Lasagna Bolognese

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Holy hell, it snowed again this weekend, and then when it wasn’t snowing, it was raining, and when it wasn’t raining it was perfect, foggy, San Franciscan weather that brings me peace.  It was the ideal weekend, aside from the moment yesterday when, while walking and eating an ice cream cone in the flurry-darkness, I somehow didn’t see a huge freaking puddle of rain right in front of me, and I kicked it, and rainwater splashed all over my jeans and inside of my shoes.  I probably would have been sad if I wasn’t laughing so hard, but that’s what I get for wearing old-man smoking slippers in the slushy rain-snow.

Luckily, nothing could dampen my spirits, because 1. I had mint chip ice cream from Simple!! and 2. I’m babysitting a big furry puppy this weekend while my cousin is at a friend’s wedding!  She’s a big furry ball of floof (aka a Bernese Mountain Dog) named Flower, and even though she punched me in the face while I was petting her this morning, I’ve had the best weekend hugging her squishiness!  Plus, there was that misty weather I was talking about earlier, and I had the most ethereal morning making coffee at work while the fog traipsed between the Sierras.  Oh, and then there was the lasagna…

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Lasagna is one of my favorite meals of all time, but especially when it’s frosty and misty outside.  The melding of cheese + pasta + tomatoes hugs my insides and makes me feel cozy and warm.  This lasagna in particular has been one of our favorite family recipes for a few years now.  I’m honestly not sure where the recipe itself came from, but the flavors balance together so nicely – the ratio of cheese to meat is perfect, and the veggies add a lighter texture.  Also, the recipe uses cottage cheese, which forms these delicious little cheese clumps without the heaviness of ricotta, and yuuummm!

I’ve tried at least four different lasagna recipes by now, and this is the one I always come back to.  It takes a little work, as all lasagnas do, but of course it’s worth it!  It’s the perfect weekend project if you want to perch yourself in front of a movie or listen to classic jazz while you layer delicate noodles with veggies, meat sauce, and a pile of cheese.  While the sauce is simmering, you can make a light salad or mix some herbs & butter to make toasty garlic bread, or better yet, start some creme brulee or mascarpone cheesecake.  Lasagna is special, and it deserves proper dessert as well.  This meal is perfect for a dinner party with friends or a romantic date-night with your love (note: this will feed both of you for days).  I wish you all lasagna-making bliss ♥

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Cry Me a River by Julie London


Thank you to Sanford Ranch Beef for sponsoring this post!  Sanford Ranch Beef is locally-grown, hormone-free, steroid-free, all-natural, and all the good stuff.  Visit their Facebook or website if you live in the Reno area.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Salted Caramel Sauce + Brownie Party!

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Over the weekend, I came to the conclusion that I have a brownie problem.  I think that brownies have the potential to be super delicious or super not delicious, but I seem to never turn them down either way, so who am I to judge?  It’s just really hard to avoid making brownies, when my recipe tastes like damn fudge and only takes 15 minutes to mix together.  I think the brownies themselves are really inhibiting my creativity and motivation to try new goodies on the weekend, because why try a recipe that miiiight be good when I know my brownies will turn out flawless regardless?  Also, I have a list of recipes to try, and I just get overly excited about all of them that it turns into overwhelming anxiety about all the things I want to try in the world.  Someone please tell me this also happens to them?

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Anyways, the whole reason for the brownies is that I decided this past weekend was Galentine’s weekend which means I had my friends over to eat mac n cheese, drink rosé, and of course, have a brownie party!  However, since I’m currently a single lady, this week will also be spent celebrating Galentine’s, because yay for lady love!  The Galentine’s party consisted of lots of food plus spending a solid 2+ hours talking about uteruses and weird men we meet at bars, so it was a fairly solid girls’ night if you ask me.  Also!  I made homemade caramel sauce for the first time in forever, and it didn’t even take me a million tries to get it right!  The Galentine’s goddess was looking down on me, and I’ve been blessed.

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Here’s a guide to throwing your own brownie party!

  1. Start with my homemade 15-minute brownies, because they’re just perfect.
  2. Make a few yummy fillings!  I had chocolate pudding and whipped cream.  You don’t need a ton of fillings, because it’s really all about the toppings!
  3. Lots of toppings is key.  I had animal cookies, pretzels, PB cups, mini M&Ms, chocolate kisses, and Oreos!  Oh, and salted caramel sauce!
  4. Have some cute little cups for assembly.  I used my candlewick teacups and other glass mugs I had laying around the house, but you can use anything.
  5. Have everything prepared before people come over, so you can just put everything on the table when it’s dessert time.  Otherwise, you’ll be placing pudding in bowls when you could be talking about uteruses and dumb men (aka the important stuff).

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Have a beautiful day celebrating love.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song by Jim Croce

 

Blood Orange Margarita

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It’s that perfect time of the year where citrus is at its absolute peak, and I stock my fruit bowl with clementines, limes, and grapefruit, my absolute favorite.  Although grapefruits are essentially available year round, January-February seems to be the time they get that very sweet, intense grapefruit flavor.  I usually end up eating so much of them that I get blisters in my mouth.  I would probably eat even more, except that I absolutely hate peeling/cutting/spooning out grapefruit, so that keeps me within my boundaries a little.  If anyone knows an easy way of dealing with grapefruit, I’m all ears, because it’s honestly the biggest pain.

Equal to grapefruit on my list of Citrus I Get Too Excited About is the blood orange.  I tend to forget about it every single year until the day I walk into the grocery and have the good fortune of spotting dark red oranges out of the corner of my eye.  I then buy at least a couple pounds of them, because I can think of endless ways to incorporate blood oranges into my favorite recipes.  Plus, their season is so short that you have to take advantage of the opportunity to buy multiple while you have the chance.

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If you’ve never experienced a blood orange, I highly encourage you to head to your local grocery, especially if you have a food co-op or health food shop that frequently carries seasonal ingredients, and buy at least a couple.  I know the name doesn’t necessarily sound appetizing, but the blood orange is one of the most beautiful fruits in my opinion.  The flavor is tart like a regular orange, but has sweeter berry-like tones.  My favorite part of blood oranges is how versatile they are – while they are perfectly delicious on their own, I prefer to take advantage of their beauty to use them in salads, desserts, and with a splash of tequila, because I’m fun like that.

My first round of blood oranges was used in an almond-blood orange cake that had a truly delicious, fresh flavor but lacked a textural component I was looking for.  Not to worry, I will continue to practice making this cake, even if I have to use regular oranges until next year…

I also threw some segments into a salad that I made for dinner, and of course I ate one or two on their own, but then I realized that blood oranges were made for alcohol.  The tart-sweet taste would blend perfectly with a little vodka or gin or tequila (!!!) so I decided to go for it, because life is short, and margaritas are good.  Plus, I was looking for a simple Valentine’s Day recipe that was not couple-y (because single, yo), but one that would also have the pretty V-Day colors I was looking for.  How fitting that blood oranges happen to show up in late January-early February, right as I’m trying to think of a drink to make for my Galentine’s celebration!  Yay for love and female friendships!

Also!  Whilst walking out of a grocery store alone at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday night carrying only a large bottle of tequila, I discovered one of the ultimate forms of self-loathing.  If you’re going to partake in these types of activities, I’d recommend also grabbing a bag of tortilla chips, some salsa, and maybe a puzzle, because it’ll earn you less judgmental stares, and it may even make you feel better about trying margarita recipes by yourself when you should be out socializing with friends.

Are you ready for some margarita action?!

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Further notes: If you can’t find blood oranges, because they are unavailable or not in season, go ahead and use regular oranges or another citrus if you’d prefer.  The recipe is perfectly versatile!

P.S. I chose my tequila based off of a list of “Best Cheap Tequilas” I found on the interweb while in the middle of the liquor aisle at my grocery store.  (In Nevada, they sell liquor at grocery stores, which I guess is shocking to some.  Born and raised Nevada-girl does not understand why this is surprising).  Use whichever tequila you have laying around the house, or go for a silver tequila made with 100% agave – just stay away from Jose.

P.P.S. How fun would it be to have a Mexican-food-night-Valentine’s-Day?!  If you don’t want to rush through dinner crowds, you could make some delicious carnitas (or order in), and have ruby-red, romantic margaritas with your lovie (or girlies or dog or….).  If you decide to have a Valentine’s Day-girl’s night, pls invite me, and I’ll make a big pitcher of blood orange margaritas to share.  Just promise me no weird anti-V-Day hooliganism, because I’ve already been to a singles party before, and I don’t need that in my life again.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Unfucktheworld by Angel Olsen

Fairy Bread Muffins

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Happy Monday!!

If you’ve been on Instagram any time recently, and you have some American friends, you’ve probably noticed a couple of trends within our posts:

  1. Women are really stepping up in our political climate (woo!!), and
  2. We’re obsessed with rainbow foods

While the first trend makes my heart soar, the second one is a big “meh” from me.  Although rainbow food is probably the happiest food ever, and it look really nice on Insta posts with a NYC cityscape in the background,  I don’t know if I could handle eating something with those colors.  Does anyone know if those dyes do something funky to your insides?  Do all those foods taste like chemicals?  The amount of food coloring added to get those vibrant colors just has to be astonishing…

However, my opinion has insufficient impact on the subject, because people are rainbow-ing literally everything they can get their slippery food coloring into.  U.S. restaurants and bakeries are a unicorn’s freaking dream – try as I might, I can’t get away from it.  And what do you do when you can’t beat them?  Join them!  And what do you do when you refuse to add entire bottles of dye in your food?

SPRINKLES!!!

– which is a totally acceptable and subtle form of rainbow-ing food.  (I would know.  I have an expansive sprinkle collection).

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Once the rainbow-food-trend got exponentially out of hand, and we Americans claimed it as our own, Australians were kind of like, “yo, wtf?”, because it turns out they’ve been eating a colorful treat called fairy bread basically this whole damn time.  In case you missed it, fairy bread is strictly just white bread + butter + sprinkles, and oh, it also has the cutest name everrrrr.  Anyway, I decided to do some extensive research on the subject, because these are the things that I care about, and I’ve learned a few tips from multiple articles that I have read – basically, Americans have a few things wrong:

  1. It’s never been called fairy toast, it’s fairy bread – a very important aspect.
  2. It’s not eaten as a snack or breakfast – it’s used as a birthday cake replacement at children’s parties.
  3. When making this treat, artisan breads, hand-rolled butter, and organic sprinkles are unwelcome.  Seriously, it’s just white bread, a pat of butter, and nonpareils.

However, many Australians are really being good sports about it all, even complimenting some of the quirks we’ve added to our fairy bread in America – fancy sprinkles, thicker toast, and one article even mentioned that they think eating fairy bread for breakfast is GENIUS.  So, I guess it’s not all bad.

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After hearing about fairy bread, I felt the sudden urge to write a blog post about it before realizing that, hey, you guys are probably smart enough to figure out how to slather butter on some Wonder bread followed by a handful of sprinklies.  And then I realized that muffins are a totally acceptable form of breakfast food and thought “Why not merge the two?”

Basically, I made a dense, slightly sweet muffin, filled it with sprinkles, and added a buttery glaze with extra sprinkles on top.  Is it fairy bread?  No.  Is it inspired by fairy bread?  Absolutely.  Is it just an excuse for me to eat funfetti for breakfast in a socially acceptable manner?  You bet your sweet ass it is.

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Do you know any fun foods that are not well-known?  Comment below, I’d love to hear!

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Favorite Song by Kaiser Cartel

 

Orange & Pistachio Crusted Pork Loin Chops

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Every once in a while, I come across a recipe online purely by accident and think that is sounds so absolutely delicious that I have to make it that very night.  Normally the recipes are dessert-related or starch-related, and I end up using the recipe as a guideline to inspire my own method that fits more to my taste.  However, I found the recipe for these pork chops on Eating Well completely by accident.  They had some of my favorite ingredients – pistachios and oranges!  And the recipe is healthy and nutritious – yay!

Bonus points: There’s only 7 ingredients including salt, pepper, and oil, and it only takes about 30 minutes to make these little guys!  Extra yay!  I always get excited for 30 minute, healthy meals, especially after a long day of work, classes, dragging my ass to the gym, and everything else I have to do.  Eating Well really blessed us with this recipe, you guys.

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I didn’t really change much to the recipe, except that I used pork loin chops instead of a whole pork loin, and I chopped my pistachios and garlic by hand instead of with a food processor – 1. because I don’t like cleaning food processors, and 2. because I don’t have a food processor.  Also, I scrapped their wild rice and green bean sides, opting for a simple wild rice blend I mixed with a little butter, garlic powder, and salt and a green salad with mixed greens, feta, cranberries, apples, and a simple white balsamic vinaigrette.  It was a perfect meal, and the wild rice and salad can be made while you’re preparing and cooking the pork!  With my last semester of college starting on Monday (!!!) I’m really looking forward to finding and developing more recipes that can be made in less than an hour, with minimal dishes.

My ONLY complaint about this recipe is that, if you have leftovers, while the pork chops still taste great, the pistachios lose some of their crunch from the moisture in the fridge.  However, I don’t really like leftovers in general, so my opinion doesn’t have much merit.  Also, slightly-chewy pistachios crusted on pork is still a much better lunch than my usual quinoa salad or sandwich.  Take some, lose some.

Note:  You’re going to be searing these porky chops and then placing them in the oven to finish.  I seared them in a pan, and then placed them on a sheet pan to finish, but next time I think I’ll sear them in an oven-safe cast iron, cover them in the marmalade and pistachio mixture, and then place them back in the cast iron to finish in the oven – then it becomes a one-pan dish!

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Any ideas for healthy 30ish minute meals?

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Old Friend by Pinegrove

Mascarpone Cheesecake with Orange & Amaretto

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I am unashamed to admit that I am currently involved in a love affair with a cheesecake.  I have to say, this is fairly out of character for me, considering I’m not a huge cheesecake fan – cheese = yay!  cake = yay!  cheesecake = meh.  Many of my friends and family are cheesecake lovers, but I tend to fall more towards the creme brulee side of the custard spectrum – I can’t resist a burny-caramely top, and I hold firmly to that belief.  I find many cheesecakes to be a little too creamy, or even worse, crumbly, and oftentimes they aren’t sweetened enough, leaving the filling reminiscent of a bagel that’s been sitting on the counter getting cold.  Not a pretty visual there?  Well, that’s how the cookie  cheesecake crumbles, and I think there absolutely needs to be a seminar on how to properly bake a damn cheesecake.  Sorry, not sorry – I’m putting an end to this.

Okay, maybe I have a holier-than-thou attitude towards cheesecake, but seriously, have you ever read reviews on any NY cheesecake recipe?  Good lord, those east-coast peeps have a cheesecake power complex of epic proportions.  (Okay, I really do get it though – you’re a tried and true New Yorker, and you’re desperately trying to recreate the cheesecake your grandmother used to throw together sans recipe.  I promise, my family has been trying to do this with my grandmother’s enchiladas for years, and we can’t get it right – this is what happens when you let a Norwegian woman make Mexican food).

Anyhow, let me tell you, those recipe-reviewing-cheesecake-aficionados know their craft – crumbly cheesecake?  Waterbath.  Chunky chunks of cheese?  Room temp the cheese and eggs!  Genius.  Props to you guys (and your grandma’s tips!).  I appreciate you and your power complex (;

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And on another note, here I am about to crush your OG-cheesecake loving souls.  Because I added mascarpone to my cheesecake.  And I added orange zest.  And I added amaretto.  And the crust is made with almond cookies.  And it’s the most delicious, light, wonderful cheesecake I ever did eat.  If it makes anyone feel better, I’ve heard a lot of Italian cheesecakes use mascarpone and amaretto!  Does that help?  Bueller, Bueller?

Anyways, I decided to use mascarpone, because as I said earlier, I don’t love the super-thick, creamy cheesecake in most restaurants (I’m especially looking at you Cheesecake Factory).  However, the mascarpone rids of that overly-rich cream cheese taste and adds a fluffy, light texture that I adore.  Orange zest was added to get away from the lemon that typically adorns cheesecakes.  As for the amaretto, it was almost not added – I stared at that bottle  in the grocery store for approximately 15 minutes, walked away from it, and thought, “Sara, that is so not the spirit”, turned back to the liquor aisle, and added it to my cart.  It was a dilemma of vast proportions, but it made the cut, and I’m so relieved it did.  Alcohol helps desserts always.

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Btw I brought this cheesecake to my parents’ house for a family dinner and, I almost freaking DROPPED it while slipping on ice.  But not to fear, my clumsy footing still appreciates the sanctity of $12 worth of cheese.  I held onto that cheesecake like Harry held onto the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Yes, I did just make a HP reference, and I stand by that decision.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Stay This Way by Peter Bjorn and John

 

New Years House Party

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2016 is over!!!  Can we all just breathe a sigh of relief, already?  From what I’ve seen & heard, it seems as if 2016 was a difficult year for a lot of us, soooo…solidarity and all that jazz.  While 2016 was pretty rough, I’m so excited for everything that will happen this year!  Some things to look forward to:

  • Spring Break trip!!!
  • Graduation!!!
  • Europe!!!
  • New career (???)
  • Probably tons of things I don’t even realize are going to happen yet!

Seriously, 2017 should be pretty amazing!  Although I realize not all of my problems will be thrown out with my 2016 calendar, it does at least feel like an opportunity to take control and make this year much better than the last.  I’m especially looking forward to improving my mental health and taking some risks in my life!  I definitely don’t always choose the riskier option, but I’m hoping to step out of my comfort zone and see where it takes me.

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I’m also beyond grateful for all of the positive people and events that helped make my year brighter: my new job, friends & family, therapy, continuously learning, and some self-love helped me through my difficult moments and made me stronger!  Mental health illness can be a bitch, but I feel so very lucky to have a strong support system!

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I will be spending this New Years with some close friends eating good food (of course), and venturing the downtown crowds for the 2017 count down!  Since New Years is always for celebrating, I put on one of my favorite 1920s-inspired party dresses, shook last-night’s curls out of my hair, and threw on some red lipstick.  Every time I wear this dress, my situation goes something along these lines:

Stranger: “I love your costume!”

Me *on the outside*: “Thank you so much!”

Me *on the inside*: “Actually I just dress like this all the time!”

It’s always a good laugh between me and my friends, but I love when people notice my unique outfits!  Talking about vintage, thrifted fashion is one of my favorite things to do (;

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Dress/Shoes/Purse: Thrifted  Tights: Target  Necklace: Family Heirloom

I hope your night is filled with messy hair, cheap champagne, and some wonderful people!  Have a beautiful 2017 filled with love and adventure!

And as for you, 2016, tonight I’m dancing on your grave.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: What Are You Doing New Years Eve? by Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt