Currently viewing the tag: "chocolate"

I was recently on Twin Cities Live and made the chocolate bars pictured. They are based on a recipe from my cookbook: chocolate brownie base, buttercream filling, then topped off with chocolate ganache. Indulgent, but delicious. I made them for Valentine’s day with edible rose petals, which made them pretty and terribly precious, but if you’re not into that sort of thing, plain tops will work just fine. You can watch the video of me making them here.

I’ll have some chocolate hazelnut bars for you later this week, and hopefully the lemon pull-apart bread I had on Instagram that so many of you asked about. I’m still tweaking that recipe just a bit. And the rectangle cake, too! So many recipes, so little time.

I hope your weekend is full of good things. I am currently watching the snow fall down and trying not to think of my parents headed to the east coast for weeks on end while I pine for spring. I did start reading I Capture the Castle yesterday and can’t put it down; it’s delightful. xx

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So far, I’ve spent most of January freezing. It’s not that unusual for me to be constantly cold, but here in Minnesota we’ve had a long string of below zero days, which means I’m wearing several pairs of socks and shivering under blankets. I’ve done quite a bit of baking this month, and hope to have more recipes for you soon. In the meantime, here’s a list of things I’ve been enjoying.

Elizabeth by Sarah Bradford – I often make a quick stop at my local thrift store and browse the books; there’s usually a treasure or two tucked away in there. I picked up this book last week and have been reading it before bed (trying to stay away from Twitter after 9pm) and have been enjoying it.

Ella and Louis Again – Somehow I missed this! I am in love with their first duet album, and have spent countless hours singing along to it. I’ve been listening to this all week.

I’m working my way through Parks and Rec again, and have been laughing so much. Here’s the best of Ron Swanson.

It was just Martin Luther King Jr. day. It’s still not too late to read his leader from Birmingham Jail.

The greatest dance number ever filmed (according to Fred Astaire).

The Onion’s food videos are rather funny.

Why you should care about Bob Newhart.

How the 25 greatest stories ever told would be ruined by technology.

The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, sung by Leonard Nimoy

Spatula City

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(The text for this post is taken from an old post with no recipe. I was feeling similar this year, and decided to share it again, along with a recipe.)

I spent ten Christmas Eves in a row working various retail jobs, everything from barista to Barnes and Noble. The holiday season started the day after Thanksgiving, with mile long lines continuing to Christmas Eve at 4pm, when the store gates finally clanged shut and stayed that way for one whole day. Work shifts in December were spent answering the constantly ringing phone, running around the store trying to find would-be presents, standing at the cash register hour upon hour swiping credit cards, dreading every 30 minutes when Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime would come on again, and cleaning up gigantic messes left by frantic customers. Then, at last, the night before Christmas, when the store gate was shut (although often people were begging outside it: please, can I buy just 1 pound of coffee? I just need one more book for my sister-in-law, will you let me in?) all the employees would feel that smack of exhaustion, the same one that comes at the end of finals week, when you are finally driving home for spring break. It would take hours to clean the store, and almost everyone could feel a serious cold coming on. Someone would order a pizza, and we’d munch in silence before taking off to our various celebrations, usually arriving sneezing and crazy-eyed, just wanting to crash into a bed.

I’ve now had ten years off on Christmas Eve. It is spent at home, quietly listening to holiday music, baking a batch of cookies, snuggling with my little ones watching White Christmas, and heading to my parent’s house early for festivities. I have a no-shopping on Christmas Eve rule for myself, but I must admit I feel something lacking each year without the craziness. The month of December doesn’t feel as sparkly and exciting to me without all the noise, the crowds of people, Mariah Carey singing Christmas songs through loud speakers all day long, racing up and down stairs trying to find books for exasperated customers. The thing I didn’t want to make the holiday about has now ended up defining the holiday to me. Those formative years of my teens and twenties, working hard all December long now shape how I need Christmas to feel to me as an adult. I can’t escape that, somehow.

I remind myself each year that just because something feels a certain way, it doesn’t mean that’s how it actually is. This is usually easier said than done. As a parent, I now determine how the holiday will look for my children. I start traditions and routine both for enjoyment and for recognition. I see my kids feeling so many things, and getting swept up in what makes Christmas so exciting. But my mission as a caretaker is more than that. It’s to teach what the reason behind this month long, money-spending, jingle-belling really is. At the very core, it’s to look to others, to give with no expectation of getting anything in return, and to remember that we all belong to each other, all of us, across this spinning round snow globe that’s so easily shaken. No matter how the actual days of December end up shaping my two little ones, I want them to still always be able reach past how they feel, and know, deep down, the joy and hope of Christmas, and their capacity to bring it everywhere they go. “If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.” —Lucy Larcom

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I have a few recipes tucked way back in my site archives that deserve the light of day again. Here is one of them – pumpkin pound cake with chocolate. This recipe also made it into my cookbook, but since it originally debuted here, I thought I’d make it shine with some new photos and feature it again for the holiday season.

This cake been a faithful to me for over 20 years. It always turns out tender and moist, with so much flavor; perfect for snowy morning get-to-gethers, afternoon coffee breaks, and late night nibbles. And for those of you new to baking or wanting to feel more confident in the kitchen, this is a great recipe to start with. The cake is easy to put together, doesn’t have any hard-to-find ingredients, and doesn’t need a lot of babysitting in the oven. Plus, it lasts for several days, so you can make it ahead of time.

Products Featured

Copper Pound Cake Pan from Nordic Ware

Strainer/Powder Sugar Duster from Rosle

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We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Little Gidding V,
Four Quartets.
— T.S. Eliot (1943)

Somehow I am turning 40 this week. I’ve gotten over the freaking-out part of things (that happened at 39) and I’ve moved into some ‘next phase of life’ business. I’ve found I like myself better the older I get (although I will give a nod to my therapist here – her help is part of why aging has been going so well!), and almost-forty has given me confidence I didn’t know I possessed. Often when I am afraid to do something, or stand up for myself, a simple reminder that ‘you’re forty years old. You can totally do this,’ has been very helpful. I guess I’m officially an adult or something now.

My husband turns forty right around this time as well, and we also celebrate our 15-year wedding anniversary, so it’s sort of an epic end of summer for us. I try not to remember the signs hanging up at my parents’ ‘over-the-hill’ parties: halfway to heaven isn’t something I want to focus on quite yet. Although I’ll admit there are moments each month, as the year quickly passes yet again, that the unknown, whatever is after all of this, is a more present, lurking thought. Sometimes it’s joyful, and hopeful, other times I quickly shove it away, not ready to deal with my fear. Either way, it’s a reminder to not waste time, to speak up for what is right, and to enjoy all the days I have this side of the hill. Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new. -Ursula K. Le Guin

I made a small birthday cake for myself this year. The chocolate cake is a scaled down version of the chocolate cake from my cookbook, with sour cream instead of buttermilk, and butter added in place of some of the canola oil. I really liked how it turned out. I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I use their unsalted butter in my baking, and find the flavor to be heads and shoulders above other grocery store brands.

The seven minute frosting is a nod to my Grandma Ethel, who used to make a version of  this quite frequently (though she never toasted the top of hers), and as a child I thought it was the worst thing ever – I didn’t understand how anyone could ruin a perfectly good cake with it. My opinion has changed drastically over the years (another positive of aging, I guess), and I thought it would be a good accompaniment to the chocolate cake. I did share some with my family, and they liked it, too.

This post is sponsored by Land O Lakes. As always, all opinions are my own.

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‘Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.’ – Henry James

I have to agree with Mr. James here; summer is magic. With my littles at home and days filled with swimming, reading, long walks, trips to the library, canoeing, hammocking, lego building, and not homeworking, I am entering August on tiptoes, knowing there are only four weeks of leisure left. ‘Twenty-nine days!’ my seven year old son lamented today as he counted on the calendar. ‘Only twenty-nine days left of summer! I’m doomed!’ I tried to reassure him it was plenty of time, but August does have a reputation for flying by too fast. Or, as my friend Kate put it, ‘August is the Sunday of summer. June is Friday night, July is Saturday, and each day of August quietly whispers, Monday is just around the corner.’

