Basic BLT

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Living in Reno means that I live a short three and a half hours away from the beautiful Bay area and amazing wine country, which has both its perks and its downfalls.  Perks include relaxing weekend getaways, good wine being delivered straight to local mom and pop’s doors, and the influence of The City* trickling into the BLC**.  And the downfalls?  Weekend getaways are $$$.  Good wine is $$$.  Then there’s The City’s influence on Reno…

See, Reno’s culture has significantly changed in the last few years.  Reno has gone from a failing casino city to a hip, local college town with amazing restaurants, bars, coffee shops, thrift stores, record stores, book stores, parks, events, music, etc. etc. etc.  Not all people appreciate BLC culture, but damn I love it.  However, with the influence comes the the traffic, and the increase in rent, and…the fusion.  Asian fusion.  Greek fusion.  Italian-German fusion with a twist of California fusion.  And, okay fine, fusion can be cool, but some things are just meant to be left alone.  Including BLTs.

It seems as if every restaurant I go to lately has “their version” of a BLT, with 100 other letters attached to the end to show how different their bacon sandwich is from every other restaurant.  BLTTC = Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Turkey, Cheddar, which I’m sorry is just a club sandwich.  BLTGC = BLT grilled cheese, which just shouldn’t be a thing.  And BLTA?!  A BLT with avocado?!?!  Okay, that one’s fair, and it works, but I have a slight allergy to avocado, so it doesn’t work for me.  BLTs should be BLTs and nothing more.  Nobody asked for this madness.

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Luckily, you have me to set the record straight.  Here’s how you should be doing your BLT.

  1. Grab a loaf of good bread.  I like sourdough, but white or buttermilk also work.  Toast it ya’ll.
  2. Bake your bacon.  I swear.  You better do it.
  3. Find a good tomato.  It has to be a good one.  Slice it thinly.  This isn’t a tomato sandwich.
  4. Freshly ground black pepper does wonders.
  5. Add avocado if you must, but please don’t tell me.

There’s definitely some gaps in there, but I’ll fill them in later.  For now, I want to clarify what is deemed appropriate to serve with BLTs.  Hint: it’s potato chips and beer.  Iced tea if you don’t drink alcohol.

Okay, that’s it.  Those are the rules.  And here’s the recipe:

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If you want some other do-not-mess-with-me recipes, check out my 3 Bean Chili and Vanilla Creme Brulee!

XO Sara Lynn

Song of the Day: Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop by Landon Pigg

*The City = San Francisco
**BLC = The Biggest Little City a.k.a. Reno

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Slow Cooked Carnitas

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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.  That is true, and it is coming, but tonight I made super easy and amazing carnitas, so I thought I’d just share them real quick.

Now, if you’re still confused about the “easy” part of the carnitas description, because when have carnitas ever been easy, let me explain.  First, you’ll sear the pork.  Then, you’ll place the pork in the crockpot with some other fun stuff.  Then you’ll leave it 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.  And then?  You’re free to put the slow-cooked, shredded, crispy pork with burny bits in tacos or burrito bowls.  My favorite is the taco option on 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, but in the future I may use the pork in tostadas or enchiladas.  (And just like that, I’m hungry all over again).

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I’m a huge fan of meals that are 1. easy 2. healthy and 3. can be made while I’m at work, which is 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 crock pot.  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!  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.

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Cheers to carnitas.

XO SaraLynn

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

Potatoes Au Gratin

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The other day while browsing Instagram, I came across a Food52 post about their new app (Not)Recipes.  Basically, the premise of the app is that it is a place for cooks to share recipes, without measurements, that they make up on the spot when they’re too busy to bother with a super complicated list of ingredients and 100 steps until completion.  A.K.A. My perfect dream app (which is saying a lot, because to be honest I’m not huge on having a bunch of apps on my phone).  I immediately decided on my (not) recipe, put on my Lumineers CD, and got to work melding potatoes and cheese together in cute, tiny ramekins.  Then I went to download the app, but damn it, my ancient, Mesozoic era iPhone (an iPhone 5, but whatever..) wouldn’t let me download the thing, because it’s too outdated (thanks Apple!).  Plus, there’s no iPad version.  Wah-wah.  I was sorta bummed, because I cook without recipes all the time, but I guess not all hope is lost, because really, the whole point of writing a blog is that I can share whatever recipes I want, even if they’re not necessarily recipes.  (P.S. definitely not saying anything bad about Food52 or Apple!  I’m a big fan of both, although I wouldn’t mind if they made a  version of the (Not)Recipe app for oldie-iPhones :-))

When I think of meals made without recipes, I think of potatoes au gratin.  While this may not necessarily be a meal to most people, I have definitely eaten my fair share of potatoes au gratin for dinner on Sundays after long days of work and studying.  Plus, I’m pretty convinced that if you add bacon, it qualifies as a meal (probably).  However, I’m always a fan of potatoes au gratin as a side dish too.  Essentially, cheesy potatoes are always a good idea.

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With Easter around the corner, I was also hoping to post a nice Easter-y recipe.  In my family, Easter always involves potatoes + cheese, and since I was already planning on making potatoes au gratin for my failed (Not)Recipes submission, it seemed like fate, or at the very least, convenient.  Potatoes au gratin are perfect for Easter Sunday, but you could also add leftover ham as an easy weeknight meal.  Definitely not a healthy dinner route, but sometimes potatoes, cheese, and ham are necessary for getting through life.

Growing up, my family always celebrated Easter with a nice brunch or dinner, and the Easter bunny left my brother and I presents on the bench on our front porch.  We almost always got a VHS tape, new shoes, and some Easter candy in our baskets.  Sometimes we would get a small toy to play with, and I distinctly remember getting a lime green Skip-It one year.  My parents recently decided to move back to their hometown of Reno in the next couple of months, and today I found out that they accepted an offer on my childhood home.  The sale is incredibly bittersweet, since my parents will be much closer, but I also will be losing the home that gave me the best childhood memories, such as hunting for Easter eggs or playing with my new Skip-It.  Today has been kind of sad, but I know that I will always fondly remember cheesy potatoes on Easter, opening Christmas presents with my little brother, Thanksgiving family dinners, and all the amazing memories I had growing up with my friends and family in that home.

Thanks to Potatoes Au Gratin for the nostalgia!

*Note: When I made this recipe, I just threw all the ingredients together, but in the recipe I included some approximate measurements from potatoes I have made in the past.  For this recipe, I used thyme and cheddar cheese, but the recipe can be adapted to use whatever ingredients you want.

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Happy Easter!

XO SaraLynn.

*Song of the Day: Flowers in Your Hair by The Lumineers

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

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Do you have that one food that whenever you have it, you think of “home”.  Mashed potatoes are “home” for me.  Every holiday, every fall, every home-cooked, comfort-food meal involves mashed potatoes in the Hunt fam.  Mashed potatoes are the equivalent of a food-blanket.  They’re warm and soft and comfy and make me want to curl up on the couch and watch movies.  Wrapped in mashed potatoes.  Truly, I’m pretty sure that there is nothing better than homemade mashed potatoes.

With that said, I can confirm with full certainty that I am pretty sure I make the best mashed potatoes ever.  Sure they have heart-stopping amounts of butter, cream, and salt in them, but it’s not like you’re eating them everyday, right?

Really though, my mashed potatoes are so good that, while making these for dinner while visiting my family in Vegas, my brother and I may have eaten a good serving or two with just our fingers long before dinner would be served.

A little uncivilized, yes, but totally worth it.

I have to warn you that when I said they have “heart-stopping amounts of butter, cream, and salt” in them, I really meant it.  If you are not a fan of buttery, creamy, slightly lumpy mashed potatoes, you probably will not want these.  (Although to be completely honest, I’m not sure why anyone would want dry, flavorless, starchy mashed potatoes, but to each their own).  One of the best parts of mashed potatoes is that you get to put all kinds of fun things on top of them–like meat juice (gravy).  Also, they get served with wonderful foods like pot roast and turkey and pork chops.  Is anyone else hungry right now, too?

Please just do yourself a favor and make these potatoes at least once this fall.  I know your mom says that she makes the best mashed potatoes ever, but I wholeheartedly believe that you have the power to prove her wrong with this recipe.  (I know this because now every time I’m making dinner with my mom, she asks me to make the mashed potatoes.  Coincidence?  I think not).

Ingredients:

10 small russet potatoes, peeled

3/4 c. heavy cream or half and half*

6 Tbs. butter, softened**

Lots of salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

1-2 tsp. garlic powder***

Bring a large pot of water to a boil at medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes and boil until fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Drain potatoes and let cool slightly.  Transfer potatoes to a large bowl, and begin mashing using a potato masher (alternatively, you can use a potato ricer or a hand/stand mixer, but it’s up to you).  Add cream, butter, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Continue mashing to desired consistency.  If you like lumpier mashed potatoes, I would recommend stirring ingredients in to maintain consistency.

Taste and add more seasoning, if desired.

–Mashed potatoes can be made in advance.  To reheat, I recommend putting them in a large pot on the stove on medium heat.  Add a splash of cream and a couple more tablespoons of butter to keep them from drying out.  Stir frequently to prevent burning.–

–Sometimes I add 1-2 Tbs. of finely chopped fresh rosemary.  It tastes amazing, and it’s an easy way to make potatoes fancy!–

Serves 6-8.

*I know this is an ungodly amount, but just trust me.

**Remember what I said about trust?

***I highly recommend garlic powder over chopped fresh garlic.  I like the consistency better with garlic powder, and it’s easier to season it.  However, you can totally use fresh garlic if you prefer!  I also recommend starting with 1 tsp. of garlic powder and adding more if necessary.  I like mine very garlic-y, but some may not!

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My little brother (A.K.A. my honorary photographer reflected in the spoon above) told me that mashed potatoes reminded him of mountains while photographing these for me.  I told him that reminded me of the children’s book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”.

Happy fall, friends.

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*Song of the Day: Hold On–Alabama Shakes

Mediterranean Chicken Skewers

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Happy back to school for most college students/students in general!

And if you’re one of the lucky bastards that doesn’t start classes again until September…you can just keep quiet in the back there.

Just kidding (mostly), but I am super jealous and I hope you’re having a wonderful summer break.

Anyways, I started school on Monday so RIP to my brain.  In just a few short weeks, I won’t be able to talk about anything but balance sheets and the 4 P’s.  But until then, let’s just enjoy the semi-normal Sara Lynn that loves to cook and dress up and talk about music and is successful in getting a post up on her blog on an almost-weekly basis, yeah?

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Since I am back in school now, it means I can’t use the “…but I’m on summer break” excuse anymore.  That’s when I eat whatever I want/don’t work out/avoid paying off my credit card for one more day/don’t bother getting the mail for 2 months/avoid all adult responsibilities/etc. because I’m on summer break and I want to hike or lay in bed and watch How I Met Your Mother.  It’s not something I’m proud of, but I really only get to be a lazy college kid for a couple more years, so let’s just not worry about it.

Anyways, now that I’m waking up for class every morning, it also means that I’m eating chicken, brown rice, and veggies and working out 3-4 times a week.

If you have similar eating habits, you probably know how boring chicken and brown rice and veggies really are.  And that’s why food blogs exist.  To break the mundane and try out new recipes and gain the trust of our readers so that, they too, can have more exciting eating experiences.

I promise that this chicken is really delicious and tastes like lemon and rosemary–and is not boring at all.  I had it with a Greek salad only, but I think next time I’ll make lemon-sage rice because that would make it even better.

I’ll leave you with the recipe and hope you’re happy knowing you can eat healthy and have really, really amazing food.

It’s a wonderful feeling.

Ingredients:

1 lb. chicken breast, cubed

1/4 c. olive oil

2 Tbs. white wine vinegar*

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Bamboo or metal skewers**

*Red wine vinegar would also be good, and have more of a Mediterranean flavor.  I just ran out and used what I had in the cupboard!

** If using bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them in water so that they do not burst into flames while grilling.

In a bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the chicken.  Place cubed chicken in a plastic Ziploc bag, and pour marinade over the chicken being sure it is completely covered.  Marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the grill to a medium high heat.

Remove chicken from marinade and discard leftover marinade.  Thread the chicken onto the skewers.

Spray the grill with a cooking spray to prevent sticking.  Place skewers on the grill and cook, turning every few minutes, for about 15 minutes, or until juices run clear.

Serves 4.

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In non-chicken related news, I have started an Instagram page for all of my posts!  Just follow serendipitybysaralynn, like my posts, tag me if you make my recipes, etc.!  I love reading your comments and talking to my readers, so please share with your friends so I can talk to even more people!

(See.  I did at least one productive thing during my summer!  Go Instagram!)

Have a wonderful fall semester, college students.

Have a wonderful fall, everybody else.

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*Song of the Day: Coffee and Pie, oh my! by Brightside*

*A new band I’ve been really into lately!  Not all of their music is on Spotify, so check out their bandcamp: https://brightsidepgh.bandcamp.com/

Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad

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While in London, I ate french fries and gelato every single day.  I also indulged in a pint (or two) of craft beer.  Every single day.  For a month straight.  In short, my destructive, unhealthy diet was a sober vegan’s worst goddamn nightmare.

Needless to say, by the time I got home, I was prepping myself for an intense detox consisting of straight juiced kale and other horrible concoctions nutrition bloggers insist are good for the body and the soul.

While I didn’t *exactly* end up subjecting myself to some kind of horrible, liquid diet (I mean, last weekend was my birthday, so of course I was going to eat steak and cake!), I was able to come up with some yummy, clean recipes.

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One recipe from the mix is this roasted vegetable orzo salad.  It’s light and summery which made me extra excited to eat it for lunch all week.

Although I’m longing for sweater weather season with soup-based dinners and a nice mug of warm tea before bed every night, I’m still trying to push as much summer recipes into my life as I can before it’s too late!

This recipe is especially great served over spinach with a little extra dressing and a grilled chicken breast.

On a side note: My heartburn has gone away since I started incorporating more veggies and less french fries into my life.  Weird right?!

Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad:

1 1/2 c. orzo pasta (whole wheat if you can find it)

2 zucchinis, cubed

2 yellow squashes, cubed

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced

1 can chick peas, drained

1/2 c. walnuts, toasted

Crumbled feta, for topping (optional)

Dressing:

1/4 c. olive oil

2-3 Tbs. red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. dried parsley

Onion powder, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Pinch of sugar, agave, or honey

Preheat oven to 350* F.  Toss zucchini, yellow squash, and bell peppers in olive oil and a few pinches of salt.  Spread onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, cook orzo according to package directions.  Drain and let cool to room temperature.

While pasta is boiling, whisk dressing ingredients together until incorporated.

To make the salad, mix cooled roasted veggies with the orzo, chickpeas, and walnuts.  Pour dressing over the top and mix to coat the orzo.  Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Serve with crumbled feta over the top.

Makes 4 entree servings or 8 side servings.

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Although I miss the nights of drinking pale ale at the Craft Beer Company in London, eating deep fried foods, and laughing with my friends, I’m also happy to be on a normal eating schedule again!

It’s also nice to not have to take an antacid before bed every single night.

Can’t say I wouldn’t do it all again!

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Song of the Day: Smother–Daughter

Fondue in the Forest

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Hello my wonderful readers!

I’m back home in Reno (although I’m still dreaming of London), but I’ve had a wonderful summer and it’s time to get back to business.  Before I came home, I went to my parents’ cabin for the first time in two years which is where I used to spend my childhood weekends hiking, fishing, and riding quads.

It was also my getaway for watching movies and reading countless books which I did not always have time to do with all of my extracurriculars.  I cannot even tell you how many times I blew through the HP series up there.  7 books and 8 movies were no match when I had a good two weeks of lounging on the porch swing with an iced tea in my hand.

Some of my best memories from growing up were at my cabin, and I wish more than anything that I could make it up more.  Luckily, I have Tahoe just a short 30 minutes away, but there’s nothing like (vacation) home, right?

Anyways, I had a really amazing time with my family hiking, white water rafting, and of course, reading.  We also had some really great food.

Cue fondue.

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Before I share with you our delicious dipping recipes and whatnot, let me first disclose that all of the pictures posted today were taken by my baby brother (except for the fondue pic taken above, which was posted by my mom).  He’s the guy in the maroon striped sweater.  He’s only 17 and far more talented than I will ever be.  So thank you to Garrett (and mom!) for the beautiful pictures shared today.

About fondue:  Fondue is really really fun.  Like, really fun guys.  Although I did this with my family, I’m totally considering getting a fondue pot to have parties with my friends.  Especially since I learned some good tips and tricks from this experience.  We actually did an Italian version of fondue called bagna cauda which is a method of cooking the food in hot oil.

Some tips for a fondue (bagna cauda) party:

1. No more than 4 people should be at the fondue pot at any given time.  Just trust me on this.

2. Wear clothes you won’t be totally sad about ruining.  I don’t think I ended up dripping anything on myself, but there’s always a risk.

3.  Lay down a black garbage bag or old table cloth.  There will definitely be some drippage action there.

4.  Have plenty of dipping options.

5. Consider having some small appetizers or a nice side salad to munch on.  Although fondue is very fun, it’s also time consuming, so you’re waiting a few minutes between each bite.

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Are you ready for some kick-ass dipping sauce recipes and also some wonderfully safe cooking instructions?!

You bet you are, champ.

*Recipes and instructions courtesy of Pillsbury.  Some recipes adapted slightly.*

Bagna Cauda Ingredients:

4 cups peanut oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled (optional)

Cubed beef tenderloin, Cubed chicken breast, Cubed squash, Mushrooms, Cheese cubes (coat with melted butter and bread crumbs beforehand), Shrimp, Cubed pork tenderloin, etc.

Pour oil into a fondue pot.  Add garlic, if using.  Heat until 350* F.  Place setting on warm to maintain heat.  Remove garlic, if using.  To cook ingredients, place 1-2 items on fondue sticks.  Place in oil and cook until desired doneness.  Dip in favorite sauces.

Garlic Basil Aioli

1/2 c. mayonnaise

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped

2 Tbs. olive oil

Salt, to taste

Curry Dip

3/4 c. mayonnaise

1 tsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. curry powder

1/8 tsp. ground ginger

Salt, to taste

Horseradish Sauce

1/3 c. mayonnaise

1/3 c. sour cream

1 Tbs. prepared horseradish

1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

Directions for all sauces:  Whisk all ingredients in a bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

*We also used A-1 steak sauce as a dipping sauce*.

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In addition to bagna cauda, we enjoyed the sunset, had a lovely campfire where we looked at the stars, and I got to play with my puppy.  All in all, it was an amazing weekend.

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Song of the Day: Suicide Saturday–Hippo Campus