Sparkling Strawberry Bourbon Lemonade

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Ok, I know it’s been 10 days since July started, but happy July!!!  Did everyone have a great Fourth?  I spent mine getting fried to a lobster-y red crisp while floating the Truckee River on a donut tube, and it was *worth it*.  Everyone was out, and it was like a giant Fourth of July party!  The water wasn’t even that cold, and I became friends with a guy dressed like Jack Sparrow.  I christened him Pirate Steve, and then he gave us a bunch of PBRs that were kept cold by the melted ice water that is the Truckee River.  Pirate Steve was the ~homie~.  We kept scraping our backs and booties on the rocks, since the river was fairly low, but if you don’t have battle scars, did you even float the Truckee?

After floating for a few hours, we doused our sunburned bodies in all the lotion we could find in the house, and then we went out for some beers at a local biergarten!  We ate lots of chicken wings and watched some fireworks and stayed out well past my bedtime.  The next two days at work, I wanted to absolutely die from exhaustion and mid-week, post-holiday laziness.  However, I made up for it this past weekend, because I helped move the boyfriend into his new apartment, and there was no parking in front of his house which meant we were carrying boxes down two blocks and up two flights of stairs in 90-something degree weather.  It was ok though, because I think I got, as the kids would say, swoll, and then we celebrated with pizza and beer!

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Now let’s talk about the perfection that is sparkling strawberry bourbon lemonade!  When I was in Vegas, I met the bf’s family, and they made this huge, amazing dinner.  His cousin is apparently a cocktail-aficionado, and he threw together a huge pitcher of bourbon lemonade that almost made me die.  It was so good.  I basically took the same idea for this recipe, and then added strawberries, because everything is better with tons of strawberries added to it.  It’s perfect for summer BBQs and summer drinking, because it doesn’t taste toooo heavy and boozy, but it gets the job done.  The hardest part is pureeing the strawberries, which I’m confident you can handle.

We took this in a big punch bowl to a Third of July BBQ.  Third of July BBQs are when you want to have a Fourth of July BBQ but you work the next day, so you celebrate the day before instead.  Or, in my case, you make bad decisions and celebrate both nights and don’t recover until Sunday night.  Whatever.  I digress.  This lemonade rocked.  Everyone who tried it loved it.  Make it.  Double it.  Put it in a huge bowl, and let people ladle it out and party their faces off.  The end!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Little Dark Age by MGMT

Coffee Toddy

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Hello from stormy Seattle where I’m spending the next few days doing all kinds of fun things like working a coffee trade show (!!!) and researching the best whiskey cocktail in the city.  The next few days will be absolutely crazy for me, because I get to see all the insane coffee companies I stalk  follow on Instagram and meet some really amazing people making strides in the industry!  I’m going to drink twenty shots of espresso a day and then die by way of over-caffeination.  After that’s over, I’m going to head over to the Upers and Downers section where they keep the booze, and I’m going to schmooze and pass out my business cards to anyone who will take them at the after parties!  My first day back to work on Tuesday will be rough af, but that’s what sleeping on the plane is for right?

In other news, I think Seattle is the most wonderful place.  It’s rainy in that romantic way where I just want to carry a really expensive umbrella and hail taxis all day.  One of my favorite scenarios is when a bunch of lights reflect across the rainy ground, and the roads look like a van Gogh painting.  I think Seattle in itself might have been dreamt up by van Gogh.  Should I start a conspiracy theory about this??

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For Christmas this past year, I got a jar of Coffee Blossom Honey from work, and for someone who has never liked honey, I’m actually a huge fan.  The company works directly with farms to source raw coffee-flower honey from micro-lots to promote sustainability and transparency.  Basically, the idea is that bees = pollenation, pollenation = more healthy coffee trees, healthy coffee trees = more coffee for us!  I was trying to figure out something to do with it in relation to coffee, and then I thought of how toddies use tea, and I think you know where this is going.

(P.S. not a sponsored post, just really stoked on this honey).

