October 27, 2013

Zombie Cupcakes #SundaySupper

It was a quiet Halloween night at the local Spooky Cemetery...
...but there was a strange chill to the air that left an uneasy feeling in the heart of Joe, the caretaker's son.

"There's something wrong," Joe said to his father.

"What? Is it those kids again?" They always had a problem with teenagers breaking in each Halloween. "Let me get my shotgun. We'll scare them off once and for all."

"No it's--" Joe hesitated. "It's probably nothing. I'm just going to take a walk, make sure everything's okay."
The cemetery was silent, as it should be, but Joe couldn't shake the feeling that maybe it was too quiet. Shouldn't he be able to hear trick-or-treaters in the distance? Shouldn't there be birds or crickets or other nocturnal creatures about? Maybe all these years of living on a graveyard had finally gotten to him, Joe chuckled nervously.

Then Joe spotted something moving out of the corner of his eye. There was something rustling in the grass. It's probably just a rat, Joe thought, his feet moving forward almost of their own volition. I wanted nocturnal wildlife.

There was something rustling in the grass. Joe could hear his heart pounding in his ears as he knelt to take a closer look...
... when a hand burst out from beneath the soil, gray and emaciated, stinking of rot and decay.

Joe stumbled back. It occurred to him that he should scream, but the sounds were lodged in his throat.

The ground shifted beside his foot, and Joe moved just as another hand clawed its way to the surface.
The dead were rising. And they hungered.
Though flesh of any kind would satisfy them, the morsel that they craved the most was the brain.
There was flesh aplenty in the graveyard, but it was rotted, worm-infested fare.
No, what the dead truly wanted, what they had clawed their way out of their graves for, was fresh, healthy, human brains.

And poor Joe, tenant in the land of the dead, was in possession of just such a tasty morsel.
Joe finally found the voice to scream briefly, drawing out his father with the shotgun.
It didn't do him much good.
Cast (In order of appearance)
Cupcakes- Chocolate Almond Cupcakes (recipe below)
Tombstones- Biscoff cookies and writing icing
Spooky trees- Tootsie rolls warmed until pliable, then shaped.
Grave dirt- Crushed Oreos
Grass- Shredded coconut, dyed green
Zombie fingers- Marzipan, with slivered almonds for the fingernails, and red gel icing.
Brains- Vanilla frosting (recipe below), colored with food coloring and piped with a round tip in zig-zags. (If you don't have a round tip, just put the frosting in a zip-top bag, and snip the corner)
Blood- Raspberry Red Wine Sauce
Extras- Gummy worms, candy pumpkins, and skull and spider sprinkles (Wilton brand)
Chocolate Almond Cupcakes
Yield: 30 cupcakes

2½ cups flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
¾ cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
6 oz. semisweet baking chocolate, melted and cooled
½ cup almond milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large mixing bowl with electric beaters, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until fluffy. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add the extracts and sour cream, and mix until fully combined. Add in the melted chocolate. Fold in half of the flour mixture. Mix in the milk and then the other half of the flour mixture. Beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Line a muffin tin with paper liners. Fill about ⅔ of the way (about 2 tbsp.) with batter. Bake 15-20 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes our clean. Cool completely on wire racks.

Recipe by Kim

Vanilla Frosting

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
6 tbsp. shortening
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch salt

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla and salt and gradually increase speed to high. Whip on high until smooth and fluffy.

Recipe by Kim

This week the #SundaySupper crew is celebrating Halloween with plenty of tasty, ghoulish dishes. Thank you to Kathia of Basic N Delicious for hosting. And be sure to check out the rest of the terrifyingly tasty treats the rest of the group has in store for you...

...If you dare.

At least they don't have hungry zombies waiting to feast on your brains. :D

Sunday Supper Movement

October 25, 2013

Stuff and Things 10/25/13

Life as I know it
I've been getting over a cold, so there's not a whole lot to report on this front. Just work stuff: a guy urinated in the parking lot, a kid threw up on the carpet, called a couple ambulances. You know, the usual.

My life is this.

