Homemade Bagels

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About once a year, I get a strong yearning for summer.  The long days off, laying on the beach at Lake Tahoe, wearing light sun dresses and messy up-dos to keep the hair off my face, the smell of beer & cheeseburgers on the grill, Slurpees, riding bikes, bonfires when it starts to cool down at sunset, going on holiday, fireworks.  The time normally comes around late January/early February.  The holidays are over, so the snow isn’t lit up by Christmas lights, and comfort food feels too rich and loses its appeal.  Winter break has passed, and I’m back in school for “spring” semester, which is really just a tease, since it’s still 40* or below outside, and I’m tired of wearing the same sweaters and coats I’ve been wearing for months.  I stare longingly at my bikinis and dream of taking a roadtrip and going on hikes.

After a few days of missing summer, I normally resort back to my usual cold-dreary-weather-obsessed self, snuggle in my blanket with some hot tea, and watch a movie while the rain patters outside.  I indulge myself on the weekends with pot pie or roasted chicken, enjoy the cold Reno mornings surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and sip Guatemalas or Perus at the coffee shop.  Once summer comes around, I’m already dreaming of the brisk cold that sneaks in mid-September.

A couple of weekends ago, I went to Tahoe with a *special human* to see the snow on the lake, which I had never done before.  I took some pictures, and we climbed on rocks at Sand Harbor to watch the sun dip completely under the horizon, which was incredible, albeit slightly dangerous.  Kings Beach was filled with cute kids in puffy snow onesies and dogs prancing after tennis balls on the beach.  My faith in winter was restored, and bagels were consumed over coffee the next morning.

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Which leads me to the bagels.  Lately, with stormy clouds blanketing Reno on my days off, I’ve taken to trying out more difficult recipes that I’ve never attempted before.  Oftentimes, I find that the recipes are not as hard as I initially thought, and they taste much better and cleaner than their store bought alternatives.  Such was the case with these homemade bagels.  Seemingly intimidating, but actually so easy, and they take no more than two hours to make.

I’ve been staying off of the internet lately, mostly due to a recent computer update from a certain tech company, let’s call them Schmicroshoft (no names please), that refuses to connect my computer with my wifi, essentially leaving it unusable, and leaving me to try solution after solution to no avail (but also because people keep talking about politics on social media).  Long run-on-sentence short, I spent 2 hours on the phone with said company, and my computer still isn’t fixed, which is why I haven’t gotten the opportunity to share this recipe until now.  But I promise, it’s probably one of the most successful recipes I’ve made, and it’s versatile enough to add whatever ingredients you want.  Use an egg wash, and sprinkle the homemade bagels with seeds, garlic, onion, cheese.  Mix in blueberries or chocolate chips.  Take one straight out of the oven, toast in under the broiler for a few minutes, and smother it with a thick slab of butter or cream cheese.

Don’t forget the coffee.

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*Bagels require high gluten flour, or they do not come out nearly as well.  I easily found bread gluten at my local bulk grocery, but if you cannot find bread gluten, you could also use high-gluten flour.

*If you top your bagels with seeds, onions, garlic, or cheese, you will need to brush them first with an egg wash (1 egg mixed with a little water).  If you want blueberries or chocolate chips, you can mix them straight into the dough!

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XO SaraLynn
*Song of the Day: It’s Real by Real Estate*

 

How to Make a Kombucha SCOBY

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I know that you probably have lots of questions right now.  SCOBYs aren’t the prettiest things, so you’re probs confused and wondering if you’re supposed to eat that thing (please, God, no), or if it’s some kind of facial mask or what.  I promise, all questions will be addressed, but just hang with me.  SCOBYs are not easy to photograph, and it’s extra hard to make them look appetizing enough to be featured on a food blog.

A SCOBY is an acronym for ‘symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast’, and it’s used to make kombucha.  Now what’s kombucha?  It’s a naturally carbonated, sweet-and-sour drink made by fermenting tea.  Like wine and coffee, kombucha takes a few times to get used to.  It contains a little bit of alcohol naturally, but it’s perfectly safe for kids to drink!  Mixed with fruits and juices, it’s very versatile and tons of flavor combos can be made.  If you’re a big soda-fan looking to cut the sugar-y chemical-laden drink out of your life, kombucha is for you.  Why?  It has tons of health benefits!

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Funny story:  Don’t use earl grey or decaffeinated tea to make kombucha!  I just grabbed the box without thinking (because it’s pretty), but I actually used a regular, caffeinated black tea to make my SCOBY.

Kombucha helps with gut and digestion health, detox, immune health, etc.  However, I personally like kombucha, because it helps with stomach problems.  My stomach is sensitive to all kinds of foods, and on certain days it can make me quite nauseous.  Friends with similar stomach problems recommended kombucha, and I really love how it makes me feel!  I don’t necessarily drink it every day, but every couple of days does the trick and really limits my ‘sick days’.

The only downside to kombucha is that the cost can add up if you’re consuming it in large amounts.  My solution was to learn how to make it, starting with the SCOBY!

