Tag 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.

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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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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.

 

 

 

Baking at Inappropriate Times

I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts lately. I love stumbling across new and interesting people through Instagram or other social networks and getting immersed in their lives, even for just a few moments. An entire blog dedicated to your love of chevron? Don’t mind if I do. Oh, you don’t just donate money, you actually travel to other countries to help underprivileged children…every 6 months. Of course you do!

There’s a wonderful community of writers out there sharing their passion with the world. Some have even made a business out of it. As I sit down to write each week, I sometimes doubt whether my blog is worth the time and effort.

Is anyone actually going to read this? And if they do, will they enjoy it? 

And then I come across this blog. And this one. And my confidence is restored.

Let’s get serious. I’m not saving lives here folks. The recipes I share are not revolutionary. Contrary to what I believe, one can only handle so many puppy pictures. But the more I write the more I realize that it’s the process itself in which I find fulfillment. Writing is my form of expression. Well one of them at least. Sometimes I kid myself into thinking I can actually sing in the shower and am quickly reminded that it was my sister who got the vocal talent in the family.

In a world of Pinterest, final drafts and Photoshop, we see a version of a project, recipe or person that has a lot of editing behind it. And just like the real world, it’s hard not to compare your dimly lit eggplant stack to the perfect Pinterest version you were striving for.

The more blogs I read, the more I find myself jumping to the About section after finishing the initial post. I’m interested in the content, but before I get to it I want to know more about the author. What does he or she look like? Do we share any similarities? 

It’s like the little girl in the AT&T commercial says,


We want more, we want more. You really like it, you want more. 

And I’d be a hypocrite if I noticed this tendency and didn’t do something about my own about. If you visited my about page previously you would have seen a very brief paragraph and a photo of Finn and I. And that was it.

OK, so this girl likes food, photography and dogs. Not necessarily in that order.

I know it’s hard to believe seeing as how most of this blog is dedicated to observations about my life, but when it came to making a list of items to help strangers get to know me as a person, I actually had a hard time writing them down. I got a little overwhelmed thinking that the throngs of visitors the few new visitors that came across the page might judge me based on the list.

What if they think I’m presumptuous? What if they think I’m boring? What if they think raisins are disgusting? 

And while I know I still have some work to do on improving the section, I hope that this small list will help you learn a little bit more about me and perhaps just maybe a few things that make you want to read more.

facts

If those random observations weren’t enough to make you judge me, this next one might put you over the edge:

I locked my puppy inside my condo last week. 

It gets worse.

Not only did I lock my puppy inside my condo, but I hopped on a flight to D.C. for a work trip for the remainder of the week shortly thereafter. You may be thinking,

Well don’t you lock your puppy inside your condo everyday, Sarah?

And you would be right (except for the days he goes to daycare). But on this particular day, my boyfriend had a game in Houston and would not return until late that evening, far too long for a large but young puppy to be cooped up inside.

And before you send my information to the ASPCA, know that I wouldn’t have left my puppy locked in my condo without a plan. My mom was in town for work and offered to let the monster out mid-day. We had a belated Mother’s Day dinner the night before and I was so proud of myself for remembering to give her the security key to get into my building. I would just keep my door key so I could get back in that night and leave the door open for her the next day.

Point Sarah? 

But come Tuesday morning, I rushed out the door to get to the airport and, wait for it, locked the door.

Fast-forward several hours later and my phone rings mid-conference set-up.

Mom: Well honey, I think I have the right unit but the door seems to be locked. Are you sure I’m at the right door? 

(confusion, realization, helplessness)

Me: Yes. You are. I ran out so fast. I think I locked it. 

Mom: Oh well don’t you worry about it honey. He will be fine.  

The good news is my mom is sweet even when I’m an idiot. Even better news is that I was able to call in a favor from another family member to open the door and let Finn out before anything bad happened. You know, like the poor puppy having to take an extra long nap instead of a long one that day.

In an effort to begin to show my gratitude to my cousin for letting Finn out for me, I inquired about his taste in baked goods from his sister. She mentioned that he liked Scotcheroos.

Scotcherwhats?

I’ll admit, I had to Google the name to figure out what they were. However, once I saw a photo the baker in me laughed. Oh, Scotcheroos. That’s what these blogs call those Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Bar things. Because my version was so much easier to explain all these years.

