Category Archives: candy

Mummies, Monsters and Sweet Little Pumpkins

You may be wondering where this post is going based on the dichotomy of a title, huh?

Me too.

Don’t worry we’re all in this together.

I sometimes wonder what it’s like to plan out blog posts. To have them be strategic and organized versus a brain dump of the tiny elements of creativity or life updates I’ve managed to throw together last-minute in an effort to get them out of my head and onto your smart phone.

In reality it would take far more monetization of this blog and likely the hiring of an assistant to ever get to deliver you the content strategy you deserve.

In the meantime (aka always and forever) you are stuck with my random frequency and rogue content. Chances are if you’ve stuck around this long, a small part of you may even appreciate them.

Moving on.

If there’s one thing to get me back on track with blogging it’s a holiday. There’s a voice in my head in the month leading up to said holiday that starts to whisper:

“So, what are you going to make for Halloween this year?”

Soon, the whisper turns to a normal speaking voice that says:

“Only a few weeks left to decide. Better get some supplies just in case.”

It’s not my fault that this voice comes out more frequently whenever I’m near the baking or holiday aisle at Target. It just does.

By the holiday week, the tone gets an attitude and says things like:

“Well you might as well pack away all those new Halloween cookie cutters and sprinkles you bought for this year because there’s no way you have time to make spiders and cauldrons and headstones now. Don’t blame me, I’ve been bugging you for weeks to decide.”

And then, like most things in my life lately, I decide to throw something together last-minute after Matt suggests we just “buy some cookies at the store or something.”

“Blasphemy. Doesn’t he know we have a reputation to uphold?” 

So in the spirit of upholding reputations as we enter into another holiday season, I present a simple way to make a “homemade” Halloween treat fit for kids and adults alike.

mummy oreo, monster oreo, white chocolate oreos, halloween treats, halloween oreos, baking, dessert, holiday, mummy cookies, monster cookies,

Mummy & Monster White Chocolate Oreos

  • 1 package oreos
  • 1 package vanilla almond bark
  • green gel food coloring (I used wilton leaf green)
  • candy eyes (wilton-baking aisle)
  • Edible food marker (black)

mummy oreo, monster oreo, white chocolate oreos, halloween treats, halloween oreos, baking, dessert, holiday, mummy cookies, monster cookies,

In a large ceramic bowl, melt half of almond bark brick in microwave at 50 percent power for 2 minutes. Stir.

Using a wax paper covered cookie sheet as your landing spot, dip Oreos into white chocolate until covered and set on paper. Once all are dipped, place candy eyes and then put cookie sheet in refrigerator to set chocolate.

In a separate bowl, melt the other half of almond bark until creamy. Add a few drops of gel food coloring (water-based food coloring will stiffen your chocolate) and mix until you get your desired monster green.

Repeat chocolate dipping process on another wax paper covered cookie sheet. Add eye and sprinkles or any other monster features you see fit. Or add another eye and now that I look at them you have a pretty close resemblance to a Ninja Turtle.


While green monsters are cooling in fridge, pull white mummies back out and use remaining white chocolate to make mummy wraps. This works best if the chocolate has slightly stiffened but feel free to re-melt in microwave for thinner gauzing.

mummy oreo, monster oreo, white chocolate oreos, halloween treats, halloween oreos, baking, dessert, holiday, mummy cookies, monster cookies,

So now that we got the spooky stuff out of the way, let’s randomly transition to the sweeter side of the season where pumpkins are growing and so is the size of my belly.

Last weekend we were fortunate to get together with our Chicago/Zalewski side of the family for a shower celebrating the upcoming arrival of Baby Z.

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

All fall-themed decor credit goes to my sister-in-law and mother-in-law who created an adorable shower for Matt and I. Would you just look at those cookies?

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower, pumpkin baby shower cookies

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

It was so nice to get together with everyone ahead of the holiday season. We can’t wait to celebrate with the rest of the family in just a few weeks.