The SCOBY is necessary, because it helps ferment the tea, which also adds health benefits.  You can buy SCOBYs online, but I’m incredibly impatient and don’t like waiting for things in the mail.  My next option was to learn how to make one.  (Bonus: buying the stuff to make a SCOBY is cheaper than buying a SCOBY online).  Once you make one SCOBY, a new SCOBY will be made with every kombucha batch.  You can start a farm of SCOBYs, or you can gift the new SCOBY to a kombucha-loving friend.

*Disclaimer: Some people recommend not making a SCOBY, but rather buying one, the main reason being that SCOBYs do not always grow if they’re homemade (has not been a problem for me at all).  However, I see no real risks in growing a SCOBY, and mine turned out successful!  Choose whatever option you’re comfortable with.

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Don’t use earl grey or decaffeinated tea!  Grabbing this box was a Sara-moment.  I used caffeinated, regular black tea.

Let’s get started!

First, you’ll start by making a sweet tea.  The best tea to use is regular black tea, because it helps the SCOBY grow.  Once you have your new SCOBY, you can try other teas for the next batch, but try to use black tea at first!  Kombucha works best with caffeinated, non-herbal teas.  Herbal teas can damage the SCOBY, so be cautious.  Alternatively, you can use 1 1/2 Tbs. loose-leaf, but make sure to strain the leaves out before making your SCOBY.

Next, you’ll mix together your (cooled) sweet tea with a cup of your organic, raw kombucha.  You’ll want unflavored kombucha so that your SCOBY grows.

Then, you’ll put the mixture in a large jar.  You’ll want to wrap the mouth of the jar with paper towels or coffee filters to keep out bugs.  Then secure the paper towels with a rubber band, and pop on the lid!

Place your SCOBY in a dark room with an average temperature (not too cold, not too hot).  Leave it there for about 4 weeks.  You’ll start to notice a little film forming over the top.  It’ll get thicker and thicker, it may change colors, get bubbles, etc.  Don’t worry.  As long as it doesn’t grow grey or green mold, it should be fine.

Once it’s all grown up, you can use it to make your own kombucha!  The remaining liquid is drink-able, but it will be very strong.  You can use some of the liquid to make your first batch of kombucha, but you’ll probably want to just discard the rest.

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Start looking for new kombucha recipes in the near future!  I’ve been coming up with all kinds of flavors (:

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*Song of the Day: Youth Knows No Pain by Lykke Li*

Cinnamon Rolls

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[Update 1/12/16: I made these rolls last weekend for the first time since I posted this recipe.  I changed the recipe up a little bit for experimentation, and ended up liking the new recipe more.  I added more butter (yikes, I know), tried traditional scalded milk instead of buttermilk, and used a different icing.  The original recipe is in the body of the post, and the new recipe is on a recipe card at the bottom of the post.  The new rolls are more fluffy, but if you prefer the old recipe, it’s still there, no worries!  I also updated some new pictures, since my photography has gotten significantly better (but still left the old ones with instructions and whatnot).  Hope you guys love!  Xo.]

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Guys.

These are so good.

Have you ever had like, a really really really good cinnamon roll?  Not like a Cinnabon one, but a really delicious, homemade cinnamon roll?  It’s a special kind of experience everyone should get to have.

I’m happy to report that you may now make your own if you truly wish to experience the phenomenon of eating an out-of-this-world cinnamon roll.

I have truly done it.  I have created the perfect cinnamon rolls.

They take pretty much all day to make, but they’re super easy.  I promise, you can make these!  Just make sure you have new yeast and everything is going to be okay.  You can do anything.

Sara Lynn: motivator and cinnamon roll goddess.

Maybe that’s a little dramatic.  Maybe it’s not.  Maybe you should make these cinnamon rolls and let me know if you think that I’m a cinnamon roll goddess.

A disclaimer about the following pictures:

1. My nail color randomly changes from red to sparkly pink because I got my nails done while the dough was rising.  I highly recommend you find something time consuming to do while you wait because cinnamon rolls take a long time to rise and a long time to make in general (but still so worth it).

2. The pictures change from good quality to bad quality because, again, they take a while to make and I ran out of daylight.

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Shall we get started?

Cinnamon Rolls:

1/2 c. warm water

1 package instant yeast

1/2 c. + 1 Tbs. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 c. buttermilk

1 egg

1/3 c. melted butter

4 1/2 c. flour

Filling:

1/2 stick butter

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

2 1/2 Tbs. cinnamon

Pinch salt

Icing:

4 oz. cream cheese

2 Tbs. butter

1 1/2-2 c. powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like your icing!)

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2-3 Tbs. milk, to thin

Pinch salt

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First, you’re going to want to mix together your warm water, yeast, and a tablespoon of sugar.  Set it aside to double in size!

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Mix 1/2 c. sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl.

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Nice and doubled!  Yay!

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Mix together buttermilk, egg, and butter.

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Add half of the flour mixture until it’s incorporated.

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Add the yeast mixture and stir together.

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It might not mix very well because it’s going to be very lumpy and thin like pancake batter.

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Mix in the rest of the flour and knead a few times with your hands.

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Knead until smooth and beautiful.

