Category Archives: chocolate

Bad karma and good chocolate

Have you ever had one of those days where you knew the whole day was going to be off before you even left the house?

You know the kind. You’re just leisurely walking the dog (emphasis on the leisurely because your dog suddenly walks like a 90-year old who needs a hip replacement) when your phone jumps out of your pocket and shatters on the wet cement.

This weather has us all like…

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There’s something off in the universe, you think.

And how could you not wonder. Just a few hours prior the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. No seriously. They did. And they deserved it. Life will never be the same.

Do you ever think door frames and counter corners are out to get you?

Me neither.

Pop quiz.

Which of these items are essential for a successful post-work gym session?

A. Hair tie

B. Workout underwear

C. TWO socks

D. All of the above

Any guess what all these situations have in common? They require you to adapt. To shift. To consider wearing your glasses more often and to put out as much good karma as you can by texting your Cubs fan friends and family and telling them how happy you are for them.

Chocolate helps too. So here is a chocolate recipe I planned to post separately, but will now be forever linked to a really random few paragraphs about a string of bad luck and the team that finally broke the curse.

chocolate brownie oreo trifle, halloween trifle, halloween dessert, brownie, oreo, spiderweb trifle, holiday, chocolate, halloween oreo

Spooky Spiderweb Trifle 

  • 1 package instant chocolate pudding
  • 3 C Milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • Oreos (I used Halloween Oreos)
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Cool Whip

chocolate brownie oreo trifle, halloween trifle, halloween dessert, brownie, oreo, spiderweb trifle, holiday, chocolate, halloween oreo

In a large bowl, mix cold water (or milk) into chocolate pudding mix. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Chop brownies and Oreo cookies.

Fold half of Cool Whip into pudding mix.

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Beginning with brownies, layer brownies, pudding mix, chopped Oreos in a trifle dish. Repeat until you run out of ingredients or reach the top.

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Add remaining Cool Whip to top. Drizzle chocolate syrup in a spiral. Using a toothpick, pull toothpick from center out to edge as if you are slicing a pie or a pizza.

Bonus points if you have a fake spider to add in the center. I didn’t so my spider is hiding under the whip cream and all you can see are her creepy eyes.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

Happy National Chocolate Chip Cookie (one week late) Day!

Did you know that last Thursday was National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day?

Yeah me neither.

But a funny thing happens to a girl when she realizes she missed one of the most important cookie days of the year. She can’t stop thinking about chocolate chip cookies for an entire week afterwards. She also starts to speak in third person. Life’s a mess when such important dates are forgotten.

So I’m a week late and I may or may not have eaten cookie dough for dinner last night, but I’ve got a pretty solid cookie recipe to share with you today. Not too soft, not too crispy and very addictive.

national chocolate chip cookie day, chocolate chip cookie recipe, soft and chewy cookies, recipes, baking, cookies, vanilla pudding cookies

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/4 C flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 C butter, softened
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars together. Add vanilla pudding mix and blend. Add eggs and vanilla and cream together. Add dry ingredients into wet. Add chocolate chips.

Using a baking mat, roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls. The vanilla pudding mix keeps these from spreading so don’t worry about the dough being soft.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden. I kept mine in for closer to 14 because I like the edges a little more done.

national chocolate chip cookie day, chocolate chip cookie recipe, soft and chewy cookies, recipes, baking, cookies, vanilla pudding cookies

national chocolate chip cookie day, chocolate chip cookie recipe, soft and chewy cookies, recipes, baking, cookies, vanilla pudding cookies

Have a great holiday weekend!

 

 

The art of unplugging

So I’m back in the city after several days visiting friends and family at home. If you read my last post, and by read I mean just looked at pictures, you have a pretty good idea of how most of the weekend was spent, laughing with friends and family, celebrating and lots and lots of food.

darcy's pint, birthday, cake, going away party, friends, family, greater swiss mountain dog

There was also this little religious holiday called Easter in there as well. The weather was gorgeous this weekend so we spent most of our time outside, hunting Easter eggs with halloween buckets, playing soccer and taking Finn to the park.

easter, egg hunt, boys, swiss mountain dog, easter egg hunt, tulips

I spent little to no time on social media or even with my phone in my hand. Perks of being with most everyone you connect with in person, I suppose. My nephew is on spring break this week so I stayed a few extra days to hang out with him and procrastinate packing. I didn’t even manage to bake anything this weekend and why would I when I have a mother who does it better?

If you want to know how much of this cake I helped with then remove the white chocolate shavings and robin eggs. Remove those and you still have a pretty ultimate chocolate cake.

ultimate chocolate cake, birthday cake, easter cake, bird nest on top of chocolate cake

Ultimate Chocolate Cake 

  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 1 3/4 tsps baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 C butter
  • 1 1/4 C sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 C buttermilk
  • cocoa

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 9 inch cake pans. Dust pans with cocoa.