Coffee toddies are for people who like the idea of drinking cocktails during Sunday brunch but also need black coffee in the morning.  If you are someone that guffaws at anyone who orders cold brew or an iced latte in the morning, this is for you.  If the idea of drinking vodka prior to espresso makes you want to die, coffee toddies are for you.  If you just like the idea of coffee + alcohol, this drink is for you!!  A coffee toddy essentially combines all of my loves, namely coffee + whiskey.  I chose to add grapefruit juice rather than lemon juice, because I like how the flavor of grapefruit combines with coffee.  However, any citrus would taste great; next time, I’m going to try orange.  For the coffee, I would highly recommend getting something with brighter, citrusy, fruity, and/or floral notes; avoid anything too dark, chocolatey, and nutty, or you will end up with a strange flavor the combination that no one is asking for.  I went with a Nicaraguan that has notes of orange blossom + peach, and it balanced really nicely with the sweetness from the honey and of course, the grapefruit juice.

On another note, I’m convinced that this coffee toddy is the best way to fight a cold.  Coffee and honey have antimicrobial components, grapefruit juice has vitamin C, and whiskey cures broken hearts so …  it’s basically a health drink!  I know it’s spring and all, but it snowed in Reno this past week, so basically no one is safe from rhinovirus’s wrath.  #science

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Coffee Toddy

Serves 2

Ingredients

16 oz. fresh coffee (I brewed with a Chemex)
Two 2 oz. shots of whiskey (I used Bulleit)
4 tsp. grapefruit juice
2 Tbs. honey
Grapefruit, for garnish

Add one shot of whiskey, 2 tsp. of grapefruit juice, and 1 Tbs. of honey to each mug.  Add 8 oz. of hot, fresh coffee.  Stir until honey is completely dissolved.  Garnish with grapefruit.  Serve immediately.


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Lost my Head there by Kurt Vile

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Black Sesame + Blood Orange Pound Cake

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I have this new hobby now where I come home on Friday night and immediately start baking.  Gone are my college days where Fridays meant getting excited about actually going out in public.  Now, I just want to make some brownies, eat Chinese takeout, and try to stay awake until 11 p.m.  While I can firmly say I would not trade working full-time for studying until midnight or being the only participant on “team projects” anymore, I also 10/10 understand why adults don’t do things.  At best, I can mentally prepare myself to go out on a Saturday night after a proper day of sleeping in and lounging around the house.  On the other hand, I have extreme FOMO, so if you offer something really tempting, I’ll probably down a few cups of coffee and make myself socialize.  But only if I can bring my dog.

One of the most stressful things of late has been deciding what I actually want to bake on these Friday nights, because if you see my “Recipes to Try” list, it’s as long as the Game of Thrones books.  Granted, not all of it is baked goods, some are cocktails which actually would be the perfect for Friday-night recipe developing, and a lot are rando health-foods that are not acceptable for Fridays.  But the baked goods list is long and arduous, and when I have to spend three weekends developing a cake, I get sad 🙁  Mostly because it means I have nothing to share for a weekend, but also because it means no cake for that weekend!

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For example, this cake took me three fing times to figure out.  THREE.  And ok, I know that’s typical, if not modest, in recipe development world, but I’ve made cakes similar to this formula literally hundreds of times, so for it to not work three different times was appalling.  As a person who considers herself an experienced baker, I was fairly offended about screwing up such a simple cake and felt like I had to prove myself worthy to baked goods.  And although my salty-af first attempt inspired me to write a fairly impressive Vday-inspired caption, I also just really wanted this cake to work out some way or another, because black sesame + blood orange = 😍

In a perfect world, this cake would have been ready in time for Vday, because I don’t think it’s a coincidence that blood orange season is right around Valentine’s Day.  That’s just way too damn convenient.  However, I’m kind of fine that it didn’t end up working out that way, because the first batch of blood oranges I bought for this recipe were so-so, and the last batch I bought were unreeeeaaaaaal.  They were the most beautiful color, and their frangrance made my whole kitchen smell like it had just been professionally cleaned, although I can guarantee that wasn’t the case.  I think blood oranges are so underappreciated, because like, besides their ruby-red hue, they are so sweet and floral.  Maybe we should be adding lavender to this cake instead of sesame?

However, I really liked how the sweetness of the blood oranges meshed with the earthiness of the sesame seeds.  This color combo is perfection, and I liked the polka-dot look of the cake itself.  I’m putting black sesames on everything from now on thankyouverymuch.