Moving Day

Hey there. Me again. Back after a brief hiatus with more photos and fewer words. I promise I’ll be back on a regular schedule once we are all moved in but until then I hope you’ll settle for a photo update of the last few days.

Friday was spent down in Champaign celebrating with family and friends before the 5th running of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. Technically this year marks the 6th annual race but this was the 5th year of our family running let’s just go with that.

christie clinic illinois marathon, racing, half marathon, champaign, family,

It was so nice to see my Champaign family and to squeeze the little ones before we leave. We were blessed (and cursed) with nice weather throughout the weekend as well, making for a very hot race the next day.

christie clinic illinois marathon, racing, half marathon, champaign, family,

Jake and Owen came over for the youth run on Saturday well-prepared with their under armor superhero shirts. I missed the run but highlights included Jake getting a side stitch approximately 30 seconds into a 1K distance, Owen blazing to the finish and Jake asking the volunteer why he was getting a medal if he didn’t win.

Saturday evening we celebrated our move with some of our closest Chicago friends. I feel very blessed to have had these girls (and guys) in my life over the last 6 years and will miss them so much. It’s so nice to have a bunch of people to look forward to visiting each time we come back though.

chicago going away party, haymarket pub, friends, Chicago

Approximately 4 hours of sleep later we were onto Sunday where we celebrated the upcoming arrival of the first grandchild on Matt’s side. If you can’t tell by the shower colors, it’s a girl.

girls baby shower, tassel garland, candy bar, sweets table, diaper cake, pink baby shower,

5 or so hours of sleep later it was moving day. Chicago sent us off just about the same way it treated us all winter long with gray skies and wet conditions but we made the most of it. We had a bit of a fiasco with our movers last-minute so we called in some family to help us make the trip. Once the truck was packed, Matt and his brother started the trip down and I headed to Springfield to pick up my dad and Finn.

spring weather, chicago moving day, moving truck

I’m not typically one to consider signs but I am now convinced that Bloomington hates me. You may recall I ran into a big winter storm coming through Bloomington a few months back so I guess it’s only fitting to get hit with a tornado warning on my last trip home.

So dad and I hit the road early this morning with the hope of making it to our new home in a day or so. Matt and his brother are of course already nearly there thanks to a few naps and a lot of caffeine.

Next stop, Florida.


Showering Baby King

One of my best friends is having a baby!

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower,

If that phrase sounds familiar to you, it should. I’ve been saying it on repeat now for the last two years and probably will for at least another one. Yes, at times it does seem surreal that the girls I transitioned from friendship bracelets to bars with are now in charge of tiny humans, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It melts my heart to be able to celebrate the excitement and joy that comes with becoming a mother for the first time with them. Not that I know specifically what it’s like to become a mother for the first time but I’m excited and joyful nonetheless. Combine that with a cross-country move in a few weeks and I’m probably more hormonal than the mother-to-be.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

The good news is I was a little too frantic with the set-up to get emotional before the shower. I was also a little too sidetracked during it to get very many photos of actual people, but I did get a little choked up going through the detail shots afterwards.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

I know what you’re thinking. Man this girl is into details. And while I did fall a little hard for my ‘nearly took more time than the big one’ mini tassel cake topper, my reaction is more for the big life changes ahead for my girlfriend than the party details.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

Do you ever have those moments where you realize your life is about to change in a huge way? Baby showers, weddings, graduations, first communions and the like bring on those moments for me. There’s often a pause of clarity during the celebration where I look at everyone around me and realize the shift that is happening.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower,

Life is changing. You’re going to be a mom, a wife, a new employee, a grown up who gets to eat that weird host thing that tastes like plastic. You’ve never done this before. It’s nerve-wrecking, but the overwhelming sense of excitement that comes with it makes it all worthwhile. Life is changing and it’s going to be better than it’s ever been.


Yes, baby showers are cute and Pinterest-friendly.

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And guests actually enjoy watching you open gifts because there’s often tiny little outfits among the packages, but my favorite part about any event comes after the tables are broken down and the treat bags are distributed.

