Lasagna Bolognese

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Holy hell, it snowed again this weekend, and then when it wasn’t snowing, it was raining, and when it wasn’t raining it was perfect, foggy, San Franciscan weather that brings me peace.  It was the ideal weekend, aside from the moment yesterday when, while walking and eating an ice cream cone in the flurry-darkness, I somehow didn’t see a huge freaking puddle of rain right in front of me, and I kicked it, and rainwater splashed all over my jeans and inside of my shoes.  I probably would have been sad if I wasn’t laughing so hard, but that’s what I get for wearing old-man smoking slippers in the slushy rain-snow.

Luckily, nothing could dampen my spirits, because 1. I had mint chip ice cream from Simple!! and 2. I’m babysitting a big furry puppy this weekend while my cousin is at a friend’s wedding!  She’s a big furry ball of floof (aka a Bernese Mountain Dog) named Flower, and even though she punched me in the face while I was petting her this morning, I’ve had the best weekend hugging her squishiness!  Plus, there was that misty weather I was talking about earlier, and I had the most ethereal morning making coffee at work while the fog traipsed between the Sierras.  Oh, and then there was the lasagna…

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Lasagna is one of my favorite meals of all time, but especially when it’s frosty and misty outside.  The melding of cheese + pasta + tomatoes hugs my insides and makes me feel cozy and warm.  This lasagna in particular has been one of our favorite family recipes for a few years now.  I’m honestly not sure where the recipe itself came from, but the flavors balance together so nicely – the ratio of cheese to meat is perfect, and the veggies add a lighter texture.  Also, the recipe uses cottage cheese, which forms these delicious little cheese clumps without the heaviness of ricotta, and yuuummm!

I’ve tried at least four different lasagna recipes by now, and this is the one I always come back to.  It takes a little work, as all lasagnas do, but of course it’s worth it!  It’s the perfect weekend project if you want to perch yourself in front of a movie or listen to classic jazz while you layer delicate noodles with veggies, meat sauce, and a pile of cheese.  While the sauce is simmering, you can make a light salad or mix some herbs & butter to make toasty garlic bread, or better yet, start some creme brulee or mascarpone cheesecake.  Lasagna is special, and it deserves proper dessert as well.  This meal is perfect for a dinner party with friends or a romantic date-night with your love (note: this will feed both of you for days).  I wish you all lasagna-making bliss ♥

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Cry Me a River by Julie London


Thank you to Sanford Ranch Beef for sponsoring this post!  Sanford Ranch Beef is locally-grown, hormone-free, steroid-free, all-natural, and all the good stuff.  Visit their Facebook or website if you live in the Reno area.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Braised Short Ribs with Cheddar Grits

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I am so, so excited to announce that the people at Serendipity by Sara Lynn (me) will be working with Sanford Ranch Beef, which sells local, steroid-free beef to the Northern Nevada area.  This is my first partnership, and I’m absolutely thrilled to be working with such a great company!  I first want to start off by promising that I only endorse businesses that I believe are wholesome and provide good quality products that I already use sans-partnership.  I do not believe in advocating products that I do not use regularly; therefore, I can assure you that all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.  I also want to let it be known that I am not being paid to post about Sanford Ranch Beef, although they did give me some all-natural, hormone-free steak, which let’s be real, is better than money anyhow.

And if you didn’t read that long ass paragraph, here’s a summary: I’m not a sellout.  Cool?  Cool!

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Sanford Ranch Beef is a local cattle ranch owned by my cousin, his wife, and their family.  They do not believe in using hormones, steroids, or fillers in their beef, so the product is completely farm-to-mouth.  Their cattle is grass-fed and finished with mash (grain) from a local brewery in town – that means that the beef tastes slightly of hops, but not overwhelmingly so.  They sell boxes of beef to people in the Northern Nevada area – if you live in Reno, Fallon, or other areas of N. Nevada and you like all-natural, ethical food, and supporting local business, visit their Facebook or website and give them a call!

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Even if you do not live in Northern Nevada, I urge you to support local farmers and ranchers that live near you.  By buying local food, you support families in your state and get healthier products (and you know where they’re coming from).  When you buy from a store, you don’t know the distribution process – when you buy local, you can ask the owner yourself!  By visiting farmer’s markets, you can find local produce, dairy, meat, bakers, and the like so you’re always getting the freshest ingredients!  For a list of local farmers in your area, click here.

P.S. Since farmer’s market season is almost over, I recommend looking up local farmers/ranchers on Google or asking people in your community!  Local food is easier to get than you think!

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Over the weekend, I used some short ribs from my box of beef to make braised short ribs with cheddar grits and roasted brussels sprouts.  It’s definitely a Sunday meal, because the braising takes a few hours, but this meal is so easy and impressive if you’re having guests over!

Both recipes are courtesy of Food Network.

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Stay tuned for more beef recipes!

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Morning Dew by The National (cover)

 

BLT Salad with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

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Clearly, I’ve been having a moment with BLTs lately.  This is the second BLT-related post in the past month, which some may claim is incredulous, but I think is completely justified since bacon + bread + in-season tomatoes = heaven.  Also, can we take a moment to literally laugh out loud, because in that same Basic BLT post, I went on and on and on about how there are just some foods, such as BLTs, that should be left alone (I believe the direct quote was “BLTs should be BLTs and nothing more”) and then I turn around and turn a classic into a salad.  Blasphemy.  Who gave me this kind of power?

To make up for my intense hypocrisy, I may even forgive you if you decide to say, put something like turkey on your BLT, which I still believe is just a club sandwich, so if you’re going to get that far, you might as well add some good swiss to the mix.  However, I do ask that you maintain your dignity while doing so.  If I happen to come across a BLT utilizing ridiculous ingredients such curry powder or sauerkraut as an act of outright defiance against my Rule of Simplicity, we’ll have a problem here, people.

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Since it’s Labor Day weekend a.k.a. probably the last BBQ weekend of the year (at least for us colder cities), I thought I’d share this salad recipe, which goes perfectly with Tri-tip and grilled corn, burgers, or brats.  It only takes about 15 minutes to mix up, which leaves you plenty of time to enjoy your last late-night patio session of the summer before the fall creeps in.  I’m already starting to miss summer and the fresh food that comes along with it, but I can’t wait to share some wonderful fall-inspired recipes that I’ve been testing lately.  I hope you love pie, spices, and savory food straight out of the oven, because there’s plenty of that making its way to my little corner of the internet.  Also, probably some good sweater and Tahoe pics, since you know I love sharing my fun trips and outfits with you all ♥  Stay tuned for more!

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I hope you have an amazing Labor Day weekend with your friends and family!

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Life Itself by Glass Animals

Chocolate & Butterscotch Chip Cookies

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I’ve spent the last couple of days not even realizing that it’s September.  Mentally, I have been completely checked out, which has been rudely unhelpful considering I just started my senior year of college this past Monday.  The most surprising aspect of this scenario is that a mere 2 1/2ish months ago, I was in complete denial that I was almost done with the college portion of my life.  Where did the time go?!  Wasn’t I supposed to cherish this more?  Get more involved?  How are my 20s going this fast?  SOS.

However, the closer I get to graduation, the more I realize the wonderful things ahead of me.  Traveling around Europe.  Getting a dog.  Interviewing for my first big girl job.  Getting said big girl job.  Buying my first house.  Opening up my coffee shop.  Hopefully eventually getting married, which I’ve heard can sometimes be fun.  Putting things into those perspectives can be really enlightening, especially when they’re looked at from a broad, futuristic viewpoint.  It’s not that I necessarily expect every single one of those things to happen (or at least when I expect them to), but I love having future accomplishments or events to look forward to.  Because, as far as I’m concerned, every Millennials’ goal should be to plan, plan, plan – but also, be flexible.  Plan that trip to Thailand!  Take that class on how to make perfect bread!  Finish writing all those songs you’ve been stumbling over for months!  And yes, while these are things that I would like to do, everyone should have their own goals, and hopefully with time, everything uncontrollable will fall into place.

And if I am totally wrong about all of this, please do not tell me, because I like to be unrealistic idealistic.

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If I have not yet mentioned this a thousand times in the past, baking is one of many outlets I use to help relieve stress when I’m in the midst of school and work busyness.  Along with playing instruments, I’m usually baking if I have a day off on the weekend.  Sometimes, I tackle more difficult or time consuming projects like cinnamon rolls or strawberry galettes with homemade crust, but other times, I like to stick to something that can be made super easily!  Usually in those times, I make my favorite 15 minute brownie recipe or chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies are one of my favorites, which is pretty much a given, because they’re essentially everyones’ favorite.  Since they’re everyones’ favorite, everyone also has their favorite recipe.  If you scour the internet, it’s filled to the brim with a million “Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever” recipes.  That market is saturated, folks.  However, this recipe is one that I have adapted from the original Nestle Tollhouse recipe, and I think it’s absolutely perfect.  If you watch Friends, you know what I mean.

As for the butterscotch chips, I’m not sure when I really became obsessed.  I don’t know that I’ve necessarily had anything that was true “butterscotch” flavor, but one time I had some butterscotch chip cookies, and I thought they were amazing.  With that said, I always love classic chocolate chip cookies the best.  Sometimes, I just want a little bit more fun, and that’s when butterscotch gets added to the mix (literally).  As for my recipe, I have made slight adjustments that fit with my taste preferences over the years , but you can use the original Nestle recipe if you prefer.  You can also use all chocolate chips in my adjusted recipe if you like that better than butterscotch!

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*Recipe Notes:  1. I live at a higher altitude, so I use 2 1/2 c. of flour to stabilize the cookie dough a little more.  If you live at sea-level, you can use 2 1/4 c. like the original recipe, or you can use 2 1/2 for a little bit of a thicker, chewier cookie.  The rest of the ingredients will work at both sea-level and high-altitude.  2.  I add the cornstarch, which makes the cookies a little bit softer, but it is not necessary if you do not have it at home.

Have a beautiful weekend ♥

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Will I Come by King Krule

Ginger Old Fashioned

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Hello, my name is Sara Lynn, and I am a young NYC man living in the year 1958 a 20-something woman who loves Old Fashioned cocktails.  But you can call me Don Draper.

Today, I will be sharing my favorite Old Fashioned recipe, because it’s my birthday, and I will be celebrating with Bourbon, Angostura bitters, and orange peel all night long if I have my way.  However, I’ll try to sneak a lemon drop or Manhattan in, so I can feel like Carrie Bradshaw.  I may have an identity crisis at the end of the night, but so be it.  Tonight is for celebration and cake and drinks with my friends!

Last summer while I was in London, the beers and ciders became kind of mundane after my 200th IPA.  One night, a group of (other) Nevada students and I went to a bar down the road from our dorm where I asked the bartender if they could mix cocktails.  Ignoring the slightly dubious look in the recent high-school-grad-of-a-bartender’s eyes, I asked for an old fashioned, which he then responded with, “What’s in it?”.  It was then that I learned that old fashioneds are American cocktails, and that England is strictly for wine, beer, and cider.  Message received.

I had an old fashioned when I flew home to the states, and while London is my absolute favorite place in the world, I’d really love if they would learn the finesse of an old fashioned.  (Or, if I just ended up at the wrong spot, if a local could recommend a good place for some whiskey).  However, since the first time I tried an old fashioned, I’ve been obsessed and haven’t looked back.

My first old fashioned was made with Bulleit bourbon and served out of a Tigger coffee mug around Christmas time while it snowed outside.  That’s a true story.  I’ve come a long way since then, but I can’t say that scenario won’t reoccur.  I am in college after all, and sometimes Disney coffee mugs are the only vehicle for alcoholic beverages.  However, I still do not own whiskey mugs, so discount water glasses bought at Home Goods will have to do for now.  The classic old fashioned is made with sugar cubes, Angostura bitters, citrus peel, ice, and Bourbon.  However, with the warmer weather, I decided to twist it up with some grenadine and Ginger Ale to make it a little more summery.  I love slow-sipping drinks, and I definitely think this one is perfect for an outdoor BBQ.

If you are more of a traditionalist, you can make the recipe the classic way without the Ginger Ale, maraschino cherries, and grenadine.  Or, if you like a drier drink, you can sub Club Soda for Ginger Ale.  If you’re having a party, you can leave these ingredients out for people to make their own Old Fashioned cocktails while you cook or talk with your friends. Old Fashioneds are forgiving and appealing to most cocktail-drinkers, so I consider them the perfect party drink.

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As a bday present to me, please make this Old Fashioned tonight (or order one at your favorite bar 😉 )

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Dreaming by Seapony

 

SF Coffee Recommendations

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As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, San Francisco is one of my favorite places to visit.  The foggy weather, public art, trendy restaurants, and bearded men get me every time.  Plus the coffee.  Because, as you also know if you’ve been following me for a while, I LOVE COFFEE.  Like, a lot.  So naturally, I have to write a post about my favorite coffee places.

Before I begin, let me first give you some of my qualifications.  1. It usually has to be specialty coffee.  I say “usually”, because of the “never say never” rule, and I can’t promise that I’ll never write about a non-specialty coffee shop.  For more info about specialty coffee, see here. 2. I have to be impressed by not only their coffee, but also by their employees and atmosphere.  That may not be fair, since really it’s all about the coffee, but there’s something to be said about the other aspects, too.  If I’m visiting a coffee shop on vacation, I probably want to hang out for a little while, and the atmosphere and employees should be pleasant.  3. I have to want to visit again.  I’ve been to specialty coffee shops that I’ve thought were okay, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit again.  To make the list, it has to be a place I want to spend a lot of time at.

And there you go!  The list will be pretty short, because not all the places I visited were list-worthy, and I also didn’t get to make it to all of the shops I planned on visiting.  However, I’ll update this list as I continue to visit SF 🙂

P.S. These are in no particular order.

1. Beacon Coffee & Pastry

If you’re staying near Fisherman’s Wharf, Beacon is a short walk away from most of the hotels and shops.  It was about an eight minute walk from our hotel, so not the closest, but definitely close enough for this coffee snob.  Their beans are roasted by Sightglass (see below), and they have great espresso drinks and a few snacks.  If you’re looking for a close, relaxing place to spend your morning before a day of shopping or tourist-ing, this is a great choice.  (Oops!  I forgot to snap a pic).

Beacon Website: http://www.beacon-sf.com/

2. Stanza Coffee Bar

Stanza is a cute, minimalist coffee shop in the middle of The Haight.  I love Haight Ashbury area, because they have really good food, some great thrift shops, and a killer record store that always has amazing finds.  I had never seen a specialty coffee shop there until this trip (I’m not sure how long Stanza has been there), so I was thrilled to see one! My recommendation would be a cappuccino.  Served the only specialty way, with silky foam.

Tip: They have another location in The Mission as well.

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Me and my cute mom enjoy capps at Stanza.  The only picture I got!

Stanza’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stanzasf/info/?entry_point=page_nav_about_item&tab=page_info

3. Sightglass Coffee

This was my second trip to Sightglass, and I loved it just as much the second time as I did the first.  I have only been to their 7th Street location, but I imagine their other locations are just as beautiful.  The cool part about their 7th Street location is that it is where they roast their coffee, and there are 2 stories, so you can watch the action happening below.  They had Ethiopian coffee, which has been difficult to come by this summer in Reno, so I was beyond stoked.  They also have really great espresso drinks.  Plus, they have cool swag for sale – it’s where I got my amazing Chemex pin pictured above!

Tip: They have locations in The Mission, The SF Farmer’s Market, SFMOMA, and soon on Divisadero!

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The roaster roasting.
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The baristas baristaing. (Creeper Confession: The guy in the blue shirt is so nice!!)
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The coffee situation upstairs.
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Wait, do they rent offices across from the upstairs bar area?  How do I get one?!
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The star of the show.

Sightglass website: https://sightglasscoffee.com/.

4. Four Barrel Coffee

Four Barrel is probably my favorite SF coffee to date.  Their Valencia shop has a lot of energy, local art, cool staff, and (of course) amazing coffee.  Honestly, it’s a good thing I don’t live anywhere near this neighborhood, because I would spend all of my tip money (unless they want to hire me?  Yes?  YES?!).  Anyways, aside from their fantastic marketing, mugs, and (duh) coffee, they have adorable coffee roasters.  I watched them dance when they weren’t looking (Creeper Confession #2).  However, I don’t think they would mind my watching.

Side note true story: They had this mug in their shop for the longest time that I loved, because it really embraced my personality.  Right when I decided to buy it, they went out of stock.  SO MANY TEARS.  See mug here.

Tip: They have locations at The Mill and in Portola!

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Dancing roasters in the way back.
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My coffee + my elbow

Four Barrel website: http://fourbarrelcoffee.com/.

My next stops include Blue Bottle and Ritual (which I’ve actually been to before, but I don’t really remember…)!  Any good SF coffee recommendations?

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Out of Tune by Real Estate *
…because I got to watch Real Estate perform this live while on holiday!

Blackberry-Mint Limeade

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Summer has now officially approached in Reno.  In my Vegas-days, I used to loathe summer and its dry heat that would exceed far past the low hundreds.  Now living in Reno, the weather is a gamble, meaning I can be a little more friendly towards the summer months depending on the day.  For instance, yesterday the high was 75*F, but tomorrow could be 105*.  Luckily, I’m not too far from SF, which pretty much always has a low chill and Tahoe, which may be warm, but at least you can cool off in the melted-snow water.  However, I’m a huge fan of BBQs, as I’ve mentioned in the past, and even though I’m working as both a marketing intern and barista, I’m taking this summer as an opportunity to eat plenty of good food, explore new Northern Nevada attractions, and not be in school for the first time in 3 years.  Plus, my birthday is in July, so that’s always something I look forward to!  I’m also stoked to try out some new BBQ recipes, starting off with a twist on classic summer Lemonade.  Hello blackberry-mint limeade!

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When it comes to the lemonade-limeade debate, I wholeheartedly lean towards the limeade side.  Actually, I’m not really sure there is such a debate, but if there were I would always go Team Limeade.  Now that it’s summer, I’ve decided to try out my own variations on limeade (and maybe even lemonade, we’ll see…), and I thought the perfect way to start off the limeade experiment would be to use a berry that’s not as highly recognized as its berry counterparts.  I love how shiny and succulent blackberries are, and when they’re mixed into a limeade, it makes this beautiful fuchsia hue that would perfectly complement a BBQ.  Also, I added mint, because I was feeling fancy.

Before I share the recipe, I will first start off with a confession, because I’m not perfect, and I’ll readily admit that all the time in most circumstances, such as this one.  For this recipe, I decided to use already bottled limeade.  *gasp*, I know.  From someone who really goes out of her way to not use prepackaged stuff, this may be slightly shocking.  However, I can already find delicious, sweet, fresh-tasting limeade in the juice aisle at my local grocery, and I own no type of juicer whatsoever, so prebottled limeade it was.  On the other hand, if you are one who feels so inclined to make their own limeade, I’ve found a recipe from a trusted source with good reviews here.

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This limeade is refreshing and easily adaptable if you’d like to try another berry or herb.  I prefer my limeade sweeter, so I use more syrup, but if you like yours a little more tart, I’d use less syrup or even muddle some blackberries and mint in the bottom of your glass and just use a tiny bit of syrup.  Also, I used 3 mint leaves in my original recipe, and I found that the mint was very strong.  I’d recommend using only 2 mint leaves so the blackberry flavors are noticeable.  The mint can be very overpowering, but you can always add some straight to your drink if you want more of that flavor later!

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XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: The Other Woman by Devendra Banhart