Category Archives: themes

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.

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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)

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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.

Cowabunga.

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

 

hello autumn

Happy first weekend of fall! In case you missed it, yesterday we celebrated the autumn solstice with record heat in St. Louis.

Because nothing says autumn like leaves just giving up and falling because they are too dry to hold on any longer.

hello_autumn

But there’s hope for your weekend, still. Here are a few ways to make the most out of the new season even if summer won’t loosen it’s death grip just yet:

Step 1: Crank down your thermostat to 65.

Step 2: Wrap up in your giant blanket scarf and watch College GameDay.

Step 3: Boots still look cute with sleeveless dresses. Just don’t forget deodorant.

Step 4: Be thankful there isn’t a pumpkin shortage because both you and your dog are going through 2+ cans a week.

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Pumpkin Apple Muffins with Streusel Topping (Makes 18)

  • 1 C unsweetened canned pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 2 C peeled and chopped apples (Pink Lady or Honeycrisp)
  • 2 1/2 C flour (I used half whole wheat, half all-purpose)
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 TBL pumpkin pie spice mix (cloves, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Streusel Topping (because streussel makes everything better)

  • 2 TBL flour
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 TBL oats
  • 2 tsp butter

pumpkin_apple_2

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk sugar, flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice mix, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, blend pumpkin, oil and eggs together.

Add dry ingredients into wet and mix until just combined. Add apples.

Scoop into prepared muffin tins and fill about 2/3 of the way.  Top with 1 tsp streusel topping per muffin.

Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

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I make these nearly every year on repeat. They are a great excuse for a mini carb-load anytime of day and they freeze well if you’re afraid you might eat them all in the first few days.

Not that Matt and I would know what that’s like or anything.

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Happy fall!

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Red, White and Blue Roundup

Well lookie there. Another month or so has gone by and I’ve left you all alone, uninspired and wondering if I’ll ever get back a normal blogging schedule again.

Short answer? Maybe? Hopefully? Probably.

I had a Memorial Day post planned for you but then I forgot to take a picture of my triple berry crumble with the topping on it.

So all of a sudden, a delicious last-minute BBQ dessert became a topless triple berry something or other.

And since I’m not sure how WordPress handles nudity, I just decided against posting it all together.

But seeing as how holidays seem to inspire me to write blog posts more than any other time lately, I figured I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least show you part of the journey that was a pretty tasty triple berry crumble.

Provided my blog platform doesn’t block the photos for their content, of course.

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Triple Berry Crumble

  • 2 C blueberries
  • 2 C strawberries
  • 2 C raspberries
  • 1/4 Csugar
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

crumble topping:

  • 1 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 C (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

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Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, toss berries with the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Place in a prepared pie plate.

In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown and white sugar and salt. Use a pastry blender, a fork, or your hands to cut butter until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the berries.

Place the pie plate on a baking sheet. Bake in the center of the oven until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 1 hour.

Remove the crumble to a rack to cool slightly. Tasty on it’s own but you can also serve it with whipped or ice cream.

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There’s something about a patriotic holiday that inspires me to throw fruit and crust together last-minute and see what comes out. Take, for example, last year’s 4th of July when a late afternoon pop-up shower sent us back home from the neighborhood pool just in time to play iron chef with the ingredients in my fridge in an effort to bake something red, white and blue.

No party to attend, only two people to serve and a limited amount of pie crust, but a patriotic pie nonetheless.

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So what’s on tap for this year? I’m thinking of really going outside the box and revisiting a trusty Triple Berry Trifle.

Three cheers for fruit that matches the colors of our flag.

‘Merica.

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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…

A post shared by Sarah Zalewski (@slmurphy) on

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.

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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

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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.

img_5658

 

 

Patriotic Pie: Behind the Scenes

Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to be the type of blogger who plans out recipes. I picture her sitting in a clear acrylic chair just off her kitchen at a built-in desk with various Pottery Barn dry erase calendars and magnetic boards above her head, sipping a latte while casually writing a post on her MacBook Air about how perfectly her Saturday Morning Chocolate Soufflé came out of her double-oven just minutes prior.