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It’s after all of that when you realize how lucky you are to have friends and family to support and celebrate you on the journey. And while you may be nervous or excited about what’s to come, you know that each of them are just as excited as you are and can’t wait to share it with you.

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Time flies. Before you know it the little girl you were showering last year is sitting down eating cake right next to you. Life is changing and it’s getting better than ever.





Mint Chocolate Trifle

So my oven broke last week just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. I know what you’re thinking perfect timing. But after over analyzing my failed ombre cake this weekend I decided not to let it get to me. I decided to follow the advice of two of the wisest guys I know and just let it go.

Frozen by Jake and Owen from Sarah Murphy on Vimeo.

And then I decided to make a trifle.

st. patrick's day mint chocolate trifle, dessert, brownie and oreo trifle

The best part about this trifle is you don’t have to use your oven to make it. Ideally I would have baked the brownies included in it but when I’m layering one million decadent desserts in a dish to serve as one mega decadent dessert, my need for homemade ingredients goes out the window.

st. patrick's day mint chocolate trifle, dessert, brownie and oreo trifle

Mint Chocolate Trifle

  • 2 C Oreos, crushed
  • 1 C Andes mints, chopped
  • 1 package instant vanilla pudding
  • brownies
  • cool whip
  • milk

In a large bowl, whip milk into vanilla pudding mix until combined. Add a few drops of green food coloring. Place in fridge to set up.

Once you are ready to build the trifle, begin with a layer of brownies on the bottom of the dish.

Combine half of cool whip into pudding mixture. Add half of pudding on top of brownies. Add a layer of cool whip. Top with half of Oreo and Andes mint mixture. Repeat.

st. patrick's day mint chocolate trifle, dessert, brownie and oreo trifle

Try to avoid eating within two hours of running.

Everything is Awesome

My apologies for the delay in posting and for getting this tune in your head for the rest of eternity.

I traveled home this weekend to see my family and pick up my pooch. I was supposed to pick him up the weekend before but the roads were bad so we pushed it off a week. By this point Finn had been vacationing at Nana and Papooch’s palace for nearly three weeks. They insist that he was ‘no trouble at all,’ but 100 pounds of bark and fur surely takes its toll on empty nesters after a while. So on Friday, under sunny skies and cool temps, I headed south to Springfield.

Everything was awesome until I hit Bloomington.

winter road conditions, bloomington, winter weather, accidents

I like to think I’m pretty comfortable driving in the snow but this was some of the worst conditions I’ve ever experienced. The whiteout hit so fast that it caused miles of pileups and accidents. I think I heard on the radio once I was through Bloomington that there were at least 40 cars involved. Fortunately my self-talk and yoga breathing helped me through the worst of it and I only added an extra hour or so to my trip. It could have been much worse.

I made it home and was greeted by this crazy dude shortly thereafter.

Wet puppy kisses. Awesome.

Since it was Valentine’s Day, we celebrated with the boys that evening. Apparently there is way more candy involved in the holiday than I remember as a child.

valetines day candy, boys, valentines day

Please note the Pease’s box from my dad. Awesome.

We kicked off Saturday with a gymnastics class for Jake at a new gym in Springfield. Jake was pretty pumped to try it out, especially after Owen told him you got to wear sweat pants to class each time.

jake gymnastics class, little gym springfield, simply social blog

Sweat pants and hanging apparatuses? Awesome.

Each class the kids work on basic skills like log rolling, hanging on the bar and listening to the teachers. Jake spent most of his first visit attempting an unsupervised back flip on the rings and running into the wall and falling for laughs from the audience.

Watching Jake in a gymnastics class. Really Awesome.

After the class we grabbed lunch and then went to see the new Lego movie, hence the theme of this post. My sister and I laughed just as much as the boys did, especially when they used subversive adult jokes and mispronunciations of common human items like golf balls, band aids and super glue.

On Sunday I spent the morning playing in the snow with this guy. I know one dog who is going to be very sad when his unlimited supply of snowball snacks have melted.

swissy snow, greater swiss mountain dog, finn, puppy

We headed back to the city later that afternoon in time to celebrate the birthday of the last of the baby season girls, Ella. Well not really. She was asleep by the time I got there and I just wished her a happy birthday from the door and then snuggled up on the chair until her parents got back home from the JT concert.

ella first birthday, simply social blog

photo credit Leanne Benkso

Birthday cake and Justin Timberlake. Awesome.

By now you should have sung the “Everything is Awesome” song in your head at least three times. If not go ahead and click play again and I’ll leave you with one more.

greater swiss mountain dog

It’s supposed to break 40 degrees today. AWESOME!

Have a great week!

An Easter Season

Before I begin with this week’s post, I’d like to take a minute and wish myself a happy 100th! I didn’t realize I was anywhere near 100 blog posts until after I published last week’s post, but since this entry consists of other things that already happened last week, I’m going to take a minute to celebrate 100 snippets of food, parties, observations and randomness. Thank you for hanging in there as I dropped and picked up the blog over the past few years. And since Willard Scott isn’t here to make the announcement, I’ll go ahead and do it myself.


Gotta love Smuckers.

This week has been a little crazy for me. I spent the better part of it in a freezing and rainy Atlanta for a work trip so I haven’t had much time to do all the things a blog post requires-writing, photo snapping, actually making something from scratch. Over the years, I’ve gotten much better at remembering to take photos while I’m making things, but I have yet to master loading them in a timely fashion. I don’t know that I will ever be one of those bloggers who share recipes and fun crafts in the weeks leading up to a holiday. After all, they are the ones I lean on as I search for themed food and ideas each holiday. Nope, I seem to be the one who posts about Easter treats and randomness in the weeks following, once everyone has moved onto Cinco de Mayo and 4th of July.

I was going to scratch the Easter idea altogether and focus on the humorous events that filled this weekend like my sluggish, slow and frequently-paused 10 miler, a big Chicago Fire win over New York  (3-1!) or a nice little 20 MPH headwind-filled bike ride along the lake path. I was, until my priest used today’s homily to emphasize that Easter Sunday is just the beginning of the Easter season. That the season that follows is filled with celebration and that we shouldn’t forget to be thankful each and every day.

And so in celebration of 100 posts and the kick-off to the Easter season, I bring you an Easter treat,

I found this recipe in an aforementioned search for Easter treats from a blog I follow called Two Peas and Their Pod. I wanted something that I could make last-minute to take over to see some new little Easter Bunnies as well as to bring home for the weekend. It was quick, easy and tasted pretty good too!

salted caramel easter popcorn

Easter Popcorn

  • 1 bag plain popcorn
  • 2 C chopped pretzels
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/3 C cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 C miniature marshmallows
  • Pink food coloring
  • 1 C Easter Pretzel M&M’s
  • 1/4 C chopped white chocolate

In a large bowl, mix popcorn and pretzels together.

In a dutch oven, boil sugar, salt and water over medium high heat until mixture is caramel in color. It can take up to 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add cream, stirring until smooth. Add vanilla, marshmallows, and pink food coloring. Stir until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth.

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pretzels and gently stir with a rubber spatula until popcorn is well coated. Stir in M&M’s and white chocolate. Line pan with parchment and spread mixture out to dry. Sprinkle with salt. Let cool completely.

Prefer the original? Check out Two Peas and Their Pod.

I packaged each bag in a little tin and gave them to my girlfriends for their new little girls’ first Easter.

easter popcorn

I have to admit I didn’t do much cooking the rest of the weekend. My mom puts me to shame when it comes to cranking out an Easter brunch so I just enjoyed spending time with family and watching the boys hunt for eggs.



Easter brunch consisted of mimosas (or milk), ham, quiche, fruit salad and lots of hardboiled eggs.

IMG_2989 IMG_2986 IMG_2976


Aunt Pat even made the trip!

The next day Jake and I were making an attempt at some play dough shapes when we realized most of it had dried out. I guess the craft bug bit me because I suggested we just make our own. Leave it to the nearly 3 year-old to squash any doubt I might have had that this might be a daunting task.

Oh no, Jake. Looks like the play dough is dried out. Guess we’ll have to play something else. On second thought, I bet we could make some ourselves. Would you want to try to make it with me? 

Well sure, Sarah! That should be easy. We should make some. Absolutely. 

homemade playdough

My little helper and I whipped up a batch of homemade play dough in no time. I’ll save you the details and just suggest trying a recipe like this one. And before you judge me, the stove was not on while Jake was stirring the pot.


If you are looking for an easy craft project with a young one in your life, I recommend this one.


Here’s to a season filled with celebration of the little things in life. Like those cute little fingers of Jake’s. I know I’m entering spring feeling very blessed and with a renewed spirit. I hope you are too.

Have a wonderful week!

Conversation Heart Cookies

I apologize that I embargoed my Wednesday post until Thursday. But holidays trump blog schedules and I highly doubt any of you were waiting at your computers for that recipe to come through.

(Sigh) Maybe someday?

Plus, our last baby season baby was born this week. Hooray! I shared Ella’s shower in the baby season post in case you want to check it out. She’s beautiful, healthy and came just in time for Valentine’s Day!

If you didn’t already assume by this whole blogging thing, I’m a communicator. I like to talk. Let’s get serious, silence makes me uncomfortable. I believe in the power of the spoken written word.

And because I like to engage in social conversation, every year leading up to Valentine’s Day I bribe my co-workers  fill my candy jar with a supply of Sweet Tart Hearts with the hope that sweets will lead to a friendly hello, a restaurant suggestion or even just a brief life-update. And I make sure they are the Sweet Tart versions because I think we all know those chalky ones won’t do the job.

making co-workers feel uncomfortable one heart at a time

My candy dish is out of sight this year and after low traffic in the first week, I decided to move it into the open space to let go of the inventory. So for the remainder of the holiday lead-up, I was left to merely yell hello across the wall as I heard the ting of the lid each time someone dug in. And you’re kidding yourself if you think that ‘someone’ would announce who they were. Pshh. They were off just as soon as that powdery sugar substance hit their veins.

One thing I did learn is that people love them some sweet tart hearts. So while contemplating ideas for what kind of treat to bring in the office on Valentine’s Day, I decided to stick with the theme and whip up a batch of conversation heart sugar cookies.

Can I have a moment for a brief aside on what I am calling the ‘flash’ flood of February holidays this year? (there’s a bead reference there in case you missed it) Anyone else think it’s kind of cuckoo that Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day are happening in the same week? Talk about holiday treat idea overload!

valentine sugar cookies

So back to those cookies. You may have seen a sneak peek of these cookies in my earlier post about finding balance. Well after gearing up to make these cookies late Sunday night in time for Valentine’s Week, I decided take my own advice and postpone the decorating until the actual day. Fortunately both the cookie recipe and royal icing keep very well for up to a week.

I tried a new recipe this time around and while the jury is still out for taste, they seemed to cook to the proper consistency and shape I wanted. Typically I do a yogurt or sour cream and traditional sugar dough but the powdered sugar in these makes them puff up nicely.

Sugar Cookies
1 C butter
1 C powdered sugar
1 egg
1 ½ tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
2 ½ C sifted flour

Cream butter in mixer on medium speed. Add powdered sugar. Mix in egg, almond and vanilla.

In a separate bowl whisk dry ingredients together. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet. Place dough into plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Flour rollpat or counter top

Roll dough to desired thickness. Cut out cookies with floured cookie cutter and place on baking mat.

heart sugar cookies

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Cookies will not turn golden but should move from the pan when touched. Cool for 2 minutes on pan and then transfer to cookie rack.

heart sugar cookies

Want to try the original? Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats.


Royal Icing

2 C powdered sugar, sifted
1 TBL meringue powder
3 TBL water (add more to get desired consistency)

royal icing recipe

While dough is chilling, combine powdered sugar and meringue in a stand mixer. Add water. Mix on low for 1-2 minutes. Then increase speed to 3 or 4 until stiff peaks appear on paddle. (up to 10 minutes)


Divide into bowls and add gel coloring (gel works better as food coloring is water-based and can thin out icing). Add water and stir until icing pours smoothly but isn’t runny. This is the best icing for outlining (piping). Pipe outlines around hearts and let stand until dry. Add more water to icing to create fill and then ice as if you are coloring in a picture.

royal icing heart sugar cookies

apologies for the bad lighting


Let base layer completely dry before piping on the letters. I wasn’t patient enough with mine (story of my life) so they are a little messy. Don’t be afraid to add more powdered sugar or water to get your icing to the desired consistency.

And don’t be afraid to have fun with the messages. I kept it pretty PC this year although the later it got in the night the more I felt the urge to write blasphemous things. Ah, Valentine’s Day. Initiating awkwardness every February.
valentines conversation heart cookies
What is your favorite childhood memory of Valentine’s Day?
Mine was circa 1993 when I got a box of chocolates, a gold necklace and $25 from 3 separate boys in my class (it was a small school.) I can still see the look on my mother’s face when I burst through the door and I told her that one boy gave me $25!
I mean chocolates and jewelry are nice and all but $25 Mom. Isn’t that awesome!
My excitement was quickly doused as I was instructed to return to school the next day, thank the young boy for his contribution towards my life savings but inform him that I could not accept cash gifts.
Aw, Mom!
Hmmm, maybe I should have just brought cash into the office today.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Christmas Cookie Creations…


Occasionally I bake. Ok, so maybe I bake a lot. Especially around the holidays. And this year was no exception. I love the holidays because it gives me an excuse to crack out the sprinkles and try some new recipes. This year i went a little nuts on cookies, and cake balls, and bark and pretzels. 
The best part about baking all these things is the gift boxes that come as a result. Who doesn’t love a variety of home-baked goodies as a gift? Here’s hoping I can rid of them all before the New Year.

Quick Peppermint Bark…


Lately, I’ve found myself wandering aisles and paging through magazines filled with holiday treats thinking the same thing: “I could totally make this myself…” And while I am not above spending a good chunk of change on pre-made treats if they live up to their hype, I refuse to spend incessant amounts of money on chocolate-dipped pretzel rods and fancy chocolate bark when I can stay up all hours of the night enjoy making these treats myself!

Last year, my kitchen and I had some quality bonding time as I attempted to make enough treats to share a variety of sweets with all of my friends and family for the holiday season. Now that the knots in my shoulders have subsided, I think I’ll take a different approach this year and do more make-ahead goodies.

This week I attacked the Williams Sonoma Peppermint Bark. After reading about this holiday treat in their catalog and tasting it first-hand when someone shared it in our office, I decided to try my hand at the peppermint version first. This recipe was very simple and looks pretty, but I will admit, Williams Sonoma might beat my flavor this time around. However, this is just my first attempt and I plan on making a few other varieties of bark before the season is over, so stay tuned.

Quick Peppermint Bark 
1 bag Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1 brick Vanilla Almond Bark
1/2 teaspoon Peppermint Extract
Crushed Candy Canes
Line the bottom of a cookie pan with parchment paper. Pour bittersweet chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave chocolate chips according to directions. Add 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract. Spread melted chocolate  as evenly as possibly into lined pan. Place pan into fridge for 20 minutes.  Repeat the same melting process with the white almond bark. While chocolate is still smooth, stir in half of the crushed candy cane mixture. Allow the white chocolate to slightly cool for a minute.  Remove pan from fridge and spread white chocolate/crushed candy canes mixture on top of the chocolate layer. Spread white chocolate as quickly as possible. Top off with remaining crushed candy cane and gently pat down with the back of a spatula.  Return pan to fridge for 30minutes. You should now have a solid sheet of peppermint bark. Remove parchment paper and break into pieces. Store any left over bark in a plastic bag or tin in fridge or freezer until eaten. Enjoy!