NaNoWriMo is also fast approaching. I'm not sure where to go with my plot (I tried outlining, I swear. You know what I wrote? There will be angsting, blah, blah, blah. This is why I don't outline.) and I still don't have a title. -.- You can see my synopsis here, and maybe give me suggestions. :D

Movies- Beyond this point, there be spoilers

October 23, 2013

Biscuits and Gravy

I've been getting over a cold this past week. I'm better now, though still slightly sniffly, but comfort food has definitely been the name of the game.

I had defrosted a pound of sausage meat earlier with all of the best intentions, but when the sneezing and hacking came on, I wasn't in much of a mood to cook. Still, I didn't want the meat to go to waste, so I thought about just cooking it up with some hashbrowns and making a fritatta.

Then I found we only had three eggs left. Not enough for a fritatta.
So I did a little interwebz research and saw that sausage gravy seemed really simple to make. I had a can of refrigerated biscuit dough, so I decided to make biscuits and gravy.

Well, it turns out, sausage gravy is really simple to make. I saw a number of iterations out there that were just sausage drippings, flour, cream, and black pepper. I added some unsalted chicken broth to mine because it seemed a little too bland that way (unsalted because sausage meat usually has more than enough salt), and I added lots of freshly cracked black pepper and a hearty shake of Mrs. Dash cooking blend. I also couldn't taste very well, because of the sniffling, so I might have over seasoned it a bit. I'll leave that up to you.
Biscuits and gravy isn't usually my thing, but let me tell you something: when you feel like crap and you can have a fresh, hot, filling breakfast ready in 20 minutes (including biscuit baking time), it's most certainly my thing.

Sausage Gravy
Yield: Approx. 8 servings

1 lb. pork sausage meat
1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup half and half
1 cup unsalted chicken broth
Freshly cracked black pepper
Mrs. Dash cooking blend (optional)

In a large, non-stick skillet, cook the sausage meat. Stir in the flour until well mixed. Add in the half and half and chicken broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until it bubbles and thickens. Season to taste with black pepper and Mrs. Dash, if using. Serve over warm biscuits.

Recipe by Kim

October 20, 2013

Raspberry Red Wine Sauce #SundaySupper

This week the #SundaySupper group is getting saucy. *Mrowr*

I decided to contribute one of my favorite gifts from the kitchen, this raspberry red wine sauce.
It's so easy to make, and super delicious. At Christmas, I get those little bitty mason jars, then I make a bunch of different dessert sauces, then I made little gift sets with a selection of different sauces and some homemade cookies and candies. This sauce always makes the cut.

Just sugar, red wine, frozen raspberries, and cornstarch make up this super delectable sauce. Just boil it together on the stove et voila, it's done. But no one needs to know just how easy it is, since it tastes completely gourmet.
Nom nom nom
You can use it to top waffles, cream puffs, even biscuits. My mother loves to put it on bagels. Me, I love it over ice cream. Maybe on top of a brownie sundae.

Truth telling time- usually I'm way too lazy to strain out the seeds, since that takes longer than making the actual sauce, so it's totally okay to skip that part. The seeds add extra texture, and then you can use it like the world's best tasting jam.

Raspberry Red Wine Sauce
Yield: About 2 cups of sauce

1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 (12 oz.) pkg. frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed

In a large saucepan, mix together the sugar and cornstarch. Add the red wine. Heat over medium low, stirring until dissolved. Heat to boiling and boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened, about 4-6 minutes. Add the thawed raspberries. Boil another 3-4 minutes until the raspberries have broken down and the sauce is thick and syrupy. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If desired, strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seed. Store in the refrigerator.

Recipe from BettyCrocker.com
Are you ready to get saucy?

Savory Sauces
Pasta Sauces and Pastas with Sauce
Entreés with Sauces
Sweet Sauces
Desserts with Sauces
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter each Sunday. We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm EST. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

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Sunday Supper Movement

October 18, 2013

Stuff and Things: Special NYCC edition

Life as I Know It
So, NYCC was this past weekend, and it was awesome. My voice took three days to come back (answering the phone at work was super fun, since I had gravely Batman voice. "How may I direct your call? To justice.") (but I apparently picked up a strain of Con Crud with a 72 hour incubation period, because my voice came back, but now I'm sick. -_-) I was able to spy Kayle The Cooking Actress in her natural habitat. :P And I got paparazzi'd like whoa. The minute I walked in on Friday, I had a River Song run up to me and ask to take my picture. And it didn't stop. You guys know I love my costume. It was comfortable to wear all day, it was obviously the TARDIS, and I'm still super proud of those panels. But I'm not the first person to do a TARDIS cosplay, and I figured mine was relatively simple enough that it wouldn't stand out.
I figured wrong. The bestie was walking with me, and she was like, "I feel like I'm with someone famous." People kept coming up to me saying they loved my costume, or pointing and going, "OMG, it's the TARDIS," or tapping me on the shoulder and asking for my picture. My social anxiety was not prepared for that. But I didn't freak out-- actually, I had a goofy, semi-embarrassed grin on my face most of the time-- and everyone was really sweet. I've heard horror stories about female cosplayers and the comments they receive and how they get cred-checked constantly. None of that happened; I guess nerds on the East Coast are just better than nerds in San Diego. Pwned. Anyway, if you see my pics elsewhere on the interwebz, send me the link.

My favorite part was probably the fact that everyone kept thinking the bestie was Martha Jones, and she had no idea who that was. A couple people wanted her picture too. I was very amused. (That's what you get for not dressing up for comic con. Honestly.)
Now, I'm completely terrible at taking pictures, but I do have a couple for the people who were begging me. Mostly of my M&M dressed up as Kaylee for Kid's Day. I'm a sucker for babies.

Movies- Beyond this point, there be spoilers

October 16, 2013

Freezer Paper Stencil Tutorial

New York Comic Con might be over, but I have one last NYCC-inspired craft for you: freezer paper stenciling. Now this isn't inherently geeky. In fact, it's the easiest way to do DIY screen-printing. You could totally do a t-shirt with sports-y theme or your favorite band. Or dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are cool, right?

Me, I wanted a bag for NYCC that was big enough to carry my stuff, with a flap so I didn't have to worry about someone reaching in and taking my wallet, and something that wasn't going to take away from my costume. In the past, I've used a tote bag I bought at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian (subtly nerdy, and it has my favorite piece on it, Game Fish by Larry Fuente), but that wasn't especially TARDIS-y. My original idea was to print another iron-on transfer of the TARDIS Pull to Open sign and iron it on to a white messenger bag.

Apparently cheap, plain white messenger bags are really hard to find. All the cheap bags are meant for kids and have patterns on them. The plain white ones I was finding were all uber-special laptop bags, $60 and up. I finally found an off-white/light beige one at Walmart for $10, but it was also a laptop bag, and too wide for the pull to open sign to look okay on, so I decided instead that I wanted to put "Bad Wolf" on it instead. Long story short, I found this really cool graffiti-art TARDIS and that was the pattern I ended up using. (I couldn't find the original artist, but I fell head over heels for the design. If you can find the artist, let me know)

If this is your first time doing anything remotely similar to this, I would strongly suggest choosing a less complicated pattern. This isn't the first time I've worked with freezer paper, though. It's actually what we used in a print making class I took in high school to create a resist for screen-printing (my high school had more than its share of faults, but we had a seriously bitchin' art program). But I never realized that you could use it without a silk screen, not until I discovered Pinterest.

Freezer paper is heavy, white parchment paper that's waxed only on one side. It's great for crafting because you can draw-- or print!-- on the paper side, the waxed side is non-stick, and it's not as flimsy as waxed paper. And apparently, if you iron it, the waxed side will stick to fabric and peel off cleanly. Thank you, interwebz, for teaching me this. It's just about the coolest thing ever. I forsee more freezer paper stenciling in my future.

First things first: Choose your pattern and what you're stenciling it on. Print or draw a test on plain white paper so you can check sizing and placement. Always make sure to measure, measure, measure. If you're using a t-shirt, plain tote, or anything that can go in the wash, wash it first: delicate cycle, mild detergent, tumble dry low (or follow instructions on the tag). I wouldn't suggest using a laptop bag like I did, just because it is waterproof, for obvious reasons, and things didn't stick as well as I would have liked. But I was using a graffiti art print, so little mistakes are less noticeable.
Now the cool part: you can print the design right on the freezer paper. Cut the freezer paper to the same size as a regular piece of copy paper (I used a paper cutter so I could make sure everything was even), and put it in your printer so that the design will print on the matte/paper side. Convert the design to black and white in your favorite photo editor, size it up the way you want, and hit print. It went through my printer no problem (I had more trouble with the iron-on transfers, which are meant to go through the printer).

Tape the design onto a cutting board and use an X-Acto knife (or the freebie you got in a glass etching kit. Heh) to cut out the black areas. This is why you want to do a more simple design, since my super cool graffiti-art TARDIS had a lot of really delicate details, and it took hours. If you accidentally cut out any white pieces that need to stay (like the insides of letters), make sure to hang onto them. You can place them back onto the design when you iron it on.
Which brings us to the next step: Lay the bag or shirt on a flat, steady, heat resistant surface. Put a piece of cardboard in the middle to prevent the faint from seeping through. Iron it to remove any wrinkles. Place the freezer paper stencil waxed side down on the fabric-- take your time and make sure you place it correctly. With the iron on high heat, iron the stencil onto the fabric, taking extra care around the edges of the design. I placed a piece of parchment paper over the design first, just to make sure I didn't accidentally fold or crease or move anything around, but that's optional. Again, my stencil had a lot of delicate details. The freezer paper didn't stick as well as I would have liked, but I think that's because of the fabric of the bag. Like I said, I wouldn't recommend a laptop bag.
Get some fabric paint (I mixed some royal blue and navy to get a real TARDIS-y blue), and paint it over the stencil (I used a foam paintbrush and stippled it on, to make sure nothing would seep under the edges. Not sure how essential that is; just don't get too goopy). Allow to dry completely-- fabric paint usually takes about 4 hours. If necessary, paint another coat so you get even coverage.

Peel off the stencil-- it will come off cleanly. Place parchment paper or thin cloth over the dried design, and iron it on low heat for about 30 seconds. This will help prevent fading, especially in the wash.
And that's all there is to it. I apparently forgot to take finished photos before NYCC, so that is authentic comic con grime you see on that bag. It is a badge of honor.

Now that you know the trick, what stenciling projects are you going to try first?

October 11, 2013

Stuff and Things 10/11/13

By the time you read this, I will be at New York Comic Con. *Movie Magic* Either hobnobbing with geeky celebrities, or-- more likely-- trying not to drool on myself as I talk stalker photos of Felicia Day and John Barrowman and Patrick Stewart. Good times.

Life As I Know It
Nothing really to report on this front. NYCC happenings, obvi, but that hasn't happened yet (as I type this), so I've got nothing to say about it. Yet. I've also been training a temp at work who--get this-- I had regional choir with back when I was twelve. Small freaking world.

I was a mezzo-soprano, in case you were wondering. He was an alto. He was also eleven, so that's probably changed. I didn't really ask.

Oh, I have a plot for NaNoWriMo. Ish. A friend told me I should write a Cheese Man sequel, and then as I was haunting the Adopt-a-Plot threads on the forums, I found one that works perfectly. But I'm not sure where exactly I'm going with it. I also don't have a title, and that makes me sad. I can't get cover art without a title.

Books- Here there be spoilers
Send me book recommendations on GoodReads! The weirder the better.

October 9, 2013

Chocolate Toffee Cookies


That's pretty much all I have to say. Blech.

I'm super busy, and life is blech.

But you know what's not blech?

These cookies. They are the opposite of blech. They are the anti-blech. They're the things that you bake when you get home from work to make the blech go away.
Cooooookeeeeeehhhhhhhhs. NOMZ.

I wanted chocolate cookies. So that's what I made. I kind of didn't measure the vanilla or salt or baking powder, so I'm kind of guesstimating in the recipe. I just want that out in the open now. I didn't feel like getting out my measuring spoons. Because I had a case of the blechs.

Soft, flavorful, chocolatey cookies, with toffee bits and dark chocolate chips. They are good noms. I used only dark brown sugar and maple syrup as sweeteners, because I like the darker flavors they have when using chocolate. And they created some tasty cookies. Not the prettiest cookies ever, but tasty. And not blech.

I mean, just look at how happy my camera's USB cord was while uploading these photos:
Isn't he cute? Its like a happy little squid. Now I'm going to see this every time I upload photos.
So make these cookies and smile like my USB cord.

Chocolate Toffee Cookies
Yield: 30 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
½ cup toffee bits

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy. Add in the eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet until fully incorporated. Fold in the chips and toffee bits.

Drop the cookie dough by rounded tablespoonful on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat. Leave 2 inches between each. Bake 10-12 minutes until the dough is set. Let cool on wire racks.

Recipe by Kim

October 6, 2013

Busy-Day S'mores Cake #SundaySupper

I don't know about you guys, but my life's been super busy right now. The job's been running me ragged: I'm training yet another temp, and last week we had about 60 drug reps in for training. I don't know how drug reps are in the real world, but in training classes, they're worse than teenagers. But not just any teenagers, the really obnoxious teenagers who think they're the shiz and can do no wrong. Absolutely no consideration for anyone beyond themselves, obsessed with their own appearance, and don't get me started on the sheer amount of cologne they bathe in each morning.

Then I have all the prep for NYCC coming up. That's been a lot of fun, but it's still taking up a lot of my time. Oh, and it's October, so that means it's time for my annual "I don't have a plot" freak out. *spastic flailing* Right on schedule.

And now I'm coming up on car troubles, so suffice it to say, cooking or baking anything too involved hasn't been too high on my to-do list.
Thankfully, this week's #SundaySupper theme of One-Pot Meals, hosted by Amy of kimchi MOM, has got my back. I think we can all agree that the absolute worst part of cooking is the cleaning, so the fewer dishes I have to wash means much less stress for me. And I could use less stress at the moment. *more spastic flailing*

My friend actually pointed me in the direction of this cake from Lucinda Scala Quinn, saying that it was her favorite chocolate cake recipe, and didn't even require a mixing bowl. Everything is whisked together in the pan you bake it in.

My only conundrum then was how to frost it. I could use my very favorite chocolate frosting recipe (which, fittingly, is Hershey's One Bowl Buttercream), but that would involve using a separate bowl and an electric mixer. I thought about maybe melting chocolate chips on top before taking it out of the oven. That's when I thought of using marshmallows. Nice, toasty marshmallows on top, all melty and gooey, who needs frosting?
Adding a couple crushed graham crackers (and some chocolate chips, because more chocolate is never wrong) makes a very simple, very easy, and very delicious s'mores cake.

The cake really is the star, though. It's so easy to make, and uses such basic ingredients, but you get this moist, tender, flavorful chocolate cake that tastes like you slaved over it all day. Then the graham crackers and toasted marshmallows on top give it a nice added texture and layer of flavor that complements the cake well.

This is some seriously good cake, people. And at only 10 minutes of hands on work, there's no excuse not to make it. Plus, if you sub in some vegetarian marshmallows, the cake is vegan. No eggs or dairy to be found.
Seriously, make this cake.

Busy-Day S'mores Cake
Yield: 8 servings

1½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 heaping tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. fine ground sea salt
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup cold water
8-12 graham crackers, roughly crushed
Approx. ½ cup mini marshmallows
Approx. ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8 inch square pan with non stick foil or parchment paper. Sift the dry ingredients together directly into the pan. Make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients. Whisk together until well combined.

Bake for 35 minutes. Sprinkle the top with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate chips if using. Bake for another 5 minutes, until the marshmallows start to turn golden brown. Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack before cutting.

Note: The cake is easier to cut after it's completely cooled, or even chilled. However, the cake is gooey, messy deliciousness while still a bit warm. Your choice.

Recipe adapted from MarthaStewart.com
Today we're proving easy doesn't have to mean sacrificing quality. Check out the rest of the One Pot Meals from the #SundaySupper crew:

“Take the chill off” Chilis, Soups, and Starters

“Put meat on your bones” Stews

“Make room for seconds” Main Dishes

“Can’t say no” Desserts

Sunday Supper Movement