Everything Bagel Popcorn

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Growing up, one of my all-time favorite things to do was spend the night at my grandparent’s house.  My grandma and I would sew, take a ride in the golf cart, and have tea parties.  My grandpa would buy me ice cream and take me to breakfast after church on Sunday mornings.  Whatever sports game he was watching would blare throughout the house, and every time I smell Listerine, I think of my grandpa.  He has a green comb that he keeps on a side table next to his recliner.  My grandma has a violin hanging on a velvet backdrop across the room.  My grandparents have lived in this house my whole life, and it’s still one of my most comforting, happy places. Continue reading “Everything Bagel Popcorn”

Kale Salad with Greek Yogurt Caesar Dressing

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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”

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

How to Make a Kombucha SCOBY

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I know that you probably have lots of questions right now.  SCOBYs aren’t the prettiest things, so you’re probs confused and wondering if you’re supposed to eat that thing (please, God, no), or if it’s some kind of facial mask or what.  I promise, all questions will be addressed, but just hang with me.  SCOBYs are not easy to photograph, and it’s extra hard to make them look appetizing enough to be featured on a food blog.

A SCOBY is an acronym for ‘symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast’, and it’s used to make kombucha.  Now what’s kombucha?  It’s a naturally carbonated, sweet-and-sour drink made by fermenting tea.  Like wine and coffee, kombucha takes a few times to get used to.  It contains a little bit of alcohol naturally, but it’s perfectly safe for kids to drink!  Mixed with fruits and juices, it’s very versatile and tons of flavor combos can be made.  If you’re a big soda-fan looking to cut the sugar-y chemical-laden drink out of your life, kombucha is for you.  Why?  It has tons of health benefits!

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Funny story:  Don’t use earl grey or decaffeinated tea to make kombucha!  I just grabbed the box without thinking (because it’s pretty), but I actually used a regular, caffeinated black tea to make my SCOBY.

Kombucha helps with gut and digestion health, detox, immune health, etc.  However, I personally like kombucha, because it helps with stomach problems.  My stomach is sensitive to all kinds of foods, and on certain days it can make me quite nauseous.  Friends with similar stomach problems recommended kombucha, and I really love how it makes me feel!  I don’t necessarily drink it every day, but every couple of days does the trick and really limits my ‘sick days’.

The only downside to kombucha is that the cost can add up if you’re consuming it in large amounts.  My solution was to learn how to make it, starting with the SCOBY!

The SCOBY is necessary, because it helps ferment the tea, which also adds health benefits.  You can buy SCOBYs online, but I’m incredibly impatient and don’t like waiting for things in the mail.  My next option was to learn how to make one.  (Bonus: buying the stuff to make a SCOBY is cheaper than buying a SCOBY online).  Once you make one SCOBY, a new SCOBY will be made with every kombucha batch.  You can start a farm of SCOBYs, or you can gift the new SCOBY to a kombucha-loving friend.

*Disclaimer: Some people recommend not making a SCOBY, but rather buying one, the main reason being that SCOBYs do not always grow if they’re homemade (has not been a problem for me at all).  However, I see no real risks in growing a SCOBY, and mine turned out successful!  Choose whatever option you’re comfortable with.

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Don’t use earl grey or decaffeinated tea!  Grabbing this box was a Sara-moment.  I used caffeinated, regular black tea.

Let’s get started!

First, you’ll start by making a sweet tea.  The best tea to use is regular black tea, because it helps the SCOBY grow.  Once you have your new SCOBY, you can try other teas for the next batch, but try to use black tea at first!  Kombucha works best with caffeinated, non-herbal teas.  Herbal teas can damage the SCOBY, so be cautious.  Alternatively, you can use 1 1/2 Tbs. loose-leaf, but make sure to strain the leaves out before making your SCOBY.

Next, you’ll mix together your (cooled) sweet tea with a cup of your organic, raw kombucha.  You’ll want unflavored kombucha so that your SCOBY grows.

