Tag Archives: baking

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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Is it too late for an Easter post?

According to my priest it’s not.

Easter marks the beginning of a season of celebration and new beginnings so technically I’m not late in delivering this Easter cupcake recipe to you.

Technically, I’m right on time!

And I’m not just emphasizing my punctuality because my husband told me mass started at 8:30 last Sunday when it really started at 8:45 to get me out the door in time.

I’d like the record to show that I made it to church on time for many years before I met him.

Thanks, mom! 

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Planned out or last-minute, these cupcakes are great for any spring celebration. I’m actually not a big fan of coconut, but I’m a sucker for a cute bird’s nest and toasted coconut makes the cutest bird’s nests so coconut it is. (note: If you are a coconut lover, you can add coconut flavoring to the icing and/or shredded coconut to the batter)

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Banana Carrot Cupcakes (adapted from How Sweet Eats)

  • 2 C flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 C melted butter (substitute coconut oil)
  • 1 C sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 C grated carrots
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C buttermilk

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

Toast coconut in a thin layer (I use a silpat) until just slightly browned. Set aside.

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

With an electric mixer, blend sugar and butter. Add eggs. Add bananas, carrots and vanilla until well combined.

Add half of dry ingredients and mix together (being careful not to overmix). Add buttermilk and remaining dry ingredients.

Using a 1/4 cup scoop, fill cupcake liners until they are 3/4 way full.

(Or, if you’re like me, accidentally forget the buttermilk and remember after you’ve already filled your cupcake liners, scrape everything back in the bowl and add buttermilk)

Bake 16-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  •  

     

    1 1/2 blocks of cold cream cheese

  • Blue Gel Food coloring
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Toasted unsweetened flaked coconut
  • Cadbury mini eggs

In a stand mixer, whip cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add in vanilla extract and food coloring until you get a robin’s egg blue (or until your sister tells you it looks unappetizingly gray).

Ice cupcakes and top with coconut and cadbury mini eggs.

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Oh and I almost forgot to mention the best part, these cupcakes are basically more fruit and veggies than they are dessert so you can eat them without any guilt whatsoever.

 

Hello Spring. 

So how do you survive your first winter back in the Midwest after living in Florida?christmas in florida, holidays, florida,
Don’t blog about it and it’s like it didn’t even happen.

Not sure whether there is a joke or an excuse in there, but I needed a transition so take it for what it is.

Truth is our first winter back has been pretty mild. And only in terms of temperature.

But if you’re gauging it on social engagements and work schedules, it’s been red hot. Most likely from a combination of living closer to friends and family, low housing inventory and increased demand for local athletic training services.

I’ll save you the apologies for my absence in this particular corner of the internet and instead bring you up to speed with photo montages and random things our dog has eaten (and had surgically removed) since we last talked (spoiler alert: it’s my favorite cashmere scarf).

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Super Bowl Sunday

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Galentine’s Day Brunch

St. Louis Blues Hockey, Blues,

First St. Louis Blues Game

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Visiting Flowers at Whole Foods

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Saeger Gender Reveal Tassel Garland

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A Valentine’s M&M cookie recipe not worth sharing

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Watching my favorite show on T.V.

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Showing off my new belly scar

And since I’ve had this draft for several weeks now, it seems like as good a time as any to do a St. Patrick’s Day recap of recipes I used to make when I was fun.

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!

Confessions of a lonely extrovert

Editor’s note: I started writing this post two weeks ago when Matt was still in France. Then I picked it up and finished it a week ago after my family left town except I never hit publish. Please forgive me for the segmented nature of the following excerpts. Just further proof of my struggle as a halfway blogger.

They say introverts relish in quiet time alone. That spending too much time in a loud setting with lots of activity and people can cause them to shut down in an effort to conserve energy. That downtime is not a waste of time but rather necessary and satisfying.

I am not an introvert.

So you can imagine how an extremely extroverted person deals with their spouse being away on a work trip for 12 days?

  • First and foremost, she has a lot of conversations with her dog.
  • She also shops because well, shopping, but also the majority of retail workers are also extraverts and she finds comfort in random musings with strangers.
  • She spends equal amounts of time at the gym and fresh kitchen.
  • She bakes.

