Hello from beautiful Oregon! I’m here for the next few days road tripping through the state, and I have big plans of drinking lots of beer + coffee and buying all the cheese at Face Rock Creamery! Yesterday, we went fishing on the Umpqua River, and I caught 20 fish! I even stuck my thumb into a few of their mouths, because apparently this stiffens them up and keeps them from flopping everywhere. I wasn’t totally down with this method of fish-holding, or any method for that matter, but I did it for the ‘gram. The Umpqua River might be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, so for most of the journey, I sat back on the boat and admired the view. I saw at least a dozen giant birds, including some bald eagles which you can recognize because they have white butts.
Today, I head over to the coast, and apparently there will be wine tasting involved! I’m also in desperate search for some good coffee, because being in the middle of nowhere Oregon = little to no coffee options, and I’m dying of caffeine headaches. On the other hand, I found a legit drive-up ice cream spot today, which I honestly didn’t even know existed anymore, and they had cherry-dipped cones (a.k.a. the way to my heart). I vote that Reno gets an ice cream drive-up that specializes purely in cherry-dipped cones. I will invest actual money into this enterprise. Continue reading “Caramel + Coconut Nanaimo Bars”→
Over the weekend, I came to the conclusion that I have a brownie problem. I think that brownies have the potential to be super delicious or super not delicious, but I seem to never turn them down either way, so who am I to judge? It’s just really hard to avoid making brownies, when my recipe tastes like damn fudge and only takes 15 minutes to mix together. I think the brownies themselves are really inhibiting my creativity and motivation to try new goodies on the weekend, because why try a recipe that miiiight be good when I know my brownies will turn out flawless regardless? Also, I have a list of recipes to try, and I just get overly excited about all of them that it turns into overwhelming anxiety about all the things I want to try in the world. Someone please tell me this also happens to them?
Anyways, the whole reason for the brownies is that I decided this past weekend was Galentine’s weekend which means I had my friends over to eat mac n cheese, drink rosé, and of course, have a brownie party! However, since I’m currently a single lady, this week will also be spent celebrating Galentine’s, because yay for lady love! The Galentine’s party consisted of lots of food plus spending a solid 2+ hours talking about uteruses and weird men we meet at bars, so it was a fairly solid girls’ night if you ask me. Also! I made homemade caramel sauce for the first time in forever, and it didn’t even take me a million tries to get it right! The Galentine’s goddess was looking down on me, and I’ve been blessed.
Here’s a guide to throwing your own brownie party!
Make a few yummy fillings! I had chocolate pudding and whipped cream. You don’t need a ton of fillings, because it’s really all about the toppings!
Lots of toppings is key. I had animal cookies, pretzels, PB cups, mini M&Ms, chocolate kisses, and Oreos! Oh, and salted caramel sauce!
Have some cute little cups for assembly. I used my candlewick teacups and other glass mugs I had laying around the house, but you can use anything.
Have everything prepared before people come over, so you can just put everything on the table when it’s dessert time. Otherwise, you’ll be placing pudding in bowls when you could be talking about uteruses and dumb men (aka the important stuff).
Have a beautiful day celebrating love. Happy Valentine’s Day!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the Day: I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song by Jim Croce
I’ve spent the last couple of days not even realizing that it’s September. Mentally, I have been completely checked out, which has been rudely unhelpful considering I just started my senior year of college this past Monday. The most surprising aspect of this scenario is that a mere 2 1/2ish months ago, I was in complete denial that I was almost done with the college portion of my life. Where did the time go?! Wasn’t I supposed to cherish this more? Get more involved? How are my 20s going this fast? SOS.
However, the closer I get to graduation, the more I realize the wonderful things ahead of me. Traveling around Europe. Getting a dog. Interviewing for my first big girl job. Getting said big girl job. Buying my first house. Opening up my coffee shop. Hopefully eventually getting married, which I’ve heard can sometimes be fun. Putting things into those perspectives can be really enlightening, especially when they’re looked at from a broad, futuristic viewpoint. It’s not that I necessarily expect every single one of those things to happen (or at least when I expect them to), but I love having future accomplishments or events to look forward to. Because, as far as I’m concerned, every Millennials’ goal should be to plan, plan, plan – but also, be flexible. Plan that trip to Thailand! Take that class on how to make perfect bread! Finish writing all those songs you’ve been stumbling over for months! And yes, while these are things that I would like to do, everyone should have their own goals, and hopefully with time, everything uncontrollable will fall into place.
