Beef + Vegetable + Wild Rice Stew (Revisited)

IMG_3210

IMG_3204

A few years ago when I was in college, I worked at a restaurant called The Cheeseboard, which makes the best soups and my all-time favorite grilled cheese sandwich.  When I worked there, we would essentially just make a giant pot of soup with whatever we had laying in the fridge.  Some of my favorites included our potato soup which I would top with absurd amounts of cheddar and the tomato soup with I would obviously pair with the grilled cheese.  One time, the chef made a stew with beef, wild rice, and all kinds of vegetables, and it was one of the best beef stews I ever done had.  It also happened to be one of the days that I didn’t help make the soup, and I had no idea what he did, AND to top it all off, he never used recipes.  SO I decided to make my own version, and I wrote a post about it, and it was good, but it wasn’t one of the best stews I ever had.  After that, I pretty much just forgot about beef soup until approximately one week ago when I found a package of stew meat in my freezer.

After a few years of learning more about food, and re-reading my original beef + wild rice stew recipe, I realized I had done some cooking techniques that made little sense, and the ingredients were a little off for my tastes (3 years will do that to you I guess?).  So I decided to remake the recipe with some different ingredients and some updated techniques, and I have to say, I think this maybe is one of the best beef stews I’ve ever had.  Yay!!

IMG_3224

IMG_3220

For starters, I learned that a good quality stew meat + broth makes a big difference in taste!  I used stew meat from Sanford Ranch Beef which my cousins own, but you can use whatever good-quality meat you can find.  Also, try to find a nice wild rice mix without any added seasonings or preservatives – those will affect the overall flavor of the soup.  For veggies, I use a mire poix with some squash, but next time I may add turnips or leeks!  Basically, whatever you have in the fridge.  Also, I serve the stew with either a mixed salad or charred broccoli and fresh, crusty whole-wheat bread!

The stew lasts well in the fridge and can even taste better after a few days.  The rice usually soaks up some of the broth, so try to have extra on hand for leftovers!!

IMG_3233

IMG_3226


Beef + Wild Rice + Vegetable Stew
Serves 4

Ingredients

3 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. beef stew meat, cubed
2 carrots, sliced
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. red wine
4-6 c. low-sodium beef broth*
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. marjoram or thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp. parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. hot sauce or cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. wild rice
1/2 c. frozen peas
1 zucchini, diced

In a large soup pot, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and brown on all sides for a few minutes.  Remove the beef with a slotted spoon, and set aside.  If necessary, add the remaining oil and saute the carrots, celery, and onion cooking until soft.  Add garlic, and let it cook until fragrant.

Lower the heat, and deglaze the pan with the red wine.  Stir and let it cook for a few minutes.  Add the beef broth, bay leaf, marjoram (or thyme), parsley, hot sauce, salt, and pepper.  Stir in the wild rice and cover the pot with a lid.  Simmer the stew for about 45 minutes or until the rice is tender.

When the rice is cooked, add the peas and zucchini.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until the squash is tender.  Serve with lots of crusty bread!

*I used 4 cups of broth which made a very thick stew.  The rice soaked it all up for leftovers, so I had to add more liquid.  If you like a brothy stew, add 6 cups!


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Piazza, New York Catcher by Belle & Sebastian

Advertisements

Tater Tot Poutine

IMG_3151

IMG_3135

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!  Today, my Canadian friend, Stephen, comes into town to experience real American Thanksgiving, so to celebrate, here’s a classic Canadian recipe!  If you read about my Canada trip, you know that I spent one late, post-beer night at Smoke’s Poutinerie, which I’ve been told is the classic around those parts.  I ate “traditional” poutine, some drunk college kids told me I look like Bjork, and then we piled into an uber and I woke up with a gravy hangover the next day.

Tomorrow, I also plan on waking up with a gravy hangover although I’m hoping this gravy is topped over a mountain of mashed potatoes and cornbread stuffing.  Yesterday I went to the liquor store after work, which was absolute utter madness, but I got some fancy gin, and I’m ready to party.  I will be spending my weekend surrounded by 40+ people who share my DNA, and I have dubbed myself the official gin + tonic maker for the weekend.

IMG_3132

IMG_3122

IMG_3148

When I asked in my Toronto post if it would be sacrilege to use tater tots instead of french fries in poutine, Stephen came back with a resounding “YES”.  However, because I have no manners, and because deep frying foods in my own house is something I avoid like spiders and vacuuming, tater tots were the obvious choice.  Plus, tater tots ♥

While we’re on the matter, would if be totally inappropriate for me to top mashed potatoes with gravy and cheese curds?  Do you think Stephen would just totally leave the country and never come back???  Would mashed potatoes + gravy + cheese curds be delicious with gin + tonics?  Or is that the gravy-hangover remedy??  If you have answers for these questions, pls let me know ASAP.  There isn’t much time before I pick up the Canadian from the airport and the festivities begin.