So we made ice cream cake. Because the weather is warm, and we still have days left to celebrate our freedom. Raspberry crème fraîche no-churn ice cream with chocolate cookie crumb and toasted meringue topping, to be exact. It was decadent, and delicious; it cooled us to our toes and made us momentarily ignore that yes, we are doomed.

‘All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.’ – LM Montomery

This post is sponsored by Driscoll’s and the Minnesota #BerryTogether Sweepstakes. Did you know Minnesota is the number one consumer of raspberries? To celebrate, Driscoll’s is giving away a Minnesota exclusive getaway Madden’s Resort & Spa in Brainerd, MN for 4 from now until August 31st. Click here to enter.

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Hello! And apologies for the silence in this space. The quiet is a good thing – my summer has been lovely and busy; my family and I enjoying quality time together. So baking and blogging has been on the back burner for the better (that sentence had too many ‘b’ words and a terrible attempt at a kitchen pun, which means I’ve had way too much coffee today).

I’ll be back again later this week with another recipe and some trip photos from the North Shore, but for now, I am going to leave you with some links.

*There has been so much good music released this spring/summer! I’ve been listening to Feist, Lee Bozeman, Greycoats, and Sufjan’s Planetarium on repeat for weeks.

*I still love Jeremy Enigk.

*I am spending the summer reading Thomas Cahill’s Hinges of History series.

*Zoebakes’s Instagram stories are the best- I always learn something new.

*I actually bought a fanny pack (or belt bag, for the trendy) and have gotten mixed reviews on it. I will say it was amazing while hiking, and I did have an older gentleman compliment me on it (we almost had matching bags), which made my day.

*I have mint chocolate ice cream cake and mixed berry cream cheese ice cream on Handmade Charlotte.

*I have grilled breakfast pizza on Artisan Bread in Five.

*Can’t wait to start baking from Pizza Camp. I also have a gigantic stack of cookbooks I need to bake from and share with you, that I hopefully will get to soon.

That’s all for now! I hope you had a lovely weekend. Don’t forget to #bakeamericacakeagain.

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Mother’s Day is just around the corner. I often forget about it; not about celebrating my own mother, of course, but about that fact that it is now a day for others to celebrate my contribution to their life. I am a Mom every day – I get two littles up for school each morning; guide them through dressing and eating and brushing teeth while cramming folders and lunch boxes into back packs. I wait at bus stops. I take breaks from working and baking to fold laundry, change pillow cases, pick up toys. I make dinner, I help with homework. I am a story teller, a song singer. I close my book at night when little feet quietly make their way into my room, needing hugs or more songs, or reassurance in the dark. I am always listening, checking, double-checking, holding, awake while sleeping, hoping, helping. But still, somehow, I forget I’m the Mom. Because there is still 10-year old me inside, singing along to Amy Grant all afternoon and lost in Nancy Drew stories. Fifteen year old me is there, dreaming about boys and crying over journal entries. Twenty year old me is over-spiritualizing her life and trying not to bounce every check she writes. Twenty-five year old me is married and can actually sleep through the night without being afraid. Thirty year old me is pregnant for the first time and finally seeing a therapist. And now there is almost 40 year old me, the woman trying to make sense of aging while still so aware of all the other, younger Sarahs lingering inside. Not Mom, then Mom, then both together, for the remaining miles of the journey.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own

