Sam’s Chicken Paprikash

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It has been a while since I have talked about the characters from my horror novel Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1. Sam Sadlowski is one of three founding members of the IPS, the Investigative Paranormal Society, a ghost and supernatural investigation group, that is central to my book.

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Sam is a retired homicide detective and an avid cook.  But he doesn’t do any of “that high-class stuff served on a plate too large and a portion too small,” as he would say. A proud descendant of Polish and Hungarians, he loved the peasant food he grew up with. He loves hearty food and plenty of it.

One of his favorite foods was a meal his mother made often when he was growing up.  Here is his version of Chicken Paprikash:

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(Photo By Liz French, 2016)

Ingredients:

2 pounds chicken, either breast or thighs

2 green bell peppers

2 large onions

1 pound button mushrooms

1 can crushed tomatoes

paprika — regular or hot depending on the level of desired heat

fresh ground black pepper

garlic

pinch of salt (optional)

sour cream

either dumplings or wide noodles

To prepare:

Use a large dutch oven, preferably of cast iron.

Boil the chicken for a few minutes to begin the cooking process, then transfer to the dutch oven that has a hot layer of cooking oil in it that has been heavily coated with paprika, so that the oil looks red.  Be sure to pat the chicken dry first with a paper towel to avoid oil splattering.

While the chicken is searing, on both sides, chop the peppers and onions. Clean the mushrooms with cold water and a paper towel.

After the chicken is seared, turn the heat to low or simmer.

Add the peppers, onions, and mushrooms.

Add the seasoning.

Add the crushed tomatoes.

Add two-four tablespoons sour cream, and mix completely.

Let simmer in the dutch oven for 1 & 1/2 to 2 hours.

Cook the noodles or dumplings.

To Serve:

Serve over noodles or dumplings in a large bowl.

Slick thick pieces of good bread to place on the side.

Sam prefers to drink Hungarian red wine: egri bikaver, which translates loosely as “bull’s blood” with the meal.

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If you enjoy hearty meals, give this a try. You will probably enjoy Sam’s recipe.

 

 

 

Favorite Horror Films of the 1950s: The Curse of Frankenstein

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First I want to begin with a mea culpa. I made an error in my last post about horror films in the 1950s. I wrote that Horror of Dracula was the initial film in Hammer Studio’s emergence as a major production house of horror films; it was not the first.  The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957 was their first horror movie.  I apologize for the mistake.

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Terence Fisher directed The Curse of Frankenstein for Hammer, and Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Hazel Court starred. The result was an innovative, fast paced, and  vivid colored.  It was, like so many others, loosely based on the great work of Gothic English Literature by Mary Shelley: Frankenstein: Or The Modern Prometheus (1818). Yes, that is the accurate subtitle, although it is usually omitted in most printings of the book.

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This movie was highly successful, both financially and critically.  And like Horror of Dracula would, it spawned a long series of sequels. A major difference between the direction of the following films was the focus: the monster Dracula was the recurring character in the vampire movies, while Dr. Frankenstein, and not his creature was the repeating protagonist/antagonist of the Frankenstein movies. This is also an  important distinction between the Hammer and the earlier Universal movies in which the Creature was the primary recurring character.

The Creature was also a mindless killing machine in this film, and none of the Creature’s humanity was kept from the novel, which is the film’s major flaw. It is, nevertheless, an important film from this era, and if you enjoy or are interested in horror films, then I recommend it.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

 

Favorite Christmas Movies: Part 1

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There are so many aspects of this holiday season that are wonderful to me: getting together with loved ones, friends and family alike; the spirit of giving that I hope continues to grow; celebrations; the holiday music; and the memories of happy times.  Among the favorite memories I have are a few specific Christmas movies.

The movie I will talk about today is Scrooge with Albert Finney as the star; he does a magnificent job in his performance as the miserly and misanthropic loan-shark. This musical version of A Christmas Carol is one of the finest filmic adaptations of the classic Christmas Eve ghost story and morality tale.  This film follows  the story closely with Scrooge being visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, of Christmas Present, and of Christmas Future. Among the movies best songs are Scrooge singing “I Hate People” which clearly shows his despicable and greedy nature,  “Thank You Very Much” in which a tap dance is done on Scrooge’s coffin in the future, and “I Like Life” in which the ghost of Christmas Present teaches Scrooge about experiencing life as well as having empathy for others.

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This movie does an excellent job of showing Dickens’ critique of a greed based society and one that did little or nothing to help alleviate the enormous difficulties of the poor.  When first confronted by the ghost of his dead partner Marley, Scrooge tells him that he was always a good man of business.  Marley’s ghost responds, “Mankind should be our business.”  This is a sentiment that stands today.  We should be putting the good of humanity above the pursuit of greed.

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I was a teenager when this movie was first released in 1970, and I loved seeing it with two of my closest friends.  We were captivated by the music and the story, and it remains as powerful to me as when I first saw it. If you have never had the opportunity to see this particular film, I give it my highest recommendation.

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I also remind all of us, in paraphrasing the Master Charles Dickens, that we must always remember to make the good of others our business.

 

Classroom Trials!

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I frequently end some of my college classes with courtroom trials, and this semester I was able to incorporate this activity into both a traditional day and an evening non-traditional First Year Writing class.  In both classes, held at different schools–Lehigh University and the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College, the students conducted criminal trials of characters from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

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From having my students perform this exercise over many years of teaching, I have found that it gives the students a dynamic path into understanding the text. By having them produce, what I name a living paper, they gain a very deep comprehension of many aspects of the book; among them are theme, motif, character development, and social critique.

I serve as the judge, while students are prosecutors, defense, characters, and, in the traditional class, jurors.  Because the class size is smaller in the non-traditional class, I had various people from the Wescoe School act as jurors.  To the guest jurors–thank you! You did an excellent job in judging the charges.

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The traditional class was conducting their trial against the Creature, while the non-traditional class was trying Victor Frankenstein.

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Both classes performed lively and informed events.  In both, the prosecutors presented a list of potential criminal charges, and the defense challenged them.  I made the final decision and eliminated some so that we would have a manageable number of charges to handle in a short time. These are not law classes, so the jury judged on who did the better job of making and supporting arguments not on issues of jurisprudence.  I was deeply impressed with both classes and the effort they invested in their respective projects. They did excellent work, and they all seemed to enjoy the project. I am convinced that adding a creative component to a class almost always adds to students’ comprehension of the material being learned.

In both classes, the decisions on the charges were split.  Both defendants were found guilty on some charges and not guilty on others.  I find it interesting that in all the years I have done similar trials, there has never been one with a unanimous sweep either for the prosecution or the defense.  While the verdicts were split, my opinion on my students’ work is definitive–they did an excellent job!

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Favorite Horror Films of the 1940s: The Wolfman

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“Even a man who is pure at heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.” (The Wolfman)

This is the well-known saying that is at the heart of the 1941 Universal Studios film The Wolfman. This film completes the quartet of monsters that are at the heart of the Universal horror franchise: the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, The Mummy, and the Wolfman. While there were certainly other creatures and monsters in the films in this time period, these are the four most prominent.

While we see science run out of control and ancient evils in the other films, in The Wolfman, we view a story of tragedy that is focused on an ordinary man, Larry Talbot, who is swept up in unfortunate events beyond his control. Because he is bitten by a werewolf while trying to save a girl and lives, Larry Talbot is fated to become such a beast himself.

The director and producer was George Waggner, and the writer was Kurt Siodmak. Most of our contemporary views about werewolf behavior do not come from ancient traditions or medieval European beliefs but from the mythology that Siodmak created for this movie. Siodmak created the idea that the time of the full moon is when a werewolf takes it form and that to become one, a person must be bitten by a werewolf and survive.

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More importantly, he included elements of tragedy, of a man fated to murder and to be destroyed, despite his desire to be a good person. The incantation the gypsy woman Maleva intones over Larry Talbot after his death illustrates this theme:

“The way you walked was thorny through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Now you will have peace for eternity.” (The Wolfman)

Siodmak also addressed contemporary issues, specifically the idea of a star marking the next victim of a werewolf, much like a star marking the Jewish people of Europe by the Nazis. Siodmak was a German Jew who had been successful as a writer but had to flee Germany with the take over by the Nazis. While the reference is not direct, it is still a clear metaphor for the horrors of the Nazis. The film demonstrates that evil is both natural and human created.

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In addition to excellent writing, the cast was also of the very best. Along side the star Lon Chaney Jr. were Clause Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya, and Evelyn Ankers. Jack Pierce, as in the other main Universal horror films, created the unforgettable makeup that is the foundation for all other filmic and literary werewolves.

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

It was a film that was excellent in every level of production, and it maintains its excellence today.

 

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

The Cogsmith’s Daughter by Kate M. Colby: A Review

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I read The Cogsmith’s Daughter by Kate M. Colby, and I loved this book. Ms. Colby’s novel is a combination of steampunk, dystopia, and social critique. Her antagonist, Aya Cogsmith, is a well-drawn and rich character, full of the strengths and weaknesses of a human being. We see fully developed characters in this novel, in addition to careful plotting and a well-thought out world that not only shows the characteristics of steampunk but also illustrates the problems with class and privilege in our society.

The pacing of the story moves quickly, and the plot holds together very effectively. At no point did I think–that wouldn’t have happened; rather, I was delighted with the deftness of hand that Ms. Colby used in crafting this excellent tale. In many ways, I was reminded of the novels of Charles Dickens as well as contemporary authors.

Ms. Colby has a singular authorial voice and uses it to enrich herthemes in this novel but never at the cost of the pleasure of reading this book. I give this book my high recommendation. Read it, and enjoy the time you spend in its world!

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Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends, Once More!

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Or should I say at least once more? (with thanks to William Shakespeare Henry V 3.1.1.)