And if I am totally wrong about all of this, please do not tell me, because I like to be unrealistic idealistic.
If I have not yet mentioned this a thousand times in the past, baking is one of many outlets I use to help relieve stress when I’m in the midst of school and work busyness. Along with playing instruments, I’m usually baking if I have a day off on the weekend. Sometimes, I tackle more difficult or time consuming projects like cinnamon rolls or strawberry galettes with homemade crust, but other times, I like to stick to something that can be made super easily! Usually in those times, I make my favorite 15 minute brownie recipe or chocolate chip cookies.
Chocolate chip cookies are one of my favorites, which is pretty much a given, because they’re essentially everyones’ favorite. Since they’re everyones’ favorite, everyone also has their favorite recipe. If you scour the internet, it’s filled to the brim with a million “Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever” recipes. That market is saturated, folks. However, this recipe is one that I have adapted from the original Nestle Tollhouse recipe, and I think it’s absolutely perfect. If you watch Friends, you know what I mean.
As for the butterscotch chips, I’m not sure when I really became obsessed. I don’t know that I’ve necessarily had anything that was true “butterscotch” flavor, but one time I had some butterscotch chip cookies, and I thought they were amazing. With that said, I always love classic chocolate chip cookies the best. Sometimes, I just want a little bit more fun, and that’s when butterscotch gets added to the mix (literally). As for my recipe, I have made slight adjustments that fit with my taste preferences over the years , but you can use the original Nestle recipe if you prefer. You can also use all chocolate chips in my adjusted recipe if you like that better than butterscotch!
*Recipe Notes: 1. I live at a higher altitude, so I use 2 1/2 c. of flour to stabilize the cookie dough a little more. If you live at sea-level, you can use 2 1/4 c. like the original recipe, or you can use 2 1/2 for a little bit of a thicker, chewier cookie. The rest of the ingredients will work at both sea-level and high-altitude. 2. I add the cornstarch, which makes the cookies a little bit softer, but it is not necessary if you do not have it at home.
My life of late has been one big mess of a situation, and normally when that happens, I like to revert to simplicity rather than complicate things with multiple different factors. Aside from a number of other difficult life events happening, last week I lost my grandmother unexpectedly. Don’t worry though, this isn’t going to be a gloomy post :). While of course I am incredibly sad, I also have some amazing memories of my grandma, growing up visiting her ranch out in Washoe, Nevada and riding horses. My grandma loved Native American history and traveled around Nevada for archaeological digs. She had a huge passion for animals, particularly horses and dogs, and she loved making large, comforting meals for the family – and the dogs. True story. One time, my aunt had a friend over, and when she learned that the 2 roasted chickens resting peacefully on the counter were for the dogs, she may have lost her faith in humanity.
However, that was my grandma. She was quiet, but she always made me laugh with her simple, non-obvious sense of humor. Before we went shopping one day, we were walking out the door, and she raised her fist in the air and said with passionate spirit, “Let’s go kill something!”. She could go to Sephora and spend $400 on just eyeshadow and nail polish. She loved going to restaurants and talking to me about my plans for my education and travel. She taught me to never take no for an answer.
And yellow cake with chocolate buttercream was her favorite cake. She passed that on to the whole Hunt family, and aside from a special recipe for chocolate cake, this was always a family favorite that I associated with my grandma.
Going back to simplicity, I think yellow cake with chocolate frosting is one of those classic recipes that everybody has some kind of connection with. I love when food has a story behind it, and I definitely can think of happy memories behind this recipe.
Since moving to Reno, I have not been able to make a normal cake without it sinking and turning crusty. I can make any other type of baked good, and it comes out beautifully, but cake does not come out ever. I have since resorted to using high-altitude cake recipes, which at first I was sad about, because I have a perfect sea-level cake recipe, but luckily, I was able to find an amazing high-altitude cake recipe that I have tweaked to my liking. It’s super easy, delicious, simple, and adaptable. (But no worries! If you live at sea-level, I have those adjustments for you also).