-Mary Oliver, from The Journey

I think I will celebrate the big Day this year with a fabulous cake, for both myself and my own Mother. I’m excited to share the one pictured above with you: an almond cake with chocolate and Amaretto buttercream. Andre Prost sent me several boxes of their imported Odense Almond Paste (from Odense, Denmark) to experiment with.  It is made in a factory where only almonds are used so there is no risk of other nut allergies in this cake. If you have never used almond paste, it is found in the baking section of the supermarket. I love almond paste in so many applications (paired with puff pastry, especially, and also in a Danish braid), but I had never used it in a straight up yellow cake. I love the way it turned out; the cake is rich and full of almond flavor, without the need for extra almond extract. Amaretto is an under-used liqueur in my cabinet, and it pairs nicely with the cake and thin layer of chocolate (side note: on the rare occasion I order a drink when I’m out on the town, I do always get an amaretto sour. I’ve also been informed that this is an old lady drink, but dang, it’s so good!). The flowers on this cake are inspired by the lovely Molly Yeh and her own fabulous cake. She has a lot of good links posted for making flowers, and I have a few more at the bottom of the post, too.

Giveaway: Enter for a chance to win 6 boxes of Odense Almond Paste! Leave a comment below with your email for a chance to win. No special comment is required, but if you want to let me know what cookbooks you are currently baking/cooking out of, I would love that. Winners will be picked one week from today, May 9th.

This post is sponsored by Odense Almond Paste. As always, all opinions are my own. You can find more recipes using almond paste on their website.

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‘I believe food should capture your spirit. Your food, I believe, is a compilation of your journey in life – it collects bits and pieces as you go. From youth and culture, from travel, and from day-to-day experiences. It is also very much an evolution…

Food’s ability to bring people together is unparalleled. It is at the foundation of our cultures; it is the goodness we can bring to ourselves and others. When we celebrate food and retain its inherent quality, we nourish ourselves and our lives. We take the time to source good ingredients and produce. We support our local farmers and artisans, and we help sustain a beautiful cycle of goodness that extends to the people around us.’ -Karen Mordechai, Simple Fare

I received Karen’s new book this past week, and instantly was drawn to this dark chocolate cake. It did not disappoint. You may know Karen’s site Sunday Suppers, and her book is filled with the same beautiful photography and thoughtful recipes found there. I recommend checking it out.

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pumpkin bread

Happy Merry. I hope you and yours had a wonderful Holiday season, however it looked and was celebrated. We do Christmas here, and had a loud and lovely Christmas Eve with family, then ended up being rained in (which is very weird for Minnesota – freezing rain and howling winds, but no snow) Christmas Day. So we watched movies, ordered Chinese food (my father-in-law was nice enough to venture out), read books, and put together elaborate Lego sets.  Both days were perfect, and I felt completely content as I fell asleep.

The tree was thrown out the day after Christmas, sadly. We picked a bad one this year (I blame it on 2016) and it needed to be out of our house. I usually hang on to those green pine needles as long as I can, not willingly to let the jingle bells and the silent nights go. But it felt nice, actually, to pack everything up just a little early and start thinking about the New Year. I’m not really one for resolutions and crash dieting come January, but I do like to spend some time reflecting on what I hope for in the next year. I also like the feeling of a fresh start. After a whole month of too many cookies and too much peppermint bark, focusing on health and wholeness is a necessity.  I enjoyed adding Pulses to my diet this year (although I will admit December didn’t see as much of them), and want to carry out my Pulse pledge in 2017 as well.

pumpkin bread

pumpkin bread

This bread is another baking recipe I’ve created as a Pulses Ambassador this year. The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulse, and I’ve taken the Pulse Pledge, committing to eat pulses once a week for the next year. Pulses are beans, chickpeas, lentils and dry peas; leguminous crops that are good for your health and good for the environment. I’ll be posting recipes involving them periodically this year, incorporating pulses not only in my savory cooking, but baking recipes as well. I’d love for you to join me! If the Pulse Pledge sounds interesting to you, you can read more about it here. It’s a 10 week commitment, and it doesn’t require elaborate baking: a serving of hummus and a bowl of soup are good ways to take them in, too. Also check out my Vanilla Lavender Cupcakes.

This post was sponsored by USA Pulses & Pulse Canada. All opinions are my own.

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