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking soda and powder together.

In a stand mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add cream and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each one. Add chocolate and vanilla.

Mix dry ingredients into wet alternating with buttermilk.

Pour evenly into two cake pans.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool on racks. Don’t skip this step or your second layer will crumble into pieces and you’ll have to rebuild it with extra icing. Oh darn.

ultimate chocolate cake, birthday cake, easter cake, bird nest on top of chocolate cake

Ultimate Chocolate Icing

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/3 C butter
  • 3 C sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 C plus 2 TBL evaporated milk

Melt chocolate and butter together. In a bowl, combine sugar, salt, vanilla and evaporated milk. Add melted chocolate. Beat until icing thickens. Cool to room temperature and then ice cake.

ultimate chocolate cake, birthday cake, easter cake, bird nest on top of chocolate cake

You’ll have to forgive me for posting a cake like this on Workout Wednesday but let me tell you, eating a piece of it is a workout in itself. And doesn’t everyone deserves a cake workout every one in a while?

The answer is yes.

 

 

 

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.

And suddenly I've forgotten the 40-car pileup it took to get home to this guy.

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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!

It’s the Christmas countdown

final countdown santa hats

I’m sorry. I can’t type the word countdown without hearing that song in my head. And no that’s not the original album cover. I jazzed it up a bit for the season.

Speaking of seasons, did you know Christmas is just a short 10 (by the time you read this 9) days away? Are you freaking out yet? Pretty sure the better part of Chicagoland is. I can say this because I experienced their craziness first-hand while out shopping yesterday. Blame it on the late Thanksgiving or the coldest December on record, but Christmas is coming and no one seems to be ready, yet.

We got hit with a big snowstorm this weekend which put a royal kibosh on our plans to travel to Indianapolis for this little one’s 1st birthday party.

Apparently someone heard the theme was winter ‘one’ derland and took it ever-so-literally.

baby grace turns 1 simply social blog

So Grace turned one. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating her upcoming arrival with a cute little baby shower and now she’s on her way to becoming a teenager.

grace turns one, first birthday party cake, winter onederland party

photo credit Grace’s mom

(sobbing)

In just a few years I’ll be known as that auntie who is going to tell a bunch of teenage girls:

I remember when you were a tiny little baby! 

Someone slap me if I ever resort to cheek-pinching though.

As bummed as I am to have missed the celebration, I got to ogle over the party details thanks to technological advances like the iPhone and Facebook. Plus, because Christmas is only, wait for it, 9 DAYS AWAY, I get to see my friends very soon.

ugly sweater party, simply social blog, reindeer antlers

Then we can reminisce about the times we were tan and wore ugly Christmas sweaters.

I did manage to start my holiday baking this week. And by baking I mean that I dipped some Oreos in white chocolate and decorated them with sprinkles. I was snowed in and unprepared.

holiday white chocolate oreo cookies with holly sprinkles

Regardless of my lack of ingredients, these holiday Oreos really are revolutionary folks. I’ve made these nearly every year 1) because I refuse to pay extra for 7 of the white fudge Oreos that taste like rubber and 2) you can make them a week ahead and add them to your holiday assortment, should you be the crazy type that gifts a holiday assortment of treats each and every year no matter how intense your battle with royal icing becomes.

I hope to have more treats to share with you later this week. Virtually of course. You know so you can get ideas for holiday cookies without enough time to actually make them in time for the holiday? Just kidding. Kind of.

Have a great week!

Trial and Error, Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Do you ever have those weekends where you have one million errands to run, few commitments to get in the way of them and then it’s Sunday night and your checklist only has one thing crossed off? Yeah, me too.

It’s not often that I go into a weekend without it being entirely booked. I spend a lot of them visiting friends and family, celebrating birthdays, babies and brides. And believe it or not it’s typically these booked weekends in which I’m most productive. Anyone else work best like that?

Bueller? Bueller?

Large open time frames and I are not friends. If given an open time frame on a Saturday in, oh let’s just say Target, I tend to comb every aisle, stopping often to stare and random items that I would never have noticed on a normal trip. This stop is usually followed by an internal dialogue that goes something like this:

Huh, I didn’t know Target sold floral patterned microfiber cloths?

Those are pretty. I like the colors. I wish I had a yard with flowers like that.

I do need to dust. Man, my place is dusty.

Ok, I’ll just put these in my cart and think about it for the rest of the trip.

Maybe I should buy some furniture polish to go with my new flower microfiber cloths?

Oh Target, you got me again.