Then, you’ll put the mixture in a large jar.  You’ll want to wrap the mouth of the jar with paper towels or coffee filters to keep out bugs.  Then secure the paper towels with a rubber band, and pop on the lid!

Place your SCOBY in a dark room with an average temperature (not too cold, not too hot).  Leave it there for about 4 weeks.  You’ll start to notice a little film forming over the top.  It’ll get thicker and thicker, it may change colors, get bubbles, etc.  Don’t worry.  As long as it doesn’t grow grey or green mold, it should be fine.

Once it’s all grown up, you can use it to make your own kombucha!  The remaining liquid is drink-able, but it will be very strong.  You can use some of the liquid to make your first batch of kombucha, but you’ll probably want to just discard the rest.

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Start looking for new kombucha recipes in the near future!  I’ve been coming up with all kinds of flavors (:

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*Song of the Day: Youth Knows No Pain by Lykke Li*

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/

Healthy Granola Bars

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Aside from crying at IAMS dog commercials and avoiding all conversations involving politics or football, my most common past time of late has included attempting to make the best chocolate chip cookies e v e r.

I know this is a hefty task.  Everybody has their favorite version of the best chocolate chip cookie, and somebody else’s favorite may not match mine.  But if I’m going to own a bakery and coffee shop in the future, I just have to have the best chocolate chip cookies ever.  It’s become an obsession of sorts.

I’m not going to lie, my favorite chocolate chip cookie has always been the Nestle Tollhouse recipe.  They have magic within them.  I don’t even know what they’re doing over at Tollhouse, but I want in on it.  It’s the recipe I grew up with, so I will always love them.  But what if I can make Nestle’s recipe even better?

Yeah, that’s what I’m going for.

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Unfortunately, my cookie labs are only done on the weekends when I feel like my friends can stand trying another batch of chocolate chip cookies (about once or twice a month).  This is also because 1. I don’t have time to bake cookies constantly and 2. Even if I did, I’m sure humans actually cannot function long term on a complete cookie diet.  It’s a sad, but true, fact.

Therefore, I preoccupy myself with other kinds of projects.

Enter healthy granola bars.

I really love granola bars as a quick snack or breakfast.  Sometimes I spend entirely too much time looking at myself sullenly in the mirror because I don’t want to put on makeup and I haven’t had breakfast or coffee yet.  That’s a granola bar in the car morning.  They happen more than one would expect.

Unfortunately, the nutrition facts on the back of granola bars terrify me.  Oh my god.  The mere amount of added sugars alone.  And I don’t want to get into sodium, fat, and chemical additives.

It makes me realize why American food is banned in multiple countries around the world.

Additionally, I cannot justify spending $10 on a box of somewhat “healthy” granola bars that mostly taste like cardboard.  Why is it so hard to get some quick, healthy food for a reasonable price?!  Am I really asking for too much?!

Luckily for us all, healthy granola bars are super easy to make at home!  They’re also way cheaper and freeze-able, and don’t have a bunch of sugars and icky gunk in them!!!

People who care about their bodies, rejoice!

Ingredients:

2 c. quick oats

1 c. raw almonds

1 c. dried cranberries

1/4 c. pumpkin seeds

1/4 c. sunflower seeds

2 Tbs. flax seeds

1/3 c. almond butter or peanut butter

1/2 c. honey

1/4 c. agave

1/4 c. coconut oil, melted

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Pinch salt

*Optional step*: Toast oats, nuts, and seeds in an oven at 350* until you can smell nuts and everything is a nice golden brown.  I left out this step, but you can totally do this if you want less of a “raw” taste.

In a large bowl, mix together the almond butter, honey, agave, coconut oil, cinnamon, and salt until smooth.  Add oats, almonds, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds.  Stir mixture until combined thoroughly.

Press mixture into a greased 9×13 pan.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the granola bars are golden brown on the edges.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Cut into bars.  You can do larger or thinner bars depending on your preference.

*You can do any mixture of nuts and seeds, dried fruits, etc.  You can also do more agave, less honey, etc.  Everything in this recipe is super easy to replace and adjust.  You can make these however you want!*

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Also, I’m just going to throw out there that a small amount of mini chocolate chips would be good in place of cranberries.

Chocolate chip cookie granola bars?!

I’m going to go ahead and stop now.

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Song of the Day: Let Her Go–Mac DeMarco

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 <3 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

Cilantro Lime Shredded Chicken

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I can never really seem to keep up with the holidays.

AKA if I actually write a holiday-themed post before said holiday actually occurs, I’m pretty on top of my game.

Unfortunately, that oftentimes does not happen, and I lay in bed drinking caffeinated tea on a Thursday night at 11:30 p.m. writing a post on chicken.  (In other words: Happy Cinco de Mayo).

Plus, it’s finals week(s).  Also known as the week where I actually think that my brain is going to shut down in a quite literal sense and I will have to spend the rest of my life lying in bed petting a dog.

But that remains to be seen…

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It’s weeks like this that make me have an actual mental breakdown including, but not limited to: crying, hyperventilation, having weird dreams about people, and panic attacks with symptoms that make me think I’m having a heart attack.

(And regardless of your age or health status, having a heart attack is a total logical solution when you’re in the midst of a stress-induced episode).

Really, it’s charming.

Luckily, I have been doing fairly well at keeping my shit together considering I always spend a good two weeks stressing about finals/studying until my eyes sting from exhaustion only to ace my exams and realize I could have slept at least twice as long as I did.

SOS.  Please tell me you all do this too.  (If you tell me you’re one of those people that can just pass a test without studying or trying, I’ll scream).

Anyways…

It’s these weeks where I really have to find my happiness in the little ways.  Luckily for me, I find very great joy in small things like good coffee, hearing an old song I haven’t heard in a long time, and coming home to a crockpot filled with cilantro lime shredded chicken (because let me tell you…it smells amazing).

I’ve made this chicken two weeks in a row, so you know it’s good.  I’ve used it for tacos and burrito bowls, but you could also do enchiladas, tostadas, nachos, etc.  Whatever shredded chicken treat your little heart desires <3

Ingredients:

1 lb. chicken breasts

1 1/2 c. chicken broth

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 c. cilantro, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. ceyenne pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste

Spray a crockpot with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil.  Place chicken breasts in crockpot.  Add remaining ingredients.  Stir to cover chicken with spices.  Cook for 7-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.

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If you need me, I’ll be stuffing my face with chicken tacos to ease my worries.  So far, it has seemed to work.

Except for the weird dreams about people.  Those are (apparently) here to stay.  On a side note: many people get uncomfortable when you tell them the details of your strange dreams involving them.

So maybe that’s something I’ll work on next.

But probably not.

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Song of the Day: The Moon Song–Karen O and Ezra Koenig

(seriously though, best musical combo ever)

Thai Marinated Cucumbers and The World is a Beautiful Place (and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die)

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Does anybody (besides me) like the smell and idea of pickles but not actually like pickles themselves?

Because I’m finding that I have that kind of relationship with pickles.  I want to like pickles, I just have a hard time with them for some reason.

Probably cause I’m a weirdo.

Which is coincidentally what my roommate thinks I am after I took him to see The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die (or to shorten it: The World is a Beautiful Place/TWIABP)

Oh, you don’t know who that is either?

I’m not surprised actually, but you should check them out.  I’m a little bit in love with them <3

(ily TWIABP)

Uhhhhhh…back to the pickle thing now?

I’m not huge on pickles, although I am trying, but I looooove Thai marinated cucumbers.  I don’t know how you couldn’t.  They’re kind of sweet and vinegar-y and go great with chicken satay with peanut sauce or homemade ramen just sayin’.  Also, they’re way healthier than pickles, so there’s that.

And you should try them about rightthisverysecond.

Okay?

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Ingredients:

1 cucumber

1/4 c. rice vinegar

2 Tbs. sugar

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Red chili flakes, to taste

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Slice your cucumber.  I really like pickling cucumbers for these because they’re super crunchy, but I couldn’t find any at the store this time, so a regular one works just fine! (Also, this is like, half a cucumber because that’s just what happens sometimes).

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Whisk together the vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper, and chili flakes.

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Pour vinegar mixture over cucumbers.

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Mix together.  Let marinate for about 20 minutes (or longer if you like it really strong) and then pour out extra vinegar.

“Hey Sara, you need to go get your nails done now”–you guys.

“I know, I’ll try to do better in the future”–me.

(Thank for loving me anyways) (Even when I enter weird made up commentary mid directions).

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Put these on everything.

XO Sara

Song of the Day: Space Exploration to Solve Earthly Crises–TWIABP (fitting, yes?)

Also ft. Chris Zizzamia who does an awesome spoken word/poetry collab with the band which you will hear in this song!  Cool, right?

Balsamic Marinated Steak with Roasted Vegetables

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Midterms are over.  I actually think I can hear angels singing right now…

It’s nice having a life after major tests are over.

To celebrate Halloween (and Nevada Day!) and the end of midterms, some of my family and I went to Disneyland.  Which was super fun and amazing and Disneylandish.

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Me and my mom’s Halloween costumes in Disneyland!  Can you guess who I am?

Lately, my roommates and I have gotten into the bad habit where about once every week or two, we stay up too late drinking craft beer (or cranberry vodkas in my case) and doing ridiculous things.  Last night we ended up getting nerf guns at Wal Mart at midnight so we can ignore our priorities and hide behind corners to shoot each other with little styrofoam darts.

College, right?

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Luckily, I still do things that most college kids don’t do.  Like voting, caring about important issues, making nice meals…

I haven’t given up yet guys.

However, let me tell you now: It gets dark around Reno at about 5 starting in October, so the prep pictures are pretty dark, and this meal is not the prettiest.

However, it does look very comfy and winter-y and I promise you, it’s so good.  And it only takes about 30 minutes of actual work.  The rest is marinating/cooking time.  It’s worth it.  I swear.

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Serves 2

Marinade:

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1-2 tsp. Dijon, to taste

2 tsp. dried rosemary

1/2 Tbs. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. lemon pepper

Salt, to taste

Ingredients:

2 thinly cut sirloin steaks (or whatever steak you prefer)

1 zucchini, cut in larger chunks

1 red bell pepper, sliced

2 red potatoes, thinly sliced

Olive oil

Garlic powder and Onion powder, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

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In a bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients.

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Add 4 Tablespoons to steaks.  I put my thin steaks in ziplocs with 2 Tbs. of marinade each, and let them marinate for 2 hours.  You can do overnight if you like, but definitely do at least a couple hours!

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Cut zucchini into larger chunks.  I cut them into four spheres and then cut those into fourths.  If that makes sense?

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Slice red bell pepper.  Remove seeds!

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Mix veggies in a bowl with remaining marinade.  Let marinate for a couple hours also.

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When you’re ready to prepare dinner, dice potatoes into thin chunks.

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Preheat oven to 400* F.  Place potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.  *The reason I did not marinate the potatoes with the rest of the vegetables is because they did not get crispy when I marinated them.  You could try to mix them with marinade to make it easier.  Totally up to you!*

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Remove veggies from marinade and place on baking sheet.  Discard remaining marinade.  Bake veggies for 30-40 minutes, or until tender.

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About 8 minutes before veggies are done, pan fry your steaks to desired doneness.  This is for thinly cut sirloin steaks.  If you use regular steaks, allow yourself more time to make steaks.  Alternatively, you can grill them.  Which I would have done if it wasn’t 45* outside.

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Serve steaks over roasted vegetables.  You can cut the steak into strips if you want pretty steak, or you can just leave it whole to make it easy.

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Balsamic + Steak + Roasted Vegetables = So good and so healthy.  I was a happy Sara.

Until next time, my friends.

XO Sara

*Song of the Day*: Low Light Assembly–The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die