Beef + Vegetable + Wild Rice Stew (Revisited)

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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!!

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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!!

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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

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Tater Tot Poutine

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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.

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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.

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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

Pumpkin + Sage Cake with Brown Sugar Icing

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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.

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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!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Atmosphere by Joy Division

 

 

Beef Sliders with White Cheddar + Bacon + Peach-Bourbon BBQ Sauce

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Well guys, I’m graduated!!!  A couple weeks ago, I crossed the stage, didn’t even trip in my tallest heels, and I’ll be mailed my actual diploma in a few weeks time!  It was great.  The tradition at UNR is to go to the famous college bar, The Little Waldorf, before graduation and drink mimosas and maybe relive your most wonderful/awful times as a college student?  Idk, because I had never even been to The Wal until that day, but I was able to get past the sticky, beer-soaked floors that I’m sure have never been mopped, and my friends and I drank cheap champagne on empty stomachs and it was perfect.  After graduation, I stuffed my face with Thai food at our favorite local joint, and then after I attempted a nap, we had a huge graduation BBQ with my friends and family.  My parents ended up playing rage cage with all of us young kids, and also it was my first time playing!  Of course I had all of my college experiences the day I graduated.  But it was a super amazing time, everyone drank and had fun, and I got to sleep the whole next day with a less-than-fun hangover (shoutout to Gatorade for getting me through that one).

I’m off to Europe in less than two weeks (!!!), so I’m trying to enjoy some of my favorite Reno summertime activities before I leave.  Namely, Lake Tahoe, fun outdoor bars, and sitting at patios at cute local restaurants.  Also, I spent the last weekend in San Francisco drinking lots of coffee and cocktails with my cousin.  We even found a bar that had a “bondage” theme, and I was impressed.  Oh SF, I ❤ u.

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Since I’m leaving so so soon, I’m trying to get all of my cooking in while I can.  Although I’m soooo excited to eat at wonderful European restaurants for 4 months, I also will miss the luxury of a kitchen, even though I’m sure my airbnb hosts will be accommodating if I really get the itch.  Namely, I’ve been taking advantage of my BBQ, because we just got a brand new sparkly one, and in the summertime, I’m pretty sure the only acceptable food is any that is BBQed.  The other day I was craving burgers like no other thing in the world, but I wanted something a little more creative than my standard beef-cheddar-veg-bun combo I normally go for.  I really love smashed burgers, but since it’s summer I have a difficult time cooking indoors when my brand new sparkly grill is in eyesight from my kitchen window.  Also, I really wanted something with BBQ sauce but not ribs or pulled pork, so I just combined everything into one package and then added bacon for good measure.

It’s a little more work to make the homemade BBQ sauce, but it’s honestly a super easy recipe and totally worth the effort.  However, if you really can’t be bothered, you can always buy some store-bought sauce, but you’ll probably miss out on peaches and bourbon which is not the kind of world I want to live in.

P.S. the BBQ sauce will make quite a bit, and you definitely won’t need all of it for the recipe.  You can either put it in jars and seal it (if that’s your thing) or you can use it for another recipe, but I’d use it within a week (or two if you’re willing to risk it, which I am).  This sauce would be perfect on pulled pork, ribs, or chicken.

Also, I served my burgers with wedge salad, but some oven fries would be amazing too.

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XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Warned You by Good Morning

Cherry Coconut Macaroons

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Every once in a while, I actually get my life together enough to provide a seasonal recipe before the season actually ends.  Most of time, I end up making the recipe, taking about half the pictures, running out of time to finish taking the rest of the pictures, and decide I will keep them around until the next year when I can post that recipe.  And by the time the season rolls around again, I a. forget about it completely, b. have decided the recipe needs to be improved, or c. hate the pictures I’ve taken from the year before.

And the cycle continues.

But!  This year, I was actually responsible and got it all done, and now we have a springtime cookie recipe!  Eeee!  Also, not even kidding, I was able to get a couple of branches of the springtime cherry trees flowering a mere two. days. before they turned into dark purple leaves.  It was meant to be.

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These cherry macaroons were loosely inspired by smitten kitchen’s raspberry macaroons, which are 10/10, but I was looking for something a little different that had more of a “spring” vibe.  I always think of cherries when spring rolls around, because the cherry trees bloom like crazy around Reno once it hits March.  We also have these absolutely gorgeous trees that bloom little white flowers (as seen in a post from last year), and I absolutely loooove them, except I just learnt a dirty little nickname for them (prompted by a certain smell they give off) that I will keep off my family-friendly PG-13 blog, but let’s just say it rhymes with sum-trees *insert blushing-face emoji*.  If you really need more information, there’s a very entertaining article about it here.

The more you know.  I guess that’s what they mean when they say “Spring is in the air!”.  Thanks internet!

But anyways, is this really a topic we should be discussing in the presence of innocent, delicate, spring-time cookies that summon images of blossoms, bunnies, and little chickies popping out of eggs?  No.  But it is me after all, and this is just the kind of thing we can expect on SSL.

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One of my favorite aspects of these macaroons is that they are not quite as crackly as most macaroons I have tried in the past.  Luckily for us, Cooks Illustrated solved all of our coconuty-problems with one simple solution: just puree the coconut in a food processor!  Yay!  Also, I loooove that I don’t have to whip egg whites for 20 minutes, which is traditional in most macaroon recipes.  so. much. easier!

Lastly, while I think this is the perfect recipe for Easter-fun, I also just discovered that this is a kosher-approved cookie for my friendies celebrating Passover!  Macaroons for all!

Oh wait, P.S. I highly recommend drizzling some of these with chocolate and a sprinkle of chopped pistachios.  I used semi-sweet, but white chocolate or milk chocolate would work too!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: The Next Time Around by Little Joy

Palmiers with Parmesan + Everything Spice

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After a week and a half of recovering from surgery I’m finally back!  Although I can’t say my senior-year spring break was worthy of being considered a “spring break woohoo!” by any means, I can’t really complain about playing lots of guitar, having an excuse to eat ice cream for all 3 meals, and watching Season 2 of Love for an entire week, right?  Take it from me, if you’re sick and also feeling blah about a breakup, ice cream and Love will solve all of your problems…or at least help you pretend you don’t have any in the first place*.

*jk, this is probably not the healthy way to deal with feelings, but we can all be self-indulgent once in a while, right?

Anyways, my week off was fun, but I’m ready to drag myself back into my regular routine so that I can get ready to graduate!  Plus, as it turns out, laying in bed is really only fun for a limited amount of time.  I feel myself itching to get back to working at the coffee shop and walking around campus.  As a senior in college getting ready to go back into the real world after a week long break, I’ll take motivation wherever I can get it…

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Now for the palmiers!  As a busy student who loves to cook, I’m always looking for easy appetizers or snacks that I can bring along whenever I’m invited to someone’s house for dinner.  Normally, I go for a cheese plate, because cheese = ♥, but I also am passionate about everything spice.  Put the two together, and you get a savory palmier combo that’s reminiscent of an everything bagel with cream cheese, except butter-ier, because puff pastry is essentially just a delicious block of flaky butter.  While these do take a little while to bake, they’re super easy to put together, and they come out beautiful, so you seem kind of impressive even if you aren’t.  Also, if you have some spinach dip lying around, spooning a little on top of these palmiers is really A+.

Read below to learn how to fold palmiers!!

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For palmiers, you’ll want to start by rolling the creases in the puff pastry with a floured rolling pin.  Spread your filling on the puff pastry sheets (filling recipe below).

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To fold these cuties, fold the puff pastry long-ways once toward the center.  Then roll them again so the left-and-right sides meet in the middle.  You’ll want to have 2 layers for each side (see right side of the picture).

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Fold the left side on top of the right side so you have 4 layers.  Place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.  This can be done up to a day in advance if you’re pressed for time.

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Cut each roll into 1/4 inch slices.  Place on a baking sheet, brush with egg wash, and bake until golden brown!

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Although I strongly suggest using the everything spice + parmesan on these palmiers, this recipe is a great template for other flavors as well (cheddar + rosemary, feta + za’atar?).

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Give it to Me by HOMESHAKE

 

 

Matcha Kettle Corn

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I know that St. Patty’s Day is not a super celebrated holiday in the U.S. (and probably we don’t really celebrate the correct way), but I’ve always felt drawn to it purely based on the fact that my favorite color is green.  As a little girl who was obsessed with green, I thought it was the coolest that there was a holiday where everyone wore my favorite color.  And now, I’m planning my trip for Ireland, and guuuuyyyyyys.  I’m crushing hard on Ireland.  Based on pictures, I’m pretty sure I’m utterly in love.

I’m a little bummed about this St. Patty’s Day this year, because I’m having surgery the day before, so no beer or corned beef for me wah wah 😦  But then!  I was innocently going about my day, and god knows why, but I started thinking about kettle corn (do I really need a reason?), and then suddenly without hesitation, matcha kettle corn popped into my brain, and what better way to celebrate St. Patty’s Day than with green kettle corn?!

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Remember in elementary school when we would have parties for all the holidays, and without fail, at every single celebration, someone’s mom would make those sweet popcorn balls with shit tons of Yellow 6 and Red 40 and Blue 294u304889?  I have a vivid memory of trying my damnedest to bite into one, but it was absolutely impossible, and why did no one’s mom just think to make regular kettle corn?  Anyways, the point is that matcha popcorn is essentially an adult-friendly throwback to green-colored sweet popcorn balls except without the poison, so you’re welcome !!

Notes: As for the matcha part of this kettle corn, I would say you have to be a pretty big fan of matcha to enjoy this, but did I’m sure you already figured.  If you want a light coating, start with about 1 tsp. of matcha (or less if you want a reeeeally light coating), and then add another 1/2 tsp. if you want a little more flavor.  I liked it with 1 1/2 tsp., but I’m a matcha nut.  Also, I believe that the kettle corn is perfectly sweet with 1/4 c. of sugar, especially to balance the earthiness of the tea, but feel free to use less if you don’t like sugary kettle corn.  My dad, who doesn’t like super sugary kettle corn, told me that it was the perfect balance of sweet, so take that as you will.

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XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Abducted by Cults