I had a few hours Friday between D.C. and Milwaukee so I made a batch and delivered them to my cousin and a few friends on foot. Yes, on foot. In 80 degree weather. You might remember the first half of the story when I gave myself a point for proactively giving my mom my security key. And how proactive I was. It wasn’t as though I would need that particular key when I returned to gain access my garage where my car is parked. Or the stairwell. Or the building.

Negative points Sarah. 

But I survived thanks to a keypad and some nice neighbors. And along the way I learned that Scotcheroos don’t melt if you properly load them in a cinch-sack, run fast and deliver to air-conditioned condos early in the morning.

chocolate peanut butter scotcheroos rice krispie treats

Chocolate Scotcheroos

  • 6 cups Puffed Rice Cereal
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I used 1/2 C almond butter and 1/2 C peanut butter)
  • 1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 C butterscotch chips
  • Chopped heath bars (for topping)

In a large bowl melt corn syrup, sugar and peanut butter. Pour mixture over puffed rice and stir until combined. Press into a greased 9×13 pan.

In a separate bowl melt butterscotch chips and chocolate chips. I was in a hurry so I melted the chocolate in the microwave on 30 second intervals. I added a little chocolate almond bark at the end.

Spread melted chocolate mixture over puffed rice, top with chopped heath bar bits and let cool. If needed refrigerate for a few minutes until it sets up.

Cut into small squares and serve. Be sure to add the extra weight of Scotcheroos into your calculations for distance traveled as part of delivery. Continue running because those suckers are decadent!

chocolate scotcheroos rice krispie treats

So now that we’ve established the formal name of those token bake sale, tailgate and office treats, we can all move on to memorial day.

As for me I’m just excited to have access to my building again. I received a package in the mail this week that reminded me how lucky I am to have such considerate parents.

key

I’m not sure at what point my parents decided to have a second child, but it’s times like these I feel pretty lucky that they did. They could have stopped at one, you know. Just enjoyed the peaceful sounds of my sister singing and eating nothing but chicken sandwiches throughout the years. But no. They decided to have always hurried and often forgetful Sarah. And while I’m sure they would say there are other perks to having me as a daughter, I am fairly confident that thanks to me they are on a first-name basis with the key man at Ace Hardware by now. And I think we all know how valuable that can be.

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Murphy’s Law

homemade oreosSt Patrick’s Day has always been highly regarded in my family. How could it not be? With Murphy as your surname you learned at a young age:

  • The lyrics to MacNamara’s Band
  • Everything can be dyed green with the proper amount of food coloring-even chicken salad.
  • Wearing green underwear will not win you the tiebreaker in the grade school green outfit competition if the unwritten ‘visible clothing only’ rule is applied. 

Since St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Sunday this year, I spent the better part of the week trying to decide which day(s) to celebrate. Should I make treats for work in the days leading up? Should I wait for the weekend and share them with friends? Maybe something salty for the Monday after to soothe the effect of green beer? I’d love to be able to attribute this obsession only to the annual celebration of my Irish heritage, my German half begs me to be honest with myself. Who are you kidding, Sarah, you love any excuse for a holiday.

It’s true. I do love a good holiday. Any holiday really. Better yet, any excuse to get people together to eat something and celebrate. So you can imagine my excitement when Owen reminded me that were just a few short weeks away from one of my all time faves: April Fools’ Day. Don’t get me wrong, Easter is great and all, but an April Fools’ celebration is nearly as Murphy as being Irish is.

But back to that surname. The adage known as Murphy’s Law says that anything that can go wrong will. And while I’ve heard the reference my entire life a few times, I’ve been fortunate that my Murphy has come with a good amount of luck. If a front-row parking spot is already taken when we arrive for a family dinner or at a crowded sporting event, you better believe my dad already snagged it. Murphy spot. Cardinals baseball ticket raffles Friday nights at Barrel Head? And the winner is Number 980679. Murphy win. A long wait at a local restaurant? Reservation for Murphy, please. (Ok so I’ve never actually taken another Murphy’s reservation, but if you’re in a hurry and hungry, there’s a good chance there’s one on the list!)

As I drove home this weekend for an unplanned visit, I thought I might be entering into my first Murphy’s Law experience. It seemed that our family luck was dwindling the closer we got to Sunday. I could feel the excitement for the holiday wane as we focused on surgeries and next steps, far more important than the shamrocks and sprinkles that filled my thoughts earlier in the week.

Fortunately in my family, we have an A-team of copers to adapt to nearly any situation. And I’d imagine there are a lot more families out there just like us.

My dad is a great runner. And I don’t mean the marathon-type. I mean the guy with the car who can run things back-and-forth and make sure everyone is transported to their assigned locations. My sister is a logistical guru. She’ll coordinate everyone’s schedule and make decisions faster than you can say ‘We need to deci..’ Mom is the peacemaker. She has an introspective calmness in stressful situations. Like a deer. Easily startled, but calming just to be in the presence of. The little ones in the group prove that life goes on no matter what stress you’re under. They exude happiness and joy at the points when you need them most. And me? Well I guess I try to bring optimism and light conversation. Light referring to the topic of course. Not the amount. And if that doesn’t work? Homemade Oreos. Because who doesn’t love a homemade Oreo?

homemade oreos Lucky Homemade Oreos

  • 1 1/4 C flour
  • 3/4 C cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 10 TBL unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add egg. cookie dough In a large bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

cocoa flour

Add dry ingredients into wet until combined. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop 1-2 inch sections of dough. Roll into balls and place on non-stick baking mat on cool pan.

homemade oreos

Use a small glass to flatten cookies to approximately 1/4 inch thick. Note: these cookies spread. If you don’t want giganto oreos like I made use teaspoon scoop instead.

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Bake cookies for 10 minutes or until firm. They may be soft when they come out but they tend to harden when they cool. But don’t fret, thick buttercream icing will soften them up once you make sandwiches out of them. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. homemade oreos If you are going to cut into the cookie now is the time. I used a knife but recommend a small cookie cutter. Don’t try this at home kids. And don’t wait until they are cool because they will crumble into an oreo powder you can only salvage to make a cookies n’ cream shake or blizzard. Not that that sounds tasty or anything. Butter cream Frosting

  • 1/2 C unsalted butter
  • 1/2 C Crisco
  • 3 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1 TBL vanilla extract
  • Green and Yellow food coloring paste

In your stand mixer, cream butter and shortening together on medium speed. Turn speed down to low, add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add green and yellow food coloring until you reach the desired green color you are looking for. I used gel, but liquid will be fine as well.

green buttercream icing

Add icing to piping bag and ice flat side of cookie. Don’t worry about the edge as that will fill once you place the other cookie on top. IMG_2913 Assemble sandwiches and pass the luck on! homemade oreos Prefer the original? Recipe adapted from the Whipped Baking Blog. homemade oreos And while the cookies may have been the only indication of St. Patrick that day, we did a pretty good number disputing Murphy’s Law over the next several. It’s still early but I’d say we have the luck of the Irish, lots of prayers and a very qualified medical team to thank for it. lucky homemade oreos Luck can get you a lot of things, but I’ve come to believe a chance to simply celebrate life is enough to make every day a holiday.

Running in the Rain

I have a secret love for running in the rain. I think the positive association comes from all those years of spring soccer where field conditions allowed for overzealous slide tackles and everyone wanted to try their hand at goalkeeper. Why wouldn’t you? In the rain, balls either stopped dead in the box or you at least got a 90 minute mud facial without having to tip the esthetician. Whatever the case, when the clouds opened up just in time for my 7-miler on Saturday, the 7 year-old Sarah in me smiled.

I traveled home this weekend to pick up Finn and to celebrate a few birthdays. It was a beautiful day on Friday so I stopped at home and brought Finn with for some afternoon errands.  After all, it had been nearly two weeks and I really missed him.

finn_car

plotting his next move

But don’t let the sweet face fool you. Theres a Brian Urlacher hiding behind those eyes just waiting to come between you and the last 7 steps of a staircase if you leave him for too long. And apparently two weeks is just enough. Trust me. I’ve got the whiplash to prove it.

Time: Saturday, 6 a.m.

(Loud thud)

Mom: Don’t worry, Mike, I think that was just the dog.

(Sarah moans)

Mom: Oh no, nope that was Sarah. Oh Finny, what did you do?!

He just tried to make a lesson out of his momma, that’s what.

finn_couch

And while there were no additional murder attempts, the rest of the weekend was still rather eventful. March is not only the start of running in the rain season, but the kickoff to birthday season in my family as well. We began the bonanza with a surprise tennis-themed party on Saturday night and a brunch celebrating my mom’s birthday Sunday morning.

tennis_party

Tennis and Chocolate

macaroons frittata birthday

Celebrating Mom’s Birthday

Here’s to an early spring and a few more chances to get out and run in the rain. Have a great week!