New Years House Party

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2016 is over!!!  Can we all just breathe a sigh of relief, already?  From what I’ve seen & heard, it seems as if 2016 was a difficult year for a lot of us, soooo…solidarity and all that jazz.  While 2016 was pretty rough, I’m so excited for everything that will happen this year!  Some things to look forward to:

  • Spring Break trip!!!
  • Graduation!!!
  • Europe!!!
  • New career (???)
  • Probably tons of things I don’t even realize are going to happen yet!

Seriously, 2017 should be pretty amazing!  Although I realize not all of my problems will be thrown out with my 2016 calendar, it does at least feel like an opportunity to take control and make this year much better than the last.  I’m especially looking forward to improving my mental health and taking some risks in my life!  I definitely don’t always choose the riskier option, but I’m hoping to step out of my comfort zone and see where it takes me.

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I’m also beyond grateful for all of the positive people and events that helped make my year brighter: my new job, friends & family, therapy, continuously learning, and some self-love helped me through my difficult moments and made me stronger!  Mental health illness can be a bitch, but I feel so very lucky to have a strong support system!

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I will be spending this New Years with some close friends eating good food (of course), and venturing the downtown crowds for the 2017 count down!  Since New Years is always for celebrating, I put on one of my favorite 1920s-inspired party dresses, shook last-night’s curls out of my hair, and threw on some red lipstick.  Every time I wear this dress, my situation goes something along these lines:

Stranger: “I love your costume!”

Me *on the outside*: “Thank you so much!”

Me *on the inside*: “Actually I just dress like this all the time!”

It’s always a good laugh between me and my friends, but I love when people notice my unique outfits!  Talking about vintage, thrifted fashion is one of my favorite things to do (;

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Dress/Shoes/Purse: Thrifted  Tights: Target  Necklace: Family Heirloom

I hope your night is filled with messy hair, cheap champagne, and some wonderful people!  Have a beautiful 2017 filled with love and adventure!

And as for you, 2016, tonight I’m dancing on your grave.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: What Are You Doing New Years Eve? by Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Spice Cupcakes with Penuche Frosting

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Merry merry merry merry merry merry Christmas!  Yesterday, I spent the entire day making Christmas treats with my mom.  This year we made my grandma’s butter cookies with walnuts, snickerdoodles, nut caramels, sugar cookies, and I also made a new recipe I’ll be posting about soon!  After all the baking commenced, we went to look at a huge Christmas light display held in Reno every year, and then we grabbed beers and burgers  for good measure.  It was the perfect way to celebrate my day off after my last final exam!

Although I will not be active over the next couple of days due to Christmas, I wanted to post one last recipe if you’re looking for yet another thing to bake for neighbors and friends (:  Around the holidays, I get a little cookied out (okay, sugared out in general), but every once in a while, I want to grab a piece of bread or pudding or something instead of another cookie.  This year, I decided to make spice cake with my grandma’s penuche frosting.  If you’ve never had penuche frosting before, 1. Um, why?, and 2. It’s this amazing, brown-sugar, caramely flavored frosting you make in 5 minutes on your stovetop.  It’s a frosting I never remember to make enough, and when I do, I’m transported back into family dinners as a little kid, eating this frosting but not knowing quite what it was.  And now I present it to you as I share some of my family nostalgia!

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As I’ve shared in the past, Reno is higher-altitude, so I made my high-altitude cake recipe, but I also have adjustments to make it at sea-level.  I like to use a different combination of spices each time in my cake, depending on what I have in my pantry at the time, but cinnamon always makes an appearance, because, well cinnamon.  Feel free to add spices if you like reeeally spicy cake, or cut back if spices aren’t your thing.  I love adding ginger, but you could always add a few grinds of black pepper and some cardamom for a chai-spiced cake, or you could add a little cayenne if you’re really feeling really crazy*.  Do what feels right.

*Clearly, my idea of getting crazy is disappointing, but if you add a little whiskey or wine to your holiday-baking spree, I’d be supes proud.

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P.S. This recipe is not exclusive to Christmas – it’s good year-round, especially in the fall!  I just posted it at Christmas, because I’m missing my grandparents (:  One of my favorite memories is making lefse with my grandma around the holidays for our traditional Norwegian dinner on Christmas Eve!  This year, I didn’t get around to making any, so if you’re a fellow Norwegian (Norski?  Norwegianite?) and have some laying around, send it my way!