She schedules it to publish the following Saturday at 7:45 a.m. because she’s already got this week’s posts lined up so that perfectly fluffy and not about to deflate soufflé will just have to wait it’s turn.

She’s organized and she’s probably getting compensated by Ghirardelli for the whole damn thing.

If any of those thoughts cross your mind whenever you scroll Instagram or Pinterest and spot a too pretty to eat food photo, then get out of my head because we are the same person.

Kidding. Kind of.

Truth is I’m sure those bloggers exist. I’m even more sure that I am not one of them. Let me walk you through the Sarah stages of recipe post planning.

Sunday, July 3rd, 10:28 p.m.

Friend sends you a picture of her American Pie. Literally. Stars and Stripes and berries galore.

Now you want pie.

Monday, July 4, 4:30 p.m.

You decide that now’s as good a time as any to make a pie. Or a tart. OK, something with crust and berries because you have both and not much more.

Googles recipes that include berries and pie crust. 

Most tart recipes call for a filling that requires cream cheese. You don’t have cream cheese. Or cream. Or any filling essentials really. You narrow your focus to pies.

Googles recipes that include berries and pie crust and no cream filling. 

Monday, July 4, 5:30 p.m.

OK so now your’e making a pie but you’ve already pressed your crust into a tart pan.

You already start brainstorming funny names for a tart+pie combo. 

Partie in the U.S.A.? Artie? Tie?

Ok, but seriously you should probably just make the pie.

You add the filling to the tart and end up with just enough extra dough for three stripes but no stars.

Thaws out more dough.

Monday, July 4, 6:30 p.m.

You have to concentrate really hard to remember how to correctly carve a symmetrical star using only a paring knife.

You are actually pretty impressed with your ability to carve a symmetrical star using only a paring knife.

Snaps far too many photos of pre-baked pie for fear baking will completely disfigure your stars and stripes.

Monday, July 4, 6:40 p.m.

Pie is in oven. Focus immediately shifts from design to taste potential.

You’re now convinced that not only is it going to probably look like crap, but it may not taste good either.

Did you even add sugar? 

Monday, July 4, 7:20 p.m. 

Pietart is done and still resembles flag. Maybe you should blog this one.

Takes hot pie outside onto hot patio to capture it with what little natural light is left.

Monday, July 4, 9:30 p.m.

You finally taste pie and realize that you didn’t waste all your time taking photos of a pie that tastes like crap.

Happy Birthday America.

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Patriotic Pie (adapted from the Casual Craftlete)

  • 1.5 pie crusts (1 for bottom and half for topping)
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 1 pint whole blueberries
  • ½ cup  sugar (plus a little for dusting)
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TBL water
  • Flour for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse and slice strawberries. Place rinsed berries in bowl and mix with cornstarch and sugar. Set aside.

Roll pastry on mat until circle is a little larger than your pan. Press dough into prepared pan. Trim edges.

Pour berry mixture into center of pan and spread out.

Trim remaining pastry dough into patriotic shapes. Place over berries and connect to edges of crust.

In a small bowl, mix egg with water. Brush crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Bake for 40 minutes or until filling bubbles and pastry turns golden brown.

Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Hope that your readers don’t think you scheduled blogged this from your Pottery Barn desk weeks before the Fourth of July because now they know how randomly your blog posts originate.

Thanks for following along anyways!

Trifles and Patriotism

What’s red, white and blue and inappropriately timed on a random weekend between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July?

Sarah’s version of a triple berry trifle of course.

Because why would someone make this in time for the first patriotic holiday of the year, or instead wait until the second patriotic holiday of the year when they could randomly decide to bring it to a friend’s house for dessert on a completely plain Sunday?

If the above statement sounds like you then we should be friends. If you are my husband, stop rolling your eyes at yet another moment when your wife threw things together at the last minute and pretended like it was in the works all along. That’s just how she rolls and you married her so let’s just grab a spoon and dig in together shall we?

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The nice thing about trifles is that they are fairly easy to make. In fact, it typically takes more time to gather and chop the ingredients than it does to put the entire thing together.

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You may remember this recipe from a few years ago. If you want to revisit it and see how cute and tiny my friend’s little girl was at the time, head on over to the previous post to check it out.