Yes, you read that correctly. She bakes. She finally throws some flour and sugar in a bowl a bakes a flippin’ cake. Remember when this blog actually had photos of cakes in regular rotation?

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I appreciate the concern of my mother(s). After all, I do mention nearly every month that [insert holiday] is my favorite holiday so I can understand their sympathy calls and flight searches at the thought of me spending one alone. Fortunately, both seemed happy to hear that I was bribing my way into someone else’s home with four layers of sugary sunshine and the return of Matt and a visit from my sister just a few days later.

*Let’s discuss the awkwardness that is Fuller House another time

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Easter Layer Cake 

  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened (can substitute 1/2 C vegetable shortening if you want)
  • 3 C sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 C flour (sifted)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Ideally this is the time to grease and flour all four of your cake pans. Oh you don’t have four cake pans? Me neither. I somehow only have three so grease and flour what you have and set aside.

In a stand mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar 1 cupat a time. Add eggs one at a time until each is combined.

In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.

In a liquid measure, combine milk, buttermilk and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients into wet one cup at a time, alternatingbetween milk mixture and flour. Try not to overmix.

Place four medium bowls out on your counter. Divide batter into each bowl evenly. For me it was just under 2 cups of batter per bowl. I like to use gel food coloring as I find it’s a little more accurate. For this version, I just used my pastel set of gel colors and added them separately to each 2 cup bowl.

Once your layers are colored, pour the first two into your two baking pans andbake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. These layers are thin so they will cook relatively quick.

Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 5-10 minutes. Add a layer of parchment or wax paper to your rack before you flip them out of the pan to make turning easier for you when they are cool.

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Once your second batch is out of the oven and cooling you can start on your buttercream icing. This stuff is indulgent so I usually keep it pretty thin. That being said both times I’ve made this cake I’ve had to make extra buttercream icing to get it covered so go ahead and make a bunch.

Buttercream Icing

  • 3-4 C powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 3-4 TBL whipping cream

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Cream butter in a stand mixer and add powdered sugar slowly so as not to go all King James on your kitchen. Add vanilla and cream and whip it until peaks form. Refrigerate it until you are ready to ice the cake.

Once your layers are cool, wrap each of them in plastic wrap and freeze them for a few minutes. this will make the icing process much easier. Do a rough ice and then finish it off with, you guess it, more buttercream.

Top it with a little toasted coconut and Cadbury mini eggs and your ready to go! layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakelayer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakelayer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cake

 

on missing birthdays

I don’t hate much. In fact, I’m one of those optimists that manages to see the teeny tiny glimmers of hope in generally pretty awful people even when I’m trying not to. Current exceptions being Donald Trump and fire ants but let’s get into that once both pests are no longer affecting us, shall we?

But if I had to place ‘hate’ on one thing in my life, it would be missing birthdays. A learned behavior I’m sure, I have a really tough time not physically being there for loved one’s birthdays. OK, anyone’s birthday really. I was looking at the calendar and realized that Finn may spend his 4th birthday with a dog sitter this coming July and actually felt a pang of guilt 4 months ahead of the date for goodness sake.

Birthdays are big in my family. We’ve chatted about this in previous posts (examples here and here), specifically referring to my physiological need to be present at any and all family birthdays, something I’m trying to adapt to living a few states away now. But as each day approaches, I can’t help but feel a little FOMO (fear of missing out non-millennial readers) for “missing” another birthday.

So on this sunny March 12th spring (ok, high of 82 spring) morning, my body may be out avoiding the fire ants in the garden and possibly hitting the pool this afternoon, but my heart is back in Illinois celebrating my mom’s 65th birthday.

And yes, despite the fact that stranger’s assume she’s also my dad’s daughter sometimes, she’s 65 today!

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And based on that last photo, I’m starting to think she may care that Matt’s not there a little more than me. Geesh!

So while I can’t be there to enjoy the delicious looking birthday/St. Patrick’s day themed cake that Jake picked out for mom last night, thanks to technology I was able to sing along and watch her blow out the candles from afar.

I’m blessed to have a mom that squeals with as much excitement for scone and a cup of coffee as she does for a new sweater and cookbook, the former being what you can look forward to the next time you visit.

Happy Birthday, Mom! Here’s a photo of a cake from three years ago. We love you!

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