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Must Be Santa by She & Him

Goodbye Autumn

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I feel like time is going so.damn.fast.  Like, when did it become winter, exactly?  Also, it’s December 22, so hasn’t it already been winter for a long time?  Honestly, when it comes to fall semester, I have no idea what’s going on outside of my classes, and I usually regret not taking advantage of the beautiful Reno fall weather!  Fall in Reno is perfect, temperate, gorgeous leaves and colors, plenty of time for leaf-crunching with a cappuccino in my gloved hands.  Luckily, the weather hasn’t been too cold around Reno quite yet, so I think I may get to enjoy some of those same perks, but instead it’ll be slightly drizzly and foggy instead.  And, I’m on winter break so I actually have free time (?!?!?!?!?!)

Plus, let’s not forget that I did get to enjoy some of the beautiful weather when I went to Apple Hill and proceeded to make homemade apple cider.  Still.  Can time slow down just a liiiiittle please?

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A couple weeks ago, my brother agreed to take some senior photos for me, and of course, I wanted to take advantage of the last fall leaves, so we headed over to the arboretum at a local park and got to work.  A lot of the leaves were gone, but those golden oranges and reds were still hanging around and I was in utter leaf bliss.  I decided to keep my look simple with a classic black long sleeve, my new high-waisted Lucky’s, and my trusty smoking slippers.  Also, I wore this beautiful lipstick my brother’s girlfriend bought me as a gift.  It’s called Bumble from ColourPop, and lemme tell you all, I’m having major heart eyes over this brand – the lipstick doesn’t come off when I eat or drink!  I’m in looooove.

Also, do any other tiny girls have a problem where jeans always have to be cuffed no matter what?  I’m an avid Lucky Brand buyer – their jeans just look the best on me, I love the quality, the styles, and all that jazz.  But they’re always too long!  To be fair, all jeans are, and I know I just need to take them to a tailor or pull out my sewing machine and do it myself, but my sewing skill aren’t thaaaaat great, so…..  Anyways, forever rocking that cuffed jean life, ya know?  Do you think I’ll be lol-ing at these senior pictures in 10 or 20 years?  Probably.  But right now, I think they came out gorgeously!  That lighting is perfection.

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One last final thought – is it too late to make pumpkin bread?  I never got a pumpkin bread fix, but I don’t want to be that rando that posts a pumpkin bread recipe in December (or more likely January).  I don’t necessarily know why I’m turning this into a debacle in the first place considering I almost always post holiday recipes the day of if not a few days late anyways.  HOWEVER!  I do plan on having a holiday goodie to you ASAP!  Probably Friday (;

But if you need a few ideas for the time being:

Just to name a few…I didn’t realize how many holiday recipes I had on the blog until I started typing them in!  Not to worry.  If you want more ideas, I have a ton on my Desserts page.

Also!  Here’s a link to my Old Fashioned recipe.  It’s not necessarily a holiday recipe, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need it.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: That Moon Song by Gregory Alan Isakov (also, a great album for relaxing while baking, unless you’re baking for Christmas, and then classic Christmas tunes are absolutely necessary).

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

 

Homemade Apple Cider

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Apparently at the tender age of 21, I have succumbed to the eternal tiredness accompanied with socializing until midnight and drinking 1 glass of sangria + a single gin and tonic.  This past weekend consisted of both of those events at a Friendsgiving celebration, where a few friends and I enjoyed a hodgepodge of family recipes along with a distracted game of Cards Against Humanity and a slew of various spirit glasses.  While Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, I’m starting to realize the value of a successful Friendsgiving, which in my experience is pretty similar to regular Thanksgiving without the pressure of telling your great-aunt and four second-cousins your life plans post-college, and also, you typically don’t have to talk about the disappointing political climate (except not always, but that can be solved with a simple “Sangria anyone?!”.  I know how to please the crowd).