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If you’re like me and you remake a recipe forgetting that you actually made and posted it already three years ago then stick around and read below for the aforementioned triple berry trifle revisited.

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Triple Berry Trifle (feeds 4-6 or 1-2 depending on how hungry the fellas are)

  • 1 package shortcake cups, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 pint raspberries

Pudding Layer:

  • 6 TBL sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 C cold water
  • 1 package vanilla instant pudding
  • 9 oz fat-free frozen whipped topping, thawed

In a medium bowl, whisk water and sweetened condensed milk until combined. Add pudding mix and stir for another minute or so. Let mixture set for 1-2 minutes. Fold in cool whip. Set aside.

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Start with a layer of cake and then alternate blueberries/raspberries, pudding mixture and sliced strawberries. Repeat until you reach desired height, run out of ingredients, or just become disgusted at just how large that trifle dish is. Feel free to get creative once you reach the top layer or just copy the photo like I do whenever I’m re-creating a recipe “on my own.”

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Of these things, I’m fairly certain

There comes a point in a thirty-something’s life in which the random things she’s heard, learned, experienced, seen, tasted and smelled over the first third of her life finally start to stick with her. After all, you rarely hear a twenty-something referred to as ‘set in his or her ways.’ No, this art takes years to perfect. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and call up your grandparents for a lesson. Don’t text them. Don’t email them. Pick up the phone and call them. Heck, by now your parents should be as set as a Ronco Showtime Rotisserie Platinum so you might as well ask them while you’re at it.

What was I getting at again?

Oh yes. Life lessons.

Up until this point, you’ve let these observations float in and out of your life without taking any ownership of them. Sure, you’re brand loyal to a degree, but you’re a millennial for goodness sake and you better believe that you are going to be flexible and adapt to the ever-changing world around you, right? Kind of like the way you’ve shifted every time Apple launches a new iOS or Facebook changes their newsfeed.

And then you turn thirty. And all of a sudden the phrases you use to utter in your 20s like pregaming or late night bars are replaced with let’s just have everyone over for a dinner party or do I have to put on real clothes or can I go in this? 

So today I present you a list of things I’m fairly certain of:

  • That I will never get all of my personal identification documents to have the same last name again. Ever. This weekend I nearly had to provide a retinal scan at The Gap to pay with a (new chip-encrypted) card that still listed me as Murphy because it sat in my wallet next to a drivers license that lists me as Zalewski. Meanwhile, my handsome yet mute in these types of situations husband waits patiently as I toss two debit cards, two credit cards and a blood donor card at our friendly cashier to prove I’m not a spy.

  Oh you have a Costco card? That will work just fine.

  • That there’s no way our dog proves my hypothesis about animals taking after their owners. Nope not our guy. So different, he and I.

  

  • That a landscape that includes pumpkins and palm trees will always be weird, but never having to wear socks will always be awesome.

  • That heckling is an art form maybe moms are just too sweet for it.

  • That if pumpkin obsession is a real addiction affecting basic girls everywhere, you can crown me pumpkin princess of autumnville. I actually felt a nervous swell when I realized I was down to my last can of pumpkin this weekend for a french toast recipe. And when my audible gasp was met with a side eye from Matt, I yelled, ‘there’s a shortage, you know!’ 

So I’ve got that going for me.

And because nearly everything I’m certain of this time of year relates to pumpkins, I’ll leave you with a recipe for pumpkin french toast sure to satisfy your cravings. That is, if you can get your hands on the limited supply!

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Pumpkin French Toast (recipe adapted from Cooking Classy)

  • 3/4 C almond milk (I didn’t have regular milk but by all means use it if you have it)
  • 1/2 C pure pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 TBL brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 6-8 slices multigrain bread (or challah or texas toast)
  • Butter (for griddle)

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Heat a cast iron skillet to medium heat. In a large bowl, whisk almond milk, pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla and spices together. Set aside.

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Prepare skillet with butter. Dip bread into pumpkin mixture until saturated. Cook on both sides until browned, repeating butter before each slice.

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Serve with maple syrup or honey and dust with powdered sugar.

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Enjoy!