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

 

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Single Lady Mac & Cheese

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This past weekend was kind of rough for a multitude of different reasons.  Even though I had some relaxing moments spending time with friends and family, most of my weekend was spent in a state of “blah” that I couldn’t quite shake.  When I’m feeling like this, I know the best thing to do is to engage in self-care with a little bit of comfort food and TV.  My craving was mac and cheese, but I didn’t want to make a huge pan of leftovers that could go to waste.  After a few minutes of thought, I realized I could easily make a tiny mac and cheese that would feed just myself.  Even in my difficult times, my brain comes up with great things!

This recipe is perfect for a feel-sorry-for-yourself-night, because it only requires one pot and it’s super versatile.  You can use whatever cheese and pasta you have around the house, although smaller pastas with plenty of nooks and crannies are always the best!  I’m also partial to a cheddar-parmesan mixture if you have that around the house.

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As far as fanciness, this mac and cheese is pretty fancy-free.  I just blend it all together, top it with a little parm, and broil it until browned.  I add a little ceyenne pepper, mustard powder, worcestershire, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Feel free to add whatever spices you want or none at all.  Broil or don’t broil.  Eat it out of the pan and leave the dishes for later, or wash the pot while the pasta broils (my method, because dirty dishes give me anxiety).  Once your mac and cheese craving has be fulfilled, you can crawl back in bed or take a walk or go grab a coffee.  This mac and cheese is about you and your needs after all.

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Take time for self love this week my friends ♥  We all deserve it.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Dandelion Wine by Gregory Alan Isakov

 

The Best Damn Pie Crust of Your Life

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IT’S FINALLY HERE.  Even after countless pies and months of promising you all the best pie dough recipe in the whole damn world, I had not delivered.  That is, until now.  I really should stop making promises like these considering I’m a full-time student, I have 2 jobs, plus I try to volunteer a few hours a month on top of all the normal things I have to do on a day-to-day basis a.k.a. I’m freaking busy and don’t always have time on the weekends to do a pie dough tutorial.  Honestly, I don’t know how I have free time sometimes, but bless my marketing internship for giving me college credit to work only a couple hours a week from home is all I have to say.  Aside from that major tangent, my point is that I know the wait was worth it, and I would like you to agree with me, because it would make me feel much better about my slacking.

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Let’s have a conversation about pie dough, my friends.  I’ll try to keep an open mind here, but let’s just face it, I’m biased and totally Team Make Your Own Pie Dough.  Most people refuse to even try to make their own dough, settling for either freezer-aisle roll-out pie dough (boo) or worse, store-bought pies from the grocery store (double boo).  We’ll call this side Team Wrong.  No offense if you’re on that team, I understand why you are, but hear me out.  I have a major theory that pie dough is one of the most misunderstood forms of pastry, and I can attest to this, because I was a frozen pie dough fan for many years.  After making pie dough once, I was a forever changed woman.  It’s so. damn. easy.  Surprisingly so, but it makes all the difference in the world.  If you care about pie, make your own dough!  I’m not kidding, you will not be able to go back to the store-bought stuff.  It’s really life-changing, especially this recipe, which yields the flakiest, buttery-est crust I ever did eat.  Thanks to Bon Appetit magazine for inspiring me to give it a try and also for giving me the recipe.  I appreciate for real ♥

So, after a long guilt trip from Team Make Your Own Dough, do you feel inspired to make your own pie dough for (please, at least one of) your Thanksgiving pies?!  Yes you do!

Let’s get started!

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First, you’re going to start off with 2 sticks + 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter.  Cut the butter into cubes, trying to work quickly to avoid melting the butter with your warm hands.  I like to use a bench scraper for this so I don’t have to touch the butter, but a regular knife works well too!  Put that butter in a bowl and pop it in the fridge while you gather your dry ingredients.

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Now we’re going to prep for the next few steps.  Whisk together 2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour, 2 Tablespoons of sugar (1 Tablespoon for a savory-pie crust), and a scant teaspoon of kosher salt.  Also prepare a glass of ice water and set the glass aside.  Toss the butter in the flour mixture.

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Now, working quickly, use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour, creating shaggy pieces of butter.  Some of the pieces should be thin and long while others are chunkier.  Be careful not to let the butter melt in your hands.

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Mix together 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 3 Tablespoons of iced water.  Swirl to combine.

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Drizzle the vinegar-water over the butter mixture, running your fingers through the flour mixture to incorporate all the ingredients.  Quickly knead the dough until it starts to come together.  It will be a little crumbly and dry, but resist adding more water or your crust will turn out tough.

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Turn your dough onto a floured surface and knead it a few more times, incorporating the drier areas.

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Cut the dough in half and press into 1 inch thick discs.

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Wrap your dough in plastic and set it in the fridge for at least an hour and up to 5 days.  You can also freeze the dough for up to 2 months!  I like to make dough in advance and save it in the fridge for big events like holidays.  When you’re ready to use it, roll it on a floured surface and fill with whatever makes you happy.

Here’s a few pie ideas, if you needed any (;

Apple Pie with Sugared Crust
Pumpkin Pie
Beef & Veggie Pot Pie
Deconstructed Chicken Pot Pie
Pear & Ginger Galette
Strawberry and Grapefruit Galette
Mixed Berry Pie

And here’s a handy-dandy recipe card:

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I hope this recipe makes the pie dough of your dreams as it did mine ♥

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Where is my Mind? by Pixies

 

 

 

 

A Day in SF – French Food and the Botanical Garden

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As I’ve mentioned countless times in the past, visiting San Francisco for the weekend is one of my favorite things to do, especially since I live so close!  I will be posting updates with all of my best SF recommendations as I continue to visit.  Stay tuned for my favorite restaurants, bars, activities, and places to go!

The last time I was in The City, I dropped by Haight-Ashbury to hit some of my favorite spots.  Haight-Ashbury has an incredibly unique art culture and history, so I always try to stop by if I have the chance.  In addition to going to some of my favorite stores, I have been learning more about the neighborhood restaurants, coffee places, and other local spots.  As soon as the Uber dropped us off, I grabbed a capp at Stanza Coffee Bar and went to this really cool art store called Mendel’s to pick up some fabric.  I always try to stop by Mendel’s when I’m in the city, because they have a huge variety of art supplies you can’t find in run-of-the-mill places.  Afterwards, I went to one of the most unique thrift/vintage shops, Decades of Fashion, just to check out what they had in stock – if you love vintage clothing or unique costumes, definitely stop by!  I also made sure to hit one of my favorite record stores, Rasputin Music, which has a large variety of CDs, records, and DVDs, both old and new, classic and recent.  After a couple hours of shopping, we were pretty hungry and looking for restaurants close by.  I had never eaten at a restaurant in Haight-Ashbury before this trip, so I was excited to see what the neighborhood had to offer.  Trusting solely on Yelp reviews, we decided on what turned out to be an amazing French restaurant called Zazie, just a few blocks up on Cole St.

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Zazie is located on a quiet street in a narrow space, that I believe is an old apartment building.  The ambience is classic French bistro, with yellow walls and pretty wooden tables.  They have many of the French favorites, breakfast, lunch, and specials including the pancakes I got!  I had poppy pancakes with lemon curd and strawberries, and they came with a side of potatoes.  I also got their house tea, which was amazing!  Other orders were the Croque Madame and the French toast, which were both delicious (based on the few bites I had!).

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After brunch at Zazie, we drove over to Golden Gate Park to enjoy the beautiful NoCal weather.  Golden Gate Park is one of my favorite places in San Francisco, so I definitely wanted to take a long walk, especially after a few stressful weeks at home.  Previous to this trip, I had walked past the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park multiple times, but I had never actually gone in.  This time, I thought it would be fun to walk around since the tickets are fairly inexpensive, especially if you have a student ID!  The Botanical Gardens were beautiful, with all kinds of unique plants and greenery.  It was a very peaceful way to spend an afternoon, especially in the busyness of the city.

Later that night, we walked around near the beach and enjoyed a quiet dinner (can’t remember the name of the restaurant – if I see it next time I’m in SF, I’ll update).

If you need any more recommendations, feel free to reach out!  San Fran is one of my favorite places to go, so I have lots of things to share!

For a list of my favorite coffee places in SF, click here.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Horchata by Vampire Weekend

Basic BLT

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Living in Reno means that I live a short three and a half hours away from the beautiful Bay area and amazing wine country, which has both its perks and its downfalls.  Perks include relaxing weekend getaways, good wine being delivered straight to local mom and pop’s doors, and the influence of The City* trickling into the BLC**.  And the downfalls?  Weekend getaways are $$$.  Good wine is $$$.  Then there’s The City’s influence on Reno…

See, Reno’s culture has significantly changed in the last few years.  Reno has gone from a failing casino city to a hip, local college town with amazing restaurants, bars, coffee shops, thrift stores, record stores, book stores, parks, events, music, etc. etc. etc.  Not all people appreciate BLC culture, but damn I love it.  However, with the influence comes the the traffic, and the increase in rent, and…the fusion.  Asian fusion.  Greek fusion.  Italian-German fusion with a twist of California fusion.  And, okay fine, fusion can be cool, but some things are just meant to be left alone.  Including BLTs.

It seems as if every restaurant I go to lately has “their version” of a BLT, with 100 other letters attached to the end to show how different their bacon sandwich is from every other restaurant.  BLTTC = Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Turkey, Cheddar, which I’m sorry is just a club sandwich.  BLTGC = BLT grilled cheese, which just shouldn’t be a thing.  And BLTA?!  A BLT with avocado?!?!  Okay, that one’s fair, and it works, but I have a slight allergy to avocado, so it doesn’t work for me.  BLTs should be BLTs and nothing more.  Nobody asked for this madness.

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Luckily, you have me to set the record straight.  Here’s how you should be doing your BLT.

  1. Grab a loaf of good bread.  I like sourdough, but white or buttermilk also work.  Toast it ya’ll.
  2. Bake your bacon.  I swear.  You better do it.
  3. Find a good tomato.  It has to be a good one.  Slice it thinly.  This isn’t a tomato sandwich.
  4. Freshly ground black pepper does wonders.
  5. Add avocado if you must, but please don’t tell me.

There’s definitely some gaps in there, but I’ll fill them in later.  For now, I want to clarify what is deemed appropriate to serve with BLTs.  Hint: it’s potato chips and beer.  Iced tea if you don’t drink alcohol.

Okay, that’s it.  Those are the rules.  And here’s the recipe:

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If you want some other do-not-mess-with-me recipes, check out my 3 Bean Chili and Vanilla Creme Brulee!

XO Sara Lynn

Song of the Day: Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop by Landon Pigg

*The City = San Francisco
**BLC = The Biggest Little City a.k.a. Reno

Mixed Berry Pie

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I have the tendency to delve into projects that require far more time than I had ever anticipated.  I usually know what I’m getting myself into and enter an inner-cranium deliberation with myself.  It normally goes along the lines of: “Hey!  I have a great idea to make this really beautiful thing, and yeah it will probably take an hour or two of my life, but in the end, I will be so proud of this beautiful, wonderful thing that I made and everyone will think I’m great!”.  And then instead of taking one or two hours, it takes three or four or ten.  In this case, it was hand-cutting stars out of pie dough, because apparently it’s totally obtuse to believe that I could find a star-shaped cookie cutter within a week of the Fourth of July.  I’m not sure if it has to do with them being sold out or that there’s just no demand for star shaped scraps of metal, but there were no stars to be found, so it was back to the drawing board.

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You see guys and gals, here’s how it goes.  I get an idea in my mind, and once it’s there, it will not leave.  So when I started seeing beautiful freedom-inspired pies taking up the likes of Instagram and Pinterest, all hope for a simple double crust pie with some slits across the top was lost.  I needed stripes.  I needed stars.  And it had to be red, white, and blue.  I found a particular pie that would inspire my own (I believe it was from Williams and Sanoma) that was cut to look like an American flag.  It was beautiful and picturesque, and I thought “How hard can this be?”.  That’s when the star escapade came to be, and I realized how hard it actually can be and that a star-shaped cookie cutter was not in the…stars… :I

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After getting slightly frustrated, I determined that I was just going to wing it, since that’s how I’ve essentially been living my life for the past year or so.  I rolled out the pie crust and started cutting it into strips.  In that moment, I taught myself how to lattice a pie, and trust me I realize this is probably not the correct Martha Stewart-esque way to do it, but listen, that’s just not how my life goes.  And then I started cutting out little stars by hand, and while they did take a while, it really wasn’t that bad.  Once you get a hang of it, they go pretty quick.  I’d say to cut out 12 stars took about 20 minutes.  I lightly traced little stars (like you used to draw in elementary school) using a fondant cutter, although a knife would work too, and then I just cut around the edge.  And everything was okay.

Also by hand-cutting my stars, my pie is now artisan, right?

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As for the pie, I just mixed a bunch of berries that I had around the house together with some sugar, tapioca starch, and lemon.  I have to say, this pie is amazingly delicious, especially since I completely winged the recipe.  I used strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, but you could use any combo of berries you like.  Also, my pie was slightly tart, so feel free to add more sugar.  For a juicier pie, use less tapioca starch.

P.S. You can use cornstarch instead of tapioca starch if that’s all you have on hand.  However, I am firmly team tapioca starch, because I think it makes a more stable pie.

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Happy 4th ♥

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: American Girl by Tom Petty

Trying Something New

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Lately, I’ve been in a major need for some change.  A lot of frustrating/sad/difficult events have been happening in my life so I’m trying to take it as an opportunity to make myself happier and not let my anxiety take over.  While a lot of these changes are not within my jurisdiction, I’m taking this time as an opportunity to focus more on my goals and the direction I am going with my life.  I’m getting rid of anything I feel is toxic or not helping me progress toward my goals and focusing more on travel, music, food, and making friends.

Like any 20-something, I’m looking for success and happiness and love and adventure and any sign that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be with my life.  This story is not new, and everyone experiences it, but that does not mean that we don’t struggle with our choices and chances either.  At times, I shelter myself, not because I do not want to put myself out there, but because I’m perfectly happy being on my own.  I’m working toward opening up and having more fun!

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A few weeks ago, I spent the weekend at my aunt’s house to watch her puppies and have some time to relax by myself.  It was nice to get away, watch movies by myself in my jammies, eat Thai food, and enjoy some fresh air with a beautiful view.

One of the nights, I decided to go out for a solo dinner after a particularly long day at work.  I decided to wear this romper, which honestly, has been hanging in the back of my closet for the past year or so.  When I first saw it, I fell in love with the print, and I actually thought it was a dress.  I don’t usually wear rompers, but again, the print was amazing, so I tried it on and eventually bought it because it was on sale.  I usually wear it with a skirt over it so the top acts as a shirt, but since I am trying new things, I decided to wear it as a romper and step out of the box.  I will admit that this is not the biggest leap of courage, but sometimes small steps are better.  At first I didn’t feel comfortable, but the more I wore it, the better I felt, especially with my favorite Lucky boots.  It felt nice to wear something that I normally wouldn’t and take a “risk” with my fashion choices.

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Getting away for a little while helped ease my mind, and I had a lovely weekend petting some cute pups (who you might notice as little blurs in some of these pictures.  They were afraid of the sound of the camera timer, which was pretty funny, so they showed up as little blobs.  Oops!).  Taking pics with some of my aunt’s vintage furniture was really amazing as well – such a cool house to get pictures in!  I’m looking forward to what the future has to bring, solo travels, and new opportunities, friends, and people.

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Romper from H&M, boots from Lucky, jewelry is old

Have a happy, relaxing weekend and be looking out for some exciting upcoming posts!  I just got back from San Fran, and I have some fun stuff to show you all 🙂

Xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths

Deconstructed Chicken Pot Pie

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PSA: Please be nice to college students, we are in the midst of midterms and life is a lot to deal with right now!!!!!!!

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been a giant ball of college-related anxiety which has led me to staying up into the early hours of the morning working on business plans and marketing research studies while living off of scrambled eggs with toast.  I’ve also been fighting the early stages of a cold by popping obscene amounts of Vitamin C and drinking Immune Boosting Tea.  The cabin fever is getting to a Jack Nicholson-level that makes me dream of hiking and Tahoe beaches and weekend roadtrips to San Fran.

In times like these, I find the only cure is to take a couple of hours to indulge comfort food, a sleeve of Milanos, and a lighthearted tween movie, normally of the Disney variety, although that is not required.  My choice of the moment is Princess Diaries.  But I digress.  What I’m really here to talk about is the comfort food component.

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Today, we have chicken pot pie that has been deconstructed, because there’s less time between preparation and consumption, and also puff pastry is the jam.  I developed the recipe randomly one weekend with ingredients I had sitting around in my fridge, and I will never look back.  As far as I’m concerned, chicken pot pie is the best food to cure sadness, and also it’s the best way to say goodbye to the winter season.  While this is not necessarily a “traditional” pot pie, it has all of the components: chicken, veggies, thyme, crust, warmth, happiness, and you’re probably eating it snuggled up in a blanket while watching a movie.  I *highly suggest* making this one last time before BBQ season officially hits.

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On another note, if you know anyone interested in funding a coffee shop/bakery or a weekend vacation, or you have some secret knowledge that I’m a princess and therefore deserve to be in the far away land of Genovia wearing pretty ballgowns and living in a castle instead of studying my brains out in college, you know where to find me.

XO SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: Maps by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

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If you follow my Instagram, then you probably know that I promised a recipe with vanilla beans.  You also probably know that I have an obsession with vanilla beans that can only be compared to Gollum’s relationship with the ring.  *ahem* However, do not fret if you don’t have vanilla beans just laying around the house (most people don’t).  You can substitute with real vanilla extract or paste.

If you need a quick Valentine’s Day dessert that seems kind of fancy (but you don’t want to try too hard) this is it.  Crème brûlée seems daunting, but it’s actually so, so easy.  Take it from me, since this is my first attempt, and it turned out *very successfully*.  Plus, it only takes about 15 minutes to put together and uses 4 ingredients.

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Do you see the vanilla?!

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Bye.

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I hope you end your Valentine’s Day with crème brulee and your special human.

XO SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: Indian Summer by Beat Happening

Valentine Hearts and Foggy Weather

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Dress: Innocence  Jacket: Hot Kiss  Scarf: Old  Boots: Minnetonka

This morning was amazing, because 1. I got a barista job after months of trying, and 2. It was just so beautiful and cloudy in Reno today, which is my favorite weather ever.  After I went to my job interview, I drove around town, celebrating with coffee, and the weather was perfect, temperate, and a little foggy.  I love foggy weather in Reno, because it gets a little cold, makes the colors of the mountains pop, and the temp feels like NoCal.

Normally, I love staying up late at night and sleeping later in the morning, but waking up early today made me see Reno in a different way.  I normally only experience the town around the busy hours of 10 a.m.-6 p.m., but today it was serene and much less stressful to drive in.  I listened to my San Fran CDs (Little Joy and Modern Vampires of the City) and drink way too much coffee (to fit the mood obviously!).  It felt so amazing to not feel anxious and actually enjoy driving for once (which is probably something I should work on anyways, but driving is so stressful!)

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Talking to a tree.  No really.  That’s what I was doing in this pic.

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Fulfilling my dream of being the “heart eyes” emoji.

Today, I wore one of my favorite dresses that I got in London, which just so happens to be festive for upcoming Valentine’s Day!  This dress makes me feel so cute, and I also got to prove that red heads definitely can wear red.  (Not that I necessarily ever believed we couldn’t wear red.  Take that society).  But still, it felt like an accomplishment nonetheless.

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day with your love or friends or family or dog or by yourself or not at all.

XO SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: Brand New Start by Little Joy