For my boyfriend’s birthday, I promised I would make him dinner, because in all reality, I am much better at making food than I am trying to figure out what to buy people. When I get a good gift idea in my head, I can’t be stopped, but when I cannot think of an amazing gift, dinner and dessert happens instead. Not that dinner and dessert isn’t a good gift (because it’s one of my personal favorites), but it’s also fun to hand an SO something wrapped in a big bow. But back to the boyfriend b-day dinner!…Long story short, the guy’s birthday was in late March and I just got around to making the dinner about a week ago. Aaaaaand the best girlfriend award goes to…not me. At least not in the timeliness category. However, I think I made up for it plenty with chicken pot pie and chocolate fondue! You can’t be sad with chocolate fondue, right? RIGHT?
How you choose to fondue is up to you (I’m having too much fun with the rhyming, someone stop me), but the bf and I enjoyed it sitting on the floor at my coffee table while watching Lady and the Tramp (his choice, not mine! Ugh <3). I’m not going to tell you that doing it any other way is wrong, but this is probably the right one. Lady and the Tramp included.
Now a quick story about the chocolate fondue: The reason you see the fondue itself in a ramekin stuffed in a fondue pot is simple…When you are making chocolate fondue for 2, there is not enough volume for a large fondue pot which leads to the chocolate seizing, burning, and thickening. Now, if you want to spend your dipping time adjusting temperature, stirring, and adding more cream, I promise you’ll still have fun, because that’s what my boyfriend and I had to do. However, if you want to make your life easier, I have found that placing the chocolate fondue in a ramekin surrounded by water in the in a hot fondue pot leads to a smoother, less fussy product. Wah-lah! If you are making this recipe for 4 or more people, no need to worry about it! There should be enough volume to cause no problems. Also, if you do not have a fondue pot, you can easily make this in a heat proof bowl and just heat it back up in the micro as necessary!
I served my fondue with strawberries and homemade almond pound cake, but you can do marshmallows, pretzels, donuts, oranges, grapes, pineapple, potato chips, or whatever fun thing you have laying around your house. However, I cannot recommend almond pound cake enough!
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The more I blog about food, the more I realize the virtue in simplicity. When I first started blogging about food, I tried to be “out there” and “different” with my recipes, which sometimes worked in my favor and sometimes didn’t. Over the years, I have come to realize that food is better when the natural flavors are vividly present. Food photography is far more attractive when there’s not 20 props in the shot. Seeing food in a more natural state is so much more appealing than when it’s edited to oblivion and covered with cutesy clip-art images.
That is not to say that I don’t like to try crazy recipes or eat foods with more complex flavors. The best part about food is that it is so versatile and that options are limitless. However, food is also better when it complements each other, not just when a bunch of delicious foods are thrown together. I like pizza and ice cream, but does that mean I want pizza ice cream? (The answer is no if you haven’t guessed already).
The whole point of ramble is that food is amazing and can definitely be an outlet for creativity; but that doesn’t mean that it has to be insanely complex. Sometimes, I just want a regular brownie. Not a cheesecake brownie. Not an orange-and-thyme-infused brownie (not a real thing, but it could be). Just a brownie.
When you are in the mood for Just a Brownie, this is the go-to recipe. Please don’t go to the store and buy a boxed mix, because odds are, you already have brownie ingredients in your home, and these are so much better. They also only take 15 minutes to put together (I timed it). After the batter is made, all you have to do is wash the 3 dishes the recipe requires and watch an episode of Seinfeld, and the brownies are already done!
Your mission this weekend, should you choose to accept it, is to make these brownies. Brownies are the perfect Sunday project without a huge time commitment (did I already mention that they only take 15 minutes to mix together), and they come out tasting pretty much like fudge mixed with cake. I’d highly recommend serving them with ice cream, but that’s just one girl’s opinion on the matter…
Also, I threw some walnuts and hazelnuts on top of mine, because I’m a professional, but you definitely don’t have to.
*Song of the Day: Something Good This Way Comes by Jakob Dylan
I’ve decided to start off the official twelve days of Christmas by posting a holiday recipe every day until the 25th! Cookies, candies, and other foods that are bad for you (but it’s okay because it’s the holidays). The recipes will be some old, some new, but all worthy of your holiday baking list.