IMG_3133

ezgif.com-gif-maker


Tater Tot Poutine
Serves 2

Ingredients

1 lb. tater tots (I eyeballed 1/2 of a 2 lb. bag)
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. beef broth
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 c. cheese curds
Parsley, for garnish

Heat oven to 450* F.  Place the tater tots on a greased baking sheet making sure the tater tots don’t touch.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, flip, and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  You want them to be super crispy but not burned.

Meanwhile, heat the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute.  Whisk in beef broth, salt, pepper, onion powder, and thyme.  Stir until thickened.  Keep warm.

Drizzle gravy over tater tots.  Top with cheese curds, and broil it in the oven until the curds are slightly melted.  Top with parsley, if desired.

Serve immediately.  Extra gravy optional, beer required.


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Cosmic Sass by Good Morning

Toronto + Niagara Falls 2017

IMG_2963

IMG_3006

IMG_2953

IMG_3024

IMG_2962

IMG_2999

I’m taking a short commercial break from posting about my Europe trip so I can talk about my visit to Toronto a couple weeks ago!  I partially doing this because I love the pictures, but mostly because my Canadian friend, Stephen, asks when I’m going to post this at least once or twice a week.  (Here you go, Stephen.  Thanks for being a loyal reader, and A+ for enthusiasm!).

After I got back from London, I had a couple of weeks at home, and then I headed off to Toronto for some classes at the Canadian Barista & Coffee Academy!  I got to talk about coffee for four whole days with all kinds of well-respected roasters, baristas, and coffee shop owners – it was a dream.  Plus, I got to work on some really beautiful espresso machines, and I poured my first successful tulip!  I got so excited that I forgot to take a picture, but here’s a visual: it was symmetrical and had 5 whole layers!

IMG_2955

IMG_3019

IMG_2998

IMG_2969

IMG_2983

After my coffee classes were over, I took a few days to explore the Toronto area, and luckily, I had my friend Stephen to show me around.  Stephen and I originally met while we were both studying abroad in London, and he’s been trying to get me to visit ever since.  Suffice to say, he had a long list of places to show me, and I had a long list of coffee shops to visit!

One of my favorite nights involved Thai food and meeting up with Stephen’s friends to visit some of their favorite bars.  After a couple beers, they all decided it was time to give me a real Canadian experience, so we walked to Smoke’s Poutinerie.  I finally got to try poutine, and a group of drunk college kids spent the good portion of the night telling me I look like Bjork (which is just the least true thing I have ever heard in my life).  All in all, it was the best late-night Toronto experience I could ever hope for.

The next morning, we grabbed a coffee and headed to Niagara Falls!  The falls were on my bucket list, and I still can’t stop thinking about how beautiful they were.  After taking approximately a million pictures, Stephen and I went to an amazing Greek restaurant, found a cool brewery, and then he beat me at mini golf.  On our way back to Toronto, we stopped in Niagara-on-the-Lake where, in true fashion, we ended up at a British-style pub and listened to a live band!  It was the perfect last night in Canada.

IMG_3026


Things to do in Toronto & Niagara Falls:

  • Country Style Hungarian Restaurant – I have a newfound love for Hungarian food, which is not easy to find in Reno.  Luckily this place has plenty of good options like paprikash and schnitzel!
  • Put a Cone on It – this is a coffee/ice cream shop in Korea Town that I stopped at every morning before class.  They only have espresso drinks, but they make great cappuccinos.
  • The White Brick Kitchen – a restaurant on Bloor that has really great sandwiches and fries.  It’s also close to some artsy, local shops!
  • Bellwoods Brewery – probably the most beautiful brewery I’ve ever seen.  Apparently, it gets ridiculously busy some nights, but when we went, it was such a lovely place to relax and try local beer.
  • Ramen Isshin – this is an insanely popular ramen joint, but if you’re willing to wait about 20 minutes, it’s definitely worth it.
  • Get Well – a local barcade where I played Mrs. Packman and somehow won a Star Wars game purely by pressing a lot of buttons!
  • Salad King – a restaurant that does not, in fact, serve salad but does serve delicious Thai food.  It also has huge windows with a great view of downtown.
  • Smoke’s Poutinerie – only for the purest of Canadian experiences.
  • Manic Coffee – a recommendation by one of my instructors!
  • Koutouki – a lovely Greek restaurant near Niagara Falls.
  • Niagara Brewing Company – lots of beer choices and live music!  We got a flight, and I think their cream beer had to be my favorite.
  • Boxcar Social – probably my favorite coffeeshop in Toronto, I finally found pour-overs, and the aesthetic was beautiful.

