Cinnamon Rolls

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[Update 1/12/16: I made these rolls last weekend for the first time since I posted this recipe.  I changed the recipe up a little bit for experimentation, and ended up liking the new recipe more.  I added more butter (yikes, I know), tried traditional scalded milk instead of buttermilk, and used a different icing.  The original recipe is in the body of the post, and the new recipe is on a recipe card at the bottom of the post.  The new rolls are more fluffy, but if you prefer the old recipe, it’s still there, no worries!  I also updated some new pictures, since my photography has gotten significantly better (but still left the old ones with instructions and whatnot).  Hope you guys love!  Xo.]

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Guys.

These are so good.

Have you ever had like, a really really really good cinnamon roll?  Not like a Cinnabon one, but a really delicious, homemade cinnamon roll?  It’s a special kind of experience everyone should get to have.

I’m happy to report that you may now make your own if you truly wish to experience the phenomenon of eating an out-of-this-world cinnamon roll.

I have truly done it.  I have created the perfect cinnamon rolls.

They take pretty much all day to make, but they’re super easy.  I promise, you can make these!  Just make sure you have new yeast and everything is going to be okay.  You can do anything.

Sara Lynn: motivator and cinnamon roll goddess.

Maybe that’s a little dramatic.  Maybe it’s not.  Maybe you should make these cinnamon rolls and let me know if you think that I’m a cinnamon roll goddess.

A disclaimer about the following pictures:

1. My nail color randomly changes from red to sparkly pink because I got my nails done while the dough was rising.  I highly recommend you find something time consuming to do while you wait because cinnamon rolls take a long time to rise and a long time to make in general (but still so worth it).

2. The pictures change from good quality to bad quality because, again, they take a while to make and I ran out of daylight.

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Shall we get started?

Cinnamon Rolls:

1/2 c. warm water

1 package instant yeast

1/2 c. + 1 Tbs. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 c. buttermilk

1 egg

1/3 c. melted butter

4 1/2 c. flour

Filling:

1/2 stick butter

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

2 1/2 Tbs. cinnamon

Pinch salt

Icing:

4 oz. cream cheese

2 Tbs. butter

1 1/2-2 c. powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like your icing!)

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2-3 Tbs. milk, to thin

Pinch salt

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First, you’re going to want to mix together your warm water, yeast, and a tablespoon of sugar.  Set it aside to double in size!

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Mix 1/2 c. sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl.

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Nice and doubled!  Yay!

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Mix together buttermilk, egg, and butter.

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Add half of the flour mixture until it’s incorporated.

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Add the yeast mixture and stir together.

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It might not mix very well because it’s going to be very lumpy and thin like pancake batter.

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Mix in the rest of the flour and knead a few times with your hands.

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Knead until smooth and beautiful.

Set aside in a warm place covered with plastic wrap or a towel.  Let rise for 1-2 hours.

*insert random photo and nail color change*

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Once it has risen, punch the dough a few times.DSCN4128

Roll until about 1/8 inch thick.

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Brush with melted butter.

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Mix together cinnamon, sugars, and salt for your filling.

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And spread it all around!

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Roll it up.

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Brush it with more butter (sorry cholesterol).

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Cut into rolls that are about 2 inches wide.  You should have about 8 pretty ones.

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And a few not so pretty ones 😦  Oops!

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Brush a parchment lined casserole dish with more butter.

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Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon and sugar.

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Line the cinnamon rolls in the casserole dish.  Set them aside, covered, to rise for another hour or two.

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Look how pretty!!!  (That top left one is so sad.  Poor little guy.  Still delicious).

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Bake at 350* F for about 14-16 minutes, or until a light golden brown.

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Meanwhile, mix together the icing!  Whip butter and cream cheese together until incorporated.  Add sifted powdered sugar and vanilla.  Thin with milk.

(Uhm, is this not just the worst picture you’ve ever seen?  Did I even try?  Just trust me, it’s a delicious icing).

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Yay, they’re baked and beautiful!

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Spread frosting over warm cinnamon rolls.

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Hell yeah.

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Do you see that cinnamon filling?  Oh my gosh.  I might go grab one of my extras from the freezer right now.  They’re sooooo good.

