Mocha Crinkle Cookie Sandwiches with Hazelnut-Mascarpone Filling

Made with chocolate, coffee, and a hazelnut-mascarpone filling, these mocha crinkle cookie sandwiches are the ultimate Christmas treat.  They have been deemed a “more dank Oreo”, if that’s your thing.

Mocha Crinkle Cookie Sandwiches with Hazelnut-Mascarpone Filling | Serendipity by Sara Lynn Continue reading “Mocha Crinkle Cookie Sandwiches with Hazelnut-Mascarpone Filling”

Caramel + Coconut Nanaimo Bars

Caramel & Coconut Nanaimo Bars

Easy Nanaimo Bars

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”

Salted Caramel Sauce + Brownie Party!

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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?

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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.

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Here’s a guide to throwing your own brownie party!

  1. Start with my homemade 15-minute brownies, because they’re just perfect.
  2. 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!
  3. Lots of toppings is key.  I had animal cookies, pretzels, PB cups, mini M&Ms, chocolate kisses, and Oreos!  Oh, and salted caramel sauce!
  4. 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.
  5. 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).

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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

 

High-Altitude (and Sea-Level) Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

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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.

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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).

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*Adapted from Good Life Eats

cupcakes

Sea-level adjustments: Use 1 Tbs. baking powder, 1 1/4 c. buttermilk, and 1 1/2 c. sugar.  Bake at 350*F for 14-16 minutes.

Cheers to an amazing lady.  I love you Gram!

XO SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: Songbird by Fleetwood Mac

Chocolate Fondue for 2 (or 4 or 6 or…)

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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?

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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!

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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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XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Lust for Life by Girls

Perfect 15-Minute Brownies

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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.

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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!

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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.

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XO SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: Something Good This Way Comes by Jakob Dylan

Girl Scout Samoa Nanaimo Bars

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Hihihihihihihi.

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.

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Me attempting to accomplish Tom Cruise’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” dance in my costume. And failing…

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.

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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.

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Ingredients:

Bottom Layer:

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

Caramel SMB:

3 egg whites

1/2 c. sugar

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened

Pinch salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 c. caramel sauce, homemade or store bought

Top:

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.

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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?

SerendipitybySaraSig

*Song of the Day: Pedestrian at Best–Courtney Barnett