Tag Archives: dessert

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.

These are not hangover recipes

One of my girlfriends had a birthday party last night and I’m proud to say I stayed out, in a bar, well past 2 a.m. I know my after-hours-attending, late-night-eating 21 year-old self is laughing right now as she reads that statement but she’s just going to have to deal with the fact that we’re getting old.

So lock it up college self. You were in much better drinking shape back then and you didn’t have a dog licking your face at 6 a.m. the next morning. And if you did it was not your own dog and that must have been one hell of a party.

But I digress.

Staying out that late when you are almost 30 is 1) rare and 2) hilarious. Most nights I am lucky to make it to 11 p.m. No joke. But in this case, it happened entirely accidentally. We were all having so much fun dancing and catching up that the next thing I realized it was 2 a.m. The fact I was still able to do the simple math as to how many hours I had before Finn went all Christmas morning on me is one indication that I’m not hurting too much today, but I’m feeling a bit sleep-deprived nonetheless

So for mornings when you eat tortilla chips for breakfast simply because they are salty, I bring you a completely random assortment of recipes not suitable for a hangover.

You’re welcome.

banana chocolate chip muffin, recipes, breakfast, banana muffin, dessert

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (adapted from Recipe Girl)

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 C buttermilk
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 C flour (I used 1/2 C whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix mashed bananas, buttermilk, sugar and egg together.

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

Add dry ingredients into wet. Blend until just combined.

Add chocolate chips.

Using a cookie scoop, drop 1 TBL of dough into lined mini muffin tins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

banana chocolate chip muffin, recipes, breakfast, banana muffin, dessert

banana chocolate chip muffin, recipes, breakfast, banana muffin, dessertThis next one I sort of made up. I wanted to make a light spinach and artichoke dip to take over to my girlfriend’s house for dinner but I didn’t have any parmesan cheese and I only had hazelnuts. So I winged it. It turned out pretty decent but if I were you, I’d add a little fresh parm to it.

spinach artichoke hazelnut dip, spinach artichoke pesto, dip recipes, party recipes

Spinach, Artichoke and Hazelnut Dip

  • 1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 C skillet-toasted hazelnuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 C fresh Spinach
  • 2 TBL plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • lemon zest and juice

Place all ingredients into a large food processor and let it go to town.

Serve with tortilla chips or pita bread.

spinach artichoke hazelnut dip, spinach artichoke pesto, dip recipes, party recipes

 

Speaking of tortilla chips, I think I still have a few left.

A Halloween Hangover

Happy day after Halloween to you all! If you have children, I hope you didn’t steal too much of their candy last night “for the sake of their health.” For those of you that did, I suggest a supervised withdrawal action plan that involves adding a Snickers bar to each meal to avoid crashes throughout the day. We’re in this together folks.

I realize November 1 often (OK, always) comes the day after Halloween but it’s especially jarring this year as I suddenly feel like I have to toss my candy corn (in more ways than one) and start thinking about turkeys already.

Halloween is becoming one of my favorite seasons of the year and I’m not ready for it to be over yet. I realize for some it’s just a day but if you don’t think it’s a season, just try to go into Target mid-August and NOT buy a bag of candy corn.  

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Halloween as a child, too. That probably has something to do with it. If you were scared by say a creepy BOZO wanna-be at a very young age you might have a different opinion. But for me Halloween was a day when my creepy, dark and damp childhood basement finally found use as a fun haunted house for our neighborhood friends. A day when I entered a costume contest as a bag of jelly beans only to realize I couldn’t use the bathroom or sit down until the voting closed that afternoon. And a day when my older sister actually agreed to share with me likely only because she hated my favorite kinds of candy.

OK fine. I‘ll trade you two Reeses for two, two-packs of Starbursts.

Deal! (opens Starburst packages and of course finds two yellows in each pack)

No fair! Do you take returns? 

There was a brief hiatus on Halloween in high school when sports took over most of our lives, but college brought it back with an onslaught of themed parties and exchanges. Golf pros. Tennis hoes. You get the idea. 