Which reminds me, if you have too many because you made 11 cinnamon rolls and you live by yourself, just go ahead, wrap them in some plastic wrap individually and then place them in freezer bags.  They’ll stay good for a few months and you can indulge in cinnamon bun goodness whenever you want!

Go make these.  Right.  Now.

cinnamon roll recipe

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* Notes*:  1. I use my mixer with dough hook, but these can also be made with a mixing bowl and wooden spoon!  I’ve done tries both methods and either works! 2. If your dough won’t rise, try heating oven to 250* F, turning oven off, and placing covered bowl of dough in warm oven (make sure bowl is oven proof!).  Leave alone for 2 hours.  3. If dough still won’t rise, your yeast is probably old.  Buy new yeast and start again.  4. Rolls can be made one night, and baked in the morning!  Just form the rolls and let them do their second rise in the fridge overnight (8-12 hours).  In the morning, remove from fridge, and let warm up for about an hour.  They will take longer to bake (upwards of about 30 or 40 minutes, so don’t worry if they don’t bake quickly!  Cover with foil halfway through if they start to brown too much.)

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*Song of the Day: Won’t You Come Over by Devendra Banhart

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Cinnamon Butter Candy

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About once a year, my mom visits me in Reno and we take a day visit to Virginia City with my aunts, cousins, and grandmas.  Since I’m already aware that you have no idea what Virginia City is, Mark Twain used to write there, and it’s a pretty popular place to take “old-timey” photographs dressed in stockings and boas with a sepia filter.

Virginia City is also the home to multiple candy shops, which are famous for their cinnamon candy.  If you ask my mom or aunts, all of them will tell you about how much they used to look forward to visiting Virginia City just to get their famous cinnamon butter candy.

This year for Christmas, my mom and I decided we would try to recreate the recipe for our friends and family.  It took 3 batches and multiple trips to the store, but we got pretty close.

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First off, let me give you a few opinions on cinnamon oil vs. cinnamon extract.  We first tried cinnamon extract, because it’s much cheaper and easier to find than cinnamon oil.  First, we tried 2 tsp., and it was not flavorful enough.  The next batch, we tried 4 tsp., and it still wasn’t what we were looking for.

We then researched where we could find cinnamon oil, called a special store, made a trip to said store, spent $15 on a bottle, and used it in the third batch.  While it was spicier than extract, it still wasn’t exactly what we wanted out of our cinnamon candy.

The candy isn’t really what we thought it would be (since we had the high expectations from Virginia City), but we ended up loving it!  While we were looking for that artificial cinnamon flavor (like in Red Hots or Cinnamon Jolley Ranchers), we actually got a real cinnamon flavor, which was a pleasant surprise.

In the end, if you like spicy, get some cinnamon oil online (it’s cheaper over Amazon!), or just go the easy way and buy cinnamon extract.  Either way, you’ll end up with a buttery, unique hard candy that’s really easy to make and can be packaged up as a gift (alternative for peppermint bark??)

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*Photos courtesy of my brother*

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*Song of the Day: Inside Out by Spoon*

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

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

Chicken Fajitas

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It’s happened, guys.  I finished my first summer class, and now my brain = alskbxlzkjcgqergldknblddzweksdjclxdssalskdj.

As in, I cannot find the motivation to do anything more than lay in bed watching Gossip Girl and drinking insane amounts of green tea.  For the whole entire week.  (Also, don’t judge the GG.  It’s officially my guilty pleasure).

It is also this resignation of my cranium that has put me in a dark, uncharacteristic succession of intense procrastination that I cannot seem to shake off no matter how acute my anxiety becomes.

Side effects of my procrastination have resulted in me putting off shopping and packing for London until yesterday afternoon (I leave tomorrow) as well as clicking multiple “Read More” links on posts concerning Zodiac signs and guitar tuning (I don’t play guitar).  (Yet).

Luckily, I was able to force myself into packing and getting my shit together yesterday/today, and I’m (almost) ready to leave for London tomorrow!  Yay!

My new goal is to motivate myself for the two more summer classes I start in London on Monday.

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If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on a sort of Mexican food kick lately.  First it was Chinese food, and now it’s cilantro lime shredded chicken and burrito bowls.

As it turns out, I need to get as much Mexican food into my body as I can in the next day, because Europe has no authentic Mexican food.

There are many European people that have never even had real Mexican (or Tex-Mex for that matter).

It’s the sad truth, and I’m not quite sure what to do with my life except console myself with Indian food and conversations with cute British boys.

(Life is so hard, right?)

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Ingredients:

1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into thin strips

2 bell peppers, cut into thin strips

1 onion, thinly sliced

1/2 c. olive oil

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2-1 tsp. onion powder (to taste)

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. oregano

Tabasco, to taste

1 lime, juiced

 1/4 c. cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Place chicken strips, peppers, and onions in a zipper plastic bag or plastic bowl with a lid.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.

Pour marinade over chicken, peppers, and onions.  Marinate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24.

When ready to cook, heat 2 Tbs. cooking oil in a large saute pan on medium heat.  Remove chicken, peppers, and onions, and add to saute pan.  Discard marinade.

Cook until chicken is cooked through and peppers and onions are soft, about 8 minutes.

Serve with tortillas, and other taco toppings.

Serves 4.

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I ❤ u Mexican food.

I’ll see you in a month.

Make sure to check in for my London posts in the coming weeks!

And while I’m gone, make sure to indulge in some tacos and cheeseburgers for me.

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Song of the Day: Bear–The Antlers

Chiles Rellenos Casserole

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Hellohellohello.

Like me, I’m sure many of you lovely readers have just recently started classes again.

If you have not started classes, go away we don’t want you here (I’m just jealous please don’t go away).

If you are done with classes (because you’re brilliant and already graduated and are probably head of your company right now) congrats, and also go away, we don’t want you here.  (I’m just tired of waking up early already and being in accounting/economic classes.  Again, I’m just jealous please don’t go away).

Luckily, I’m starting to take classes that I’m actually interested in, and if all goes well then I should be going to London to study for a month this summer!  (!!!!!!!) So hopefully that all works out.

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However, if you’re strange like me, you’re probably kind of okay with being in classes right now.  Although I loved laying in bed watching Netflix and eating tangerines for 8 hours a day over winter break, I also get tired of not having a schedule.

The “wake up, go to school, go to work, come home, do homework, work out, make dinner, clean up, shower, and go to bed” schedule.

Rinse and repeat until spring break.

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This recipe was actually developed last week over winter break.  When I thought I had food poisoning.  Turns out it’s something weird with my kidneys (wtf right?)

Anyways, one particular night where I swear I could actually feel the cramping of my kidneys, I was desperately craving chiles rellenos.  However, I was not about to go to the store at 10 p.m. to get ingredients so that I could spend 2 or 3 hours making them.  Also the Mexican restaurant near my house was closed so the only logical solution was to see what was in my pantry.

And yay, there was a can of green chiles!  And cheese and eggs in my fridge.  It was all looking up.

So I just whipped this up and ended up very happy.

This casserole actually came out more like a chiles rellenos breakfast casserole.  Although I would like to try another recipe, where I use whole chiles (and maybe some mole sauce or something?), this was pretty damn good.

Here ya go.

Ingredients:

1 or 2 small can green chiles, drained

2 eggs

3/4 c. milk

2 Tbs. flour

1-1 1/2 c. jack cheese, grated

Garlic powder, to taste

Onion powder, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste.

Preheat oven to 400* F.  Spray a ramekin or small casserole pan with cooking spray, or olive oil.

Spread out the can of green chiles in the casserole pan.  Use however many you want to use.  I only used one because that’s all I had, but it would be really good with two.  Sprinkle half the cheese over the chiles.

In a bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, flour, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.  I just sprinkled the spices in according to my taste.  You don’t need very much.  If you eat gluten free, you could probably just leave out the flour.  Or sub with gluten free flour.

Pour the egg mixture over the chiles.  Sprinkle on remaining cheese.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, depending on how fast your oven cooks.  Cover with foil if the cheese gets too browned.

Serve with salsa and tortillas!  Or by itself if it’s 11 p.m.  You know, float your boat.

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Uhh do you see the cheese too?

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Go forth and indulge.  You just started classes again.  Economics is boring.  You deserve it.

XO Sara

*Song of the Day: Still Together–Mac DeMarco