Oslo + Bergen 2017

IMG_4451

IMG_4357

IMG_4156

norway1

IMG_4375

norway3

IMG_4306

IMG_4444

IMG_4199

IMG_4362

IMG_4197

IMG_4300

IMG_4330

IMG_4309

IMG_4338

IMG_4428

IMG_4216

IMG_4437

One of the places I was absolutely most excited to go during my Europe trip was Norway.  Not only am I obsessed with lefse and green mountains, but I have Norwegian heritage, and I just really couldn’t wait to visit the motherland and meet my kin!!  And guys.  It was #perfect #worthit #thebestnorwegianexperienceever #hashtag.  It was four hashtags amazing, and I had some of my greatest times there, and when can I go back?!?!

I started my Norwegian adventure in Oslo, where I saw viking ships and so many naked people!! (And by people I mean statues).  I stayed with a man from China who had lived in Norway for years, and he gave me some of the best recommendations and was the nicest ever!  I spent my nights before dinner eating chocolate, drinking tea, and sitting in his kitchen talking about the world with him.  After dinner, I would walk around Oslo until late hours of the night, because it’s ALWAYS sunset there after 9 PM.  I found some amazing coffee shops with beautiful blonde baristas and even found a secret lake where the metro ends.

After Oslo, I got on an eight hour train ride through the Norwegian mountains to Bergen, and it was absolutely, hands-down, the best train ride I took in all of Europe.  The rail slowly climbed through the tippiest-toppiest point of Norway, through a field of white and blue even in the middle of July.  In the more hospitable parts of Norway, I looked down upon rows of tiny, brown cottages with white trimmings, rainbow flower gardens, and older couples sitting on their porch enjoying wine and snacks.  I snuggled in my seat with a cup of milky, black tea from the snack carriage and stared in awe for the entire journey.  I think it may have been one of the best parts of Norway.

When I arrived in Bergen, the magic ended momentarily when I got caught in the biggest rain storm in my life, dragging my suitcase through puddles while trying to find my airbnb.  And although my suitcase never dried the entire time I was there, I had a blow dryer to fix my hair, changed into a new dress, and met up with my airbnb host at a tiki bar with his friends, where we drank the sugariest drinks of my life and danced and danced and danced.  It was one of the times that I felt most welcome, and I will always cherish the experience of being taken in my a group of strangers in Bergen.  After the tiki bar, we met with all the other Bergen locals at the kebab shop down the street and sleepily leaned against the doorjambs while we waited for our takeout.  Upon arriving home at 3 a.m., I cozied up in my jammies, drank a pot of tea, and ate while chatting with my new friends.  Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe Bergen is just a secret hub of amazing Middle Eastern food, but I think it was the best kebab of my life.

IMG_4190

IMG_4320

IMG_4452

IMG_4317

IMG_4314

norway2

IMG_4404

IMG_4332

IMG_4431

IMG_4149

IMG_4398

IMG_4223

IMG_4453

IMG_4348


Oslo Stuff:

  • The Kasbah – a super cool Mediterranean restaurant & cafe with a boho vibe in a locals’ area of Oslo.  This place has lots of seating, some great hummus, and a yummy chicken pita!
  • Supreme Roastworks – A lovely coffeeshop with an even lovlier barista walking distance from The Kasbah.  I went twice, and I highly recommend their pour overs ♥
  • Sognsvann – the secret locals’ lake that is literally at the end of the metro.  Get off at the metro stop with the same name, and enjoy a serene walk around the lake right outside of the city!  Also, don’t forget to bring a picnic, because it’s the perfect spot.
  • Vigelands / Frogner Park – For a free, outdoor art experience, stop by Frogner Park and see hundreds of naked people statues.  The gardens are breathtaking, and honestly I just can’t believe this whole art gallery is in the middle of a park!
  • Oslo Opera House – the perfect, and I mean perfect, place to sit with a bottle of wine to watch a sunset.  I ate one too many chocolate-covered marzipan bars here while walking along the opera house roof and watching a pink and purple sky.
  • Bygdøy – take a ferry to this island to see all the museums including the Viking Ship Museum which I can’t recommend enough!!
  • Fuglen – an adorable coffeehouse with a name that translates to ‘the bird’.
  • National Gallery – a museum full of Monet, Degas, Picasso, and Munche!  I saw some of my favorite art pieces (I loooove Degas!) and then I went for more coffee at Supreme Coffeeworks.

Bergen Faves:

  • Selam – a really delicious Ethiopian restaurant recommended by my airbnb.  It’s barely advertised, hardly noticeable, but has a beautiful inside and delicious sega tibs!
  • Kaffemisjonen – my favorite coffee place in Norway, this is about a minute away from Selam.  The baristas are so knowledgeable, and the atmosphere is relaxing on a misty day.
  • Mount Fløyen – take a fernicular up the mountain for a pano view of the city.  Also, there is a music note fence up there, and it’s so cooooool!!!
  • Walking around town – it sounds silly to add this as a favorite ‘thing to do’, but this was one of the coolest experiences in Bergen!  I found some really adorable bakeries, great thrift shops, walked by the zoo, and got to see some adorable houses.
  • Fish market – ok, ugh.  I couldn’t do this.  I had to walk through it multiple times to get to Bryggen, and I gagged the whole time.  But if you like eating fish and whales and reindeer, I guess go here and live your best life.  On the positive side, the market vibe was wonderful!
  • Bryggen – old town Bergen with the best art shops, sweater stores, and restaurants!  10/10 recommend.
  • Naboen – a really wonderful restaurant with delicious steak + potatoes + beer.  It’s a more upscale place, and I had a lovely romantic solo dinner.

IMG_4161

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: It’s Always You by She & Him

Pistachio Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)

IMG_3521

IMG_3498

IMG_3512

I’m just going to start off this entire post with the disclaimer that this recipe for zimtsterne is absolutely not traditional.  I’ve been known around these parts to bastardize traditional recipes, such as when I baked a “New York” cheesecake with mascarpone + amaretto or when I made tater tot poutine.  And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the internet, it’s that people get actually upset when you don’t make a recipe exactly like their recipe.  It’s the precise reason that I probably will never post a recipe for goulash or huevos rancheros, and why I keep disclaimers on these posts in the first place.  But I digress…this is about cookies.

Ever since I went to Germany, I’ve been obsessed with Germany.  Like, all I think of is Five Elephant and eating schnitzel with fries + mayo.  And then yesterday, I went to a local bakery in town, Bavarian World, and honest to god it’s probably one of my favorite places in Reno.  On one side, there’s a bakery/market that has absolutely the best baklava and pretzel rolls, and pecan cakes.  And then on the other side is a restaurant that I’ve never eaten at, but I have secret dreams of going on a date there Fast Times at Ridgemont High style.  While I was in line waiting to buy my pretzel rolls and roast beef for Christmas-day lunch, I saw a package of zimtsterne, a star-shaped cinnamon cookie,  which I had never heard of before, but then I got really excited (!!!) because I literally stayed up the night before trying to think of a cookie I could make with pistachios.  And even though zimtsterne is usually made with almonds, I am having a love affair with pistachios almost always, so I figured I could add those too.  Yay Bavarian World!!!

IMG_3486

IMG_3544

IMG_3504

IMG_3540

This past week, I’ve had approximately three or four different Christmas parties to attend, and I am partied tf out.  I have spent two too many mornings hugging a Gatorade and popping Ibeuprofen for my headache after an evening of Moscow Mules and late-night tacos.  Which is why I spent my Friday night listening to She & Him Christmas albums and making this cookie dough.  And it was perfect, because it has to chill for at least a few hours, and it was perfectly chilly by the time I woke up to bake them this morning!  Traditionally these cookies are made with a meringue, but there are two ways you can go about things:

1. If you’re a sinner, you can just add the egg whites straight to the dough (hi), which yields a denser, chewier cookie.

2. If you’re a traditionalist, you can whip up a meringue and fold the nut mixture into the meringue which will result in a cookie reminiscent of a macaron.

Out of sheer laziness, and because the last time I whipped egg whites ended in an epic failure, I went with the “adding the egg whites” option, and I love that the texture is somewhat biscuit-y and chewy.  However, next time I’m going to try it the meringue way, because I also love airy cookies.

Now, if I can just somehow get myself back to Germany ASAP I promise to try real-life, traditional, Christmasy zimtsterne.  Scout’s honor.

IMG_3507

IMG_3461

IMG_3526


Pistachio Zimtsterne
Makes 28 two-inch cookies

INGREDIENTS

100 g ground, unsalted pistachios (about 1 c. whole)
200 g ground, unsalted almonds (about 2 c. whole)
100 g (about 1/2 c.) powdered sugar
50 g (1/3 c.) flour
2.5 g (1 tsp.) cinnamon
Zest of 1/2 orange
4.2 g (1 tsp.) vanilla extract
2 egg whites

Glaze

200 g (about 1 c.) powdered sugar
30 g (2 Tbs.) orange juice
30 g (2 Tbs.) milk
2 g (1/2 tsp.) vanilla extract

In a food processor, combine pistachios and almonds.  Pulse until they are finely ground, but be careful not to grind them too much, or they’ll turn into a nut butter!  In a bowl, combine the ground nuts, powdered sugar, flour, cinnamon, and orange zest.  Stir in the vanilla extract and egg whites until a crumbly dough forms*.  Using your hands, knead until everything is mixed together and the dough forms.  Flatten, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill at least an hour, but you can make it up to 2 days in advance.

Preheat oven to 350* F (170* C).  After the dough has chilled, roll it on a powdered-sugar surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a star-shaped cookie cutter, cut out about 28 cookies, re-rolling as necessary.  I like to dip the cookie cutter in powdered sugar before cutting, because it prevents sticking.  Line on a greased baking sheet.  They can be pretty close together, because they don’t puff up much.  Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are very lightly browned.  Let cool completely.

*Alternatively, for airy cookies, you can whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold the dry mixture into the egg whites, add the vanilla, and finish the recipe as directed.

While the cookies are baking, combine the remaining powdered sugar with the orange juice, milk, and vanilla.  I start with 1 Tbs. each of orange juice and milk and add more liquid to get my desired consistency of icing.  After the cookies have cooled, dip each one in the glaze.  Add sprinkles if desired!  Let harden, and keep stored in tupperware.


IMG_3541

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: I’ll Be Home for Christmas by She & Him

 

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