Set aside in a warm place covered with plastic wrap or a towel.  Let rise for 1-2 hours.

*insert random photo and nail color change*

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Once it has risen, punch the dough a few times.DSCN4128

Roll until about 1/8 inch thick.

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Brush with melted butter.

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Mix together cinnamon, sugars, and salt for your filling.

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And spread it all around!

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Roll it up.

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Brush it with more butter (sorry cholesterol).

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Cut into rolls that are about 2 inches wide.  You should have about 8 pretty ones.

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And a few not so pretty ones 😦  Oops!

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Brush a parchment lined casserole dish with more butter.

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Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon and sugar.

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Line the cinnamon rolls in the casserole dish.  Set them aside, covered, to rise for another hour or two.

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Look how pretty!!!  (That top left one is so sad.  Poor little guy.  Still delicious).

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Bake at 350* F for about 14-16 minutes, or until a light golden brown.

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Meanwhile, mix together the icing!  Whip butter and cream cheese together until incorporated.  Add sifted powdered sugar and vanilla.  Thin with milk.

(Uhm, is this not just the worst picture you’ve ever seen?  Did I even try?  Just trust me, it’s a delicious icing).

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Yay, they’re baked and beautiful!

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Spread frosting over warm cinnamon rolls.

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Hell yeah.

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Do you see that cinnamon filling?  Oh my gosh.  I might go grab one of my extras from the freezer right now.  They’re sooooo good.

Which reminds me, if you have too many because you made 11 cinnamon rolls and you live by yourself, just go ahead, wrap them in some plastic wrap individually and then place them in freezer bags.  They’ll stay good for a few months and you can indulge in cinnamon bun goodness whenever you want!

Go make these.  Right.  Now.

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* Notes*:  1. I use my mixer with dough hook, but these can also be made with a mixing bowl and wooden spoon!  I’ve done tries both methods and either works! 2. If your dough won’t rise, try heating oven to 250* F, turning oven off, and placing covered bowl of dough in warm oven (make sure bowl is oven proof!).  Leave alone for 2 hours.  3. If dough still won’t rise, your yeast is probably old.  Buy new yeast and start again.  4. Rolls can be made one night, and baked in the morning!  Just form the rolls and let them do their second rise in the fridge overnight (8-12 hours).  In the morning, remove from fridge, and let warm up for about an hour.  They will take longer to bake (upwards of about 30 or 40 minutes, so don’t worry if they don’t bake quickly!  Cover with foil halfway through if they start to brown too much.)

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*Song of the Day: Won’t You Come Over by Devendra Banhart

Zen and Polka Dots

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Ten days later, and I’m finally writing my New Year’s post.  I had intentions of doing this long ago (like 10 days ago for instance), but I got busy with family and traveling and now here we are.

Like every other blogger on the internet, I’m here to tell you all about my New Year’s resolutions, or rather, my version of New Year’s resolutions.  Instead of writing out a whole list of things that I’m going to do in order to “improve” myself, I’ve decided to pick out one word that I will focus on, and work toward integrating that word into my life as much as possible.  The word is a goal, but it is also a type of lifestyle that I would like to work toward.

And while my word (at the moment) should *probably* be procrastination, I’m actually choosing the word “zen”.  Zen is thrown around a lot on the internet to the point that it has become slang more than anything.  There are also a million and one definitions for “zen” online, meaning I have a lot to work on.  However, my favorite definition is the Sanskrit version, which means “to see, to observe, to look”.  To me, this means simply living in the moment, observing my surroundings, and not worrying about things that I cannot change.

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I personally could use some zen in my life, for multiple reasons, but mostly for the vast changes that will occur this year—and also because I have anxiety issues that could be worked on.  While I know that I cannot change the inner workings of my brain and make myself not anxious, I know that I can do my very best to manage.  For me, this begins with living in the now, leaving the past in the past, and not worrying about inevitable changes in the future.

To help create more zen in my life, I plan on singing more, playing piano more, drawing, painting, writing down my goals, making more pour overs, and taking time for myself whether that be a day trip to Tahoe with my friends or writing a new song.  So far, my year has included looking for a new job that aligns with my current goals, changing my hair, and listening to Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey on repeat.

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My hope is that by choosing a word to focus on, I will not limit myself to one or five or ten goals, but let myself have limitless goals that will help better myself as a person and make me overall happier.  The method seems more foolproof and affects my life more than specific goals.

If we’re being honest, I’m getting pretty anxious talking about the changes taking place in my life right now, but I’m also very excited for what these changes will bring.  Right now, my goal is to not worry about these changes, but embrace them.  So far this year has been truly amazing; I know that it will get more difficult, that there will be ups and downs, that I will have to adjust and change and grow, but I look forward to what is to come.

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A real candid that actually looks plan-did.
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Fun Fact: I secretly love Willie Nelson.  I was pretty stoked when I found this album for $3!

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Dress: Thrifted (originally Forever 21)  Tights: Old  Shoes: Lucky Brand  Purse:  Taurus

Feel free to tell me your goals, thoughts, words to live by, aspirations…

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Thanks to Zia Records and my brother, Garrett, for the pictures.

*Song of the Day: Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison*