White Pizza with Sausage + Garlicky Kale + Lemon

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I have a confession: I’m not a huge “pizza person”.  And because of this, I get constant shit from every human on the planet, because apparently I am part of a small majority that doesn’t lose their mind over pizza.  I, of course, love a good pizza when I am in the mood for it, but the rest of the time, I’ll happily choose tacos or Thai food instead.  However, I do have a fave pizza place in Reno that makes me jalapeno + cheese pizza without judgement, and as a rule, this particular pizza must be eaten with a draft beer, absurd amounts of ranch, and the leftover crust must be dipped in honey.

(On a side note, do people in other parts of the world dip their crust in honey, or is that just a Reno thing???)

And while pizza is not my absolute favorite food, I do feel passionate about dough + cheese, and I’ve been loving experimenting with pizza flavors at home lately.  On some Fridays, I will come home, pull out all the leftover ingredients from the week, chop up tons of fresh mozz, and pop a bottle of wine while the perfect combination of crust puffing and cheese bubbling occurs in my oven.  I almost always go out for dinner on Fridays, but if for some reason I’m really in the mood to cook after work, it’s almost always some version of pizza.  There’s something so calming about coming home, chopping up some veggies, and making a quick, delicious dinner.

And, if I really need pizza without the effort, I always have my trusty jalapeno-special ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Yesterday, we had probably our craziest snow of the season (yes, in late February, ugh come ooooon Reno).  I was at my parents’ house after shopping with my mom, and this blizzard just started out of nowhere.  It looked like a snow globe and made me need Christmas all over again.  However, since I can’t redo Christmas, I went for the next best comforting winter activity which is obviously cooking and watching British TV.  So, while the snow flurries drifted down outside my window, I threw together this recipe and cozied up on the couch watching Lovesick.  These ingredients are a perfect mix of flavors – the kale gets so crispy and garlicky in the oven, sausage adds a little sweetness, there’s lemon for tartness, and of course, I added a simple bechamel and mozzarella for a creamy component.  At the end, I like to add pine nuts to give it an earthy flavor (and also because I’m obsessed with pine nuts, they’re so good 😛).  I like to sprinkle a ton of red pepper flakes on top of my pizza, but of course, you can leave those off if you don’t like spice!  Lastly, the sauce is fairly creamy, especially when combined with the cheese.  If you prefer a lighter, almost flatbread-style pizza, I would just brush the crust with olive oil and put the toppings on sans white sauce.  In fact, it sounds rather amazing, and I think that will be my approach next time!


White Pizza with Sausage + Garlicky Kale + Lemon
Serves 4

Ingredients for the white sauce

1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. milk
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the flour, stirring until no clumps remain.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant.  Slowly whisk in milk, bringing it to a boil and cooking for a couple of minutes until thickened.  Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Ingredients for the pizza

1 lb. pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
White sauce (recipe above)
2 links of sweet sausage, casings removed
2 c. kale, chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, torn
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced and quartered
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2 Tbs. pine nuts

Preheat oven to 425* F.  Roll out pizza dough to 1/8 inch thickness and place on a baking sheet.  Brush with 1 Tbs. olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a pan over medium-high heat.  Cook the sausage until it is no longer pink.  Meanwhile, toss the kale, remaining 1 Tbs. of olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl – set aside.  Drain the sausage, and discard the fat.  Set sausage aside.

Spread the white sauce over the pizza dough.  Sprinkle sausage and mozzarella over the sauce.  Spread the kale and lemon slices over the pizza.  Season with red pepper flakes.

Place the pizza in the oven for 16-20 minutes.  When finished, the crust should be golden brown, and the cheese should be bubbly.

When the pizza is cooked through, sprinkle the pine nuts over the top.  Serve with additional pepper flakes and parmesan, if desired.

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day* – Big Sis by SALES

Orange Liqueur Cupcakes + Marzipan Buttercream

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In high school, I went to a baking and pastry high school and to make a little extra money, I would sell homemade cupcakes.  Some of my bigger projects were for weddings and bridal showers, and I also did smaller events like 9 year old’s birthday parties.  I actually won third place next to a bunch of professional pastry chefs at a couple of competitions, which was my crowning achievement at the time.  I was famously known for my marshmallow buttercream that people used to call “crack frosting”.  Obviously I lived that rockstar life back in the glory days of my youth.

Honestly though, going to my high school taught me invaluable lessons about food and the melding of flavors.  It helped me land my first job in the industry that eventually led me to my coffee-career and love for food blogging.  In a way, it was kind of like a weird, food version of Glee, but I got to do cool things like meet Vic Vegas and work in a bunch of kitchens in the casinos on the Strip.  I think going to my high school gave me the confidence to actually start this food blog like, almost 6 years ago?!  And luckily, I’ve come a long way since my first post, because *wow* I did not know how blogs worked 😬  I still have memories of having a mental breakdown, because I couldn’t figure out how to make an “About Me” page.  I’m still not quite sure why I couldn’t just have a Tumblr page like every other 16 year old in the early 2010s.

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I haven’t been making cupcakes “professionally” for a while, but of course, I still love to bake, especially now that I’ve gotten more adventurous with my flavor profile.  So when a few weeks ago (well, before Christmas) Molly Yeh posted a recipe for marzipan buttercream, I diiiiiied.  Marzipan buttercream is everything I dream about.  Plus anytime I make anything with almonds, I immediately have the instinct to shove oranges in there somehow.  And (!) since I’m not still in high school, I added orange liqueur, because boozy cupcakes = the best cupcakes.

This recipe is adapted for high altitude, because as I’ve mentioned in the past, for some reason I have to use high-altitude recipes for cakes and nothing else ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  I’ve been celebrating extra hard, because I *finally* figured out how to adapt my fave cupcake recipe to high-altitude almost five years after moving to Reno!!  If you need me, I will be celebrating with extra orange liqueur.


Orange Liqueur Cupcakes + Marzipan Buttercream
Makes about 16 cupcakes

Ingredients

1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder*
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. butter
1 c. sugar*
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. orange liqueur (I used Triple Sec)
1 tsp. orange zest
1/3 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. flavorless oil
3/4 c. whole milk**

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Preheat oven to 375* F***.

Beat the butter and sugar together until thoroughly mixed.  It will likely remain grainy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing completely.  Add the vanilla extract, orange liqueur, and orange zest.  Stir in the buttermilk and oil.

Mix in half of the flour mixture and half of the whole milk.  Repeat with the remaining flour mix and milk, stirring just until combined.

Using a scoop, fill cupcake tins about 3/4 of the way with batter.  Bake, checking for doneness at 15-18 minutes.  Cupcakes are done when an inserted toothpick has a few crumbs stuck to it.

Let cool and frost with Molly Yeh’s marzipan buttercream (1/2 recipe).  Top with sprinkles!!

*use 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder for sea-level
**use 2/3 c. whole milk for sea-level
***bake at 350* F for sea-level


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Misty Morning by Travis Bretzer

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Stockholm + Gothenburg 2017

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When my mom was in high school, my grandparents decided to host a foreign exchange student, and they were paired up with a girl named Malin from Sweden who was just about my mom’s age.  They rode horses and visited Vegas to drive along the Strip; I remember hearing stories about my mom and May while I was growing up even though I never met her.  This past summer, over thirty years after she had lived with my mom and grandparents, I had the opportunity to stay with Malin and meet her fiance and kids!  It ended up being one of my most unforgettable memories from my trip.

In addition to being a nurse, May flies planes for fun.  I didn’t even know that people could do that!  But she does, and she took took me up in the Swedish skies in a vintage plane from the 60s.  We flew from Stockholm to a small island off the coast called Visby where we walked along the beach, found some of the cutest coffeehouses, and then ate lingonberry ice cream.  On the way home, we followed one of the prettiest sunsets I’ve ever seen, and then I got to try Swedish-style cheeseburgers!

May and I spent the rest of our days riding bikes around Stockholm decked out in neon-orange helmets!  We found some amazing coffeehouses, and after a long day of bike-riding, we came across this Thai food-truck where we picked up curry and then picnicked at a nearby park!  I got to experience Stockholm as a local, and it delivered.

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After Stockholm, I took the train over to Gothenburg where I spent my whole day there eating buns and drinking coffee.  Gothenburg is wonderful to just walk around in, taking pictures, and looking at cute local shops.  I also found myself along the coast on my first night there and saw an incredible sunset even though it was probably midnight or something.

The next night, my airbnb host took me to the most stereotypical American-style sports bar I have ever done seen, and we watched golf, drank Swedish beer, and ate artificially-buttered popcorn.  Later at home, we talked over beers at his kitchen table until it was super late, and then I got to regret it during the whole plane ride the next day!  I hated myself at the time but looking back, it makes me smile, and I almost don’t remember the headache!

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Things to do in Stockholm:

  • Rent bikes – Stockholm was one of my favorite places to just stroll around and take pictures, and bikes are definitely the most convenient way of doing so!
  • Vasa Museum – visit the old 17th century ship here and learn all kinds of cool history.  There was a really amazing installment on women of the Vasa, and it was definitely my favorite part.
  • Picnic – Stockholm has some amazing parks, so pick up some sandwiches or Thai food and picnic while watching the sunset!
  • Fabrique – delicious coffee and the best cardamom buns!!
  • Rooftop bars – Stockholm has some amazing rooftop bars for wine-ing and sunset-watching.
  • Visit Visby – oh, you mean you don’t have a pilot-friend to take you to Visby for a day?  Don’t worry, you can take a ferry!
  • Drop Coffee – order the capp and also get a brownie + whipped cream for good measure!

And for a day in Gothenburg:

  • Haga – This street has all kinds of cute shops and places to brunch – I easily spent half a day here.  It’s also really close to other nice areas of town!
  • Walk near the coast – this is especially fun around sunset.  Most of my day in Gothenburg was spent walking around and taking pictures!
  • Bakeries – if you walk around Haga long enough, you will come across some of the best bakeries even on the side of the street!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: All your Love by Jakob Ogawa

Beef + Porter Chili with Cornbread Dumplings

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Over the past week, I had a new, nagging conundrum stuck in my head that kept me awake at night, and that conundrum was how I was going to make chili look sexy.  It’s a real Catch 22 folks, and after a lot of research, Pinteresting, and going through Bon Appetit’s archives, I came to the conclusion that it can’t be done.  However, don’t even worry, because at the very least, chili can be made to look at least presentable, and dare I say, appetizing (?), even if you have to cover it with lots of cheese and cornbread and bright jalapenos.  ALSO, I think that Superbowl may be coming up which means I actually posted a holiday-appropriate recipe before said holiday occurred?!?  *wow*

The original plan was to make this recipe last weekend, but then I unexpectedly came down with this strange, 24-hour flu that kept me in bed all of last Sunday.  I think it worked out though, because not only was my recipe far better developed over the week, but it finally got cold in Reno, and chili was the answer!  The clouds came out and made some perfect lighting for taking photos.  It was so nice.  I wish I could have cloudy days for photo-taking every week.  It didn’t snow all that much in Reno itself, which is kind of a bummer, because I love when the city looks like a snow globe.  But at the very least, it actually kind of feels like winter, and I may even have to wake up a little earlier tomorrow to scrape frost off my car windows!  Imagine that.  The lower temperatures made for some excellent cozying-up weather that forced me to lay on my couch eating pizza and watching Skin Wars most of yesterday and today, so I’d say I had a pretty kick-ass weekend.  Is anyone else here really obsessed with Skin Wars and willing to admit it so that I don’t feel like a garbage person for watching almost an entire season this weekend??  Pls?

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Part of the problem I’ve found with living in colder temperatures is the resistance to want to do anything outside, even if it’s just taking a walk or going to get coffee.  On one hand, I get super stir-crazy and a little frustrated at myself for not being able to achieve the motivation to make it to the grocery store, but on the other hand, it helps me develop some really excellent recipes that actually get made in real life and not just in my head.  This chili felt weird to make, because I always use my mom’s chili recipe, which is so easy and can be made with either ground beef or turkey depending on my mood.  Making a different recipe almost felt like I was cheating, and I just couldn’t get over that I was making chili without tomato sauce in it.  However, when my cousins gave me some of their coarse-ground beef, I knew I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try a new recipe and maybe throw some beer in there for good measure.  So I did.  And it was great.  And there’s dumplings in it!!!


Beef + Porter Chili with Cornbread Dumplings
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

for the dumplings:

1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. stoneground cornmeal
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1/4 c. butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 c. cheddar cheese
1 c. corn

for the chili:

2 Tbs. flavorless oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1 lb. coarse ground beef
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 15.5 oz. can beef broth
1 15.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 12 oz. bottle Porter, or other dark beer
6 oz. tomato paste
1 15.5 oz. can chickpeas
1 15.5 oz. can kidney beans
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
2-3 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
A few turns of black pepper
Salt, to taste

Cheddar cheese, extra jalapenos, scallions, cilantro, sour cream, etc. for topping!

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Add the milk and butter.  Mix in the eggs until just incorporated, and stir in the cheese and corn.  Set aside, and heat the oven to 350* F.

In a large, wide pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and jalapeno, stirring until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the beef, breaking it up with a spoon until no longer pink.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the beef broth, tomatoes, Porter, tomato paste, beans, and all of the spices.  Bring it to a gentle simmer, and remove the chili from the heat.

Using an ice cream scoop, drop the cornbread batter around the top of the chili until there are 6 dumplings (you may have a little bit of leftover batter than can be baked up).  Place the chili in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the cornbread is set.

Ladle the chili and cornbread dumplings into bowls.  Top with cheddar cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, or your other favorite toppings.

*Notes about this recipe*

  • This recipe is best eaten day-of.  Like most dumplings, the cornbread tends to fall apart in the fridge.  I personally like the texture of cornbread mixed in my chili, but if you do not, I recommend baking the cornbread separately in a 8×8 pan at 350*F for about 25 minutes and placing the cornbread on top.
  • I find that coarse-ground beef has a similar texture to stew meat.  If you cannot find coarse-ground beef, I would recommend using stew beef, although regular ground beef would also be delicious.
  • I used 1 Tbs. (3 tsp.) of cumin in my chili.  However, I would start at 2 tsp. and add more as necessary depending on your preferences.
  • If you don’t want to use beer, just use another can of beef broth!

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This chili was made using Sanford Ranch Beef, a ranch in Northern Nevada that raises all-natural, pasture-fed, hormone-free cows!  Their meat is affordable, healthy, high-quality, and I definitely recommend them if you live in Northern-Nevada.  Check them out here or on Facebook!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: For You by SALES

 

Oslo + Bergen 2017

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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.

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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.

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xo Sara Lynn

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

Pistachio Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)

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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!!!

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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.

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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.


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xo Sara Lynn

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

 

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

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

Toronto + Niagara Falls 2017

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I’m taking a short commercial break from posting about my Europe trip so I can talk about my visit to Toronto a couple weeks ago!  I partially doing this because I love the pictures, but mostly because my Canadian friend, Stephen, asks when I’m going to post this at least once or twice a week.  (Here you go, Stephen.  Thanks for being a loyal reader, and A+ for enthusiasm!).

After I got back from London, I had a couple of weeks at home, and then I headed off to Toronto for some classes at the Canadian Barista & Coffee Academy!  I got to talk about coffee for four whole days with all kinds of well-respected roasters, baristas, and coffee shop owners – it was a dream.  Plus, I got to work on some really beautiful espresso machines, and I poured my first successful tulip!  I got so excited that I forgot to take a picture, but here’s a visual: it was symmetrical and had 5 whole layers!

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After my coffee classes were over, I took a few days to explore the Toronto area, and luckily, I had my friend Stephen to show me around.  Stephen and I originally met while we were both studying abroad in London, and he’s been trying to get me to visit ever since.  Suffice to say, he had a long list of places to show me, and I had a long list of coffee shops to visit!

One of my favorite nights involved Thai food and meeting up with Stephen’s friends to visit some of their favorite bars.  After a couple beers, they all decided it was time to give me a real Canadian experience, so we walked to Smoke’s Poutinerie.  I finally got to try poutine, and a group of drunk college kids spent the good portion of the night telling me I look like Bjork (which is just the least true thing I have ever heard in my life).  All in all, it was the best late-night Toronto experience I could ever hope for.

The next morning, we grabbed a coffee and headed to Niagara Falls!  The falls were on my bucket list, and I still can’t stop thinking about how beautiful they were.  After taking approximately a million pictures, Stephen and I went to an amazing Greek restaurant, found a cool brewery, and then he beat me at mini golf.  On our way back to Toronto, we stopped in Niagara-on-the-Lake where, in true fashion, we ended up at a British-style pub and listened to a live band!  It was the perfect last night in Canada.

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Things to do in Toronto & Niagara Falls:

  • Country Style Hungarian Restaurant – I have a newfound love for Hungarian food, which is not easy to find in Reno.  Luckily this place has plenty of good options like paprikash and schnitzel!
  • Put a Cone on It – this is a coffee/ice cream shop in Korea Town that I stopped at every morning before class.  They only have espresso drinks, but they make great cappuccinos.
  • The White Brick Kitchen – a restaurant on Bloor that has really great sandwiches and fries.  It’s also close to some artsy, local shops!
  • Bellwoods Brewery – probably the most beautiful brewery I’ve ever seen.  Apparently, it gets ridiculously busy some nights, but when we went, it was such a lovely place to relax and try local beer.
  • Ramen Isshin – this is an insanely popular ramen joint, but if you’re willing to wait about 20 minutes, it’s definitely worth it.
  • Get Well – a local barcade where I played Mrs. Packman and somehow won a Star Wars game purely by pressing a lot of buttons!
  • Salad King – a restaurant that does not, in fact, serve salad but does serve delicious Thai food.  It also has huge windows with a great view of downtown.
  • Smoke’s Poutinerie – only for the purest of Canadian experiences.
  • Manic Coffee – a recommendation by one of my instructors!
  • Koutouki – a lovely Greek restaurant near Niagara Falls.
  • Niagara Brewing Company – lots of beer choices and live music!  We got a flight, and I think their cream beer had to be my favorite.
  • Boxcar Social – probably my favorite coffeeshop in Toronto, I finally found pour-overs, and the aesthetic was beautiful.

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Im Glad She’s Not my Girlfriend by The Soulboy Collective

Copenhagen 2017

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After Budapest, I headed to London for a few days to see The Lumineers, Stevie Nicks, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (*cries*), and after spending a few days walking around my old favorite spots, I flew over to Copenhagen!  Copenhagen was by far the one place I wish I had spent longer.  I was there for 2 nights, but I could have easily been there for a week, I loved it so much!!  I wouldn’t say Copenhagen has the most fascinating touristy attractions (tbh I skipped most of them), but the food, bars, music scene, and overall culture was just my type.  Plus, if I had more time, I definitely would have checked out some of their art museums, because I’ve heard they’re amazing!

When I got to Copenhagen, my airbnb host gave me a tour of the town and showed me where all of the best restaurants and bars were!  Funny enough, he was an Irishman living in the city (when I asked why he moved to Copenhagen, he claimed he was a “sexual refugee” which still makes me giggle).  The next day, I followed his guide and ended up eating the best schnitzel at one of my favorite restaurants during my whole trip + I was in beer heaven.  Copenhagen is so hip that it’s hard to choose exactly what to do – I was overwhelmed by all the hipstery things I wanted to experience, but luckily I think I got the chance to visit a lot of the best spots.  At one point, I ended up stuck in the rain, and I had Sufjan Stevens stuck in my head, and overall it was a perfect moment.  Next time I’m there, I definitely want to rent a bike and ride all over that damn town and I’m going to make it to the Little Mermaid statue!

On another note, all of this talk of Copenhagen is making me miss Copenhagen, who wants to go with me?!?!?!?!?!

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My most favorite places in Copenhagen:

  • Stroget – the longest pedestrian street in Europe – it’s super touristy and filled with shops, but some of the architecture is cute, and there’s plenty of great places to check out on its side streets!
  • Nyhavn – this is Copenhagen’s harbor and one of my favorite places to walk around and take pictures.  Around here, a lot of the restaurants and bars will be filled with tourists, but it’s one of the best parts of the city to walk through!
  • Paper Island – after walking through Nyhavn, go cross the bridge and walk over to Paper Island where there’s a huge food market filled with food stalls.  I got a beer and hung out with all of the hippest millennials Copenhagen had to offer.  (Plus there’s an amazing view from the outside!)
  • Original Coffee – there is no lack of specialty coffee in Copenhagen, but I especially enjoyed the espresso and aesthetic here.
  • Torvenhallerne – a large food market filled with groceries and stalls to stop and have a pastry, sandwich, or coffee!
  • La Pentanque – a cute French restaurant and crepe place where I had the most delicious dessert crepes!  The owner is friends with my airbnb host, and he was super welcoming and helpful at helping me translate the menu!
  • Tight – by far one of my favorite restaurants on my entire trip.  I had the pork schnitzel with potatoes gratin and ratatouille, and it changed my life.
  • Black Swan Beer Bar – a fun bar with tons of beer options!  My favorite option for a pint.

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Eugene by Sufjan Stevens