Now where I fail in terms of loads of free time, I make up in efficiency when a last-minute project is on the line. You may be thinking:

But Sarah, if you gave yourself more time you wouldn’t have to ice elephant cookies at midnight or fluff pom pons 15 minutes before guests arrive, or attempt an intricate chalk drawing the morning of a wedding.

And you would be right. But then I’d probably say,

Psshhh! What’s the fun in that?

The moral of the story is while I had a lot of projects penciled in for this weekend, I have little to show for it. My frames are still sitting on their corresponding bookshelves, my “spring” wreath is in pieces and my herb pots are still sitting on my balcony, waiting for soil, seed and water.

I won’t tell you that all I did this weekend was nap. I’m not a napper. Not one of those who can come home, yawn and say, Oh I think I’ll take a nap now. I’m what they may call an accidental napper. And I don’t mean in terms of narcolepsy, but rather that if I do manage to actually sit down on a Saturday after a very warm 12 miler and the current episode of House Hunters isn’t engaging enough for me, I may fall asleep. And accidentally nap I did.

greater swiss mountain dog simply social blog

They say dogs can sense your mood. I’d have to agree.

And then I made cookies. For the second time in three days. My girlfriend had baked the most delicious gluten free cookies a few weeks prior at Ravinia and I’d been thinking about them ever since. This may or may not be because I ate the whole bag halfway between Darius singing “Wagon Wheel” and “Alright.” Alright is right. I have a cookie problem.

Anywho, I had a girl’s dinner last week and wanted to bring something to contribute. That and I knew if I made them and kept them in my house I’d have a Ravinia binge fest all over again. In hindsight attempting these cookies at 10:30 on a Tuesday night was probably the first indication that they might not turn out very well, but when I got halfway through the recipe only to find that I had but 1/4 cup left of the oats I buy in bulk on the regular, I was nearly defeated. And so I improvised leaving me with cookies that were tasty, but flat and ugly.

flourless gluten free chocolate chip peanut butter cookies simply social blog

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup of peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups of GF oats
  • 6 ounces of chocolate chips 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter, sugar and brown sugar untill creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and baking soda and mix well. Combine peanut butter. Then add oats. Ah here’s where I ran into trouble. Add oats. Not 1 package brown sugar oatmeal, 1 package raw oatmeal with flaxseed and your remaining 1/4 cup of old-fashioned oats. Add regular amount of oats and your cookies probably won’t be flat like mine. Then mix in chocolate chips and bake for about 10-11 minutes.
flourless chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal cookies simply social blog

The good news is the cookies tasted great. The bad is that I am competitive so come Saturday morning I felt the need to make them again. This time I used a slightly different recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod via Tasty Kitchen. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a good cookie photo.

flourless chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal cookie simply social blog

Flourless Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2/3 C Old Fashioned Oats (or gluten-free)
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 C Peanut Butter
  • 2/3 C Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 2/3 C Chocolate Chips

This time I was a bit more bright-eyed (remember I napped) and followed the recipe accurately. Mix brown sugar, vanilla and peanut butter until creamy. Add eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl mix baking soda and oats. Mix dry ingredients into wet until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Using a cookie scoop, spoon 1-2 inch rounds onto non-stick baking mat. Bake for 9-12 minutes (11 for my oven) at 350. Let cool on pan for 2 minutes before moving to cooling rack.

flourless chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal cookies simply social blog

What I learned: Butter adds flavor but proper amount of dry ingredients adds fluffiness and height to a cookie. And either way, a bag full of your friends cookies are always going to taste better than the ones you make yourself. And so I delivered both versions of the cookies to my friends, both flat and fluffy (the cookies not the friends), with the hope that they would enjoy them more than I did.

And if you’re thinking oh, nice weekend Sarah. All you did was run, bake and nap. Rough life. Here’s the part of the blog where I justify why I didn’t get any projects done by sharing photo recaps of my weekend activities. Ready, go.

On Friday I got to spend time with one of my favorite girls, Ella.

ella_collage

We had 3-day passes to the Windy City Smokeout so much of the weekend was spent eating BBQ and listening to live country just steps from Michigan Avenue and Nordstrom. For a girl who loves all of these things equally, it was pretty awesome.

windy city smokeout chicago

Amongst the plethora of things going on in the city this weekend like the Taste of Chicago, Cubs/Cards and various fests, was the annual kick-off to the Race to Mackinaw. I caught a glimpse on my run Saturday morning, along with one million others on the lake path.

race to mackinaw

And so wraps another summer weekend in the city. I wasn’t able to check very many things off my to-do list, but this post has made me realize that the time I spent with friends and family is well worth the project procrastination. It was a beautiful weekend to be in Chicago. And I’m glad I got to experience it sans one short nap.

What did you do this weekend? 

Have you ever experienced a baking flop? 

I hope you have a great week!