The Best Burgers Ever (a.k.a. The Awful Awful)

Smashed, crispy-edged patties, American cheese, homemade secret sauce, and all the fixings are topped on an onion bun to make the best burgers ever. Inspired by The Little Nugget Casino’s Awful Awful in Reno, Nevada, this step-by-step recipe will teach you how to make the perfect diner-style burger!

A close-up of a cheeseburger on a white plate with fries, sitting on a grey table next to a bottle of Coke, a pink linen, and a bowl of pickles with a green velvet booth in the background.
Continue reading “The Best Burgers Ever (a.k.a. The Awful Awful)”

7 Pantry Staple Meals with 10 Ingredients or Less!

One week of pantry staple meals that are (mostly) wholesome and nutritious and use less than ten ingredients. This list also includes a shopping list to make dinner plans even easier!

An overhead shot of pantry pasta ingredients, including spaghetti, shallots, parmesan, salt, pepper, parsley, and olive oil on a grey background.
Continue reading “7 Pantry Staple Meals with 10 Ingredients or Less!”

Beef Stroganoff with Shallots & Brandy

The first recipe of my Valentine’s series, this beef stroganoff with shallots and brandy is the perfect comfort food. Stroganoff has been one of my all-time favorites since childhood. I have the best memories of enjoying this cozy dinner countless times with my family.

A side image of a woman wearing a white flowly long sleeve shirt and beige linen apron holding a black cast iron pan of beef stroganoff with shallots and brandy garnished with parsley. The pan is on a beige linen on a wood table next to vintage utensils, a white bowl of parsley, a white linen, a bottle of wine, and a glass of red wine.
Continue reading “Beef Stroganoff with Shallots & Brandy”

Coconut Curry Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Coconut Curry Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

If I could fill a pool with anything in the world, it would probably be coffee or some type of melted cheese.  However, if both of those options were unavailable, then I think my third choice would have to be peanut sauce.  I would float on rafts made out of spring rolls, and the pool noodles would be actual noodles.  It would be kind of gross, but in the best kind of way.  Thai food is one of my all-time favorites, and I think the peanut sauce might be like, 80% of that reason.  One of my favorite Thai restaurants in town serves it with pretty much everything on their menu from chicken satay to salads, and I am here for it.  My favorite thing to eat it with is the curry puffs, which is essentially a Thai samosa.  I could honestly eat three or four plates to myself.  They serve all their dishes with some marinated cucumbers, and the combo of sweet, salty, tangy, and crunchy haunts my dreams. Continue reading “Coconut Curry Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce”

Kale Salad with Greek Yogurt Caesar Dressing

(May 2018) Note: This is an updated version of a “healthy Caesar dressing” recipe I posted way back in 2013.  The dressing recipe is essentially the same, and changes have been noted in the recipe at the bottom!


Kale Salad with Greek Yogurt Caesar Dressing

Greek Yogurt Caesar Dressing

There’s a restaurant in Reno called Campo that makes a kale salad and, not even kidding, it makes me crave kale salads.  It’s lemony, garlicky, and topped with crispy parmesan and a poached egg.  I think about it a lot and have considered going there just for a kale salad and their caramel budino, but I don’t want to be judged by the servers, even though I think kale + caramel pudding is the epitome of balance.  I guess you could call the salad “famous” by Reno standards, and the original owner of the restaurant was even nice enough to post the full recipe online. Continue reading “Kale Salad with Greek Yogurt Caesar Dressing”

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 simmer until the wine is reduced by half.  Add the beef broth, bay leaf, marjoram (or thyme), parsley, hot sauce, wild rice, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, and then add the beef back to the pot. Reduce the stew to a simmer, and cover the pot with a lid. Gently simmer for about 45-60 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.  Discard the bay leaf. Season the stew with additional salt and pepper, if desired. 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

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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mac-and-cheese

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Slow Cooked Carnitas

(Updated 8.27.19) slow cooked carnitas are made with tender pork loin that is simmered in flavorful spices all day for an excellent, quick dinner.

Slow Cooked Carnitas | Serendipity by Sara Lynn
Pork tacos with beer.
Slow cooker taco meat.

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you probably saw that I posted a picture of pie dough promising a BIG EXCITING RECIPE COMING VERY VERY SOON AND IT’S GOING TO BE THE BEST THING EVER.  It’s true, and pie dough will be here soon, but tonight I made super easy and amazing slow cooked carnitas. So I thought I’d just share them real quick!

Now, if you’re still confused about the “easy” part of the slow cooked carnitas description, (because honestly when have they ever been easy?) let me explain.  First, you’ll sear the pork.  Then, you’ll place the pork in the slow cooker with some other fun stuff.  After that, you’ll leave the pork alone while you work and go to school and exercise and unload your dishwasher.  Then you’ll shred the pork and broil it until it’s crispy.  Next?  You’re free to put the slow-cooked, shredded, crispy pork with burny bits in anything you please!

Easy pork tacos

I like to put slow cooked carnitas in tacos, enchiladas, and on tostadas!

My favorite way to eat slow cooked carnitas is the taco method. AKA blistered corn tortillas with plenty of cilantro and queso fresco.  However, the burrito bowl option with brown rice, pinto beans, queso, lettuce, avocado, tomato, and salsa is a good option as well.  Tonight I went with the burrito bowl option. Mostly because I ran out of tortillas and always have a surplus of brown rice on hand tbh. But in the future I may use the pork in tostadas or enchiladas.  (Update: I have, and it’s delicious!). Also, you only need a few kitchen basics to make carnitas. Soooo, wins all around!

The best slow cooked carnitas.

slow cooked carnitas are one of my favorite weeknight meals.

I’m a huge fan of meals that are 1. easy 2. healthy and 3. cook all day while I’m at work. That’s mainly why you see so much Mexican food on SSL.  But I promise, I don’t only eat Mexican food and not all my meals are made in a slow cooker.  I’m sure at one point I’ll get over my homemade Mexican food obsession. But for now it’s just too good, and there’s just too many options!  The carnitas are a particular favorite, because they’re slightly sweet from the orange zest. Omg, it’s my favorite part! I know it’s not traditional, but I just love it.

On another note, I have had a huge thing for curry lately, even more so than usual, so we’ll see where that goes.  I imagine Thai and Indian will infiltrate SSL in the next coming months even with summer right around the corner.

But for now, cheers to slow cooked carnitas.

Pork tacos with blistered corn tortillas, pickled onions, and avocado.

Slow Cooked Carnitas


Notes: The searing on this recipe is not totally necessary, since you broil the pork before serving to crisp it up. However, some people prefer the seared pork, so I left it in the directions. You can probably choose *either* searing or broiling. Totally up to you!

An overhead image of a white plate of tacos with pork carnitas on a marble counter. Next to the plate is charred tortillas, a jar of pink onions, a glass of beer, and a wood board with cilantro.

Slow Cooked Carnitas

These slow cooker pork carnitas are one of my go-to dinners! The pork cooks all day in the slow cooker and then it is broiled in the oven to get nice and crispy. They are great in tacos, enchiladas, and burrito bowls, and the leftovers are delicious in soup.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 8 hrs
Total Time 8 hrs 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lb pork loin (or tenderloin)
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and quartered
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Tortillas, pickled onions, queso, avocado, cilantro, etc., for serving

Instructions
 

  • *Optional*: Cut pork loin into 4 chunks. Heat the oil in a large pan until shimmery. Sear all four pieces of pork until each side is nicely browned. Do not cook all the way through.
  • Place seared (or raw) pork in a slow cooker with the garlic and onion. Season generously with salt and pepper. Whisk together the cumin, chili powder, oregano, chicken broth, lime juice, and orange juice. Pour the mixture over the pork. Cover, and cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 8-10.
  • Preheat the broiler on your oven. Remove the pork from the slow cooker, and shred with two forks (it should be very easy). Discard the onions and garlic, but reserve the liquid. Place the pork on a foil-lined baking sheet. Pour about 1/4 c. of the leftover liquid over the pork, and broil for 5-15 minutes, until crispy. Every 5 minutes, add another 1/4 c. of liquid and toss to ensure even crisping. Serve as desired!

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 440kcalCarbohydrates: 7.9gProtein: 42.5gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 8.4gCholesterol: 121mgSodium: 164mgPotassium: 775mgFiber: 1.9gSugar: 3.8gCalcium: 63mgIron: 2mg
Keyword main meals, mexican food, pork, tacos
Did you make this recipe?Tag @serendipitybysaralynn on Instagram!

XO SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: I Wanna Get Better by Bleachers

Slow Cooked Carnitas | Serendipity by Sara Lynn
Flavorful, easy slow cooked carnitas for a quick weeknight dinner!