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I have not posted for a while about the progress of my horror novel Evil Lives After, and I thought I should give a report on what was happening with it. I am receiving excellent editing and feedback on my previous draft, which I deeply appreciate.  After having spent several months in primarily working on a first draft on another novel and on revisions of my second novel, I realized I needed to get back to Evil Lives After.  I am, therefore, now actively, cutting, adding, and revising to create the 8th draft.  I think this will be a much tighter, more compelling, and more frightening book than before.

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I suspect that completing the revisions of this draft will need a three to four month time frame.  I am sure that the book will be greatly improved after this process.  I will keep you updated on the progress.  For now, to revising I go!

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Best TV Shows of the 1950s and 1960s—Part Two: Star Trek

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I am continuing the series I began about what I consider to be the best TV shows of the 1950s and 1960s and representative example episodes of those shows. For this post, I am going to talk about Star Trek, the original version, which ran from 1966-1969. I will be dating myself, but this show ran when I had just become a young teenager, and it had huge influence on me.

I remember looking forward all week to the next episode and wondering what that week’s episode would be about.  Star Trek was filled with what were, at the time, wonderful special effects, but much more than that, great stories and deeply developed characters.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

I have many episodes that I think were very good, but one, in particular, stands out as excellent: “City On The Edge Of Forever.” It was written by the noted science-fiction author Harlan Ellison and ran towards the end of the first season. It dealt with time travel and insanity, which were always good themes for science-fiction, but it also dealt with an issue that continues to confront our society: what does someone do when seeing the existence of evil? Do they act at the risk of enormous sacrifice, or ignore it? Other questions also emerge from the show: what matters more—the fate of an individual or of society? How do we judge what is necessary to do in a difficult ethical situation? And where is the place of love in our world? These are very heady issues for a young teenager to struggle with; in fact, they continue to influence my thinking and my writing.  It was also a series that infused hope, optimism, and humanism in its message, the idea that humanity can improve itself but always with struggle.

I am wondering: did you like the original Star Trek series, and if so, what episode was your favorite?

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Patrick’s Smashed Potatoes

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This post continues a series of posts I have done featuring recipes from characters from my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I. Patrick Franklin, along with his twin brother Michael, is a secondary, but important, character in this book. He is a retired Marine Corps Officer who fought in the first battle of Fallujah in 2004 in the Iraqi War. He is the protagonist’s—Roosevelt Theodore Franklin—nephew and a strong supporting element in the story.

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Like his uncle, Patrick prefers rustic and basic meals to that of haute cuisine. One of his favorite is what he calls smashed potatoes.

The recipe: (intended to feed 8-10 people at a large meal)
5 pounds of red potatoes
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
fresh paprika
fresh dill
fresh black pepper
coarse sea salt

*Rinse, clean, but do not peel the potatoes. Cut away any bad spots.
*Cut the potatoes into small irregular pieces.
*Boil in dutch oven until fork tender.
*Drain and rinse potatoes.
*Place in mixing bowl.
*Add the rest of the ingredients.
*Using a hand masher, not a mixer—Patrick says too much air is incorporated, which makes the potatoes look pretty, but they lose some flavor. He is not a believer in the phrase “we eat first with our eyes.” Like his uncle, he believes we first notice smell, then we taste the food. Its appearance is irrelevant. Mix with the hand masher until blended together and serve hot. If desired, serve with gravy.

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Enjoy!!

Helen Murray’s Peanut Butter Cookies

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I have shared some recipes from the three gentlemen who make up the ghost hunting group in my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I. These are the main characters in my novel, but there are other very important people also, and they will also share recipes with you.   Today, I wanted to offer a baking recipe from Helen Murray.

Helen Murray, one of the main secondary characters, is a high school history teacher and the guardian of her niece Helena who was named for her.  Helen became the child’s guardian when her sister and brother-in-law were killed by a drunk driver.  The child was an infant when this tragedy occurred, so she has grown to the age of 5 thinking of Helen as her mother.  One of the tasks involved with caring for the little girl that Helen embraced was baking.  Previously, she had done very little of it, but after gaining the responsibility for taking care of this little girl, whom she loved, she found a passion for baking.

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One of her simple recipes is also one of Helena’s favorite treats: Helen’s peanut butter cookies.

1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy)

1/2 cup butter–softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or 1 vanilla bean if adventurous)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1&1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Put peanut butter and butter into mixing bowl. Use medium speed, and beat until the mixture is smooth (about 1-2 minutes). Add sugar, egg and vanilla.  Use medium speed, and beat about another minute.  Scrape bowl and combine together.

Add all the other ingredients for about 1 more minute of beating.  Roll the dough into one inch balls.  Press flat with a fork into a criss-cross pattern.

Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown.  In Helen’s oven, that takes about 10 minutes.  It could vary by a few minutes.  Remove from baking sheets and let cool. This recipe will make about 33-37 cookies.

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As an extra treat, Helen sometimes will dip half the cookie in melted chocolate and add rainbow sprinkles and let them cool.

Helena always loves these!

More recipes from characters to come in the future.