A few notes about this recipe before we get into things:

  • Citrus is already somewhat salty, so it’s important to be stingy with the salt.  My first two attempts at this cake were soooo salty (for various reasons, but still).
  • Whip the butter, sugar, and eggs for much longer than you believe to be necessary.
  • Definitely don’t over-bake this cake.  Since it’s pound cake, it doesn’t use moisturizers like oil, so it’ll get dry if you wait too long.
  • Use aluminum-free baking powder, or the metallic taste will be very present in this recipe.
  • Use a higher-quality powdered sugar for the glaze.  Since the glaze is almost exclusively powdered sugar, you will notice any chalky tastes and textures found in cheaper versions.
  • Oh, and one more thing!  These do great baked in mini loaf pans, but make sure to butter the bejeezus out of the pan, or they will come out as little hot messes like mine did (see below).  However, if yours do come out that way, trash them up with extra glaze and maybe a little sprinkles, and you’ll be A-ok.  I highly recommend this method, because baking mini loaf cakes means extras for the freezer, and they are the best way to eat cake for breakfast in a socially acceptable way!! #science

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Black Sesame + Blood Orange Pound Cake
Serves 12

Ingredients for the cake

1 c. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. blood orange zest
3 c. flour, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. milk
2 Tbs. black sesame seeds

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Set aside.  Heat oven to 350* F.

Meanwhile, cream butter and sugar until it’s very incorporated, about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly until the butter mixture is very light and fluffy, about another 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract and blood orange zest.

Stir in half of the flour and half of the milk until just mixed.  Repeat with remaining flour mixture and milk.  Stir in the black sesame seeds.

Pour batter into a buttered and floured bundt cake pan.  Bake for about 16-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached.  Flip it onto a cooling rack and let it cool before glazing.

Ingredients for glaze

2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 c. blood orange juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Milk, as needed

In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, blood orange juice, and vanilla extract.  Mix in milk 1 Tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency.  If the glaze gets too thin, add more powdered sugar a couple Tablespoons at a time.

Pour glaze over cake.  Sprinkle with black sesame seeds!


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Become the Warm Jets by Current Joys

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Blood Orange Margarita

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It’s that perfect time of the year where citrus is at its absolute peak, and I stock my fruit bowl with clementines, limes, and grapefruit, my absolute favorite.  Although grapefruits are essentially available year round, January-February seems to be the time they get that very sweet, intense grapefruit flavor.  I usually end up eating so much of them that I get blisters in my mouth.  I would probably eat even more, except that I absolutely hate peeling/cutting/spooning out grapefruit, so that keeps me within my boundaries a little.  If anyone knows an easy way of dealing with grapefruit, I’m all ears, because it’s honestly the biggest pain.

Equal to grapefruit on my list of Citrus I Get Too Excited About is the blood orange.  I tend to forget about it every single year until the day I walk into the grocery and have the good fortune of spotting dark red oranges out of the corner of my eye.  I then buy at least a couple pounds of them, because I can think of endless ways to incorporate blood oranges into my favorite recipes.  Plus, their season is so short that you have to take advantage of the opportunity to buy multiple while you have the chance.

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If you’ve never experienced a blood orange, I highly encourage you to head to your local grocery, especially if you have a food co-op or health food shop that frequently carries seasonal ingredients, and buy at least a couple.  I know the name doesn’t necessarily sound appetizing, but the blood orange is one of the most beautiful fruits in my opinion.  The flavor is tart like a regular orange, but has sweeter berry-like tones.  My favorite part of blood oranges is how versatile they are – while they are perfectly delicious on their own, I prefer to take advantage of their beauty to use them in salads, desserts, and with a splash of tequila, because I’m fun like that.

My first round of blood oranges was used in an almond-blood orange cake that had a truly delicious, fresh flavor but lacked a textural component I was looking for.  Not to worry, I will continue to practice making this cake, even if I have to use regular oranges until next year…

I also threw some segments into a salad that I made for dinner, and of course I ate one or two on their own, but then I realized that blood oranges were made for alcohol.  The tart-sweet taste would blend perfectly with a little vodka or gin or tequila (!!!) so I decided to go for it, because life is short, and margaritas are good.  Plus, I was looking for a simple Valentine’s Day recipe that was not couple-y (because single, yo), but one that would also have the pretty V-Day colors I was looking for.  How fitting that blood oranges happen to show up in late January-early February, right as I’m trying to think of a drink to make for my Galentine’s celebration!  Yay for love and female friendships!

Also!  Whilst walking out of a grocery store alone at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday night carrying only a large bottle of tequila, I discovered one of the ultimate forms of self-loathing.  If you’re going to partake in these types of activities, I’d recommend also grabbing a bag of tortilla chips, some salsa, and maybe a puzzle, because it’ll earn you less judgmental stares, and it may even make you feel better about trying margarita recipes by yourself when you should be out socializing with friends.

Are you ready for some margarita action?!

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Further notes: If you can’t find blood oranges, because they are unavailable or not in season, go ahead and use regular oranges or another citrus if you’d prefer.  The recipe is perfectly versatile!

P.S. I chose my tequila based off of a list of “Best Cheap Tequilas” I found on the interweb while in the middle of the liquor aisle at my grocery store.  (In Nevada, they sell liquor at grocery stores, which I guess is shocking to some.  Born and raised Nevada-girl does not understand why this is surprising).  Use whichever tequila you have laying around the house, or go for a silver tequila made with 100% agave – just stay away from Jose.

P.P.S. How fun would it be to have a Mexican-food-night-Valentine’s-Day?!  If you don’t want to rush through dinner crowds, you could make some delicious carnitas (or order in), and have ruby-red, romantic margaritas with your lovie (or girlies or dog or….).  If you decide to have a Valentine’s Day-girl’s night, pls invite me, and I’ll make a big pitcher of blood orange margaritas to share.  Just promise me no weird anti-V-Day hooliganism, because I’ve already been to a singles party before, and I don’t need that in my life again.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Unfucktheworld by Angel Olsen

Orange Drop Cookies

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This is the first time I have left the kitchen all day.  Literally, I have been in the kitchen since I woke up this morning.

(Granted, I slept in til 10:30, but that is irrelevant).

Every single year my mom makes this whole big deal about how “we’re not doing any holiday baking this year!”

And then I say, “Hahaha okay, if you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen baking cookies” (Because baking around the holidays is just a thing.  It’s the only time you can eat as much as you want and blame it on a holiday…?!?!)

We then proceed to make about 100 more baked goods, because once you start, you can’t stop.  Luckily, we have a good compilation of holiday recipes going on.

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These orange cookies are one of my family’s favorite recipes.  It’s my grandma’s recipe, and the family always gets excited when these are around.  We make them for all occasions, but I thought they’d be good for Christmas since oranges are a winter fruit (although I always associate them as summer-y?)

They pretty much taste just like cupcake tops with sticky, melty icing, which would normally be my worst nightmare, but when something is this good, exceptions can be made.

Thanks to Grandma for passing this recipe along.

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Ingredients:

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

1 c. shortening

2 eggs

1 c. buttermilk

1 scant tsp. baking soda, dissolved in buttermilk

1/2 tsp. salt

3 1/2 c. flour

2 tsp. baking powder

Grated rind of 1 orange

Juice of 1/2-1 orange (about 1/2 cup)

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350* F.  Cream the shortening and sugars until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Mix in buttermilk, orange rind, orange juice, and vanilla.  Add flour, salt, and baking powder until smooth.  Drop by the spoonful on a greased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  They will seem too soft and will dent if you press them in, but they will be done and slightly browned on the bottom.  Frost with icing.

Icing:

3 c. powdered sugar, sifted

1 Tbs. butter, softened

3 Tbs. orange juice

1 Tbs. orange rind

1-2 Tbs. milk, or enough to desired consistency

Mix ingredients together with a mixer until desired consistency.  Frost slightly warm cookies with icing and let it harden before stacking and storing!

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To make them more Christmas-y you could even add dried cranberries!  That might be my project next year…

Keep an eye out for more holiday recipes in the next few days!

XO Sara

Song of the Day: This Girl’s in Love with You (cover)–She & Him