Typical to Sara Lynn antics, I provided the aforementioned sangria and a pumpkin pie with whipped cream, which after a few hours, turned into a weapon of mass destruction as it was flung throughout the kitchen, into hair, and onto faces while I ducked under the breakfast bar with my wine glass.  Once whipped cream starts flinging, this chick is out.  However, the pumpkin pie was amazing and enjoyed for breakfast before work the next day.  As for the sangria, a twist on the classic using apple cider for a autumnal flavor, it needs to be worked on slightly.  It was delicious, but it also reminded me of bubblegum which just isn’t really my style.  Don’t worry…I’ll keep working on it for winter holidays.

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After a weekend of socializing with friends and working, I came down with a bad chest cold that I can just tell is brewing into something horrid.  Luckily, I got my ass into the doctor ASAP, and hopefully the antibiotics they provided will knock this thing out before it even develops, because again, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!  I want to enjoy my family time even if it does make me evaluate my life plans and strive to keep my mouth zipped when certain President-elects are brought up.  Also, I have a ton of pie dough to make before Wednesday, and this hacking out my lungs thing is making me want to do nothing but pass out in my bed with a heating pad suctioned to my chest.  Yes, I like to feel sorry for myself, but I did work today and take a test and do a presentation, so I feel like I deserve a little credit here.  I’d probably whine a little more, but I am hugging some warm apple cider and watching Full House reruns, so it can’t be all bad, right?

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And that leads to the apple cider.  As I mentioned before, my parents just moved here and have an abundance of apple trees on their property which equates to me having fresh apples in my house constantly.  Pros: beautiful, freshly picked apples all the time!!!  Cons: I will never be able to eat another apple pie with store-bought apples again.  How come homemade apples are so much sweeter and flavorful?  Anyways, I found myself with pounds on pounds of fresh apples, and that is how this apple cider recipe came to fruition.

Now, you can make this apple cider recipe on the stove which will take a couple of hours.  I chose to prepare it in a slow cooker so I could pop it on before class and come home to a cinnamony-appley-smelling goodness when I came home.  Either way, this recipe is fool-proof and will taste absolutely delicious.

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*If you are using orchard apples, you may notice that the cores look a little funky every once in a while – yay organic!!  I chose to cut these parts off, but if the cores look okay, don’t worry about removing them.  You can even leave the seeds in – they’ll all get strained out in the end.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine

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

 

 

 

 

Beef & Veggie Pot Pie

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Happy Election Day!  If you’re like me, you’re probably very nervous about the results of the presidential election, and you’re trying to decide if you should start packing your bags so you can get your ass to Canada.  My personal remedy is to drink lots of coffee and wine and try to stay positive.  Either way, I hope that you exercised your right to vote regardless of your political affiliation!  Today is a day to feel lucky that you have a right to *choose*, not a day to hurt others based on their beliefs.  However, I’m not here to talk about politics today or ever really, pls pls pls don’t bring it up like every confrontational person that walks into the coffee shop I work at. *eyeroll* Can you tell I’ve been dealing with this for a few months?  I’m here to talk about beef & veggie pot pie, which good news (!), has wine in it!!!  Plus, it takes a few hours to cook, so it’ll keep your mind off of the election (although, it is a really easy recipe and only takes a little bit of prep – it’s mostly cooking away quietly on the stove while you engage in other activities).

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve partnered with Sanford Ranch Beef to bring you all kinds of delicious recipes to make with your box of beef!  If you’re in the Reno area, give them a call!  Their beef is way more affordable than at the grocery, and you’ll be supporting a local family business!  I can guarantee this, because well, I’m related to the owners.

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img_2227 img_2196For this recipe, you’re going to start with some typical winter veggies and a durable cut of steak.  You can add or subtract veggies if you want, but I’d say the mirepoix components are necessary – that’s the carrots, celery, and onions.  The recipe calls for 1 onion, but because mine were teeny tiny and cute, I used 2.

Essentially, you’ll add these ingredients with some wine, stock, and herbs and cook the hell out of it, because durable steak cuts require lots of cooking time in order to become tender.  After, you’ll plop some pastry on top, bake it for a bit, and it’ll be ready to go!  It’s super easy, but also very flavorful and impressive for company.  I like to serve it with a simple green salad and pie for dessert!

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Daylight savings ending means bad pictures 😦

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Happy fall and happy voting ♥

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Light House by Future Islands