So that brings us to the present day and for the first time in a long time I’m going to credit Facebook for helping renew my love of something. Previously, on a post-Halloween morning, my newsfeed was filled with enough “sexy” versions of career paths to fill a job fair. I’m happy to report that over the last few years those photos are increasingly being replaced with cute babies and toddlers dressed as monkeys.

boy costume halloween simply social blog

I don’t think I’m alone in my love for Facebook’s costume extravaganza. After all, Halloween is a time where creativity is celebrated. Homemade costumes are awesome, nostalgic ones even better and you get a king size Butterfinger for those costumes that don’t make any sense until you really think about it. Like this one. or this one. Pop-culture references are fun but don’t seem to mean as much after the hype has gone away. And I’m not just saying that because my Supermarket Sweep couples costume lost out to a now-forgotten Eastbound and Down star at the 2nd Annual Bensko Halloween Bash.

halloween costume double dare supermarket sweep simply social blog

I don’t yet have a child to dress up as a monkey but this year I managed to go against everything I stand for in terms of dressing up your pet for a chance to catch Finn in the homemade moose antlers I made him. He was an elusive moose, that Finn.

greater swiss mountain dog moose antler costume

I thought it was fitting because he is awkwardly tall and clumsy. He chewed them off approximately 5 seconds after this photo was taken, but as of this morning, Finn the Moose has more likes on Facebook than a marathon finisher. And with a lot less effort!

It’s not just the costumes that make me love Halloween. It’s the chance to celebrate. The chance to build a sense of community through a shared interest. The chance to share food and treats with people you care about. The connection it brings to friends, family and complete strangers as people who may not otherwise interact share funny stories, compliments and lighthearted jokes.

It’s also an excuse for me to bake something. I ran out of time to do my traditional treat bags this year but I did manage to get a batch of thumbprint cookies out the door in time for work. So to wrap up the longest Halloween post ever, here’s a recipe for holiday thumbprint cookies adapted from this recipe.

orange and black halloween thumbprint cookies, simply social blog

Halloween Thumbprint Cookies

  • ½ C unsalted butter
  • ½ C sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 TBL pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ C all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Holiday colored sprinkles
  • Orange is the new black candy melts

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until creamy. Add one egg at a time. Add vanilla.

Mix dry ingredients into wet until combined. Refrigerate dough for an hour.

Fill a small glass bowl with sprinkles. Line jelly roll pan with silpat.

Using a cookie scoop, scoop a teaspoon-sized piece of dough and roll it into a ball. Roll dough in sprinkles. Place dough onto baking mat and press center down with the back of a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon. (tip: use non-stick spray on spoon if it gets sticky)

Place cookies in oven for 10 minutes. Remove just before they are done and place candy melt in center. Let cook for 1-2 more minutes until candy melts start to glisten.

Let cool on pan and then wire rack. Take a photo while it’s pouring outside and there’s no natural light to add a spooky orange Halloween vibe to your cookies.

halloween thumbprint cookies, simply social blog

If you’re wondering what I wore this year, we didn’t have any parties but my Yoga studio was encouraging costumes and I am not one to show up unprepared so I wore bears (bear ears) to my yoga class. If you don’t get it with that clue, see below.

Yogi Bear halloween costume

Part Yogi part Bear. Just missing the pic-a-nic basket!

I hope you had a fun-filled holiday. Here’s to the next one, which is right around the corner!

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!

Triple Berry Trifle

Remember when I used to post recipes? You know, actual recipes of real food. Between the juicing and the travel, I’ve been on a bit of a cooking hiatus. And I’ve been informed as of late that not everyone is a fan of my juice cleanse posts. So fortunately for all of you the cleanse is over and I actually cooked this week.

We had a few birthdays to celebrate this June so after a few scheduling attempts, my girlfriends and I were able to get together for a casual summer dinner last night. Even Ella joined in on the celebration.

triple berry trifle simply social blog

I’m ready for solid food, mom!

But before I get into the recipe details let’s catch up on the other excitement happening this week. In case you’ve been living under a rock (or don’t live in Chicago) you might not have heard that the Blackhawks won their second Stanley Cup in 3 years on Monday night and the city has been buzzing with excitement ever since. And seeing as how I live down the street from the United Center, I did what only felt natural after the final horn blared, I banged my new cast iron skillet while standing on my balcony and then dragged my boyfriend (half-shaven playoff beard and all) outside to join the celebration. Because that’s just what you do when a team wins a championship. You take it to the streets!

blackhawks stanley cup champions simply social blog

As you can see from my photos the West Loop got crazy. Not really. This was the extent of it. It was nothing like the madness that would soon occur in Wrigleyville but fun nonetheless. The biggest problem cops in our neighborhood ran into was people standing on top of the planters in the middle of the road to get a shot of the crowd. Not that I did that or anything. You can also see from the photo how thrilled Matt was to have accompanied me down to the festivities. Perhaps stopping him in the midst of shaving the playoff beard had something to do with it. Or the cast iron skillet banging. Whatever the case he was a good sport and he’ll thank me for it later in life. Or in another life. At some point he’ll thank me.

Tuesday was just your average workday until one of my co-workers nonchalantly mentioned that the cup was downstairs in my building. Say what? A couple of higher-ups brought it to an event down at Phil Stefani’s and word spread fast. Mostly by me. Just minutes before I had mentioned to my sister that me sending her the cup-tracker google map link did not mean I was stalking it like a Bieber fan, but rather that I thought the feature was cool. I believe my exact words were, ‘Besides, it’s not like it would ever come here’.

stanley cup blackhawks chicago phil stefanis simply social blog

photo on the left is mine, right courtesy of Tim Kline

And whaddya know, it did.

All of the cup excitement rubbed off on Finn too as he decided to 1) obstruct my only method of spying on him throughout the day and then 2) throw a party. Kids these days.

greater swiss mountain dog beer can simply social blog

We have a little break in the excitement before the big parade tomorrow so it left just enough time for our birthday dinner. Since we were having the dinner over at one of the guest of honor’s condo, I wanted to make something easy to transport and light for the summer. So naturally, I made a 8+ layer trifle, stopping halfway up because I was only feeding 4 people. Ha.

triple berry red white and blue trifle simply social blog

Triple Berry Trifle

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

pudding:

  • 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. Layer on top of cake and then scrape it off after realizing you forgot cool whip. Fold in cool whip. Now you’re ready to layer.

red white and blue trifle simply social blog

Start with a layer of cake and then alternate blueberries, pudding 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. Top layer should be an attempt at a pretty pattern of strawberries and blueberries.

triple berry trifle simply social blog

Don’t worry it never looks as good as the pictures predict it will. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. I did mine the night before and just took it out to bring it to room temp before serving.

Prefer the original? get the full recipe from Skinnytaste.com 

triple berry trifle simply social blog

It just so happens that this triple berry trifle would be a great addition to an upcoming 4th of July BBQ. Get it? Because it has red, white and blue berries? Trust me I didn’t plan it this way. Lord knows I don’t typically get around to posting a 4th of July recipe til at least Labor Day. But hey, sometimes things just work out.

Way to go Hawks!

I’m having an affair

Relax, I’m not married. But even if I were, it’s likely I’d still be having this affair. Fortunately it relates to food. And before you stick your head in the gutter, let me be clear that I’m simply referring to my love affair with scones. No food fetishes here ladies and gentlemen.

Ah, scones.

My love dates back to 3 or 4 years ago when I first tasted a cheddar and chive scone at Nordstrom. I was hooked. I would negotiate my lunches (and workouts) around the days when I could snag a perfectly crafted and just savory enough scone from the cafe. Then they went and changed the recipe on me and I was forced into a downward spiral of scone experimentation until I found a comparable version. Talk about carb-loading. Eventually I found a new recipe and I’d argue that this version is better than the current, if not the original. But that’s another post altogether.

It’s not so much the taste that I love so much, but the consistency that I think makes or breaks a good scone. And yes, I am that deep into my scone love that I examine each element to deem it worthy of sconeholiness. There’s just something about a scone just out of the oven; The crunchy texture outside that breaks into a soft center on the inside. It’s this love of texture that gives me pause when I bake a batch of scones and decide to bring them into the office. The cooling and transportation process typically causes my crunchy, fresh scones to either dry out or become soft. And while I’m sure no one else really notices, I can’t help but think how much better they would be if I could serve them in their prime. I’ve even gone so far as to heat them up (and burn myself) in our toaster oven a few times. Lesson learned. Soft scones for all.

I was greeted with a beautiful pistachio scone a few weeks ago at our “Know Your Gnocchi” class through the Chopping Block. The chef teaching the class had plated them for each one of us to get us through the next 2 hours before we would stuff ourselves on homemade pasta. God forbid we go hungry. Don’t get me wrong that gnocchi was quite tasty and much easier to make than I thought, but for the majority of the class I kept reminding myself to tackle and pin down  politely ask the chef for the scone recipe before I left. They were delicious and light and served with a homemade strawberry sauce. Perfect texture. Point, chef.

pistachio scone

So I jotted down the recipe as she tried to recall it from memory and have been waiting for some free time to make them ever since. And seeing as how that never happened, I did as I normally do and threw them together late night. Then for some idiotic reason I decide that they needed a strawberry sauce accompaniment. So why not whip that up at 6 a.m.? Sounds about right, Sarah.

I’m not thrilled with the consistency and I think the chef’s version had more pistachio flavor, but I’m telling myself that this is because she probably flew in the pistachios from Uzbekistan, ground her own flour and used a commercial-grade oven. Yep, that’s it.

So this evening I will be heading home to scrape strawberry sauce off every surface of my kitchen, and you? You can sit back and enjoy a new scone recipe.

pistachio scones simply social blog

Pistachio Scones

  • 2 C flour
  • 1/2 C Pistachios
  • 1 TBL baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C Sugar
  • 6 TBL unsalted butter
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 C heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Laboriously peel pistachios for the next 20 minutes, wondering why you didn’t just get the shelled version.

Add flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and pistachios to food processor. Pulse until pistachios are roughly chopped. Add butter and process until butter is flaky throughout. Mix in lemon zest. Add cream. Dough should form into ball on side of food processor.

Remove dough and separate into two round balls on non-stick mat. Flatten ball into 1-inch disk. Cut into 8 triangles with your cool new dough cutter and place onto nonstick baking mat. Repeat with remaining dough. Brush with leftover cream and sprinkle a little sugar on top. Don’t pour it. That’s just a Def Leopard song and ain’t nobody got time for that. Unless you are singing karaoke and then everyone does.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on rack.

pistachio scone simply social blog

Try to get a good shot before your dog photobombs and/or eats your end product.

pistachio scones simply social blog

disclaimer: no scones were licked in the shooting of this image

Enjoy!

What’s your favorite scone recipe?

Are you more of a sweet or savory person?

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!

 

Blueberry Tea Cake

I must admit, my baking has been somewhat of a bust as of late. Last week I attempted a “healthy” oatmeal, banana, raisin cookie and it failed miserably. I was missing one of the ingredients and tried to make it work, and well, let’s just say it was intern level at best. I can’t promise I won’t attempt it again just because I’m competitive, but I’ll save you the wasted ingredients until I at least have a successful outcome.

oatmeal raisin cookies

healthy cookie FAIL

While I typically eat pretty healthy and substitute where I can, I try not to skimp when it comes to baking. I come from the school of thought that if you enjoy the real thing, you are less likely to binge on it. There are a few exceptions of course. And those recipes I typically take straight to the office. No one looks pretty standing over the counter devouring an entire 9×13 pan of rhubarb cake. Not that I’ve ever done that or anything.

blueberry tea cake

Speaking of rhubarb cake. This is typically the time of year I make my grandmother’s recipe. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on any good rhubarb yet so I settled for a blueberry tea cake instead.

berry blue tea cake

My mom always says you can judge a good recipe by the stains on the paper. And she’s right. The tried and true ones are typically creased, gray and aged to perfection. Just like George Clooney. As I was looking through my cookbook for a recipe to help dig myself out of the black hole of baked goods, this little piece of paper fell onto the counter like a sign from the baking gods. It was one my mom gave to me from a Junior League cookbook circa 1990. Inspiration comes in all forms and this time it was staring at me saying, Bake me, Bake me!

And so I did.

blueberry tea cake

Berry Blue Tea Cake

  • 2 C sifted flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C unsalted butter
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C milk (I used almond)
  • 2 C blueberries

Topping

  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 2 TBL flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 TBL butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan.

In a small bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt together. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and milk. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in floured blueberries. Batter will be thick.

In a small bowl, cut 2 TBL butter into sugar, flour and cinnamon mixture. Just dig in and use your hands. Spread topping over batter. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

Tea cakes are great because like scones, they can be justified at any meal of the day. Have some with your morning coffee. It’s not too sweet. Serve it for Sunday brunch. After all, there’s fresh fruit in it. Scarf down another piece for dessert. You can’t go wrong with a cinnamon-sugar combo.

In today’s Pin-centric world, I’m interested to hear if you still use cookbooks and printed recipes? Where do you get your cooking inspiration from?

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.

IMG_2908

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.

What Finn Ate Wednesday

In light of recent events, I decided to dedicate this What I ate Wednesday to my pup. After all, he’s ingested more interesting stuff than I have this week. Except maybe that delicious antipasto at Coco Pazzo, or the leftover roasted beet salad and quinoa from my Sunday post. Oh, and snickerdoodle dip. But more on that later.

I used to think Mondays were rough. Coming off a relaxing weekend away or at home to the impending workweek ahead. Trading the freedom of leisurely activities for cost centers, conference calls and a cold commute. But as much as I think we have a hard time transitioning into Mondays, I’d imagine our pets have it even worse. Unless you have a cat then they are just excited to get you out of the house.