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Im Glad She’s Not my Girlfriend by The Soulboy Collective

Copenhagen 2017

IMG_4101

IMG_4106

IMG_4089

IMG_4117

IMG_4103

IMG_4119

After Budapest, I headed to London for a few days to see The Lumineers, Stevie Nicks, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (*cries*), and after spending a few days walking around my old favorite spots, I flew over to Copenhagen!  Copenhagen was by far the one place I wish I had spent longer.  I was there for 2 nights, but I could have easily been there for a week, I loved it so much!!  I wouldn’t say Copenhagen has the most fascinating touristy attractions (tbh I skipped most of them), but the food, bars, music scene, and overall culture was just my type.  Plus, if I had more time, I definitely would have checked out some of their art museums, because I’ve heard they’re amazing!

When I got to Copenhagen, my airbnb host gave me a tour of the town and showed me where all of the best restaurants and bars were!  Funny enough, he was an Irishman living in the city (when I asked why he moved to Copenhagen, he claimed he was a “sexual refugee” which still makes me giggle).  The next day, I followed his guide and ended up eating the best schnitzel at one of my favorite restaurants during my whole trip + I was in beer heaven.  Copenhagen is so hip that it’s hard to choose exactly what to do – I was overwhelmed by all the hipstery things I wanted to experience, but luckily I think I got the chance to visit a lot of the best spots.  At one point, I ended up stuck in the rain, and I had Sufjan Stevens stuck in my head, and overall it was a perfect moment.  Next time I’m there, I definitely want to rent a bike and ride all over that damn town and I’m going to make it to the Little Mermaid statue!

On another note, all of this talk of Copenhagen is making me miss Copenhagen, who wants to go with me?!?!?!?!?!

IMG_4096

IMG_4110

IMG_4121

IMG_4092


My most favorite places in Copenhagen:

  • Stroget – the longest pedestrian street in Europe – it’s super touristy and filled with shops, but some of the architecture is cute, and there’s plenty of great places to check out on its side streets!
  • Nyhavn – this is Copenhagen’s harbor and one of my favorite places to walk around and take pictures.  Around here, a lot of the restaurants and bars will be filled with tourists, but it’s one of the best parts of the city to walk through!
  • Paper Island – after walking through Nyhavn, go cross the bridge and walk over to Paper Island where there’s a huge food market filled with food stalls.  I got a beer and hung out with all of the hippest millennials Copenhagen had to offer.  (Plus there’s an amazing view from the outside!)
  • Original Coffee – there is no lack of specialty coffee in Copenhagen, but I especially enjoyed the espresso and aesthetic here.
  • Torvenhallerne – a large food market filled with groceries and stalls to stop and have a pastry, sandwich, or coffee!
  • La Pentanque – a cute French restaurant and crepe place where I had the most delicious dessert crepes!  The owner is friends with my airbnb host, and he was super welcoming and helpful at helping me translate the menu!
  • Tight – by far one of my favorite restaurants on my entire trip.  I had the pork schnitzel with potatoes gratin and ratatouille, and it changed my life.
  • Black Swan Beer Bar – a fun bar with tons of beer options!  My favorite option for a pint.

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Eugene by Sufjan Stevens

 

Pumpkin + Sage Cake with Brown Sugar Icing

IMG_2900

IMG_2912

 

IMG_2896

IMG_2906

IMG_2914

While Insta has proven to me that the ~hip~ people of the world have been spending their weekends partying in bunny costumes, I have spent mine doing laundry, petting my hedgehog, and watching Stranger Things.  *raises the roof*.  I just got back from Toronto, where my friend Stephen took me to all kinds of breweries, Niagara Falls, aaaaand (!!) I had poutine for the first time!  Where can I get poutine in Reno??  I need it more frequently in my life!  Usually when it comes to deep-frying foods at home, I dodge it like it’s hot (the messssss), but for poutine, I might be willing to pull out all the stops.  Or maybe I can rig it with some extra-crispy tater tots right out of the oven?  Canadians: would that be sacrilege??