These cookies are perfect for the holidays, because the recipe makes a lot, everyone likes them, and you can decorate them with holiday sprinkles. They take a little extra time than most cookies, but it’s worth it, I promise!
This is my grandma’s recipe that I bake entirely too much (although, I don’t really see anyone complaining about it). It’s been one of my favorite desserts since I was really little. If you’re indecisive about holiday baking, just trust me on this: make these cookies.
This is one of my family’s favorite holiday recipes! The caramel is super easy to make, and it’s customizable, because you can just add in whatever nuts you have on hand (although I highly recommend walnuts and hazelnuts). Wrap them in mini Christmas cupcake liners, because it’s cute.
This bread is a nice break from all the super sweet that comes with cookies and candy during the holidays. Filled with zucchini, walnuts, and pineapple, it’s perfect with a little butter and some coffee for breakfast!
Unique, spicy, and the hardest part of the recipe is boiling the water. Wrap as a gift, and give your friends a break from peppermint chocolate bark. Or just keep it for yourself (trust me, you’ll want to)!
Effortless, buttery icebox cookies filled with walnuts that melt when you eat them. Keep them simple with vanilla, or add extra flavors to get more creative with your holiday baking. This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so you have plenty to wrap up and gift!
My family’s Christmas tradition every year! Lefse is a cross between a tortilla and a crepe, made out of potatoes. I look forward to making lefse every year, because it’s fun and of course, it tastes amazing! If you’ve ever wanted to make Nordic food, this is the best place to start.
You can ask anyone in my family about my hot chocolate preferences, and they will tell you that I am a hot chocolate snob. No really, that’s a thing, and I am part of the demographic. When I was really little, my dad would make me hot chocolate every night with Ovaltine. If it was too hot outside, he would make me chocolate milk. I called it “brown milk” and I specifically remember asking for it while my parents read me my books. So naturally, the first time I had the packet-mixed-with-water type of hot chocolate, I was sorely underwhelmed. As a kid, I hated it, and I hate it now. I don’t even want flavored hot chocolates-peppermint, orange zest, and cayenne pepper have no right. I’ll just take my regular hot chocolate made with milk and Ovaltine or some type of pretentious homemade chocolate syrup, thank you very much.
Until now….Because in case we haven’t yet discussed my obsession with coffee or how I want to own my own cafe someday (we have), I have quite the love affair with all things coffee. And like my hot chocolate, I don’t want extra added flavors-I want pure, good quality, black coffee, maybe with a little cream and sugar when I have a craving.
I was fairly skeptical at the idea of mixing together my beloved espresso with hot chocolate. While I do appreciate a good mocha every once in a while, it’s not usually my cup of tea coffee, and I wasn’t really looking to make a mocha here. What I really wanted was a creamy hot chocolate with intense cocoa flavor. Borrowing the idea that sometimes coffee is added to chocolate cake recipes to enhance the cocoa flavor, I decided adding a little espresso to my hot chocolate might to do the same thing.
I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I will reiterate that this is not a mocha. The espresso is definitely noticeable, but its main function is to complement the cocoa flavor. I added some vanilla whipped cream to the top, which melts with the heat, and creates this cool layer on top that mixes in with the hot chocolate, and overall, it was probably my favorite part. Honestly, I was worried that with only five ingredients, it would be bland, but it was anything but.
Merry Christmas Eve to you and your family! Make this hot chocolate when you’re opening presents or having dessert tonight, or even for breakfast tomorrow. It’s the perfect mix of your favorite childhood drink and your favorite (morning) adult drink, so it will be sure to make everyone happy!
*Song of the Day: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Frank Sinatra
Raise your hand if it’s only December 5, and you’re already tired of peppermint chocolate bark.
As much as I love December and all the food that comes with it, I get bored of the peppermint chocolate bark you inevitably get offered 1,000 times between Christmas parties, work, and everywhere else ever. Chocolate + crunchy crushed peppermints is tired, but luckily, rocky road isn’t.
The best part of this recipe is that you don’t necessarily have to measure the ingredients, so you can kind of just throw everything down on a piece of foil or waxed paper and walk away for a little while. If holiday baking is not your thing, this is the best way to contribute.
Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like nothing goes right?
And then you realize that literally everything you’re sad about is just a bunch of first-world problems, and nothing is actually wrong and you’re just being a princess about everything…?
Because I had that kind of day on Friday.
First, I woke up really early (at like, 6 a.m. On my day only day off…) and could literally hear my next door neighbor’s TV. Please note: I live in a house. Not an apartment. Not a condo. A house. And I could hear their TV. Because only at 6 a.m. do I have superpower hearing. After laying in bed staring at the wall for a few hours, I got up and *attempted* to do my hair and makeup, but no matter what I did, I looked like a hot mess. After about 1 1/2 hours, I finally was able to make myself look how I do every single day. It just took twice as long.. I finally decided that I would grab lunch and watch movies. But then I dropped my lunch on the ground 1 bite in (and ate it anyways because at that point, I had no limits). I also couldn’t find half of my Disney movies. So to solve that problem, I had a meltdown.
I am almost 20 years old and I cried over not being able to find my Disney movies.
Eventually, I decided to go grab a coffee, talked to a cute barista, and ended up at an 80’s party wearing a Risky Business costume.
The day ended up pretty great, and I realized that I just needed to take a deep breath, and understand that my problems were really not that bad.
Because they weren’t.
But they were kind of funny and now you can mock me a little.
Plus, I had these sitting in my fridge, so how bad could my day really be?
Since I know most of you are probably thinking, “What’s a nanaimo bar”, here’s a brief history:
The Nanaimo bar was invented in none other than Nanaimo, Canada. That’s about all I know. The actual dessert is made up of 3 layers. The first is a no-bake crust made with chocolate, nuts, coconut, and graham crumbs. The second layer is traditionally a custard buttercream, and it’s topped with chocolate.
But since it’s Girl Scout Cookie season (because obviously that’s a season), I decided to make them using Somoa cookies. Which already have chocolate, coconut, and a graham-like texture.
Plus caramel which is never a bad thing.
As previously stated, traditional nanaimo bars have a custard buttercream filling. Which is really good, but really rich, and really sweet. To make it a little less dense, I decided to make a swiss meringue buttercream filling. And add caramel to enhance the Somoa theme.
Result = something you need to make now.
Note: Please don’t be scared. 3 layers sounds like a lot. Swiss meringue buttercream sounds intimidating. SO NOT. These are very easy and don’t require that much time. Be brave, bakers.
1/2 c. unsalted butter
3 Tbs. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 c. Samoa cookie crumbs, crushed + 1/2 c. chopped roughly for garnish
1/2 c. almonds, chopped
1 c. sweetened coconut
3 egg whites
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. caramel sauce, homemade or store bought
4 oz. baking chocolate
1 Tbs. butter
For the bottom layer, melt the butter, sugar, and cocoa on the stove over medium heat. When it’s combined, mix 1/4 cup of the mixture into the egg to temper. Add egg mixture back to the chocolate mixture and stir over the heat until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in Samoa crumbs, almonds, and coconut. Press into a greased 8×8 or 8×11 baking pan. Freeze for 20-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1-2 inches of water in a medium sized sauce pan on the stove until it starts to simmer. In a heat-proof mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Place mixing bowl on top of the sauce pan and stir the mixture until a candy thermometer reads 140-150* F. Remove from heat, and whip egg mixture until stiff peaks form and mixture is cooled. Add butter, 1-2 Tbs. at a time until frosting forms. If it appears curdled, keep beating until it forms, or add butter 1-2 Tbs. at a time until the texture is creamy and smooth. Add vanilla extract, salt, and caramel sauce. Pour mixture and spread evenly over the crust layer. Refrigerate until buttercream is firm.
While the buttercream firms, heat the chocolate and butter over low heat until melted. Spread chocolate evenly over firm buttercream layer. Sprinkle chopped cookies over the top, and refrigerate until chocolate is hardened. Cut into bars, or bite sized pieces. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Makes 16 large bars or 64 bite sized pieces.
I hope you all had a wonderful Sunday. I laid in bed until 11, went to my favorite coffee place, and watched Friends for hours.
What did you do?
*Song of the Day: Pedestrian at Best–Courtney Barnett