5-plus walks and 3 park visits per day. Ok, this is cool! A spontaneous car ride to visit Nana and Papooch where I can eat acorns and meaty things and run in the backyard until I puke? Don’t mind if I do! Weekends are AWESOME!

But then Monday hits. And just as you come back from your early morning walk and finish your continental breakfast, suddenly you’re faced with the dreaded baby gate of doom which can only mean one thing: She’s leaving.

Ok don’t panic, Finn. Let’s evaluate the situation. She’s not going to that ‘Jim’ she talks about because she’s clearly not wearing stretchy pants. Is it time to eat again? Darn, she’s just refilling that round thing that holds my water. Oh yes! Here comes that soft and fluffy pad I sleep on in my crate. It’s so cozy I could just lay down right…no Finn! Focus! Oh look! Toys! She’s throwing all of my favorite toys in the kitchen. Not anorexic big bird. I love anorexic big bird!

finn_bird

It’s official. She’s going to work and she won’t be back for a very long time.

A few hours pass.

Stupid bird. quit looking at me. You’re no fun. You don’t even squeak. Silly pillow. You’re not THAT soft. Oh great, I’m out of water. What the heck do I do now? Where the heck is my mom? I’m annoyed. What can I do to show her how bored I am? She likes to cook. I know that. Sometimes rarely she uses those paper things on the shelf. Maybe if I chew off this outside cover thing she’ll get the hint. After all, I do love the taste of paper.

finn_mess_1

It’s probably my own fault that this behavior transitioned into Tuesday as well. After all, I had a work function and a social event Monday night so I warned Finn it would be a long day. I think my exact words were ‘Look, I know it’s Monday and this one is going to be tough, but I promise to make it up to you.’ We tried to squeeze in as much play time as possible in the time I was home but it just wasn’t enough.

So as I open the door Tuesday afternoon I was greeted with another surprise.

You know that rug I pulled a string out of yesterday, lady? Yeah, well that was your warning. And you left it out for me anyways. Silly Mom. And since the cookbooks didn’t do the trick either, I chewed that rug to pieces just about 10 minutes before you got here. I notice how meticulously you put it back in place every time I move it. Maybe you’ll get the hint now? PS you know it was time for a new one anyway.

finn_mess_2

Guilty as charged, Finn. After cleaning up mess #2 for the week, I bundled myself in as many layers as possible (sub-zero temps have joined us again here in Chicago) and spent the next few hours walking, playing, standing in the dog park so Finn could let out some of the energy he was obviously storing up this week. And when we were too cold to play outside anymore, we headed home and played some more.

So what does a guilty mom give her puppy after a few ‘alternative meals’ the past few days? Dessert of course! As I pulled out a jar of peanut butter I was reminded of a recipe I made a few months back. And so we cooked. (NOTE: no cross-contamination of dog peanut butter vs. human peanut butter occurred during the making of this recipe)

I kept stumbling upon the same recipe on Pinterest. Over and over a photo of something called ‘Cookie Dough Dip’ kept popping up and sparking my interest. First and foremost I love cookie dough. I’ve always been one more in favor to eat the dough than the cookies themselves and this recipe was egg-less so you don’t get that awesome weird taste in your mouth afterwards. Shout out to my Aunt Barb who let my cousins and I make a batch of cookie dough and (gasp) just eat the dough on our visit to California several years back.

So I finally got around to actually clicking on the recipe and was even more intrigued to read that the main ingredient was, wait for it…chickpeas. Say what? No chance this tastes like cookie dough. I had to attempt it. And while it tasted a little more like chocolate chip peanut butter cookie dough, it was good. Too good.

Several spoonfuls later, I decided to try an alternative version from the same web site. This time Snickerdoodle. Same basic ingredients with the addition of cinnamon and substitution of chocolate chips. Once again, too good!

snickerdoodle_dip

Snickerdoodle Dip

  • 15 oz. White beans or chickpeas
  • 3 TBL nut butter-I used homemade almond (recipe posted soon)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • up to 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxmeal
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Garnish with raisins

In a colander, drain and rinse beans. Add all ingredients to your food processor and blend until smooth. Add raisins if you like them. I happen to love them. So much so that I should rename the blog simply raisins. Raisins rule.

Trust me on this one. I know it sounds weird, but this stuff tastes like cookie dough. Grab a spoon and dig in!

Prefer the original? Try both versions from Chocolate Covered Katie.

The good news is it’s Wednesday. And we have just a few short days before more walks and a long vacation with Nana and Papooch. I haven’t told Finn yet but I’m hoping that keeps him from destroying anything else. At least until Monday.