in color or black and white.
2. Printing black and white? Color the contents of your syringe red with non-bleeding ink.
3. Cut around the image.
4. Adhere to white cardstock with a good-quality adhesive. Cut around the image again.
5. Spread a thin layer of adhesive on the back of the image and apply a toothpick.
*If you want a larger image and a larger cupcake topper-enlarge the image and use lollipop sticks as toppers (found in most cake deco/craft stores-even Walmart carries em).
6. Add the syringe toppers to your cupcakes, positioning each topper as if it is piercing into your yummy frosting. Add a couple drops of red food coloring for a blood drip effect. You can go a little bolder and do a blood splatter on your serving platter with red food coloring and corn syrup. I’m a bit more simplistic.
                                           Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Shining: It’s Freaking Cold Outside Brownies & Frozen Jack Ham and Potatoes Au Gratin

The temperature this morning read at ridiculously cold degrees, and we got a big ole pile of snow dumped on us yesterday.  Typically, I might be slightly annoyed by this, but it’s Christmas time. I love Christmas, but with Christmas comes winter, and I only like winter when I’m singing about having a White Christmas. After that, I just wish it would go away. Speaking of snow, I recently watched The Shining on the corpse groom’s new 55” Christmas present; all bundled up in my cozy bed. The arctic scene where Wendy gallivants outside in her ragamuffin robe and butcher knife to “check out” what her loony hubby did to the Sno-Cat had me shivering, reminiscent of blizzards past and wondering what icy storms await us in the weeks to come.
            Usually by mid-December it looks and feels like winter at the Overlook Hotel outside my window; where I’d only venture outside to get away from an axe-handling madman named Jack and risk becoming my own frozen lawn ornament like Jack, as well. You know, the kind of weather that I’d only attempt to drive in if I had a Sno-Cat, and I’d only get out of bed if some creepy kid was standing at my bedside screeching, “Redrum!” During the cold months, I’d rather be hibernating, but I’ll settle for lots of baking and curling up on the couch with a good horror movie.
            My Screen Rant: Ah, The Shining; one of the two Stanley Kubrick movies I actually like (Full Metal Jacket being the second). The Shining was the first horror movie I ever watched. I was a tender five years old during my first viewing. You may be asking yourself what kind of parents take their kindergartener to a horror movie at the drive-in, but if you’d ever happen to meet my family, it would all be explained instantaneously. Now-surely you know the movie is based off Stephen King’s novel that was inspired by a stay at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Does the movie follow the book? No, not so much, but that’s okay by me. I saw the movie several times way before I ever picked up the book (at age 16-17) so I suppose this makes me a tad influenced, but by the end of the book, I felt like King had played favorites with his characters (mainly the hotel cook) by letting him live and definitely Wendy-turning her from the sniveling wincing sexless wifey I preferred in the movie to some pretty, rational, tough cookie-type. Oh wait; the book came first. Wendy started that way and the cook lived to begin with. Darn. For thirty seconds, I’d wished Kubrick had written the novel rather than King.
            Not to say Kubrick’s screen adaptation didn’t have its own subtle holes. And perhaps they were holes only I created. For instance, at the beginning, Jack tells Mr. Ullman, the hotel manager, that his wife is an avid horror and ghost story buff, but the comment kind of becomes a lost detail for me. Because I know if I had been Wendy the Horror/Ghost Story Buff, and if my kid came to me with some wild story about a naked lady in a bathtub strangling him, I’d take that baseball bat she liked toting around and go check it out myself (not send my seemingly coming unhinged husband). But that’s just me. So what was that point, director?  And while I loved the frozen Jack ending, I was puzzled by the break to the black and white photo of dapper Jack smiling at a huge party. HUNH? Perhaps I missed something, but after watching that movie for the 134th time I haven’t picked up on it yet. I would have much rather ended the movie cutting to the hospital scene where Mr. Ullman visits Wendy and Danny and reveals Jack’s body hasn’t been recovered yet. Yes, that was how Kubrick originally filmed it, but it was edited out. In an old 80’s interview with actress Shelley Duvall, she claimed Kubrick’s original ending had a “Hitchcockian feel” to it, and being a huge fan of Alfred, I just know The Shining would have been darn near perfect if he’d left that ending!!! Grrr.
            One thing can be said for King’s haunted novel. It inspired a Deadgirl family trip to Estes Park for a looksy at the famous Stanley Hotel. It sits perched like a table centerpiece on a mountain, a beautiful site to behold amidst all the grey of the peaks and white of the clouds. I couldn’t wait to step inside. The property is immense. It goes way beyond the walls of the massive hotel structure beyond to other multiple smaller buildings that I didn’t really pay much attention to until after Zach and the boys investigated the place on Ghost Adventures. In hindsight, I wish we would’ve been more attentive to the sidebars. Oh well. We did wander around the main level and basement of the hotel and snapped quite a few photos. I didn’t get any kind of strange otherworldly vibe from the hotel, but I was truly overwhelmed by all the eyewitness accounts swirling about and movie memorabilia mostly from the made-for-tv-remake that was actually filmed there. (Which I don’t even feel like getting into because I hated it so much). I ended up buying a copy of famous ghost stories from The Stanley Hotel from the gift shop and took home some pretty incriminating orb photos that may indicate something wicked may still be checked in.
Frozen Jack
     **I’m inspired! Instead of Christmas cards next year, I’m going to mail out Winter Greetings cards. It’s freaking cold out here! And maybe I’ll send a copy of these recipes tucked inside. 
The First Recipe: Chocolate warmth with a gust of cold mint. Forget love. When the snow is blowin and the wind is chillin’ I’ve got these brownies to keep me warm. Tip for ya: These yummies are gooey and sensitive by nature, so be careful not to overbake them or you will be scraping the pan like your windshield. (Yuck! I learned this the hard way). Also, if you prefer a stronger chill, substitute mint extract for the vanilla in the recipe.
It’s Freaking Cold Out Here Brownies
(Makes 2 dozen)
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 small peppermint patty candies, chopped into little pieces (use at least 15 of the candies, but feel free to add more if you really really like them. Oh, and I use York brand. Quite tasty).
Prepped 9×13” baking pan (prepped=baking sprayed down)
Obligatory Reminder: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Stir together the cocoa and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
-Measure out a 1/3 c of the melted butter and add the 1/3 cup to the cocoa-soda mix. Stir until blended.
-Add the boiling water and stir until the mixture thickens like mud-caked snow.
-Stir in the sugar, the eggs, and the remaining butter. Stir smooth.
-Add the flour, vanilla, and salt. Blend together completely.
-Stir in the peppermint candy.
-Spread in the prepped pan.
-Bake for about 30 mins (or until the brownies start to pull away from the sides of the pan) on 350 degrees.
-Cool, cut, and wowzer! Enjoy the blast!
The second Recipe: Still trying to use up the ham you’ve frozen from Turkey Day? Me too. This classic Midwestern comfort dish is easy on the food budget and well worth the time peeling and slicing potatoes, especially if you are snowed in or near frozen anyway! Don’t be like Jack Torrence and go traipsing around in the cold. Stay inside and make yummy food.
Frozen Jack Ham and Potatoes Au Gratin
(Serves a whole bunch)
7-10 peeled and sliced potatoes (Russets are cheap and hearty-like my cousin Bo)
As much diced, cooked ham as you please (or that you have left)
1 stick butter
1 ½-2 c milk
2 c shredded Cheddar-Jack cheese blend
3-4 tsp flour
S&P
Foil
9×13” baking pan
Obligatory Reminder: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Peel, wash, and coin slice the potatoes. (Washing in cold water eliminates a lot of the starch).
-Dice your leftover or fresh cooked ham, if you haven’t already done so.
-Mix the meat and potatoes together in a large heatproof mixing bowl.
-Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.
-Whisk in the flour a teaspoon at a time until smooth.
-Gradually, add the milk, stirring constantly until the mix thickens and bubbles.
-Add the cheese and S&P. Stir until the cheese melts right in.
-Pour the cheesy mix over the potatoes and ham. Stir to coat.
-Bake, covered with foil, for about an hour and thirty minutes on 350 degrees.
Tip for ya: Be sure to test the middle of the pan’s potatoes for doneness. The edge potatoes may be quicker to cook, but those middle fellas take a bit of time. But don’t worry about the edgies. They will get a tad crisp, but that’s what makes it soooo good. (Like a corner vs. the center of the brownie batch)!!
Before we part ways tonight, let me say thanks to all the regular readers and my few treasured subscribers for some of the email you’ve sent me regarding the recipes and encouraging me to keep posting. I had a suggestion to bullet future recipe instructions for easier reading so I am obliged to do so now. Also, to answer the email about why my baking times are not specific, but rather read “about 20 mins or about an hour”-all ovens are different. I’m not acquainted with your oven therefore I do not know if a batch of cookies will take specifically 12 mins or 8 mins in your oven. I do know that ever since I replaced the heating element in my oven I’ve had to adjust all my recipes to adjust to its new temperament. So, best wishes to you, and continue to creep back in to Kitchen Macabre for more recipes to die for!

Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Horseman’s Pumpkin Cupcakes

A loud noise made him look around. The creature had moved out to the middle of the road. Even in the darkness, Ichabod could see that it was a rider, an enormous figure on a powerful black horse. And he was following along behind the schoolmaster as he went…What he hated was the silence of the creature. It made not a sound, but rode along, mysterious and menacing. They both went over a small hill. Now viewing his fellow traveler against the background of the sky, Ichabod was horrified to see that the horseman had no head! Even worse, he was carrying the head that should have been on his shoulders, in the crook of his arm!” (Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 1820)
            I can hear the slight rustle of leaves and an owl sending its low warning hoot above my head. The foreboding clip-clop of the ebony horse’s hooves crossing the bridge has my heart racing. The chasing autumn wind wraps around me, setting my bones to chilling. I reach for my blanket only to realize I’m not eight years old anymore, toes curled, and hiding under the covers from the Headless Horseman.
            “If I can just reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, “I am safe.” He gave his bony horse another kick. Old Gunpowder sprang onto the bridge. His hooves thundered over the planks. As he reached the opposite side, Ichabod looked behind to watch the horseman vanish in a flash of fire just as he was supposed to. Just at that moment, he saw the goblin rise up in his stirrups and hurl his head at him. Ichabod tried to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It crashed into his skull! Ichabod tumbled into the dust. Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider passed by like a whirlwind.” (Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 1820)
            It would always take me a while to regain a normal pulse after listening to a retelling of Irving’s classic spooky legend. I had it on vinyl, but the scratchy background noise only added another layer of creepiness to the narrator’s somber tone and cheap sound effects. I still have that record somewhere up in my attic, and I still enjoy pulling out the book every Halloween season and reading it to my zomblings.
            I imagine, like Sleepy Hollow, every town has its own eerie legend. Perhaps not a headless specter riding through a wooded area, but something else just as sinister. For me, in my childhood city, it was the legend of The Black Angel. Located in the Fairview Cemetery, The Black Angel is a towering bronze statue of a feminine heavenly being constructed as a memorial to General Dodge’s wife; nothing too frightening to behold. Until nightfall. Then the angel comes to life. Literally.
            As legend has it, she has been known to come off of her pedestal, fly eerily around the cemetery, and weep real tears (or the gorier version-weep tears of blood). There have been reports of a woman wailing around the general vicinity of the statue, but crying over what? Nobody really knows, but there’s been plenty of farfetched speculation despite the fact that her flights have never been recorded and the tears appear to be from dew collecting at night and rolling right down the angel’s face. My favorite detail is how the angel insists on remaining black in color despite numerous attempts at shining her up. Hmm. Could oxidation of the bronze have anything to do with that?
            But forget science in the face of a legend. Where’s the spooky fun in that?? Think about your own towns, cities, and neighborhoods. What scary legends do you revisit during the Halloween season?
            “But the old farmers’ wives were the ones who knew best. They were certain that Ichabod had been taken away by some spirit. They often told the story around the fire on a winter’s night. The deserted schoolhouse, they said, was haunted by the ghost of the poor teacher. A boy walking by there on a summer night would sometimes hear a distant voice singing a hymn, the sound drifting sadly through the quiet of Sleepy Hollow.(Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 1820)
The Recipe: It’s the taste of October in a dense little treat. I love the grainy texture wheat flour gives the cake along with the traditional spiciness of yummy pumpkin. For the extreme do-it-yourselfer, add equal tablespoons of cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to a shaker to make your own pumpkin pie spice you can use in the frosting, your Thanksgiving pies, or even to sprinkle on vanilla ice cream. I’m not that hardcore, so I use purchased pumpkin pie spice.
 Horseman’s Pumpkin Cupcakes
(Makes about 2 dozen)
1 ½ c butter (soft like a rotting pumpkin’s shell)
2 ½ c sugar
5 eggs (room temp, please)
1 c canned pumpkin
1 ¾ c wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp salt
2/3 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
Orange or cute pumpkin print baking cups, baking spray
Add cupcake liners to your pan and spray liners lightly with non-stick spray.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with your handy hand mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add the pumpkin until blended. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, powder, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mix alternately with the buttermilk. Beat again into creamy submission with your hand mixer. Stir in vanilla. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter. Bake for about 20-22 mins at 350 degrees. Cool for at least 15 mins before smothering with pumpkin spice cream cheese frosting.
Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Frosting
(Makes an obnoxious amount)
¼ c butter  (soft like a rotting pumpkin’s shell)
(1) 8oz package of cream cheese (also soft)
(1) 16oz bag of powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla
Pumpkin pie spice (add a sprinkle or two to tease or mix in a bunch for a stronger Autumn flavor)
Beat the butter and cream cheese into creamy submission with your hand mixer set to medium speed. Add vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar and salt, beating again on low speed until nice and blended. Then, turn it up to high gear until the frosting meets your desired consistency. I say the creamier the better, of course. Finally, stir in your spice with a spoon. It’s a matter of taste how much you decide to add. I like a stronger flavor to complement the mild cake.