On another note, I will be spending my Halloween night eating white chili with my cousins and taking the kids trick-or-treating!  I found an amazing vintage 1960s dress at a thrift store the other day that I was planning on utilizing in my costume, but now that I’ll be walking around in the cold weather, I’m thinking of pulling out my classic Rosie the Riveter costume and calling it a day.  It’s almost a tradition at this point after all.

IMG_2922

IMG_2928

IMG_2909

A couple of weeks ago, I surprised my parents for their birthdays by coming home from London a week earlier than I told them.  (Although, they did end up going on vacation for their birthdays, so I had to pretend I was still in England for a few extra days yikes!).  I showed up at their front door and rang the doorbell cake-in-hand.  They were so excited, we went to a delicious steakhouse for dinner, and then we celebrated with this cake for dessert!  It was exactly what I wanting, and they loved their birthday present (me, obvs).  This cake was the perfect addition: a lightly sweetened pumpkin cake with a touch of sage flavor and a sticky brown sugar icing that tastes faintly of caramel and butter.  It’s the perfect fall dessert and makes a great addition to a Halloween party or even a Thanksgiving dessert table (it has sage in it after all!).  Plus, you can decorate it like a pumpkin or turkey or something if you really want to make it festive.  Obviously, I went the easy way with a few sage leaves and a rustic ‘happy birthday’ sign.  Have a spooky night!


Pumpkin + Sage Cake with Brown Sugar Icing
Serves 6-8

*Cake is for High-Altitude baking.  Please refer to alternative measurements if you do not live at high-altitude!*

Cake Ingredients

1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. + 6 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder*
1/2 tsp. baking soda**
1 egg
1/2 c. Tbs. buttermilk
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350* F.  Grease and flour two 6-inch cake pans.  Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl.  In a medium bowl, cream the brown sugar, sugar, egg, buttermilk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.  Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk.  Then add the remaining flour mixture and milk.  Divide the batter between the two cake pans.

Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick shows a few crumbs.  Let the cakes cool.  Meanwhile prepare the icing (below).  Level each cake, and cut each cake in half so you have 4 even layers.  Spread frosting between each layer, stacking them until there are 4 cake layers.  Frost the outside of the cake.  Decorate as desired.

* Use 3/4 tsp. baking powder for regular-altitude recipes.
**Use 3/4 tsp. baking soda for regular-altitude recipes.

Icing Ingredients

1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. milk
1 3/4 – 2 c. powdered sugar

Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add brown sugar.  Boil over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Cool to lukewarm – add milk.  Gradually add powdered sugar, and beat until thick.  If it becomes too stiff, add a little hot water to thin.  Frost over cake!

IMG_2903

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Atmosphere by Joy Division

 

 

Budapest 2017

IMG_4054

IMG_4086

budapest 1

IMG_4068

IMG_4072

IMG_4055

One of the best parts of traveling throughout so many countries was being unexpectedly and pleasantly surprised by cities I knew little to nothing about.  Enter Budapest, one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to!  I had a concert in London planned out for a random weekend in July, and I needed a place to visit for a few days in between Luzern and London, so off to Budapest I went – and I’m so glad I did!  Budapest is such an amazingly historic city filled with all kinds of nightlife, hip coffee shops, food, and culture.  I was there for only one full day, but I already can’t wait to go back!!

I stayed in a cute little airbnb with a loft bed – something I thought was a good idea until I had one too many limoncello shots at an Italian restaurant down the street courtesy of the owner who had a massive crush on me – in a great area of town near many of the most popular sites.  I rode on the oldest subway in Europe, ate TONS of paprikash, and bought a hedgehog toothpick holder!  I walked from Buda to Pest, saw all of the historic sites, paid tribute at the Shoes on the Danube Bank monument, and fell in love with a  coffee shop.  The people were so nice and welcoming, and I had the most beautiful day exploring such a cool city.  Budapest, I love love love love you!!

IMG_4056

IMG_4057

budapest 2

IMG_4070

IMG_4064


What to do!

  • Fisherman’s Bastion – a part of the old city that has beautiful architecture with an even more amazing view!
  • Hungarian Parliament Building – one of my favorite buildings to take pictures of in Budapest!  I didn’t tour it, but I would absolutely recommend looking around!
  • Hősök tere – a famous square that has tons of cool sculptures and places to walk around.
  • Matthias Church – right next to Fisherman’s Bastion, so you can either take a tour, or just look at the detailed architecture.
  • Chain Bridge – this bridge connects Buda to Pest, has great views, and is a quick walk across and back!
  • Shoes on the Danube monument – a heartbreaking, yet beautiful, monument built to remember the Jews who were shot in the Danube River during WWII.  It’s not a common touristy visit but definitely important.
  • Ride the oldest metro – Budapest is home to the oldest subway, (Line 1!) and while it may not be the coolest thing to do in Budapest, it’s still fun to see the old railway cars and subway stops.
  • Borlap – a somewhat touristy restaurant, although I noticed plenty of locals there as well!  Their chicken paprikash was my favorite meal I ate in Budapest, and they also had yummy aperol spritzes!  They are also located right near plenty of other great bars!
  • Kaffeine – a very impressive coffee shop over in Buda that has delicious espresso drinks as well as pour-overs yay!  The baristas know their shhhtuff, and they have a Black Eagle espresso machine!  The street it’s located on had some other great restaurants and shops I wish I had time to check out.

IMG_4081

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Take it Easy – Triathalon

 

Interlaken + Luzern 2017

IMG_3976

IMG_4031

IMG_4019

interlaken1

IMG_4040

IMG_4010

IMG_3935

After having the loveliest couple of weeks in Italy, I took a train from Milan to Interlaken, Switzerland.  It was honestly probably one of the most beautiful rides of my journey – taking a train through the Burnese Oberlands was incredible, especially cozied up in a cute carriage with a cup of tea in my hands.  10/10 recommend.

On top of the amazing train ride, Interlaken itself was one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever been – everything looks like a Christmas card, and I seriously can’t imagine what it must look like in the snow!  A holiday dream, I’m sure.  Everything is so close that I spent my entire time strolling around the town visiting cute restaurants and walking along the river, which I swear, must be colored with blue no. 1.  Plus, after spending so many days sweating my balls off in France and Italy, I was stoked to be in a colder climate wearing – get this – a coat in July!  I found a cute little café playing Leonard Cohen, and even though the waitress thought I was insane, I drank tea in the rain and watched people walk along the river.  One day, I wanted to be outside and see a view of the city – I decided to forgo taking the fernicular to the top of the mountain, but ended up following a trail nearby that brought me to the most beautiful little clearing where I saw a view of the entire town as well as the neighboring areas.  I went in my ankle boots, which were not the ideal shoes for a hike, but when in Rome (Interlaken)!

IMG_3948

IMG_3986

interlaken2

IMG_3955

IMG_4041

After Interlaken, I took another train over to Lucerne where I stayed in the prettiest Airbnb that was just a five minute walk from the lake!  I saw Old Town and the Kapellbrucke, dined on sunny patios, and visited cute local shops.  I spent my nights watching the sunset while sitting on the beach.  Behind me, locals hung out on the grass drinking, bbqing, playing games, smoking, and laughing.  At dinner, I would eat cordon bleu with mayonnaisey french fries and hoppy, local beer.  I also spent a lot of time hanging out in a specialty coffeeshop called Café Tacuba, where the owner let me use his espresso machine and even taught me how to roast coffee!  All of his coffee comes from farms his friends and family own in El Salvador, and he always had the nicest people hanging around the shop for me to make friends with!  It was the coolest.

IMG_3933

IMG_3993

IMG_4036

IMG_3992

IMG_4030

luzern1

IMG_4011


Things to check out in Interlaken:

  • Ladelokal – the cute little café along the river. It’s perfect for a cup of coffee or tea, and they have nice pastries as well!
  • Maharaja Indian – delicious chana masala and roti!
  • Restaurant El Azteca – so, I wouldn’t recommend going all the way to Switzerland if you’re in the mood for really good Mexican food. However, if you’re from Mexico, the American west coast, or anywhere else where delicious, authentic Mexican food is around every corner, this was one of the best Mexican restaurants I found in Europe!
  • Take a quick hike! – if you go near the fernicular, you’ll see a little trail off to the side. Take it, walk past the “zoo”, and you’ll eventually reach a point on the trail where there’s a little clearing.  There’s some nice picnic tables and an amazing view of the town!  If you want a longer hike, you can go all the way up to the top for a panoramic view!
  • Walk along the river – there’s so many incredible views to see walking along the river. Get a coffee or tea and walk around the entire town.  It’s amazing.

And in Lucern:

  • Café Tacuba – obviously, I’ve already crushed hard on this place. It was the first specialty coffee I had in over 2 weeks, and I was excited!!
  • Mirch Masala Indian – there’s a very lovely patio and delicious vegetarian Indian food!
  • Old Town – cute shops and cafes with outdoor seating!
  • Visit the beach – there’s a park right next to Lake Luzern that has a great beach area although there’s plenty of places to sit along the lake! It was my favorite spot to hang out after dinner, and the view is stunning!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: I Warned You by Good Morning